Category Archives: Commons

Is Anyone Out There Listening?


I do not wish to be parochial or small-minded. But the world, at least my world, is behaving in a most peculiar manner. Take Brexit,  or don’t take it, from my point of view, very large numbers of British people admitted that they might be  worse off if there was a  Brexit – but they voted Leave anyway. ‘What do people like us have to lose ‘ they said. Quite a lot actually: your job, higher shop prices, a collapse in annuity values and cancelling the annual holiday to the Costa Brava or some such place. Such warnings were greeted with a shrug. ‘So what’ and ‘they could hardly get worse’. Are you real don’t these things matter any more?

And take Corbyn – I wish you would -and the Labour leadership contest. Owen Smith has made himself as close to an identikit candidate as he could (excepting devising a way to stay in the EU and renewing Trident, that I admit from my point of view are extremely important). He is well educated, presentable. well-informed, has management experience and  the confidence of the Parliamentary Party .Shouldn’t we Labourites  give him a majority? The reply:’I agree he is very presentable and would make a good Prime Minister.but I intend to stay with Jeremy.’ Why doesn’t he agree with me?

Look at the Corbyn closely, listen to his speech, imagine him representing Britain at an international conference (no placards allowed) or mastering a complex document at No 10?You can imagine him doing these things??? Congratulations for it is quite an achievement.

‘Don’t worry. It will never happen.’ I hear you say. Are you really content with a Conservative Government as far as the eye can see. ‘What will be, will be.’ I hear you say.’I doubt if it will make much difference.’

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Alistair Campbell, Boris Johnson, Commons, Europe, Guardian, House of Commons, Jeremy Corbyn, John Martin, Labour leadership, Labour List, Larisa Martin, Liberal Voice, Momentum, New Stateman, Politics, Referendum, Uncategorized, Unemployment

Murdoch Scandal: My Conscience is Clear


It is said that our prisons are full of people who maintain their innocence: their jury was fixed, their counsel  incompetent, not all the evidence was presented,the law is an ass. I daresay for some it is true. However, one is left with the thought that some of these protestors fon’t’t get it. Society as a whole has determined that it will not accept certain behaviour: we, the people (hear it before?) think it wrong. In our lunatic asylums there are people who think that theyare Napoleon or more likely a hatstand. Try me they say put your hat on my raised arm. There you are I told you so. Who is to say they are not? Well,  we might respond, almost everyone.

I am reminded of these truisms when I listen to respondents give their evidence in the numerous Parliamentary investigations on phone hacking.  It is OK, apparently for a Police Superintendant to take £12,000 of benefit in the form of an extended stay at a health farm from a former employee of News Coporation if he is something of a friend; it is alright to ignore evidence of phone hacking affecting thousands of people because one is busy with other matters; there is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister having talks with senior Murdoch executives about News Corporation’s bid for 100 percent control of B Sky B if the decision is to be taken by a close colleague; and, of course, there is nothing wrong about employing a former editor of the News of the World as your Press Advisor despite repeated warnings that he might be involved in phone hacking; and what is wrong with a little false claiming of expenses, when surely everyone is at it.  Goodness, do these characters live in the same world as me or you? Apparently, they do.

Every day people get done for over-claiming on benefits, claiming disability allowance when they can stand upright, speeding at thirty five miles an hour, and parking five minutes over the due time. Naughty, naughty, these are criminals and they get what they deserve.

What is wrong here is that the ruling elites in Parliament, the Press, the Broadcasting Corporations and the top levels of  Police Forces have become seriously out of kilter with the rest of us. We don’t understand. If you are one of these elites you can do anything you like – within reasons. Of course, now and again people  are caught out with their noses in the trough. Well,  why not,  really: they are them and we are, apparently, something else. One set of rules for them and another for us. 

The kind answer to a gentleman who thinks he is a hatstand is that you think not and you can demonstrate it by reference to a real hatstand. The answer to a policeman taking benefits and rewards not permitted in the appropriate police manual  is, ‘Get on your bike’ Speak up you at the back. I can’t hear you.

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Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Disability Allownce, Labour leadership, Liberal Voice, Metropolital Police, Murdoch, Nrws Coporation, Politics, Sir Paul Stephenson

Cameron: Populism and Maddie


David Cameron has requested the Metropolitan Police to join the search for Madeleine McCann and the Home Office is to give the Met a few million pounds to pay for it. Earlier in the year this same David Cameron agreed to cut the budget for the work of tracing missing children  by concentrating activities in a police Missing Children Unit. Most children who go missing, as defined by this unit as four days or more, are recovered quickly but large numbers are not. In the three and a half years since Maddie went missing  some 400  children went missing according to independent studies. Many of these were recovered, exactly how many is difficult to estimate,  but it may be that something like 200 were not. Most of these children have distraught families searching for them. These families are often of modest income but, nevertheless, they consume their savings and  time in  desperate efforts to find their children. Many of these parents were not careless in the care of their children. Their disappearences were not as a result of their carelessness but as a result of factors outside their control . The McCanns were careless of their children. They took a holiday in a busy resort with other adults and put their wishes to have a good time before the guardianship of their children. I suspect that many adults with children would take a different view and arrange their  holidays so that adults were with their children after  lights out. The McCanns made a grievous decision not to do this. In this they put themselves before the interests of their young children. If we were to ignore all that the gravaman of the issue would remain to be addressed. What makes the McCanns so special? In a time of austerity and budget cutting why put Maddie’s interest before hundreds of other unnamed but grieved missing children. Of course the McCanns are a literate and well-organised professional couple who have been able to articulate their search, attract private funds, and promote their cause in a variety of media. And good luck to them, says I,  and  so would  any caring adult. But what about the others, all those other grieving parents most of whom lack the persuasiveness of the McCanns?  Is David Cameron going to take up their causes? Will the Government seek the extra funds to take up their cases? Where does the police manpower come from to undertake special searches on their behalf? Perhaps I have got this all wrong.Who cares about fairness, equity, money and police time?

But hold on. What about the strategic independence of British police and all that? Can the Home Office direct the Met  to alter police priorites by writing a letter to them. The squeemish among us would think this was political inteference with the police at the populist whim of the Prime Minister. They would be right. David Cameron doesn’t care much for the niceities of public life. What a coup, what a stunt, imagine the headlines. If Cameron stopped his whirlygig for but a moment, he might ask himself the question of what these other grieving parents will think when they read the press headlines? Lord, good lord, save us from this man.

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Filed under BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Daily Mail, Home Office, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Madeleine McCann, Metropolital Police, Parliament, Politics

The Economy: Now We Know


The GDP figures for Qtr.1 2o11 tell us what we need to know on the vexed and central economic and political dilemma of how to cut the public deficit and grow our way to economic success. No economic growth for six months is bad news. I have commented in previous posts on the optimism of OBR forecasts and that they are consistently behind the curve – and wrong. They were wrong in their belief that the last quarter 2010 figures would be adjusted upwards and that this current quarter would come in at 0.8 percent growth, They are surely wrong in their forecast for 2011.

Does it matter? Yes, it does.  Lower growth means higher unemployment and public debt and  lowers confidence.  If the Coalition intention remains ‘fixed as the Northern star’ another round of expenditure cuts, higher taxes and a spiral downward to economic defeat and long term recession is on the cards.

To echo Lenin, what do we do now? Something revolutionary? To enter into the spirit of things, bring the Coalition to a halt. In eight days time throughout Britain the electorate have an opportunity to inflict  a mortal wound by voting against the Coalition parties, and then there is the time honoured tradition of a motion of no confidence in the Commons (Dream on the Constitution has been fixed. It’s not so simple as you might think). Alas the times may be revolutionary but we are not. ‘No Bolsheviks’ here is the sign outside the House of Commons. We are all Mensheviks now Well we might start by winning the argument. When Ed Balls advanced the proposition that even the Labour objective of halving the deficit in four years might not be achievable without economic depression he was widely derided. What we have seen is that the  squeeze on expenditure started by Labour and intensified by the Coalition has already had a dramatic effect on the British economy. The Coalition tax increases and cuts have only just started. It is asking a lot of business and consumers to reverse that trend when personal incomes are squeezed and small and medium companies denied loan capital.

It may not be in Labour’s power to  change things for the better BUT the much derided and humiliated Lib Dems could do it if they had the will. It is difficult to determine how long the tragedy needs to unroll before they pluck up the courage to say with one (or almost one) voice that enough is enough. I hate to write this but history does help. Look at what happened to the Mensheviks and subsequently to a whole country and a substantial chunk of the European map? If you think that I exagerate you may change your mind as events unfold. I will not write, I told you so.

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Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, George Osborne, IFS, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Vince Cable

Cameron: Libya, my next move.


Oh, its you Charlie! You do dog my steps. Can’t you find something new to talk about. I’ll help you if you like. A world exclusive, specially for you. Thanks Dave, but no. I think we all need to know what you’re up to in Libya.

That’s a good expression Charlie. What am I up to.That’s a good way of putting it. Well, I’m not sitting around waiting to fail because fail we shall if it goes on like this, locked into a military stalemate  and no worthwhile diplomatic way out. I’m not a loser Charlie, remember that. The playing fields of Eton are a good training ground for life. They  breed winners, Charlie. I’m a winner.

Well from this point, Dave, how do you win? It’s easy Charlie. Step by step you change the rules of engagement. No single move in breach of the UN Resolutions but accumulatively amounting to such pressure on Ghadaffi that he cannot resist us. Remember this Charlie, I loath the man. Years ago I vowed that if ever I was in a position of authority I would get rid of him. Give him a good kicking. Get him off the playing field, so to speak. Yes Dave, I do understand. Assad you could share a room with but not Ghadaffi. Completely, understandable. I wouldn’t fancy an  emergency meeting in a tent with him, myself. Precisely that, Charlie. Blair could kiss him  in the hope of reform but not me. Oh, dear no.

Let’s cut the crap Dave. What are you going to do to get us out of this mess?  Well you would call it mission creep Charlie. We are going to flood Misrata and other places with humanitarian assistance workers. No fighting while they are there. You infiltrate these places with SAS in plain clothes. They tell you where the Ghadaffi lot are positioned. Zapp, zap, zap Charlie from the air. a bit of bang, bang, bang on the ground. You beef up the rebels by advisers and special forces. Down the road with close air support. Bang, bang bang again and you’re on the road to Tripoli. Come to think of it there’s a good song in this. There usually is.

You’re mad Dave. You can’t get away with that. Emergency meeting at UN , heated debates in the Commons where you would lose the vote, to say nothing of the Lib Dems. I’m not a loser Charlie. Remember that. Things were going badly for Margaret Thatcher until the Falklands. Then she became a heroine. Very patriotic the British working classes. Come on board HMS Victory my lads. We all love a winner. If you can pull that off Dave you will deserve to win. I may even vote for you myself. Now I know you are joking Charlie. But I’m not joking. Just you wait and see.

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Filed under Arab League, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Commons, Eton, Ghadaffi, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Sarkozy, SAS, Syria, Tony Blair, United Nations, Yemen

A Very English Revolution


In England we do not do Revolutions. They are for foreign countries denied freedom of expression and parliamentary government. Is that right? It seems so but the belief in social cohesion and solidarity of purpose is about to be tested. Our beliefs may turn out to be illusory. In 2011/2 real incomes are likely to fall at a faster pace than at any time since the 1920’s a decade followed by slow growth and high unemployment. At that time we took it all very meekly. Then, as now, some thirty percent of the population was doing very nicely. They were in employment and enjoying steady increases in real wages. Unemployment and poverty was concentrated in foreign places: Scotland, Wales and the frozen North. Of course, the unemployed protested, but in a orderly fashion: hunger marches, dole queues and long lines of working people not at all like us. Men, and families, to be pitied, consciences to be stirred,  but largely to be forgotten on golf courses and at bridge parties.

Over the last two years citizens, you know the ordinary folk who pay the wages of the political elites, have wondered whether ‘that lot’ at Westminster are really representing us at all. While hardly anyone wishes to resurrect class war, many people must wonder whether these Old Etonians with their posh accents and monied interests really ‘get us’ the people. Do we wish to pass back to a Victorian condition of poor public sevices and a Samuel Smiles concept of self help and charity to all (sorry some, the deserving poor). 

Well, what can we do about it? Those who object We could start by admitting to ourselves that we are responsible. We allowed this lot to gang up against us, cobble together an agreement that no one voted for, and are busy changing the rules so that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a government in the short term.

I can hear some of my readers objections at this point. Come on now, they say, this is a parody of the truth. Every citizen knows that the huge public deficit must be reduced and the sooner the better. Personally I agree: drastic problems require drastic remedies. But just suppose that the economic strategy being imposed upon us is wrong. It doesn’t work. What if we are destroying a valued social structure and welfare state for nothing? What then? Why, you say, in all reasonableness . if we are proceeding for the rocks we can change course Can we? Boy George and our Dave say. ‘Not on your Nellie’, or words to that effect, Like the Blessed Margaret before them these Old Etonians warming themselves in the last rays of an   August sunset across their playing fields are not for turning.

Well Boys, then we must get rid of you by the means at our disposal. They know it, you can see it in their faces. and the panic measures they advance. Can we the people do it? Can we the people save ourselves? I don’t know. But I do pose the question

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Magic Numbers


I have news for you. Somewhere in the murky world of government there lives and plots a numerologist. Yes, a practitioner in the black arts of the occult world of numbers in our very midst. I kid you not, I was put on the trail of this mysterious and unnamed person by a Member of the House of Lords. As you may know, the House is in the midst of a giant fillibuster in a vain attempt to stop the gerrymandering of our electoral system. This Lord – blessed be his name – pointed out the Government’s seeming obsession with prime numbers. Think of it. Why does the Government persist in the notion that the House of Commons limit itself to 600 members, far from the dizzy heights of the past, and flying in the face of a growing population all queuing for the time and attention of their local MP? And why 600? Would not 591 or 617 do as well? Why 5 year and not four year Parliaments? And what number shall we set for the membership of the House of Lords? Not, 861 surely not. Or 913? How about 900? The advantage of 600 and 900 is that they are both divisible by 5. I think there is something sinister, from the occult point of view, in suggestions to the Electoral Commissiion (sorry commands) that each constituency should represent, give or take, 75,000 electors. There used to be a time when the Commission was charged with taking all sorts of things into account : local communities, traditional links the feelings and aspirations of local electors. There is to be no more of this kind of thing. No the numerologist is to have the last  and final word.

I do not think this numerologist, whoever he or she is, has been elected. Speaking for myself I resent his/her influence. Here I must take some account of the counter attack. We shall be told that we all practice the black arts. What about lucky numbers? How do we choose our lottery numbers? How many of us refuse to go out on the 13th of any month falling on a Friday? You see what I mean. Gotcha.

Something serious is happening in the House of Lords. Proceedural laxity encourages independence of mind. Could it be that it is the Lords who are speaking for the people of Britain? I do not expect the Coalition will last long. While it has a majority in the Coomons and members are in thrall to the Whips , the Constitution can be fixed to preserve the will of two political parties. When the Coalition is gone we shall be stuck with a Constitution that is unfit for purpose. So much for a thousand years of Parliament.

There is a solution to the awful Constitutional mess that is being composited for us. The Labour Parliamentary party must appoint a numerologist of its own from the white-wing of the occult. Every black number must be fought by a white number. If it is said that there are three prime numbers in a Government proposal Labour must come up with an alternative which has five. In this way all these daft proposals can be beaten off and the Constitution preserved. If I had the right mathematical qualifications I would volunteer. But you might have them. Volunteer, please, without delay. Your country needs YOU!

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Getting On With It


Than you Charlie for coming along. I always value your contribution, Same as usual then, No, not the whisky. Confidential and discrete. OK?

Charlie, I would like you to report that this is  a government that is getting on with it. All those years sitting on the Opposition benches, listening to prevarication, the ifs and buts and maybe’s!. I made a resolution when we got power we would put an end to it and get things done, decisive, resolute and immovable.

Hold it Dave. Aren’t you running a very big risk. The more you do the less you think. Slap bang. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. That’s very unfair. We do sometimes make mistakes but we are bold people – we backtrack. Take shool sports. Gove made a hopeless mess of it but we changed direction as quick as a flash. Why, you  can hardly spot the seam. What about the things you couldn’t change and can’t put right. Give me an example. Child Allowance and the absurdity of the income levels. Gotcha. Hold on Charlie. We have a budget in three week’s time. Time enough to fiddle it right.

Well done Dave I concede you a few points there. But what about bigger things than these. The NHS reform. All the experts agree that this could go horribly wrong with standards of service falling and at this time next Winter, when you are hoping for some cheer in the opinion polls,  you could have several hospital closures. Charlie boy, you are too dismal. We shall get these reforms right and by the time we get to the polls in four years time the public will begin to recognise our success. That’s the whole point really. Get the difficult things out of the way at the very beginning, endure the sniping and set backs and the sweep to victory in 2015. I learn’t that from Tony Blair.

Dave, if this was warefare and I your senior officer I would never promote  or engage you in  a  serious military campaign. Solidity, caution, a care of casualties , the awarenes that the enemy can be ingenious and resolute. These are the qualities of the successful senior officer. These qualities you have not. Well Charlie, this is not a military campaign. No its not. Let’s take big business. For these large-scale endeavours you have some good qualites: panache, confidence and quick-wittedness. But I wouldn’t have you here either. Charlie, why not?  I think I would be a big success. Sometimes I wish I had taken that route. Several reasons. Over-confidence and a lack of attention to detail, Dave. The House of Commons has cottoned on to that so why not the general public? What will happen is that there will be an almighty cock up on a matter the public cares deeply about. And that will be that Dave. You will be for the high jump.

Too dismal Charlie. I’m so quick we shall have moved on and the public will hardly notice. Have another whisky. Bottoms up.

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Milliband Pragmatism


I believe that the first duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament is to oppose. But is it right to oppose measures some of which you approve in order to get the other lot out? Lenin would have had no difficulty. His objective was the overthrow capitalism and its replacement  with a socialism. To hell with sensible social democratic reforms and shoot the bankers. You know the kind of thing. Long live the Revolution. What approach will Labour under Ed Milliband do?

Ed has already given us clues. The Coalition has come up with a Constitutional Bill , one of whose objectives is to cement Coalition rule for five years and to make it more difficult for the Coalition parties to win next time by changing the electoral system and gerrymandering the constituencies. In his Conference speech Ed told us that he is in favour of electoral reform and   will support AV in the proposed Referendum. How about changes to the Benefit System? Ed says he will support sensible changes to reform Benefit Entitlement  and so get more people into work. But would he support these changes if accompanied by an end to universal benefits, to Child Allowances, and the Winter Fuel Allowance, for example, to enable expensive reform to go ahead? Can you have one without the other? Ed is watching the progress of the Hutton enquiry into pay differentials, and no doubt talking to him (Why not? They must know each other well.) If Hutton comes up with sensible proposals, we might infer that they would have Labour support. 

These examples show that Ed is not RED in any meaningful sense. He is in that that tepid category of social reformers, of which I am one, who is prepared to support policies which realise social democratic aspirations. And he is a pragmatic with it.

Labour support for sound social democratic polices is to be welcomed as a contribution to good governance. What else could we desire? Might it not encourage alliance building acroos the floor of the House? Might it become more difficult for the Far Right to move the Coalition in reactionary directions and moderate the worst of the cuts? Might it in some circumstances encourage Lib Dems to vote against socially divisive policies that they abhor? Might cross party voting become the norm in this Parliament? Can some Lib Dems join with Labour and vote out damaging cuts across the floor of the House?

Moderation such as this is to be welcomed. It will be welcomed by the mass of the electorate because this is what it wants. If our Dave and Boy George become aware of open up opposition in the House might they not, even at this late stage, moderate their enthusiasm for cuts? It is possible. Might this be the tenor of discussions between the Labour Party and Charles Kennedy? No need to leave the House or quit the Lib Dems. Join together with Labour and vote out that which you think disastrous and wrong. I have always thought that there was enough cunning in the Tory camp to avoid this, that there is a Plan B and perhaps a Plan C. Who knows? Of course, I could be wrong. Ed could be wrong. In this case perhaps I shall bring out my Red Flag and chant Long Live Lenin with the rest of them.

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All that Glisters…


I do not like to be thought unfair. Here is a good word about the Coalition. I listened to the House of Commons debate on the referendum. I thought the Coalition got the better of the Labour Opposition and secured a comfortable Second Reading majority for the Bill. Labour had the stronger case but there was no doubt in my mind that the Coalition won the debate. It was obvious that many of the Tories had practiced the rhetorical arts in school and university debating societies. Their performances were impressive. The Tory benches were a sea of respectability and there was not a hairy oick in sight. Can Parliament survive this uniformity of representation? I thought not.

I was reminded of the advice my mother extended to my sisters on selecting male friends (assuming they are ever selected as such!). Look at their hands dear, she would say, you can tell what sort of man he is by the appearence of his hands and, in particular, his nails. If you don’t like the condition of his nails then dump him. This seemed wise advice to me at the time and it took time and a little experience before I concluded that she was deluded. Some of the worst murderers in English history were well-turned out respectable people with well-kept nails. You listen, Oh I was shocked. Such a nice man always neatly turned out – and polite. Always a cheery good morning. But with a black heart madam you are tempted to reply. All that glisters is not gold.

I applied my mother’s adage to Andy Coulson. We have many pictures and images of him in recent days. My mother would have approved. Such a nice looking boy, would you like to bring him home dear, might have been her question. I have never seen Andy’s nails at close quarters but my guess is that he has a haircut every three weeks and while there he has a manicure, I further suspect that he uses a colourless nail varnish. Of course this is only my guess. The public question is did this nice boy when  Editor of the News of the World reign over, tolerate and make use of information gathered illegally by phone tapping! For two years I was employed by a national newspaper group. In the trade ‘we’ might laugh and say that the Editors of all red-top newspapers are entirely willing to make use of information gathered by any method. Reporters struggling to break a compelling story understand the rules of the game. Look, Jones, we are told, get your finger out. I’m not telling you how to do this but break the story this week and get on with it. In tabloid journalism dog eats dog.

David Cameron admires Andy. He thought that he would make an ideal Director of Government Communications. From outside I think that our Dave was right. I admire the way the government is projecting itself. All very pleasant and meaningful. In my humble judgement Andy and Dave are tweedle dum and tweedle dee: ruthless, devious, well-organised, thoughtful and cunning, these are a few of the words that come immediately to mind. But what are they warming us up for? Such nice nails, and always immaculately turned out, with a smile for everyone. Well, dears, I say, all that glisters is not gold!

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