Category Archives: Labour Home

Boris, Brexit and the Pacific Islands

The news has got about that Boris, Liam and David are despondent about the prospects for exciting new trade agreements made possible by Brexit. Disentanglement from Europe is far more complex than they thought and – to be frank- the whole process could take up to ten years. On their journeys around the world other governments have appeared pained and confused. ‘What is it that you Brits want?’ is their complaint and answers there are none.

I want to be helpful. Indeed we should all enter into this task of becoming a world power again in a helpful frame of mind. There is much to be done. Have our negotiators thought about the Pacific Islands? I guess not.

I have a suggestion. Don’t laugh I want you to take the suggestion seriously. I suggest that the Foreign Office has not prioritised the Pacific Islands. Did you know that their are some 25,000 islands in the Pacific with a total population of 40 million people? Impressive isn’t it. Of course since the days of the British Empire other countries have muscled in: Australia , Indonesia and the United States, in particular, and the EU and the Commonwealth have been active. We used to play a big role in the Pacific . People would joke about our gunboat diplomacy. (They can’t do that now of course. I was distressed to learn that all Britain’s modern warships are in dockyards awaiting repairs. Shameful!).

I appeal in particular to Boris. The Pacific is a wonderful area to take holidays with an abundance of fine beaches and welcoming hotels. What better than to spend several months in the Pacific Islands each year with friendly people. Exercising due diligence you could invite family and friends to join you. It could be very, very pleasant. Wonderful!

On a more serious note the Pacific Islands are getting their act together and the timing might be good. They have combined to form the Pacific Islands Forum which aims to help the islands develop their economies. We can help, Boris, and they can help us.

Why not look at this way, Boris. If you are going to fail in your mission why not enjoy yourself?  Their is no point in spending fruitless time and energy  in Canada, shivering in the hotel entrance while waiting for a cab when you could be on the beach of an exotic island. If you are going to fail do it on the veranda of a wonderful hotel on a Pacific island.It is a no brainer.


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The State of the Parties 3: the UKIP Lightening Conductor

We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.

I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.

While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.

What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.

In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.

If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable

All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.

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Cameron: I Have a set of Logical Prejudices

A Statement on Belief:
Some people believe that as an OLD ETONIAN I have a narrow concept of life and the everyday concerns of ordinary people. What nonsense. However I confess I do have a firm set of prejudices and I am happy to tell you something of them.
Empire, Monarchy and Neo-Colonialism
Charliechops has criticised me for a narrow nationalism. Let me be clear. I am proud to be an Englishman (or should I say Briton, however to my mind there is no difference). We Brits have colonised the world and brought our belief in parliamentary democracy, the rule rule of law, and a benificent British monarchy to vast numbers of ignorant people in other countries. I am proud of that. Today we have to be a little more careful but nevertheless we assert our right to depose rulers throughout the whole of Africa and the Middle East in the name of economic trade and investment. And why not? Better for us to get a share of unexploited wealth than the Chinese. Do you get my point? Get in first and give it a whirl.
Johnny Foreigner
I am against ‘Johnnie Foreigners’. If I had my way I would keep them all out. Well not quite all of them. There were some jolly nice foreigners at Eton from good families. Their Dads often had proper sorts of houses in the West End and invested in Britain. Good for them. No I mean the others living off Benefits in places like Southall, Leicester and Wolverhampton. We can do without them. On reflection not those who own restaurants snd convenience shops. Jolly useful those. I like a good currie. Oh, and I forgot, nuclear scientists, doctor and nurses. I’m in favour of those – so Vince Cable tells me.
Capitalist and Entrepreneurs
I like capitalists and entrepreneurs and make no secret of it. I want them to get very rich and to invest and create jobs in Britain. I know a lot about this. Many of my best friends are capitalists and I like to boast to them that in my government we shll reach unparalled heights of assistance. I want these people, some who I am proud to acknowlege as my very best friends, to get seriously rich. In this I speak for other members of my Government, in particular my close friend George Osborne who you may have heard of. Ring a bell?

Anyway I hope you get my drift. I am a man of many firm convictions and I intend to stick with them. I hope you do not mind if I remind you of them from time to time.

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Stop the Labour Leadership Vote!

This is an urgent post and one which requires your immediate attention. I have had complaints about the Labour leadership campaign. Some people have described the last tedious weeks as akin to a shy ostrich marooned in an unfriendly space with its head in the sand. I do not think this is entirely apposite. These 5 candidates are not shy and withdrawing: they are loud and demonstrative. But I get the point. They cannot work out what has become of them and prefer to seek solace in the past. However, it will be obvious that if you stick your head in the ground you see nothing at all. Competition brings specialisation: you have the expert nerd with a LOT of experience, the assertive younger son with a specialisation in opposites, the man of the North and hence of the PEOPLE, the bluff man of commonsense with a gift for figures, and a portly, posh black women, who in all her lengthy parliamentary experience has never made it even to the humble position of PPS but now fancies herself as PM. These 5 have in much in common: they are all Oxbridge graduates,  they dress and speak well (in this they clearly have much in common with Nick and Dave), you could bring any of them home to tea and mum would approve. As far as I can gather none of them have had a ‘real’ job. They are not educated in the university of ‘hard knocks’ and what adversity they have suffered since UNI has been of their own making.

So what, you might say. All this cleverness and lack of sweat is what we expect of our political leaders now. Well, yes. But I draw your attention to what has happened since the General Election. In effect Labour has been leaderless although Hariet Harman did us all a favour by revealing our Dave’s lack of attention to detail and the nature of his bullying. She is on holiday now, Parliament is in recess, the sun shines, production rises, we no longer witness shouting and ranting, no more unnecessary laws are hitting the statute books. People could be happy. Over this period of repose and relaxation Labour’s standing with the electorate has risen in the opinion polls and in the natural course of events (and without a leader) will overtake the Tories. Some readers have an instinctive understanding  of the true political position of the Labour Party.Let the Coalition commit hara-kiri  with its programme of cuts, and say tut tut without  a single cross word or the proposal of  any troublesome alternatives.  Coalition MPs will fall about arguing with each other. Why then disturb people with the election of a troublesome busy-busy Leader of the Opposition?

We could ask Harriet to shoulder on. It is her duty. I do not know who was writing her scripts but whoever it was Harriet should stay friendly with him/her. Roll on  laughter, goodness and friendly behaviour and DOWN with scandal, slogans, and ill intent. And can it be kept going, month after month, year after year? Can we usher in a decade of happiness? Our only hope, say correspondents, if we cannot stop this unnecessary and unhelpful election,  is to leave the voting paper on the mantelpiece. Let us proclaim our belief, not in more or less government, but good government, good-sense, and toleration. It is our only hope.

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No Labour Resting Place

In politics there are two things you should not vote for: standing still and moving backwards. The first of these seeming options rests on the assumption that the duty of the Opposition is to oppose – a necessary function –  and not to propose. I guess the electorate is  heartily tired of the obfuscation of all Labour politicians confronted with the straight question of how to deal with the deficit. What would you cut then ? And to reform. Does the NHS need reform and if so of what should a reform programme consist?  The second option is even worse. Going backwards to a golden age leads to nowhere. There was no golden age. Your father may have known Lloyd George but I doubt it. The 1983 Labour Manifesto stands as a stark warning. Described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’ it led an enthusiastic Labour Party to the brink of disaster. In retrospect we all adore Michael Foot. In my experience of him Michael had one speech and a very good one at that. The first time I heard it I was greatly moved, on the second occasion I clapped politely, and on all subsequent occasions I made for the exit. But like a good sermon it should not be lightly abandoned.

Reform is both necessary and, in the end, unpopular. But there is no alternative. Hard judgemnts have to be made; and, yes,  some people lose their jobs and retrain for others. Reform is inconvenient: few people want constant change. Stop the train, I want to get off. Gordon, of blessed memory, wanted to get off, the Parliamentary Party was fed up with the constant stream of reform bills, trade unionists just hated losing members and tea and crumpets in Downing Street. Let’s get rid of this man Blair who wins us all these elections and restate Labour values and policies. It’s Buggins turn. He has waited too long and no.10 is his by right of presence and ‘all who sail in her.’ Well, we know where this led the Labour Party.

What has this got to do with anything? Well there is this issue of the election of a new Labour Party leader. Who should we vote for? Choice is always a difficult matter BUT thank goodness there is choice on this occasion. My advice to a perplexed electorate is to choose the person who most wishes to commit him/herself to a rational reform programme and studiously refrain from voting for any candidate who makes you yearn for the past – the illusory golden past. Choose the candidate who will give the Labour enthusiast a hard time, will make you think hardest, who will lead you to new pastures.

Well cocky, you might say, if you are so clever dick, tell me  who is this person of steely resolve and visionary gifts? I’m so sorry. I  have listened, I have read, but alas I cannot tell you? Perhaps you, if you have been thinking about it, would kindly tell me how you are going to vote?

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Coalition Illegitimacy

The  Coalition wishes to make significant constitutional and social changes. The process will begin this autumn. It cannot be argued that many of these changes have the endorsement of the electorate for no one voted for the Coalition or the patchcock coalition agreement. It might be argued that the Coalition partners received the votes of sixty per cent of the votes cast in the General election and that some of these  changes were foreshadowed in the General Election compaigns of both the Tory and Lib Dem partners. Surely, that suffices to claim a mandate? Well no, it doesn’t. Pushing through these changes relies on the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament: the majority in the House of Commons can do what it wants.

In such a situation it might be thought that the Coalition government should not embark on far-reaching changes that do not necessarily command support among the electorate as a whole; changes that a new government will find  difficult to reverse. Not so the Coalition is pressing on with unflagging zeal (indecent haste) to impose on us  its vision for the future.

Those who object will find it difficult to make headway. It is true that Coalitions are popular with the electorate to the very point of their collapse. The history of  20th century coalitions tell us that they invariabley commanded more than fifty percent of any poll. Today, even accepting the dire circumstances, it is true that the Coalition commands the support of 50 per cent of more of the electorate. It is open to the Coalition to pre-run elections where the weaker of the two coalition partners stands down for the benefit of the other. In a General Election campaign such an arrangement, if tolerable to  grass root activists, would save many seats. If this were to be a nationwide tactic the Labour Party would need over 45 % of the vote to win. A little political gerrymandering along the lines already put forward by the Colation parties might require an even bigger Labour share of the vote. No political party in recent times has polled half the vote.

Is it all hopeless then? Can the the Coalition literally do anything it likes, claim a mandate and win an election even if it is called early? I think not. In practice parliamentary sovereigny is a chimera and cannot be relied upon. The key to change lies with Lib Dem backbench MPs. If they decide enough is enough they can call halt the Tory gallop[ to utopia. You do not need a majorityof the House of Commons to bring down a government; a large scale desertion short of a majority will do. Is this what will happen? Well it might you know. It is possible.

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Thatcherism with Knobs On

If you wish as a politician to tell an untruth about a matter of significance and import choose a subject about which most  people are ignorant. Even better choose one where the ignorant deceive themselves into believing they are experts and have short memories. How about the management of the economy?

Here is a statement by Nick Clegg: cutting the budget deficit [in the way the and at the speed the Coalition propose] is necessary to grow the economy. Now hold on, Cleggie. Cutting as proposed will reduce growth and  increase unemployment. Do you mean that in three to four years time the economy will  start to grow again from a lower base? You do, don’t you. And would we have lost more than we could ever regain? Well. I don’t know. What I do know is that unless we cut the deficit growth will be constrained in the future. I don’t understand you. There is no political disagreement  about the need to cut the deficit. What is at issue is how fast we do it and what we cut, isn’t that so?

And another matter. Boy George and Dave go around the world telling other countries to cut their deficits boldly so shrinking their economies and  our exports. Why don’t they shut up? Don’t be rude. Stay constructive, please.

It is difficult to be nice when all around you…so to speak. Why don’t you confess. The Lib Dems, somewhere on the road to Brighton, have had a conversion to Thatcherism. ‘Unemployment is a price worth paying!’ and all that. That’s unfair. We are committed to fairness : increases in tax credits, higher benefits at the lower end of the income scale, and so on.  And we have proposed special measures to help the disadvantaged in schools. Surely, that is not Thatcherism.

Well, if I may say so Cleggie, that is a typical Lib Dem evasion. If the budget measures are considered in the round the poor are worse off: higher unemployment, the plight of single mothers forced to stay at home in the school holidays because they are denied nursery and play facilities, increases in VAT. The poor will become poorer.

This argument is becoming tendentious. The truth is that Labour left us with a huge budget deficit and it has to be cut. No amount of wriggling can avoid it and any programme to do this will be painful. I am not ashamed to say so and neither should you or any bunch of irresponsible Labour politicians – or their journalistic friends and place-seekers. There. there. Who is  becoming ratty now Cleggie. What is going to give: reducing the size of the state, replacing professional public services by volunteers, defending the nation abroad, reducing crime at home, building a fairer society – getting re-elected. Perm any one from seven. The Lib Dems should be good at this game they have had a lot of practice.


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Shock Labour Protest

I have it on good notice that the media have failed to report a shock Labour protest outside Downing Street on Saturday afternoon, so confirming, for me, the  Labour establishment bias at the BBC, although admittedly not elsewhere. This demonstration was small but determined and the message clear. There were no more than than a couple of  dozen people taking part,  but their  import was dramatic . Slogans, and placards told their  story: ‘Jobs for all ex-Labour ministers’ and ‘We demand to serve.’ Buckets by the roadside collected a fair amount of small coins but demonstration spokesmen refused to reveal how much.

A well-known  former Labour woman leader of distinction, I think her name was Blewett or something like that, voiced the feeling of them all. ‘It is wrong’ it was said, ‘ that Frank and Alan should be given preference over us. Our service to the country has been just as long and  distinguised as their own and many of us are down to our last few thousand. We would not have minded if this selection by the Coalition had been after formal consultation with our group but despite our emails and Twitters to Tory HQ we have been ignored. The Coalition is fond of fine words and they give lip service to consultation. They talk of  building a Big Society tent embracing us all. But they have fallen at the first fence and failed to call us. Their fine words butter no parsnips. Mrs Blewett added,  ‘This is not personal, of course, although it is well-known in the Labour Party that Frank is a nutter and entirely incapable of devising a practical proposal of any kind.’ A Mr Shyers made a similar jibe that as far as he could remember Alan  had been responsible for cleaning services at No.10 and for installing new hatstands. This demonstration did not seem to be supported by bystanders who sbouted jibes such as ‘ Traitors’ and ‘Greed is your only philosophy.’ So showing us that they were out of step with the non-ideological basis of the New Politics.

A Downing Street spokesman issued a short statement. ‘We have sympathy with the protestors but they  must be patient. We have the partiulars of 113 former Labour ministers on file. Some have given us helpful suggestions of the roles they would like to fulfill for the Coalition. It is not possible to employ them all in the short term but we have them all in mind.’

I do not think that statements like this will satisfy the demonstrators. It is likely that we shall have further protests and there is talk among the women of chaining themselves to the Downing Street railings. We shall see.

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Come Back Gordon…

… all is forgiven. Well, not quite all. We miss you, the benighted of this land, for the world’s economy has faltered in your absence. To escape the economic consequences of the global financial crisis requires – has required – the world to stay and act  together in a vast concerted effort to move the advanced industrial countries out of economic danger together. There is  no one but you who could have done it. Your vast bullying presence, the sheer tenacity and determination you  can summon up, and your understanding of the technical issues and machinery of international institutions is what we need now. These exasperating qualities may be uniquely wrong for British politics at this time, but profoundly right for saving the world from prolonged economic depression in the future. 

Alas, it is too late now, and we must look to pygmies. In a pygmy society size is not considered a problem for every one is miniscule. H G Wells explored the advantages of a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Surely that must constitute an  advantage to all. But if my memory is right, the blind united to kill him. Move over Gordon, or else… As I recall it when last at Piccadilly Circus I did not see any pygmies although there may have been some at Whitehall!

You think I exagerate? Alarmist, I hear you mutter. This is an economic downturn like any other and we can predict a recovery just as in the good old days of the eighties and nineties. And what is more don’t take my word for it.  We had Sir Alan Budd,  who is sage in these matters, tell you so with tables. With tables, and charts, you say, that’s an advantage. By the way whatever happened to Alan Budd?  Surely he has not gone the way of John Stonehouse (who by the way I had lunch with a few days before he did his bunk and who certainly hid his intention from me). I detect a chill in the air – in August! Yes, in August it is a dangerous month. Just think of all the wars which came upon us in August. September 3,  is not of course August but you can give me this one. It all happened while Whitehall slept and country estates prepared for the shooting of grouse. Believe me it is a wicked month. This August there is a  presentiment, a ground swell that all is not well and that the Western world will sink back, if not into this famous double-dip recession, to a long period of stagnant growth, and with inflation to -boot. A slide into stagflation to use the jargon. Will Obama save us then? Will growth in the USA save us now as in the past? Unfortunately, Obama is human and there is a small matter of mid-term elections and the possibility of a one-term Presidency.

Boy George is a a man of firm conviction and detemination. He knows what he knows. Keynes pointed out to us that most of those who claim to be economic experts, and particulary those who seek to lead politically , are firmly in thrall to some discredited economist and economic theory. As he looks into his glass one sunny August evening, George will muse upon the nation’s fate as it quivers under his attentions, and he will say to himself, and anyone listening at the time, ‘The medicine is working although the patient be faint. Let’s have more of it.’

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General Election, June/July 2011?

I made a public prediction within a month of the formation of the Coalition that electoral support for the Lib Dems would decline steadily to single figures in the public opinion polls. Last week, in a Yougov Poll,  it had fallen from 23% in the General Election to 12% now. It will fall further through a pre-budget statement (if we have one), the budget itself and the local elections in May. In the autumn I expect Labour to be given a boost by the election of a new leader ( assuming this not to be Diane Abbot). The Lib Dems usually do better in local elections than their national opinion poll rating might suggest.  Nevertheless, if their opinion poll rating at that time is, say, 8 per cent, they will do badly. If Labour decides to mount a national campaign to oppose the AV alternative to first past the post in a referendum, and given the likely low level of Lib Dem electoral support at the time, the alternative  vote option will be lost. And where will the Lib Dems be then, poor things, where will they be then?

In Conservative Party Central office lies on a few desks the result of a recent survey of the opinions of party members on the future of the Coalition. The Tories are not fools. They have tested members with the question, ‘Would you support a single Lib Dem Coalition  candidate in selected areas and seats in elections?’ The results will be interesting. (Shouldn’t the Tories be asked about these survey results?) What price will Tories be willing to pay up and down the country to preserve the Coalition? If the Coalition itself is unpopular at the time, in May, I assume it would not help much. And what of the Lib Dems? Are their members willing to stand on a Coalition ticket? I suspect than many, if not most, would decline. There is Nick Clegg’s own position in Sheffield. Isn’t there an imminent and real danger that he will lose his seat if he stands as a Lib Dem candidate with a Tory running against him. There may be a heavy price to be paid for abandoning Sheffield Forgemasters.

This is the way of all Con/Lib Coalitions. The weaker party comes out worse for the arrangement. There will be Lib Dems who will run in some sort of Liberal /Conservative colours and others who refuse to do so. Wise Lib Dem cabinet members will get out while the going is good but others will remain and fight on as  Liberal Conservatives. If the margin of support is small at the time between Labour and the Conservatives an extra 4-6 pecent of the vote sticking to Lib/Con candidates could be decisive. These calculations are difficult. It may be in the interest of the Tories and Nick Clegg to cut and run before these difficulties overwhelm them. What should Labour do when the leadership issue is settled? I shall return to this theme in future blogs. We will not get any wiser by listening in to Labour leadership debates.

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