Category Archives: Public Services

Lib Dems: They Just Don’t Get It


There is now a Lib Dem mantra designed to show how Government has been materially improved becaus of its involvement in the Coalition. What we have, it might be supposed, is really a Lib Dem administration. The party can come up with a long list of its achievements. One by one Lib Dem policy dreams have been put into place. It is necessary  side for the purpose of this argument to recognise that there are   policies that those of us on the left can support: higher personal tax allowances, improvement of tax credits for the very poor. the triple lock on increases in the state pension, the Pupil Premium to help some disadvantaged poor children. Good on you, say I.

Do these policy changes make people less poor?  Yes, they do in a way. However, alas and alack, the imposition of VAT dwarfs these advantages and the poor will get poorer. I will not dwell on the LiB Dem opposition to any VAT increase in the General Election campaign except to comment the they were against it. We all remember the poster. They were against increases in tuition fees too and then suddenly they were not.

But what is the heart of the matter. Remember, the Lib Dems were against cuts in public expenditure on the scale propsed by the Tories. Now they are not. What they tell us now  is that these cuts are necessary and like Pilgrims Progress to the promised land they bring us all closer to full employment, rising living standards and sunshine. Trust us, you will see how wise we are it is said.

The Lib Dems no longer command trust. But are they right? Certainly the OBR has consistently produced economic forecasts that suggest they might be. We are days away now from a reckoning. The first quarter GDP figures for the for 2011 is soon to be announced. It may be that over the last six months the British economy may not have grown at all, or if it has it will be  at some miserable annualised rate. Unemployment may be rising not falling, inflation will continue to work its way up and not down and real incomes will be squeezed further. I do not know whether the OBR will be asked for a revised forecast but even if they are not asked, it is highly likely that some other respected forecasting institute will make a good fist of doing it.  And what will be observed? I anticipate it: a rising budget deficit and no chance of the Coalition’s economic objective of eliminating the deficit by 2015 being achieved.

Is this not the real charge against the Lib Dems? Not the cavilling  daily objections to their nonsense BUT one overriding error. On the essential and over-reaching issue of how to keep the economy growing and the public deficit falling THEY ARE PLAIN WRONG. The Lib Dems have sold their soul for a mess of potage to find it uneatable. The electorate will not forget it and a day of reckoning is close.

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Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Financial Times, George Osborne, IFS, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem Conference, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Public Services, Rising prices, Spending Review, Treasury, University fees

Labour Thoughts from the Benches


It is nearly a year since I got this job. If I had known then what I know now I would never have sought election to this position.; being Leader of the Opposition is hardly a job worth taking. I would like to be decisive (and I know I am often often criticised for waffle) but until the winning post is in sight I realise I shouldn’t be. Say something really prescient and compelling and Dave would pick it up and run with it. Basicly I have to let this lot get on with the job of governing the country and hope they shoot themselves in the foot. I realise this is not a glorious policy but unfortunately it is the best. It has always worked out best for me in the end – or to be precise in the beginning as well.

Let me give you a flavour of the letters I receive. I have invented names and descriptions to respect the confidentiality of the writers. First Jimmy, who is in the media (or meeja as the BBC pronounce it. He writes: ‘Basically Eddie boy you are too boring and mechanistic in your delivery. You speak in sub-text and emphasise in the minor key; your movements are like a ventriloquist’s dummy and jerky with it. Take tuition in how to deliver a speech and try to say something people will remember’ . Hard words Jimmie. I shall think about it. Gloria from Wolverhampton said. ‘Ed, I’m on your side. But can I make a suggestion (Of course, you can Gloria). Tell more human stories of distress and difficulty. Make us cry and give money to a noble cause. There a lot of these stories around especially in places like Wolverhampton. Well done Gloria, you are right AND I must make an effort to visit Wolverhampton. Is there a train service? I expect there is. Garry is a trade unionist. He said, ‘Harness the power of the trade union movement Ed and get yourself at the head of the mass movemnt and give leadership to our efforts to oppose the cuts.’  The difficulty about that Garry is that I don’t oppose them all. We have to be responsible and weed out the one’s we all really object too. I don’t wish to alienate the middle classes. And then there is Lucy who reads women’s magazines. Lucy dear, it is sweet of you, but I do not intend to marry anyone on demand especially if they write to me from Brighton. Lastly, but not least, from Alistair. I agree Alistair, it is good to speak to one’s colleagues and agree the main lines of Opposition. Of all people Alistair you know the difficulty of achieving harmony. But half of those buggers don’t want me as leader and most of the remainder are considering things, turning it over in their own minds. I shall do my best. I have always done my best. But being lovable and collegiate is a difficult task in the Labour Party.

I have decided to give it eighteen months. I’m not afraid of the future whatever it holds. If it is best for Labour that I step down and enough people continue to shout at me, I shall do just that.

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Filed under Alistair Campbell, BBC, Coalition Government, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Labour Party, Politics, Public Services

Cameron: Angel of Hope


David Cameron is in Cairo to instruct the Egyptians in democracy. As an impulsive gesture, his visit  comes as a surprise. There was hardly time to brief him. William Hague was in Europe carefully coordinating policy with our European allies; President Obama was keeping his head down#; but our Dave was winging his way into the maelstrom. It reminds me of Rudolf Hess, Deputy to Adolf Hitler, who confronted with the German invasion of the Soviet Union flew to Scotland to negotiate peace with Britain. He was promptly put in prison. I have often wondered what Hitler said about it when he first knew.

I have news for the readers of this post. He was briefed before leaving. In the true meaning of the word it did not take long to read the notes. Hague wrote: ‘Don’t do it.’  The Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office expressed himself as forceably. ‘Remember, he said, the long and troubled colonial background to our relationship with Egypt and our traditional support of Egyptian dictators. Don’t go on about teaching them democracy, they won’t appreciate it. In particular don’t mention the Suez Canal and the unreliability of army generals. George Osborne, as befits a friend in the modern era,  tweeted him. ‘Dave, please, please don’t go on about the need for austerity, wage restraint and the imperative need to cut the deficit. Wrong time, wrong place’ . Several Cabinet members, in hope of promotion, urged him to introduce the idea of the Big Society to the Army Council and the attractions of small government. With patience and skill, he would be able to show them that it was a time to look away from the benificence of the state and the advantages of encouraging voluntary action. After all that is what these common Egyptian Jonnies  have been practicing in the streets.

It has been rumoured, although I doubt the veracity of the reports, that a Labour Party faction in touch with Egyptian trade unions has urged them to practice a citizens arrest. They might consider that Dave would be a lasting asset to them. Someone with his historical knowledge and awareness of the difficulties of the man in the street would be invaluable on a lasting basis. Of course it would be a loss to British public life to lose our Dave for a prolonged period of time; but we are all social democrats now and we could make do without him.

What we don’t want is national embarassment. Perhaps when he gets there no one will want to meet him. After all not many Egyptian soldiers know anything about the Big Society. Come to think of it not many Britons know much either. If these Generals know anything about Coalition cuts to our armed forces they might exercise caution. Of course there is no harm in a furtive photograph or two. Back in Britain there would be national support for a Unison strike at our airports to keep out Dave. Not for ever of course but for a month or two. I’m sure a whip round to cover lost wages would attract widespread support.

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Filed under Army, BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Economics, Egypt, George Osborne, Ghadaffi, Labour leadership, Labour Party, Libya, Politics, Public Services, Treasury, Voting reform, Wlliam Hague

Lenin, Elephants and the Big Society


Goodness. have you noticed, we have an elephant in our front room. Don’t panic. The important thing now is not to get excited. If you agitate the elephant it can do real damage. Let us think before we act. To hell with that ring 999 and get the emergency services. Hold on, that’s just what he wants. Elephants are attention seekers. If we know how he got in we can work out how to get rid of him. Agreed? Good. We didn’t put him there,  did we ? Of course, we must have been careless it must have taken quite an effort to put him there and a good deal of noise – and we didn’t notice. Be a little careless and you wake up one morning to find him there. Agreed? Fine. Let’s look at the ideology of this. Who would think it a good idea to give us an elephant?  I don’t know. Well I looked it up on Google. Did you know that there is a Society for the Domestication of Elephants? It is based in East Grinstead and a Mrs Fortescue Smythe is the Secretary. Quite voluntary of course, but you can make a contribution. But to counter this sort of propoganda you must take account of the ideology of it. I detect the hands of Veblen and Lenin. Yes, don’t laugh. Veblen wrote a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class. His point was once a society had met all the primary needs of its citizens what was left was a great deal of time on your hands. In East Grinstead you retire at 50 with a fat pension, daddy leaves you a lot of money, and you have a great deal of time on your hands. At first you go on holiday (not much chance of a trip down the Nile and a visit to the pyramids these days, joke joke!) How many weeks to tidy up the loft and clear out the garage, Six weeks at tops?. What do you do then? You volunteer, of course and do good deeds. Now doing good to others is not easy. You find that people with professional qualifications are ahead of you and local government thinks you unsuitable. Damn cheek. Now along comes David Cameron and he agrees with you. You don’t need to know anything at all really. Start  a voluntary organisation of your own and get going. And how does Lenin get into the act. Easy peasy. He read Veblen and it seemed to him that what would happen in a society  when basic human needs were met is that people had time on their hands. So he organised them to do voluntary work. After a while people got bored. There were better things to do than to sweep up, metaphorically speaking , for nothing. No one paid you and physical labour was not everyone’s cup of tea. Arthritus, overweight, you know the kind of thing. The coaches taking people to the fields and to council estates were not alway filled. People took long lunch times and drank too much. There were problems of arthritus and fat bellies In the end they had to be forced to do these things. Not many people liked this. And the rest as they say is history. Hence the elephants. What local authorities are involved in the domestication of elephants/ None. No competition there. Still not every household is taken on the idea of keeping an elephant.. They have to be encouraged. Hence our elephant. Our society is a Big Society. You don’t get much bigger than a white elephant. What  shall we do then. Well if the Libyans can get rid of Ghadaffi can’t we get rid of our Dave and his white elephants?

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Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, George Osborne, Ghadaffi, Libya, Politics, Public Services, Revolution, Volunteers