Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
"I really think with our constitutional arrangements, we should be more careful about how these matters are dealt with.
"We have no written constitution which is entrenched and our constitution works through checks and balances and it is very important that if we are starting to alter the framework of checks and balances, that the matter is looked at carefully."
Monday, April 23, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Is this what David Cameron would like voters to forget? A close to the knuckle sketch from the satirical programme 'Not the 9 o'clock News' gives a popular view of the Tory grassroots, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson, in its 80's heyday. Problem was - many Tories agreed with the Atkinson character!
If the video isn't here, you can find it on you tube here.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The worst decision taken by 'Question Time's' producers was to have a celeb non-politician on the panel. Tonight it's an actress called Jan Ravens, who has just managed a supremely inarticulate answer on Gordon Brown and pensions. After saying she goes to sleep at the mention of pensions, she burbled something about inflation and then managed 'Gordon Brown's been really good'. And that's the limit of her profound political insight. There are politics set members who could do better....!!
The wretched Ravens continued to cover herself in ignominy with what fellow panellist Bruce Anderson rightly called 'cheap and nasty' comments about the Royal Family, whom one presumes she's never met. There was also, however, a good question about whether, following the Des Browne survival, the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility was dead. Sadly, the collective wisdom of the panel failed really to deal with this issue, although Ed Miliband did manage to suggest that he thought it wasn't dead, but that you couldn't expect ministers to resign over every mistake made. Which isn't really the issue, is it.
- Massive population displacement as a result of global warming;
- Urban wars fought in lawless mega-cities;
- High-tech conflicts fought on land, sea, in the air and in space;
- A selfish younger generation of Europeans supporting euthanasia to offset the costs of an aging population;
- Dictators increasing their life-spans with 'age-mitigation' drugs;
- And the middle-classes become the revolutionary class.
Subject matter from a particularly over-the-top futurist novel? Er, no actually. All of those scenarios appear in the nattily titled 'Global Strategic Trends Programme 2007-2037', as produced by that well known popular author, the MoD's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre. So, if you want really apocalyptic forecasts, ditch the fiction, and just pick up your local MoD forecast! Read more in the First Post here!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
We seem to be so desperate for serious competiton for democratic leadership, that when high profile individuals declare they are NOT running, it becomes a major news story! David Milliband must have denied interest in running for the Labour leadership against Gordon Brown on dozens of occasions, but such denials have failed to quash the desire of some Labourites and all of the media for him to offer himself for such a contest. Now, however, he has absolutely, definitely announced he has no interest in running, and has taken the serious step of telling this to Nick Robinson. So it must be true! Labour is on an inevitable course towards the coronation of Gordon Brown as leader and prime minister, and they (and we) had better jolly well live with it!
The Tories, meanwhile, are themselves getting ever more concerned about their inability to produce a decent candidate to challenge Ken Livingstone for the mayoralty of London. Livingstone is increasingly damaged goods, and it speaks volumes about the state of the Tory Party, even in its renaissance form under Cameron, that it cannot produce a single credible, high profile candidate against the man. Their appalling dilemma reared its head in a story that started and finished today, about Greg Dyke being mooted as a possible joint Conservative/Lib Dem candidate. I'm not sure which is dafter - the idea that the man behind Roland Rat could be a credible candidate for mayor, or the thought that the Tories and Liberals might unite behind a single candidate! It's a funny old world, as Mrs. Thatcher remarked upon being kicked out of No. 10 and before she started harping on about treachery!
There is little to add to the acres of coverage about the shootings at Virginia Tech. You could go back and watch Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine' and then ask why nothing's changed; you could wonder why American politicians, from the president down, wring their hands over such events and proceed to do precisely nothing about the principal element of American society - gun ownership - which makes such repetitions inevitable. In news terms, however, the First Post carries an interesting article about how the event represents the coming of age of 'Citizen Journalism'. The first reports, and the first images and even movies, came from ordinary students who quickly recoursed to mobiles and internet blogs to record what was happening. Their alacrity left the mainstream media lagging considerably. There is a fascinating immediacy and primacy about such reports but, as is also noted in the article, such citizen journalism carries no form of perspective - no editing, not much judgement, just raw, chaotic, event driven narrative. On reflection, not so different from 24 hour news then.
Top image from 'First Post'
Desmond Browne defended himself over the Iran hostages crisis on Monday, while Gordon Brown defended himself over the pensions decision he took ten years ago yesterday. Both Commons events had some interest, and showed that the old chamber still represents the key arena for political combat in Britain, both performances told us something of the men who gave them, and both ended with predictable results.
The Defence Secretary's performance was a stolid, uninspiring and rather mealy mouthed one. Nick Robinson, in his blog entry about it, suggested it showed that a minister could survive a mistake by apologising for it and moving on. The reality was that Browne made it clear he hated admitting any responsibility, only owned up to his mistake after nearly a week in which he used all sorts of verbal contortions to try and suggest it wasn't his fault really, and finally had a grudging 'sorry' forced from his lips only after using the dreadful formula that he had expressed "a degree of regret that can be equated with an apology" (see Simon Hoggart's excellent sketch here). Given the clarity of the Defence Department's own rule book about the Defence Secretary's responsibility for the decision regarding the sale of the hostages' stories, this is one case where ministerial responsibility should certainly have resulted in resignation. But nothing doing. That little convention is as dead as it gets.
Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is busy trying to shore up shares in Brown-for-PM, and his latest effort has been to defend himself in a Commons debate called by the Tories to attack his handling of the pensions issue. Most professionals involved in the pensions industry have been scathing of Brown's 1997 decision to scrap tax relief on pensions for years, and are confident that the calamitous results of his decision are yet to be seen. It is perhaps a sign of how feeble the Tories have been over the last decade that they have so signally failed to launch any useful attack on him until now, and are only on the attack now because of the media's digging around on this issue. Brown is becoming fair game for several media outlets (excepting the 'Sun' of course, which remains committed to New Labour) in view of his likely unchallenged assumption of the premiership. Defending himself in the Commons yesterday, he gave a hectoring performance, using his trademark over-familiarity with statistics to bamboozle the Opposition. He won the vote of course - that's what a Labour majority is for after all. And he rather dominated his Tory opposite number, George Osborne, who still doesn't really convince as a prospective alternative chancellor. If we were looking for signs of a new, more self-doubting Brown, then the most recent debate certainly didn't provide it.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The political scene has certainly not been quiet over the past couple of weeks. Easter has been an excellent break for some - I've hit the ski slopes (literally, too often!) with more luck than judgement, then endured the Pennines in a rare but wonderful heatwave - but pity poor Mr. Des Browne. As Easter started, it looked as if the worst crisis he had faced in his short and undistinguished career as Defence Secretary had at least ended well, with the release of the British naval hostages by Iran. Alas, the beast of spin got in the way, Mr. Browne exercised a poor, if entirely typical, level of judgement, and now his position looks increasingly untenable. He is due to make a Commons statement tomorrow. This is classic 'when should ministers resign' territory, and well worth noting for the upcoming AS exam. It is unlikely that Mr. Browne will resign - that simply doens't happen in this government. But can he last?
Meanwhile, the other Mr. Brown, the one without an 'e', has been meeting a president. Apparently, Mr. Bush asked to see him, not the other way around! Not that many prescient people would relish being in Mr. Bush's company these days, but Gordon Brown's own reputation has been taking a battering recently, so he needs any friend he can get. As to Labour leadership battles, I doubt very much whether the much touted Mr. Miliband will stand, but former Tory would-be leader Michael Portillo offers some advice in his Sunday Times column today.
David Cameron gave an interview to Gordon Brown admirer Andrew Marr this morning and (although I'm biased here) acquitted himself well. Tony Blair has been talking up his legacy with the BBC, and all eyes are now focused on the upcoming devolved assembly elections, with the SNP likely to win in Scotland and present a serious headache for the future of the three hundred year old union, to say nothing of the Scottish premier in waiting!
Whether a minister should resign, leadership battles, devolution crises, watershed elections, a prime minister's legacy...great times in which to return to the study of politics and prepare for exams!