Thursday, July 24, 2008

No Blogging

Summertime and long teachers' holidays equals no blogging until September.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brown's Lies

Tony Blair used to be considered a bit of a past master at the art of what, for want of a better word, we might call lying, but Gordon Brown seems willing to take dissembling to new heights. This is the prime minister who once stated he was withdrawing a given number of troops from Iraq, amidst much fanfare, and then quite failed to do so. Well, on the Spectator blog, Fraser Nelson has provided a detailed analysis of Brown's PMQ announcements, to devastating effect. As he says, just as Brown's jokes aren't funny, his facts clearly aren't to be taken seriously.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Toryism

George Osborne's speech to the Centre for Policy Studies last night has been described by Fraser Nelson on the 'Spectator' blog as 'all the best Cameron ideas without any of the dodgy ones'. Certainly, the speech - published in full here - is a cogent explanation of where Tory ideas currently stand, and is certainly worth reading. A year ago, there was still the worry that Cameron's Tory project was little more than a blank piece of paper. With the prospect of a Cameron premiership ever stronger, the question of what he will do with power is well and truly relevant, and he and key colleagues like Osborne are rising to the challenge.

On a student note, next year's A2 students should certainly be analysing the Osborne speech thoroughly in preparation for next year and the issue of Conservative ideology today.


Love it. The Guido blog has just uncovered these shenanigans on the part of the Labour candidate in Glasgow East. All's fair in by-elections I guess. David Cameron, meanwhile, gave an assured if unexciting interview on the 'Today' programme yesterday - I'm told that he always likes to turn up to do these interviews in person so that he can look the interviewer in the eyes! What is this, a game of who blinks first?! Meanwhile, Cameron has also appointed someone from the blogosphere to join his speechwriting team - Sam Coates, of Conservative Home, who left university before completing his degree, now has the task of upping the ante of the Cameron rhetoric. Any fans of West Wing will know that speech-writing is the heart of the political machine!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Satire? Or Just Offensive?

The Obama campaign is furious about the cover of this week's 'New Yorker' magazine, depicting the candidate and his wife as gun-toting terrorists in front of a burning flag. The New Yorker - not a notably right-wing mag - says it's satire. Perhaps...but obviously satire that is a bit close to the bone for real humour as far as Obama and co. are concerned.

Short-Term Policy Making

Having had a discussion in the politics lesson this morning about the ideological imperatives behind Brown and Smith's knife crime policy, it was interesting to pick this up on the Fawkes site this afternoon. After a morning in which there had been animated discussion about the proposal to send perpetrators to visit their victims - a real triumph of liberal hope over pessimistic reality - it has been announced this afternoon that the idea is being dropped. If the prime minister can't even co-ordinate a consistent policy on knife crime, then he really is in trouble.

The 'Today' programme this morning commented, on this item, that the government were keen to be seen to be 'doing something', and herein lies one of the problems of modern, media-managed government. So keen are governments to be seen to be 'doing something' - and this is not necessarily unique to the present one - they are spending too little time actually working out the substance of what they are doing. Thus, what might have seemed a good idea in a quick round-table discussion about how to show they're serious about tackling knife crime, becomes, without further thought or consideration, a policy albatross when it is exposed to genuine debate. We may wonder at Gordon Brown's continuing gaffe prone approach, but we should take no joy from the fact that policy is being managed in such a shoddy fashion.

As for knife crime, it isn't rocket science. Start pouring police resources into the worst affected areas - in terms of actual, people on the ground patrols - and hit knife possession with tough sanctions. Forget trying to appeal to the better side of a knife-owner's nature and start trying to deter and punish!

A useful corrective to the debate, incidentally, concerning the actual numbers we are talking about with regards to knife crime, is here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lady Thatcher's Funeral

Margaret Thatcher will be the first prime minister since Churchill to get a state funeral, reports the Mail on Sunday today, a decision it unsurprisingly firmly agrees with. Unfortunately, the Falklands victor may not have enough troops to line the route of her funeral cortege, as they are all in Afghanistan and Iraq. One hopes the troops would have been there as an endorsement, rather than to quell any potential unrest en route!

The Reward for Integrity.... the sack. General Sir Richard Dannatt has spent his time as army chief of staff defending the interests of his soldiers, telling the truth as he sees it about the undeniably difficult, even wretched, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and challenging the government over its funding for the army, and especially its provision of appropriate medical care for wounded soldiers. All of which goes down a storm in Whitehall as I'm sure you can imagine. Dannatt is, you might say, a soldier's soldier. Too much so for Gordon Brown. Dannatt is to be passed over for the top job of chief of the defence staff - as are his supporters, the current heads of the Navy and RAF.

It is a salutary lesson on the exigencies of power. It is a rare politician indeed who can accept criticism and challenges, and Gordon Brown is not that rare. When the criticism strikes so close to home, because it reveals genuine weaknesses and inadequacies in British government policy, well the only solution, obviously, is for the harbinger of bad news to be passed over in favour if someone who can read the script a little more effectively.

Brown, of course, was the Chancellor who presided over so much of the Defence department's cuts. Not for nothing was he the recipient of a censure motion signed in the Lords by all the former defence chiefs. Brown may like continuing the wars begun by his predecessor, but he doesn't like funding them. What's a few dead soldiers compared to the pressing need for cutbacks in the army to try and make the Treasury's desperate books balance. Let's not give them body armour; let's make sure we send the cheapest, not the best, armoured land vehicles even if it does lead to a few deaths; let's not provide anything like the appropriate level of air cover; and while we're about it, let's burnish our tarnished defence credentials more cheaply by proposing more CCF's in schools, but not providing any money for the gimic. And finally, let's get rid of plain speaking trouble-makers who might be good at their job, and let's instead keep promoting the toadies and the talentless, men like the Head of Secret Intelligence, John Scarlett, who colluded in one of British Intelligence's most lamentable hours.

There are many reasons to look forward to the demise of New Labour, and to rejoice over the tombs of Blair and Brown, but not the least of them will be their wilful slaughter of the British armed forces.