Monday, May 31, 2010
You start by declaring nothing — and friends and family assume there’s nothing to declare. You find yourself, by your silence, playing along with a lie you never meant to tell.
Imperceptibly, but in the end fatally, the outer self diverges from the inner. And whenever you grit your teeth and resolve to blurt it out, there’s always a mother who might be heartbroken, a dad who’d be devastated, a boss who’d be contemptuous, mates whose trust you might lose, or a frail grandma for whom this might just prove the final blow. The years go by, the gap widens and calcifies.He concludes by explaining why so few politicos 20-odd years ago would have wanted to 'come out':
Maureen Colquhoun, then an MP, was pulled apart, and sank, never to resurface. Later, Chris Smith survived. As an ex-MP in 1987 I endured a brief weekend of sniggering in the News of the World, but lived to tell the tale. And what was it we all feared in those not-so-distant days? It was the vengeful hatred of newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
There are precious few national interests served by removing an able and talented man from one of the government's key portfolios, in which, after just 18 days, it looked as if he was shining. But this campaign has managed that, for few people, particularly people of intelligence and sensitivity, can survive this sort of media onslaught. The more we subject our would-be public servants to this sort of hysterical 'scrutiny', the less likely we are to get genuinely high calibre people into serious government jobs. We might as well give up the whole process and simply appoint Max Clifford as the independent arbiter of who would be suitable. This has been a victory for an increasingly tawdry newspaper, but it is an unpleasant, negative one for all that.
As for the gay issue, it has exposed the frailty of the wisdespread view that somehow we have managed to achieve such a sublime level of gay acceptance that there can surely be nothing standing in the way of gay people pursuing high profile careers in full open-ness about their sexuality. For a start, acceptance of homosexuality is far from widespread. Go beyond the cosmopolitan capital's inner environs, and there remains a hefty level of suspicion and bigotry towards gay people. Such attitudes are often community based. They are certainly often found in family units. Who are we - or any metropolitan media commentators - to judge how appropriate it may be for individuals of different backgrounds and beliefs to be fully open about their sexuality? In any case, we won't have matured as a society until such revelations are essentially redundant. It would have been an optimistic sign if the news about David Laws' expenses had been made without reference to the sex of his partner, or to his own long hard night of the soul. But this was not to be. Even the Independent on Sunday has sought to provide a half page profil of Mr. Laws' partner, complete with reprints of various trivial twitter messages from him to flesh out the article. The one commentator who has provided useful illumination has been the Conservative blogger Iain Dale, who has used his own struggle with admitting his homosexuality to explain David Laws' dilemma in an article for, of all papers, the Mail on Sunday.
This whole sorry affair has told us very little about parliamentary propriety or about the issue of expenses generally - it was old news (his claims were between 2004 and 2007, and the only year of interest here is 2007 itself, after the 'partner' regulations came into force); it was low-level stuff that the Telegraph itself was uninterested in at the height of the expenses scandal. It has, however, told us a great deal about the continuing destructive impact of a media that has lost all sense of judgement and responsibility.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Whatever Laws' personal motivation, this is a supremely careless error from a man who is a lynchpin of the new governing agenda, and the last thing the coalition needs is the reminiscence of the expenses nightmare of the old parliament to be dragged up. I hope Laws survives intact, but the message to the Cameron government is that the media feeding frenzy is not over yet.
UPDATE: Fantastic bit of media cant in the Telegraph this morning. It piously declares that "The Daily Telegraph was not intending to disclose Mr Laws’s sexuality, but in a statement issued in response to questions from this newspaper, the minister chose to disclose this fact." And it really thought there was going to be any other consequence of its story? Having got their admission, the Telegraph is now able to make its headline "Treasury chief, his secret lover, and a £40,000 claim". Is there really much doubt as to what the paper's main intention was?
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Meanwhile, as expected, one of the more eye-catching parts of the Queen's Speech, delivered in her customary jokey manner, was Michael Gove's proposed school reforms. I'm not a great expert on schools reform, teaching as I do in one of those that clearly doesn't need any reforming. And I was pleased when Gove asserted the need for history to be taught as a chronological package, if a tad surprised to learn that you can clearly teach it in thoroughly non-chronological packages. But there's no doubt that however exciting the whole Academies project looks, it will take a lot of effort to persuade most schools that they really want to go independent. Educationalists are naturally cautious when it comes to their own jobs and livelihoods, no matter how radical they are with other people's learning, and the real fight for Gove won't be setting out the ideas, or even getting broad public consensus - it'll be persuading educationalists to accept them. Stephen Pollard makes the same gloomy prognostication in the Telegraph today.
And as for reform, if Gove really wanted to make the lives of schools, teachers and heads easier he could start with simplifying the disciplinary process. I know a school whose head could be spending much of his next year or so at appeals hearings and in court because the parents of expelled pupils simply won't accept the right of the school to take that sort of disciplinary action. There is no behaviour so bad, or infraction so obvious, that punishment for it can't be challenged over a time-consuming and expensive period by recalcitrant parents. And discipline suffers. The case of the science teacher who hit a boy with dumb-bells (whilst at the same time shouting "Die, Die, Die" in a distinctly non-peaceful disciplinary manouevre) has been much commented upon, mainly along the lines of "good on him, the boy had it coming to him". Possibly, although I venture to suggest that perhaps one or two other less obviously damaging forms of disciplinary action could have been tried first, before the one that fractured his skull and damaged his hearing. But, as the First Post's Brendan O'Neill presciently observes, the case throws up a more disturbing issue, concerned with the overall decline of discipline and authority in schools and society:
Fundamentally, the driving force behind the demise of discipline in school is the collapsing authority of teachers themselves, where their moral and professional authority over their charges has been eroded by a creeping culture of relativism and today's broader cultural disdain for the idea that adults know better than children.
So, Mr. Gove, start sorting out the nonsense that masquerades as school discipline and you might indeed be a great reforming Education Secretary.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The blog is clear evidence to those of us living in the middle class enclave of the existence of 'two nations'. No longer just the 'rich'and the 'poor' as Disraeli had it, but the valued and the neglected. And the neglect is both self-imposed as well as externally evident. The Orwell Prize's first award, last year, was interestingly given to another pseudonymous public service author - a policeman writing about his experiences with this suddenly fascinating and repellent underclass. We are unlikely to get fed up of reading about this, even while we bemoan our impotence and wonder how society ever threw up such inadequate systems that thwart the efforts of the brave few willing to offer their help.
After reading some of Winston Smith, writing a blog entry on David Cameron's victory over the 1922 Committee seems somehow rather banal!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Ed Miliband announced his candidacy this morning during a lecture sponsored by the Independent and the Fabian Society, and I have to say, listening to him, he sounded as if he would be offering a more dynamic, thoughtful approach. He is a bit dorkish, and his public persona at present is limited (but remember Cameron's was virtually invisible in 2005), but he does seem to have something about him. I'm not sure his older brother really offers a convincing change, other than being a capable and high profile ex-minister with a reasonable media image (banana aside). But this fight has barely started, and we await other candidacies with anticipation. Please stand, Ed Balls. You're the coalition's great hope for the future!
Seldon - who has made something of a living (alongside his day job as Head of Wellington College) out of analysing the different premierships of recent years - makes some interesting comparisons between Blair and Brown. Blair, he suggests, was much the better political operator, but achieved rather less than Brown when it comes down to substantive policies. He sees Brown as the creative force behind much of the success of the first Blair term, although conversely says that Brown then went on to limit the success of the second term with his obduracy. Blair, of course, faced a far sunnier set of political circumstances in 1997 than Brown ever managed to face. And the manner of Brown's exit was, indeed, a dignified one.
Seldon provides useful illumination and some recent historical parallels - he compares Brown with that other short-lived Labour premier and former Chancellor, James Callaghan. Whether or not the way in which Brown conducted his office - revealed so vividly in Andrew Rawnsley's book - will have an impact alongside an assessment of his political record remains to be seen, although I suspect Seldon is right. The stuff of Rawnsley's book - Brown's rages, his way of working - makes for entertaining reading, but hardly affected Brown even amongst voters today; I don't think history will see that side of him as more than a footnote. More serious will be the analysis of his role in Blair's government, which was such an essential precursor to his own short premiership.
There is, incidentally, some honeymoon joy for the coalition - although it is mixed. UK Polling Report indicates a 60% approval for the new government. Alas, 28% think it will last less than a year!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The rancorous comments against the coalition of Melanie Philips (Daily Mail) and Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) on Question Time tonight - both of whom are commentators with no need to engage in practical politics - reflect two defeated agendas that are currently writhing around in pain, thrashing wildly out against the thing that has defeated them. Heseltine and Hughes both gave bravura defences of the new arrangement, with Heseltine quite correctly pointing out to the audience that this is what "you, the masters of democracy", have created. We can't really spend years complaining about how politicians just don't work together across the party divide, and then start complaining when they do.
In short, they're doing a Roy Jenkins in reverse - seeking to form a progressive coalition of the centre-right rather than the centre-left: a new force that will isolate Labour; stuff Mandelson, Campbell (Menzies as well as Alistair), Adonis, Shirley Williams, Ashdown and the rest of Jenkins' heirs, and dominate British politics during the early part of the new century. Read here David Alton's account of how the Liberal Democrats' predecessors split again and again - over Unionism, coalitions and National Government - and were gradually absorbed by the Conservatives. In the nicest possible way, Baldwin's successors are seeking to repeat history today. If they eventually succeed, it will liberate them from the Party's right which, they surely believe, has held the Conservatives prisoner since at least the mid-1990s. David Cameron must catch himself thinking that his lack of a majority is a stroke of wonderful fortune.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Vince Cable is clearly the Lib Dem who is least comfortable in his coalition role. Liam Fox will reassure the Tories about Trident, and since he has been shadowing the post and built up an expertise about the state of the armed forces, he is likely to be able to hit the ground running. William Hague is an increasingly admired Conservative politician, certainly more than able to hold his own at international gatherings, and with the makings of a great foreign secretary. He may hope that President Sarkozy doesn't ask him about his notorious Have I Got News For You comment many moons ago, when he described the French, to Ian Hislop's delight, as "cheese eating surrender monkeys" (about 5.20 in on this video here).
It was always unlikely that George Osborne wouldn't get the Chancellorship, given his closeness to David Cameron - despite the rumours, faithfully blogged here, about Clarke etc. He is an under-rated performer with a terrible public image (but perhaps as Chancellor he doesn't see a need to be popular) but a possible canny grasp of what is needed. Accompanied by the very able Lib Dem MP David Laws as his Chief Secretary, the man who will actually execute the cuts across Whitehall, this again has the potential to be a very effective team.
It was good to see Michael Gove at Education, and good to see the return of a straightforward name for that department. Gove's ideas were amongst the more interesting and coherent in the Tory manifesto, and his performance over the past few days has been very sure-footed. Ken Clarke is also a fine appointment for Justice, even if, by his own admission, he is very out of date on legal issues and has a lot of work to do. But that's Ken.
Overall impression is very strong, and this coalition is a lot more interesting and exciting than a majority Tory government would have been.
David Cameron's enthusiasm in particular suggests that he seems more at ease in this new arrangement than he might have done with a majority Tory administration. At least the coalition gives him the chance to ditch a few less favoured Conservative policies and keep a leash on the right. One Nation politics is very much back. Cameron, in fact, has shown daring and decisiveness in his drive to get this coalition on the road, which bodes well for his future leadership of the country. Clegg has been hardly less impressive as he steered the Liberal Democrats through their suspicion to a deal.
This is a new politics, engendered by the election, of the sort which journalists and commentators have been calling for ages. You know, politicians putting aside their differences and actually working together. So it is rather depressing to see that so many of the media are several steps behind the curve, happier with talk of division than compromise. The journos' questions at the press conference either harked back to the old style of politics or were essentially trivial. Cynicism is the main emotion of most commentators. One of the worst in this regard has been Newsnight. A combination of Kirsty Wark and Michael Crick has really failed to move with the body politic. Crick annoys as an intellligent man with a frivolous, door-stepping approach to his stories. His aim as a reporter is to get as much on the nerves of potential interviewees as possible for a bit of good television. Wark, meanwhile, has persistently tried - and usually failed - to get her political guests to resort to a bit of old fashioned partisanship. She has wilfully ignored the needs of compromise in a coalition arrangement, and baldly asks why this party or that have dropped their commitment to a treasured policy. She and Crick are clearly happier with party politics and point scoring than are the Conservatives or Lib Dems at the moment. Cameron and Clegg have, for the moment, overcome the possible opposition of much of their parliamentary parties, but they obviously have a long way to go before they can overcome the inbuilt cynicism of the political commentariat.
At the same time, the right-wing commentariat and 'senior Conservative' figures could barely conceal their anger at Nick Clegg's apparent duplicity for daring to speak to another party! Peter Oborne in the Mail was a wonder to behold. Was Clegg's move a bid to prove to his party that a Labour deal was a no-hoper, and thus an attempt to bring them into line? Perhaps. It seems to have worked, as both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties swing in behind a historic coalition, the final details of which will unfold today.
It was a day of milestones - youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool (not a great analogy given Liverpool's reputation as a pretty reactionary and repressive PM); first coalition since 1945; only the second change of government since 1979; first Liberals round the Cabinet table since, well, 1945 (hmmm, maybe the milestones aren't so great after all!); first Liberal Deputy PM EVER; first Etonian Prime Minister since Home.
One historian commented this morning that history had delivered David Cameron one of the worst hands an incoming peacetime Prime Minister has ever had to face. With all its potential for failure, and all the difficulties that have accompanied its birth, maybe this coalition government could just work; maybe this sort of alliance in government is actually what we need to face down such serious crises, and provide Britain with better, more effective government? After decades of authoritarian rule punctuated by the occasional election endorsement, an era of different government, particularly headed by men of the undoubted calibre of Cameron and Clegg, could be a genuine refreshing of the political system.
On the other hand, it might go completely pear-shaped! Politics is nothing if not unpredictable.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
UPDATE: The Spectator's Alex Massie has this explanation of Nick Clegg's recent manouevrings.
Meanwhile, over in the orange corner, the Telegraph reports tension at the top of the Liberal Democratic Party. Noticeable for his absence from the Conservative negotiations has been Vince Cable, the former Labour man turned SDP member. Cable is one of those opposed to a Conservative deal, and there is also apparently tension anyway between him and the man who succeeded him when he was a mere 'acting' leader of the party. Also in the Labour camp, so reports have it, are former leaders Ashdown and Menzies Campbell - Campbell, of course, is a friend of Gordon Brown's anyway.
The second one is slightly less angry, but only just - this time it's Ben Bradshaw who rouses Boulton's ire.
[Hat Tip Guido Fawkes]
The Lib Dems are very divided on who they should go in with, and there is the added complication for them of the numbers - the Lib-Con deal gives a healthy majority in the Commons, the Lib-Lab deal requires an inherently unstable collection of other minor parties to join it. This is difficult territory for the Lib Dems - but it is what they've been wanting for decades.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Meanwhile, the Lib Dem tactics, ably abetted by Gordon Brown's resignation, has brought a promise from the Tories for a referendum on the Alternative Vote. This is as far as they can possibly go, but to be fair it is as far as anyone can possibly go. There are sufficient numbers in the Labour Party prepared to vote down such a proposal if it is simply introduced as a bill, as Tom Harris made clear on Newsnight. Quite apart from that, there is also the minor point of perhaps consulting the people via a referendum on such a significant change in the operation of our democratic machinery.
On balance, the Lib-Lab option still looks a lot trickier than a Lib-Con one. Former Cabinet Minister John Reid who, let us not forget, represents a Scottish constituency, was pretty clear about why he thinks a Lib-Lab deal shouldn't even be considered. It doesn't on its own bring a majority, it looks like a coalition of the losers, and it requires nationalist support which, says Reid, would inevitably come at the cost of demanding that any public spending cuts fall on the English rather than equitably across the provinces. Reid knows this is a non-starter, as does his Scottish colleague Tom Harris, who also noted that there was no way many Scottish Labour MPs would want to enter a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists. The 'rainbow coalition' so beloved of Campbell, Mandelson, Miliband et al is beset with monumental constitutional difficulties that simply don't arise if the Lib Dems eventualy run with a Conservative alliance.
This is what happens with a hung parliament, and it's exciting stuff. Whether we get better government as a result remains to be seen. But if they want to try and keep some of the high ground they've spent the last few decades occupying, the Lib Dems will need to come to a conclusion pretty quickly.
Nick Robinson cogently outlined three problems for the LD's - they still get Brown until September; they then get another unelected leader; and they open themselves up to being called a 'loser's coalition'. In addition to those problems, Labour and the Lib Dems alone do not have enough seats to reach a majority (unlike a Con-LD deal), so need to bring in the varied interests of the nationalist parties and the Green MP. In those circumstances, do we get 'strong and stable government'? Not likely. And then there's the undoubted problem for Nick Clegg of entering a coalition with an as yet undetermined prime minister for the long term. If he joins with Labour now, he could end up serving under Ed Balls, David Miliband, Harriet Harman, or any one of several others? Is he equally happy with any of them? All, of course, unelected as PM.
New Labour has lived and died by the spin, and they are now using a last minute spin gambit from a discredited leader to give their tainted brand a few extra gasps of the breath of power. Like they needed to do anything else to remind us of their unsuitability for power.
UPDATE: Robinson accurately describes this as "an audacious bid by Gordon Brown to keep Labour in power, and to keep himself in power for a few more months". Audacious indeed.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Only the Conservative right could be quite so self-deluded. The only person standing between the Conservative Party and greater oblivion throughout this parliament, and certainly in this election, was David Cameron. The deep-seated suspicion that many voters still have of Tories has been put on hold while they gave David Cameron a chance to prove things had changed. Michael Portillo, once a hard-line member of the Tory right until his emblematic defeat in 1997, put it eloquently in his Telegraph column on Friday:
In the last parliament the Tories had fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983. It took three elections before Labour recovered from that rout sufficiently to win an overall majority. Cameron was expected to do it in a single leap. He needed a swing of about eight per cent, not unprecedented but rare. Tony Blair managed it, but at no time in recent months has it felt as though a political earthquake was in store.
Cameron’s election performance was pretty good. The gains are superior to those achieved by any party throughout most of the twentieth century. A swing of five to six per cent would usually be hailed as massive. It is better than that accomplished by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 - even though before that election Britain had descended into chaos under Labour.
But let's go further. One of the reasons for the Conservative failure to achieve a majority in this election has been the stubborn failure of Scotland to embrace any Tory candidate. Why? Because the residue of Thatcherism is still remembered in Scotland. If we want to track the reason for the Tories' inability to gain majority status in parliament to any single person, then we ned to track it to Margaret Thatcher herself. It was under Thatcher's 11 year dominance that the Conservatives saw their representation in large areas of the UK diminish and eventually vanish. The cities stopped voting Conservative, so did Scotland and Wales, so did vast swathes of the north of England. This was the toxic legacy of one of the most divisive prime ministers of modern times. It was the legacy that poisoned John Major's attempts to redraw Conservatism . It was the failure to pull away from Thatcherism that doomed the subsequent leaderships of William Hague and Michael Howard. David Cameron's considerable triumph has been to claw Conservatism back into the mainstream, to such a point that some of the historic losses of 1997 have now come back to the party, and they now dominate local government in a way not seen since 1977.
The complaints against David Cameron are the complaints of a recalcitrant group of rightists who have always loathed One Nation Conservatism and all it stands for. They are currently swinging out against the group of Cameron advisers who are the architects of the Conservative revival. Tim Montgomerie, of Conservative Home, has blogged that David Cameron must revive a conversation with the Tory Party? Really? To what end? To see that the grassroots Tories do not have any real association with the concerns and aspirations of the majority of ordinary voters? To hear again that Thatcherite grails such as anti-Europeanism and immigration are the way forward?
It is time that Conservative members realised that David Cameron has given them one last chance at government. It is time they realised that, on the cusp of power, his obligation now has to be to the larger majority of voters who are not party-aligned. Tory members have no divine right to determine the direction of their party's national governance, any more than Labour members or Liberal Democrat members do. Democracy is not about the will of the minority, which is what party members, for all their virtues, are. The last party to succumb to the rampant desires of its unreconstructed membership was the Labour Party of Michael Foot, and that is hardly a place that the revived Conservative Party needs to be. Lay off Cameron and his team - they've brought you nearer to power than any would have thought possible 5 years ago.
UPDATE: Delighted to see the Tory Reform Group, my old stamping ground, issuing a clear statement in support of the idea of coalition with the Lib Dems.
UPDATE 2: Another good post, in support of coalition idea, here on Platform 10.
But are they all right? It is difficult for Cameron to deliver electoral reform, certainly, but how much easier would it actually be for Gordon Brown, many of whose own MPs are strongly opposed to the idea and would surely vote down any referendum proposal for change that he might try and make. As for the 'rainbow coalition', is it really more democratic to allow the Scots, the Northern Irish and the Welsh to ring-fence spending in their countries as part of a deal to keep Labour in power in England? Where then does the bulk of public spendcing cuts fall? Why should the semi-devolved provinces be dictating the politics of England? The fact remains (see post below) that Cameron has a substantial majority in England, and that a deal with the Liberal Democrats, should one be forthcoming, provides a coalition that represents a clear majority across the whole of the UK. Hardly undemocratic, and if Nick Clegg is having to settle for a less full-blooded commitment to electoral reform (and he is unlikely to come away with nothing at all) than he might get - albeit dubiously - from Gordon Brown, he will at least have recognised one of the clear mandates of the election - not to keep Brown's Labour party in power. He will, moreover, be able to show, for the first time in decades, that the Lib Dems are a capable party of government, and perhaps be part of forging a genuinely new politics.
It's clearly not going to be easy, especially given the deep-seated suspicion both parties' memberships have of each other, but it is time the liberal left outside the world of pragmatic politics took a more realistic view of what is actually happening, and stopped trying to pretend that there was some scenarion in which Labour still have a mandate to govern. It's also, perhaps, time to stop the pretence that Gordon Brown would somehow meekly step aside from Downing Street if any 'rainbow coalition' deal could be darwn up. Of all the political fantasies on offer, that one is the most extreme.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Lib Dems 43
Total seats 532 (1 still to declare - likely to be Tory)
Giving the Conservatives a healthy 62 seat overall majority!
Friday, May 07, 2010
"The brains and character of the Conservative Party have always been recruited from the Liberals.......Possibly the Liberal Party cannot serve the state in any way better than by providing Conservative governments with Cabinets, and Labour gvoernments with ideas".
And probably an equally large number of the ordinary voting population would prefer their political representatives to get together and work out a deal as soon as possible. Now who do we think our political leaders should be seeking to represent at this point - the interests of a tiny cadre of party members, or the interests of the voting public at large?
Cameron offered some reassurance to his own party, notably on Europe and immigration. But, possibly unlike many of his party die-hards, Cameron, as ever, does 'get it', just as he 'got it' when the expenses scandal broke out. Cameron knows that it is vital he taps into the electorate's mood for change, without unbalancing their continuing suspicion of party politics. He has offered a deal to the Liberals that could move this currently stalemated political proces forward in a way that suits the verdict proclaimed yesterday. By identifying common interests in policy with the Lib Dems, and by proposing a commission to consider electoral reform, Cameron has taken a huge gamble, for these are things many in his party are innately suspicious of. But Cameron has steel, and he is also - tantalisingly for the Tories - within a hair's breadth of power, and he is assuming that no sane Tory (not a fully inclusive label) will want to rock the boat away from such a prospect now.
If Nick Clegg responds - as it seems he might - in a positive way to Cameron's wide-ranging overtures, the prospect of an intelligent, effective, reforming and 'new' type of government could well emerge. I think Cameron and Clegg both have the vision and pragmatic grasp to make this work, but boy are their parties going to be difficult! Cameron's speech has, at any rate, confirmed the view that this is indeed a leader who knows how to grasp a situation and steer it impressively. He is absolutely a prime minister in waiting now, and the man in Number 10 needs to make way quickly.
UPDATE: Blogger Guido Fawkes carries this upbeat response to the Cameron project. If it comes off, he reckons, we could see the death of Labour.
Meanwhile, on the vexed subject of electoral reform, an interesting post on Tory MP Douglas Carswell's blog, indicating why he might now favour it. Carswell is an individualist, maverick MP who nonetheless has the ability to wield considerable influence as a sharp minded policy thinker; he it was who initiated the historic downfall of Speaker Martin, and he has also writeen - with MEP Dan Hannan - "The Plan", a hugely influential policy document within Tory circles.
In amongst all the uncertainty, some good new MPs have been elected, and some prominent ones despatched. But what oh what do they do now?! And how frustrating would it be to embark on your nice new parliamentary career, only to have to defend it all again in October?
LATER: Some good Conservative gains from a One Nation perspective. Richard Fuller winning in Bedford, and Jane Ellison earlier in Battersea, puts two impressive political operators into parliament.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Meanwhile, am watching Channel 4s Alternative Election Night as they broadcast the first of 4 "Come Dine With Me's", featuring three huge egos - Derek Hatton, Brian Paddick, Rod Liddle and Edwina Currie. Paddick described it afterwards as four nights of torment!
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Er, not quite. Election time is when the fragile electorate get to hear the message deemed palatable enough to give them by politicians in hoc to focus groups, polls and the like. And perhaps it's hardly surprising, as any politician foolish enough to tell us the truth and give us the genuine hard options would find themselves in the ex-politician class faster than Gordon Brown can fling abuse into a radio mike. The message we seem to really want, and are getting for the most part, is this - yes, we'll deal with the massive public spending deficit, and we'll do it without making any serious cuts in public spending, other than in the generic waste that is somehow always there. Are the politicians being cowardly, or are we the electorate being duplicitous? We say we want to hear hard truths, then we vote for the ones who give us saccharine.
While we're busy duping ourselves into believing the parties' more or less homogenous message that the economic solution doesn't have to hurt too much, the Greeks have been out on the streets striking, protesting, battling with police and generally causing mayhem. And no, they're not battling against some oppressive dictatorship that has forced them down the road to bankruptcy. They're battling against the latest elected government to fail to tell them the truth or take action against endemic corruption. And the reason why successive governments have failed to do this? Because they were fearful of the electorate that would keep them in opposition if they suggested reforming the system. Democracies are societies of vested interests, but those interests are not, in fact, the interests of the few, but are interests of the many, tied up in a complicated manner with different groups of the very electorate who vote for governments. Thus does democracy work - or, perhaps, doesn't. The Greek people are actually not protesting against the sheer miserable inadequacy of their governments; they are protesting against the possibility that years of happy over-run might now have to end. The very over-run which they've all been merrily voting for.
A teacher, Thrasyvo Paxinos, is quoted on the BBC website saying "I'm feeling more and more angry each day, because those who got us into this mess are not held responsible". Not entirely, Mr. Paxinos. Because you live in a democracy, and you too have had a responsibility not to be indulged by governments who have failed to confront you with the truth.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Meanwhile, ex-SGS politics student Jack Marshall is currently reporting from New York on the digital world, and notes in this report that it is the Lib Dems who seem furthest ahead in their use of social media. We are still, of course, nowhere near the US/Obama model, but perhaps it is Lib Dem activists after all who are keeping Philippa Stroud at the top of the twitter lists at the moment!
Politics lecturer and Tory peer Lord Norton has meanwhile provided some illumination on the role of the Speaker in a hung parliament.
Monday, May 03, 2010
The latest poll has Cameron's Tories gaining a 7% swing in 57 key marginals, which would, so the polling statisticians assure us, put them into a 2 seat majority. Hmmm. Not substantial - he might be advised to check out some private medical insurance for the more elderly returned MPs of which, thankfully for his sanity, there are remarkably few following the expenses clear-out. What does seem to be happening is a gradual - very gradual - shift towards Cameron, occasioned in part by the inevitable momentum that accompanies a likely winner, and also by the stubborn failure of the 'Clegg Bounce' to materialise into anything too substantial. Seems that first debate was simply a reminder of Clegg's existence, and not the harbinger of a new British political wunderkind after all. And Cameron does seem to enjoy campaigning, in contrast to Brown who loathes it, and Clegg who is determinedly wooden and humourless. At least, I think he's humourless, but he did call earlier today for "an end to Lord Ashdown", which might have been intended as an amusing comment on his predecessor. Or he might just have mis-pronounced Ashcroft.