Showing posts from October, 2010

Public Sector Virtue

Jackie Ashley (private sector journalist) defends the public sector from the right-wing perception that it's all simply comprised of a bunch of parasitic, unproductive leeches, in the Guardian today. Looking forward to reading a defence of the bankers as genuinely upright, wealth creating men and women of corporate virtue, but am not holding my breath!

The Politics of Spin - in the Commons

Great story in, of all places, the Mail on Sunday this morning, showing how Danny Alexander had to move along the Commons bench to make room for Nick Clegg to hove into camera shot during the Chancellor's Spending Review. All so that the Commons cameras could then project the trio of Cameron, Osborne and Clegg, without Alexander getting in the way. The story has given Alan Johnson his first good line as shadow chancellor, when he commented that Danny Alexander 'disappeared faster than a family's child benefit'.

Tower Hamlets and Labour's Misery

The election of an Islamic fundamentalist mayor for Tower Hamlets may have poor repercussions for Ken Livingstone. Lutfur Rahman was Labour leader of the Council before being removed, and was dropped as Labour's candidate for the new post of executive mayor of Tower Hamlets. The national Labour party appears to have had very good reasons for its actions, and did at least manage to distance itself from a man who, had they kept him on their lists, would have become an even more serious embarrassment. Somehow, the eternal maverick Ken Livingstone failed to get the message, but then, show him an extremist and he's right there. He campaigned for Rahman, standing as an independent, rather than the official Labour candidate for mayor.

This may be bad for Livingstone, but there are serious downsides for Tower Hamlets as a whole from Rahman's election. The Telegraph's Andrew Gilligan reports on the affair here, as does Labour member Luke Akehurst on his blog here.

Headline Agreement

The Spending Review was so clear that there can be absolute agreement on who the cuts are, not.

US Politics

With the mid-term elections approaching, and a likely harsh verdict on President Obama's first two years,the BBC's Mark Mardell reflects on Obama's apparent fall from grace, and asks why things have gone wrong for the reforming president. He refers to an article in the New York Times which uses an interview with the president to offer further reflections.

Schools Question Time

For politics set members, the information about Schools Question Time is here, with the application form questions here.

PMQs and Ed Miliband's Debut

David Cameron made a storming start when he was a novice Leader of the Opposition facing Tony Blair at his first Prime Minister's Questions, pointing at a clearly weary Blair and exclaiming that "You were the future once!" Well, now it was Cameron's turn to face a new Opposition Leader, although he has himself barely got his feet behind the Prime Ministerial Despatch Box yet, so weariness wasn't an option!

Several commentators called the exchange for Miliband - the BBC's Nick Robinson, the Evening Standard's Paul Waugh and the Spectator's James Forsyth for example. Certainly Miliband was considered, understated even, and rightly eschewed flashy statements or corny one liners. He came across as a man genuinely trying to get the truth out of the Prime Minister, and rightly focused on the child benefit policy, still one whose weakness doens't appear to have been properly explained or corrected by the government. Although there was a nervousness t…

St Vince Loses His Halo

Pity poor Vince Cable. An intelligent man, once able to command universal respect for authoritative economic pronouncements that could never expect to be tested in the cold light of real decision making, he now faces the nightmare of any politician in danger of wielding real power - the need to row back from rash promises. It must have seemed a great idea for the Liberal Democrats, in opposition, to demand the removal of university tuition fees. After all, it not only differentiated them neatly - and positively - from both main parties, but their pre-election expectations would hardly have indicated that they might ever need to actually deliver on such a generous promise. Alas, the turn of events that has given Clegg and Cable ministerial cars has also given them the thorny economic realities of higher education funding.

At least Vince is not alone in his need to retract an unthinkingly generous promise. I seem to remember a buoyant Labour Party under Tony Blair declaring their op…

The New Ruling Class

For a long time we had the aristocracy. Then came the distinctly lower middle class leaders (Heath, Thatcher), interspersed with the odd scion of the genuine working class (Callaghan). Now, who are our masters? Simon Head in the Guardian considers the new ruling class represented by the wealthy products of top public schools that are Cameron and Clegg. For class watchers amongst you, an entertaining read (and due thanks to blogger Skipper for noting this article).

Bloggers - Inadequate, Pimpled and Single

Oh dear. That description above is the [abbreviated] one applied by the BBCs Andrew Marr to bloggers, and all I can say in response is that I'm not pimpled. Actually, Marr described bloggers as "socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting." I don't think he likes us, but when you take away the range of adjectival epithets he applies to us, at heart is an issue about online debate, and just how helpful it is, or indeed how informed. Whether anyone likes it - even an anyone as esteemed as Andrew Marr - is irrelevant, since it is certainly here to stay.

The quality of online debate is undoubtedly variable, and Marr's point that too much of it is simply angry and abusive can be verified from a look at any one of hundreds of political blogs and, even more, the comments attending most of their posts. Marr's successor as political editor of the BBC, Nick Robinson, h…

Tory Teacher Trouble

Katharine Birbalsingh returns to work today after a rather turbulent week. The blogger Cranmer has an update on the somewhat murky political circumstances surrounding her suspension here.

The Argument of the Right

At the Conservative Party Conference last week, Daniel Hannan MEP was a hugely popular speaker at the right-wing fringe events. A cogent, articulate and personable man, he is the current hero of the recidivist Tory right. Although he is a British representative in the European Parliament, his real ideological home is America, and he has just written "The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America", in which he urges them not to follow the European route towards statism and welfare. To mark its publication, he has been interviewed by the right-wing National Review, and the interview makes for genuinely fascinating reading. He correctly marks the historical beginning of America's move towards greater federal state action with the two Roosevelts, especially FDR. He rightly sees FDR as in some ways a model for Obama, although draws, naturally enough, rather different conclusions to those of liberal sympathisers from this comparison.

Since he covers American pol…

Teacher In Trouble For Speaking At Tory Conference

The nature of the modern Conservative Party Conference is that its main arena is a bland speech-fest for senior party figures. The days of delegate debate have gone, and in its place is a parade of established statements from ministers or shadow ministers that occasionally inspire but more often induce somnolism. Thus, it was good to see that in the Conservatives' Education debate, some figures from the real world of teaching were put up to talk of their experiences. One of the best received of these was an inner city primary school deputy head, Katharine Birbalsingh. One of my colleagues who attended the debate was enthusiastic in his praise of Ms. Birbalsingh's forthright assessment of the school system and why, in her view, it is failing poor kids. Certainly she received an extremely warm reception. Her analysis may not be to everyone's taste, but there is no doubt that in claiming that education ideology now inhibits schools from really pushing the brightest of …

How Tory Conferences Work

Internet access here is ridiculously limited if you've forgotten to bring your own laptop, so a short reflection from the Tory Conference for the moment. Liam Fox, William Hague and Jeremy Hunt have been this morning's keynote speakers, and each has managed to demonstrate the facility of gaining ready applause by recycling some old tabloid fears or pushing the Tory crowd pleasing buttons. Thus, Liam Fox and William Hague both get decent responses to the "We will always support our brave forces" line, and Liam Fox managed to regurgitate some of the stories about men in uniform being refused service or harassed at shops, to rising anger from the few delegates still awake. I think there may have been one incident of that type a few years ago, but it goes down well here to remind us all that we are the party of "Our Boys" (rendering the conference a bit like a reality tabloid).

William Hague draws the prize for emptiest gesture receiving most applause yet. He an…

Paxman's Nadir

There are undoubtedly better things to be doing on a Friday night - one friend has updated her facebook status to note that she will be drinking jager bombs in Piccadilly this evening, and that's one option. As it happens, I ended up half-heartedly watching Newsnight in between social reading sessions ("Team of Rivals" still). Half-heartedly, until I saw the neutering of that once fearsome interviewer, Jeremy Paxman. Quite why a significant section of the BBC's premier news show was devoted to the essentially frivolous (when he's not being essentially offensive) character of Russell Brand is unclear. Maybe it's a slow news day, this day when Rahm Emanuel decided to leave the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago, and Pervez Musharaff looked as if he might be getting back into Pakistani politics. Whatever the reason, we got a ludicrously light interview with a man whose celebrity (Brand) remains both inexplicable and bizarre. Paxman grinned away at the…

The Impact of AV

The use of the Alternative Vote delivered the Labour Party a leader who was not their first choice. They're stuck with Ed Miliband now - and he may yet prove more impressive than his over-rated brother (see below) - but the impact of AV on General Elections has now been given a more in depth academic study in Parliamentary Affairs magazine. Tory blogger Iain Dale has referenced the new article with the gloss that AV would reward the Lib Dems with almost permanent king-maker status. This certainly seems to be the conclusion of the research done using the 2010 election data by the article's authors. However, voters are nothing if not unpredictable, and as the German experience shows, king-making parties too can suffer the wrath of the voters, who may choose to reject them completely. AV is a flawed system certainly, and it is a poor PR alternative to offer the voters in the proposed referendum, but Mr. Dale's concerns may be a bit presumptuous even so. The full article is he…

The Shallowness of the 'New Politics'

Peter Oborne shows once again why he is a must-read, in today's column for the Daily Telegraph, comparing David Miliband's rapid and undignified exit after losing to the fortitude and reslience of earlier politicians.