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Showing posts from 2012

2013 looks bad for the Tories, but not as bad as 2015.

The Tories will be in government until 2015, spats with the Lib Dems notwithstanding.  In 2015, all the available arithmetic suggests they will lose, as Paul Goodman shows in this admirably clear article.  It can't help that a segment of the Tory core vote, it's older and more right-wing element, are defecting in mind - and sometimes in body - to UKIP.  This would have been good news for the modernisation of the Tory brand if such a process were still going on, but it isn't, a strategically catastrophic mistake as Matthew D'Ancona writes here in a first class analysis of the Tories' public problem.

Goodman indicates that one demographic factor working against the Tories is their very low showing amongst ethnic minority voters, who are becoming a larger proportion of the voting population.  This would have been one area which modernisation sought to address.  The real issue for the Tories is that while voters continue to regard them with suspicion as an as yet unr…

Christmas Tidings

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The Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage in his Christmas message; the Archbishop of Canterbury talks about the damage the issue of women priests is doing to the Church of England; and the Prime Minister quotes from the gospel of John.  I don't make the rules up, but is the Church's condition any wonder when on their most high profile day they manage to stick with such negative messaging?

Happy Christmas!

Backpedalling Over Mitchell

The Police Federation can rarely have been in a worse place.  As the mysterious undercurrents of the Andrew Mitchell affair gradually gather pace, the Police Federation's execrable stance during the original incident has been coming under serious scutiny.  Its national chairman, Paul McKeever, can spot a noose tightening and has been busy backpedalling over his organisation's attitude towards Mr. Mitchell in those heady days.  Mr. McKeever says that the national leadership leadership took a very clear line not to call for Mr. Mitchell's resignation.  Really?  If so, it wasn't very clear at the time.  Mr. McKeever himself was quoted in a press release as questioning whether Mr. Mitchell should hold office: 
"It is hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office."
Meanwhile his West Mercia division was opening calling for resignation. 

The Police Federation today looks a complete mess - deservedly so, …

The Desperate Defences of The Sun and Telegraph

Both the Sun and Telegraph newspapers have launched vigorous defences of their reporting over the Mitchell affair and have sought to turn the limelight away from their own close relationship with the police informers who gave them the story originally.

The Sun casts aspersions on reporter Michael Crick's objectivity, describing him snidely as 'a pal' of Mr. Mitchell who was due to meet up with him on the day of the incident (shock Sun revelation - political reporter meets senior politician); the Telegraph tries to claim that this is a new chapter in a sinister gagging of press freedom.

Neither paper's desperate pleas carries much weight.  The Sun also says that un-named 'observers' (presumably a couple of journos and interns in the Sun news office?) point out that the CCTV footage shows Mr Michell had more than enough time to make the comments he was accused of making.  Er, maybe.  But if so, he says them in a remarkably calm and controlled manner and without e…

A Masterclass in Investigative Reporting

It really is worth watching Michael Crick's Dispatches report in full.  It is an admirable example of the grind and virtues of good investigative reporting.  What makes Crick such a good reporter - and often a very watchable one too - is his tenacity.  Most politicians dread being door-stepped by him because he will insist on asking them awkward questions, and then keep on asking them when they don't reply.  He also clearly values the truth.  Long after the print press had finished with the Mitchell story and determined that the former chief whip was guilty as charged, Crick goes back to the case and produces the less popular, but more damning case that Mitchell was stitched up.

Crick's report exposes potential lies in the police record of events, a witness who lied in an email about being present, and a Police Federation spokesman from West Mercia who was distinctly economical with the truth in his statements about a meeting with Mitchell.  More alarming from a governmen…

Police Conspiracy?

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At the time of Andrew Mitchell's regrettable outburst of temper towards the police, I commented on the distinctly dubious behaviour of the police themselves.  My concerns were that - once again - police records had apparently been leaked to newspapers with impunity, and that the Police Federation was engaged in an unedifying witch-hunt against Mitchell.  It turns out that the affair may have been rather more sinister.

Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme has reported that a key witness to the altercation had not in fact been present, and was, moreover, a serving police officer himself.  The fact that this ghost witness's version of events then matched the report contained in the police logs - which was fully leaked to the Daily Telegraph - implies a conspiracy between more than one officer.  The Police Federation's iniquitous involvement in this, and their own very partial account of a meeting held between Mitchell and West Midlands officers, has further added to…

Baby Joy - Or Not!

En route to reading Steven Baxter's fantastically splenetic New Statesman post about the wretchedness of Christmas TV ads, I fell across another post by fellow NS blogger Laurie Penny, condemning the Royal Baby News.  Certainly, there is much to condemn in the vast hyperbole of reportage that has accompanied the news of a 12 week old pregnancy which has induced morning sickness.  But Ms. Penny was more interested in condemning the fact of the pregnancy itself - on class grounds, you understand.  While she certainly had some hard-luck stories to tell of other couples, less favoured by circumstance than the Waleses, it seemed like a rather unnecessary, slightly vindictive rant.  As ever, Norman Geras blogged much more articulately in response to Ms. Penny's piece, and the unashamed republican even wished the young couple good luck!

Autumn Statement Blues

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I'm not sure the commentariat really knows what to make of George Osborne.  They used to regard him as a great strategist, until it turned out he wasn't.  They have sometimes regarded him as a fiscally tough Chancellor ready to reduce the budget, but his regular forays into spending - or at any rate not cutting enough - keep stymieing that one.  So is he in fact a spendthrift?  Er, not quite - still seems keen to reduce the deficit, even if he wants another three years to do it.  Possibly the real problem is that George Osborne doesn't quite know what he's for either, but he does have enough political talent to keep getting out of tight spots - temporarily at any rate.

There is no doubt that the government's own measurement for its success brands it a failure.  It is nowhere near providing the deficit reduction it claimed was at the heart of its being.  The economic and political arguments over this strategy are many, varied and passionate, although one might at l…

Press Power and Leveson

The fightback began some time ago.  Throughout Leveson plaintiff columns about free speech could be read in newspapers and heard across the airwaves.  A few days ago the Mail revealed the astonishing political left nexus at the heart of Leveson (er, someone connected with the Leveson Inquiry also knew some left-wingers was about the strength of it) and today the Sun screeches about the importance of not having any regulation.

Because lack of regulation has worked really well so far.  The Sun yesterday was forced to pay out 500,000 euros to Louis Walsh for publishing lies about him.  The Mail a few days ago had to apologise to a Brazilian TV presenter for describing her as a soft porn actress.  And over the years countless people have had to contend with lies, half truths and innuendos being published about them, to say nothing of the harassment that a certain breed of journalism develops.

Statutory regulation hardly means political control of the press, but you wouldn't guess tha…

Chris Patten's Masterclass

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Lord Patten has been at the heart of the BBC storm over the past few weeks, but that doesn't mean he has somehow lost his touch to defend a difficult position, or that he is  running scared when having to face a committee of limelight-hungry MPs.  As he showed in a bravura performance yesterday when being questioned by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Chris Patten is a Tory of the old school.  A now unfashionable One Nation Tory of centrist outlook.  He was, as he reminded the committee, the last Tory Chairman to preside over a Conservative election victory, back in 1992 (when the party fielded some frankly outstanding candidates in far flung constituencies like Warley East).  He clearly wasn't going to allow himself to be boxed into a corner by such a political novice as the snappy Philip Davies.  Mr. Davies doesn't much like the BBC, nor Lord Patten, whom he almost certainly regards as the sort of Tory the party is well rid of.  But Mr. Davies, for all his…

It's Not About Press Freedom Any More, But About Press Responsibility

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80 MPs and peers have signed a letter urging David Cameron not to accept any recommendation for statutory oversight of the press, should such be made by Lord Leveson in his much anticipated report.  In many ways it is encouraging that so many legislators, themselves often the target of press attacks, should be so concerned about what they have termed an issue of free speech.  They are right in wanting to steer clear of political control of any media outlet.  But the issue for the British press is no longer really one of free speech.  It is one of responsibility.

The Leveson Inquiry's exhaustive hearings heard example after example of an astonishing abuse of press power.  This wasn't simply the willingness of some newspapers to use illegal methods to obtain information.  It was also their relentless commitment to the harassment and persecution of those who they decided, often on a whim or on the barest of hard knowledge, to victimise.  Famous examples of non-celebrity figures …

Nadine's Forced Return To Work

Like many Britons, I failed to tune in to the latest series of "I'm A Celebrity...." and so was unable to see at first hand whether MP Nadine Dorries really was able to use the programme to further her political ideas.  Since she's been quickly voted off the programme - the first one in this series - I guess I can see that her desire to be a major-league celebrity has clearly failed.  One verdict on Ms. Dorries' sorry little foray into the jungle is from Radio Times' Tim Glanfield, whose damning verdict is that actually, Ms. Dorries simply proved how apathetic towards politicians most people are. 

Nadine Dorries has been a figure of ridicule - a just consequence of foolishly thinking that being an MP was simply a halfway house to becoming a celebrity.  Only one politician has achieved genuine celebrity status, and Boris Johnson had done that before becoming an MP.  It still remains to be seen whether he has a parliamentary future of consequence, despite his…

Defending the Beeb

David Dimbleby did a good job on 'Today' this morning in trying to get to the heart of the crisis, as I've noted earlier, but it's hard to disagree with the judgements on the Media Blog either.  Author Will Sturgeon might not quite be a candidate for Director General, but he seems to have got the crisis pretty well right and, what's more, firmly in perspective.  He notes:

Disgraced tabloid editors have had their knives out. Piers Morgan has waded into a debate about journalistic ethics and honourable resignations. Rupert Murdoch has taken issue with an editor-in-chief pleading ignorance. All done seemingly without irony.

Meanwhile, ITV News bemoaned the fact the BBC Director General only did interviews with the BBC. But ITV is yet to carry an interview with its own chief executive or programme bosses at This Morning over a widely criticised stunt involving a list of alleged paedophiles Phillip Schofield had harvested from the internet.

We need the BBC. Not least…

The Annoying Chairmanship of Margaret Hodge

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I don't feel terribly positive about Starbucks for their UK tax avoidance, nor Google and Amazon for that matter.  A small personal boycott of Starbucks coffee is my own response - I'm sure they'll be devastated - but I very nearly thought I should immediately reinstate it, and buy a load of books from Amazon, after watching the lamentable performance of Margaret Hodge at today's Public Accounts Committee meeting which saw chief officers from all three companies being summoned.

Hodge has a less than stellar record as a former Islington Council leader when the council was plagued with child abuse issues in its care homes that it seeemed unable or unwilling to get to grips with, but she is certainly capable of grand-standing and today was her moment in the sun.  She dominated proceedings like some exceptionally annoying grande dame performing to the gallery and relished trying to put high powered chief executives on the spot.  Her regular shrill interruptions and consta…

Dimbleby on BBC Crisis

Lots to be said about the self-inflicted wounds hurting the BBC at the moment, but David Dimbleby gave a particularly coherent and forthright performance on this morning's 'Today' programme.  His criticism of George Entwhistle was that his failure to 'fight' (for instance in the Saturday interview with John Humphreys) in itself suggested he wasn't up to the job.  A man who resigns in these circumstances has made a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dimbleby was once a contender for the job of DG and also Chairman; wonder if he's still interested?  On the basis of this morning's interview, he'd be a pretty good bet, and a reassuringly vigorous figure for the BBC.

Explaining Away Bad Punditry

Dick Morris, the American pollster, and Fox News contributor, made a few waves before the election with his extraordinary prediction that it would be a landslide for Romney.  Like all commentators, pollsters and pundits, Dick makes a hefty living by commenting on, rather than participating in, politics.  He is one of the many armchair critics who apparently know so much and can comment so vigorously for substantial rewards, but who actually don't really want to put their heads above the parapet in the real world of electoral and governmental politics.  Thus, Dick fortunately has no responsibilities whatsoever - unlike the men and women he takes to task.

This is lucky, because Dick's Romney prediction was so far out of the ball park it was laughable.  Should he be taken seriously ever again?  Almost certainly not, and his mea culpa on the Fox News site does little to add to our confidence.  He admits getting an entire segment of the voting population wrong - the voting ambitio…

Four More Years, So Now What?

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A few thoughts after Barack Obama's re-election victory.

First, it is a triumph.  Obama is one of those rare incumbents able to transcend the difficulties of his time, notably the recession, and persuade a small majority of voters that his medicine is the right one and that he remains best placed to steward America through the bad times.  FDR was the notable other, and he was a reformer too.

Second, Obama's victory speech.  Having secured his second term, he then resurrected the soaring eloquence we associate with his earlier victory and which had been sorely absent from too much of his own campaigning this time round.

Third, the congressional races.  Although the composition of the two chambers hasn't much altered - the Democrats remain in control of the Senate while the Republicans have kept control of the House - there is food for thought for the Republicans from some of the seats they have lost or only just held on to.  With only 10 Republican held seats to defend thi…

The BBC's Transatlantic Struggle

So far, with polls yet to close in Ohio, Virginia....well pretty well everywhere, the highlight of election evening has been the BBC's finest struggling to produce a sensible line between them.  From Emily Maitlis announcing that a familiarly shaped map is actually America, to the reporter in the Ohio bar solemnly telling us that we should not assume everyone in Ohio would be voting for Obama (on the strength of a couple of interviews he'd just conducted), we've been subjected to statements of the blindingly obvious.  Jon Sopel reported from Virginia that turnout had been high, but neglected to mention that the hotly contested senate race between two former governors might have something to do with that.  Of course, this is still rather dead time.  3 states have so far been 'called' by the networks (which doesn't mean they've finished actually counting) giving Romney a healthy lead [Kentucky and Indiana to him, Vermont to Obama].  But the real battles are …

Why Obama?

There have been plenty of UK endorsements of Obama from predictable sources.  I doubt, for instance, that Romney will be losing much sleep over the decision of the Guardian and Observer newspapers to plump for the president.  But it's not British liberals so much as ex-pat US based libertarians whose views interest me, and in this regard Andrew Sullivan has been consistently and eloquently pro-Obama.  Here's his case again.

Human Contact - Still An Electoral Imperative

Paul Waugh has produced an excellent analysis of the campaign, and concludes that an Obama win will be down to the superior organisation of his on the ground workers.  It's a reassuring thought that as we keep debating the impact of online technologies and social media, the one thing that still really works is actual people contact.  Commenting on a field study of the 2008 campaign conducted by Obama's then Ohio, now National, Campaign Director, Waugh writes:

The main conclusion was that the single most effective medium in reaching a potential Obama voter was not TV ads or glossy leaflets - it was contact from an enthusiastic human being.

There you go.  Keep tweeting, facebooking and emailing; but don't give up on making human contact.  The decimated parties of the UK might want to take note, and start building up their grassroots operations again.

Meanwhile, thanks to politics student Michael Kynaston for this heads up about Simon Tisdall's Guardian piece on all the…

Decision Time

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It could be really close, this 2012 US presidential election, or it could be a greater majority for one or other of the candidates than we know.  The closeness of the polls and the important distinction between national and state polls has allowed for pretty well any and every interpretation to be given.

Given that the state-wide polls seem to favour an electoral college win for Obama, there has of course been a late rush of contrarian commentators to predict Romney wins.  Dick Morris has gone so far as to predict a 60% chance of a landslide Romney win, while George Will was the only member of the ABC News panel to go for a Romney win.  British political blog "The Political Reader" is also going with a Romney win, while the right-wing Spectator reluctantly concludes that actually there is really no way Obama could possibly lose.  There is also the prospect of a bit of legal action - keep your eyes peeled on Florida again, and even the much fought over Ohio may still have it…

Star Wars And The Curse of Lucas

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Did you know that one of the people on whom George Lucas based his evil emperor was the former American president Richard Nixon?  It's a little nugget of information I've always enjoyed as both a fan of the original Star Wars films and someone fascinated by the career of Nixon.  The late president, of course, was a rather more complex figure than Lucas's straight-forwardly evil emperor, but nonetheless it represents a little bit of linkage between fantasy and reality.  I mention this simply because in the wake of Disney's purchase of the Lucasfilm franchise, I re-watched the execrable "Phantom Menace" to check that a change of ownership was a good thing, and then wrote a blog post about it, here.   Too much time on a Sunday, clearly.

Tom Watson and the Paedophile Ring

The Labour MP Tom Watson doesn't tend to say or do much that isn't calculated to bring him maximum publicity, but even in these times of Savile-hysteria it is difficult to see quite what persuaded the honourable gentleman to raise some old allegations of a paedophile ring in PMQs today.  Watson claimed to have heard something about a 1992 convicted paedophile who then made claims about yet more senior figures, including a prime-ministerial aide, being involved.  Presumably Watson is aware of the wild allegations surrounding former Tory PM Edward Heath, but this dated and outlandish allusion goes beyond even his well known capacity for shit stirring.

Watch the video on the BBC news site here, and you'll see Cameron's incredulous expression as Watson seeks to gain more publicity for himself with his tortuous question.

UPDATE:  Should have gone to the Guido Fawkes blog before writing this after all!  Turns out Watson was referring to the well known allegations against fo…

Theresa May's Reputation

The only Tory to have had a good few weeks is Home Secretary Theresa May.  Former MP and blogger Paul Goodman comments on her virtues - and prospects as a future party leader - in the Telegraph today.

But he is a bit behind the curve.  Because there was a pretty positive piece about May back in June, when few people were noticing, by a little regarded blogger here - occasionally gems emerge from the political flotsam!

Looking for Scapegoats and Rescuers

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The Tories have had such a dreadful week, and on some of the thinnest stories, that the search for who to blame and, more importantly, who their white knight in shining armour might be, are on apace.

Don't imagine that this is a search amongst the elected representatives.  They are now so poorly perceived that they merely perform the role of stooges.  The search is seeking to root out those favourite villains of the political piece across the ages - the adviser!  And it just happens to be where the white knight lies too.

The history of punishing the adviser for doing the will of the master has had some prominent victims over the years.

Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIIIs most effective minister, enforcing his master's will and authority with exemplary talent and success.  Obviously he made enemies, and went to the block in 1540 while the bloated Henry carried on with his capricious reign.

No-one is suggesting current villainous advisers will head to the block, but they are certa…

Police Keep Hounding Mitchell

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How he must regret that burst of bad temper.  Never has a case of serious, arrogant hubris come back to haunt someone so quickly, and in oh so drawn out a manner than it has with Andrew Mitchell.

Even the Daily Telegraph has called for his resignation, and he was notably absent from his own party conference.  If nothing else, the sense of siege around him is going to make his chief whip's job a seriously difficult one.

And yet there is also a sense of discomfort about the police federation's tactics.  If Mr. Mitchell acted like his old school's famous fictional bully Flashman for a few ill chosen minutes, it's certainly the case that the police union has given back as much as it can, and more, in much the same vein.  It has hardly been edifying to those of us who would like to maintain a sense of respect for the professionalism and impartiality of the police force to see serving officers walking round like the worst type of union loon wearing 'pleb' T-shirts. …

Cameron In Brief

David Cameron had a good line about Labour being a 'One Notion' party (see what he did there? - hilarious) and was genuinely moving when he talked about his own disabled son and how he saw the paralympics as a triumph in moving attitudes about disability forwards.  He turned the Eton issue on its head and had some good points about spreading good education, spreading privilege and being the party of the people who want to be better off.  He was prepared to be personal - talking about his son or his father.  But there was no big vision, and he got probably his biggest cheer in defending tax cuts via a simple lesson-like response to Ed Miliband. 

And that remains the Cameron problem.  His speech suggested there are still vestiges of that compassionate conservatism that made him at least a moderniser, if not a full blown One Nation Tory.  But his reshuffle showed just how much a prisoner he is of a party that simply isn't interested in One Nation values, and his speech recei…

Boris Unbound

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David Cameron may have finally managed to grab the headlines today with a decent enough speech, but it's the first time he has shifted the usual occupant of those large letters and front pages, Britain's Favourite Politician, Boris Johnson.

Boris Mania gripped the Tories in Birmingham all right, but it also seems to have infected most Conservative commentators too.  Spectator editor Fraser Nelson or the folks at Conservative Home were positively swooning in print at the very idea of Boris, an unusual level of adoration for even a Tory politician from those Conservative quarters.  Ken Clarke sounded a less than sycophantic note, but the joy of Boris even found it's way into a slightly more considered column by the Telegraph's Harry Mount, who begun with a Latin quote from one of Boris's old classics tutors (translated as "He was up to the job of emperor as long as he never became emperor") and then dissected some of Boris's best lines as having a clea…

Slugger Clinton

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If Obama is a bit cerebral at times, his Democratic predecessor still has some knock-out instincts.  Bill Clinton's address to the Democrat Convention was commonly reckoned to be the best advocacy of Obama's presidency that had been given.  He looks a bit older - though not in Clint Eastwood territory - but he can still deal it out.  Romney must be happy he didn't face this in the first presidential debate:



[Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan]

Did Obama Throw Away An Election In A Single Debate?

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There's been a real sense of overkill in the reactions to the first US presidential debate.  In a single debate Obama has thrown away the election and Romney is close to becoming the zaniest president they've ever had.  That's according to the commentators anyway.  Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan, normally quite level headed about these matters, went into extreme despair the-world-is-breaking-up mode in a post here; the UK Telegraph's Tim Stanley, whilst mocking Sullivan, nonetheless saw hope for his hitherto useless candidate in a post here.

I didn't watch the whole debate.  Even for a politicophile like myself a 4am start time was just not very attractive; I really didn't want to break into the marking that I normally reserve for that slot just to watch television.  But I did watch some of the highlights and, well, Obama didn't sparkle, but he didn't strike me as a disaster either.  Romney appeared human and avuncular - something of an achievement - …

The Power of One Nation

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Of course Ed Miliband is not a One Nation leader.There is too much of the class warrior about him for that, even in his slightly snide reference to his own comprehensive schooling.But his high-profile use of the ‘One Nation’ idea teaches us something important about both the Labour party that he leads, and the Conservative Party that used to be the home of One Nation-ism – if I can use such a clumsy suffix.
First, the Labour Party.The reason Mr. Miliband has grasped so enthusiastically at the One Nation philosophy is that there is simply nothing left for him to plunder from Labour’s own stock of ideology.In its prime, Labour promoted a form of democratic socialism that was red-blooded in tooth and claw.It served a purpose, certainly, but gradually even the modest western form of socialism stuttered into obsolescence as its doctrines failed to really grasp the nature of liberal capitalism.Labour’s most successful leader – Tony Blair – was never much hamstrung by ideolog…

Who Is Mitchellgate's Deep Throat?

Mitchellgate has provided us with our current pantomime villain, in the hilariously ridiculous figure of the Chief Whip demanding that the plebs let him through his customary gate, but it hasn't actually been a great reflection on the police either.  There is a certain irony in the fact that a senior detective was arrested yesterday for passing information to the News of the World.  Who, I wonder, has been passing full transcripts of presumably confidential police logs to the Daily Telegraph?  To say nothing of breaching any notion of police confidentiality with what has been a pretty steady stream of information to the Sun newspaper?

An arrogant cabinet minister swearing at the police didn't really merit the level of leaking worthy of a Watergate Deep Throat, especially not at a time when the cosy police links with the media are already under investigation.  Perhaps in the interests of full disclosure, the police members responsible for leaking all this information should jo…

Looking Back at Clinton

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When former president Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic convention this summer, his speech reminded people of just why he was such a formidable politician.  Clearly thought out, cogent and focused, Clinton provided a useful political heft for the convention organisers, and no-one doubted that his position in Barack Obama's corner remained immensely valuable to the Democratic incumbent.  Obama is of course seeking to ensure that Clinton is no longer the only Democrat to have served two full terms as president since the war.

Meanwhile, the BBC are currently running a documentary series on Clinton which is well worth catching up on.  His campaigning skills are legendary and he has managed more comebacks from apparent disasters than pretty well any other modern politician.  Clinton represented a fresh hope - much as his political idol JFK did in the 1960 - but entered the White House so little prepared that too much of that hope dissipated in the chaos of his leadership.  Clinton…

Teachers' Working Habits

The National Union of Teachers really is committed to being the worst possible public face of the teaching profession.  The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has commented - many would argue uncontroversially - that teachers who put in longer hours and produce excellent lessons are the ones who should be rewarded.  He was fairly dismissive of teachers who are out of the school gate pretty well as soon as the last bell has gone.  Given that the school day finishes, in most schools, around 3.30, it might not seem unreasonable to expect us to stay a little longer!  Cue the most dinosaur of unions, the NUT, taking issue with Sir Michael's challenging idea that we could just work a little longer. As many already do. 

According to the NUT, Sir Michael is 'waging war' on teachers. They really do need to calm down, or he'll start talking about those 13 weeks of holiday that we get.

Free Speech

Norman Geras of normblog takes issue with Deborah Orr's attempts in the Guardian today to work out the 'limits' of free speech.  Geras' response produces, as ever, some clear thinking on the subject which was not, it appears, evident in Orr's article.  Else why would he need to take it to task?

Mitchell's Misery

I'm not sure that Andrew Mitchell will survive much longer as Chief Whip.  The Prime Minister likes to hang on to people as long as possible, and that worked with Jeremy Hunt, but if the media pack keep this issue burning then I suspect Mitchell's position will become untenable.  If it isn't already.  Can you really be the disciplinarian of the Tory Parliamentary Party when you've been so publicly rinsed for that very discipline?  All the maverick Tory MP, hauled before the Chief Whip, now needs to say is "Going to call me a pleb are you?" and Mitchell will have to visibly deflate.  Angus Deayton couldn't continue as host of Have I Got News For You when it became impossible for him to pass satirical judgement on others without the huge whiff of hypocrisy hanging in the air; Mitchell could well find himself in the same boat.

I blame Tony Blair anyway.  If he hadn't moved the Chief Whip's residence from No. 12 Downing Street in order to make way fo…

Mr. Mitchell's Moment of Madness and Mr. Cameron's Deeper Problem

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Andrew Mitchell is an arrogant fool who should have kept his mouth shut, adopted a bit of humility and did what he was told when he left Downing Street on Wednesday night.He might thus have saved himself and his government a good deal of trouble, but the fuss that has been generated by his apparent outburst at a police officer who dared to tell him which gate he could use is indicative of much deeper, serious problems for this government.
First, there has been an extraordinary sea change – yet to be fully remarked on I think – between the Tories and the police.From the time of their formation by the Tory Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, there has been an almost symbiotic relationship between the police and the Conservative Party.It reached its apogee under Margaret Thatcher, but in the mere two years of the Coalition government it seems to have all but collapsed.Home Secretary Theresa May was booed at the Police Federation conference, and the Met’s Police Federation Ch…