Showing posts from September, 2012

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

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

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…

Should Obama Worry About Romney Video?

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has been on the back foot since the release of the video of his disparaging remarks about "the 47%" who apparently won't vote for him (and I guess he's hardly to be commended for a magnificent sell operation towards them either).  Conservative commentators in America have not been sympathetic, while the President has been able to make some capital from Romney's latest misadventure, commenting on David Letterman's Tonight show that the president "represents all the people", to inevitable wild applause in the studio.

But could the video incident yet come back to bite Obama too?  David Frum, over on the Daily Beast, speculates that should the currently anonymous recorder of the video turn out to be a Democrat activist or worse, campaign employee, Obama might be facing his very own Watergate.  A little extreme perhaps - there is a clear difference between bugging private offices and recording a fund-raising dinner - but…

The Devil's Alliance

The film 'The Innocence of Muslims' is so laughably bad it is extraordinary that anyone should take it seriously at all (the trailer is on youtube, if you have a spare 13 minutes).  What is not, of course, remotely laughable is the reaction across several countries to this ludicrous film, which has seen a US ambassador and three of his staff killed by mobs, and riot scenes in Egypt, amongst other places.

It is difficult to know what conclusion to place upon all of this.  I certainly don't think that we should respect all other beliefs, given that there are plenty which are malicious, vile and wretched or with which we would at least have serious concerns.  Not all beliefs deserve respect, and neither do their holders, necessarily.  But I do believe in the liberal creed of tolerance and free speech.  There has been no more positive development in the relations between men than the western world's gradual acknowledgement of this creed.  The ability to think and speak fr…

Hillsborough - Brought to Justice

David Cameron does have the ability to step up to the mark as a spokesman for the nation every so often.  His apology to the people of Northern Ireland for the events of Bloody Sunday, and his apology today for the injustices and cover-ups associated with the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, chime effectively with a public mood and offer a proper response to those affected by such events.  I used to find Tony Blair's many apologies for all sorts of historical events, be it the Holocaust or the Irish Famine, a little lacking in sincerity given  the distance between him and the events he was apologising for, especially given his inability to make any apology for events under his direct control (Iraq, anyone?).  Of course, you could make the same charge against Cameron - both of his official apologies have possibly been easier given that, as a relative newcomer to government, he had no role in either and probably no personal knowledge of any of the government members involved.  N…

Romney's Convention Bounce Down

One of the unofficial purposes of the US Convention season is to give the finally nominated candidate a bit of a bounce in the polls.  With his whole party united rapturously behind him, and the chance to make a prime time impacting keynote speech, there are few better, more unadulterated media opportunities for the presidential nominee.  Pity poor Mitt Romney then.  He entered the convention season neck and neck with a president who somehow has to explain why he deserves re-election while unemployment continues to rise.  And the first post-convention tracker poll?  The CNN-ORN poll puts President Obama some 6 points ahead now, with 59% of voters actually believing he will win, compared to a mere 37% for the hapless Republican.

Boris - The Unique Tory

So the last week or so was not terribly good news if you happened to be a senior cabinet minister who thought you could grab a bit of Olympic goodwill by presenting medals.  George Osborne was booed loudly; Theresa May had her turn the following day, booed just a little less loudly.  But what if you're the elected politician with the biggest personal mandate in the country (and the second biggest in Western Europe)?  The Tory who has the closest political link to the London Olympics?  Why then, you give a speech that puts the Prime Minister in the shade, reveals your remarkable crowd empathy and has the masses cheering and laughing.  Once again, addressing the Team/Paralympic GB Victory Parade in Trafalgar Square, Boris shows why he's the Unique Tory.

The Post-Thatcherite Right

The Conservative Party's rising rightists do not represent a new form of politics, but they are certainly a reinvigorated and modified brand of the Thatcherite original.  That, at least, appears to be the conclusion of the IPPR's Nick Pearce in a perceptive piece on the reshuffle now up on the IPPR website.  Although using the Cameron modernisation project for their advancement, there is not a scintilla of traditional One Nation Toryism in their dry new bones, and Pearce concludes:

"So-called “Blue Collar Modernisation” does not address these fundamental weaknesses in the post-Thatcherite Conservative Party. It skates on the surface of politics, looking at polling evidence and personalities, without digging any deeper into the social, economic and cultural forces shaping Britain. It asks what policies might appeal to Northern and Scottish voters, without pausing to examine why almost all of the institutional embodiments of conservatism fall away the further North y…

Cameron's Right-Wing Retreat

If you’re a One Nation Tory who believed David Cameron was committed to leading the party from the centre then you have cause to be thoroughly disappointed with his first reshuffle.If you’re a One Nation Tory who is a little long in the tooth you might even have vague memories of an earlier party leader who briefly adopted the modernising mantle before ratcheting himself back into the right-wing hinterland.It didn’t do William Hague much good, and I fear it won’t do David Cameron much good either.
The electoral reality that the Tory Party consistently refuses to acknowledge is that it will never win election as an unadulterated right-wing party.After Margaret Thatcher’s extraordinary win in 1979, gained in the face of a brutalistic display of over-mighty union power, the Conservatives have been haemorrhaging support.The Conservative share of the vote has fallen in every election since 1979.The Thatcher wins in 1983 and 1987 disguised the retreat from the Tories that wa…

Reshuffle Fever

You might think that reshuffling ministers was all about getting the best people in the best jobs.But that, of course, is hardly ever the case with these eminently political events.
David Cameron has been something of a rarity amongst modern prime ministers, in not compulsively reshuffling his pack every few months.The few changes he has made so far have been forced upon him by events.His clear commitment – made at the outset of his prime ministerial tenure and reinforced by his steady practise – was to keep ministers in place in order to afford much needed stability in their departments, and to allow for experience to develop.Experience doesn’t always provide for ever more effective ministers of course – Andrew Lansley has shadowed or executed the health portfolio for nine years, but you would be hard put to suggest he had become a successful and flawless operator.Nevertheless, good governance is more likely than not to be served by the retention of ministers in their portfolios.