DISCLAIMER: I don’t swear. I don’t rant. That’s my thing. Other bloggers, they rant. I don’t. I don’t write as an outlet for my rage, I just do it because I enjoy it. I keep my cool and try to write calm and collected opinion pieces. So the title of this post, and the rant which follows, I hope shows just how furious I am right now.
Deep in the ancient annals of political blogging history – last May, I think it was – I wrote a post about the BNP which started with what I thought was quite a funny joke:
I know they’re racists. I know they’re fascists and totalitarians. I know they’re liars and frauds. I know they’re criminals. Enough about New Labour, though, I’d like to know what exactly is so scary about the BNP?
I was, of course, lightly mocking the growing number of superficial similarities between Labour policies and BNP ones. “British Jobs For British Workers” being a classic example – a BNP slogan which Gordon Brown took as his own. The Labour Party and the BNP share ideas on a fair range of areas, in fact, particularly their generally redistributive economic stance. It’s oft-noted by better political commenters than I that the BNP tend to do well in strongly Labour areas.
It used to be something we all poked fun at, and pointed out to Labour supporters to get them all irritated. Gradually, though, the joke started to wear thin. Now it’s past its breaking point.
The thing is, what was ‘British Jobs For British Workers’ has now degenerated into the Dickensian idea, also a BNP policy, of sending teenage mothers to ‘poorhouses‘. And to add mocking insult to grievous bodily harm, this bright spark idea is going to be compulsory, according to Ed Balls, not optional as Brown and his media lobby would have us believe.
Seriously. Putting teenage mothers into care for re-education. Is that what we’ve come to? Is that the Britain we live in?
No, it turns out, it’s worse than that. That was yesterday’s news and, whilst anger me it did I have relaxed about it a little bit now1.
Because today we learn (and can we please get this to a wider audience) that somebody in New Labour’s government thinks they can determine somebody’s nationality using their DNA. That out there somewhere there are people with Kenyan DNA and Somali DNA.
I mean, can we take a moment to step back and discuss this a bit further, because I really hate false accusations of racism. It drives me round the bend when people use the word ‘racism’ as an argument ender, or worse as a straw man. That no politician can talk about immigration or multiculturalism without being bombarded with accusations of trying ‘to keep the darkies out’. I don’t care whether you agree with them or not – let them make their argument and challenge it on its own merits, not using some racism straw man. I can’t tell you how much it irritates me.
But this is something different. Because hidden behind the ‘DNA tests for asylum seekers’ story is somebody with a deep-seated misunderstanding of the concept of nationality, and of genetics, and of race. This is somebody who believes that a persons ‘Kenyanness’ is measurable, quantifiable, testable, based on their DNA. Does this same person believe that you can measure ‘Britishness’ by genetics? That there exists some model British DNA, distinct from the DNA of the French, or of the Pakistanis or the Irish or the Germans?
That, in essence, we are all different species to each other, and can be distinguished as such.
I’ve been racking my brains, but I can’t think of any other way to interpret this, or any other logical conclusion to the line of thinking which attempts to separate peoples’ nationalities based on their DNA. Either this is the way they think, and they are indescribably racist, or it isn’t and… Well, what? What else could it possibly be? Presumably, this isn’t a single person making this policy, either, but a committee. Presumably there is an entire working group at the UK Border Agency devoted to solving this ‘Kenyan problem’ and who probably don’t even realise that their natural impulses are walking them straight into Godwin’s nightmare.
And where’s the defence? Where’s the person willing to put forward the Labour Party’s side of this? These measures were announced near enough in silence. It’s almost like the Home Office are embarrassed about this, which I’d believe if I thought they were capable of feeling such human emotions as embarrassment. The only reaction I’ve seen from anyone so far is the one which adorns the top of this post – three simple letters that say all that’s needed.
The dying days of this Labour government are galling enough for those of us who see socialism as an inherently bad thing, who disagree that putting people in boxes will help them understand each other, who don’t think that state intervention in markets makes markets work more effectively, and who don’t think fairness means what Gordon Brown thinks it means. If it’s bad enough for us, how bad must it be for those disillusioned folk who voted for Tony Blair in 2005 and got this?
How bad must it be for those people who had faith in the Labour Party to help the needy and cure the sick. How bad must it be for the honest people who voted for Labour because they thought the Tories were the ‘nasty’ ones? How sick would it make you feel to know that you supported a moderate, centrist Government who promised you front line services, and you ended up with this.
This is a democracy, and we have a choice. Consider it your civic duty to remove your Labour MP from office. From this day forward I advocate voting for anyone who stands a chance of ensuring Labour cannot win another term.
Please. Please God.Anyone. But. Labour.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Global financial systems, you can’t control by national action. We can’t in Britain say you charge this salary and we’ll dictate it, when you can go to a tax haven or America and get a completely different form of remuneration. I’ve said all along that what you need are global rules…Aside from the bionic hindsight and barefaced dishonesty of this bit of typical, delusional Brownite spin about the banks that he encouraged to be greedy, since when was Europe a country?
That’s what I’ve been saying for ten years and it’s unfortunate that we’ve had to have a crisis to learn that countries like America and like Europe and the rest of the world have to co-operate.”
I mean, makes you fink, dunnit.
Brown cited the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) as a Labour success in his shockingly awful conference speech. But, as a commenter in the Guardian has pointed out:
Exactly. It was a cross party bill, not some sort of 'evidence' of Labour's moral superiority and 'progressive' credentials. It's just hideous this bilious, vile, tribal hatred of the Tories just for the sake of it. It's utterly corrosive, anti-democratic and contemptuous of the pluralist ideals this country was built on. But claiming credit where it is not deserved and flies in the face of easily checked facts! I'm sorry, but that's either pathological, desperate - or both.
Did I hear right in the speech. Did his list of Labour successes include the Disability Discrimination Act? I am fairly sure that Act was a private members bill passed in 1995. As with all such bills, it required government sympathy - that would be the Tory government...
I think they assume that all progressive legislation must be Labour. So much so that they don't even check the facts.
Combine this with the wicked untruth Brown uttered in the same speech that Blair (Blair?) began the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Er, no. It was John Major in one of his greatest successes as (elected) Prime Minister, won in the face of stiff opposition from his own party, with the Downing Street Declaration of '93, the negotiation of the first IRA ceasfire in '94 and the subsequent Good Friday Agreement of 1998, in which he played a - or even 'the' - crucial role, who actually "answered" the Irish Question. In fact, I strongly recall thinking at the time that a still very much wet behind the ears Blair seemed to be muscling in on what was, in fact, Major's final triumph.
But in the end, that all will be for history to decide, (not Labour - and certainly not Brown!). I think you can see a pattern forming, though, can't you? This particularly sordid piece of Tory-hating Labour revisionism isn't all Brown, of course. It started with Blair during his farewell tour in 2007 (remember that assault on our senses!) in his long search for some sort of historical "legacy". Northern Ireland is Major's legacy, not Blair's - and certainly not Labour's! But Brown's complete omission of Major, the architect of the Peace Process, from history in his speech spoke volumes about the man's extraordinary capacity for deceit, among many other things. It's all the more hypocritical for a man who pretends to be a historian.
The point is that the unravelling of this utterly moribund, dishonest, conference speech is already gathering pace, just a few hours after it was made. And so is the final end of Brown. He is as contemptuous of the the political process and true democracy in Britain as he is deluded about his own significance in the long history of this country. Fifty years from now he will be a footnote tacked on to the end of Blair's premiership - if he's lucky. A bit like Alec Douglas-Home (although I'm uncomfortable comparing a decent, honourable, honest party leader like Douglas-Home with a viciously ambitious abuser like Brown) after Macmillan.
He's very, very close to that rude awakening millions of right-minded, decent (and yes, "hard working") people that disagree with him, and whom he therefore despises so much, have been looking forward to for so long. Well, it's been a costly wait in so many ways. But his downfall, quite possibly, will be Britain's salvation and therefore worth that wait.
Brown: No one's hero and everybody's fool.
(PS: Something once said, with typical modesty, by Alec Douglas-Home seems to me to be more applicable to Gordon Brown than to himself.
“There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible”Ironically, you can find this in the biography section of Number 10's own website. I doubt whether Brown has read it. He doesn't really "do" history. And if he had read it, I doubt it would still be there (too close to home).)
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
This massive attack from Alex Massie is the only piece you will ever really need to read to understand just how very bad Brown's
It's political freefall from here on in for Brown (and Labour). What else could it be after a trainwreck performance like that? They'd better believe it - because he never will!
Gordon Brown Fail.
Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour party conference this afternoon was, in its way, breathtaking. Breathtakingly shameless, mendacious, confused, contradictory, delusional, dishonest and irresponsible that is. It was also the speech of a Prime Minister resigned to defeat.
Elections are won in the centre, not on the extremes. But Gordon's speech was designed to appeal to the Labour base, not to Middle Britain. It was, then, designed to shore up existing support, not appeal to floating voters. It was for the left wing of the Labour party, not the Blairite voters who flocked to the party in 1997. Some of them left in 2001, still more stayed at home in 2005. On this evidence many of them will vote Conservative in 2010.
The Prime Minister takes the electorate for fools. But voters appreciate the appalling fiscal position the next government is going to inherit. They know that urgent action is required. But Brown pretended - as politicians are wont to do - that he could promise cakes for all and that everyone would still lose weight. Despite dozens of spending commitments - rhetorical commitments anyway - the deficit will be halvd in four years. The only thing missing was the promise of a free pony to every seven year old girl in Britain.
It was, also, inspired by a misguided analysis that seemed to have been written by Bob Shrum. Brown is for the "hard-working majority" not the "privileged few". The Tories, by contrast, are heartless toffs who want to put a "cap on aspiration" so that they and their gilded pals can loot the country.
But this too simply shows how politically tone deaf Gordon is. Cameron's weakest point is his past career in Public Relations, not his privileged upbringing.(Gordon's upbringing, incidentally, was, in the context of Kirkcaldy also privileged: son of the Manse and fast-tracked through an educational "hot house". But never mind...)
And, like all desperate politicians, he tried to wrap himself in the flag: Labour is the only properly patriotic party. Shameless and, in this instance, a leaf pilfered from the GOP playbook.
Indeed, this was a speech that might be best seen as a left-wing version of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Like Romney, Brown flip-flopped on a dozen policies he'd previously favoured leaving him in the curious position of, in effect, running against his own past. This, it must be said, is a tactic that rarely convinces.
There was, of course, the usual headline-grabbing nonsense: workhouses for single mothers and a National Family intervention Agency that, given how our bureacracy works, is a guaranteed disaster. But imagine the outcry if a Tory politician called for "Gulags for Slags" or "Wormwood Scrubs for Scrubbers"? Family breakdown is a real issue, but this was a gimmick designed for the sake of gimmickry, not any serious attempt to address a problem. Because addressing it would require a total rethink of tax and welfare policy and, consequently, demand another U-turn.
In other words, this was not in fact a serious speech by a serious politician in serious times. Quite the opposite in fact. It was yet another missed opportunity by a failed Prime Minister whose time is up. We know it and he must know it too. Given the chance to be straight with the electorate, Brown chose to be crooked and, worse still, absurd.
I didn't really think that Brown could fail to meet my exceedingly low expectations but, by god, he did.
(Massie's still completely wrong about Megrahi, though ;)
The policy-on-the-hoof proposed by Brown in that speech to bundle bunches of badly behaved teenage single mothers into state-controlled housing, (quickly rebranded "Gulags for Slags" by some wits) was stolen from - wait for it - the BNP, Guido reveals.
I had no idea Brown was a fascist as well as being the most dishonest politician in the history of British politics. Naive of me.
The freefall accelerates - already. The Brownfall that up to this afternoon was dragging along so excruciatingly and so agonisingly is rapidly becoming a blur. Blink, and you might miss it. So keep 'em peeled, fellow bloggers. He's finally going down.
To cut a long story short, Brown isn't going anywhere because he is quite definitely certifiable. He is going to ruin the country - and promise absolutely anything - to lie and buy his way to what he thinks will be General Election success. The only trouble is, no one will believe him because no one wants Brown.
What he has done with this speech, by going way, way too far this time with the untruths and the rewriting of history (John Major started the Northern Ireland peace process, Gordo), is provide the Conservatives with more than enough ammunition to blow away this terrible, terrible man once and for all.
The long, long litany of lies that comprised the most dishonest speech in British political history, and provided a complete - if muddled and meandering - summary of his disastrous career, will prove to be Gordon Brown's political epitaph. Thank God.
Here's a taste. It gets a lot worse (if you can believe that).
The Speccy's Peter Hoskin did a phenomenal realtime 'fisking' of it. Worth a gander...
Sunday, 27 September 2009
CON 38%(-2)LAB 23%(-1)LD 23%(+2)
Tomorrow will be painful for Gordon Brown at the make-or-break Labour conference, ahead of his make-or-break speech on Tuesday. A deluge of Sunday bad press, including rumours of his failing health (physical and mental) being stoked-up again by Andrew Marr, has been topped off by two bits of news that will turn the background speculation about how long he can cling on to the job he stole into outright rebellion. One is the latest Comres poll for the Independent, which Mike Smithson has analysed in some detail for us. The second is something from this morning that I think could turn out to be a massive own goal for Brown - he lied to Marr during that God-awful interview, according to Andrew Sparrow of the Graun.
First, the poll: it shows that not only have the Liberals caught up with Labour but that half the population, in theory, believes anyone would do a better job of leading Labour than Brown. But completely catastrophic poll ratings are one thing. Brown is used to them by now and they seem to have little effect on his delusional belief that he can somehow turn things around once he 'gets his message across'. But this lying about that stupid policy-on-the-hoof legislation for controlling bank bonuses - that's quite another matter. He said that Britain's proposals are the 'toughest in the world'. Patently unsustainable, says Robert Peston right away - the Dutch have strict caps on banker bonuses already, to name but one country. The Dutch rules are therefore tougher than anything Brown is (disingenuously) suggesting. This is just hit the hated bankers/Tories stuff (in the mind of the Left, the two are interchangable) not reasonable reform. Besides, those evil bankers were simply doing what Brown encouraged them to do for a decade, as I said earlier today. See? Dishonesty. It's the big theme with Brown.
You might well be thinking, "Brown told a big lie and he's been caught out (again). So what?" Well, it is actually pretty serious not just on its own terms - there was a time when ministers, even Prime Ministers, had to do the honourable thing and resign if they were caught lying about policy, for instance - but because it simply adds more grist to the mill (or further weight to Brown's millstone, perhaps) that Brown is not being straight with the people, that he is fundamentally a very dishonest man and that whenever he opens his mouth, a question pops straight into people's minds: what's he lying to me about this time? That is checkmate for any politician, but especially a so-called leader. It's time to bow out graciously and head off into the sunset of the American speech-making tour.
If anyone in Labour actually wants to know why they are nosediving in the polls and are about to become the third party in British politics, they need look no further than this morning's interview. People hate Brown because he keeps on lying to them. They never had the chance to choose him in the first place and they simply don't want him any more. Unfortunately for Labour, that means people in their eagerness to kick Brown hard and often will kick that party too. They are not learning though, it appears - probably because the parliamentary Labour party itself is populated by dishonourable, equally dishonest jellyfish, perfectly illustrated by the grim Scotland affair. (She still hasn't resigned, extraordinarily, despite firm evidence now emerging, thanks to Guido, that she's been lying, too).
So maybe Brown and Labour deserve each other, and the fate that awaits them. Judging by their God-awful, Tory-hating, drab, directionless, unattended conference so far, that's exactly what what the outcome of all their bluster and all their lies will eventually be.
They've also stolen a Tory policy (the super-quango which will be known as the Office of Budget Responsibility - or something, a good idea) and turned it into another piece of proposed legislative madness (the Fiscal Responsiblity Act) that apparently, somehow, will "stop" future governments from spending too much of our money (a bad idea because not only will it not work, it runs the risk of creating the situation of a government potentially having to prosecute itself. A truly Brownite solution, then). But hang on: just when, exactly, did Gordon Brown realise that he'd been spending too much of our money? Or is this Darling's handywork? It feels like Balls to me.
Just when, precisely, did the Labourists decide that they could turn legislation into commandments? Just who the hell, please tell us, do they think they are? I suspect this latest bit of bonkers Brownite bluster will never actually see the light of day and is merely intended to deflect attention, as usual, from who is really responsible for the catastrophic deterioration in the public finances - nutter Brown. It's also another bit of typical, ultra-cynical, Labourist triangulation designed to outsmart the hated Tories. Epic fail there. But there's a little more to it than even that.
Policy on the hoof, of which this is merely one example, made by this dead administration, is the most corrosive and dangerous emergent Brownite behaviour yet. The Tories need to squash it all with a clear agenda of their own. Rubbish non-policies need to be rubbished. Forget the smears - that's just Brown-Labour being Brown-Labour - focus on their knee-jerk, dishonest reactions to a disaster of their own making because when they are finally gone, we will have to live with the consequences of their making a bad situation far worse.
Personally, I think it really is time for Labour to wise up to the fact that Brown is not just a loser, he's a dangerous loser who will destroy the Labour party itself rather than give up the office he stole. He's already practically destroyed the economy so what, a man like that always thinks, has he got to lose?
Fraser Nelson."Uncle Bob", as far as I'm concerned, is one of the very good guys.
It explains a lot of the reasons why the mainstream parties are experiencing such difficulties dealing with Griffin and his party and the best ways to take them on. Certainly I think the left have been the biggest cause of the problem, shouting them down and screaming 'racist, racist!' has not been a successful tactic and has only led to their own natural supporters becoming disillusioned and switching to BNP. He also points out that for all the press coverage and handwringing by mainstream politicians they haven't been very succesful because deep down, Britain's the most comfortable multi-cultural country there is.
The issues that are causing people to vote for the BNP now isn't racism but immigration (and before anyone bitches it isn't the same thing). But anytime a politician mentions immigration they are automatically accused of playing the race card (unless it's a labour politician, there's nowt like double standards!). Michael Heseltine was shouted down on Question Time for suggesting that the people waiting to cross Calais to get here were 'economic migrants'. It's plainly obvious that the vast majority of them are. If they were purely seeking asylum then they could have done it in France or one of the multitude of other EU countries on the way. No, they try to come here because we are a soft touch, with free housing and handouts more genorous than they will get anywhere else. To suggest otherwise is complete bollocks. And this is what is the grist to the BNP's mill.
Fraser also queried who would be a good person to take Griffin to task on Question Time. I'd suggest the tory invite goes to John Redwood. He's a very straight talking politician who would deal with the immigration issue without trying to fudge it...and he would completely destroy the feasibility of any of the BNP's other so-called policies which are further to the left than Dennis Skinner (Expect maybe the EU, it's probably the only thing he'd agree with them on...though I'm sure his argument would be far more coherent.).
(Sincere apologies to him for what he will no-doubt think is a rather lame moment of fake hero-worship. Soz, Bob ;)
Saturday, 26 September 2009
They have no idea what is in store for them. Not really. When Labour convenes in Manchester for its annual gathering next September, its members will look back on this week's conference in Brighton as another era, another country, another world. Gordon Brown will be gone, David Cameron will be in No 10, and a new Opposition leader will be telling his or her flock not to despair – or, more accurately, to stop despairing. Factionalism, introspection, recrimination: these will be the hallmarks of the wrecked movement that once carried all before it as New Labour.
But that moment lies ahead. For now, the governing party is too busy ensuring that it will lose the general election to think of what life will actually be like once defeat is in the bag. Charles Clarke pops up to perform his constitutional role as the man who urges Gordon to go, for health reasons or something similar. Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, is fined £5,000 for employing a Tongan housekeeper illegally – with the magnificent twist that she is in breach of a law she herself steered through Parliament. Baroness Vadera, one of Gordon's closest advisers, quits as a minister. Gordon himself, apparently shunned repeatedly by the President, is initially reduced to meeting Barack Obama in a New York kitchen, thus bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "kitchen cabinet". The polls strike hammer blow after hammer blow to Labour's morale. David Cameron may not have "sealed the deal" with the public, but Gordon Brown most certainly has.
The entirely predictable corollary of these pre-conference fiascos is epically unsubtle positioning by the principal leadership contenders. Alan Johnson, whose false modesty is now starting to grate, admits that he's "not willing to rule myself out for all eventualities in the future". I'll bet he isn't. In a Guardian profile yesterday, Ed Balls was reported to have mumbled to a seven-year-old who asked "if he wants to be prime minister… that he would, if asked, adding that someone has to do the job". Again: you don't say, Ed.
Meanwhile, in New York, the other Ed (Miliband) told Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph yesterday that "I just think for me to start speculating about [the leadership] is a distraction and a bit presumptuous." Another big fat "yes"! Pressed on rumours that the PM might stand down before the election, the best Miliband could muster was: "I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think it would be right. Honestly." Not exactly a passionate oath of loyalty, is it? If I were Gordon reading that, I would mutter "Et tu, Ed?" into my porridge. Or perhaps just hurl the porridge against the wall, as seems to be the Prime Minister's preferred method of expressing mild irritation these days.
Mr Miliband's pre-conference mantra is that "there's no future for Labour in not being a party of the middle classes". This is true – indeed, it is obvious to the point of banality – but it is odd to hear Mr Miliband of all people say it, given that, for the past decade, he has been one of the most outspoken advocates of what he calls "fair taxes". And what Mr Miliband calls "fair taxes" is what the rest of us call "being fleeced" and "having less of our income left to us by the rapacious state to spend on our families". In his interview with The Sunday Telegraph today, Mr Brown claims that Middle Britain is top of his list: "These are the people who I identify with." Again, could have fooled us, Gordon. If the Brownites think that they will win over the electorate by reinventing the Blairite wheel at this late stage, they are in for a shock.
As, indeed, is the whole Labour movement. The shock of defeat lies not only in the loss of power, terrible as that undoubtedly is. A party driven from office must expect a whole array of traumas, great and small. For a start, the political landscape on the morning after the election is utterly transformed, and makes all pre-electoral prophecies instantly redundant.
The sheer scale of Labour's victory in 1997, the consequent tininess of the Conservative parliamentary party, and the absence of Michael Portillo from the Tory leadership race: none of this could have been foreseen at John Major's final conference as leader in Bournemouth in 1996. Most Conservatives knew they were heading for defeat. But it was 22 years since the Tory party had lost an election. It had forgotten the rank smell of failure, the ashen taste in the mouth, the sudden experience of irrelevance.
Irrelevance is at the heart of it all, and it is this that should most frighten Labour as it gathers by the sea. A party in power, no matter how divided, no matter how exhausted, no matter how useless, is still interesting: its exhaustion, its infirmity, its lack of trajectory are important because they affect all of us as citizens. If John Prescott is rude about Harriet Harman, it is a story. If Tony Blair is reported by Adam Boulton to think that Gordon Brown is a "quitter", that's a story, too.
Labour has grown used to the limelight, and has forgotten that nobody has a right to the public's attention. It is a paradox that the longer a Government lasts, even as it suffers cellular damage and approaches invalidity, the more convinced it becomes that its beliefs are obvious, that its arguments are plain common sense, that it does not have to win the battle daily. Philip Gould, Blair's chief pollster, used to quote approvingly the belief of the US strategist Dick Morris that, in modern politics, a government needs a "daily mandate". Plainly, Mr Brown believes no such thing. He exudes only contempt for his opponents and their policies, even though the polls suggest that Mr Cameron's personality and proposals have achieved considerable traction with the public.
The election of a Government does not represent a collective swoon before an ideological blueprint, but something much messier and more numinous: boredom with or suspicion of the other lot, intuitive enthusiasm for what the victorious party represents. That enthusiasm is provisional, probationary, and must be renewed constantly. Labour has completely forgotten this. It believes that Britain is a Labour country suffering a temporary bout of false consciousness. In fact, the opposite is true: after three general election victories, the scales have fallen from the public's eyes.
It will all look so different in Manchester a year hence. But let me predict this much about the week ahead at Brighton: Brown will give a decent speech, better than expected, which will include at least one killer punch (remember "no time for a novice" last year?). He will face down his internal assassins once more. The Labour Party will feel a little buoyed by its leader's determination. Then, it will disperse, go back to its constituencies – and prepare for Opposition.
All I would add is that contained within this piece is an implicit and powerful warning - for Cameron in particular and the Conservative party at large. If you unpack that warning, it might go something like this:
1. Do not take the power you will be lent for granted (again).
2. Do not lie to the people who gave you the job. Respect them by being straight with them.
3. Treat the offices of state which you will once more occupy - and the mother of parliaments - with respectful humility.
4. Seek that "daily mandate" and put it at the centre of your political philosophy.
Democracy is a continuum. Elections are merely the legal and essential expression of the need for a healthy democracy to change direction from time to time. The coming General Election, and the democratic change of direction we all so desperately crave that it will bring, is long overdue.
If Cameron follows these principles honestly and not as some sort of publicity gimmick or disingenuous 'triangulation' (stifling a debate by lying about your intentions, thus elbowing out any genuine antithesis), then there might be room for a glimmer of hope to emerge that British parliamentary democracy can become healthy once more, after the severe damage that has been done to it by years and years of Labour misgovernance and dishonesty and the daily abuses by MPs of every stripe of a system of remuneration that relied on their personal integrity to function.
If Cameron does this, he will have my vote until the day one of us dies. If he doesn't, he'll have one term and then, well, we'll need another "change of direction". We'll kick him out and continue our long, long search for a decent prime minister. (We might even give Boris a try!)
That's the challenge for Cameron. I think he's up to it. I hope I'm right.
CON 39% (-2) LAB 26% (-1) LD 20%(+3)I have to agree with these conclusions, sadly, but not the reasoning behind them, at least as it's presented in Mr Smithson's post.
YouGov poll gives the Lib Dems a boost at both other parties’ expense
A YouGov poll for tomorrow’s Telegraph will bring some welcome relief for the Lib Dems with a three point boost in their rating. Both the Conservatives and Labour are down, with the Conservatives dropping back below 40%. The changes are against the Sunday Times poll, conducted by YouGov and published on 11th September. All the changes are within the margin of error but only just in the case of the Lib Dems.
Despite the Lib Dem conference producing mixed messages from the platform and struggling to make much impact beyond a genuinely headline-grabbing ‘mansion tax’, it would appear that the public liked what they heard. It makes you wonder what a really successful conference might have achieved.
There look to be some interesting figures further down the questions on the various party leaders with the Telegraph claiming that none is as popular as his party. Without seeing how adjustments and don’t knows are counted, it’s difficult to draw too strong a conclusion but it’s not good news for Cameron if so (it’s not good news for any of them but Brown’s been personally unpopular and Clegg relatively anonymous for ages).
Of course, Labour and the Conservatives still have their own conferences to come and we’ll only get a true picture after they’ve all taken place. Even so, a small amount of humble pie on my part - it’s only one poll but if it’s representative, the Lib Dem’s do stand a good chance of gaining during the election campaign from the increased coverage.
I've got to say, mind you, once I had digested this poll and paused for a few moments to wonder and despair at the ease with which what seems to be a vast number of British people potentially are influenced by what is basically nonsense (the LibDim conference being the case in point), I realised that this actually signifies something I had known all along - because I feel it too: David Cameron must start leading not only the Conservative party, but the country as a whole. He has to set the agenda from here on in. The country has moved on from Brown and Labour - that's obvious. It's demanding better than Brown - but it's also demanding a choice.
So even though Cameron's still the Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, he has to demonstrate that he is what the country clearly wants (and I want) - a real leader. If people, as this poll shows, are that easily swayed by empty, badly stage-managed speeches from a minor, disunited opposition party in a state of management confusion and policy disarray, then he has the opportunity - and the duty - to reveal that what he will offer is genuinely better than that. He has to show the country what real political quality looks like. (Clue: it doesn't look like Nick Clegg.)
The Labour conference might produce some brief holiday from his own uselessness for Brown, but it will ultimately be an irrelevance. The only conference that matters this autumn is the Conservative conference; the only speech that matters this autumn is Cameron's.
That's what this poll really shows and woe-betide the Tories if they don't take heed. This is their moment genuinely to shine in front of a massive, receptive national audience that's almost ready to trust them again and is willing them to succeed.
No pressure, then.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Very witty. Not that my comments on blogs and Youtube videos are ever fatuous, you understand. Perish the thought. I take my commenting very seriously - no one else ever does. And I never, ever troll (riling Labourists doesn't count).
That Idle remark at the end about Terry Jones is a bit disconcerting, mind you. I wonder if he'll sue...
Added to this is the fact that there is precisely no evidence to support the idea that Brown accepts the cuts argument anyway, let alone has a firm agenda set for spending controls. He is psychologically, stubbornly opposed to the non-expansionist narrative. His reluctance to admit his errors (and lies) over public spending is testament to this. He has not promised cuts in the way his Chancellor (sort-of) has, he has merely given vague, generalised assurances about efficiency savings and the abandonment of 'unnecessary' and/or 'wasteful' departmental projects - in much the same way as he did in 2005 when he told the same lies to cut the ground from under Michael Howard's feet over the latter's modest proposals, explained in his brilliant manifesto, for an efficiency drive. The idea of genuine reductions in government spending, and bringing the deficit and debt under control, are anathema to Brown. He might have been bounced into using the 'c' word by his own party, but he did so reluctantly and he did it disingenuously. He hasn't changed - and he hasn't really changed his tune.
In fact, I think Portillo knows this and he was actually seeking to make a clever if implicit, disguised point about how boxed in Brown has become, as is always the way with someone who has a genuine problem facing up to reality. The reality is that the electorate have had enough of him, in every possible way. The reality is that he can't immediately start setting the agenda for real public spending cuts because he'll be straying straight into the unmarked political minefield that is Tory economic territory: sound money and the small state. In other words, he won't because he can't. Whether he knows this or not is quite another matter. I think evidence suggests not. That's what the public suspects, too - and that's why he (and Balls with his sudden, bizarre, £2Bn assault on his own department), and Labour generally, have no credibility in this key policy area. Unlike 2005, when debt-fuelled growth and Brown's property bubble were reaching their peak, in 2009 no one's buying the Brownite lies and spin any more. A crash, Gordon, is a crash and the leaders in charge at the time of that crash and the recession that follows will be forced to take responsibility for it - especially if they are responsible for it!
For this and a whole host of other reasons, Brown-Labour has completely lost the argument on public finance.
Add to this the view that, as is clear now from a succession of polls, in the minds of millions of Britons, Brown caused not only the debt crisis but the crash itself and the rampant recession that followed, and there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Labour under Brown is facing total wipeout, assuming David Cameron's Tories don't make cannibalism and the culling of all six week-old puppies owned by small children firm manifesto pledges. Labour's only hope of avoiding this fate is to oust Brown - and November looks like the month. Last chance. Don't they get that?
Regardless of them, we really have moved on - and there are signs the mainstream media is beginning to sense that. Slow on the uptake, aren't they?
But not as slow, it seems, as the Labour party.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
There are many, quite old expressions to describe their - and their laughable "leader" Clegg's - shocking performance. "FUBAR" is one of them. (If you really don't know what that means, email me at email@example.com for a colourful definition).
Sometimes you have to let the total morons speak for themselves...
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Ollie Cromwell has once again snuffed-out any hopes she might have had of skulking back to work tomorrow morning as if nothing had happened. His new surgical dismemberment of any possible defence she might have tried to launch, this time over her expenses fiddling, has put paid to that idea. (See Guido for highlights.)
Meanwhile, the Downing Street smear operation has gone into overdrive, making sure the UK Border police raid on the poor Tongan woman caught up in the middle of all this was splashed all over our gutter press, complete with rumours of homosexuality, infidelity and "open relationships". Shock horror. Anna Raccoon has said it all in her excellent post on this new Labour low. She comments:
Good, that. Really good.
My sympathies lie completely with Ms Tapui. She is a foreigner living in a foreign country. She is legally married to a solicitor, she has the legal right to live in the UK, she worked for the ultimate legal guardian of our laws; whilst ignorance of the law is no defence, she had more reason than anyone to assume that she was doing nothing wrong in applying for a job as a cleaner. The fault, under a statutory liability that she devised herself, lays entirely with Baroness Scotland who failed to scrutinise and retain copies of, the correct papers – for if there had been copies of correct papers, there would be no problem – and thus failed to give her the friendly advice she might have expected from such a quarter, that she was not entitled to work and should not continue to seek employment.
Baroness Scotland has ‘received the full support’ of 10 Downing Street. Ms Tapui’s privacy and physical integrity has been invaded in a most humiliating fashion.
The Sunday papers today contain a multitude of photographs of her smashed front door courtesy of the UK Border Agency, who proceeded to pick their way through the detritus of her personal life and papers.
‘Chief Reporters’ have been dispatched to pick through those indelible details of personal life left on the Internet by those who frequent salacious and explicit sexual chat rooms and forums.
It's interesting, isn't it? A pattern seems to be emerging; the bunker's smear tactics have never gone away. You can just imagine it, can't you? The sotto voce conversation, strictly off the record.
Brownite goon 1: "Have we got anything on the cleaner?"
Conspiring civil servant: "We'll know after the raid."
Brownite goon 2: "Get me Maguire. Get me Dacre!"
Nice. Although it seems the smearists might have got a little ahead of themselves with this very fishy release of Scotland's fiddled expense claims. That smacks of chaos.
Meanwhile, Scotland has disappeared. A lot of people will be very pleased to hear that.
The upshot of all this is that she's gone. Law broken. Incompetent. Trougher. Found out. Career over. End of.
--Update (sort of)--
Just spotted this little paragraph in the Mail's 'orrible coverage of this story:
Yesterday, Lady Scotland’s detached house on a leafy Chiswick street remained empty. All the curtains were drawn, although a dog could be heard barking when the doorbell was rung. Neighbours said she had not been seen in days.Someone should break down her door to see if she's alright. Check on the dog at the very least. Don't wait for the smell...
--Update (sort of) 2--
Still no sign of her. The picture on Guido's site is funny. The last time he did that the result was carnage for Brown's inner circle. I wonder what the result will be this time.
One thing, though: it's very hard to take aim and fire if the target has disappeared. I'm telling you, someone had better check that house of hers. Curtains drawn, dogs barking - doesn't look good. Somebody, please, break down her bloody door!
I wonder if Brown, the man who really has put Britain on the road to serfdom after that terrible decade of his Chancellorship, which saw him deliberately overheat the economy, itself enabled by his precipitate deregulation of the banking industry, while he also indulged in politically motivated deficit-spending, has ever even bothered to read him. I very much doubt it. And if he has, it's clear Brown had no interest in comprehending him, even if he could.
It's certainly the case that St John of Deficit (Keynes), darling of the Left but totally misunderstood by them, would agree with Hayek, not Brown, on how to deal with the current slump which Brown, an economic illiterate, helped enormously to create. Printing money, route one to the creation of an inflationary timebomb, is not the answer. Facing reality and cutting back intelligently is.
I hate to think what Hayek himself would have to say about Brown's current, suicidal expansionism. It would be polite, but it would not be kind!
Saturday, 19 September 2009
You can listen to it in the embed below, complete with tons of the usual Brownite cliches, scaremongering, double vision, grandstanding and outright lies (he's saved four million jobs worldwide, apparently. Er, no you haven't Gordo. That's what people on planet earth call a 'lie'). The only difference here is that it's all read in this creepy, disembodied voice of doom with a Scottish accent.*
(*You can hear that weird little inappropriate smile come into that growl of a voice he has in the recording. Can you tell where?)
The BBC, predictably, has reported the bonkers Balls/Brown press release on its website - probably verbatim. (That's another row, though.)
Here's a bit of it:
Gordon Brown has used a "fireside chat" podcast to warn fellow leaders against "switching off life support" as the world seeks economic recovery.
In an audio message on the Downing Street website ahead of next week's G20 meeting in the US, the prime minister urged a renewed focus on the economy.
He said: "Now is not the time to lose our focus on the economy - we must not switch off the life support.
"People are still losing their jobs, their hope. And we must not fail them."
Mr Brown's message was recorded in an audio-only broadcast - unlike the YouTube video in which he said he was dealing with the MPs' expenses scandal.
That performance was widely criticised, while then-communities secretary Hazel Blears said videos were no substitute for knocking on doors.
Number 10 is likening this message to US president Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chat" broadcasts in the 1930s and 1940s.
This frankly desperate appeal - ostensibly to us, I guess - but in reality to the leaders of the G20, to let Brown play the messiah again just so he can save his political bacon at home will not go down too well, particularly because his abject, flagrant dishonesty about the state of the UK's public finances has been discovered, blown wide-open - and yet still goes on and on and on. This time, the Tories have got him bang to rights about his secret plans for massive income tax hikes to the tune of £15Bn quid. That's about 3p in the pound to you and me - on the basic rate.
In the end, this Ballsian economic narrative has had so many holes blown in it, not least by George Osborne, but mainly by excellent journalists and bloggers like Fraser Nelson and many others, that Brown just sounds like a fool when he keeps on repeating it regardless, rambling on about how he saved the world from ruin and wants to keep on saving it. It's incredible he imagines he can still go to Pittsburg and seriously believe he has the credibility to lecture the French or the Germans or the Canadians or the Australians or the [pick a country] on anything other than the best way to destroy their own economies. He's that bad - and they know it.
Brown is simply the all-time biggest hypocrite and pathological liar in the entire world. Odious. Just odious.
Extraordinary, baseless, dishonest and severely muddled.
When you've stopped laughing, spare a thought for those "fake", "phony" Conservatives who have been honest and brave enough to talk about the need to get public spending under control for nearly a year. Spare a thought for them, because they've been leading the debate, warning that government spending was unsustainable and that the UK was running a serious risk of defaulting. Clegg's record? Weak, dithering and confused.
Actually, it's never really been clear who is in charge of the Lib Dems since Labour's debt crisis began, Cable or Clegg. Now we know - it's Cable.
I suppose we can spare a thought for poor old Cleggy, though, too. I'm sure he does want "real" change (thanks to Barack Obama, David Cameron and just about everyone else for that line, eh Cleggy?), but how can his party offer such a thing when it is comprised of disaffected socialists, woolly-headed liberals and Lembit Opik? The answer, of course, is that it can't.
John Ward has said tonight that the Lib Dems should be targeting Labour voters, not Tory, in his own domain of Medway in Kent. I'm afraid I don't know much about the ins and outs of Kent politics, but he's absolutely dead right in a broader sense.
Clegg should choose one enemy and go after it. That enemy should be Labour and Brown, not Cameron and the Tories. His message from this little clip is bordering on unintelligible. The reason? No one knows what the Liberal Democrats are for. I certainly don't. And they don't either, otherwise they would have realised long ago that this is their big chance to become the official party of opposition to what will likely be a Conservative administration under a great deal of pressure. But they can't do that if they split the vote and help Brown/Labour.
The fact is, until the old, splittist, founding fathers (mothers?) of the SDP/Liberal/Alliance/Social and Liberal Democrats/Liberal Democrats are dead and buried, the tensions and contradictions that lie at the heart of this odd little party will persist.
So yes, spare a thought for Clegg. He has a very difficult job leading that mob.
Clegg has just said "I held a sort of question and answer session at Glastonbury in a great big pink sort of tipi..."
He lost me there. Hopeless.
This week the Prime Minister has shuffled over his own dividing line and joined the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and almost all political and economic commentary. Crossing to the other side, he has fallen in with the very consensus he had pledged his party to reject.The rest is, perhaps, a little less immoderate - but still absolutely worth the read. Simon Heffer, eat your heart out. Because Parris so rarely loses his cool, he speaks from a position of real authority when he (rightly) does. Heffer seems to spend his entire life in a state of purple-faced outrage about Labour and what he regards as Cameron's pinko non-Tory party so that when there is a clear win for the Conservatives - and on the one issue from which all others follow, the economy - he has nothing to say. Heffer is strong on economics and yet today he has been relegated to the ranks of royal-watcher. Interesting.
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this capitulation. The debate will not, after all, be about whether to cut public spending, but about where and how. It is the debate the Opposition has for 12 months been demanding. Mr Brown starts now from the impossible position of trying to argue that he will be best fitted to do what until last week he had been adamant should not be done. But that’s his fault.The Office for National Statistics reports an imbalance between spending and revenue of unprecedented and unsustainable proportions — far worse than many thought or Brown’s demented Candy Mountain rhetoric implied. His characterisation of opposition warnings as alarmist and verging on the unpatriotic now appears to verge, itself, on treason. Opposition alarm has been, if anything, understated.
Cynical socialists (such as Alastair Campbell, to name but one) will no-doubt argue that in reality it's not Brown that's crossed any dividing line between delusion and reality, but Rupert Murdoch between Labour and the Conservatives. This is just spin - and daft spin at that. Again, it's Parris' long-established reputation for independence and objectivity that allows him to write this kind of polemic and be taken seriously. And make no mistake, he will be taken seriously no matter what the Campbells of this world would want us to believe and regardless of their increasingly sad, shrill and frankly feeble ad hominems against Cameron - like this latest one, referring to a recent BBC radio (surprise surprise) show he was hosting:
But the good news, politically, is that he [2nd rate impressionist, Alistair McGowan] had tried and tried and tried to do David Cameron but he couldn't.
'Is it because he stands for nothing?' I asked, and was pleased that the live audience got the point immediately.
He didn't know what it meant, he said, but he had tried long and hard, but failed, so Dave will not be part of his new routine.
'All that comes out is an upper-class whisper,' he said. An upper-class whisper. It could stick.
For the sake of completeness, I should report that he is also struggling with Barack Obama. There the comparison with DC ends.
(Boy, I'm so sorry I missed that one!)
And I simply do not get this part: "It could stick". Excuse me? What could stick? An "upper class whisper"? What does that even mean!?
"Dave" won't be part of anyone's "routine" any time soon because "Dave" is being taken seriously by everyone who counts (ie: the voters - check the polls) as the man who will be saddled with the unenviable task of trying to save Britain from Labour's debt catastrophe. Campbell might feel able to sneer and preen the tailfeathers of his vast ego, but no one else is in the mood to laugh at "Dave" just now, thanks all the same. I get the distinct impression that Alistair McGowan wasn't. And neither is Matthew Parris, it seems - a writer of considerably more import than Alastair "Dave Kelly" Cambell.
Suffice to say, the familiar whiff of desperation that's surrounded Brown's administration from the very start - like some sort of chronic BO - has become a toxic cloud of outright panic as the writing on the wall becomes clearer by the day.
"Demented" Brown will turn up in Pittsburgh soon and try to save his own political world with the kind of post-doctoral level of cynicism for which he will always be remembered, not fondly. This time, though, none of the other leaders will be listening because, as someone once said, he's run out of our money; he has nothing left to bring to the table apart from the deeds to the House. They know that and we know that. Even the cabinet knows that.
Only demented Brown seems to think he has anything left to offer a world that has grown very weary of his posturing and his lies.
We're even running out of the money we're printing!
Thank Gordon Brown, thank Labour, for the worst economic crisis this country has ever faced.
And just remember, if you were stupid enough (like I was - in my youth) to be taken-in by "New" Labour's reformist lies at the start of this slowmotion train-wreck, that the last Tory government handed-over an economy in rude health - a genuinely "golden legacy".
Labour/Brown has squandered that Tory dividend ten times over - and more.
Socialists are fond of dumb counterfactuals when they feel like attacking all those who dare oppose them, especially "evil Tories". Well, I have one of my own: the current recession and debt crisis would have been nowhere near as severe if for the past ten years Tory spending levels and programmes had been strictly adhered to by that arrogant incompetent, Brown. Better still, had a Tory government followed its own spending programme from 1997 to now, instead of a medicated, economically illiterate, unbalanced, mediocre Scottish historian's twisted version of it, Britain would have been guaranteed a quick and relatively painless recovery from what is, after all, a "global crisis" (or so we have been told ad nauseum by Brown Labour). Britain would have been better off under the Tories, in every way.
We live and learn.
Fact is, my Tories would never have allowed things to get this bad and, had they been in power, would have managed any downturn from a position of absolute economic strength.
At the end of the day, in these "difficult times", Tories are just much, much less expensive than Brown and his incompetent Labourists. That is the devastating truth for Labour; a straightforward reality for the rest of us. A Tory recovery will be far more effective, far faster and far less painful than a Labour one. Labour only does spending; "recoveries" are beneath it. Sickening.
Brown himself is one of the main causes of Britain's deepest of deep recessions. Let no one ever forget that.
Friday, 18 September 2009
I was impressed with Dave's latest email, apparently sent to me personally.
Dear J__,Outstanding music. I agree with it all - I've been saying most of it myself for some time, after all. My only real concern is that he - or whoever writes this stuff for him - seems to think I'm 12. But I need to know the score.
On Tuesday, after months of denying it, Gordon Brown finally admitted that spending had to be cut. So at last he is catching up with reality.
The public spending debate can often get bogged down in the language of deficits, forecasts and balance sheets but it really is this simple: Britain's in a debt crisis. We're borrowing far, far too much money. And unless we cut public spending, we're all going to pay the price - with higher taxes, higher interest rates and lower confidence in our economy for the long-term.
So why on earth has it taken the Government so long to realise this? For months, we've been telling them that they need to get a grip on our national finances. And all across the country, families and businesses have been working out how to trim their own costs and live within their means. But the Government seems to have been entirely asleep on the job.
It didn't have to be like this. On Wednesday, the Conservatives were handed leaked documents from the Treasury. These showed that as far back as April, Gordon Brown's officials were drawing up plans to cut public spending by nearly ten per cent. So all the time that Gordon Brown was adamant in public that spending could continue to rise, in private his figures showed otherwise. He was, not for the first but hopefully for the very last time, taking people for fools.
Add that to the election that never was, the bungling over the abolition of the ten pence tax rate, the evasiveness about the release of al-Megrahi, and we have a Prime Minister who can't be straight with people about what he really thinks.
So can I have the grown-up version from now on please? You know, the one with a bit of philosophy and a bit of real bite. The one that contains the argument and the plan.
It's not much to ask.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
From The Rag's pretty much watertight, forensic analysis of her negligence and/or crimes surrounding her illegal immigrant employee, it is very hard to see how she can survive the remainder of the week. She is, after all, in charge of enforcement of the immigration laws that grew out of her government's immigration policy. Blunkett went for the same sort of thing, arguably. Otherwise, it's one rule for them, another for us, isn't it? And that won't do.
A well-deserved, partial scalp for Ollie C. is almost certainly on the cards, then. And, into the bargain, this represents one more step along that long and bumpy road to the final collapse of this Labour government. Good news.
Yesterday was good (today will be better). Osborne railroaded Brown and trainwrecked Mandelson with the devastating timing of that leaked treasury document - and many excellent anti-Brown bloggers explained just how (I didn't). Today he's going for Labour's jugular, according to the DT's chief Conservative party news conduit, Benedict Brogan. Now that he's trumped Labour on the argument, he's going to stick it to them on policy. Public spending and debt levels are a national emergency, he will say, and that calls for an emergency budget. Excellent.
The last time the Conservatives returned to power with an emergency budget, there were no surprises. The Economist declared, "It's what you voted for", while the Daily Mirror said, "No one who voted Conservative can complain". It was 1979 and Margaret Thatcher had prepared the groundwork with a manifesto that addressed directly the twin challenges of the day: "Any future government which sets out honestly to reduce inflation and taxation will have to make substantial economies, and there should be no doubt about our intention to do so."
George Osborne is aiming to do the same again. By the time you and I vote, he hopes to have made it plain as a pikestaff that he intends to introduce sweeping measures to get the public finances back within reach of reason. It may not all be done in that first "emergency" Budget he plans to present within weeks if the Tories are returned, but he will go fast and furious, I'm told. The window of opportunity for doling out the bad medicine is narrow.
Quite what he tells us between now and polling day is another matter. He is weighing up calls for candour against the risk of showing a hand that can be trumped by a desperate Labour Party. He is aware of the need to prove there is more substance to his programme than making MPs pay more for their Commons salad, but is mulling the "how much is too much" dilemma. His conference speech in three weeks' time needs to impress the City with its maturity. He knows he should display the soberness of Geoffrey Howe rather than the showmanship of Derren Brown. It must be the address of a chancellor, and not of his shadow.
Yesterday, though, Mr Osborne was still demonstrating his knack for political coups. He released a leaked document that reveals the Government is assuming spending cuts worth 9.3 per cent between 2011 and 2014. This breach of confidence has had a devastating impact inside the Treasury. Labour exploited leaks in opposition, and is being undone by them now. This one has turned Gordon Brown's retreat from "Tory cuts v Labour investment" into a rout. To have shifted the ground of the political debate while in opposition is some feat. How far have we come if a shadow chancellor can accuse the Prime Minister of lying without provoking even a murmur of outrage?
What to cut is the new frontline in a war of attrition between the parties. But now comes the hard part. The Conservatives are committed to closing the deficit more quickly than Labour, which leaves the shadow chancellor having to explain how much greater than 9.3 per cent his spending cuts will be. As Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address: "All of us, together, in and out of government must bear the burden."
But do we even understand what reducing debt and reforming the public sector might mean? Glib talk of axed programmes, redundant civil servants and slashed benefits takes little account of the difficulties the politicians implementing such cuts will face. Vital? Yes. Do-able? Of course. But easy? No, and yet Mr Cameron and his shadow chancellor are being egged on as if restoring us to fiscal health is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
The Conservatives face four obstacles that cannot simply be wished away, the first of which is the public sector unions. Mr Cameron may be trying to seduce Brendan Barber, the TUC's general secretary, but the noises from its conference suggest no takers among the brothers for his olive branch. He is right to highlight the regiments of public sector employees who, like him, believe more can be done for less. But three in five workers in the public sector are unionised, and the BMA can be just as reactionary when it comes to protecting the largesse lavished on its members by Labour.
Then there is the Civil Service. Senior officials are desperate to be rid of this Government – yet, over time, Whitehall has developed its own addiction to unlimited money, coupled with an aversion to risk. A generation of mandarins has grown up fearful of delivering hard truths face to face, and of challenging poor performance. As a result, what a private company would find straightforward – the removal of failure – in Whitehall has become complicated and mired in treacle. Teaching civil servants to address poor performance with the same kind of brusque efficiency that obtains in the private sector must be part of the next government's programme of reform.
Mr Cameron, in his pronouncements so far, not least his promise to go to war with the educational establishment, shows all the signs of a politician who is not afraid to suffer the scars on his back that Tony Blair so famously complained of.
Which brings me to my next obstacle: the politicians themselves. Whitehall is gripped by short-termism, yet in a world dominated by the targets culture introduced by Labour, is this any surprise? When ministers themselves prioritise short-term results that can be ready for the Six O'Clock News or the autumn conference, how can the Civil Service hold out for the long view? Take the permanent secretary I know who was asked by Gordon Brown to deliver a 5 per cent real terms cut in his departmental budget (long before the Prime Minister was prepared to admit such a thing), only to have his ministers – all cronies of Mr Brown – veto every suggestion for shedding jobs, for fear of alienating the militants in the PCS union.
It's not just a Labour problem. Last week, Michael Fallon argued cogently in The Daily Telegraph that the shadow cabinet does not have the faintest idea of the commitment needed to cut public spending, and is still racking up spending pledges rather than offering savings.
And then there's us, and by that I mean the political and media classes of which I am a part. Are we truly ready for reform? What will we make of the grind of austerity, of the complaints from angry constituents and furious readers who have lost a hospital or a surgery, or seen their children refused a university place?
Mr Cameron proposes a long-term project of restraint and reform, but will face resistance, not just from the machine in the centre, or from the demoralised manager of a Leeds benefits office baulking at making a 10 per cent headcount reduction, but from top to bottom, an accretion of human resistance, born of short attention spans, lack of imagination, special pleading, and the siren calls of an economic recovery. How easy will it be for a Cameron government to argue austerity, when others are emerging into the sunlight and thinking: "It's over, why bother?"
Still, I remain an optimist. The public gets the need for "more for less". It's what they have always done, in the kitchen, with the home finances, and in running their small businesses. With the right leadership they can be persuaded to support a national endeavour to spend less and run things better. But it will require candour from government. In 1979, Mrs Thatcher was returned with a majority of 44, not a landslide. Her side wavered and came close to throwing her out when things got tough, until a gamble in the Falklands rescued her. We should not make the next government's job any more difficult by pretending that what lies ahead will be easy.
Great writing, especially the concerns - all of which I share. But once Labour get theirs and are kicked out of power - preferably forever - Osborne and Cameron will be given a free rein, and they'll bloody well need it to overcome those obstacles to which Brogan so eloquently refers. If they are honest with the people from the beginning, then they will. They must be honest.
It's all about faith, you see - the faith I didn't have in Osborne/Cameron initially but am rapidly discovering I now have. From faith comes a mandate; from a mandate comes leadership and strong government. None of these things has Brown ever enjoyed or deserved or, indeed, sought. And that's why he is doomed. The sooner he goes, the better for everyone.
So I say to the inheritor, Osborne: well done! But you must stick to your guns in order to rescue the country from the terrifying, deep, black hole that Brown, thanks to his catastrophic incompetence, mismanagement and world-beating, unbalanced arrogance, has dug for us.
Tories: over to you, then. You've won the argument.
Don't blow it.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
The comparisons become more eerie - and more telling - by the day...