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Vince the invincible….

By Angela Harbutt
March 30th, 2010 at 1:53 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in UK Politics

ask-the-chancellors-image-2-5493365971Vince has got his mojo back, and some…..


OK, lets be honest, “Ask The Chancellors“, was little more than a supporting bout ahead of the main show – the leaders debate. A useful rehearsal for all three parties and a way for Channel 4 to get a slice of the TV political debate “action”.


But given all that,  it is hard to see how Vince could have done much better…

Am I the only one who thinks that this ups the pressure on Nick for “the main event”?


It seems pretty clear that Vince was THE man last night. I say that not as a Lib Dem. That seems to be the consensus. New Statesmen “Cable Triumphs” , Channel 4 “Cable wins” and “Cable impresses” and “Cable is public’s choice for chancellor” , Guardian “Vince Cable draws first blood in battle of the chancellors”  , Reuters “”Third man” stars in TV election debate” , and so on…..

Of course there were dissenters – e.g. Quentin Letts over at the Daily Mail tells us “I resist the cult of Vince the wizened seer”  – but as Daisy McAndrew tweeted at the time “Audience pretty much unanimous cable won, hacks too privately, but many sticking to party lines in their copy“.

And Vince had some things in his favour. Was it accident or design that as we looked at the screen, Darling was on the left, Osborne on the right and, well Vince in the middle (always the best place to be).

He is also built for this kind of show. He is has a confident, school masterly air about him, is always across his facts and has, as he shows at his occasional appearances on PMQ’s an undeniable gift for witty one liners – which endears him to any audience no matter how cynical.  

People can, and have said, that Vince can say what he likes as the Lib Dems don’t have any chance of getting into power. That might have been an easy stick to beat the Lib Dems with before, but with the polls refusing to shift far away from “hung parliament” territory, that’s an argument that’s much harder to make right now. I very much doubt that Vince will actually end up in no11 – but how much money would I give to hear Cameron try to rationalise to the public why Osborne should have the keys over Cable….

No. Vince did not win last night because his policies don’t stand a chance of being implemented. Vince won because he is clearly a man who knows what he is talking about, he was more honest about the cuts, more specific about where they will come from, more direct in answering the questions, and more authoritative whilst being warmer and funnier than the other two (you gotta feel for the other two guys really). 

But what can we learn from this that will inform the leaders debates? Much will be outside of the leaders control – the order in which you stand, how much public interaction there will be etc…

But some things are clearly in your gift…e.g. Get your make up sorted.George Osborne looked pale bordering on vampiric. Try very hard not to nod all the time when your opposite number is speaking. George (again!) was like a nodding dog most of the time – nerves maybe – but do try to keep the head still. Oh and answer the damned question!! You might think you got away with it on the night. But I have spent a morning listening to various phone-ins observe the fact that Vince seemed much more willing than the other two to address the question put – not some question they might have liked to have been asked.  

We can’t and shouldn’t expect Nick to mimic Vince’s naturally comedic timing or instinctive turn of phrase. You either got it or you ain’t – and there is nothing worse than a joke falling flat, or a one liner – that you then have to explain……oh dear no.

But Nick CAN do the honest thing. He can do the “sound of reason” thing. He can do the passionate thing. And he can answer the questions. He can and must be prescriptive in his recipe for change, he can and must be bold about the need for cuts, he can and must speak with authority on parliamentary reform…

Vince will be a hard act to follow…It’s do-able …but my word it wont be easy.

Get thee to rehearsal Nick – the bar has been set pretty high.

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Simon Clark – a man with va va voom

By Angela Harbutt
March 24th, 2010 at 4:27 pm | 8 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

I like Simon Clark from Forest. He is calm, bright, thoughtful and very polite man who writes entertaining and informative blogs.  When he pops up on TV and radio I listen to his reassuring words and think “yes. That’s the right thing to say” ..”oh good point”..” how does this man know so much?” etc etc.

I am a big fan. I rarely, however, cry out in sheer delight at the passion. Well today I did. Moans of delight could be heard as I listened to Mr Clark show more va va voom than a hot french car with Thierry Henry at the wheel.   Like all great seducers he starts slowly, (the tease) – but builds and builds and builds to a wonderful crescendo that had me crying “yes yes yes” as my fists banged the table in sheer ecstasy.

In case you missed it, I have edited highlights from the programme in question here. Along with Simon you will hear from Ms Crossfield. She is Director of Smokefree Northwest – yet another government funded group. Why is it that all my money is seemingly being spent employing people whose dedicated aim is to stop me indulging in a few simple legal pleasures (to which I have added listening to Simon on the radio by the way!).

You can listen to the full programme on iplayer (Radio Five Live Breakfast Phone in: should smoking be banned in cars? March 24th 2010).

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Government-funded anti-smoking quangos funded by other government-funded quangos – agree with the Government – SHOCK!

By Angela Harbutt
March 24th, 2010 at 12:45 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Here we are knee deep in debt and all I see is a lot of government money – money we cant afford – being spent to shore up Government plans for more interference. Well this is just too rich for me..

And its not as though the money was spent on research, attributed to the Government. Oh no that would be too straightforward. No this bit of political manoeuvring is just about as devious as any I have seen in a while.

Widely credited as “a report from the Royal College of Physicians”, a document was released today concluding  that the  “acceptability” of smoking must be changed (don’t you just cringe when that kind of language is used ?) and  that .. the easiest way to do this is a blanket ban in cars and vans, parks and play areas.

Naturally the media pounce on this explosive news. The illustrious Royal College bestow their views and we must all jump. We have to “save the kids” after all.

But look beyond the headlines and what you see is Government sponsored documentation that states X (a lot of kids suffer from asthma) and concludes that something completely disproportinate and over the top MUST be done … a blanket ban on smoking in cars and vans – not just those carrying children you note – and a ban on smoking in open spaces such as parks.

Er? How did they make that leap ?

The answer is fairly clear…. The government has already stated that it is  “looking at ways to go further to reduce the 9,500 children admitted to hospital every year as a direct result of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke“.  Andy Burnham, Health Secretary has also confirmed his  “commitment to virtually eradicate the health harms caused by smoking..(and).. halve smoking by 2020″ 

So now the Royal College of Physicians is concluding that banning smoking in cars, vans and open spaces is the way to go. Surprised? Don’t be.

Look at who has funded this piece of research. Cancer Research UK and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS). What is the UKCTCS you may ask. A group of universities that develop ways to reduce numbers smoking. Aah but who funds the UKCTSC? Well, primarily this seems to be the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)  which is in turn primarily funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) and MRC (Medical Research Council  a tax-payer funded organisation dedicated “to improving human health”) …You see where I am going with this ? You cant move more than an inch in any direction and this report from the Royal College of Physicians has Government money oozing from every orifice.

And who is one of the primary authors quoted ? Martin Dockrell, director of policy at the vocal anti-smoking group ASH (funded by the Department of  Health no less) . Dockerall, by ASH’ own admission, “specialises in using research data to make the case for policy reform”. If that doesn’t send alarm bells ringing out about the intention and validity of this “report” then I don’t know what does.

And lets not ignore the fact that the real agenda here is to “eradicate” smoking (as Mr Burnham has stated). John Britton leads the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (and who sits on the board of trustees of ASH) and is the principle author of this report who has gone on record stating…. “This report isn’t just about protecting children from passive smoking, it’s about taking smoking completely out of children’s lives. Adults need to think about who’s seeing them smoke.” 

Well they should have thought about that before they banned smoking in the one place where kids would not see smoking – in the pubs!

And if you want further evidence – Britton’s explanation for why there should be a blanket ban on smoking in vehicles – should suffice… “even drivers who never had child passengers should get out of their cars before lighting up for reasons of road safety” Hmmm road safety expert as well are we? I can’t actually find his credentials to speak on road safety but I am sure they are there – somewhere.

So what we have here is Government-funded anti-smoking quango’s working with other Government anti-smoking quango’s,  being funded by other Government quango’s all agreeing with Government published aims. Anyone here really expecting all those institutions, relying on Government cash, to conclude anything else?

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Does Cameron’s “favourite think tank” give us a glimpse of Tory Britain?

By Angela Harbutt
March 19th, 2010 at 1:16 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom, Policy

I dont know if many of you have heard about the delightfully mental report “Cough Up” by Policy Exchange. The report concludes British government have got tobacco tax pretty much spot on – well, they don’t tax tax cigarettes quite enough – citing a whole list of “costs” to society including litter collection, house fires and employee absenteeism, as well as, of course, the cost of treating tobacco related diseases etc….

Well if  Policy Exchange truly is “David Cameron’s favourite Think Tank” then heaven help the sovietised state we can all look forward to come May 7th, should he get into power. So much for liberal Tories – looks like central planning mentalism will be the order of the day if this lot have any influence….

“Cough up”? Throw up more like.

I started to write a suitable repost to this ridiculously poor report (you usually only get such ill-thought through documents from the Government rushing to get some cock up off the front pages),  then was alerted to Mark Littlewood’s excellent post over on the IEA blog.

He makes a number of excellent points – not least the following…

 “… The question isn’t how much smokers cost the NHS – but how much less would they cost the NHS if they didn’t smoke. The Policy Exchange research assumes they would cost nothing. But dying of Alzheimer’s as an ex-smoker (or non smoker) in your 80s is going to cost much more than dying as a chainsmoker of heart disease in your 50s. And that doesn’t start to factor in the saving made on state pensions by smokers having the courtesy of dying many years younger..

Click on the above to read the full IEA article in all its glory.

Let’s see the Tory response……

UPDATE: There is another truly marvelous piece written  by Dick Puddlecote – delightful title to his post “That Policy Exchange Nonsense”. A must read!

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ID Cards still very much on this Government’s agenda

By Angela Harbutt
March 19th, 2010 at 11:34 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom, UK Politics

no2id_badge_new_600dpiSome of us, myself included, have a tendency to think that we, and NO2ID, have won the ID card battle. We should all be under no such illusion. The fight is still very much on.

Earlier this week there was a little-reported matter of  Meg Hillier, the Home Office Minister, suggesting that Gordon Brown’s government may ask U.K. banks – specifically Govt “owned ones” – Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc – to subsidize its national identity-card program, paying for documents for poorer customers to attract business… “attract business” yeah right. And rather curious given that I was sure that the Government was leaving the banks to run their own business’. Apparently not.

Prior to that there was the little matter of Ms Hillier writing in Progress online (a New Labour Pressure Group) that ID cards are a “service” that will empower the country’s citizens – and specifically help fight social exclusion. Hmm – the Labour use of the word “service” is about as twisted as its concept of  term “choice” – don’t these people own a dictionary? Or are they just writing their own?

Now we hear that Pensioners could be forced to carry identity cards to qualify for free bus travel.

Well, we learned a long time ago not to believe a single word (or indeed number) this Government comes out with. But its a timely reminder to us – not to let the ID cards issue fall off our agenda – its certainly not fallen off the Government’s.

UPDATE: I am reminded that you can keep abreast of Government sneaky action on id cards at NO2ID’s newsblog.

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