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Diane Abbott shows that she knows very little about … well … anything really.

By Timothy Cox
August 5th, 2010 at 12:40 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

This Labour leadership race is a stark reminder of just how important it is to make this Coalition work.  Sure, some elements may not be ideal, but the prospect of any one of Labour’s unsavoury bunch getting back into power should be enough to quieten the staunchest of anti-coalitionites. The run-in looks certain to be a family affair, but what jobs have the aspiring leaders got their sights on within the shadow cabinet? The losing Milliband will presumably be in the running for a top post, Balls has his beady eye on the shadow treasury and Burnham will be happy just to be on a bench. Any bench. But what of Diane Abbott–the self proclaimed “alternative”? Which post does she have the talent to command?Next Labour leader?

Judging by Monday’s interview with The Guardian, the outlook’s not terribly auspicious. For those of you who found 12 whole minutes of Abbott and Poly Toynbee slobbering over each other too much to bear, here are the highlights:

On the economy: Simple. Rebalancing spending with tax increases. Apparently drawing her inspiration from Obama and Norman Lamont (et tu Norman?!), she proposes that spending cuts and tax increases are split 50:50. Thus followed  a breathless three minute rant: make the 50%  tax rate permanent, bring the threshold down to £100,000, increase capital gains tax, impose a financial transaction tax, double the banking tax, impose a new wealth tax, impose the mansion tax, tax assets more… etc, etc. Miss the part about public spending cuts? Me too.

Foreign Policy: “Withdraw the troops”–the priority is to get out before the US, regardless of the nuances, we must beat the yanks to the departure date. What to do about the Afghanistan? Not a problem, send in the UN, they’ll sort it out. “I have a lot of faith in the UN”, she reassures us.

Next up: torture and rendition. Not an issue. The problem isn’t Labour’s record on abusing human rights–it’s the audacity of the Tories to launch an inquiry into the subject. Clearly a shallow attempt at defaming Labour MPs.

Social Justice: this one’s easy, obviously it’s the fault of the bankers–increase taxes.

Education: Not really interested in talking about this, or the issue of her son attending a private school. This isn’t really about education, she laments, it’s about “being a women in public life–all anyone is interested in is shoes and family”!  Even Poly baulks slightly at this, but no Abbott is certain, she has no case to answer because she’s a woman. Harriet Harman eat your heart out.

Finally, on her fellow leadership contenders. Nothing. Not a thing. She can’t even declare who she has more in common with Dave or Ed. All we get is a “nice suits, nice red ties, nice hair-cuts” quip.

So back to my original question- where next for Ms Abbott? Presuming that there has been no-one since Tony Benn crazy enough to let this tax-devouring-fiend anywhere need anything of economic importance, the main jobs at the treasury, home office, BIS, and pensions are out. Trusting the UN to resolve anything shows a fairly basic misunderstanding of international affairs, so out are the FCO, Defence and DfID. Education or Health? Nope. Justice? Probably best not.

In truth, it’s hard to see just what exactly Ms Abbott could do. Her ascendency bears testament to just how far playing the “persecuted-black-single-mum-from a poor background” card can get you in politics. The Millibands will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.

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The Lib Dems: dithering or duplicitous?

By Angela Harbutt
May 11th, 2010 at 10:40 am | 12 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

This is the first time in most of our life times that we are facing post-election coalition negotiations. It is therefore understandable – as this is new to everyone – that it will take a while to reach a conclusion.

BUT having watched unfolding events yesterday, and listened to various phone-ins this morning, it is clear that the country’s patience is running out. The Liberals are right on the cusp of screwing this up. If a definitive statement is not made in the next few HOURS (not days as some suggest) – then the Liberal’s standing with the electorate may be damaged for a decade – however good the final decision turns out to be.

Reports of the Lib Dems being in parallel talks with both Tories and Labour are not playing out well. Regardless of the facts of the matter, and in spite of statements to the contrary from Nick himself, this LOOKS, for all the world, as though the Liberals are putting party interests before those of the country. Trying to screw out a last few concessions from both parties by playing one party off against the other.

This is NOT the “change” to politics that people signed up for. 

I know Nick, a little. I have no doubt that he is attempting to do “the right thing”. But perception is as important as fact. And the public perception is that self interest is being put first. 

Now comes the time for decisive leadership. He needs to get a grip and bring this thing to a close – and fast.

Having watched the tired old faces from Labour over the past 12 hours, trot out the Campbell-inspired lines on why a Lib/Lab/SNP/Plaid etc etc coalition is legitimate, I am more convinced than ever, that it is not. Even they don’t look very convinced as they mouth the words.

The Tories -the party with the strongest mandate as judged by the electorate – have moved a long way to accomodate the needs of the Liberals – and are sitting smugly on the moral high ground. The Liberals, in contrast, risk looking somewhere between dithering and duplicitous. Sorry that has to be said. 

So, Nick MUST act now. He has in my view has only one option – to go into full coalition with the Conservatives– step up to the plate – and get on with it.

The public will not forgive the Liberals for propping up a defunct Labour party, and a shambolic rag tag of nationalist and independent junior partners (each with a price tag attached to their support). An ugly looking alliance that has little chance of long term stability. Add to that the prospect of a Prime Minister that this country has no say in appointing or judging when they cast their vote for Labour last week and it just becomes an impossibility.

The only other option is to say – for all those demands for PR – that you can’t do a deal with either! One you cant agree with, the other one is too repugnant to contemplate. So you will sit at arms length from the least-worst, like a petulant child. If that is how you plan to sell PR to the public it’s a sorry one. You might as well give up on the idea of PR for good. 

So do a deal with the Conservatives  – take the full blown option – and do it now.

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The New Labour Disaster in 4 minutes

By Angela Harbutt
June 29th, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Comments Off on The New Labour Disaster in 4 minutes | Posted in UK Politics

There has been quite a bit of discussion concerning the Liberal Vision video published here last week.

I have responded to some of the comments on the Lib Dem Voice website, (scroll to the bottom of that page for comments) if you are interested.

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