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Are we doomed to a future of characterless, robotic politicians?

By Julian Harris
June 16th, 2010 at 3:30 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

News just in from north of the border: Labour MSP Frank McAveety has resigned after being caught making a few casual remarks about the attractiveness of a (presumably) young woman.

The BBC has the story.

A friend linked me this earlier in the day and my initial reaction was “pffft, what a load of nonsense about nothing.” At that point the “load of nonsense” consisted of a few blog posts, and the SNP sanctimoniously demanding a resignation.

But now the storm has spiralled out of the teacup. It is actual news, and he has actually quit.

What exactly has he done to warrant this? An apology, sure, was rightfully called for – more for being caught than anything else. “Sorry I was mumbling inane nonsense when I should have been working.”  That kind of thing. But a resignation? Really?

People often complain that it’s increasingly impossible to go into politics if one has done anything in one’s past that might be considered remotely socially unacceptable–or if one shows the slightest sign of human weakness. I have some sympathy for this line of thought.  Do we really want to drive away every candidate who’s prone to a moment of mumbling about someone they fancy? Do we really want a Parliament of Nu-Lab-Blair-esque robotic yes (wo)men?

I dunno, this seems ridiculous.

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Labour MP Stephen Pound faces homophobic heckling claims

By Julian Harris
May 17th, 2010 at 2:13 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

poundLast weekend I ambled somewhat indifferently to the Wengerdome to see the Arsenal v Fulham.  While the last game of the season is a nice one to attend – one can bid one’s side’s young players farewell for the summer – on this occasional it was essentially a nothing-game. Arsenal needed only a draw to guarantee a top 3 finish, and Fulham needed nothing. All a bit boring.

Not so it seems for Labour MP Stephen Pound who (unlike yours truly, owner of the cheapest variety of season ticket) was located amid the prawn sandwich section in a £35,000 a year executive box.

How the other half live, what what?

So animated was Mr Pound that he was reprimanded by a steward for using loud, abusive language and making obscene gestures. But worse, if to be believed, are allegations that he was shouting homophobic abuse at Arsenal defender Sol Campbell.

Not good, not good.

The website has more.

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Calamity or canny politics?

By Angela Harbutt
May 10th, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Comments Off on Calamity or canny politics? | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats

What a game the Lib Dems appear to be playing.

My first thought was – its chaos and calamity. The decidedly “odd” David Laws press call, inside parliament rather than walking a few yards to address the hoards of cameras outside (and  reported bizarrely on the BBC over a mobile phone), where, for all the world it looked like Lib/Con talks were progressing nicely with, what seemed to be, a few tweaks to sort. The anouncement that the meeting with the MPs went well – with “clarification” needed on just a few issues….. Ok we may read that as Liberals want more than the Tories feel able to get past their own backbenchers….. but it all seemed …well, as though they were getting there (if slowly).

….Then the biggest car smash you can imagine — Nick Clegg is reported as saying that formal talks are now being opened with the the Labour party (though ongoing with the Tories)…. Gordon Brown confirming that Clegg had spoken to him… Brown resigning (though not just yet! – very Gordon Brown) to facilitate the option of a LibLab pact …markets crashing (OK I exagerate to make a point – I have not looked at the markets).  

WTF is going on.. How does David Laws lunchtime statement that the parliamentary party agrees that the over riding priority is to create a “strong and stable government”.. square with the notion of the Liberals going into a  hotch potch agreement of Lib/Labs/SNP/DUP/Plaid/greens etc ?

I admit it was a joy to watch this unfold on the news channels – quick quick get the fractious whinging Tory backbenchers off the screens (who cares what they think) and get some Labour big wigs in here now…

Now I have had my cup of tea and had a chance to ponder, I wonder if this is not calamity – but rather canny politics. Knowing that Cameron faces a difficult meeting with his MPs very shortly this evening- and knowing that many are gruntling on about “rather be in minority party than work with those damn yellow bellies thank you very much” …how brilliantly Clegg has strengthened Cameron’s hand in that meeting.  

Cameron can legitimately stand up and say “look guys we have waited in the wings for our chance to govern. It is within our grasp BUT you have to be willing to play nicely with the Liberals – if you wont then it’s very possible that you will miss your chance again”. Minority Tory government is not the only game in town any more. So the Liberals want a bit more give on political reform – is that such a hard price to pay? – as you watch a smug Alistair Campbell already rehearsing Nick’s justification for a Lib Lab pact…. That may make the Conservatives think twice on their discussion with Cameron tonight.

And its just possible I suppose that Cameron knew of this turn of events – maybe even condoned it..Hell maybe even thought it up? Anything is possible on this odd day…

And IF this is not a clever ruse….Are they serious that whilst we struggle to get out of this recession and sort out public spending etc – the senior coalition partner in this “progressive” Lib/Lab government will have the top five or six of its portfolio-handling ministers all scrapping over a leadership battle? Come on guys…

I am left wondering what all of those voters out there think of all of this. It looks for all the world like the politicians are still putting their small petty interests ahead of the public’s – whatever they say – and goodness knows what the markets will make of  this turn of events. I want to go and lie down in a dark room til this is over.

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A bit of back-slapping…..

By Angela Harbutt
April 26th, 2010 at 2:42 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Election

Back in July 2009, Mark Littlewood, once of this parish, posted on this website…..

Can the LibDems get more votes than Labour at the next election?

At the time he pointed to the Labour Party’s continuing atrocious polling numbers and Nick Clegg’s increasingly impressive performance as LibDem leader.

He said “If the governing party staggers into the General Election with Brown still at the helm, their campaign could be a Michael Foot -style PR disaster” …and”I’d expect Nick Clegg to have a strong showing in the campaign itself. He is a  capable TV performer (by far the most important communications medium in modern politics) and the British public will like him more as they get to know him more”. 

He went onto say “The implications for LibDem strategy could be huge – perhaps suggesting a shift of resources to nationwide communications rather than funnelling as much money as previously into marginals. It would be controversial too – and probably particularly unpalatable to incumbent MPs”.

Of course – it all looked like such a wild suggestion back then.  Then again, no one had any expectation that Cameron, let alone Brown, would agree to the leaders TV debates. (Well not quite true…there were some strong rumours even back then).

But in so far as the Liberal high-command HAS focused its efforts around national TV;  the public HAS grown to like Nick the more they see him; and the polls suggest that Liberals MAY WELL get more votes that Labour at the election…

…then we have to say not a bad bit of crystal ball gazing Mr Littlewood. Not bad.

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Thatcher’s think tank slams Tory policies..

By Angela Harbutt
April 12th, 2010 at 12:02 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, Policy

Mark Littlewood and Vince CableA week or two ago I thought the Tories had it….They were the ones who were talking about the need for spending cuts… And the need for them NOW…. That seemed credible to me and I thought they were on to something.

Ok Ok the liberals were talking about cuts … and we had been more specific about where the cuts would come from….and Vince is …well Vince…. but we seemed reluctant to commit to them anytime soon  – and that worried me. I could not (still dont) get why we weren’t the “totally honest party” that actually said it as it was…we’re f*cked.. the cuts need to be bigger than anyone has told you, and by the way we can’ actually carry on with more people working on the “spending wealth” side of the scales, than the “creating wealth” side…  

The Tories on the other hand seemed to be grasping that spending cuts nettle with a vengence. Whoa I thought…these cats have got it. Any day now, the Tory’s will deliver the coup de gras and “come clean” with the voters about the future we must all face up to. And the liberals at that point might as well pack up and go home….

But no such thing.  The Tories look to me like they are determined to screw this thing up. No sooner have they marched down the spending cuts route like a well-drilled army …then they swerve off down some blind alley to have a some silly punch up with the Government about National Insurance and then stagger around blurting out some ill-conceived bribe for the “poorly weds“. Confused? You betcha…. 

Tough on debt, tough on the causes of debt one week…err….its a freebie giveaway ..the next week…. oh please someone get some sanity back into the debate..

..Ah, the big daddy of all Think Tanks – the IEA – enters (stage right obviously) to bring us back to the real world…. It blasts, all over the front page of the Business section of the Sunday Telegraph today , both main parties….

Labour and the Conservatives both stand guilty of presenting vastly under-ambitious economic plans which fail to address the dire state of the public finance“….

and…..”The National Insurance row, which has dominated the headlines this week, disguises the fact that none of the parties have offered the scale of spending cuts necessary to heal the economy“.

The Telegraph goes onto report that the IEA “will this week launch a campaign urging the winner of the election to reconsider the entire edifice of public spending“.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And why not start by getting the IEA and Vince Cable together? The IEA sits within 20 yards of Lib Dem HQ. And surely Vince has the number of the DG over there – afterall one of them used to work for the other.Then perhaps we stand a chance of getting this election debate on track……

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