Friday, August 31, 2007

The political cycle

Despite what the tabs and the Tories would have you believe, anarchy isn't rife in the UK.

They have been telling us the same story now for years and years, resulting in the Association of Chief Police Officers slapping them down in March 2005. ACPO are back again to criticise Cameron's attempt to scare us all into voting Tory (a measure of how desperate this man is)

Compare and contrast...
But Mr Jones told BBC Radio 4's Today programme people in the UK faced the lowest risk of being a victim of crime "for over a quarter of a century". He said he was therefore "baffled" by comments relating to high crime levels. "You talk about the London murder rate and it's a real problem, but if you look at similar cities in the US it's about five times lower. People are distorting the figures for their own ends... Mr Jones said the "vast majority" of people lived in "security-confident communities... There is a minority which don't and it is those that need our leadership, and they need people in leadership positions in politics, government and the media to actually show some leadership and be more calm and measured and objective over this,'

and (from 2005)

'The most recent crime figures demonstrate the success of the police service and its partners in reducing volume crime such as burglary and robbery. This has been achieved by focusing on crimes that concern communities most and on prolific and priority offenders. 'The risk of being of a victim is still at its lowest for 23 years. The British Crime Survey shows that crime has reduced over the last 10 years and that violent crime has remained stable. Notwithstanding the continued impact of the national recording changes that were implemented in 2002, our analysis of the rise in police recorded violent crime has shown that much of it represents low-level thuggery and alcohol fuelled violence. These offences, although taken seriously by the police and a priority for the future, result in minor or no physical injury but have inflated the recorded violent crime figures. 'If we want to increase the fear of crime, the selective use of statistics can help in doing that. However, we feel that it is important that all crime statistics - which forces publish regularly - should be put into context and communicated in a responsible way to the public.' [Emphasis added]

Same old Tories, same old spin.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What not to wear

Birmingham LibDem Cllr Jerry Evans is not known for being a sharp dresser and as he has been selected to fight Hall Green at the next parliamentary election, my sources tell me that he is under orders to smarten up his act, so plans have been laid for a makeover courtesy of his colleague Cllr Penny Wagg.

Trinny and Susannah can rest easy in their beds, as Cllr Wagg's dress sense is stuck in an era which celebrated the poodle perm and pixie boots.

My fashion correspondent reports from the scene that Cllr Evans has now been outfitted with a new haircut and a double-breasted suit. Money well spent there then.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Keep right on to the end of the road

Owing to a rush of work and some ill-deserved holiday, I've hardly had a chance to look at things for the past couple of weeks, but the Tory policy process is grinding away again. This conveyor belt of reports is less about real manifesto proposals and rather more to do with creating a Pick N' Mix to attract voters. If you want something green, then the Tories will be able to dip into that jar. If you prefer something libertarian, then that nice Mr Redwood would be able to give you a handful of sweeties. The thing is that the whole doesn't hang together with any sense of cohesive principle - it is simply more Cameronian spin.

Like a dodgy second-hand car, the Tories are pulling to the right as the steering wears out. The sound of flapping white coats fills our ears again as John Redwood hoves into view, miming (badly) to the Welsh national anthem and promising tax cuts - music to the ears of the Tory faithful.

Data protection laws are to be scrapped - no reason to ensure that companies have to spend time and money actually trying to look after your personal information. If your bank decides to dump your bank details on the street rather than securely shredding it, why should they face any restriction on that?

As part of a sustained attack on regulation, which proposes putting market forces in charge, rather than government or EU regulation:
We advise restoring the Social Chapter opt out, and producing UK rules on: Works Councils, part time and fixed term working, sex discrimination, information, and consultation. These should balance the interests of existing employees with the need for a flexible labour market to create more jobs
I suspect that this 'UK-approach' wouldn't provide the same level of protection that we currently have, thanks to Labour. Your boss will be able to demand that you work any hours that they wish. We already work some of the longest hours in the world, so why shouldn't we have to work longer?
These regulations... restrict people’s access to overtime, and reduce businesses’ flexibility to respond to their employees’ wishes, as well as their ability to manage their workload sensibly.
This overlooks the fact that employees can agree to step outside the rules - although even that exemption is abused by some employers who require recruits to sign away their rights under the WTR. It is absolutely clear that the intention is to create a labour market thoroughly tilted in favour of business and the employer. It will be easier to sack you, to hire

We see no need to continue to regulate the provision of mortgage finance, as it is the lending institutions rather than the client taking the risk.
The borrower is simply putting their home into the hands of a mortgage supplier. Anyone else remember the mis-selling of certain mortgage products over recent years?

Truly, those donations from big business to the Tory Party are going to pay off. The Midlands Industrial Council will be working out how to spend their extra profits.
Leisure and cultural facilities. There is scope for these to be financed through public-private initiatives. Those councils wishing to ensure access to such facilities by young, elderly or disabled people could guarantee payments to providers, which would cover their use by local communities.
Does that suggest to you that equality of access might become purely optional? If you can't afford it and your local council doesn't want to support you, tough.

Expect lots more toll roads and ever-higher rail ticket prices, as public financing of new track projects will be a thing of the past. Oh, and traffic calming measures will be 'reassessed.' The chief proposal for improving rail services seems to be adding rubber-tyred wheels to suburban trains - a concept that has been ridiculed by rail specialists in this country as impractical because of the massive changes that would be required to current track layouts.

Redwood even has the nerve to tackle the issue of coal-mining.
The UK coal industry is a shadow of its former self. It is the casualty of too many years as a nationalised industry, where poor management and endless political rows helped to ensure its rapid decline.
A decline in no way assisted by a vindictive Tory government, of course - although Scargill's ego has to bear responsibility as well.

Cameron has spent months trying to change the image of the party - these proposals will show us how little that the Tories have really changed. One glance at this report and the unions should be only too willing to cough up the money for Gordon's snap election (should he choose to call it).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Very, very disappointed

Sir Tom Cowie has delivered a broadside against the Cameron leadership and also decided that the Tory party should no longer benefit from his wealth. As a man who has given £630,000 to the party over the past few years - including £500,000 towards the last general election campaign - that can't be good news. His parting shots really hit home:
The Tory party seems to be run now by Old Etonians and they don't seem to understand how other people live. They seem to be very arrogant like I suppose Old Etonians can be. They certainly don't understand about grammar schools.
Just how out of touch do you have to be for a multi-millionaire to criticise you for lack of understanding? The shift was brought about by the poor decisions that have characterised the recent weeks of Cameron's 'leadership.'

Always, follow the money and John Kampfner reminds us of why, despite their current fumbling ball-skills, we still need to worry about the Tories. Cowie was only part of their money-machine that's giving them a massive advantage in targetting the marginals that will be the electoral battleground come the next election.
The man Labour most fears is not Cameron but Michael Ashcroft. In April, the New Statesman reported figures that should send a chill down Labour spines. Of the 36 Tory gains last time around, 24 had been targeted by a consortium of high-value donors coordinated by Ashcroft, who is not only chief fundraiser but also party deputy chairman with special responsibility for target seats. And, as every election observer knows, elections are won and lost by a democratically unrepresentative number of floating voters in a small number of constituencies.
It would not take a large swing for many of these seats to change hands. The Conservatives have quietly been pouring money into them. Much of their work is below the radar - telephone and online canvassing.

Remember the Midlands Industrial Council, which funnelled money from anonymous donors into supporting key seats locally? That's how it works. The battle for the next election will be a ground war in a small number of seats, with the national fight almost a secondary issue.

While we're talking about funding, today's the day that UKIP find out if the courts will insist upon them forfeiting an illegal donation - something that Nigel Farage bombastically blamed on an administrative error (UKIP failed to check that a donor was actually on the electoral roll). You'll be next, Ming...

Monday, August 06, 2007

How Labour am I?

I'm midway through Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion - a nice intellectual work-out after the fast-food of the last Harry Potter book. Now, I find that I'm in surprisingly good company. I've still got to find time to read David Kynaston's Austerity Britain and quite fancy William Hague's Wilberforce biography. I won't be bothering with the first draft of history that is Campbell's diary.

No stamina, these Tory youngsters

Fresh from writing a brief post about Denis Healey, still with it as he embarks on his tenth decade on this earth, I notice that another of those Tory bloggers has given up the ghost. Only a few weeks ago, BrummieTory stopped blogging to spend more time with his examinations - but his blog has so far failed to reappear. Now, PragueTory has thrown in the keyboard as well.

I know that posting has been a little sparse of late - life sometimes intervenes as the day job and family commitments drag me away from blogging and practical politics - but I'm still here after three years and I've got no plans to stop quite yet.

Healey - still punching above his weight at 90

Denis Healey is a member of that exclusive club of Best-Prime-Ministers-We-Never-Had. The exact membership varies depending upon whom you ask, but in recent years, it has included John Smith and Michael Heseltine. As a combat veteran of the Second World War and of the bruising party battles of the early 80s, he's earned the right to say what he thinks:
[Brown's] got a very good brain - better than Blair's - and a very good sense of direction, which I think Blair didn't really have. Blair, in the end, was rather like Wilson: bullshit and nothing else, whereas Brown has a very solid understanding of what he's up to.
On David 'Dr Death' Owen
When he was born all the good fairies gave him every virtue: 'You'll be beautiful, you'll be intelligent, you'll have charm and charisma.' And the bad fairy came along and tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'But you'll be a shit.' That was his trouble.
Happy Birthday Denis. He'll be 90 on 30 August.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Putting out the bins for the last time.

I'm taking a brief moment away from politics for a very good, if sad, reason. This week, the cynical guns of gossip sites Popbitch and Holy Moly fell uniquely quiet in tribute to a true original, known to regulars as the Rev Horatio Goatboy, who has left us. As a Popbitch regular, Hugo Rifkind, put it in The Times

People would like to pay tribute to a gossip legend and habitual resident of, who died this week. The name Goatboy will mean little to most, but plenty to many. Suddenly, there is less in this world that makes us go “arf”.

The Reverend had crammed a lot into his fifty years. He was a regular on the Motorhead road crew and had a stock of wonderful stories about life at the sharp end of rock. His trenchant views on new movie releases were the result of senses uncontaminated by actually seeing the films in question - 'It's shite.' Owing to a disagreement with the constabulary over some illegal substances, he had spent some time at the pleasure of Her Majesty and this experience provided another rich vein of stories (some unrepeatable inside the jurisdiction of English libel law). Various celebrities fell into his sights - and any excuse would do to rerun favourite pictures of Davina McCall and Judy Finnegan or . Sadly, he was never able to regale the PB crowd with his story of Jimmy Saville - largely because of restraint also imposed by those pesky libel laws.

He had many friends and many more acquaintances who were never lucky enough to meet him. Getting an approving comment from him mattered. So, if you read him and laughed, then drop by here and give a little to support the fight against Parkinson's Disease.

Goatboy - we'll miss you. And the Tin Foil Hat.