Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gordon Bennett..

Cllr Matt Bennett was clearly in the wrong in sending an email to all 120 City Councillors, officers and contractors that called a fellow councillor - even a political opponent - a rather rude name. The Birmingham Mail redact the exact word, so we are left to guess exactly what he called Cllr Tony Kennedy - 'twit', possibly?   Who knew that Tony was so sensitive?

The core of the problem is that Amey have sent out an email saying that despite a multi-billion, long-term contract, their 'stewards' would no longer attend routine evening ward committee meetings - meetings that are attended by councillors, officers and members of the public. It seems odd that this rule has been introduced after an attack on a member of staff last year and Amey are only now concerned about the safety of their lone workers. A blanket ban on attending ward committees seems to be an excessive step and it is interesting to see the Tories defending this case of 'elf and safety gone mad.' (And for the record, I've a fair bit of experience safely managing lone workers myself).

The cynical amongst us wonder if this is more about costs than safety.

What the Euro revolt says about Cameron

Some excellent points from the Nottingham University politics department.

Cameron seems to be living his premiership on fast forward - he's managed to spark the biggest Tory rebellion on Europe, losing by more than John Major ever did. Tony Blair took six years to lose a vote by a comparable amount and he had a larger majority to play with. Pretty much half of the Tory parliamentary party not on the government payroll or ladder decided to vote against their leader and it is very interesting that over half of the rebels were not old sceptics, but new boys and girls with just over a year in parliament under their belts.

Rebellion is addictive - once you've done it and burnt your ministerial bridges (at least under this Prime Minister), what's to stop you doing it again? For all Cameron's protestations that he has no problem with the rebels and that the matter is closed, he knows that this particular wound is very far from healed. As Tim Montgomerie points out in the Guardian, there is real distrust of this PM amongst his troops - he is seen as being too close to the Liberal Democrats. He wasn't helped today by Nick Clegg's ill-timed promise to fight against any move away from Europe, when internal government order would have been best served by silence on Clegg's part. It is a pretty solid rule in British politics that the electorate does not trust divided parties and the Tory party is divided three ways - the Euro-sceptics who understand the realities and are in the government; the Eurosceptics who stand on their principles and speak for most grassroots Tories; and Ken Clarke.

Montgomerie also raises another issue that has implications for government - that of Cameron's personal work ethic. This government has raised laissez-faire to an art form, but there is a point where you wonder whether it is an attempt to let a thousand flowers of chaos bloom or just laziness on the part of Downing Street. Some of the appalling management over the past year or so - Gove's BSF debacle, Spelman's trials over forests, Gove's books debacle, Lansley's reversals over the NHS and any of the range of avoidable ministerial disasters - all would have benefitted from closer attention from Number 10. Gordon Brown may have been too focussed on the detail personally to see some of the bigger issues, but Cameron appears to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. With the economy in dire straits and our trading partners in Europe on the verge of panic, now is not the time for the captain of the ship to be resting.

It isn't a question of if, but when the next revolt occurs and unless Cameron takes demonstrable control rapidly, he will find himself on a course for the rocks. Of course, the party can be brutal when it needs to - will they drop the pilot before the next election?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Ed is spot on in handling the EU referendum vote.

Sunny Hundal reckons that Ed Miliband is making tactical mistakes by whipping Labour MPs to vote against a referendum vote in today's debate in the Commons. I think he's wrong and that Ed is spot on.

Whilst it is true that there are different views amongst Labour MPs - Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer are both known as sceptics,  they are nowhere near as bad as the headbangers in the Tory party and there are real gains to be had in supporting the government on this.

Firstly, we should argue strongly that whatever the views about the case for or against a referendum, now is not the time. The focus of the government, business and the political class should be solely on the economy. There is little else of any significance other than steps to economic growth and diverting attention to a political argument. Even more ludicrous is the idea that the European leaders would entertain Britain attempting to renegotiate our position at a time when they are focussed on keeping their countries functionally solvent. We can argue we are acting in the country's best interests, not working out our obsessions at a time when the country can least afford it.

Secondly, there is a tactical reason why backing the government is a good thing on this occasion - it frees up Tory MPs to vote against their leader's wishes and drips further water into those cracks within the party. If it can spark further resignations from junior levels of the government, that just adds to the tactical value. Being able to say that Cameron only held the line as a result of Labour support would be a tremendous victory.

A referendum would put the issue to bed for another generation and I'm convinced that it would be won. With businesses, trade unions, the government and most of Labour (oh, and the Liberal Democrats) lined up in favour of Europe against the massed ranks of the flapping white coats.

So, on this occasion, Sunny, I think you're wrong. Ed is exactly right. Vote with the government this time and enjoy the ongoing squirming.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Calm down dear

So far, the Tories are working overtime to alienate their traditional supporters. They've battered the police, accused the National Trust of being radical left-wing wreckers and now even the Women's Institute, the keepers of the nation's jam, have had enough
“The way they engage with women is not terribly good,” she said. “I don’t know if they listen to us really, quite frankly... We seemed to speak more with ministers a couple of years ago. I have not had as many meetings."
That's 210,000 women alienated over legal aid for domestic violence divorce cases, cuts to public services, cuts to childcare and the scrapping of the 40 year old National Women's Commission, which was established solely to feed the views of women into government.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just a quick quote

"If individual parliamentarians think it appropriate to act as one-person tribunals of appeal from judicial decisions and without troubling to read the evidence, it may not be the end of civilisation as we know it, but it can lead to a little constitutional untidiness round the edges."
Mr Justice Eady to the Young Bar law conference, 8 Oct 2011. With reference to Hemming, J.

Sorry I've not been writing of late - just no time. I've been missing a stream of great stories though....