Saturday, June 30, 2007

Put Simon Heffer out of our Misery

One of the good things about blogs in general is that they allow the punters to comment on the commentators. We don't have to just froth ineffectually at the wisdom of those that write in the mainstream media, we can also record what we think for all to see. So, to Simon Heffer, a purportedly right-wing columnist in the Telegraph. I say purportedly because Simon spends most of his time attacking the Conservatives and giving tacit encouragement to, well, anyone else. For example this is his view on the new Brown cabinet in today's paper:
The new, bright, shining, young, vigorous Cabinet that Mr Brown has just installed may well be as much of a crowd of charlatans as the last lot: but, unlike their Tory shadows, they know where they are going, and they know what they are going to do when they get there.
Utterly qualitative, not very insightful and with a central message that Labour may be bad but the Tories are worse. Simon loathes David Cameron, by the way, and even when the Conservatives were well ahead in the polls his bile knew few bounds. Now that Brown is benefiting from wall-to-wall media coverage and a collective relief that Tony Blair has gone he is positively gloating that Labour seem to have nosed ahead.
The veneer of magic Dave brought with him - and it was only ever a veneer - has cracked and is flaking off.
Anyway, having got that out of his system he moves onto the recent European treaty and Gordon Brown's attitude to it.
He doesn't want a referendum because he knows he would have to support the treaty, and we would defeat him heavily on the day.
Who is 'we', the Simon Heffer party of one? He can't be talking about those useless Conservatives whose leader, David Cameron, demanded a referendum in utterly unequivocal terms when Tony Blair presented the treaty to the House of Commons? There is of course no mention of that from Simon, who has a rule never to give David Cameron or the Conservative Party credit for anything. So who exactly does he think he is speaking about or for?

Now, most people in politics will have met people like Simon at one point of another, frustrated ideologues who are much more interested in the purity of their political thought than ever actually, you know, doing anything. They don't hold with things like building political support if that means watering down their views one iota, and they have nothing but contempt for anyone interested in moderation or consensus, or winning elections for that matter. Most of them adhere to fringe parties, if they can find a party that matches both their beliefs and lack of practical ambition. Most of them also jack it in when they leave university and collide with the real world, not Simon though who has achieved the dual feats of not only maintaining his narrow faith but also of persuading others to pay him not inconsiderable amounts of money to articulate them.

Otto Von Bismarck, who knew a thing or two, said that 'Politics is the art of the possible'. The trouble is that writing about politics clearly is not.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Basildon's Angela Smith now Brown's PPS

One of our local MPs, Angela Smith, has been moved from being a minister at the Communities and Local Government department to be one of Gordon Brown's two Parliamentary Private Secretaries. A Parliamentary Private Secretary's role is to act as an assistant to a minister, it is unpaid and usually considered the first rung on the parliamentary promotion ladder, unless your boss happens to be the Prime Minister. Then it is anything but a junior role, including attendance at Cabinet meetings and acting as a key liaison between the executive and parliament. That Angela has got the job means that she must be quite highly thought of, and even though we are of different political persuasions I must say that I am not surprised. Her problem is not her ability, but the government and political tradition that she serves, but that aside I know that most Basildon and Billericay Tories will extend her their congratulations. I certainly do.

Quentin Davies not getting quite the reaction he hoped for

From The Sun on Quentin Davies:

Labour’s chortling welcome for Tory turncoat Quentin Davis — an avowed pro-Euro fanatic — gives us no cause for comfort. The Tories are well shot of this grinning fool. Mr Brown should have thought twice before welcoming him aboard.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blair watched too much TV

Looking back on Tony Blair's period as Prime Minister, we can see a man of whose great political talents were not matched by his talent for the actual business of government. On the great issues, education, health, social security and so on the country is not much improved over the situation in 1997 and in some others such as pensions, crime and housing it is a lot worse. Why is it that a Prime Minister with a commanding Commons majority, underpinned by a strong economy could not be more effective? The answer is that Tony Blair could never make the system; that is the process by which policy is conceived and the day to day business of public services are delivered, actually work for him. It's not the fault of the system; other Prime Ministers have managed perfectly well. No one ever criticised Margaret Thatcher or even John Major in this regard. The fault actually lies with the West Wing, or rather with Tony Blair being a fan of it. For those who don't know, the West Wing was an excellent US TV series set in a fictional Democratic President's administration. It was always clever, at times funny or tragic but always educational. Unfortunately though, it presented a slightly skewed idea of how decisions are made in large organisations. In the West Wing a group of characters would have a quick chat and that would be it, military action would be decided upon a new policy made or whatever. Now, this has some grounding in reality in that decisions usually do come down to a few people in a room, but serious decisions are usually the climax of quite lengthy processes where information is gathered, options considered and opinions are sought. The West Wing didn't show all of this because, frankly, it would make boring TV. From my observation much of trouble with the government has been a function of trying to run Britain like a TV drama. Prior to becoming Prime Minister Tony Blair had no experience of running anything significant whatsoever. He didn't know how things were meant to work, assumed he knew best and that his cronies on the sofa were all that he needed to decide on any issue that came to mind. The rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quentin Crosses the Floor

We, as in the Conservative Party, appear to have lost an MP. Quentin Davies has crossed the floor to Labour in a flurry of media appearances and with a quite lengthy resignation letter, in which criticises David Cameron for spin and lacking substance. Now, it is quite possible for someone to fall out of love, or even liking, for their Party. People change and so do their views. What is less credible is for a man to repudiate many things that they had professed to believe, and many things that they are on recent record as saying and suddenly claim to hold diametrically opposite views. Quentin has launched a paean of praise for Gordon Brown, when only a short while ago he was vitriolic in his criticism. Either he has undergone a conversion so complete and abrupt that even St. Paul would think it unusual, or he is trying to ingratiate himself with his new boss. Personally, I think that St. Paul would remain unamazed.

Also, his timing is a bit odd. Quentin quit yesterday, into the news cycle that bleeds into today’s daily papers and morning news. But that news cycle was already spoken for. In case anyone didn’t notice, Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister today and utterly predictably that had the front pages and the top of the broadcast news. This is Quentin’s fifteen minutes of fame, a time when he can speak and the nation will listen, and he chose a time when he was guaranteed no headlines and to be squeezed to number four in the running order. It is so strange that you have to wonder if the story was about to break anyway and it had to be rushed out. Or maybe this is just one of many things that Quentin has got wrong.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This is the funniest Blog post I have seen in a long time.

Cameron on Europe

David Cameron responded well to Tony Blair's European swansong in the House of Commons yesterday. The issue was the outcome of the recent European summit and, in particular, if that outcome should be endorsed by a referendum. Tony Blair's position was an unequivocal 'No'. David Cameron was equally unequivocal:
All three main parties in the House signed up to a referendum at the last election. The Prime Minister has broken that promise, but within two days he will be gone. We will have a new Prime Minister, one who has promised, unlike his predecessor, to be humble, to be a servant of the people and to listen. If that new Prime Minister, like us, really believes in power to the people, he must hold a referendum and let the people decide.
This is not Tony Blair's issue any more, but it is very much Gordon Brown's, and the scenario that played out in the House yesterday had already caused some unease in the Brown camp, hence the pre-summit manoeuvring. Now the issue is upon them and Brown appears to be ruling out a referendum. With the Conservatives in favour, and with the bulk of the popular press supporting them in this, he has an issue where he in on the wrong side of the public and the media and which will run and run, especially as other countries hold their own referendums. His best bet is to do what he threatened and call a British referendum. Otherwise, look forward to many instances of a Gordon Brown government trying to claim the treaty is inconsequential, when many members of foreign governments are already on record as saying exactly the opposite.

This is not good politics, except for the Conservatives that is.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back to Europe

The Labour line is that Tony Blair held on to all of the key British interests as the recent EU summit, therefore the new treaty is harmless and should be signed without delay, and without a referendum. Not every country agrees though. The Irish will probably have a referendum, as may the Danes. Both are right to; as the small print of the treaty is analysed in becomes apparent that not only would a great deal more power flow to the EU, but also that the process of centralisation in the future would be greatly facilitated. Now, Brown's calculation is probably that leading the Conservatives into their comfort zone of Euroscepticism works for him, and that it allows him to paint Cameron and his team as unreconstructed Tories and shoo them off the much-prized centre ground. On the other hand, he does risk being on the wrong side of the argument if the other countries do vote against the treaty, and if the Conservatives can pull of the trick of opposing it while not appearing as foam-flecked weirdoes. Most interestingly, it is a clear point of division between the parties and it will mean that politics will start to adopt a different tone in the coming months. It will be more difficult to claim that these days all parties are the same.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's Harman

It looks like the last-minute betting was from those in the know. Harriet Harman is the new Labour Deputy Leader. This is not good news, her campaign centred on the fact that she was a woman, which while true is not a minority talent. Worse still, I sat opposite a former advisor of hers on a train to Bristol a few years ago. She noticed my Conservative Party cufflinks, a little sad I know, and we got to talking. She had joined up with Harriet before the 1997 election expecting to make the policy for a future Labour government, but what she found instead was spin and media management and she eventially quit in disgust. This is a good indication why when Labour won the election they wasted most of their first term in substituting the next day's headlines for sustainable public policy, but the point is that Ms. Harman was that sort of operator. Now she is a heartbeat from being our Prime Minister. Wonderful.

Der Tag

Brown becomes Labour leader today, though not Prime Minister until next week. We also find out the result of the Labour Deputy Leadership race, the latest odds have Alan Johnson in pole position, though there have been reports of a late surge of bets on Harriet Harman.

There also appears to have been a 'Brown bounce' in Labour support, which is reflected in the Sunday papers' opinion polls and in the projection if they were translated into a General Election. Depressingly, this gives a Labour majority of 4, though Labour still lose the Basildon South and East Thurrock seat, which is the the target for my particular arm of the Conservative Party. The question is can Brown sustain his new-found lead as John Major did when he took over from Margaret Thatcher, or will the nation fail to warm to our rather dour new Prime Minister.

We shall see.