Friday, October 19, 2007

Basildon Council Motion on Reform Treaty

There was a debate at Basildon Council on the following motion:

The “Reform Treaty”, signed by Tony Blair on 23 June, is acknowledged publicly
by the leaders of nearly all our EU partners and by the parliamentary cross-party European Scrutiny Committee to be virtually the same as the
Constitution Treaty.

France and the Netherlands decisively rejected that Treaty.

The “Reform Treaty” transfers yet more substantive powers from Britain to the EU and further erodes British laws and the British Constitution.

It will reduce the rights and freedoms of the residents of Basildon and of the whole nation.

Therefore this Council calls on Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, to abide by the Government’s promise to the electorate in the 2005 Labour Party Manifesto, page 84, “We will put the [Constitution Treaty] to the British People in a

As might be expected, a very full debate ensued, with the Labour Party taking the view that no referendum was required. Their arguments were either abuse, 'you're all xenophobes' etc., or claims that the new treaty was minor or otherwise harmless. What there wasn't was anything on the central issue that both treaties were the same and the government had broken a manifesto commitment. This was very interesting indeed. With the government spouting a line that the Constitution Treaty and the Reform Treaty are totally different you would have expected that their own most fervent supporters would have believed this enough to advance it as an argument, but they didn't. This is a pretty good indication that Brown and co. are on to a loser.

The motion was carried. As well as being a very damaging issue for the Labour government this is also a very uniting issue for the Conservatives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Someone tell Gordon he can't do jokes, please

This week's PMQs weren't the painful mugging followed by stamping of last Wednesday, but they did illustrate one central point: Gordon Brown can't do humour. Now, some people can't, or can't very well and all of the advice on public speaking is that if you aren't funny then don't try to be. Unfortunately, none of Brown's coterie appears to have had the bottle to tell him that he won't be doing the Edinburgh fringe anytime soon. So, we had the sad sight of missed punchlines and repeated attempts to get the joke right. In a seaside pub he would have been pelted with food, but this was parliament and Labour MPs had clearly been told to act as more than last week's shocked bystanders, and so duly cheered no matter what came out of Brown's mouth.

There were two topics really, the superbug epidemic and the EU Reform Treaty. This last was on the eve of Gordon Brown's key meeting in Lisbon tomorrow, and put a pretty firm marker down on the issue. Unless the PM has an epiphany and decides that the matter deserves the referendum the Labour Party promised in their 2005 manifesto, then there will be a huge parliamentary row on this matter, on an issue that unites the Conservatives and splits Labour. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sir Menzies Campbell knifed by LibDems

He was assassinated, and any attempt to spin otherwise is understandable, but does not have the virtue of being true. Ming's problem was that he wasn't delivering either in terms of punch in the Commons or polls in the country. That didn't lead to a delegation of men and/or women in grey suits, but it did translate into a palpable lack of support from the Liberal Democrat parliamentary team. All this business about age wouldn't have mattered if Ming had being doing the business. Because he wasn't, and because at least some of his colleagues were pushing them the press started to raise the leadership question, but there should be no doubt that a bit of loyalty from LibDem MPs would have meant that there was no question in the first place.

The news coverage yesterday was most instructive. Vince Cable, Ming's deputy leader told the British media that Campbell had not talked to him about the leadership question, despite admitting earlier in the day that the matter was 'under discussion'. This does not at least suggest close and harmonious working relationship at best and at worst identifies at least one set of prints on the murder weapon. Then there was Sandra Gidley, LibDem MP for Romsey and sitting on a majority of 125. She didn't even bother to disguise her glee and the turn of events, and this with the bloke resigned barely an hour before. Finally there was an old-school MP phoning in from a parliamentary delegation to Moscow, who was pretty scathing about the way his colleagues had behaved. So, platitudes and attempts to blame it all on press ageism aside, it was an engineered departure with the one proviso that Ming might just have pre-empted them all by going a bit sooner than expected.

What now? Well we have the fascinating spectacle of a leadership contest to look forward to. The question is if that automatically translates into a bounce in the polls for the LibDems. On that I am not so sure. There is some evidence, based on emails and texts coming into various news organisations that the latest turn of events has not gone down that well with the public, so that has to be fixed. Then some lucky man or woman has to lead this bunch into a general election, now knowing exactly the level of loyalty they can expect if things don't do to plan. Sometimes, the swift removal of a leader doesn't always do it. After all, as far as the LibDems are concerned this is the second time in eighteen months.

Over-enthusiastic flu jab

My flu jab went feral, hence the lack of activity over the last few days. Perils of a compromised immune system. Feeling a lot better now though.

Labour's Vision

Gordon Brown talked about his vision in his conference speech. That is a good thing, having an overarching view of where you wish to take the country is a pretty good idea for a Prime Minister. It also means that policy can be put into context and a well-designed series of measures that underpin a vision is the basic process by which any institution, be it country or community association, is changed for the better. Unfortunately, Gordon Brown does not seem to have actually shared his vision with his own cabinet, much less the public. So, Labour ministers were on over the weekend either making up their own vision for the future or trying to change the subject. This is also the reason why Conservative-inspired policy on things like inheritance tax have gone down badly with both the public and the Labour Party. Without a political vision is seemed like simple opportunism, cunning without belief, and no-one likes that.

Having engineered a situation where the Conservatives are polling better than any time since 1992, Brown really has to sort this out. It would kind of be good for the country too.