Saturday, October 10, 2009

David Cameron on poverty

David Cameron is not a rhetorical speaker. He does not reach the verbal heights of a Barack Obama or of my old friend Mark Francois. He doesn't communicate the raw emotion of a John Prescott. However, he doesn't take the route of purely logical argument either. This is best exemplified by Gordon Brown, whose speeches are like being sprayed with information to a point that you start to lose the will to live. In fact, you tend to get the feeling that the main purpose of his speaking is to establish how intelligent Gordon Brown is relative to you. In any case, David Cameron has a very plain speaking style, in fact a studied lack of style that is either very natural, or the product of intensive training. The effect is pretty good though, and his conference speech was a statement of vision delivered without drama, except for one moment. At one point he looked right into the camera and told the Labour party not to dare to lecture the wicked Tories on poverty after their many failures. It was brilliant and spine-tingling, and I am told that it was electric in the conference hall.

My judgement, and that of most opinion-formers, is that David Cameron not only delivered an effective speech, but parked his tanks neatly on Labour's lawn. It was also the right thing to focus on. To paraphrase, the Conservative Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing. It is just that it usually doesn't mention it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The politics of George Osborne's honesty

These are the numbers from the YouGov poll taken after George Osborne's speech:

CON 43% (+2) LAB 29% (+1) LD 17%(-1)

It appears that being straight with the British people doesn't hurt politically. This puts Labour in a bit of a bind. Can they credibly keep to their ostrich-like denial that the nation's debt is a problem? If they do then they sound dishonest, and a bit ridiculous. Bear in mind that every serious commentator and most newspapers accept that there is a debt crisis. Of course they could have a Damascene Conversion, but then they will be seen to follow the Conservatives, again.

George Osborne tells it like it is

In politics you don't tend to tell people that if they vote for you their lives are going to get worse. Labour certainly didn't last week, where the Chancellor and the Prime Minister announced billions of pounds of new policy and neglected to mention the word 'debt'. However, the country is in debt, massive debt, largely due to the same Chancellor and Prime Minister. The billions that they were promising don't exist, except as more borrowings on the money markets. In fact, the reality is that whoever people vote for at the next election their lives are going to get worse. The main difference between the two parties is that the Conservatives are actually telling people this while Labour are, well, lying.

George Osborne laid it on the line in his speech at Conservative Party conference. His theme was 'we are all in this together' and then announced a public sector pay freeze and a raising of the pension age for men to 66 among a number of measures designed to reduce government spending and actually do something about the nation's debt. This came after the Chancellor had sneaked out a pay freeze for senior public servants as some sort of pathetic spoiler. Think about it, the man had a platform last week when he could have made the announcement, but instead of facing his own party audience he tried to distract attention from the Conservatives instead. This is pathetic, student-level politics and fooled no-one.

The Shadow Chancellor was very impressive, not his delivery particularly, but his content. He seems to have struck a chord too. Editorials were consistently positive, and drew attention to the contrast between George Osborne's candour and Labour's spin at their own conference. For the Conservatives honesty may really be the best policy.

St. George's Community Housing gets the two stars

The deal was that if St. George's Community Housing, Basildon Council's housing organisation, got two stars following an inspection by the Audit Commission that they would get £142 million over five years to improve the housing stock. As previously reported the Labour government ratted on the deal and said that regardless of the result of the inspection there would be no money. Now they have have performed a bit of a U-turn, though 'bit' is the operative word. St. George's got the two stars and there will now be £5m this year, about half of the originally promised amount. This is much better than nothing, but nothing like enough.

That we have even got that much is due to careful lobbying by Basildon Council's Leader, Tony Ball, Basildon's Chief Executive and officer team, and the Cabinet Member responsible, Andy Baggott. We were also helped by support from the local Labour party, where the leader, Lynda Gordon, went against her own government and MP to back Basildon's tenants. All credit to her for that, though I suspect this compliment will not help her with her colleagues. Basildon Labour is a bit fractious you see.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cameron on Marr

I caught the Andrew Marr interview with David Cameron this morning. Having asked Gordon Brown the previous week if he was on drugs, Marr clearly felt that he had to give David Cameron a kicking as well in the interests of balance. So, we had a question if a man from an upper middle-class family could really represent ordinary British people, guesses at David Cameron's net worth and a demand for the exact number of people who would be made unemployed by a Conservative government's cutting of public spending. Well, there is a name for the assumption that someone's worth in entirely defined by their parentage; it is called bigotry, and it doesn't matter if the key factor is taken as race or social class or whatever. You either believe that people can be taken or their own merits or you don't, and Andrew Marr clearly does not. In the case of David Cameron you could not possibility argue that he has escaped the travails and tragedies that we all encounter in our lives, and if you don't know what I mean by that then look it up, because I am not going to spell it out here.

As for his net worth, who the hell knows that at the drop of a hat? I certainly don't, and if an interviewer asked me about it I would probably tell them to shove off anyway. The irony here it that Andrew Marr is probably richer than David Cameron anyway, especially using the tax avoidance scams that the BBC arranges for its better paid staff, whixh the Times revealed today.

Then we come to revealing the precise number of people who would lose their jobs in an effort to curb Labour's disastrous national debt. It was never likely that David Cameron was going to answer that one, because the basic premise of the question is wrong. The reason that we need to cut government spending is because Labour is funding a large part of it by borrowing the cash on the international money markets. If this carries on the interest rates and taxes will have to rise in order to service both capital and interest payments. If that happens then the UK economy will not grow as much as it might, which means prolonged high levels of unemployment. So, the net unemployment levels where government spending is not constrained will be higher and for longer. What would also probably happen is that eventually UK debt could not be financed via the international markets, which would lead to forced cuts in services anyway. This is what the Labour government brought us to in 1976, and the repeat proves the old adage that the problem of socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.

The key point made by David Cameron was that it was extraordinary for the opposition to be making the running on economic policy, while the government was sticking its head in the sand and pretending that it could run astronomic levels of debt indefinitely. Compare Gordon Brown and David Cameron in front of the same interviewer and only one sounded like a Prime Minister, and it wasn't the one with the job title.