Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Politically, this whole business is poison. Everyone is either affected or knows someone who it. My wife's data has been lost for example. People remember things that affect them personally, and no-one is going to forget this. Think Black Wednesday when the political ground shifted in an afternoon. This lot are on the way out.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
To think, Alastair Darling was supposed to be a safe pair of hands.
Monday, November 19, 2007
New Labour always rested on a triad. There was residual dislike of the Tories from their 18 years in power, where disappointed interest groups and the desire for change made for votes against, and so to support for Labour. There was the persona of Tony Blair, who always maintained an affability that seemed above narrow partisan politics and which allowed the other members of the Labour party to be as nakedly political as they liked. Finally, and most importantly there was the economy, the ten year period of sustained growth that funded the government’s schemes and, more importantly, kept cash jingling in peoples’ pockets. A triad is pretty stable unless one of the legs is kicked away, but Labour is now starting to resemble a chair with no legs. David Cameron has decontaminated the Conservative brand, though time and space from John Major’s government had already done much of the work. Tony Blair is gone, and Gordon Brown is nowhere near his equal in the dark arts of politics. Most importantly, and most worryingly, the economy is going south with growth forecasts cut against a background of rising oil prices and the real possibility of both a British and international Recession. That has the potential to expose the way that Labour has unbalanced the economy to the point that the government would have very little ability to ameliorate the worst effects of a downturn on our people. No-one wishes that, and I bet it is giving Brown and Darling nightmares.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The YouGov poll of nearly 2,000 people for The Sunday Times shows that Brown’s honeymoon period has ended. Last month 59% thought that he was doing a good job as prime minister, while 29% said he was doing badly, a healthy net approval rating of +30.
Now only 33% think he is doing well and 43% think he is doing badly, a net approval rating of -10 and a precipitous drop of 40 percentage points in a month. At the height of his honeymoon in the summer, his approval rating was +48.
Down 40 points in a month! Brown is inhabiting the same territory as John Major after the ERM debacle in 1992. And if we thought Tony Blair was a control freak the media are suggesting that Brown is trying to run the entire country with a 5-man conference call every day at 07:00, just his mates, no civil servants. Never mind the politics, this is just incompetent management. Don't get me wrong I want the Conservatives to succeed, but I would much rather it was because we won the battle of ideas and opinion, not because the government of my country are a bunch of idiots.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Without significant improvement in the overall management of the programme it will remain a series of disjointed projects and is unlikely to achieve its potential to make a major difference to economic regeneration and sustainable housing.That is just an excerpt from a relentlessly critical report on the huge Thames Gateway project, which is the largest regeneration project in Europe. Now I have an insider view on this: I sit on the Basildon Renaissance Partnership and I chair the Thames Gateway South Essex Economy and Inward Investment Board and I think that the MPs do and don't have a point. First of all the Thames Gateway project is a worthy one, and without it the growing prosperity of the area will still leave areas of deprivation and inadequate infrastructure. Unfortunately, the scale of the endeavour is matched by its difficulty. Regeneration that works across numerous local authorities and communities is hard to organise and the professional talent that is needed is scarce. The project did not get off to a good start either, with John Prescott running it under the now defunct Office of the Deputy Prime-Minister. He was not a good leader and his department made numerous mistakes, not least in grossly complicating the planning system, which then made delivering regeneration on the ground a tortuous process. That having been said, from my lowly viewpoint things are happening. Basildon at least has a thriving regeneration programme that has been enabled by carefully targeted funding from the Thames Gateway organisation. In Thurrock there is a port project that will eventually handle half of the UK's container traffic, and there are other schemes elsewhere in the Gateway. It is when you step back and look at achievements in aggregate through the Thames Gateway that things start to look uneven. In particular, there are issues with housing delivery and the CLG seems to be under pressure from other government departments. One point in the report is on how local MPs have been engaged, and I know that there are certainly issues there in other parts of South Essex. Here in Basildon we make a point of meeting with our local parliamentarians, and both John Baron and Angela Smith have been very supportive.
What will be interesting is how the Thames Gateway project's leadership reacts. I hope that they push through the strident tone of the report and look carefully at each point in turn, because there are some things to fix.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It all reflects the Conservative agenda of pushing power down to individuals and communities. After ten years of this controlling, target-obsessed government it is time that the argument moved on.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
An exclusive ICM poll for the Sunday Express put the Tories on 43 per cent, Labour on 35 per cent and the Lib-Dems on 15 per cent. The eight-point lead – a three-point rise on the last ICM poll a fortnight ago – would be enough to give David Cameron a slim overall majority in a General Election.The Conservatives are up three from two weeks ago, all at the expense of the the Liberal Democrats who are down three. Labour have not moved despite the re-launch of the Queen's speech. While Labour has had mid-term blues before this is the first sustained period that the Conservative Party has been running at 40+ in the polls since 1992.