British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives

Is David Cameron all mouth and no trousers?

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This is a rhetorical question, but also one I have been asking myself over the past few months given, in my opinion, he is trying to be all things to all men (and women).

Take for example his ‘commitment’ to give “serious consideration” to electoral reform. What type of commitment is “serious consideration”, it means absolutely nothing. Does he suppose that we all so stupid, so punch drunk and so desperate that we cannot tell the difference between a promise to provide serious consideration and one where he promises to deliver on a specific pledge? Cameron worries me, because he is all smiles, says plenty but offers little, yet what we need more than anything is a leader with conviction. In many ways, he reminds me of a post version of Tony Blair and look where that lead us?

Cameron said he would allow the people to select who their Conservative candidate for MP would be through “open primaries“. However, he then went on to state that this would only be where MP’s have stood down. Why stop there, if he is so certain that his party has selected the best candidates, why won’t he allow the local constituents to give their verdict? There are currently 190 Conservative MP’s, if Cameron wants to pass the power to the people, then he must insist that they all stand for re-selection. That would be people power.

On the use of Party Whips, Cameron has undertaken to look at this, that is not the same as making a firm commitment. Why not commit to a programme where Conservative MP’s are only required to toe the party line on manifesto commitments? That will reduce the power of the Executive and we have all seen what happens when the Executive gets too much power, just review the past 12 years. New Labour have introduced more laws in 12 years than all previous governments combined. Most of these laws have sought only to reduce our right to privacy, attack our liberty, and pass immense powers to quangos, the police and unelected officials.

He has suggested that MPs would could be handed the power of deciding the timetabling of bills and backbenchers would get powers to choose the chairmen and members of select committees. Great, so why not make it a firm commitment?

There is some merit in Cameron’s proposal of fixed term parliaments, but is this talk or a commitment? Why stop at parliament, what about MP’s having fixed terms, after all, there is an experienced civil service, so what is wrong with bringing in ‘new blood’? Why hasn’t David Cameron cottoned on to the fact that people power must allow the constituents to recall an MP if he or she fails to perform? Surely that is people power at its best? And what of reducing the number of MP’s by 10%? If the intention is to make the Executive more accountable to parliament, unless there are fewer ministers, this could have the opposite effect.

If Cameron is so tough on Conservative MP’s, why have none of them been deselected? How can he claim that Kirkbride’s case is any different to Mackay’s, are they not married? Are we supposed to assume that they never discussed the second home allowance arrangement? Why has he limited ‘questionable behaviour’ to paying back the excess, that is weak, not strong. As I stated before, does David Cameron truly believe we are all so stupid?

I have studied David Cameron over the past few months because I wanted to believe him. But, in my opinion, he still lacks any firm or meaningful commitments, on policy or reform. He comes across as charming, but he rarely, if ever makes a firm commitment on anything. He talks tough, but then acts like a wimp. He is a good speaker and very charming, but so was Tony Blair. I am beginning to believe that the Conservative Party under David Cameron will just be more of the same and if that is the case, he cannot count on my vote! – We need a return to conviction politics and soon.

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Ed Balls recession comments, a slip or planned?

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It is difficult to believe that the comments attributed to Ed Balls, “I think that this is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s and we all remember how the politics of that era were shaped by the economy”, was a mistake. Ed Balls is one of Gordon Brown’s closest confidantes and credited with some of the secret briefings to journalists during Tony Blair’s tenure as PM.

As a former key Treasury adviser to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor, he would have known that his comments would be widely publicised and as an experienced politician, I cannot believe that this was anything other than deliberate. The Governor of the Bank of England has indicated that the economy could shrink by up to 6% this year, unemployment is at 2m, forecasters suggest that this will rise to 3m this year, Sterling is under pressure against all currencies, the expected rise in exports has not materialised…the list goes on.

Now Gordon Brown, having pounded David Cameron for talking down the UK economy and not being one to admit that he is wrong, would hardly have made the announcement himself. So, is it conceivable that Ed Balls was just Gordon Brown’s mouthpiece? After all, it is not like this would be the first time is it?

New Labour has always leaked bad news, they don’t make announcements and what better way than to have a cabinet minister and former Treasury adviser to let this ‘slip’ whilst addressing the party faithful in Yorkshire. Call me a cynic if you will, but this does seem typical of New Labour, drip feed bad news, announce good news with fanfare. Now it is in the public domain, ministers and eventually Gordon Brown, can add a little meat to the bones, temper the news by saying, whilst it will be worse than they forecast, it won’t be like the great depression. That said, a 6% contraction (year on year) of the UK economy would be more than we experienced during the Depression. Convenient that this ‘announcement’ should come a few weeks before Alistair Darling’s update on our economic future.

Did anyone else note that Gordon Brown, I believe for the first time, used the word “Nationalisation” in a response to David Cameron at PMQ’s? What happened to “public ownership”, is Mr Brown slowly inching towards Old Labour?

Cameron sets up Economic Recovery Group

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The latest announcement from the Tory Party machine is that David Cameron is to invite “leading businessmen” to join his ‘Economic Recovery Group’. now, don’t get me wrong, this is a laudable initiative, but it lacks a certain something, specifically its failure to appoint people from the SME sector, even though they are undoubtedly the backbone of our economy.

The UK’s 4.4m small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the engine room of our economy, accounting for 47% UK employment (13.5m), 99.7 per cent of all enterprises and 48.7% of UK Plc turnover. Within the SME sector, some 4.2m actually employ less than 10 employees and a further 167,000 less than 50. In fact, SME’s actually employ 60% of the ‘private sector’ workforce. It is, therefore, self-evident that small business is the primary vehicle for innovation which leads to new jobs, new industries and new wealth for this country and its people.

The people Cameron has invited include Next’s Simon Wolfson, Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Brian Pitman, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and ex-Vodafone boss Sir Chrisopher Gent.  Quality people, but what do these guys know about small and medium sized enterprises. Granted, they may have once worked within one or two, but you can be certain that it was a very long time ago. If Cameron wants to come up with sensible initiatives that have a positive impact on the vast majority of businesses in this country, then he needs to stop trying to hit the headlines with industry ‘names’ and start talking to real business people within the SME sector. It may not give him the same headlines, but it will provide him with a better insight into the real issues and there is a chance that the people of this country will start to think he is a man of substance rather than glitz. We have all, I am sure, had enough of glitz, polish and rhetoric to last a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt the credentials and standing of these men, but I do question the logic of inviting these ‘wise men’ to offer advice on how to deliver real solutions to the SME sector. Unless, of course, Cameron doesn’t realise what contribution the SME sector makes towards UK Plc turnover and how many the sector employs. Don’t go for an industry spokesman Mr Cameron, invite a couple of SME businessmen. If Mr Cameron doesn’t know where to look, as a SME businessman myself, I will gladly give my two-penneth and my time, at no charge.

Members of Parliament and Honesty

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Have we all become immune to what MP’s do and say? In all walks of life, honesty and integrity are valued commodities and yet, when it comes to members of parliament, how often are we left wondering about what they are telling us? We should be entitled to expect, from those elected to represent us, the highest levels of honesty, integrity and candour. Not many of us can claim to feel enlightened or reassured after receiving utterances and platitudes from our members of parliament. Now, I know that not all MP’s seek to mislead and there are some that respect their positions, as well as their constituents and act with conviction, but there are all too many that do not, therefore, I do not apologise for choosing to generalise.

The terms ‘Right Honourable’ is supposed to mean something, a gentleman and man (or woman) of honour, but in recent years the term has lost its shine and, in my opinion its value. I am not just pointing the finger at the Right Honourable ladies or gentleman from the Labour party, we could also address the same issue at some of the previous administrations. However, for the time being, I want to concentrate on recent history, given New Labour has, arguably I accept, taken matters to a new level over the past 11 years.

Take Gordon Brown’s and Alistair Darling’s claim that our economy was better placed that virtually any other in the developed world, to handle and recover from a recession. In spite of the fact that this government has some of the best economic brains, albeit contracted in at great expense to the taxpayer, how could they not have known what the IMF knew? That in fact, we were likely to be the worst affected country by the world recession, at least in terms of the developed world.

Take for example, Gordon Brown’s world of economics. According to him, our national debt is 37% of GDP, against a figure of 44% in 1997. Before I deal with the reality, it is worth noting that in fact, it was actually 43.4% and as many will recall, we were actually coming our of a recession at that time. Similarly, GDP was considerably lower in 1997, than it is now, so percentages can be misleading if used in the right, (or wrong depending on your perspective) context. However, Gordon Brown has actually re-written the rule book, because for him, what is classed as government debt is different to what most other agencies, such as the Office of National Statistics and many other experts would accept.

For example, Gordon Brown omits from his figures the debts related to Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley and Network Rail (the latter being £17bn). As if this was not enough, there are the long term liabilities related to the governments Private Finance Initiatives, estimated to total some £170bn between now and 2032. There is also, the unfunded public pensions deficit of £780bn. If all these figures were taken into account, conservative estimates have claimed that this deficit is equivelent to £76,000 for every single household in the UK. The fact that Gordon Brown has written his own rules does not negate the fact that these a very real liabilities, so the public must ask themselves why they are not included in the figures, as indeed, the ONS believe they should be?

Of course, if these debts were taken into account, Gordon Brown would also have broken his so called “golden rules” ages ago and his reputation for prudence would be in tatters. So is it vanity? Whatever it is, at best, Gordon Brown appears to want to dupe the public, lull us all into a sense of false security. Far be it for me to accuse Gordon Brown or anyone else of being dishonest, but I could, I am sure, safely argue that he has been a little economical with the truth insofar as government debt is concerned. Therefore, my question is, can he be regarded as a truly honourable gentleman demonstrating honesty, integrity and candour? Of course he is not alone, many would argue that Tony Blair was not completely frank with the public over the so called “weapons of mass destruction” that were supposed to be in Iraq, but of course, never existed.

Other members of parliament and cabinet ministers are also frequently guilty of a failure to answer difficult questions by side-stepping them or choosing to ignore them. This happens, of course, all of the time at Prime Minister Questions. Yet MP’s are elected officials, answerable to the electorate, therefore we are entitled to honest answers to direct questions, anything less is not the action of an ‘honourable gentleman’ or ‘honourable lady’. Once again, I cannot accuse every member of parliament of being guilty of a failure to act with honesty, integrity and candour at all times, equally, I would not have the time, certainly in my lifetime, to name all of those MP’s that genuinely do have a question mark over the comments and actions. Perhaps I would find it more acceptable if the were not referred to as ‘honourable’ or ‘right honourable’, because that tends to suggest that they have much higher standards than my own. But whilst only being able to speak for myself, I can say, with all honesty, that I have much higher standards, than many of these honourable ladies and gentlemen, as do many of my friends and colleagues.

I am sure when new members of parliament are first elected, they have for the most part, genuine and sincere intentions, but it doesn’t seem to last long. As soon as members of parliament join the club, they seem to remove themselves from the real world, their views of their constituents appear to be to change, now they are just “people”. Those that are members of one of the main political parties are no longer entitled to act independently, instead they must toe the party line. How can that benefit local constituents? Once someone has been elected to parliament and becomes an MP, they join a very exclusive club, with just 648 members. This seems to go to their heads, as does the way in which people address them and elevate them, to many this changes their perspective and the role, or more accurately the title, becomes all encompassing. Quickly forgotten are the ‘people’ that elected them to this position.

In my view, many of our MP’s believe that it is a game, perhaps a game of cat and mouse, between the MP’s and the public, MP’s and the press and of course, MP’s and their opposite numbers from other parties. It is, for all intents and purposes, a theatrical production, parliament’s version of Eastenders! Take PMQ’s for example, how often have we heard a carefully placed questions from, for example, a Labour party MP, which allows the prime minister to preen his feathers and tell us how much he has done for us? How often have we heard David Cameron ask the prime minister a question? Gordon Brown doesn’t answer the question and he is let of the hook by the leader of the opposition. Why, are we all being played here? It certainly feels like it.

How often have you watched a government minister get a “grilling” and asked yourself why certain questions aren’t being asked, or why the minister has been able to get away with avoiding the original question? The truth is, in many, but not all cases, the minister already knows what questions are going to be asked, or they have placed certain questions off limits. In addition, there are for example, many ministers who will only be interviewed by certain interviewers, this is because in their constant game of cat and mouse, each party needs the patronage of the other. A minister doesn’t want to be treated too shabbily and the interviewer, wants to have as many ministers as possible on his or her programme. They win, we lose!

The bottom line is MP’s are very much a law unto themselves. They vote on their benefits, salary, pensions and expenses. The golden rule seems to be, don’t get caught, not don’t be naughty. They have their very own parliamentary committees, membership of which, is often as a reward for some political favour or other, or perhaps a shortcut for a knighthood or place in the House of Lords. Even the parliamentary standards committee is, in effect, another club acting like stewards rather than policemen. In many cases, MP’s are guilty of hypocrisy of the highest order. Take for example expenses, whilst the rest of us have to submit receipts for everything we buy in the course of our business, they do not when it is under a certain value, because they are seen as honourable. The amount of course, has recently fallen. Other expenses that MP’s can claim include kitchens, furnishings, rent on a second home etc., many of these items would be considered a ‘benefit in kind’ to me mortals like us and therefore, we would be taxed on the value. Not so members of parliament.

Our MP’s can work the system if they wish, to maximise the allowances permitted for a second home, for example, they get to choose which home is their principal place of residence. They can decorate them, furnish them and claim other allowances, that mere mortals like the people that actually elected them, could only dream of. Now, I accept, that MP’s salaries are not particularly high, but it has to be said, most  MP’s would claim it is a vocation, they want to make a difference, that they are not doing it for the money etc. However, a system that relies on every member being honest, is subject to abuse, particularly given disciplinary action if any, is only normally taken if they are found out, as I have already stated, this game of cat and mouse.

In another example of the hypocrisy demonstrated by our members of parliament, take the databases that they insist we must be included on, you know…. what we do, what we say, where we go, our medical history, what our children do, our DNA, who we call etc., it doesn’t apply to MP’s because of the “security risk”. Don’t worry about us, the destruction of our civil liberties, our right to privacy and freedom of speech, so long as MP’s are exempt, that is all that matters.

Now I accept that this posting takes a very cynical view at our members of parliament, but that is how I feel. In a world where we are constantly told that we should all be treated equally, that we must not be subjected to any form of persecution, I feel persecuted, by the very people elected to represent me. I feel they are taking me and everyone else as a mug and I don’t like it. I believe that they are supposed to act with the utmost honesty and integrity, that they must remain answerable to the electorate throughout their period of office and if they are found to have misled or lied to the public, they should be stripped of office, no matter what position they hold. Why, because they are supposed to be honourable, they are supposed to represent everything that we hold dear and yet may of them, would not be fit to wipe our boots. If our members of parliament cannot be sincere, honest and act in the interest of others instead of themselves, what type of example are they setting the rest of us?

Little wonder that so many people feel so disenfranchised with politics, the fault lies firmly with those members of parliament and more specifically those cabinet ministers that treat the public with disdain and contempt. Those that fail to act honourably, but feel the art is not getting caught with your pants down, those that fill their own pockets, whilst emptying ours. Those that fail to accept any form of responsibility when something goes wrong. Those that say one thing and mean another, those that provide executive summaries to sell policy, yet seek to remove our liberties, rights and/or money in the small print. Above all, it is the fault of those members of parliament that think they are better than the rest of us, those that believe their own publicity machine and those that would readily, willingly and consistently take advantage in that most cynical of ways of the very people that elected them into a position where they could be described as honourable.

Smokers banned from fostering in London borough

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Has the world gone mad? In a world where discrimination and stigmatising the individual is frowned upon, illegal and/or considered immoral, Redbridge Council have stated that from 2012, they will not permit smokers to foster children, unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. Now, forgive my ignorance on this subject, but I thought there was a shortage of foster parents, at least that would appear to be the case, with all of the radio advertising going on at the moment. Now we have a council discriminating against smokers, who by implication, are seen as not being able to offer a good environment for foster children. Surely, foster parents should be judged based on their ability to provide a child with a safe, loving and fulfilling environment?

I am a smoker, so I put my hands up, although I am not a foster parent, but I most certainly do take my hat off to those that do provide this care. I choose, as do many of my friends that smoke, not to do so in the house or car. That is my choice, come rain, sun or snow, I smoke outside. As a consequence, according to Redbridge Council’s criteria, I would not be able to foster a child, even if I fulfilled all of the other criteria, how logical is that. In my view, the people responsible for this decision at Redbridge Council, have demonstrate that they encourage and endorse discrimination, as such, they should not be permitted to retain their positions, something I earnestly hope the voters will consider at the next elections.

I am sick to the back teeth of these do-gooders, who lord it over the rest of us, many of whom are councillors. Can they really be thinking of a child’s well-being and best interests, when they openly discriminate in a way that could exclude an otherwise perfect set of foster parents? A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said that they wanted to protect children from “the damaging effects of passive and second-hand smoke“. Laudable indeed, but most responsible parents and therefore I assume many foster parents, already do this. I know of many.

I am not alone in my thinking, because a spokesman for the national charity Fostering Network was quoted as saying: “We certainly view this as a good move in terms of creating a smoke-free environment for a child, but we don’t agree that a blanket ban on any smokers becoming foster carers is the right thing.” So now the councillors of Redbridge know better than a charity set up purely to support fostering.

I have often wondered what motivates someone to become a councillor, they are paid allowances, but receive no salary. But because Redbridge Council believe in discrimination, I feel certain they will not be able to object to me claiming that they are all ego-driven, control freaks, that have nothing better to do in their lives other than to intefere in the lives and well-being of others, just because they can. Sorry, if this offends the councillors that did not vote for this initiative, but I am following the lead of the ‘other’ Redbridge Councillors and insisting that everyone should be tarred with the same brush.

It is time to stop stigmatising and discriminating against smokers simply in order to grab the headlines or get a name for yourselves. Grow up!

Has the NHS gone private?

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Before anyone thinks I have gone mad, the title was only designed to catch the attention of the casual reader. I say hats off to Alan Johnson for allowing those that can, to top up their NHS care by paying for drugs that the NHS will not provide. personally I believe it was a scandal that people that had paid for health care, should be denied that care, if they opted to pay for drugs that could prolong their lives.

Disappointingly, Andrew Lansley, the Conservative shadow health secretary, said: “They’ve gone from letting patients lose their NHS care to creating a two-tier NHS, where some patients will get better care simply because they can pay for it.” There is a sense or irony here, because I feel sure, that a decade or so ago, it would have been the conservatives introducing the policy and Labour objecting. No wonder people are so confused with politics!

But there are a couple of points I would like to make here. Firstly, contrary to popular myth, the NHS is not a “free service”. At least not for those who contribute to it through their taxes and national insurance contributions. It may well be described as “free” for those people that have never put into the scheme, because for them, it is. Therefore, it was scandalous that any attempt should have been made to withdraw care, for a service that people had contributed to, many for most of their lives. Worst still, was the fact that a complicated algorithm was being used to decide whether or not it was worth prolonging the life of a terminally ill patient from a financial perspective.

As the conservative shadow health minister said, there is indeed a strong a case for the NHS to find ways in which these life-prolonging drugs can be provided as part of our normal care and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) should be forced to streamline their approvals process, which is renowned for being slow.

However, I would like to take up this oft repeated claim of a “two-tier system”. We need to get real, there was and always will be a multi-tiered system in virtually every part of our lives and this will be based, principally, though not exclusively on an individuals ability to pay. New Labour have for the past 11 years pursued a social engineering project where they attempted to make people more equal, by taking money from one section of society and passing it to another. Despite theirclaims and the vast cost, it hasn’t worked and I don’t believe it could ever work because people were not created equal. Sad, but true!

For example, and I know this is going to put the backs up of a few die-hard socialists, you can provide two children with an identical education, but if one has a better capacity to learn than the other, then the final outcome will not be equal. Similarly, if one person decides to work their butt off to make an honest living and can, as a consequence, afford a larger house, better car and exotic holidays, he or she will set his own level. If the other person, decides that they have no wish to contribute to society, then they can and must accept that they will not and in my view, should not be able to expect the same level of return as the first individual referred to.

I, personally, do not resent those that can afford to have a larger house that mine, a better car or earn a higher salary. It has been the way of the world for as long as we know it, there will always be the haves and have nots and no measure of social engineering will ever change it. Even in communist or socialist countries, there is the ruling elite. Envy is a very sad, albeit common, human trait. Discrimination on the other hand is unacceptable and should be managed or better still, eliminated are far as is practicable.  

So, lets hope that this move by Alan Johnson will be implemented quickly and the critics do not try and turn this initiative into a political point scoring exercise, about a two-tiered system.

Boris Johnson sees off Sir Ian Blair

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Welcome news today that Sir Ian Blair has finally resigned. Throughout the last 2.5 years, he has been dogged by bad press, mostly of his own making. Virtually from day one, he could not resist the opportunity to get his face in front of the TV camera and we could be forgiven for believing that he had political aspiratations once his tenure in office was complete in 2010.

None of this is likely now, with the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, ostensibly because he did not have the confidence of London Mayor, Boris Johnson. He could also have added others to that list, because he did not appear to have the confidence of his rank and file police officers either, perhaps because he was too much of a political animal or the fact that there were persistent claims that he was distant and aloof. Whatever the case, in spite of himself, it is claimed that there have been crime reductions in London, but that says as much about his team as Ian Blair’s leadership skills.

The fact remains that there are some 167,000 police officers in the UK and we do not want to see them behind their desks, sitting behind the wheel of their top of the range cars or, or for that matter, senior officers in front of the cameras preening themselves. Our police officers or whatever rank need to be on the streets, policing our villages, towns and cities. For me, the fact that Sir Iam Blair was forever in front of the cameras claiming credit for his force, said it all, he simply did not understand what the public want, policing, not politics.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has taken the initiative and spoken for the people of London. Lets face it, no-one can really have confidence in the claim that crime has fallen in London, because these figures are all too often incorrect, because of the crime that does not get reported. Why? Because the public know that in most cases, we shall just be given a crime reference number and sent on our way, that of course is not exclusive to London, but elsewhere as well.

The personnel problems that have come to light under Sir Ian Blair’s stewardship also plays testament to his leadership or management style, they can’t all be wrong, can they? It was his responsibility to manage his team and in my view, he failed and he has finally been made to pay the price. Let us hope that the next commissioner, will be a coppers, copper and one that understands that policing starts and finishes on the streets, not in front of the camera.