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Archive for May, 2010

Thursday
May 6,2010

Members of the House of Lords are like convicted prisoners and people detained under the Mental Health Act – we don’t have a vote in UK Parliamentary elections.  I am tempted to believe that when the franchise was framed those drafting the legislation equated the inside of the House of Lords with a penal establishment or a lunatic asylum.  However, I expect the real reason is that as we are already Members of Parliament we do not need further representation in the House of Commons.

We do, however, get a vote in elections for the European Parliament and for local elections.

So this morning I was able to play my part in the democratic process.  It also set a test for Haringey’s electoral administrators as to whether I would be issued with the right ballot paper – a test I am pleased to say they passed without me having to prompt them!

I cast my three votes, of course, for the three Labour Council candidates – all of whom will make excellent councillors if elected.

Two notable features.

First, the polling station was busy.  The presiding officer, who has been presiding there for as long as I can remember, said it was the heaviest morning voting that she could recall and that there had been people waiting outside to vote at 6.50am.  So, it looks as if there is going to be a high turnout.

Second, there was a complete absence of the Tory Party.  There were tellers outside the polling station from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, but no Conservatives – even though this was a constituency that was continuously Conservative up until 1992.

Wednesday
May 5,2010

One of the lessons of the 2010 General Election seems to be that the Prime Minister should be very careful before opening his mouth in front of a microphone. 

It has now emerged that at a rally on Saturday the Prime Minister was caught calling one of his senior female Party colleagues “a prostitute”.  He subsequently denied it saying, first, that he was calling the microphone “a prostitute” and then later that he was really very friendly with the colleague concerned and that the reference to her as “a prostitute” was jocular. 

The senior Party official concerned has said that she wasn’t near enough to the Prime Minister to have been the subject of his remark …..

The General Election is, of course, the General Election in Mauritius.  The Prime Minister is Navin Ramgoolam and the senior Party official is Nita Deerpalsing.  But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Tuesday
May 4,2010

Most political commentators are now hedging their bets in terms of what will happen after the General Election.  Nick Robinson talks about a “growing expectation” that David Cameron will be Prime Minister but then fudges it by saying that we “can’t know the outcome”.

I am prepared to make a firm prediction, however.  If the polls stay as they are and there are no last minute shifts, there WILL be a Tory Government with a small (10-20 seats) majority.

And what will happen then?

It is pretty easy to predict that too.

An emergency budget within weeks in which Chancellor George Osborne (and doesn’t that strike terror in the heart?) will solemnly tell the nation that “the books are so much worse than we expected”.  So VAT up to 20% (maybe 25%) and an immediate public sector jobs freeze and pay freeze (if not a pay cut) coupled with a massive reduction in budgets and a suspension of most public sector capital spending.  This will be softened by an emergency Bill to “enable” the “Big Society” (or the post -bureaucratic state as they originally wanted to call it).

This will enable the Cameron Government to tell the public that they don’t need to worry about the cuts in schools budgets or the collapse of SureStart or whatever else it might be, because local effort can provide alternatives or keep things going.  Hopi Sen brilliantly explains what the impact of the Swedish Schools model would mean and Luke Akehurst has the reality of “The Big Society”.

In practice, very few people will have the inclination or the opportunity to organise alternative “community-led” provision and those that do will not be the low-paid, the marginalised or the dispossessed.  And they certainly won’t be those whose families are hit by the job losses in the public sector or the double-dip private sector recession that will be precipitated by an Osborne emergency budget.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s small majority will give disproportionate influence to the fanatic Euro-sceptics and climate change deniers in the Parliamentary Conservative Party.  To keep them sweet, the UK will become totally marginalised in Europe and allied with the Sarah Palin wing of US politics – the result will be the forfeiture of Britain’s position in the world.

So an isolated, bankrupt nation with devastated public services beckons after Thursday.

It is not an enticing prospect, is it?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to happen.

Yes, there will be a Tory Government according to the present polls.

But, there is still time.  It only takes one in thirty Tory voters to realise that the Conservatives are still “the nasty Party”, one in ten of those flirting with the LibDems to realise that Nick Clegg is really Cameron-lite and decide they don’t want to help him deliver a Conservative Government, and one in ten of those that were planning not to bother to vote to realise what is at stake and that their vote matters and that their really can be “a future fair for all”.

It is not that many and all that needs to happen is that they listen to this in the next twenty-four hours.

Tuesday
May 4,2010

Is David Cameron planning to heap embarrassment on the Queen if the General Election this week produces an inconclusive result?

This is not because of his continued defence of his PR guru, Andy Coulson, whose tenure as News of the World editor was apparently – according to reports this morning – even more sullied by its role in apparently actively commissioning the illegal interception of royal messages.

No, it is because of the plans disclosed this morning for the Conservatives to  ignore the rules drawn up by the Cabinet Secretary on what is to happen in the event of a “hung Parliament”.

According to Nicholas Watt the Guardian’s Chief Political Correspondent:

“The Queen does not summon a prime minister to resign; convention dictates that is for the prime minister to tender his or her resignation. Cameron indicated yesterday that he is prepared to challenge this convention.”

Presumably, the plan is for David Cameron to turn up unannounced at Buckingham Palace and demand to see the Queen, tell her to tell Gordon Brown that he is no longer Prime Minister, and then instruct her to invite someone else (ie D Cameron) to form a Government.

The whole point of the Cabinet Secretary drawing up a procedural document was to avoid Her Majesty being drawn into political controversy.  This does not seem to be something that worries Cameron’s Conservatives.  Apparently, they will be quite happy to embarrass the Queen and trample over constitutional convention.

And the reason for this?

“Senior Tories believe Cameron will require political momentum if he wins the largest number of votes but falls short of an outright majority.”

Political momentum?

Either you have it or you don’t.

And, if you have to embarrass the Queen and ignore the constitution to get what you want, you probably don’t.

Monday
May 3,2010

We chanced to be in the middle of Dorset West having a pub lunch earlier today (somebody’s got to do it).

There we were minding our own business in the corner.  And suddenly the discussion in the bar turned to the General Election.

To general agreement, the landlord announced:

“And, of course, if the Tories get in, they’ll put VAT up to 20% and increase the tax on beer and cigarettes.”

Now I appreciate that one should not extrapolate from one pub landlord.  However, most pub landlords would only express such trenchant political views to their clientele if they were fairly confident that there would be substantial agreement – and there was certainly no disagreement that I heard voiced.

So why is this significant?

Well this was in the heart of Dorset West.  A seat that Oliver Letwin is defending for the Conservatives against a strong LibDem challenge.  A seat that is a LibDem target with a majority of only 2,461.

Not good news for Letwin.  And a sign that Cameron’s complacency is misplaced.

Sunday
May 2,2010

The Ipsos MORI analysis in The Observer gives some interesting analysis of public perceptions of the three Party Leaders.

Actually, interesting is not the word – it is devastating for Nick Clegg and pretty awful for David Cameron.

When asked which of the three Party leaders would be best in a crisis, only 12% rated Nick Clegg (33% favoured David Cameron and 40% Gordon Brown).

On who is the most capable, Clegg only scored 17% (with 33% and 36% for the Cameron and Brown respectively).

And on who best understands world problems, Clegg could only muster 14% and Cameron 23%, while Gordon Brown scored 45%.

So with bombs in New York, melt-down in Greece, climate change, a fragile economy, and troops in Afghanistan, the message is quie clear:

“It’s no time for a novice.”

Saturday
May 1,2010

The news that a nineteen year old member of the Aryan Strike Force has been convicted of Terrorism Act offenders is a useful reminder that the counter terrorist work of the Police is not just about al Qaeda inspired terrorism, but encompasses pursuing the activities of the far-right and other violent extremist groupings.

Nicky Davison, 19, was convicted of three separate charges of possessing records useful in committing or preparing acts of terrorism.  Along with his father, he was part of a group called the Aryan Strike Force, which plotted to overthrow the government.  His father, Ian Davison, has already admitted preparing for acts of terrorism and producing a chemical weapon, the deadly poison ricin, one of the world’s most dangerous substances.

Apparently, their plan was to fight against “the Zionist Occupied Government” in the belief that the state had been taken over by Jews.

Saturday
May 1,2010

The editorial dispute in The Guardian over which Party they should endorse in the General Election has apparently been heated and bitter – even though it is difficult to think that there is a single Guardian reader who will have been waiting to hear which way they opted in order to make up her or his mind.

Clearly, Jackie Ashley is not one of those bowled over by Clegg-mania.  In a thoughtful article this morning she asks “Where are the women in Clegg’s top team?”

And the numbers are striking.  The LibDems have fewer women candidates in 2010 than they did in 2005 – a mere 22% of the total.  According to Jackie Ashley:

“At the root of the Lib Dems’ failure to deal with the gender deficit is their opposition to positive discrimination. At last year’s Speaker’s conference on making parliament more representative, Clegg suggested the problem was not the selection process as such, but the fact that not enough women were coming forward in the first place.”

And their record on race is equally dire: they have no black or minority ethnic MPs.