Tag Archives: brown

1984 all over again

It’s time for an emergency budget! Stop spending on everything!

Since the election in May and the formation of the coalition government there has already been two rounds of spending cuts – a quick announcement of £6bn of savings and a more recent tranche of £2bn.

But as we borrowed something like £180bn last year, this emergency budget is going to go deeper then anything anyone in the UK can remember – probably this is going to be harsher than the early 80s with Thatcher.

Yet I get a sneaking suspicion that the present government wants to whip up this feeling that times are hard so they can facilitate cuts right across the public sector, in the same way the public can support a war when they think there is an imminent threat of attack.

It’s a disaster. The previous lot were all wrong and don’t blame us for the cuts. It’s all their fault!
Sea of pennies at Rockefeller plaza

Advertisements

Birds of prey hovering over Downing Street?

I loved the ornithology section on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House yesterday. Take a listen on the iPlayer, it’s in the final 5 or 10 minutes of the programme.

Do you remember the Cameron / Clegg love-in on the lawn last week? While they were speaking to the press in the garden of 10 Downing Street, there was a lot of bird noise in the background. BH got an ornithologist to identify them.

The noisiest bird was a Robin – the red of Labour trying to ruin the press conference – but what was really interesting was that he identified a Kestrel. Kestrels hover around over their prey before swooping in for the kill. Did the Miliband brothers send it swooping over the garden that sunny day?

Final leader debate

I have to say, after Clegg leading both of the first two debates, I think he came last in this one. He sounded a bit ineffectual and undecided on several key points. Banking, the economy, and immigration all tripped him up this week.

David Cameron was the most improved and almost certainly the winner of this final debate, but the Prime Minister was a strong second. Brown should have struggled far more than this, but he was a strong performer and often reminded the audience that both his opponents have very little experience of running a country.

But this was a debate on economics and there was no detail at all on the public sector cuts we expect after an election.

More in the morning, after some sleep…

Is immigration ‘a good thing’?

Gordon Brown is in trouble today. A woman complained to him about the number of immigrants coming into the UK… a familiar complaint he has heard many times before, but this time he made a private comment about her in his car just after the event – calling her a ‘bigoted woman’ – and Sky News had left their radio microphone on his suit… so the private comments were recorded and replayed to the world.

It was a private comment, and many would credit Brown with telling the frank truth, but Sky can’t be blamed for using the material – any broadcaster would love to have an indiscretion like this on record.

But is the woman just reflecting what the majority think, and is the Prime Minister reacting in a liberal left way – horrified that someone might criticise those from another country, or race, or faith?

The immigration question is one of the hardest for our politicians to deal with because they never seem to quite get it right. The Labour party at present has made it almost impossible for unskilled workers to enter the UK, encouraged people with specific skills to come using the Highly Skilled Migrant Worker programme, simplified visa approvals using a points-based system, and made it far harder for foreign students to work and overstay their visa.

When you list the measures Gordon Brown has presided over, it looks quite tough on immigrants, but the public perception is that Johnny Foreigner continues to flood into the country. The reality is that immigration is reducing – mainly because of the economic downturn and fragile recovery – but again, why ruin perception with reality?

So, is the problem just that nobody trusts politicians anyway?

This is really the power of the BNP and UKIP. They don’t behave like ‘normal’ politicians and they focus on the immigration and ‘foreigner’ issues. UKIP has pledged to ban immigration for five years if they had any power over legislation, the BNP has been watering down the racist content of their manifesto, but they still appear to actively favour repatriation of migrant workers.

These parties are getting considerable support with their extreme views, and that’s really because of a failing by the major three parties to be seen to be doing something. Brown has argued this point on all the genuine changes he has made to the system. Clegg has argued that we need a better understanding of who is here illegally – potentially leading to an amnesty because that would not change the number of people working, but it would mean they pay tax. Cameron has argued for an absolute cap on immigration numbers by skills.

All three of the major parties have ideas on immigration, but they are all essentially failing to communicate the positive values of welcoming people – with skills – to Britain. The skills that help the British economy to succeed – and therefore allows us to live in a prosperous nation far richer than a population of 60m would suggest.

They are also failing to explain the different types of immigration; what is a refugee, what is an asylum seeker, what is a highly-skilled migrant… and the freedom of labour movement within the 27-nation European Union. All these issues are entirely confused in the arguments of the ‘bigot’… that’s not implying that those who oppose immigration are stupid, but any debate on immigration has to focus on the real issue that concerns them: Are people coming in and taking work from locals?

If that is what people perceive then the mainstream parties need to show that it is not the case, or what they intend to do about it, and they need to do this in a way that people believe. The Prime Minister has a good grasp of facts, but when he reels off stats about this and that, the public switch off and ask why the corner shop sells Polish food. Without once realising that the Polish shop down the road was a Punjabi shop twenty years ago.

The major politicians need to explore why normal people are so attracted by the BNP on this issue, why normal people don’t see any value from the European Union – they just see it as Eastern European workers coming to take jobs, and why a caring and tolerant society like the UK should close the shutters to those not born here.

Leaders’ debate – round two

The leaders’ debate on Sky last night was a more charged event that the first. They really argued this time. They were all clearly more comfortable with the format, and Sky political editor Adam Boulton seemed content to just sit back and let them slug it out. It was not a bad strategy, but sometimess Boulton did allow them to stick to a single subject for too long – he could have moved it on a few times.

What is really interesting to observe is that the instant polls are useless. They reflect the prejudice of the people who would support one particular party anyway. So the YouGov poll sponsored by the Sun came out strongly in support of Cameron having won. The Channel 4 poll came out strongly in favour of Clegg, and so on…

Personally I thought it was very close this time. Clegg probably was still in front by a nose, but they were all close together. That actually says a lot for Brown, who should be doing much worse in the debates as the incumbent and conversely it also means Cameron is not landing punches when he should have a sitting target. It’s all wide open.

Chancellor's Debate on C4

It’s all over for the PM

It must surely be all over for Gordon Brown. Events over the past few weeks feel like the dying days of the Conservative government in the mid-1990s. Who can forget that era, when every week brought a new tale of scandal and sleaze, always committed by a Conservative minister?

And now the smell of sleaze has returned to haunt the government, though this time it haunts the Labour party. But this time is quite different and more orchestrated.

This system of government expenses has existed in its current form since the 1980s – the expenses system has not been recently introduced – yet it has taken subterfuge and Freedom of Information to finally figure out that many politicians take far more than they need to subsidise a constituency home. It’s unfortunate that some hard-working and honest MPs have been hounded from office when they have not even broken the rules. How can it be that a member who follows the rules to the letter can be so hounded by the press that they indicate they will not stand for office again? In the current environment, several have done so – along with those who clearly made claims that stretched credulity.

I really thought that the government was going to be able to ride out this expenses scandal. The Tories were just as guilty of making dodgy claims, and though the Telegraph initially aimed their ammunition at Labour MPs, they eventually started detailing examples of Tories who were also abusing the system.

Surely, a cross-party committee aimed at a reform of the way MPs work within Westminster could have stopped the daily tirade of abuse from the press? Something radical, something akin to constitutional reform. Something that would have rekindled what the Labour party started back in 1997 when they attempted to reform the bicameral system itself. Why didn’t Gordon Brown start this process and just stamp on the political editors who were undermining his authority weeks ago?

Instead it looks like his premiership is going to limp to a close mired in sleaze.

And the Labour party is now suffering voter apathy. They have had 12 years of power, in which they have genuinely made some great achievements. Surely the private healthcare business in the UK should be scared of people waking up to the fact that the NHS has improved so much?  Crime has reduced. Schools are better. These are real quantifiable achievements that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brought about, yet the voters are seeking alternatives because everyone gets bored of a single party leading the nation after a decade or so.

But even if they change leader now, within a year of a certain general election, will the public just vote for change anyway?

The new generation Labour party has some great talent; James Purnell, David Miliband, his brother Ed, Ed Balls… the list goes on. But if there is going to be regicide in the party then they need to get the PM to stand aside soon, so they have time to regroup with a new leader, in time to create a credible general election campaign. My money is on Alan Johnson being the kind of person who could pull it off as leader.

If the pressure is on for an immediate election, then I guess we are in for a Tory future. However, it may well be that any new leader of the Labour party would secretly prefer a spell in opposition because who would want to lead the country through this economic mess anyway?