Showing posts with label Tories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tories. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Red Meat for the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Club Lounge Bar

Cameron has floated plans to take away basic security of tenure from new entrants to socially rented housing. This is a big step - and an important one.

It's important but not, of course, practical in any way - he's just fired the starting gun for a hail of factually based correction from Shelter, the Churches, the Chartered Institute of Housing and every Tenants' Organisation in the land and we all know what happens when 'factually based correction' hits the fan.

If implemented, this idea would create homelessness, hugely increase routine housing management costs in social housing, increase rather than decrease the benefit traps Ian Duncan Smith is supposedly unpicking, lead to all sorts of undesirable 'hard cases' making unwelcome new housing law and - here's the rub - almost certainly increase the number of people in the private rented sector, which, not being subject to rent control, is more expensive than social housing. In short, it would cost the state more money. So it ain't going to happen.

My best guess is we'll see a familiar cycle of small pilots followed by a range of minor tinkerings with tenure law and a dribbling away of the original political motivation that reduces to some small funding programme designed to produce a few hundred, at best, specially designed new tenancies that automatically convert to shared ownership when and if the family income reaches a certain point.

No, the importance of this announcement is that it the first sign of the end of the 'glad confident morning' for this government and the harbinger of the shit-storm they are going to face once the autumn budget is announced.

This idea is really not like the 'Free School' initiative where Tory plans can be arguably claimed to be seeking to mobilise the positive aspirations of the Daily Mail reading classes. I don't actually think that's true, but the fact that Gove has undoubtedly played his hand very badly so far doesn't mean it remains anything but a positive hand in principle. The Education policy tries to reach out to so called 'aspirational' Britain.

This housing policy doesn't: it seeks to mobilise the prejudices and ignorance of the Tory heartland.It's red meat for the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Club Lounge Bar. It offers a 'tin-ear' to every other strand of opinion and, indeed, to the pesky constraints of reality. It is therefore important in a symbolic way: it ain't going to happen, but it is a way station along the path to what a contributor to one discussion over at Blood and Treasure described as 'Thatcherism without the Falklands'.

Shiny Dave looks a little less shiny this morning. That moderate veneer is starting to peel.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Thoughts on a Hung Parliament


In public, the Labour Party seems to be pretty sanguine about the polls suggesting a hung parliament. The much discussed vagaries of our FPTP system mean, I'm told, it would be quite possible for Labour to come third in the popular vote but still wake up on May 7th to discover they have the largest number of MPs in a hung parliament. It's even more likely that they would have the second largest number of seats. There would be an obvious attack narrative available to them: "the Conservatives haven't 'sealed the deal and are still not trusted'; the electorate has punished us for being in power too long,for sure, but the important thing now is a coalition for electoral reform before the inevitable second election we hope will produce a representative parliament to face the huge economic challenges facing the country." Result? The Tories locked out of power for another political generation.

Labour bloggers seem much less relaxed about this: Shuggy thinks the fight to avoid third place is a sign that they are done for, and Don is equally unequivocal:
It seems obvious to me that if Labour comes third in the popular vote, then that's it - they are out of government. ..... people would have made it quite unambiguously clear that they don't want Labour in government. I absolutely shudder to think what would happen if they tried to do a deal with the Lib Dems and stagger on while presiding over the massive cuts to public spending of the kind that Clegg and Cable have repeatedly said that they want.
& this, I think, is the rub for both Labour and Tories - a hung parliament could well set off a vicious bout of in-fighting inside their parties even as their leaders suddenly started talking about co-operation and 'working together for the national interest'. I mean, shiny Dave has had everything going for him - surely a failure to pluck the lowest hanging fruit in recent electoral memory has got to raise questions about his leadership? (Both in his party and, perhaps more acutely, in the Murdoch camp)*. As for dour Gordon - well that nice Mr.Miliband stands ever ready to present a new face to the public.

Cameron, on balance, could probably survive until a 2nd election - but he'd certainly be toast if he failed to win that. But Brown? I don't think so. The knives will be out for him before the last constituency declares on May 7th. It might be difficult for the LibDems to even contemplate doing a deal with Labour if he stays because he is absolutely the epitome of 'no change'. So a gap would open up between the interests of the Labour Party and the interests of its leader. & we all know New Labour has a sparkling track record in dealing with that sort of situation, don't we?

Radio 4 this morning reported Moodys, the rating agency, as being pretty positive about a hung parliament on the grounds it might lead to a grand coalition to force through the 'necessary' cuts. Paul Mason reports that the City isn't especially worried about a hung parliament per se - what they're concerned about is :
"... a "chaotic" hung parliament where there's maybe one Green, two Respect and one or two BNP members of the Commons, with strong showing from Plaid and the SNP. Right now the political class is thinking Cleggmania might go away, or recede, leaving the old two-party slugging match to get back into business. ..... What they have not even begun to plan for is if Cleggmania begins to give the electorate "permission" to just break away from the whole mainstream party circus."
But a chaotic hung parliament is possible even without a further crumbling of the Tory and Labour votes. All it needs is a civil war within one or both of those parties. If I were a Lib Dem strategist, I'd be sparing some time to think about how I might help that prospect along.

But I'm not a LibDem strategist. I'm just someone who wants to see the re-emergence of a multiple voiced social democracy. I actually want a chaotic hung parliament. & here's how you can help.

*H/T to B&T for this link

Monday, 31 August 2009

That Wire Analogy (Yet Again)

So I get back from whatever it is I've been doing to find the long shadow of my favourite TV show still bugging the blogosphere - and indeed mainstream journalism. Chris Grayling's comparison of inner city Britain to the version of Baltimore peddled in the Wire is the gift which just keeps on giving.

He's been given such a hell of a kicking on all this that I thought it might be fun to try to sketch out some ways he might, inadvertently, have stumbled on something. Not, obviously, in terms of crime. The local Manc paper dealt with that :
"[Baltimore], home to about 600,000, was blighted by 234 murders last year. That compares to 35 in Greater Manchester, which has a population of around 2.5m."
No, the real comparison is about how our lives - like the lives of The Wire's drug dealers, police, dockers, politicians, schoolkids and journos - are haunted by an imbalance between agency and structure. Or just by structure, actually.

The whole series could have been written by Talcott Parsons or Louis Althusser: no one, or almost no one, escapes their circumstances for any length of time. Structures call forth successions of individuals - Avon, Stringer, Marlo - to fulfill essentially the same roles. People change in all-to-predictable ways: just as Daniels, who makes Commissioner, has a guilty secret from his time on Narcotics, so Carver, originally a kind of joke, puts his days of petty corruption behind him and rises up the ranks as a reliable officer. But you just know he won't leave his past behind, any more than Daniels manages too. Individual initiative is, ultimately, crushed, be it Bunny's Hamsterdam or Carcetti's new broom in City Hall. Even the great symbol of individualism - Omar - loses, and I reckon we see in Michael's trajectory a proto Omar in the making, so even the individualism at the heart of the American Dream is structurally produced.

Yeah, that strikes me as being quite like Britain today - even before one gets into in business of 'public service reform', performance targets and the near universal 'gaming' of these things. There is no real social mobility, no real opportunity for individualism. Chris Grayling is right, inadvertently.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Of Health and Social Care

The Observer leads to day with the – oh, so shocking – news that quite a few of the Tory front bench, including that nice Mr.Gove, have endorsed Daniel Hannan’s call for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts, which they could then use to shop around for care from public and private providers. Those who could not afford to save enough would be funded by the state.

Which rather sets the stage for health being a central election issue, this time, no doubt, with Labour tying a big pink ribbon round the NHS and claiming to be the ‘patriotic’ party in defending it not like those horrible market obsessed US-wannabees in the Conservative Party. Oh no, no like them at all.

Except of course, in the small matter of social care, where Labour Ministers never miss an opportunity to big up their commitment to individual budgets and self directed care.It's basically the same idea, just transfered to a not-that-dissimilar sector.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

New Tune Needed

Steph and Pesto are both carrying reports of Osbourne's recent speech which, if they are to be believed, would place the Tory post election economic policy a couple of notches to the left of Labour's. A end to bankers bonuses, tax breaks for equity not debt, priority given to long term investment, that sort of thing. Nothing desperately radical you understand - I think Steph is over-egging the pudding by drawing in Will Hutton as a comparator - but certainly a break from 'the pro-financial markets at all costs' approach which characterised the Brown/Darling policy line before the crash, and very distinct from their emergency programme of recapitalising the banks since. This might just be opportunism on the Tories part of course. Or it might reflect that, as an opposition, they're not totally tied up with dealing with the crisis and/or an interparty faction fight and can afford to think in the slightly longer term.

So Labour will have to respond. How? Mandelson might want to attempt to re-run the sixties dirgisme with the state perhaps not quite 'picking' winners a la Concorde, but certainly hot housing them - think of his general line as a kind of remixed Motown Chartbusters Vol 3 of economic policy. Others - Darling? Brown? - might go along with this to some degree, but still wish to re-establish the City in something like its status quo ante form, if only to reestablish a decent corporate tax base (not that the 'old' City actually paid that much tax compared to what it earned). Think of this as the economic equivalent of, say, a SpiceGirls comeback: it was huge once, but everyone doubts it can ever happen again in quite the same way.

As for the Left of the Party - and indeed the wider Left - it does rather now behove them to broaden out from particular tactical fights - like opposing Post Office privatisation - important as these are, to seeking a coherent economic vision of the future. They need a new tune as well.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tangentopoli UK ?

I've just heard Tristram Hunt, unlikely ex-new Labour biographer of Engels, on Radio 4 opining that if Britain wasn't a Monarchy this expenses farrago would lead to a collapse of the State and the foundation of a new Republic. I'd guess the Italian experience must have been in his mind. Tangentopoli was the word they gave their situation - 'bribesville'. It took the emergence of the magistrate - not politician -led Manu Pulite ('Clean Hands') anti-corruption campaign to bring it down, and bring down the so called 'First Republic' as well.

Now, despite the fact that the British situation seems far less organised and structural - its all about individual venality as far as I can see, not organisational corruption in the Italian sense - I do think Hunt is on to something. Perhaps because he is the son of a weatherman he can tell which way the wind is blowing.

Dave Osler - and in a different way, Paulie - worry that this is feeding into an anti-political mood in the country. I agree with Paulie that the big threat is not the BNP - although I expect them to made some electoral gains in the Euro elections - but some charismatic and telegenic charmer on the Berlusconi model. (Please God, don't let it be Richard Branson.)

In a way our default model of political leader has been evolving in this direction anyway- think of Blair, and our two current Blair-lites, Cameron and Clegg. Anyone of them might, if they had accidentally lost an election in mid career, have evolved into a TV sofa host on the lines of Jeremy Vine or Kilroy Silk. Even the viciously combative ex-politician Portillo now seems eminently charming and personable as an all purpose TV talking head. The stage is surely set for some movement in the opposite direction - a TV talking head who arrives on the electronic PR campaign equivalent of a white charger promising to sweep away all this nonsense.

Because this is Britain, not Italy, I don't think, as yet, conditions are far enough advanced for such a 'new politics' (sic) to be successful. But I'm prepared to bet someone is going to try.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

'Extinct' Beast Makes Come-Back

Via the concrete jungle of the Hagley Rd comes exciting natural history news. A species that Mr.Cameron had assured us was extinct is, apparently, still flourishing in its natural habitat of the Tory backbench undergrowth. Rumours that the introduction of the non-native species of 'Red Toryism' (Christian Democratius Imitiaticus) had pushed the formerly dominant 'Thatcherite Beast' (Hidden Handicus Roundyourthroaticus) out of its ecological niche prove false. The Beast still stalks the land.

This charming little fellow, once thought to be emblematic of Britain, has been recognised by its distinctive excrement, which is colloquially referred to as a ' Ten Minute Rule Bill' by seasoned Beast watchers. The general public may take some persuading of the fact, but experts assure us that poking through the entire spoor of this creature is a highly educative experience.

"It's definitely the Beast", said Dr. Ronald Madeupname of the University of Neasden, " Only the Beast's excrement can contain both a reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' clauses on free choice of employment and a call for workers to be able to 'freely' negotiate wages below the minimum wage. It's very unique and distinctive shit."

As yet, the Beast itself has not been sighted. But scientists are so confident that it is present that they have provisionally allocated names to the expected members of the pack: Mr. Christopher Chope, Mr. Peter Bone, Philip Davies, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. Greg Knight, Mr. Edward Leigh, Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Brian Binley, Mr. William Cash, Mr. Robert Syms and Mr. David Wilshire

Monday, 8 December 2008

A Rub of the Green: What is Cameron Upto ?


For reasons I don't pretend to understand Cameron is pushing through a formal Tory rapprochement with the all but electorally dead Official Unionist Party. Slugger O'Toole is full of it. Along the way Cameron has given several hostages to fortune, including really problematic statements such as," I'm not neutral on the question of the union." Such statements seem problematic to me because they feed the 'auld ghosts' of the ur-Republican view, rather than move politics onto any kind of a new terrain. I genuinely struggle to see what is in all this for the Tories. So it feels a bit irresponsible to put it mildly.

From a distance, Northern Irish politics seem stuck in a kind of shadow boxing mode. Yes, the guns have been put away - or almost all of them anyway. Yes, we have formal power sharing - when the elected representatives can be bothered to decide they'll talk to each other, which, to be frank, isn't that often. But they really don't seem to talk about the 'elephant on the sofa': the demographic shift.

One of the ironic effects of Direct Rule was that the long term existence of a higher birth rate in the Catholic community actually began to have demographic effect, because the Brits gave more jobs to people from the nationalist communities thus stemming the traditional flow of emigration. The balance now stands at something like 43:57, down from the 1/3rd - 2/3rds split of the 1960s. Some time around 2040 there will be an adult nationalist majority. Followed shortly, one presumes, by a referendum in favour of Irish unity. But when the last British soldier and civil servant leaves there will still be a million people living there who, unless something changes, will be extremely resistant to incorporation into a united Ireland.

In this context Cameron's intervention seems...well a bit bonkers.

I also learned on Slugger that the (British) Labour Party has now authorised the setting up of a NI wide CLP, although this is several steps away from formally standing candidates in any elections in Northern Ireland, which would still require the explicit approval of Labour HQ. This too gives rise to a certain foreboding, although, at a push, I could just about grasp the logic of NI Labour candidates standing in European elections if jointly sponsored by both British and Irish Labour parties, as both sides of the argument over the border seem to approve of EU membership and, indeed, EU links are often touted as one way of decreasing the relative importance of the border in the politics of the North. But even this has to be seen in the context of the existence of the SDLP with its firm (if much diminished) base in one community but not the other. So it could still go very wrong.

In any event, Europe may be a bit of an exception: I can't quite see how a Labour candidate affiliated to the British Labour Party could possibly appeal to both communities in elections to Westminster, Stormont or any local council. & surely it is paving the way for some kind of cross community unity, to minimise the possible consequences of that '2040 moment', that is the big longer term contribution British politicians can make to the future of the North of Ireland.

Friday, 17 October 2008

“Who’s That With Our Norman?”


Cameron's got his ducks in a row at last: it's back to the 1950s, apparently. We've had 'irresponsible capitalism and irresponsible government'. The Tories' motivating idea is 'not freedom but responsibility'. Brave move: he's abandoning the Austrian vote – which may not cost him much with the electorate but might well play badly amongst the younger constituency members. All those Ron Paul wannabees on the benches behind him are going to be fun to watch as they do a quick ideological softshoe shuffle to get in line behind him.

I think we'll be hearing a little less about the dreadful Nanny State with all its horrendous centralised targets that so discourage enterprise and initiative and a little more about the innate probity, frugality and all round wonderfulness of the traditional Officer class virtues that made the Empire the envy of the world that it is today...(hang on, that can't quite be right can it ?- Ed).

I can't see this working. It may well be that Brownanomics was completely irresponsible - but so was turbo-capitalism internationally. Brown has, albeit temporarily, acquired the kudos of the Man With A Plan. But shiny David - I think this is the end of 'call me Dave' -of Eton and Bullingdon Club fame suddenly looks just like a merchant banker....

What will the next set of polls say ?