Posts Tagged 'Consensus Politics'



Democracy breaking out all over Parliament

MPs have sensationally voted out the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.  A vote was called when a number of MPs challenged Bercow’s re-election as Speaker.  Rather than pressing on with other business, the new Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, set in motion a division enabling members to decide democratically to remove Bercow and set in train the election of a new Speaker.  Sir Malcolm Rifkind hailed the vote as a triumph of the new politics, signalling and new openness and transparency in the Mother of Parliaments.

Yeah, right.

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Cameron achieves his Social Democrat-Liberal alliance

Today, not for the first time, we hear the entirely plausible (and extremely likely) story that David Cameron used the coalition talks with Nick Clegg as an excuse to ditch ‘daft’ Tory policies he secretly wanted to get rid of all along.  The Mail on Sunday says that Cameron took advantage of the coalition negotiations to shed policies such as  scrapping inheritance tax and getting rid of his pledge to rip up the Human Rights Act.

Cameron has long given the impression of being a political coward.  He shies away from conflict with rivals of the Conservatives, but is always willing to launch himself into any fight against the grassroots of the Conservative Party.  But it wasn’t cowardice, it was part of his long game.  He has always been a machine politician desperate to secure personal power and advantage that could not be achieved under the social democrat ideological banner he preferred.  So it is no surprise that:

The leader of Mr Clegg’s negotiating team, new Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander, said his Conservative counterparts, led by William Hague and George Osborne, produced a list of Mr Cameron’s manifesto pledges and invited the Lib Dems to strike them out.

And Mr Cameron’s controversial policy guru Steve Hilton was reportedly delighted that the coalition had enabled Mr Cameron to ‘bury the Tory Right-wing’.

Cameron never has been and never will be a conservative.  The Conservative Party was merely an instument of convenience that enabled him to realise his ambitions in a way being an open Social Democrat never could.  Cameron is a CINO – a conservative in name only

The SDP-Liberal Alliance died its death in 1988.  Cameron has effectively hijacked the Conservative Party and created a new alliance with the Liberals where the policies are becoming steadily more centre-left.  It is the most logical explanation for Cameron’s behaviour before the election and his actions since.

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Ah, ain’t new politics grand?

Don’t you just love it?  Right up there with idiotic assertions like (paraphrased) ‘the people voted for a hung parliament because it wants the parties to work together’ from Labour leadership candidate, Ed Miliband, are assertions such ‘this is a new politics’.  What does it mean?  The Cleggerons want you to believe this means a more democratic and responsive governance where politicians represent the people.  David Cameron said so himself just before he entered 10 Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister last week:

One of the tasks that we clearly have is to rebuild trust in our political system. Yes that’s about cleaning up expenses, yes that is about reforming parliament, and yes it is about making sure people are in control – and that the politicians are always their servant and never their masters.

Fine words indeed.  But then Cameron has always been very good at delivering a line.  After all, his presentation style won him the party leadership.  But are we going to see these words converted into demonstrable actions that see fundamental change in the relationship between the political class and the people?  Well, it seems very unlikely.

The first great opportunity for Cameron and Clegg to make the ‘new politics’ real for people is the prospect of a re-ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.  The story has been bumping around for several weeks but the political class, in conjunction with their media lapdogs, kept the story off the General Election radar screen.  Now, weeks on, the story has finally gone mainstream as the BBC has decided it can’t ignore it any longer.  So the focus switches to the Pinky and Perky of politics and speculation rises about the approach that will be taken to the prospect of Lisbon being forced back into the political limelight.

How will the ‘new politics’ see people put in control and the political class serving their interests should Lisbon come back for re-ratification?  Well the omens aren’t good if the assessment of the well connected editor of ConservativeHome is anything to go by.  Tim Montgomerie’s prediction, if it turns out to be accurate, suggests the ‘new politics’ is the sham many of us believe it to be:

Cameron has a real opportunity to give the British people a vote on the Lisbon Treaty because of this need for re-ratification. He should take it. Will he? Almost certainly not. It would bring down the Coalition.

EU Referendum explains to readers that the EU is only planning a new protocol to change the number of MEPs allowed, but that requires only the protocol to be ratified, leaving the Treaty untouched, something that can be dealt with in the UK by using the Ponsonby rule.  This is absolutely correct.  But someone whose tireless efforts to force a referendum in the first place were thwarted would surely seek to grasp this opportunity to right a wrong and make good on their pledge to put this before the people.

‘Power to the people!’ was the catchphrase of Citizen Smith.  For all his rhetoric, Cameron doesn’t look likely to put that into practice.  Again the interests of the political class will trump the wishes of the people.  It’s worth noting that a sizable number of new Tory MPs put ‘No more EU’ in their campaign literature.  We will soon see how principled they are – will they put their promise to voters first, or their desire to stay in Cameron’s good books in the hope of advancement later?  Let me humbly submit for consideration the chorus of a new anthem for the next Conservative Party conference:

Then raise the Tory standard high.
Within its shade we’ll live and die,
Though Lib Dems flinch and true men sneer,
We’ll keep the white flag flying here.

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Con-Lib climate change and energy policy is a looming disaster

The Cameron-Clegg axis has demonstrated its lack of critical faculties in united fashion when David Cameron and Chris Huhne visited the Department for Energy and Climate Change.  The Cleggerons’ slavish devotion to the creed of climate change has been put before the need to properly tackle environmental problems such as pollution and deforestation. 

The focus on reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (despite no evidence that proves it causes global warming) as outlined by Cameron cannot bring about the necessary energy security for this country that he also mentioned.  Wind turbines simply cannot and will not deliver the reliable generation of baseload power this country needs.  At immense cost it will produce only a fraction of its potential capacity but the huge costs will still be passed on to consumers.  We need an energy mix comprising nuclear, gas, coal and efficient renewables.  But the kneejerk political class continues to undermine its development. 

The Lib Dems will oppose nuclear generated electricity because they feel it isn’t safe or green enough; we don’t have sufficient gas storage and have to increasingly import gas from abroad as our North Sea reserves fall, driving up the cost; coal is plentiful and accessible, but EU interference and the carbon bogeyman see to it that we will reduce coal generation capacity rather than increase it to meet our needs; and we have yet to uncover a widely distributable efficient form of renewable energy as investment solar does not pay for itself, wind fails to produce when it’s needed and tidal power remains on the back burner with only the damaging Severn Barrage under consideration.

People should remember Nick Clegg’s views denying the looming energy gap that will result in rota disconnection to reduce the supply of electricity to a level that can be generated.  Cameron is buying into the same idiocy.  You can put in all the vastly expensive theoretical generating capacity you like, but if it doesn’t translate into Gigawatts of electricity fed into homes, businesses and the transport network, it is a huge white elephant.  The blinkered approach is only made worse by the pursuit of lunatic feed in tarrifs.

We may have a supposedly ‘new politics’ but we are blindly going forward to bygone days of the lights going out and huddling around candles and wondering when the power will be turned back on in our homes and when our offices and factories will be able to resume production essential to our economic well-being.  We have dark days ahead that will make the economic crisis look like small beer yet the Cleggerons insanely tinker around the fringes with their thumbs up their bums and their brains in neutral attempting to appear caring and virtuous.  On their heads be it.

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Cleggerons reveal their true intentions

“We are the Coalition Borg. Lower your expectations and surrender your democracy. We will add your vacuous words and meaningless pledges to our own. Your politics will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated…”

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Con-Lib: The good, the bad, and the undefined

(Part two of this post will appear later in a separate entry…)

The party political manoeuvering is complete and the Liberal Democrat bird is now nesting in the Conservative oak tree.  ‘Operation Save Dave’ has been a heavily qualified success for the clique that surrounds David Cameron and we will learn today who will be the Ministers in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.  Every government, however much one might despise it overall, delivers some things that are positive.  Labour did achieve some positive things, and this coalition will be no exception.  So it’s a good time to assess what we might expect from the Con-Lib coalition.

The media will inevitably focus on the personalities and start to dig out whatever comments they can find in their archive where members of the newly forged Cabinet railed against their new colleagues and against positions they have now signed up to.  But what matters most is the shape and content of the agreement that has been cobbled together by the parties and what the government’s business will mean for ordinary voters.  As the details emerge I plan to share, in no particular order, my personal centre-right take on the new government’s agenda.  Hopefully you will share your thoughts in the comments.

Forget the Northern Ireland Chuckle Brothers that were, namely Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.  The UK now has its own special double act, the Terrible Twins, Dave and Nick, or Cameron and Clegg if you will.  They have published their agreement so we now have a clearer idea of what they plan to do in the UK, well, in those areas where they think we are not controlled by the EU.

Deficit Reduction –

With Labour gone we are not going to have to wait another year or two before government acts to reduce the deficit.  But we have to wait until July for the emergency budget for the details beneath the headlines. While the direction of travel seems sound, it’s disappointing that the Lib Dems have forced a less ambitious pace for cutting back unnecessary public spending.  But what the Dave giveth, the Nick taketh away, because while the document talks of stopping ‘Labour’s proposed jobs tax’ the fact is we are going to pay a higher rate of National Insurance to fund the raising of the income tax personal allowance.

Spending Review –

This is urgently needed.  But we will have to wait until the autumn to see the state of the books Labour has left behind.  This is when the pain will be felt and Labour’s legacy exposed.

Tax Measures –

The income tax personal allowance will be raised in increments to £10,000.  How this was not a Conservative policy still eludes me.  Allowing people to keep more of what they earn is the right thing to do.  But inheritance tax, which punishes people who are left assets and who, through no fault of their own have seen the value of their assets (such as houses in what have become expensive areas) rise, has been stuck on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

The airlines, under enough pressure already, will experience some more as air passenger duty is converted into per plane duty.  Not all flights on scheduled routes will fly full, so the airlines will experience more of a burden, which will be passed on to passengers through increased air fares.  Just one more example of how the greenwash of the UK will cost us ever more money.

The commitment to tackling tax avoidance could become an issue for wealth creators who will be needed to grow their businesses and create employment.  Tax evasion is a crime, minimising tax liabilities through avoidance is legal.  The language used is emotive and reminds us that the government covets what people have and believes it is entitled to the rewards for our endeavours.

Banking Reform –

Here we go.  Someone has to be portrayed as the enemy, and it’s the banks again that are under attack.  Applying the planned banking levy will reduce the amount of money banks have available to lend and available to invest to help boost our pensions and investments.  It is shortsighted and panders to people who don’t realise what it will cost them in the long run.  The only justification for a banking levy is to recoup money provided by the taxpayers to recapitalise the banks.

By going after bankers’ bonuses, the Dave and Nick show is increasing the prospect of our best and brightest bank executives and traders leaving for better terms in countries that we compete with.  It defies belief that the method of increasing compeitiveness is to level the banks downwards and by pressing them to separate retail and commercial banking.

However there is some sensible thinking on display in respect of regulatory simplification and having a single body, in the shape of the Bank of England, to maintain oversight.  Also the pledge not to join the Euro in the lifetime of the agreement is welcome, but in the circumstances a very obvious commitment.

Immigration –

The unworkable and completely unacceptable idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants is off the table.  Perhaps the Lib Dems realised just how nonsensical the idea was.

The Conservative pledge to cap migrant numbers from outside the EU is welcome.  Clegg’s assertion that 80% of migrant workers come here from the EU was completely wrong.  MigrationWatch UK demonstrated from official statistics that more workers come here from non-EU countries, so a cap makes sense.

However this completely fails to address the problem of a glut of unskilled labour from EU countries coming to this country without restriction, increasing pressure on infrastructure and public services such as education, healthcare and housing.  The fact remains that all three main parties are commited to maintaining full membership of the EU regardless of the wishes of the public.  Until the main parties listen and represent the wishes of the electorate, this country will not be able to control its own borders and prevent surplus work capacity alighting on these shores.

Political Reform –

It is excellent to see Fixed Term Parliaments being implemented.  However both parties have decided not to take the opportunity to allow voters to choose their MPs every four years, which would have been more democratic.  There is clearly a strong element of self interest on display from the coalition partners.

The Con-Lib coalition has also sought to protect its own position with an insipid little proposed Bill to dissolve Parliament if 55% or more of MPs vote to do so.  This is another example of the all-spoils-to-the-victor Cameron and Clegg claimed to be getting away from.  It should be a simple majority to bring about a dissolution of Parliament – 50% plus one vote.  This move is fundamentally undemocratic and self serving.  This takes the power of incumbency and meshes it with Tammany Hall politics to make it harder to dismiss a government that does not control the confidence of the House.  Another example of the reality of the new politics!

Voting reform was always going to figure.  Thankfully the nightmare scenario of proportional representation is not on the table, rather the Alternative Vote method.  I don’t want it and I won’t vote for it if the planned referendum becomes reality.  But it is absolutely the right thing that the electorate will decide in a referendum.  Rather than just grant a referendum, the political class will demonstrate its grip on power by putting the idea to a vote in the Commons first.  Still the people are not trusted to decide for themselves what they want.  Where is the representative nature of our democracy evident in this process?

It goes without saying that there is no hint of a referendum concerning our relationship with the EU.  This underlines the continuing hypocrisy of the political class… ‘look, we are graciously considering allowing you to choose the voting system, but we will not let you choose if you wish to remain governed by the EU’.  This is one of the major failings of a system rigged to suit the interests of the politicians over those of the voters.  For all the posturing and efforts to appear virtuous, the political class continues to bind the hands of the electorate when it suits it.

Prepare for trouble ahead as plans are developed to make the House of Lords an elected chamber.  Which House will have more democratic legitimacy in the event of the two chambers adopting entrenched opposed positions on a matter?  The Lords can only make a nuisance of itself for a period of time before the Commons can force legislation through.  But when the upper House is mainly or fully elected, what right will the Commons have to continue that practice?

Good to see a power of recall for MPs.  However, who will determine what constitutes ‘serious wrongdoing’?  Again, it is those who would be subject to the rules who are making the rules.  The electorate is not being asked to determine the threshhold that can trigger a constituency petition and recall of the sitting MP.

At last we look like having proper voter registration to tackle electoral fraud.  But even that will not eradicate the possibility of electoral fraud by postal voting.  There needs to be legislation to restrict postal voting to exceptional circumstances to significantly reduce the possibility of fraud.  Postal votes should be reserved for those with limited mobility and those who will not be present on polling day.  Using postal voting for mere convenience will always undermine the integrity of the ballot.

English Parliament –

… and breathe.  Cowardice from both coalition partners.  I know there is no section in the Con-Lib agreement devoted to devolution for England and the creation of an English Parliament, but the matter is of such democratic importance it deserved one.  All we got was a single sentence:

‘We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

That’s it.  In full.  They couldn’t even bring themselves to use the words ‘English’ and ‘devolution’ in the same sentence.  This is craven pandering to the devolved countries.  In the very next sentence Dave and Nick promise a referendum to Wales on further Welsh devolution based on the proposals of the Calman Commission.  The top priority should be addressing the disgraceful democratic deficit affecting one country in the Union, not giving another the chance to enhance their devolution of powers from Westminster.

What makes this all the more infuriating is that England has supported the Cameron Conservatives despite their leftward lurch, and in return England continues to be treated with contempt.  Addressing the English democratic deficit should be one of the most pressing matters for the Con-Lib coalition given their self regarding comments about their belief in democracy.  Their casual approach proves they lack the political will to afford England equality within the very Union it subsidises financially.

——————————-

Still to come… Welfare; Edyookashun; Civil Liberties; Environment; the portfolio that dare not mention its name in the agreement despite Cameron putting Afghanistan as his priority one, Defence; and finally an old favourite – the EU.

Do please leave your comments.

David Cameron is Prime Minister

But there is a more important story.  All across the media we are seeing reports that the Liberal Democrats have secured the position of coalition partner in a David Cameron administration.  The deal will apparently see six Lib Dems sitting in the Cabinet – more than 10% of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party.  Nick Clegg, it is being reported, will become Deputy Prime Minister.

Consequently half a dozen Conservative Shadow Ministers have been sacrificed in order to accomodate the Lib Dems and make it possible for David Cameron to realise his ambition to become Prime Minister, at any cost.

It would be nothing more than a triumph of expediency.

If the rumours are true and Cameron’s negotiating team have engineered a full coalition with the Liberal Democrats, rather than a confidence and supply agreement, it could prove to be the biggest political error ever made by a Conservative Party leader. Climbing into bed with the most untrustworthy and deceitful of parties can only turn out badly. It demonstrates a startling lack of confidence and principle by the Conservatives to unite with a party that just 24 hours ago was courting their main rival as a potential suitor to see if there was a better offer on the table.  It is hardly the basis for an honest and genuine relationship.

There is likely to be an electoral cost for moving the Conservative Party even further to the left in order to seize control of 10 Downing Street.  The centre right of British politics has been completely vacated in the pursuit of power.  The new Prime Minister is a Conservative in name and membership, but he is not a conservative in word or deed.  As such, people who hoped for a conservative government to start the difficult and painful work of putting right the damage that has been inflicted on this country over 13 years of Labour administration, are about to discover that they will not get what they thought they would.

While feeling relief that Labour is now out of office, I can’t feel any enthusiasm for what is replacing them.  Now we sit back and look on as interested observers to see which of the issues that matter most to the voters will be allowed to register on the political radar under the Con-Lib coalition.  Will the core issue of the EU be detected?  Will genuine efforts be made to deal with the immigration?  Will the essential repairs to the economy begin immediately and with sufficient focus?  We wait and see.

But one prediction I make is that many grassroots Conservatives will be left disappointed by the extent of the dilution of conservative principles.  At some point, a new centre-right political entity will rise that is principled, democratic and courageous enough to talk to the issues that matter to voters,  offering a real alternative to the centre-ground consensus that gives solace to the political class.

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Northern Ireland parties back Lib-Lab pact in return for Celtgeld

The SNP in Scotland has already said it would work with Labour.  Plaid Cymru in Wales has worked with Labour before.  Now the DUP and SDLP in Northern Ireland have signalled they would side with a Lib-Lab pact on a case by case basis to ensure taxpayers’ money continues to flow into the province.  With Gordon Brown stepping aside, all the pieces are falling into place around Nick Clegg to prop up a new Labour Prime Minister. England, uniquely without its own national legislature, stands to suffer the consequences of this political stitch up.

It would be a broad, ramshackle coalition only made possible by tax pounds from England being poured into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as an ongoing bribe in return for votes in the House.  In centuries past the people of what is now England paid the Danegeld – an Anglo Saxon tax to buy off the Danish invaders.  Here in 2010 the Labour Party are preparing to pay a Celtgeld raised from English taxpayers to buy off the nationalist parties in the devolved countries to keep a Labour administration in office.

New politics and national interest indeed.

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Gordon Brown to resign. Lib-Lab pact? England to be ruled by celtic coalition?

It is no surprise that the smallest and least supported of the three main parties, the Liberal Democrats, have conducted their negotiations with the Tories while keeping back channels open with Labour.  Despite having the smallest mandate of the three main parties, the Lib Dems are now the most powerful force in British politics because they hold an inordinate balance of power.

It has become clear that the blocker to a Liberal Democrat coalition with the Labour Party was Gordon Brown because the Lib Dems do not like him.  With Labour’s naked thirst for power uppermost in its considerations, the comrades in dark suits have successfully manoeuvred Brown out of the way to increase their appeal to the Lib Dems.  The Lib Dem ransom demand looks set to be paid.

The Conservative negotiation team that thought it held the best hand to win over the Lib Dems might find it has been playing a busted flush.  It might be about to find out just what a mistake it was to entertain the idea of a deal with the most treacherous and unprincipled bunch of politicians this country has to offer.  David Cameron could now find himself remaining leader of a huge opposition party.  The real danger is Britain’s economic outlook as any coalition including Labour will continue to increase the public debt at a time it needs to be dramatically reduced.  The real winner of this election would be the EU.

So what now?  The prospect of a Labour Prime Minister remaining in 10 Downing Street has dramatically increased.  The Lib Dems have held the country to ransom and will push the least popular agenda of the three main parties onto the business of the House, where a grateful but defeated Labour Party will vote them through as the price of keeping power.  There is a big question people should be asking now.  How do these political power games played out by the political class serve the interests of voters?

But the biggest question of all is this.  What would the Lib-Lab-SNP-PC coalition that’s being mooted mean for England?  The democratic deficit suffered by England due to it having no national legislature could dramatically widen into a chasm if such a coalition assumes power.  It would mean legislation is foisted upon England by a government comprised of Scottish and Welsh nationalists, possibly with the aid of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists.

If Clegg and Labour agree a pact, how will England’s voters – who thought they had defeated Labour – react to being led by another Labour Prime Minister and having legislation imposed on them by MPs from other countries?  One thing we can be sure of, while Cameron would have been bad for this country, a Clegg-Miliband/Balls/Harman axis will be an utter disaster.

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The reality and consequences of EU membership

In Europe, but not run by Europe?  If media reports are acurate, the reality and consequences of EU membership may have yet again been laid bare this weekend.  We are not part of the Euro currency.  But because our political class took it upon themselves to entwine us ever deeper into the EU’s structures – without the permission of the British people – our Chancellor has been instructed to present himself in Brussels to sign up to a ‘European stabilisation mechanism’.

This mechanism will saddle us with billions of pounds of liabilities to prop up Eurozone economies.  Britain will be unable to veto this latest EU wheeze as it will be rammed through under the ‘qualified majority voting’ system.

Just to put things into context.  It is Alistair Darling – member of a defeated government – who will be attending the meeting on the UK’s behalf.  The UK will be presented with pact which, even if rejected by Darling, will be forced upon us at potentially huge cost, by members of a currency that is not ours, thanks to the ‘tidying up exercise’ known as the Lisbon Treaty.  No doubt anyone complaining to David Cameron about this will be told again to stop ‘banging on about Europe‘ and reminded that little Nick Clegg adores the EU and he has to be kept happy is Dave and Sam are to move into Number 10 before the birth of their fourth child.

The UK should not have any liabilities to bailing out a Eurozone country. We have plenty of problems of our own and would need to borrow even more money in order to lend it to Greece, or Spain/Portugal in due course.  But then, this is what happens when you give up political sovereignty and allow an unelected and unaccountable entity to dictate your actions. This is what membership of the EU means. None of us voted for this.  We were denied the chance by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and, yes, even retrospectively by the Conservatives.

Those people who defended Cameron before the General Election by saying that the EU is way down the list of voters’ priorities might find that changes as voters increasingly come to realise that far from being a side issue, EU membership influences almost every area of government of this country – making EU membership a priority issue.

We cannot rely on Labour, the Lib Dems or the Cameron Conservatives to ask voters if they wish to restore our national political sovereignty and redefine our relationship with the EU.  So it is time for a new political movement that will honestly and properly represent the views of voters, offer real democracy and accountability and seek a binding mandate for major reforms, not the cosmetic political class stitch up that currently holds sway and fails so miserably to serve our interests.

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This is what Proportional Representation will be like

The voters have spoken clearly and demonstrated they want the political parties to work together. Well, according to Ed Miliband at any rate, as he held forth in front of TV cameras without the supervision of a responsible adult.  Miliband made his idiotic comment despite there being not one voter who had a ballot paper where they could mark an X to vote for coalition government or cross-party cooperation. Voters went into polling stations (if they arrived in good time and there were ballot papers available) to chose the MP or the political party they most supported or least disliked.

The absence of a definitive outcome is frustrating many voters, many of whom are wondering what the hell is going on.  Why, many are wondering, having clearly lost the popular vote and not secured the largest number of seats, is Gordon Brown is still taking power naps in Downing Street?

Welcome to the future that awaits Britain in just about every future election if the first past the post system is scrapped in favour of proportional representation.  We are already conditioned to put up with bad government, but now we can expect weak government too.  Government where minority parties force the majority party to abandon manifesto pledges that earned it enough votes to become the largest party.  Government where the part of the legislative agenda not offshored to the EU can be dictated by the least popular parties, whose policies only resonated with a limited number of voters.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Lib Dem position on voting reform and Nick Clegg has repeatedly asserted that people were in the mood for change of the electoral system to proportional representation. But the outcome of this General Election has laid bare the extent of political uncertainty, backroom horsetrading and party political vested interest that comes with such a system.  How days and weeks of secret deals determine how we will be governed.  If voters feel uneasy now, imagine how they will feel when nearly every election results in the vested interests of the political parties coming before the wishes of the people outside the political bubble.

How will voters feel when they finally discover that PR will result in sterile party politics where the elected representatives are in hock to the party, not the electorate?  Need a good example?  Take a look at politics in Greece.  Yes, welcome to the future.  If good intentions pave the road to hell, PR is one of the pavement slabs.

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Wham, bam, no thanks Cam

As expected, it didn’t take long.  The reports of Conservative MPs issuing warnings to David Cameron not to make a deal with the Liberal Democrats without first consulting them are already surfacing. As the Mail claims, disgruntled backbenchers are voicing scepticism at Cameron’s plans for an agreement with Nick Clegg and have urged him to change his leadership style, complaining that key decisions are taken by a clique around the leader. Their complaints are somewhat hollow given that Cameron has long implemented a fundamentally undemocratic centralised and controlling approach.

The position the political parties now find themselves in is laughable. Having spent months telling us how very different they all are, the parties have now been forced to publicly tell each other just how much they have in common, as they seek to jockey for advantage in order to secure positions of power for themselves.

Despite spending weeks telling us how damaging the Lib Dem agenda was, to satisfy his lust for power and place in history by reaching 10 Downing Street, Cameron is now trying to claim the Conservatives and Lib Dems have a lot in common and could work together in a coalition government. From being unfit for office the Lib Dems are now being touted as worthy partners.  As a result the stench of hypocrisy wafts ever stronger across the country.  On his blog, Guido argues the Conservatives are right to suck up to the Lib Dems in the hope of realigning politics:

Now is an historic opportunity to reform politics for the better, to open up politics and government, to roll back an authoritarian state.  If the Tory right is too small minded to allow Cameron to do a deal with Clegg then they are as stupid as they are short-sighted.  This is an historic opportunity to realign politics along a liberal-conservative axis.  It is the chance to destroy the Labour Party as a party of government forever. If the price is real reform of the electoral system then that is a price well worth paying to free us from the economic destruction wrought time and time again, decade after decade, by a statist, big government Labour Party.

Guido’s got it badly wrong.  Neither party is of the classical liberal school of thought.  Both still have an authoritarian bent that is exhibited in modern liberal thought.  Aligning politics along the axis of these two parties as they currently stand will still result in statist big government.  It might neuter Labour, which would be no bad thing in itself, but it won’t result in a wholesale rolling back of the state or properly restore individual freedom and liberty for the ordinary citizen. It won’t result in a restoration of national sovereignty.

The country still requires a genuine and principled, centre-right, democratic conservative alternative that doesn’t just make passing reference to individual freedom and limited government, but will actually deliver it.  Any Conservative coalition with the Liberal Democrats will cement the vacuum that exists to the right of centre, a vacuum that is reinforced by the strictly limited appeal of UKIP.  The time has come for a Democratic Conservative alternative that talks to the issues that matter to voters and embodies a genuinely new politics, rather than the imitation, sham version offered by Cameron and Clegg.

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David Cameron lost the election on 1 Nov 2009

Most of the results are in and the Cameron Conservatives have come up short in their quest for an overall majority in the House of Commons.  But forget 6th May 2010.  This General Election result became possible as far back as 1st November 2009.  

Make no mistake, the single most important issue that contributed to Cameron being denied an outright win overnight was his decision in November to ‘let matters rest there’ with regard to ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. For me personally, it was the day I made the decision to leave the unprincipled Cameronised Conservative Party.

The arguments have raged back and forth since that day.  Many people have sought to give the impression that Cameron’s hands were tied by the ratification.  Therefore, they contend, he had no option but to abandon his pledge to empower the British people to say whether or not they would permit the export of significant power to the EU.  Many voters haven’t bought that spin.  They know all to0 well that a referendum could still have been held giving Cameron a mandate to abrogate from the terms of the Treaty.  Cameron chose the easy way out and denied the people an entitlement to approve Lisbon or throw it out. 

The damage to Cameron’s credibility from that capitulation and acceptance of further powers being exported to Brussels has been all too evident.  As Jim Bowen would say on Bullseye, let’s see what Cameron could have won… On the very day the Conservatives signalled that about-face, an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph showed that if the General Election was being held the next day, the Conservatives would have had a 17-point lead over Labour:

Conservatives 42%
Labour 25%
Liberal Democrats 21%

As the Sunday Telegraph pointed out at the time, those numbers would have been enough to give the Conservatives a majority of around 111, based on a national uniform swing.  Just four days later, before the implications of Cameron’s position has really sunk in, a YouGov poll for Channel 4 reported on ConservativeHome showed how strong the Conservative position still was:

Of course, since then the Conservative poll standings have gradually withered away as voters rightly classified Cameron as just another untrustworthy politician.  For weeks the polls have shown the Conservatives with a 6-7% lead over Labour, on around 36% – and that is exactly how the voting has stacked up.  It’s an incredible contrast and evidence of a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.  The only person responsible for the outcome we have seen today is David Cameron.

Now it remains to be seen what behind the scenes deals can be struck by the party hacks.  With Nick Clegg apparently reconfirming his ‘will he – won’t he’ commitment to allowing the largest party to form a government, it seems Cameron could have a lifeboat with which to reach Number 10.  However, Cameron will be reliant on the support of other parties in order to govern, which could result in the kind of weak and ineffective government that often accompanies coalitions.  But the shenanigans are not over yet as the fall out from postal voting fraud, and the people left queueing without being able to vote, is yet to land.

Now, as the political class plays its backroom games and the electorate is left mystified by the uncertainty of what’s going on, only one thing is certain –  Westminster will become the scene of messy deals and policy fudges that serve the interests of the political class, not the voters.  The only thing that is certain is that no one, not a single political party and not the electorate, have won the 2010 General Election.  Maybe we will soon be required to do it all over again.  Lucky us.

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Labour’s obsession with dumbing down and celebrity

What is it with the Labour Party?  As a party that proclaims it is the most competent to form the next administration, it seems to have a stunning lack of confidence in its leaders.  That can be the only explanation for its reliance on the perceived popularity of entertainers and actors to try to win votes for the party.

Not content with focusing media attention on the dyed in the wool, politically illiterate, socialist transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard in recent weeks, Labour is now hoping the popularity of actor, Ross Kemp, will have soap and fly on the wall TV viewers thinking ‘Oh, that nice Ross Kemp supports Labour so I should vote for them’.

It seems Labour’s leadership is so aware that they repulse voters, they are desperately trying to assume support by association. It really underlines the dumbing down of politics.  Instead of senior Labour MPs standing front and centre in support of a genuine policy agenda and arguing the merits of their case on issues that matter to voters, Labour is leaning on millionaire celebrities to repeat ‘Janet and John’ endorsements containing nothing more than polished platitudes and sweeping generalisations.

The hope must be that over the last 13 years the population has become to riveted by trivia and fiction it will respond to people whose only qualification is being able to remember lines and repeat them for a camera in return for substantial earnings.  Perhaps Labour is hoping that the viewers will forget that these people are only known for the parts they play.

Being a stage comedian or an actor does not give someone any more authoratative insight into what is best for voters than being a blogger or a greengrocer.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.  But then, so is Parliamentary party politics in this increasingly undemocratic country.

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The media’s disproportionate influence in politics

Some journalists are becoming defensive about their week-long, Kool Aid-drinking antics in relation to Clegg. One hack, protesting way too much, says ‘Cleggmania is not just media hype… Clegg is the public’s favourite too’.

There’s more where that came from too.  Another outstanding and incisive piece from ‘Spiked’ editor, Brendan O’Neill, that is well worth reading.

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Clegg’s EU puppetmasters excited by his rise

Labour and the Cameron Conservatives are bad enough when it comes to selling out to the EU.  But Nick Clegg would be by far the biggest EUphile toadying politico we have ever seen in Britain.  How long will it be before the ordinary British people who want power repatriated from Brussels but are leaning towards Nick Clegg realise he stands for the complete opposite of their wishes?  The EU loving FT.com is lapping it up:

‘Still, as Clegg rides high in the polls, Europe has a big beaming smile on its face – but it is doing its best to hide it, for fear that British voters spot it and punish Clegg accordingly.’

– Tony Barber, Financial Times’ Brusselsblog

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Media polls pushing The Clegg Supremacy

For those of us who recognise this election campaign for what it is and how little its outcome will change things, the news that a BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday puts the Liberal Democrats in the lead is absolutely hilarious.  On the strength of 90 minutes of well rehearsed television, the carefully chosen questions and meticulously structured answers have seen the opinion polls sent into a frenzy of wild responses.

The media is at the heart of this as it talks up style over substance and goes through its three step coverage model that, as this blog suggested yesterday, mirrors th Bourne trilogy of films.  We are now deep into part two, The Clegg Supremacy.  Such is the desperation of many voters to get rid of Gordon Brown, and many other voters to avoid the volte face shenanigans of David Cameron, the ‘great ignored’ of the electorate are now seemingly throwing their support behind the ‘great ignored’ of the political bubble, Nick Clegg.

Despite only a fraction of those entitled to vote actually watching the Leaders’ Debate, all pollsters are seemingly finding Liberal Democrat support surging ahead.  It is often said that a country gets the government it deserves.  Well, Britain is looking likely to get just that, because so many voters are so disconnected from the political process they are telling opinion polls they would vote Lib Dem despite having no idea what exactly they would be voting for.  Consider this…

  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons say we have too much EU and they want less.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is deeper integration into the EU with more powers handed to Brussels.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want illegal immigrants prevented from entering the country and deported when discovered. The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is an amnesty allowing over 1 million illegals to remain.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want to keep the Pound and reject the Euro.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is to scrap the Pound as soon as possible and make the Euro our currency.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want less taxation.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is to reduce income tax a little and increase indirect taxation by a lot, so we all pay more to the Exchequer.

Despite these examples, voters appear to be flocking to the Lib Dems because a small sample audience and the massed media corps tell them that Nick Clegg won the Leaders’ Debate and is oh-so-different from Brown and Cameron.  You couldn’t write a sit com this funny.  If voters knew what the Lib Dems stood for, Clegg poll ratings would be sliding rather than increasing.

The crucial point this makes is that the media desperation to fill space results in the political class being able to dumb down politics, to such an extent that people can be encouraged to support parties on the basis of style and presentation instead of substance.  That’s why voters are getting behind the Lib Dems despite their small collection of policy variants being the most unpopular on offer and their tactics being the nastiest of the lot.  But as long as the media gets to fill space and has something new to write, these inconvenient facts will be airbrushed from the coverage.

Update: His Grace, Archbishop Cranmer, makes a similar point on his blog.

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The Clegg Trilogy and style over political substance

The Leaders’ Debate has spawned saturation coverage of Nick Clegg because he ‘won’ the debate.  Hardly anyone who watched the 90 minutes of heavily sanitised and carefully rehearsed eyelid fluttering can remember anything Clegg said, but apparently he ‘came across best’ because he, gasp, looked into the camera and sounded reasonable.  This is what our politics has been reduced to.

The debate has presented the media with the political equivalent of the Bourne trilogy of films.  The debate itself can be cast as The Clegg Identity.  Media coverage of his performance and subsequent polling has become The Clegg Supremacy.  And now the reports suggest to counter him, Labour and Conservative media experts and policy wonks are plotting the script for The Clegg Ultimatum in an attempt to shoot him down.

But notice how all this focus is about personality rather than substance.  Regardless the media is happy to be part of the game and is playing ball.  The problem with the media is that it has its own agenda.  In the run up to the General Election being called, editorial planning meetings will have taken place at all major publications and broadcasters where decisions would have been taken about the narrative that would be followed.

Thousands of column inches and hours of air time will have been set aside for the reporting about the campaign and carrying analysis from the talking heads about the policy pledges, gaffes and state of the opinion polls.  The excitement in newsrooms about a month of frenetic activity and opportunities to find different reporting angles from rival media will have ensured journalists were as hyped up as boxers before a world title fight.

But the media corps has encountered an absence of genuinely far reaching policies.  It has discovered the politicians have set arbitrary parameters to airbrush the most important and unsettling issues out of the campaign because there is a consensus that negates the need for parties to offer alternatives.

As a result the media has been reduced to a starving pack of wild dogs tearing into any small titbit of news to satisfy its ravenous appetite.  If the only fayre on offer to fill those column inches and broadcast hours is the political beauty pageant borne of personality politics, the mainstream media will run with that – the interests of the readers and viewers be damned.

So it is that The Leaders’ Debate has become a story on steroids.  Billed by the media as historic because it was the first debate of its type in this country, it was nothing more than a seminal milestone on the route taken by this country in its flight from meaningful politics of substance.  Yet many mainstream media journalists are still beside themselves that ordinary voters not only failed to tune in en masse, but remain disinterested and disconnected from the phoney campaign.

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The Leaders’ Debate underlined our political decay

‘It was a historic moment’, said shouty newsreader Alastair Stewart, at the end of a debate that felt stubbornly unhistoric. Last night, for the first time in British history, the main party leaders – Labour’s Gordon Brown, the Tories’ David Cameron and the Lib Dems’ Nick Clegg – went head-to-head in a TV studio, precisely, and ironically, at a time when the political parties have little of substance or interest to say. But the debate did, inevitably, provide a snapshot of the derelict state of contemporary politics. Here are five at least semi-notable things it highlighted.

That was Brendan O’Neill writing in Spiked.  O’Neill goes on to set out his five interesting things that firmly underline the vacuous nature of British politics today as exposed by The Leaders’ Debate: Clegg becomes king by default, Politics is drained of all substance, Performance trumps conviction, The media write the narrative and The public is patronised.

It really is an incisive must read for those who want to maintain an objective view of the state of representative democracy in Britain today.  Despite the criticism hurled in O’Neill’s direction on a frequent basis, many of his musings on the state of our politics at any rate, are on the money.

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Election 2010: Voters continue to snub political beauty contest

‘We’re still waiting for this election to come alive.  The campaign will not catch fire while party leaders insist on ducking the real issues and keeping the electorate at a safe distance’, says Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph today.

Thus we have more evidence for the assertions made before on this blog, that this election offers nothing new.  It is a phoney war, where voters are disengaged from the political class, because the campaign is nothing but an empty charade where the issues that matter to voters have been kept firmly off the table.  Gilligan is probably guilty of over analysing what’s happening.  He asks:

‘Could it be that, in an election decided in 150 marginals, people are twigging how little influence they have?’

To be honest, few people outside the media corps and the political obsessives club (member, guilty) give any thought to such electoral subtexts.  What it boils down to is not the influence of marginal constituencies, but whether or not voters feel there is any point voting in a censored, stage managed and issue-free election.  Gilligan demonstrates that the media is starting to get it, but remains baffled by the lack of voter interest when he muses:

Every time I turn on the TV, I seem to find Gordon Brown in some heavily policed council house, sharing a sofa with vetted Labour voters, or Mr Cameron being applauded by a well-scrubbed, carefully multi-ethnic claque of young Tories in T-shirts. To date, there have been no breakthrough moments, no episodes of real spontaneity, only one minor voter ambush – and despite the media verdict that the Tories “won” the first week, they have scored little, if any, dividend in the polls.

And the reason for that is the political class refuses to listen to any of our concerns, leaving us with nothing but a political beauty contest rather than a battle of ideas about the future of this country’s people and Britain’s place in the world.  This is what this blog and many others have long predicted.  This election is the most sanitised and ideology-free in our history, which is why we can expect collective yawning and mass TV channel changing tonight as Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg ‘debate’ in a format that is more regimented than the North Korean armed forces.

Truth be told, if as much effort went into keeping our hospitals as meticulously free from bugs as this election is free from issues that matter to voters, MRSA, C difficile and Necrotizing fasciitis infections would become things of the past, mere footnotes in the annals of medical history.  The political class has destroyed representative democracy because they are not interested in representation, only those things that matter to them.

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