Posts Tagged ‘Clegg’
It is time to batten down the hatches according to the weathermen. We’ve done our best on the allotments this morning and can now only pray that the talk of hurricane-force winds is wide of the mark. Should it happen expect to see a flock of chickens circling Manchester airport. The spectacle could even include a little fat chap since Albert insists he will stay with his flock if the worst develops!
So there is plenty to moan about this cold morning, and the one thing we are good at is moaning. But we realise that we are much blessed compared with the jobless and elderly who have effectively been left abandoned by a government continuing to stick to a fiscal plan that even Bladrick would recognise as unworkable.
Today we learn that unemployment is on course to hit 3 million for the first time in 20 years. We also learn that the desperately needed reforms to elderly care have been put back to 2025. Both situations are totally unacceptable, and will undoudtedly lead to social unrest in the first case and extreme hardship and cruelty in the second.
Yesterday brought Prime Minister’s Question Time and one would have expected a serious debate about a crisis rapidly spinning out of control. What did we get? A pathetic yah-hoo of childish taunts from Cameron and Miliband. The leader of the opposition did make the valid point that the government’s belief that cuts in public worker’s numbers would be offset by increases in the private sector has proved to be nonsense given that, in the absence of measures to boost growth, business volume is falling sharply. But from that point the two men turned the exchange into a comedy. Miliband taunted Cameron about his rift with Clegg, Cameron then focussed on the Miliband family divisions. They went on to enact a scene that resembled Captain Mainwaring’s set-to’s with Mr Hodges, the grocer/ARP chief. They undoubtedly went to bed chuckling, the jobless and elderly – if they watched this rubbish at all – probably shed tears on their pillows.
As each day passes it becomes ever more evident that Keynes was right. To beat recession there must be growth stimualtion aimed at encouraging consumer spending, albeit not based on debt. Unless Osborne changes tack the private sector will continue to contract. Given the choice the few companies that recruit will understandably select experienced applicants and the number of young people who have never worked will continue to rocket.
We already know that care for the elderly infirm is at breaking point and there have been various revelations of neglect and cruelty. Yesterday Lansley refused to rule out a new tax on pensioners to pay for the soaring costs of old age, and his advisers admitted that key parts of the proposed reforms may not take place until 2025. Spending cuts have already driven some care homes out of business, while inspectors have warned that elderly and vulnerable people are being abused by poorly trained helpers in their own homes.
Earlier this year, a government commission led by Andrew Dilnot, an economist, recommended a series of reforms including a plan for individuals to take out private insurance to cover the first £35,000 of any nursing or care home costs they might incur in old age. Costs would be capped and care bills over the £35,000 limit would be met by the state. He also recommended that short term measures were needed to protect those already in care.
That will of course cost money so the answer is no hope. Yet when the Olympic committee asks for a doubling of its budget for the opening ceremony the answer is go ahead. And the high-speed rail project is gobbling cash even before the controversial plan is approved.
We clearly have a strange sense of priorities compounded by an economic strategy that simply won’t work. But the worst fact of all is that our leading politicians don’t care. Both major parties are devoid of initiatives and intent only on point-scoring. Yes, the situation is serious but there seems to be no concern for either young people seeking work or elderly needing decent care.
We have lost our soul and there are no champions to point to a better tomorrow!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Rio de Janeiro 2. Australia and Tasmania 3. Cairo 4. Camp David 5. Martha’s Vineyard 6. Between East and West Berlin 7. Florida 8. Israel and Jordan 9. Iraq 10. Nile
If there is such a thing as a Duke of Edinburgh fan club, we codgers of the allotments should be in it. Philip is held in high esteem amongst our gang and not just because he is even older than we are. Some of us remember him as a dashing naval commander, few would have bet on his lasting the course as a silent member of a privileged and somewhat outdated clique. But he has toed the line apart from the occasional outburst. And today the papers are full of one of them.
We have always contended that the man is worth listening to, that he has more expoerience and nous than Cameron, Clegg and Miliband merged into one. And why shouldn’t he speak out, this is still supposedly a democracy. Yesterday he did just that in a conversation with Esbjorn Wilmar, of Infinergy, which builds and operates turbines. Philip was quick on the attack, he described wind turbines as “absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace”. We agree wholeheartedly.
The Duke went on to ask if Mr Wilmar believes in fairy stories. a good question since almost everything we have been told about wind farms is just that, a fairy story. Right now every electricity customer is paying around £90 per year to subsidise the monstrosities that are popping up everywhere. Heaven help you if you live withing two miles of a land-based version for the noise emitted is horrendous, so much so that right across the country turbines are being switched off during strong winds following a huge number of complaints about unacceptable noise levels. Residents near a new 22-turbine wind farm in Fullabrook, Devon, report that the noise is so acute that many sleep on sofas in their front rooms!
Already the UK has 3,421, with 2941 being onshore. Incentives are being paid to land owners with a view to a further 4500 being erected urgently, most of them owned by overseas companies, which currently receive around £500 million per year in government subsidies.
Noise apart, there is another major problem. During the coldest weather there is usually little wind and turbines cannot produce power without wind. On the other hand when there are very strong winds the national grid cannot cope with the surge and the power produced cannot be stored. Ministers contend that wind harnessing is essential if we are to meet the official commitment to produce 32 per cent of Britain’s electricity from 2020. But it simply will not work.
Even if we were able to build 10,000 turbines between then and now, they would come nowhere near meeting a third of our needs – indeed, during the coldest winter months, when demand is highest, they would supply only about one tenth of the demand. That means that gas-fired power stations, whose operation pushes more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And electricity generated by wind is vastly more expensive that that generated in other ways.
Of course there is an urgent need to generate clean electricity while cutting our use of fossil fuels. But wind farms are not the answer, neither is solar power, wave power or tidal power. The theory in every case sounds fine but the volume capabilility is very low indeed. Sadly the only way to pursue a dynamic green energy power is to build new nuclear power stations.
Not a popular idea. But simply spending vast amounts of something that can never make a significant impact is ludicrous, truly a fairy story.
Predictably, the politicians are rushing to silence the Duke and anyone else who dares to question their supposed wisdom. Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, calls opponents of wind-power “curmudgeons and fault-finders”. Coming from someone who seems incapable of remembering whether or not he was driving a car, that is rich. Coming from someone who supports spending £1 billion on buying up properties to clear the way for high-speed rail which will serve a tiny fraction of those suffering appalling rail services, it is as rich as Albert’s wife Christmas cake.
Good for the Duke. He may not have been elected but he regularly demonstrates a good deal more sense than those that were!
VIEW FROM (NEAR TO) THE SPEAKER’S CHAIR!
Sally Burcow in today’s Sunday Star; “First it was Labour’s fault, then the snow was to blame. And now its the Eurozone’s turn. Next thing you know it will be leaves on the line. How easy this politics game is. Just avoid taking responsibility and pass the buck!
Well I’m afraid it won’t wash. Unemployment figures are at a 17-year high and more than a million young people are out of work. For the government to blame the Eurozone is absurd. The fact is jobless figures always have a time lag . There is more connection with what happened six months ago.
It is time for this Government to stop pointing the finger at other people – or the weather. Come on Tories, man up and take responsibility – you’re fast running out of excuses. They urgently need a plan to stimulate growth and create new jobs. They should delay no longer.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. A cucumber 2. Jans Lehmann 3. Sutton Pierce 4. The Mikado 5. St Leger 6. Peter (Rabbit) 7. A Human 8. An Alto 9. Partridges 10. Saddam Hussein
There were one or two disgruntled souls amongst us this morning as we sorted out the squabbling hens. The reason was twofold. As happens when daylight hours reduce the hens have reduced their egg output more than somewhat, it is a time when even the most enthusiastic questions the amount of work involved and its reward. But the main reason for Albert and Billy doing a Victor Meldrew was that the vote went aginst them at last night’s gathering of the alloments association. But, as someone pointed out, that’s democracy for you. Everyone has a vote and sometimes the verdict isn’t what one desires.
I have long suspected that the democracy that we Brits love to lecture other countries about only happens at local level. We elect MPs, which is democratic, but they are prevented by the parliamentary whip system from reflecting the feelings of their constituents, which isn’t. And today we have the perfect example.
In preparation for Monday’s vote on an EU referendum, the Daily Express commissioned a YouGov survey. The poll found that more than two-thirds of all voters – 67 per cent – would like their MPs to vote in favour of holding a referendum. Of Tory supporters 78 per cent were in favour, of Labour 59 per cent and of Lib Dems 57 per cent. Equally telling is the fact that 75 per cent wanted MPs to be free to vote according to their personal views, having taken readings in their constituencies. Immigration was cited as the biggest factor encouraging a desire to reconsider our EU links with 81 per cent and 60 per cent of Tories and Labour respectively making clear their unease.
So, this being a democracy, Monday’s vote will be an historic one. Actually no. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg have all imposed a three-line whip with instructions to their MPs to vote down the proposal for a referendum. Some MPs are so incensed that they may risk rebellion but anyone with even the faintest ambition for promotion will not dare to do so. But in defying public opinion perhaps the reviled trio are at least standing by their beliefs. Actually no!
The records show very clearly what each man promised before the election. Cameron was crystal clear, a Conservative government would hold an early referendum to establish the view of the people in regard to Brussels. Clegg claimed to be “passionate” about a referendum and added that; “We’ve been signed up to Europe by default; two generations have never had their say”. Miliband made no secret of his love of Europe, but did promise the referendum that both Blair and Brown failed to hold despite promising to do so.
It is therefore not unreasonable to charge all three with telling lies. Neither is it unreasonable to charge them with a total contempt for, and disregard of, democracy. Few see the benefits of being a member of a vast bureaucratic and unaccountable organisation. Few support many of the myriad of regulations, the talk of an EU army and constant leaks revealing waste and corruption. But that is beside the point which is that the people have a right to at least express a view.
Let us hope that at least some brave souls will refuse to be told what they can and cannot vote for on Monday. Norman Tebbit spoke for many people of all political persuasions when he said yesterday that imposition of a gag in parliament will “embitter” many. It will, he said, be seen by voters as “a mixture of threats, cowardice and clever political manoeuvring”.
It will also tell us a good deal about the snivelling and dishonest leaders of our so-called democracy!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH OUR WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. What did MGM stand for? 2. What colour is puce? 3. Which “Pop Idol” winner appeared on “You are What You Eat”? 4. Who was the first presenter of the TV series “Tomorrow’s World”? 5. Which cartoon character was the “fastest mouse in Mexico”? 6. Who had 90s No.1 hits with “The Power” and “Rhythm is a Dancer”? 7. Which US state is the second smallest? 8. According to the saying, who rush in where angels fear to tread? 9. What is Blue Vinney? 10. Who wrote “Five Children and It” and “Wet Magic“?
It is hard to believe that just a week ago we were complaining about the heat. Today we cleaned out the hens in an howling gale and temperatures capable of freezing a brass monkey, in the unlikely event that such a creature would inhabit an allotment. But be thankful for small mercies, the season of political party conferences is over and we shall no longer have our evening news dominated by pictures of Clegg, Miliband and Cameron reading out speeches written by spin-doctors and received with rapturous applauise for those daft enough to attend such things. Neither will we suffer the irritation of hearing that the shebangs have cost the taxpayer millions in terms of police overtime, traffic diversions and civic receptions.
As if to demonstrate what an utter farce these things are the three leader’s script-writers released the texts of the main address at least a day before it was read/acted by the mighty ones. In the case of Cameron, the process proved not only futile but rather revealing. In the version released overnight to the press his writers had the great man urging everyone to pay off their credit cards. It was only when the papers headlined the advice that someone realised that, in the unlikely event that anyone took notice and acted, the economy would dive even faster than it currently is. What is needed is more spending, not more saving said the gurus, and by the time Cameron slithered to the podium he had performed his zillionth U-turn.
Since we can reasonably designate the Lib Dems as a sort of flacid limb of the Conservatives, it seems equally reasonable to regard David Cameron’s words as being those of the government. Right now the only issue that matters is the plunging economy and it has to be said that he cast little bread on to the waters. There seemed little substance, merely a supposedly Churchillian appeal to rally to the flag, to put the Great back in Great Britain.
Unfortunately, according to The International Monetary Fund (IMF), Germany and the UK, both of whom are still able to borrow at low interest rates, should now “consider delaying” their cuts programme. The IMF argues that Britain could afford to raise its debt by 50% of GDP without triggering a crisis. The benefit would be growth. But all that Cameron and George Osborne came up with was a wheeze to make people pay £1000 for an unfair dismissal hearing. Good stuff for the right-wing, but hardly likely to impact on our flat-growth pojection.
“We are the party of enterprise” squeaked Mr Osborne. As figures published over the weekend show, his party is first and foremost the party of the City of London and financial engineering. More than half the party’s donations in the last year came from the City and banking. Its most lavish donors were hedge funds, financiers and private equity firms; the very interests which drove the financial sector over the cliff in 2007-8.
It’s not just slashing the rate of corporation tax for banks, or delaying the milk-and-water Vickers bank ringfencing proposals until 2009, or refusing to clamp down on bank bonuses or vetoeing a financial transactions Tobin tax. Its the refusal to intervene directly in banking or finance to drive recovery that most starkly reveals whose interests the government puts first.
Sadly if you examine the other actions by the Chancellor you find a similar pattern. When he struck a deal with Switzerland, and British tax evaders stashing their ill-gotten gains in Swiss banks, he could have held out for £25 billion. Instead he settled for £5 billlion. Meantime changes to controlled foreign company rules, capital allowances, inheritance tax and similar levies (all of which reward only corporations or the ultra-rich) will deprive the exchequer of billions.
It is against this background that the government has to hammer the middle and lower income classes to balance the books, although even this isn’t happening so far in the austerity regime. To be fair the governmnet has an enormous political dilemma. It has to convince the mass of the people that we are all in this together whilst at the same time maintaining its warm relations with its political paymasters. Not dissimilar to the dilemma of the Labour Party and the trades unions, the difference being that Labour is not in power.
One doesn’t need to be Robert Peston to work all this out. But political affiliations are rooted in history and no amount of rhetoric will change the outcome. Which leaves the question about the point of conferences.
They achieve nothing and are simply a way of firing up the activists of each party. Since 96% of us do not come within that label the messages pass us by. After several weeks of successive conferences all I remember is the Labour lot booing Blair’s name, and Theresa May’s porkie about a cat. Lib Dems? I honestly can’t remember anything.
Clearly what is needed is someone at the helm who is not in hock to the City or trades unions. Someone capable of making objective judgements without fear or favour. Robert Peston for PM say I. We wouldn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about but he just might know which buttons to press, and clearly has no concerns at alienating anyone!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. The Pope 2. Estate car 3. The deaf 4. Dakota 5. Thomas Sorenson 6. Tibet 7. Tax 8. Munich 9. Two 10. SAS
I remember holding a straw-poll just after the general election. It was a fine day and a fair number of allotment holders had gathered in the ‘shed’, there was much talk about the negotiations being carried out by the Lib Dems with both Cameron and Grumpy Gordon. Over a third of us had voted Lib Dem and there was a good deal of speculation as to what Clegg – who had bewitched many of us with his TV debate performances – would do.
The course of action favoured by most of his new disciples was that he should opt for allowing the Conservatives to form a minority government with the promise of support so long as its policies were acceptable to the Lib Dems. This would enable the risen stars to act in the national interest whilst leaving them free to maintain their own identity. Even better, they would have retained the right to force a general election on any issue on which they had widespread public support. The result could easily have been a triumph and the first Liberal government in living memory.
But the lure of high office took Clegg along another path. He entered into a marriage of non-equals, and the latest Mori poll tells us that should an election take place now, almost two-thirds of those who voted Lib Dem would no longer do so. In fact a straw poll on the allotments yesterday showed no one willing to contemplate any alternative to the two traditional giants. Tim Farron, the president, said at the Lib Dem conference that “without the Lib Dem influence the Conservative dominated government would have been a “nightmare”. He missed the point which is that without the Lib Dems there would be no Tory-led government.
In reality the Lib Dems have excercised little restraint. The Tories’ ideological prescription for down-sizing the state and pushing ahead with its neoliberal agenda means that the NHS and the welfare state are seriously at risk. The Tories are using the opportunity of the financial crisis to transfer taxpayer’s money from the state to the private sector, not because it is more effective, but because that is what their ideology demands. The Lib Dems have made it possible for the Tories to do pretty much everything they dreamed of doing, with just a little bit of tweaking at the edges as a sop to their junior partners.
On the NHS for example, every expert in the land is warning of its imminent demise and privatisation. The concessions supposedly wrung out of Lansley by the Lib Dems make no difference whatsoever to the thrust of the bill. Had the Lib Dems retained an independent status it would never have seen the light of day.
It is difficult to see how the party that, for a few short weeks, Nick Clegg took to the brink of electoral success can survive at all from the mess that he has created. If, as we all hope, the government succeeds in its economic policy, the credit will go to Cameron and Osborne. Should it fail, the blame will almost certainly be placed at the hands of people such as Alexander and Cable.
In fact any successes will not be shared. Cameron has reasonably claimed success over the intervention in Libya. Do you recall any of his TV appearances on this ever including a mention of Clegg? On Europe, Cameron has undoubtedly been grateful for the option to point at Lib Dem opposition to demands from the right of his party for a referendum and a withdrawal from the Human Rights Act. He is able to tell his right-wing supporters what they want to hear without actually doing anything, thus avoiding a damaging split with the pro-European Tory wing.
Nick Clegg likes to invoke as a comparison the coalition that served the country so well in World War 11. It is pure nonsense. The marriage then was one of equals and so great was the external threat that the nation recoiled from political dogma. There were no ideological debates to be had, Corporal Hitler saw to that.
Nick Clegg’s big address at the Lib Dem conference was every bit as well acted as we have come to expect. He was reading ftrom an autocue and yet still managed to convey the impression of someone sincerely pausing for thought, of someone reaching into his very soul to find the truth. But even in that he did make one huge error.
He chose to launch the bitterest possible personalised attack on Miliband, Ball and others. He publicly burned his boats so far as any possible liaison with Labour is concerned should there be another hung parliament. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, since the possibility of one becomes more remote by the day.
Who knows who will emerge from the next election for both Conservative and Labour parties are less than impressive. But the odds are that one of them will. People will regard a vote for the Lib Dems as one for the Tories. The inevitable outcome will surely be a total redistribution of that impressive Lib Dem vote on a pro or anti Conservative basis.
I take no pleasure in believing this. Just for a fleeting time I, and millions like me, thought we were witnessing the birth of a new age in British politics. We were transfixed by the relatively unknown Clegg. Alas, he lives in cloud-cuckoo land!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Hertfordshire 2. A miller 3. Frank Morgan 4. Andy 5. Rome 6. Canada 7. Michael Bentine 8. Nijinsky 9. Grass 10. As a Tomato