Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’
A couple of readers have asked about the fate of our hens when their days of egg-laying are over. The answer is that they are moved into what we call our retirement runs. Our reasoning is that they have served us well and we must return the favour. Hens often live for up to four years after their productive days are over and, like us, their energy levels diminish as each year passes. The result is that they are no trouble and live happily given a regular supply of corn and water. Unlike we mortals, they are not at the mercy of such as British Gas!
For that they should think their lucky avian stars. So obscenely high have Britian’s biggest energy supplier’s profits become that even they have felt shamed into announcing a price freeze for the forseeable future. In October prices were increased yet again, this time by 6%. Then came a fiercely cold winter and, hey presto, up went the profits and top executive salaries. Whilst the feeze is welcome news for the long suffering 10 million customers, it does throw into considerable doubt all the claims about tight margins. This looks like a desperate attempt to save face because of the public backlash.
But for us codgers the big news of the day is the publication of the latest Guardian/ICM poll. There has been a further dramatic rise in support for Ukip, the greatest shift since the creation of the SDP back in 1981. Ukip’s share of the ‘vote’ has risen to 18% and all three main parties have suffered losses. At 11% the Lib Dems have all but vanished, and the Conservatives have dropped to 28%. Labour still holds the lead but has fallen to 34%, a poor performance given the general impression of a failing economic policy and a coalition coming apart at the seams.
The statistics point to an inexorable rise in the popularity of Ukip, but it is the analysis of the reasons for that that will have sent shivers down many a minister or shadow minister’s spine this morning. A surge of Euroscepticism would seem the obvious explanation and our dear leader is turning cartwheels in his attempt to placate the large slice of the Tory party that is demanding an early referendum. Even the ardent Euro fans of the Labour and Lib Dem camps are attempting to climb on the fence on the matter of rule by Brussels.
But whilst there is some evidence that the new Ukip followers would like a say on Europe there is no sense of urgency or priority. Everything points to an escalating disgruntlement about a political class perceived as hopelessly out of touch. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ratings given to the various leaders.
Ed Miliband gets the thumbs down from 76% of would-be Ukip voters. David Cameron is almost as unpopular at 68%, and 55% believe that the Cameron/Clegg partnership is bad for Britain. Against this sort of competition it is not hard to shine and Nigel Farage does just that with a positive rating of 40%.
Perhaps most significant of all is the sense of disconnection between former members of the English Tory tribe and its current leadership. Many former Conservatives miss the demotic straight-talking of your Thatchers and Tebbits. They sense not just that Cameron and Osborne have no understanding of the daily grind but that they are made from the same stuff as Tony Blair, whom they hate, metropolitan and superficial.
And Labour’s travails are partly of a piece with those of the Tories, and come down to a sense that Labour politicians have become uncoupled from their voters. Despite Ed Miliband’s efforts, soap box and all, this does not look like a breach that is likely to be quickly healed.
It is the revelation that the Ukip surge is not just about Europe that should worry the political establishment. They can, and undoubtedly will, produce all sorts of promises to douse that fire, but dealing with what is clearly now a deeply rooted mistrust of established career politicians is a far more difficult proposition.
If this trend continues Ukip will rock the cosy political show to its very foundations. Gone for ever could be the cosy Buggins-turn of Tory and Labour, coalitions will become the new order. The present incumbants will comfort themselves that under our first-past-the -post system it is entirely possible for Ukip to take a third of the vote yet win no seats, but does anyone seriously believe that such a system could survive in a democracy?
It is all beginning to sound in line with Bob Dylan’s protest classic The Times they are a-Changin’: The line it is drawn/The curse it is cast/The slow one will later be fast…The order is/ Rapidly fadin’.
It certainly appears to be!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”The Tory party which was once anti-Powell is now becoming close to Powellite”…Gordon Brown, in Scotland yesterday.
I was back amongst the mud and hens this morning. We did eventually reach Cambridge but by the time we did so it was time to turn around and head back. We were only away for a day, but the number of irritating national topics still multiplied like rabbits on heat.
First amongst them was the news that we are now being pressed to contribute more than £25 billion to a new eurozone payout. Despite Britain being outside the eurozone, European officials are demanding Britain hands over what would be the second largest donation. The matter will come to a head today when George Osborne attends a meeting of finance ministers.
The demand is over and above the £12 billion for which we are already liable in respect of loans made to Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Last night Peter Bone, the Tory MP for Wellingborough, urged the Chancellor to stand up for the “British interest”, even if he is as isolated as David Cameron was just days ago. Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP for Clacton, said; “George Osborne has spent 20 months going along with the bail-out and it has cost this country billions which dwarf the austerity measures. He needs to call a halt now”. RIght across the Tory ranks the same sentiments were echoing and, predictably, only the Lib Dem members of the coalition were urging that yet another fortune be handed over.
The view of the people became clear with the results of the latest opinion poll. Suddenly the Conservatives have a huge lead over Labour with the Lib Dems having all but vanished. Whatever Cameron’s motives may have been, his refusal to bow the knee to the bullying tactics of Merkel and Sarkosy won widepsread acclaim. It may well be that the insults subsequently poured out by the French helped more than a little.
Surely Osborne will not now agree to a payment toward a club we have spurned. Should he concede this he can wave goodbye to any hope of a co-operative approach from those now suffering the effects of cuts. Just for once he should glance back to the stance of the sainted Margaret. She gave a whole new meaning to the words No,No,No!
CLEGG AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Nick Clegg will today signal that Lords reform will be the key parliamentary battleground of next year by promising that the Queen’s speech will include plans for an elected upper house that will be forced past peers if necessary. Predictably, the Labour Party has said nothing.
Surely it is high time to put an end to undemocratic privilege. Many believe that the honours system itself is a relic of a bygone age of an empire that no longer exists, but tackling the Lords would be a good first step.
There is only one question. Clegg will reveal that 20% of the Lords will still be “by appointment”. So all those prepared to fund the Tory party will still be able to earn ermine!
WELL DONE MILITARY WIVES!
Gareth Malone worked a near miracle when he persuaded a large group of military wives, most of whom had never sung other than in their baths, to form a choir. Now they are on the brink of topping the Christmas charts with ‘Wherever you are’.
Wonderful! For too long our troops in Afghanistan have been locked into a war that only politicians see as worthwhile. They have been betrayed and their families left in permanent anguish. They have felt lonely and isolated. They have lacked a voice.
Now they have one. The proceeds of the single will go to charity, it is our chance to show support for the forgotten half of our troops who face mortal danger for a lost cause.
Whilst I was perched up the ladder today someone suggested that it was a perfect photo opportunity. The constant nonsense talked by politicians and their minders is beginning to burrow its way into everyday humour. Frankly they are all becoming as ridiculous as Albert’s knotted hankie. Who wanted to see pictures of Ed Balls playing football, Ed Miliband carrying his youngster or David Cameron pretending to be on the edge of his seat in Warnock-style at the QPR match? Does any of this win them a single vote? Wouldn’t it be better if they attempted to make a better job of what they do?
Regular readers may sigh since we fogeys of the allotments are a cynical bunch and have long since lost any respect for any of the parties in whose hands our destinies rest. The latest party conference has done little to change our stance. The role of her Majesty’s opposition is to dissect and present an alternative view where appropriate. For well over a year now the Labour Party has turned a dozen circles in an attempt to defend the record of the Blair and Brown administrations. To add to the non-stop hand-wringing various ex-ministers have published claims about this misdeed or that, demonstrating that making money is to them rather more important than the interests of the country.
The truth is that any government that runs for over a decade does many good things and many bad ones, and it ill behoves the coalition to continue to bang on about the latter. Its gone, the present crisis requires clear thinking, not points-scoring. Of course the reason they have been able to do this is mainly the result of Labour failing to act as a dynamic opposition.
It truly is incredaible that they have only a miniscule lead over the Conservatives in the polls when one recaps on the almost endless cock-ups that have pockmarked their reign. The NHS is tottering under David Cameron’s great marketing re-disorganisation, costing £2 billion and probably more. Duncan Smith’s universal credit is at the top of the Treasury risk list, with its costly new IT system in peril, while £18 billion is cut from benefits – the disabled and children hit hardest.
The new planning laws are about to join a catalogue of policy failures, written by the property developer donors to the Tory party. Quangos have been abolished at high redundancy cost, only to be resurrected. Civil servants have been fired only for new ones to be hired and trained.The true cost of free schools, financed by cash stripped from local school budgets, will become a growing scandal as the details of the real subsidies emerge. Forests and school sports had to be rescued, and what of the fortune being spent of police commissioners, who risk turning politically explosive. Oh yes, we shouldn’t miss from our list the decidedly dodgy involvement of top ministers with the Murdochs.
Yet the opposition says little about any of these issues and continues to apologise in Uriah Heap style. It needs to return to Westminster determined to question and to propose. It could for instance propose a new approach to undertaxed wealth, something this government will never contemplate. Some original thought just might capture the public attention.
No government is all bad but one unchallenged will come close to it! And when it is at last acting as a real opposition the Labour Party of today should stop feeling embarrassed about the trades unions. The dynosaurs have long gone and the unions of today comprise nurses and essential service workers. They are not a threat but they do deserve a fair deal.
I am not optimistic. I suspect that one year from today the opposition will still be trying to defend Blair. Forget him, he is indefensible!
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
Over many years the image of the professional expert and the mass of unskilled ‘nobodies’ has taken root. It is of course pure nonsense as the collapse of the financial sector demonstrated. People in suits carrying laptops filled with exponentially smoothed graphs no longer impress, we now recognise them as no more productive or skilled than the PR spin-doctors so beloved by ministers. But the damage has been done, we no longer manufacture things and many of the old skills are vanishing as artisans going into retirement are not replaced – apprenticeships having becoming virtually extinct. And yet if it is real skill you seek, you need to take a second look at those so derided by the Bullingdon set!
Yesterday I visited the home of a pal from the allotment community. Since retiring he has built the most spectacular garden I have ever seen. The layout is superb and incorporated in it are various buildings built of stone, and containing every comfort of a ‘den’ fit for a king. As I walked the walk I found myself wondering how we ever came to believe that manual skills are in some way inferior. And when we chatted I found that my pal has an in-depth view of the economy that sounds a good deal more sensible than that being put about by the ultimate whizz-kid in a suit, George Osborne.
Faced with a growing chorus of concern that his programme of rapid cuts will lead to disaster he constantly claims that it will lead to a huge growth in private sector volumes and jobs. He will have noticed that yesterday’s opinion polls show Labour on 45%, the Conservatives on 35% and the Lib Dems on 9%. But he will continue to believe that a new boom in growth is around the corner. For all our sakes let us hope he is right, but how can he be?
As my pal commented, if people are in fear of redundancy, are being squeezed as inflation tears into their disposable income, and face rocketing power bills the most likely response will be to switch from actual shopping to the window variety. Seems obvious doesn’t it? It prompted me to do a little research.
The 128- strong chain of Oddbins went into administration yesterday, blaming a poor Christmas and a difficult retail environment. Mothercare and Laura Ashley both warned that trading has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks while Easy Living Furniture, a 20-strong chain in the south went into administration. H & M announced a 30% fall in profits, the “result of a wodespread decline in consumer spending”.
On Wednesday, the boss of electrical goods group Dixons said that the ” government cuts were having a chilling effect on consumers” as the group announced that like-for-like sales at its Currys and PC World stores tumbled by 11% over the past 11 weeks. Signet announced weak trading at its H Samuel and Ernest Jones stores. DFS said growth had slowed and even Domino’s Pizza, the stock market darling, admitted to falls of up to 10%.
In the interest of balance I tried to find reports of rapid growth but found none. Everywhere in the retail sector there is doom and gloom. And as the cuts begin to really bite over the next few months it seems inevitable that the position will worsen. How can there be growth when no one, bar the rich, has money to spend on other than the bare essentials? In fact the situation is even bleaker than my amateur research suggests. The Bank of England has reported that the number of people defaulting on their mortgages has climbed sharply!
Yesterday I nominated ways of reducing costs without impairing growth. But the reality is that the coalition is being driven by inbred ideology. Only the Lib Dems can bring influence to bear and there are increasing signs that people like Lucas, Farron, and Kennedy are much closer to Miliband than to Clegg. But he holds the power and can be relied upon to echo his master’s voice.
To return to my opening point there are many highly skilled and perceptive people outside of the politicians. But the gulf is now enormous. As my pal put it the most dangerous people of all are those that believe their own bullshit!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ”Michael Jackson, also known as the ‘carrier bag’ -white, plastic and best kept away from kids”……..Angus Deayton “Rap music sounds like someone feeding a rhyming dictionary to a popcorn popper”….Tom Robbins “It’s called rap music because the ‘c’ fell off the printer”……Allan Bease “I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for those who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down’ “…..Bob Newhart “I wanted to be a country singer but I took the test and I had too much self-esteem”…..Brett Butler “The hardest thing about writing country music must be thinking up clean words that rhyme with ‘truck’ “…..Brian Kaufman “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings”…..Ed Gardner “I’m sitting at the opera, and I’m thinking ‘Look how much work it takes to bore me’ “…..Dave Attell “I went to watch Pavarotti once. He doesn’t like it when you join in”…..Mick Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Jon Pertwee 2. Peter Bowles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which singer was know as ‘Old Groaner’ ? 2. In which country did he die?