Posts Tagged ‘Duncan Smith’
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!
Suddenly the trees are bare, the 95 mph gale first destroyed our hen runs and then, by way of atonement, provided us with a thick carpet of gold. Over a period of years a lot of work had gone into those chuck homes and the ability of nature to sweep it all aside in a thrice is a humbling experience, not to mention a damned annoying one. The only member of the gang who seems to regard the devastation with equanimity is Tony who perversely draws satisfaction from the fact that the Blackpool Lights suffered greater punishment. How that helps us I know not but ever since he crawled the two-mile lights with his grandchildren asleep in the back of his Mini, Tony has always had a downer on the not so golden mile. Only the EU beats Blackpool on Tony’s hate list.
In that respect at least he is not alone. A few weeks ago we had a visit from a group of French farmers who were staging a market nearby. To our surprise we learned that they distrust the Brussels bureaucracy just as much as we do and they claimed that their attitude is little different from most of their countrymen. In fact the only person we have met who sings the praises of Brussels and its million laws is one of the local MEPs. Mind you he does seem to have a vested interest with a salary upteen times that of the Westminster lot and a workload that probably qualifies him for Duncan Smith’s list of the workshy.
I must confess that I have never understood why we need more than a trading arrangement with the rest of Europe. It costs us a vast amount of money and is about to cost us even more given the refusal of the European parliament to heed calls from various leaders, including our own, to rein back on extravagence. Neither do I understand why our politicians are so keen on creating a sovereign state of Europe which sounds like Turkeys voting for Christmas. I exclude Blair from that, he wanted it so that he could be its chief honker-tonker.
It may be that we doubters could do with some education for when we think about the EU at all we tend to ask what is in it for us. The only half-convincing justification I have heard was shared defence but the fact that we have signed up to a 50 year deal with the French tends to rule that out. This must all be very irksome for politicians who fear offending 35% of the electorate by pulling out, or the wrath of 60% who are becoming distinctly hostile. The other five per cent in the latest poll presumably consists of those who hadn’t heard of it and still believes that Churchill is prime minister.
During the election Cameron and other leading Conservatives let it be known that they would hold a referendum on the Treaty that has ceded so much power to Brussels. Suddenly Cameron has his Nick Clegg moment for he didn’t really intend to honour that idea. So he has come up with what sounds a wizard wheeze. We are to have a Referendum Bill. Once this is enacted, Britain will not be able to agree to hand over further powers to Europe without a referendum. But the government risks accusations that it has watered down its promises after allowing a loophole to evade a referendum in circumstances “where it does not consider the EU legislation significant”.
Perhaps I am paranoid but that sounds like an open gate. And my paranoia wasn’t helped by the comment from the Foreign Office. It said that Parliament will retain the final say on which laws take effect in Britain but added that this is purely symbolic. What does that mean?
Because I and my pals are doubters we tend to note what the powerful Conservative Bruges Group has to say. They claim that both Cameron and Haigh have already given up more power to Brussels. Yesterday they added that the referendum and sovereignty lock (the new Bill) are “just fig leaves designed to hide Cameron’s blushes after he and Hague dropped the ‘cast iron guarantee’ to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty”. Given their tendency to say the first thing that comes inbto their heads we tend to take less notice of the Lib Dems but, for what it is worth, they said that we must not “downgrade Britain’s importance in the EU”. The Labour Party said nothing, it was too busy rowing with Harriet Harman.
So there we have it. Has another major election pledge been broken? Is the Referendum Bill the safeguard we have dreamed of, or is it just a figleaf for the Old Etonians? My own question is a simpler one. We are frequently warned that if we don’t do this or that we will fall foul of the European Court. What could it actually do? Surely an invasiuon is now off the cards given that the French now share our one aeroplane-less aircraft carrier!
CHELSEA SHOW THEIR TRUE COLOURS!
It didn’t surprise me one little bit to learn that Ray Wilkins, the only Premiership top man with self understanding, had been sacked by Russian owned Chelsea. Frankly he just didn’t fit.
Wilkins was one of the few Premiership bigwigs who came across as totally honest, pleasant and fair. He would always lean over backwards to highlight the strengths of his opponents alongside his own team.
He really seemed the odd man out amongst a group of unpleasant bullies. Hopefully he will now return to TV commentary where he always impressed as someone determined to see the best in others. It is hard to think of anyone else in the Premiership of whom that can be said.
I HATE TO DOUBT DR REID!
John Reid, the former Health Minister and Home Secretary, popped up on Radio 2 last week to join the debate about airport security following the discovery of bombs on cargo flights from Yemen.
BA Chairman, Martin Broughton, argued that it was time to relax some of the mind-numbing checks but Dr Reid was having none of it. The job of government he said gravely “is to protect its citizens”.
And what is now the job of Lord Reid? Though he omitted to mention it, he is now a director of G4S, the self-styled “leading provider of private security solutions to airports and airlines”, and a partner in the Chertoff Group, a security agency whose clients include the leading manufacturers of “full body scanners” for airports!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Caribbean Common Market 2. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Harold Wilson’s government make a social contract with the TUC? 2. In denmark what is meant by Folketing?
Even scheming politicians surely realise that the early collapse of the coalition would be a national disaster, certainly the rest of us do. But on that possibility there is little to fear since the only thing that could cause it is the withdrawal of support by the Lib Dems and that isn’t going to happen any time soon since an election would see their annihilation. Their only hope is to hang in there, obey their Tory masters, and hope that the economy is stabilised. Then they can seperate and attempt to claim the credit, however implausible that appears. As my Gran used to say, they have made their bed and must lie on it!
The problem for those of us who trust no Party is that, whilst we see the importance of stability for the time being, we find it hard to fathom out what the coalition is really up to. Spokesmen will say that the only item on the agenda is to tighten the collective belt. But thta isn’t what informed observers believe is their real priority. And they don’t come btter informed than John Redwood who yesterday described the talk of 25 per centage cuts as pure fiction. It is neither possible nor desirable, he added.
If saving costs is not the principle aim then what is? Angus Maude gave us the answer yesterday. The coalition is , he said, more radical than either Thatcher or Blair. Whilst he sees the need for economies he sees also the need to ‘unleash a new wave of entrepeneurs willing to take over public services as co-ops or mutuals’. One suspects he almost added ‘or simply as private companies’. Iain Duncan Smith weighed in with the claim that there is only limited time to make reform happen, ‘if you are going to make change you must do it early’. He could have added ‘whilst the great British public is still in love with the coalition’.
In other words what is essentially a Conservative government sees the chance to use the smoke-screen of massive cuts to rush in the traditional Tory policy of privatisation. Apart from the fact that it did not receive an electoral mandate, no one can criticise a Party for pursuing its mainstream policies. The problem lies in implementation. Like many, I still remember the previous Conservative administration’s decision to privatise British Leyland. It was clearly the right policy but the implementation was inept, muddled and incompetent. The result was the gifting of vast amounts of public money to Euorpean companies such as DAF and entrepeneurs, all of whom failed to the extent of destroying. the once strong British Truck and Bus manufacturing.
The problem today is the quality of the Ministers suddenly given free rein. Unlike either Blair or Brown, David Cameron is a delegator. That has much to commend it but only if those to whom projects are delegated know what they are doing. And the problem there is that a Prime Minister has to select the heads of vast govermental bodies from around 300 plus MPs. Cross off 100 who are either too inexperienced or worn out, wipe off another 100 who are clearly all mouth and no trousers, and he has to select some 30 or so key players from a squad of little over a hundred. And Mr Cameron doesn’t seem to have chosen well.
Two areas right at the forefront of the privatisation push are Education and the NHS. It may be true that some degree of private sector involvement would help but both areas could easily topple over into chaos if the planning is not carefully considered and ordered. But here we have two Ministers, Messr Gove and Lansley, who give the clear impression of making plans up as they go along and seem to lack any self understanding. Some of my old civil service contacts tell me that there are no carefully worked out plans and add that the routine emerging is to announce an aim and then attempt to trnslate it into a plan that will not break either bank or public acceptance.
It is not hard to believe this. Michael Gove has already had to apologise on two occasions for providing false information. He completely miscalculated the number of school building projects being cancelled and he overstated by 1000 the number of schools applying for so-called academy status. He wasn’t trying to mislead, he was simply making things up as he went along. His aim is undoubtedly to move back to some form of selective education and many of the chattering middle-classes will support him. But there are two buts!
How can such a massive change be effected over such a short time scale without bringing several years of chaos to so many schools that are perfroming to excellent standards under the comprehensive banner? And how do we as a society live with the idea of effectively destroying the dream of many children from less priviledged backgrounds? Of course we all understand the difference between teaching chikldren whose parents strain every sinew to help them and those whose home life is damaging and unsupporting. But if we then seperate one group from the other the stimulus that the talented child receives from others is lost for ever.
Andrew Lansley gives every indication of being as inept as Mr Gove. He rightly decided to abolish the hugely bureaucratic and wasteful structure which Labour imposed on the NHS. But he announced it immediately without having any sensibly worked out plan to replace bodies such as Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. He blurted out a confused idea involving GPs and predictably is now at loggerheads with the leading clinical bodies. Presumably what he is trying to do is to sub-contract much NHS work to American Health Care companies and has reasoned that GPs will be grateful to hand the administration over. Even this has further flaws since any transfer out of hospitals of the ‘profitable’ routine work will see many unable to fund the complex case work.
During the election Mr Lansley promised absolutely to stop top-down reorganisations of the NHS and the closures of hospitals and Accident & Emergency units. Now he is singing a different tune and the worrying part is not that he misled – they all do that – but that he is racing along without any clear plan as to where he is going. Morale in the NHS was low under Labour’s meddling, it is now at rock bottom under a regime that is seen as totally lacking in understanding of what happens on the front line.
There is of course a secondary worry surrounding all of the drastic reforms being announced one after the other. In the first couple of years they will not produce cost savings and they will almost certainly lead to confusion and poorer service. Grumpy Gordon may not have been the most popular guy in Whitehall but both as Chancellor and Prime Minister he had every change minutely examined and tested before approving its announcement. Mr Cameron would be well advised to leave diplomacy to the Foreign Office and to follow suit.
As we have all learned over many years, transferring essential services to the private sector do not necessarily lead to either lower costs or better service provision. It you doubt that try examining your bills for water, power and the like. Yes, it was right to privatise them but too much control was ceded, too few tight contracts drawn up. And now we are facing similar cavalier treatment for subjects such as health and education.
All men and women of goodwil,l and even ferreters, hope that the coalition will steer us thorugh to calmer financial times and recognise that its collapse and an early return to another dose of repressive state control and interference would achieve nothing. But many fear the worst if the early performance of Ministers, who have never run any large enterprise, is any guide.
I would be pleasantly surprised if this pseudo-Conservative reforming government survives long enough to show that the chaos it wrought was or wasn’t justified.!
AND ANOTHER THING; What a delight it has been to watch the performance of team GB in the European championships. Some of yesterday’s gold-medal successes were the perfect antidote for the sickenly poor show put on by our megastar footballers in the World Cup. And it was good to see the focus centered on the athletes rather than a Manager and even better to witness the genuine pleasure that all the competitors took from the performance of their team-mates. I admit to a preference for football and cricket but must admit that we come well short of athletics in terms of sportsmanship and sheer commitment.
AND A QUESTION? How in touch with public interests are the newspapers? Most carried exhaustive reports of the marriage of Chelsea Clinton and pages were covered with fine detail of the security, the guest lists, the air-conditioned tents,the vineyards that produced the wine and Lord knows what else. Am I really alone in not giving a twopenny piece about the whole extravaganza?