Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’
There were quite a few clown jokes as we cleaned out the hens this morning. The sun had gone into hiding, but spirits amongst the codgers were high since everyone enjoys anything that rebounds on the Hush Puppy man Ken Clarke. It takes one to know one and, a few days ago, our least favourite Hooray Henry branded Ukip supporters as clowns. This morning he may well be reflecting that there are rather a lot of people with painted faces and funny hats!
A lot of the local election results have yet to reach us but those that have show that Farage et al have made considerable progress. The fledgling party’s success in the South Shields by-election is remarkable, they surged into second place with 24% of the vote and left the Conservatives a long way behind. They completely eclipsed the Lib Dems who came seventh, only just beating the Howling Laud Hope Loony, and losing their deposit in the process.
The inquests amongst the ‘big’ three parties has begun. Most spokesmen have talked of a protest vote, but the wiser heads amongst them have recognised that it is more than that. Many people are disillusioned by a failure of the coalition partners to keep to their manifesto promises.Even more feel that the political establishment has become elitist, unrepresentative and out-of-touch. Unlike Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband the Ukip leader has been crystal clear about his party’s aims and he has sounded like a breath of fresh air.
We have of course seen sudden upswings in popularity before, most recently in the case if Nick Clegg in the run-up to the last general election. But there is a difference this time. Clegg won support as a result of out-performing Cameron and Grumpy Gordon in open debate. But in terms of policy he promised little more than fine tuning. Nigel Farage stands above all else for something that the other parties will not countenance, an exit from the EU.
David Cameron has spotted this and is trying to play the referendum card, but his party is divided and the Lib Dems will block any move he makes. The Lib Dems are fiercely pro-EU membership, the Labour party likewise. This means that those who have come to see the EU as an unnecessary expense bringing with it open-door immigration and enough regulations to sink an aircraft carrier if we had one, have only one choice.
Of course not everyone wishes to exit the grasp of Brussels, but polls suggest that over half of the electorate feel that way and the longer the age of austerity and tax-avoidance goes on the more appealing will become the case for exit. And the Farage stance is of the no-ifs-or-buts variety.
Without doubt Ukip faces ever increasing scrutiny and much will be made of its economic competence, its lack of governmental experience. But many a disgruntled voter will reason that they could hardly be worse that this government and the last.
Perhaps we are merely witnessing a sudden spark that will be extinguished by the first strong wind. Then again, it is hard to see the ‘major’ parties shifting ground on either EU or immigration. If Ukip is to wither and die it will require the electorate to lose interest in the EU and all its implications. How likely is that?
Farage has already shown himself to be no shrinking violet when dismissing such suggestions as our exports beng dependent on EU membership. And the forthcoming MEP elections will provide him with a dream platform.
Only a brave individual would dare to say that this is the long-awaited big shift in British politics. But only a fool would talk of clowns!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”Damn it all, you can’t have the crown of thorns AND the thirty pieces of silver!”…Aneurin Bevan on his position in the Labour Party, 1956
Another beautiful morning boded well for we hen-cleaners, but does it bode well for our dear leader? Chipping Norton’s favourite son seems besieged, a feeling hardly helped by the Daily Torygraph featuring a huge picture of Nigel Farage on its front page. To be fair it has also headlined David Cameron’s latest anti-Ukip wheeze which involves bringing forward legislation for an EU referendum. Nice thought but since the dreaded Nick Clegg has immediately announced that the Lib Dems will not allow it, the odds are that the hastily constructed torpedo will explode on loading.
We sat outside with our mugs of tea this morning, an experience so rare that the gang was in the sort of warm reflective mood that is usually unique to the Bull & Royal. The general view was that, given such amiable but weak leadership, Britain is back to being ruled by unelected Barons. But this time around it is not the union variety that is ruling our roost. Beer and sandwiches will not placate the new groups that turn the organ-grinder’s handle whilst monkeys, disguised as ministers, dance.
Today two groups are the equivalent of the unions of yesteryear. The first are the boardroom tax avoiders, whose corporate and individual taxes, if paid as intended, would transform the public finances from deficit to surplus in an instant. It is hard for ordinary folk to understand the grip they hold on their fellow clique of elitists at the heart of government, but it has become increasingly clear that our Old Etonians lack the courage to seriously challenge them.
The second group is the British press with its collective interest in weak government. The Leveson report, published last November amid so much hope for much needed change following the phone-hacking scandal and much else, has failed. Its 2,000 pages are history.
Today the Leveson report is to press reform what ‘In Place of Strife’ was to union reform. Harold Wilson flirted with union reform after the seaman’s strike in 1966, and then got scared off in 1969. David Cameron has done the same thing, flirting with press reform after the phone hacking scandals in 2011 before getting scared off in 2013. In both cases vested interests prevailed. In 1969 the Daily Mirror ran a front page editorial headlined; “There exists in Britain a power outside parliament as great as that which exists within it!” And so it is today, only the identity of the power has changed.
There is perhaps a slight hope that the government, backed by the all-party agreement, may stand firm on press regulation but as the general election draws nearer it is unlikely. The prime minister’s links with Murdoch et al are well known and he is unlikely to jeopardise their support. And should Ed Miliband triumph he is unlikely to want to pick a fight with the press in the difficult circumstances of a Labour government.
So we now have not union barons, but those of the boardroom and press variety. There seems no prospect whatsoever that government will tackle the former, and only a remote hope regarding the latter. The implications for us all are unnecessarily harsh austerity and continued bullying and unethical hounding by the media.
At times like this one tends to think back for examples of champions lost, of tough characters who would have said enough is enough, and meant it. Sadly it is a short list, only Thatcher and Churchill spring to mind. Perhaps a continuing success on the part of Ukip might just force David Cameron’s hand on the tax avoiders at least.
But we shouldn’t hold our breath, barons have a tradition of ruling for decades!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I’m tired of all the nonsense about beauty being only skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want – an adorable pancreas? …Jean Kerr in ‘The Snake has all the Lines’.
The sun was back with us this morning, even though the wind had a Suarez-like bite to it. It helps particularly since operation catch-up is underway. We imagine that right across the country growers are trying to make up for lost time, yesterday we sowed beans, potatoes and onions before filling a dozen tubs with geraniums and lobelia. But nature will take its course and everything will, like our local trains, be late in arriving.
Of course not every creature on the allotments was disappointed by the later start. The hens enjoyed an extra month of wandering at large over a big area, now they are refused access in the manner of known drunks at our local watering-hole. Sounds harsh but we can assure you that letting chickens loose on young plants produces results that even locusts would struggle to match.
Several of my pals went to meet Ed Miliband yesterday when he visited Chorley. They seemed impressed with his candour, not least the point that his weekly shouting match with our dear leader is only serving to reduce even further the standing of politicians in the public eye. I did comment that further reduction from a trust level of zero is difficult, but it is good to learn that someone at Westminster is still in touch with reality. However the glimmer of hope was soon extinguished by the morning papers.
Headline-grabber is David Laws with his threat to close yet more schools. The case for doing so sounds flawed, the preacher even more so. Isn’t this the man that fell from grace just months ago for fiddling his expenses? Then we have Chris Huhne banging on about prosecution costs arising from his sudden admission of guilt. And to complete the hat-trick, Jeremy Hunt, who wriggled out of his guilt in regard to the BSkyB bid, is giving a lecture to nurses about ethical behaviour. For most jobs offering high salaries one needs character references, it seems that such niceties are regarded as unnecessary for the most influential positions in the land.
But this morning’s greatest irritation is provided by yet more pronouncements on privatisation. Undeterred by the news that Michael Gove has overspent his budget for Academy Schools by £1 billion which he intends to take from the amount allocated to ‘state-run’ schools, ministers have let it be known that next in line are Companies House, the Land Registry, the Met Office, the Student Loans service, the blood donor service, Ordnance Survey and – surprise, surprise – Royal Mail.
Selling off the family silver may seem a wizard wheeze to a Chancelor desperate for cash up-front, but its long-term implications are horrendous. If you doubt that take a glance at what has happened to the Forensic services or the energy giants. All have finished up in foreign ownership and priorities that do not have service to the British taxpayers anywhere near the top of their lists.
Other than the chance to haul in quick cash can anyone explain the logic behind the Royal Mail sell-off? The organisation has been modernised and the service is now stable. There already is competition in profitable areas such as parcel delivery, but private providers are reluctant to take on the declining household postal deliveries. Result will be a knock-down price and a drastic curtailment to Post Offices providing essential services.
No one denies that competition for non-essential goods or services that are available from a range of suppliers makes absolute sense. But what is happening now is the surrender of monpolistic services essential to everyone. Hand them over and we all become potential victims. For example? Try Eastern Rail, the only state-owned rail franchise. It is the most efficient and hands millions back to the treasury. Replacing it with G4S, or whoever, will not provide competition on the east coast, it will merely divert taxpayers money to shareholders.
Perhaps we codgers are Luddites in disguise, but we just don’t get it. But since our masters are so convnced they should perhaps consider privatising parliament. Fewer MPs, minimum wage for all but the bigwigs, compulsory attendance, minimal expenses. Come to think about it privatisation may have its positives.
Perhaps they are simply privatising the wrong things?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”As a bank you can be big and simple or small and complicated, and do well. If you get big and complicated, you become unmanageable !”……Archbishop of Canterbury 22/4/2013
Definitely warmer this morning. If this miracle continues Albert will be divesting himself of his long-johns, which he tells us he also wears at night due to the absence of central heating in Chez Brown. His recent fall into the pond was a blessing in disguise for those who occasionally find themselves downwind of the human ferret. But I musn’t be snide for the wee man helped me clean-out my 50-odd hens this morning, having noticed that my right knee was staging a go-slow of Scargill proportions.
For us at least the topic of Margaret Thatcher is beginning to trigger ennui. No disrespect intended, but we are tiring of the seemingly endless Tory grandees telling us that this was the greatest being since Gabriel popped down for a quick lookaround. On Bumblebee’s Question Time last night it was Kenneth Clarke’s turn to eulogise. When David Blunkett dared to point out that it was Clarke and his fellow senior Conservatives that staged the coup that ended her reign, the Hush Puppy man almost blew a fuse.
We much preferred a piece written by John Simpson who, throughout the 1980s, followed her whenever she went abroad. If you choose to believe Charles Moore the BBC has long conducted a vendetta against the Iron Lady, but when you read the measured words of the Beeb’s political editor that is hard to believe. Then again, Moore is just two weeks away from publishing his book and cash-tills are ringing in his mind.
Simpson writes that Thatcher never cared how television or the press presented her. She didn’t read the press, she didn’t watch TV and certainly didn’t believe in the supposed art of PR. He recalls one occasion when he was conducting an interview with her in India. The two of them were walking side-by-side when suddenly she put her foot down a hole and fell flat. A Downing Street aide screamed at Simpson that these pictures must never appear on air. The lady climbed to her feet and said; “Oh, don’t be silly – of course he can use them if he wants to!”. Simpson wonders what would have happened with Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell.
An inconsequential tale but it does serve to remind us that for all her faults Margaret Thatcher was not interested in pretence. In her own mind she was right and those that believed otherwise could go to hell, which of course is exactly where so many went, metaphorically speaking. In so many ways she was more honest than the creation she saw as her greatest, Tony Blair.
It was perhaps inevitable that yesterday he couldn’t resist the temptation to pause from amassing his fortune to issue a lecture to Ed Miliband. He warned him not to “shift to the left” and to refrain from identifying himself with those who “oppose what the government is doing”. The current Labour leader lost little time in distancing himself from his would-be advisor.
Of course Blair will never be forgiven for the lies that he told as he bagged his place alongside George W Bush. In exchange for a supposed role as the right-hand man of the world’s most powerful, he was prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions in a war that could never be won. He was equally prepared to make Britain the target for every madman in the world.
On the domestic front, under the guise of ‘New’ Labour, he followed the Thatcher lead in almost everything. He was a smooth performer and he won middle-class support. But he left the traditional Labour support without a champion. His was a world of spin, celebrity and total lack of sympathy for the less fortunate.
I met him at the time when we were creating the first Primary Care Trusts. I went to London with a party of local GPs. He entered the room, threw his coat on to vacant chair, and proceded to have us eating out of his hand. Believe me, he said, this venture will have my support for as long as it takes. Three years later he scrapped it.
We codgers have slowly come to quite admire Miliband and would venture to suggest that just about the last person on earth from whom he should take advice is Blair. Yes, Miliband lacks his charisma or eloquence but he has sincerity. In a strange way he resembles Thatcher in only saying what he believes to be true.
Of course he knows that the day of the socialist dinosaurs has gone, but he also knows that every policy must be considered in the light of its potential harm to families. He clearly has much of his father in his make-up. Time has moved on, and people no longer sing the Red Flag, but people do count.
Who knows, the public may come to like honesty with a kindly voice. Either way we hope he will stick to his honourable guns. Right now Britain needs an effective opposition and an incrasingly rebellious public needs to feel that there is a peaceful channel for protest.
As an intellegent young man he will seek advice from many. He would be well advised to exclude Mr Blair!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” If life was really fair, Elvis would be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead!” …..Johnny Carson
It has to be admitted that many aspects of today’s world puzzle we codgers. We have often considered entering a team for Eggheads which, since it uniquely appears on every weekday throughout the year, seems happy to accept dunderheads galore. But the probablity of our scoring nil deters us despite our yearning to meet Kevin Ashton who appears to have the sort of memory elephants would envy.
Thus it is we don’t understand why parliament was recalled yesterday to say things about Margaret Thatcher that could easily have waited until Monday. Neither do we understand why millions are to be spent on a near-state funeral. Yes, the lady did have clearly defined beliefs and, yes, she does deserve credit for proving that women can compete equally in a male-dominated world. But does she really merit treatment not even afforded to Clem Attlee, who played such a key part in uniting the nation during World War 2? As for those who are calling for a minutes silence at Saturday’s Premiership matches, we can only assume that they have taken leave of their senses. Even the Iron Lady’s greatest fans would have to admit that football was not one of her favourite pastimes!
But you may well disagree on all that. However, we hope you will agree that facts are facts and politicians should refrain from attempts at rewriting history to suit their own ends. Yesterday was a classic example. Several former Tory ministers told us that Margaret Thatcher was much loved, and remains an example of all that is good about the Conservative Party. It was hard not to note that the eulogists included several who plotted against her and led to her tearful exit. Several leading Labour notables painted the opposite picture in which she stole children’s milk, connived in the Hillsborough cover-up, destroyed communities. Blair, they implied, was a living saint and saviour of the working class.
It was left to the leaders to provide a more balanced picture. To an extent David Cameron attempted this, but he couldn’t resist the temptation to play politics with history. There were things, he claimed, that she had argued about fiercely but about which there were ” no longer arguments at all”. Chief amongst these was the privatisation of essential services such as water and power. Really? An ICM poll yesterday suggested that the vast majority view such privatisation as a mistake.
I didn’t imagine I would ever write these words but it has to be said that the hero of the day, in terms of accuracy and fairness, was Ed Miliband. He faced the difficult task of striking the right note of respect for a deceased woman and a towering public figure, without conceding too much ground or descending into cant. He resisted the temptation to ape Blair who loved to eulogise – it was noticeable that Cameron cited him – and showed clearly that he was not prepared to say one word he didn’t believe.
He showed real generosity in saluting the intellectual coherence of her agenda and, uniquely, made the point that the scientist-turned-politician was one of the first global leaders to understand climate change. He then showed courage of his own by plainly setting out a brief list of the uglier blots on her record – mining communities destroyed, section 28, apartheid indulged.
What he did not do was indulge in the sort of character assassination being used by many on the left. He struck exactly the right balance, and it is hard to imagine that history will disagree. The lady was fearless, she had conviction, but she cared nothing for casualties amongst those who stood in her way.
In our neck of the woods it is hard to maintain a balanced view for many of her policies were socially ruinous. The story of the mines is well known and history will claim mitigation in that she had to face down anarchists. But her role in destroying the heavy vehicles industry was an act of wanton vandalism. Manufacturing was, in her book, an unnecessary evil and a key part of our economy and social fabric was destroyed for ever.
It is inevitable that we will all have different views of Margaret Thatcher, according to the effect she had on us. History will record that she was a towering figure, it will also record that this was a woman who divided as well as ruled.
One final thought. Since Margaret Thatcher was axed by her party we have had four prime ministers. It is high time we stopped attributing every failure or success to someone who has been out of office for decades!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”…..Spike Milligan