Posts Tagged ‘Tv Debate’
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
Perhaps Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan were being prophetic when in 1879 they coined their immortal lines for The Pirates of Penzance. Either way they were right for the police are now facing a crisis of monumental proportions. And despite our occasional moans about speed limits and the rest that should worry us all for the thin blue line is all that seperates us from widespread crime and potential anarchy. Why worry? Because a lot of people who should know are on record as forecasting that the thin line is about to snap.
There are several factors. Firstly we are told by gleeful ministers, whose police protection is guaranteed, that the numbers of officers is about to be slashed by almost a quarter. At least that is consistent with David Cameron’s refusal to answer Gordon Brown’s demand in the TV debate that he guarantee the protection of the police. But few of us actually expected them to take such a risk for with the posssible exception of health services, no public body has such an impact on quality of life.
Then we have recent statistics confirming that crime is at its lowest levels for three decades. The new government, through the less than inspiring Theresa May, was quick to argue that this takes no account of antisocial behaviour which largely goes unchallenged but this sounded very like a case for not reducing police numbers. And the huge impact of the cuts soon to hit us will surely increase the tendency toward crime and posssible dsiorder.
But to complicate all this we now have the report of Sir Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, whose investigation has established that only one in ten of officers is actually involved in tackling crime outside of the Nick. And to bewilder us even further Sir Denis reports that no more than 5000 officers are available at any one time across the UK to respond to 999 calls. This latter point will surpise none of those who regualry complain in the media of receiving no response when ringing in during a crisis. But it is alarming none-the- less.
So on the face of it the dashing Ms May can cut without impairing services. But that doesn’t make sense unless she also cuts all the non-crimebusting activity of the 90 per cent claimed by Sir Denis to be doing other things. For, according to one senior ex-policeman, what they are doing is coping with masses of form-filling and red-tape. And good Bobbies are not necessarily good clerks. In ‘Loot’ the novelist Joe Orton said that ‘reading isn’t an occupation we should encourage among police officers, we should try to keep the paperwork down to a minimum’. What Joe wrote in 1967 is probably even more relevant today than it was then.
Inevitably our ferret club includes a lot of retired people. We come from every walk of life and profession and included amongst our numbers is a retired Police Inspector. As a young Bobby he spent almost all of his time on his beat. It was a compact area and as he strolled around he built a relationship with a large number. If anything was amiss, or even suspected, Tom soon got wind of it. Having been alerted he then kept an even closer eye. He tells us that the biggest differenec to today’s world of policing is that he had no targets so there was no pressure to make arrests or hand out tickets. There was also very little paperwork and no ludicrous rules about political correctness.
When we expressed an interest in such things Tom took us to see a pal who is still in service and in charge of a medium sized police station. Without opening the files he showed us a six-inch stack relating to one case involving a fracas in the town centre. Most of the documents were apparently hand-written and had involved many hours of pencil-licking toil by the arresting officer. He remarked that one arrest means the rest of the shift behind a desk. Then he showed us a pile of other non-arrest forms including confirmation of the intention to stop and search. He didn’t say so but one sensed that the very presence of the forms means that most officers decide not to bother. And then we heard about the complicated routine for cautions. In Tom’s young days he often gave locals a word and sometimes made a note in his black book but that was it unless they again incurred his displeasure. Not now, such an act would be argued by solicitors as a breach of human rights.
Our little visit was depressing. ASBOs simply do not work yet cause an enormous amount of administration. Dealing with complaints against officers has become a full time occupation and most complaints come from the criminal fraternity. There are football matches to police, traffic incidents resulting from the endless excavation of our roads and any amount of visiting politicians and supposed big-wigs to attend to. Not much time for wandering the beat then? The straght response was no.
It all seems to add up to a crisius that could be averted if someone on high resolved to cut through the morass of bureaucracy Churchill-style. Tom’s recipe sounds an obvious one. Get policemen back on the beat and amongst the community. Forget about meetings which tend to attract only the holier-than-though brigade and let meetings be a regular occurance outside the gate. Become a lead figure again in each small community and use warnings in an informal way. Put the victims first.
It was the last point that really struck a chord with those of us who have never trod the pavements. Every law passed and every pronouncement made these days is concerned with the offender and his or her human rights. Victims? Leave them to Victims Support!
Being a cynic I expect the coalition to get this as wrong as it appears to be getting the NHS. They will make the cuts and leave the strangulation of red-tape in place. If that is what they do we can expect a sharp reversal of the crime trend. And as for antisocial behaviour which makes the lives of many elderly and vulnerable people a misery we will continue to suffer from no police support and the continued threat of prosecution if we so much as raise an eyebrow at the loutish offenders.
A policeman’s life is not a happy one and that of the community is about to be much the same!
THE NEWS HEADLINES FOR WEDNESDAY; Cameron has promised Obama that he will release the Lockerbie files XX 50% of the staff of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are to be made redundant XX Amazon has announced that sales of digital books have outstripped US sales of hardbacks on its website for the first time XX Banjos are back in favour in this years Barclaycard Mercury Prize Awards XX Cameron has warned Obama not to single out BP over oil damages XX In a major u-turn Andrew Lnasley has left open the option of a ‘death-tax’, something his Party conducted a poster campaign aginst XX Liam Fox has said that the UK defence bill is ‘unaffordable.
SOMETHING I LEARNED YESTERDAY; NASA’s wide-field infrared survey explorer, Wise, completed its scan of the entire sky last weekend but will continue an overlapping scan until its hydrogen coolant runs out in around November. Alarmingly its discoveries include almost a hundred potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids.
Have you noticed that despite employing a zillion spin-doctors the main Parties have failed to come up with a slogan that sticks. No one seems capable of producing a three-worder that refuses to go from the mind. Obama produced a sizzler with ‘Yes we can’, words that had one working at the question. By comparison our leaders are less than inspiring.
I wondered if the Tories were on to something when they opened with ‘Fighting for the great ignored’ but it hasn’t been mentioned since and one is left wondering if they decided to ignore us after all. Labour kicked off with ‘a Future fair for all’ but it seems to have faded possibly because many confused it with a future free-for-all. The Lib /Dems didn’t seem to have one prior to the TV debate but thanks to grumpy Gordon and dashing Dave they now have a beauty. ‘I agree with Nick ‘ seems to go for everyone right now.
Worryingly one hears one slogan repeated again and again . It’s source is unusual since it has not evolved from a desk of spin. Where it started is impossible to know but just about everyone I have chatted to proclaims that they ‘are all the same’. It is a sort of anti-slogan slogan. The great British love affair with politicians is truly over.
The loss of trust is such that it is hard to imagine either of the usual two Parties winning a huge vote of confidence. Young Nick we know not but he plays cricket and has no past transgressions to rationalise. Even the tabloids would have to work hard to set an interview trap for the last Liberal Prime Minister!
Without doubt the first ever TV debate between the political leaders has made history and created a precedent that will stand the test of time. But what are the implications?
One surely is that the press has to an extent been disabled. Having heard it from the horses mouth will the great British public ever again unquestionningly accept what a prejudiced newspaper chooses to report? Will it ever again disregard a Party simply because it is frozen out of the frensied headlines? To be specific will a third Party ever again be airbrushed out of the public eye simply because it has no media mogul amongst it’s sponsors?
There is however another argument. Whilst the new age of TV debates may well rob the press of it’s ability to paint it’s own pictures it may also lead to a new judgement by a public used to deciding for or against on looks, dress and apparent affability. But do these really matter in the context of running a country? Certain it is that Churchill was a good leader during difficult years but he would have failed the test. As indeed would Clem Attlee albeit for different reasons.
What did we really learn fom the first debate? We learned, pehaps to our surprise, that Nick Clegg is easier on the eye than grumpy Gordon or Dashing Dave. He may indeed be better in every way but how can we tell? He could simply be a better actor.
But personality and the ability to get the best out of people is important in the role they all seek and he has that in abundance. And he is likeable, not a word one could apply easily to his two running mates.
Worries remain. Will Prime Ministers in the years to come all be handsome and experts in eye-contact? More importantly will they prove to be what they appear to be, will they really know how to balance the books.
Even as I type the gallant three are undoubtedly applying themselves not to the question of costings but to briefings about gestures and colours of their ties.
TV or not TV. The jury is out in more ways than one. I just hope the next edition does not clash with cricket or Manchester United!