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Not a moment too soon it actually looks like the BBC’s cosy world of unaccountability, an appallingly cavalier attitude to income it does not earn but extorts from the general public for whom it has constantly shown nothing but contempt in recent years, and a severe political bias that has penetrated every level of the organisation over several decades, is about to come to an abrupt end. It certainly looks like Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative culture secretary, has actually been listening to people like me (and there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people like me) and has bravely, recognising the urgent necessity, decided to be the one to stand up to and take on the monolithic social, economic and cultural parasite that our national broadcaster, in its current form, has become.

If we are to believe what Hunt has told the Daily Telegraph, then the skids really are finally under the BBC closed shop. Furthermore, if its managers refuse to budge on certain issues, including Hunt’s very reasonable proposal that there be a significant reduction in the ridiculous licence tax given the Labour-generated current economic climate, then it could, finally, finally, herald the moment when long-overdue and massive reform comes to the creaking, unfit-for-purpose, throwback-Soviet organisation.

The Telegraph reports Hunt as saying, among other things:

There are huge numbers of things that need to be changed at the BBC. They need to demonstrate the very constrained financial situation we are now in

All the concerns I had in opposition about executive salaries and use of licence fee funds for things many people thought were extraordinary or outrageous – that (next year) will be moment when I express them

Now, I know this won’t lead to the kind of breaking-up of the corporation I want to see, with the selling off of all but the core radio and TV channels (R4, R2, Five Live, BBC1 and 2), the abolition of the jurassic licence fee (to be replaced by a central grant, charitable status and fundraising powers), but I certainly recognise that this is far more than mere gesture politics at a ripe moment. Hunt means to force the BBC into putting its house in real order, or else.

Never thought I’d see the day. Well done Jeremy Hunt. Let battle commence!

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Education is an area that interests me intensely so it might not be surprising that I’m spending the early evening watching the education funding statement on the parliament channel at this very moment (exciting, eh?).

Suffice to say, and in the spirit of his refreshing brevity and precision, Michael Gove is giving one of the more polished parliamentary performances I’ve seen in defending his policy of suspending Ed Balls’ pie-in-the-sky, dishonest pre-election plans for building and refurbishing 700 schools. A number of facts are emerging thanks to Gove’s extraordinary mastery of the detail, not least among them the bureaucratic waste, vast inefficiency and dreadful mismanagement of PFI contracts by Ed Balls and the department he apparently headed (even though he seemed far more busy most of the time trying in his role as Gordon Brown’s barely house trained thug, propping up the auld fraud and protecting him almost 24/7 from his own cabinet, a full time job in itself).

Gove’s handling of the various whining Labour opposition MPs, moaning about things that their own pathetic leadership brought down on them, is just breathtakingly good. The more insulting and detached from reality they become, the more witty and precise his answers become and, in a spiral that can only ever tarnish the grim image of the socialists further, causes the Labour MPs to become even more insulting and detached from reality.

The reason for this is simple: the principles underpinning Gove’s policy initiatives, even ones that amount to large but necessary cuts in the education budget at a time, thanks to the disastrous failures of the previous government, of great insecurity in the public finances, are bullet proof. Better value for money, less bureaucracy and higher standards through greater choice are on offer. And you would bet your house that Gove is the sort of man who will deliver.

All poor old Balls, the biggest villain of this piece, can do meanwhile is moan about the list of affected schools not being available in the Commons library for a handful of minutes. That really is the best he can do – and it’s not very good, is it? I think I can predict Gove’s response: “Ball, E: must do better, but on the strength of past performances probably won’t. D-“.

Gove is a truly impressive figure – everyone knows that. But when he’s up against the likes of feeble Balls and his ilk on the opposition benches, he looks like a world beater. Cameron beware!

Oh dear. And Balls is still moaning away – this time about his money fiddling of that dodgy Islamic faith school some aeons ago. Labourists – you’ve gotta love ’em (sort of). They are totally clueless. It’s a wonder to me they remember to breathe.

For them to be whinging about pre-announced policies is just priceless!

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Well, no. It wasn’t really much of a shock that John – sorry – “Lord” Prescott felt he was so important that he could swear at fellow interviewee Zac Goldsmith on Radio 4 this morning, and then smear said new Tory MP with impunity.

Nor was it much of a shock that the interviewer did nothing to intervene – if nothing else than to get Prescott for once in his miserable political life to stick to the point, but merely apologised vaguely afterwards I assume for his own conduct by saying that sometimes it’s best for these things to be allowed to run their natural course – without getting involved.
As to the issue being discussed – Labour’s (Prescott’s, in fact) appalling record on housing and the disastrous assault on our nation’s green spaces under that regime, which, Prescott seemed quite happy to admit, was more or less a conscious brand of class war – others will disagree no doubt, but I thought Goldsmith wiped the floor with Lord Two Jags (or should that be Lord Two Shags?).
Goldsmith commanded his brief and, when permitted by the lame BBC interviewer, delivered a rational, compelling set of reasons for why, to meet the housing shortage, existing housing stock must be renovated, only appropriate spaces should be built on (ie: not greenfield sites), and local councils must be released from central government meddling so they can do what they were elected to do and make policy to suit the area for which they are responsible and which they (in theory) know best how to manage.
It was a polished performance and Prescott had no answer to it, his policies having buggered everything up (to borrow his expression) in the first place.
One-nil to Goldsmith.
(And minus one to the BBC, again.)

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Yesterday was too irritating to blog about. Besides, I was busy with real, crust-earning life.

But it was an excruciating day politically. The vain Huhne’s inability to be ministerial in any sense of the term, preferring his own agenda regarding what he seems to think is the minor issue of nuclear power over policy, thus undermining on Day 2 his own party leader’s sworn coalition commitments, was just too much for me to take without crashing my car.

So I let it go, calmed down, made it home and stayed silent. That was healthy. And hey, I’ve been ecouraged to be a quiet supporter of this stupid marriage anyway, not least by the Conservative Party’s central spin machine. “Give it a chance, Den, it’s the new politics,” they’ve said. Well, sure. I’m game.

Bullshit. Day 3 and while we have the hangoever of Simon Hughes’ Tory-hating performance on Question Time to mull over, a new revolt – from Tory backbenchers, no less, not LibDums – over the 55% Cameron “stability” proposal (which smacks of Day 2 desperation to me), dominated the political news.

But that’s been trumped now. Coalition Day 4 will be all about Saint Vinny Cable’s (he’s now Britain’s Business Minister, laughably) desperate calls to Gordon Brown (remember him?) to discuss ways of keeping the “Tories out”.

Sorry, fellow moderate Conservatives, but you should understand now why I am measuring this hopeless coalition’s lifespan in terms of days rather than months or – and this bit of political confection amused me the most when I heard it from the two leaders involved – in years!

The best will in the world, which is what David Cameron has delivered – and he demonstrated that again, impressively, today in Scotland as his defining, wonderful feature as a genuine leader – cannot alter the potentially perverse motives and vile appetites of the partner you choose to bed.

The Liberal Democrats are appalling bedfellows, not because of the Tories, or even because of their natural woolliness, but because they have no idea of unity in the name of higher purpose, and absolutely no genuine party unity anyway.

Cameron has had a wonderful, heavyweight start, and so has the Tory part of his team. That bodes well.

In contrast, the LibDems look like total lightweights – and totally divided lightweights at that (where’s the leadership from Clegg? Why hasn’t he slapped Huhne down? Because he can’t).

They are, in short, complete jokes – and Cameron, as his stock price rises as he pops up on the world’s radar and is recognised as a sound man with a view who seems to be listening, has no need to take any shit from any of these idiots at home.

I feel an ultimatum is actually pretty imminent. It should be. “Hey, Clegg, Mr Deputy Prime Minister. Shape up or sod off.”

Well, someone has to say it.

Things fall apart/The Centrists cannot hold…

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Philip Johnson has just perfectly framed one of the major priorities for this new Conservative/coalition (CC for short) government. It’s a Great Repeal or, the alternative, which I prefer, Freedom Bill which will, when enacted, move us forward in the titanic task of repairing the damage that thirteen years of Labour has inflicted on Britain’s tradtional rights and liberties. He is, in fact, a champion of the cause:

As someone who has written countless articles, and a recently published book, Bad Laws, about Labour’s excessive legislation and the erosion of our civil liberties, the new government’s programme for tackling this through a Great Repeal Bill is greatly encouraging.

For this who have not seen the list of laws and databases set either for the axe or for review here it is. I can think of many more to add, and any suggestions are gratefully received. But it is a start.

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.

The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

Further regulation of CCTV.

Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences

Excellent stuff, and in Ken Clarke there is a true heavyweight who can get the job done. But this should be just the beginning. After Labour’s wicked assault on our freedoms is tackled, more repeal bills will be required to heal the deep wounds of every other area of British public life Labour mauled with their nightmarish authoritarian statism and hyper-interventionism – most of all but certainly not exclusively in education.

This is a positive initiative that stops dead the previous government’s sinister ideological legal and social manipulation and simultaneously will help to bring them firmly to book for their actions while in office.

Forget all the photo opportunities, it is this that says to me loud and clear: the CC government has made a good start on Day 1. It bodes well for the future.

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Brown has almost gone and the deal with the Libdems is almost complete, according to Bareknuckle Boulton on Sky.

Me, I have grave misgivings about this whole shoddy arrangement. But at least Cameron will be where he should be, in Number 10 – elected – and at least the cuckoo Brown will finally be out. For good. That’ll do for now.

==Update==
Sky has just reported Brown is going to resign tonight. I am very glad I kept that bottle of vintage bubbly on ice. Toasting his exit will be one, sweet moment of gladness.

==Update 2==
Oh dear, the lecturn’s out again.

Good grief, do the dignified thing, Brown: just get in the Jag and go to the palace. We really do not want yet another self-justifying, self-pitying speech. We’ve had thirteen long years of those, all equally as bad, or worse, than the last one.

He shall not be missed.

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I never thought I’d say this because I haven’t really ‘got’ Will Heaven so far in my relatively short blogging journey (maybe I’m jealous of his relative youthfulness and palpable cleverness – I certainly apologise if those are the reasons!), but he’s just posted a piece answering that desperate Freedland thing that caused a bit of a stir in the leftwing media today of such dazzling brilliance that I’m afraid I’ve caved-in to the temptation to cut and paste it here so that you don’t have to venture into its natural habitat to read it:

Emails from my Lefty friends have been pinging into my inbox this afternoon.Their subject lines have all been similar: “What do you think about Jonathan Freedland’s article in the Guardian on life under the Tories?” Hardly surprising, since it has been trending on Twitter all day. But I thought I’d take a closer look at what’s really worrying the brilliant Left-wing columnist.

Freedland writes, à la Kinnock: “I warn you that a chance some have waited for all their adult lives will slip away, perhaps taking another generation to come around again: the chance to reform our rotten, broken electoral system.”

But do the voters really want Labour sharing power after 13 years in government? Surely not, judging by recent polls which suggest a Labour collapse worse than one overseen by Michael Foot in 1983. They’ve had enough. And if you won’t listen to the electorate, at least read Boris Johnson on the problems with PR:

With PR, you end up with two types of MP and two types of democratic mandate; you promote the rise of extremist and fringe parties, such as the BNP, which has exploited PR to capture a seat on the London Assembly; and you end up with a system that is not remotely proportional. As Clegg knows full well, the effect of PR is greatly to magnify the influence of the third or fourth or fifth party – at the expense of the first or second. Look at Germany, where the FDP was able to hold the balance of power, and retain the foreign ministry for decades, in spite of winning only 5 per cent of the vote. Look at Israel, and the disproportionate influence of the minority religious parties.

All these are grave defects, but there is one final and overwhelming reason why Britain should not and will not adopt PR – that it always tends to erode the sovereign right of the people to kick the b––––––s out. Look at Belgium or Italy and see the disaster of coalition governments, endlessly forced to appease their constituent parts, chronically unable to take the decisions necessary for the country.

Freedland knows this first-hand. The only time I have met him was on a trip to Israel during the last Israeli election, when he explained to me and other students – in crystal clear terms – why Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian Right-wing nut (and former nightclub bouncer), was about to be made the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs despite his extreme party, Yisrael Beiteinu, only receiving about 11 per cent of the popular vote. PR – and a weak coalition government – was to blame.

Freedland continues: “If Cameron wins, he will not only thwart any move to fairer voting, he will act fast to rig the system in his favour. Even neutrals agree that his plan to cut the number of MPs by 10% – presented as a mere cost-cutting measure – will be one of the grossest acts of gerrymandering in British political history.”

The above link – to an Independent story – was a curious one to include. The so-called “neutrals” are David Blunkett, some unnamed “Labour officials”, and – finally – there is some research from the University of Plymouth which concludes: “The geography of each party’s support base is much more important, so changes in the redistribution procedure are unlikely to have a substantial impact and remove the significant disadvantage currently suffered by the Conservative Party.” Right, so that supports Freedland’s argument, does it?

Thirdly, he calls for “reform of our absurd, unelected second chamber” which, he writes, “will be postponed indefinitely, enabling Cameron to pack the Lords with his mates and sugar daddies, including perhaps a few more of those businessmen who so obligingly sided with the Conservatives in condemning Labour’s plans for national insurance.”

Why not acknowledge the fact that the Conservatives have themselves pledged to reform the House of Lords? Here’s the key quote from their manifesto:

We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence.

Freedland laments the Tory plans for the economy, saying, “I warn you that the economy could slide back into despair… A sudden shut-off of the public spending tap could well send a frail recovery staggering back into recession: the dreaded double-dip. It’s happened elsewhere and could happen here.”

But, as I blogged earlier, the argument that swift debt reduction could endanger the British economy is wearing thin, as Greece’s debt crisis shows worrying signs of impacting Europe as a whole. As one influential financial journlist (who until 48 hours ago was planning to vote Lib Dem) put it to me: “There is only one way for the UK to avoid a Greek-style crisis, and that is to reduce the country’s deficit as quickly as possible. The Tories’ economic plans have been vindicated.” The Economist and the Financial Times – both of which have backed a Conservative government – seem to agree.

Freedland is suspicious of Cameron’s wicked, wicked plan to ringfence NHS spending and of the Tories proposed inheritance tax cut, which is unlikely to happen soon. He is also anxious that single mothers and widows will receive £3 a week less than married women, because the Conservatives believe that the tax system should promote the family.

And he is sceptical about fusty old Tory backbenchers, while failing to note that half of them are about to be elbowed aside by a new intake of younger, more progressive, Conservative MPs. He is worried by David Cameron’s friends in the EU – but I think Daniel Hannan has answered that claim effectively on his blog, pointing out that “the ECR is more respectable than either of the two big blocs, the EPP or the Socialists.”

Finally, Freedland wishes he had time “to make a positive case for Labour, echoing its promises on a living wage and a cap on predatory chargecard interest rates or its plans for green jobs.”

But the truth is that – after 13 years in power – there really is no positive case for Labour. Tomorrow, the electorate will show they know it.

Superb. And here here!

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Been reading a few hand-wringing blogposts around and about reinforcing the idea that after that truly appalling rant at the weird, “Citizen UK” rally, Brown had somehow found his voice at the eleventh hour. Of course, it’s in the nature of the media that these things become self-reinforcing narratives leading, usually at breakneck speed, to some sort of settled view or consensus, however totally detached from the truth – or reality – it might be. In fact, you could argue that the general election battle is a battle not just for a vote, but to influence that mercurial, flowing media narrative and try to alter, if you like, the course of the discourse – so to speak.

So in one sense – this sense – one could say that Brown sort of succeeded. He has shifted the narrative slightly – maybe – with the BBC on this morning’s Today programme being willing accomplices, typically, or even the initiators of this latest little change of tack. But we know that the whole narrative, whichever way it is leaning, is generally nonsense anyway; that the reality is rather different, regardless of whether it influences people’s minds or not.
The reality is that Brown, with his back against the wall and his campaign leaders pulling in three different directions, telling their own voters to vote for other parties (David Blackburn was pretty amusing on this in the morning), has decided unsurprisingly to get all atavistic on our butts; to go back to the old irrational, deceitful, Tory-hating, prehistoric Balls-Brown fake dividing line that Mandelson and Darling worked so hard to move away from and onto less toxic, less risky ground. They tried to decontaminate brand Brown. It seems they failed.
But they at least could see the bigger picture that concerns the whole future of Labour. I figure they calculated that if they allowed Brown to lie about phantom Tory cuts/ equally phantom Labour spending, won the election and then proceeded to cut everything in sight having been ordered to by the IMF, they would lose the next election (which would probably come soon afterwards anyway) by a country mile, be truly obliterated this time by a livid electorate, and secure 25 years of Tory government into the bargain without David Cameron even having to break sweat.
So, the upshot is that, despite the direction in which the media narrative is currently veering, apparently and irrelevantly, the fact is that Brown has got it disastrously wrong. He’s not only reverted to type (who could have doubted that he wouldn’t – that’s all he is, after all), but he’s actually going to lose the election on the back of it too, so we can skip the brief period of the total turmoil of a Labour government winning on a lie and collapsing within months as the economy tears itself apart and move straight onto the Tories.
All in all, the couple of more rational members of the former Labour cabinet must be tearing their collective hair out (that doesn’t include Liam Byrne, naturally) gnashing their teeth and generally wailing a lot. Thanks to Gordon Brown, the whole, elegantly triangulated (and exquisitely dishonest rather than brutally deceitful) Mandelsonian election campaign strategy has now totally imploded and will suck the party down with it.
As I’ve said before, they only have themselves to blame. They could have removed Brown a long time ago. Hell, they never should have taken the piss out of the electorate by giving the auld wrecker a coronation in the first place. But that’s all history now, and so is Labour. The one silver lining is that if there is any justice left in this world, or, indeed, sense left in this country, then even if Labour aren’t kicked into third place and kicked into touch for a generation – even if they manage by some miracle to keep Cameron down to a minority government – Brown will be gone.
Even I, ever the optimist who still firmly believes in the clear Tory triumph – if by some horrible, perverted twist of fate I’m wrong, even I would happily settle just for the end of Brown if I can’t have anything else. That outcome would be by no means satisfying, or even satisfactory, but it’d be one hell of a relief.

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…for New Labour under first Blair, then Brown, to ruin Britain. It’s worth watching this again just to remind yourself why you’re not voting for Labour – and why you shouldn’t risk voting for the Liberal Democrats.

The only party that can be trusted to make a start on rescuing the British economy, and securing genuine recovery, is the Conservative party.

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Outstanding. In every way. Powerful and thought-provoking and, of course, all true – something the Labour/Libdum campaigns can’t boast. I hope this one makes its way onto the telly.
The Spectator has blogged on this already, having been ringside at its launch about an hour ago. Peter Hoskin of that esteemed organ writes:

It was a good nine minutes long, and might as well have been titled The Downfall of New Labour. The opening shots were of Blair and Brown in 97: “a new dawn,” and all that. But Blair’s image soon faded to black-and-white, and we were bombarded with a montage of headlines, quotes and images which highlighted the failures of the Labour years. 10p tax. Falling education standards. MRSA. The misdemeanours of Peter Mandelson. Defence spending. Purnell’s resignation. Gillian Duffy. Even Manish Sood’s comments today. Depending on your disposition, it was all gorily nostalgic stuff. Negative, yes. But quite powerful nonetheless.

Speaking afterwards, and in response to questions, Jeremy Hunt was keen to emphasise two things: that a (tactical) vote for the Lib Dems could mean five more years of this, and that the Tories also have a positive message. The latter point is undeniable – as demonstrated by Cameron’s contract with voters this week. But it’s striking that the party has chosen to round out its campaign with an all-out assault on Brown and his compatriots. Deep down, you suspect, they always knew he was their biggest asset.

Yes, but there’s also nothing like telling it like it is. People are crying out for honesty – and, yes, for change. Show me someone who really believes that with five more years of the wrecker and divider Brown, or with Labour’s little, yellow mini-me bruvvas and sistas, the Illiberal Democrats, you will get change and I’ll show you either a liar or an activist or a fool (or all of the above rolled into one).

Whatever the impact of this broadcast will depend on its circulation, of course. But if it were to be widely seen, then I think it would have a big effect on polling, but not because, as Hoskin suggests, Brown is the Tories’ biggest asset, 13 years of Labour dishonesty and failure is.

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