Archive for the ‘policy’ Category

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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A few days ago, discreet – and now defunct – blogger “Letters from A. Tory” posted what I think is one his finest bits of commentary, among many fine bits of commentary from that individual over the years. We’d come to expect it, value it, even.

It’s worth noting, at least on my diary of political angst – for personal posterity, in other words, you understand – that I’d been reading the Letters blog for a couple of years or so already, long before I’d thought about the idea of an online diary of my own. But it was his efforts that finally convinced me to have a crack at it myself – at the start of last year. I have to be grateful for that, not least because it’s more or less kept me sane.

Well, now he’s gone, sadly. But his last post doesn’t just resonate as much as all his others, it’s a perfect warning to David Cameron, a man who, so far, has done pretty well as coaltionist Prime Minister, but he’s also ignored, alarmingly, his people.

Anyway, here’s the quitter’s last post:

Dear David Cameron,
This is the final letter that I will ever write, as this blog will sadly be closing down tomorrow (along with a final goodbye from me). I appreciate that this salient fact may have escaped your attention due to some rather important events in your own life and career over the past few days. Even so, regardless of the election result, you were always going to be the last person that I wrote to, as there is so much that I’d like to say.
When you became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, I had barely heard of you. Along you came, with a superb leadership campaign and a genuine belief that the Conservative Party had to change in order to win an election – which was, of course, entirely correct. Over the following months and years, we saw the environment take centre-stage, euroscepticism get quietly tucked away and centre-ground political thinking forced onto a somewhat reluctant group of MPs. It was necessary, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, the Conservative MPs on the benches behind you in the House of Commons soon realised that you could deliver a Conservative government, and for that reason alone they kept their mouths shut (most of the time). However, your inner cabal of strategists, image gurus and modernisers did not have it all their own way. On several occasions, including the election campaign itself and the election that never was in 2007, your closed circle came under huge pressure from the electorate and your own party. Yes, they survived, as did you, but only just. As we approached the recent general election, voters were still unsure about who you were and what you believed in, which is staggering after five years of leading the opposition. Your desire to keep your cards close to your chest and deal purely in intangibles and soundbytes almost cost you a place in 10 Downing Street. The public don’t like feeling uneasy about potential Prime Ministers, yet they were fed uneasiness in spades. Despite all the funding you could have asked for and a crippled government, it so nearly went horribly wrong.
Here we are, just a few days later, witnessing a truly historic coalition between you – a liberal conservative – and the Liberal Democrats. Ironically enough, everything is completely different yet little has changed. You still have a group of MPs who will be sitting behind you, watching, waiting, holding their nerve for as long as possible in the hope that you can deliver a truly successful and admired Conservative government. Common sense tells them to keep quiet rather than voice their anger and irritation. You will have your inner cabal with you in government as they were in opposition, making decisions that affect everyone and everything despite having shown their incompetence on more than one occasion. Moreover, the coalition deal has put many of your favoured issues – social justice, a green economy, civil liberties – at the heart of your plans for government. You didn’t hide your disappointment at not getting a majority in the House of Commons, yet you have gracefully and seamlessly organised a historic coalition with another party. The question on everyone’s lips now is, naturally, will it last? I have no idea what the answer is to that question, but then again neither do you. What I find interesting, though, is not that things could go well or go badly – that is just stating the obvious. The most incredible element of this coalition is the breathtaking gulf between the best case scenario and worst case scenario for you and the Conservative Party.
The best case scenario for 2015 is simple enough. The economy will be growing at a healthy rate and both unemployment and economic inactivity will be reduced. The welfare state will have been transformed by supporting people into work and punishing those who chose not to get a job. Our broken society will have begun its long healing process through stronger families, good schools, lower crime and genuine localism taking hold. Government waste will have been largely eliminated and the state will be much leaner and fitter than it is now. British people will be put first, civil liberties will be untouchable and immigration will be severely curtailed. People’s faith in politics and politicians will have been mostly restored. The Lib Dems will have kept their end of the deal, leaving themselves with absolutely no electoral appeal relative to the Conservative Party and facing annihilation. The Labour Party will be rife with infighting and weak leadership, making them virtually unelectable given your strong performance as Prime Minister and with the memory of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown fresh in many people’s minds.
The worst scenario, however, is nothing short of disaster. The coalition falls apart within months as the Lib Dems walk away, accusing you of ignoring them and not delivering on promises. You look weak and indecisive, with your own party demanding tougher action on any number of issues. The Conservative grassroots refuse to campaign because you and your inner cabal leave them disillusioned with pointless platitudes and non-traditional policies. The economy staggers along, still badly wounded, and public sector cuts push unemployment in the wrong direction. The voters ignore your pleas over the necessity of cutting government spending while every policy announcement is met with scorn and cries of ’spin’. Your school reforms and localist agenda stumble and fall. Your welfare reforms leave you branded as abandoning the poor and needy. Uncontrolled immigration continues unabated and the anger spills over onto the streets. Your pro-EU stance forces some backbench MPs to break ranks and speak out against the party line. Labour regroups and, as the only strong opposition party, lap up your failures and convince the floating Lib Dems and disgruntled Conservative voters to join them. Electoral defeat is little more than an inevitability.
My political crystal ball is of no use. For the life of me, I just cannot see where this will all end up. Neither the best case scenario nor the worst case scenario are implausible, outlandish or inconceivable, yet the two scenarios are a staggering distance apart. The only thing that I can say with any certainty is that the future is very uncertain. The history books will remember the next five years of British politics as one of the most incredible periods in living memory. I just can’t decide whether that will be for better or for worse.
Good luck, Mr Cameron. You’re going to need it.
Yours sincerely,

Wise words, wouldn’t you think?

I’m not going to link through to the source site of this article because it’s now officially (so I’ve been told) dead.

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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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Brainbox Oli Letwin’s much-maligned ‘Policy Pyramid’ has been criticised pretty heavily for its content, not least by some campaigners (it omits, among other things, to mention word- one about immigration, for example). For what it’s worth, I think that what it does say is, in the main, pretty worthwhile. So on balance perhaps the criticism has been a tad over the top. (Who could argue with the aim to reignite aspiration in a Brown-wrecked economy, for instance?)

I would add one thing, however. The image below, which is, so we were told by Peter Hoskin earlier today, The Times’ Sam Coates’ accurate visual interpretation of the concept, doesn’t half look like a house of cards. I just hope that that’s nothing more than a meaningless coincidence, and that Letwin really does know what he’s doing. As they say, we shall see.

Letwin’s Policy Pyramid

House of Cards

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The Speccy’s Lloyd Evans pretty much sums-up the impact – or lack thereof – of the most inadequate, partisan and self-serving Queen’s Speech I think any of us have ever had to listen to. The Queen herself hardly seemed amused and with old lefty trolls like Denis Skinner loudly remarking that the current, hopeless Sergeant at Arms’ legs were “better than the last one”, you get a rough idea of just how contemptuous quite a large portion of the PLP is of Britain’s parliamentary traditions. It was no accident, too, that the most glaring omission from Brown’s outpourings (for that is what this was) concerned the small matters of the expenses scandal, Whitehall reform and the NHS. Conclusion? They just don’t really care. All they do care about is trying to get re-elected. Newsflash, Gordon: it’ll never happen on the strength of that meagre offering. The Spectator:

Even before the Queen had trundled back to Buckingham Palace, Mandy had let the cat out of the bag. Speaking on BBC News he said of the Gracious Speech, ‘All these laws are relevant … and achievable. It will be for the public to decide whether they want them or not.’ There you have it. The greatest power in the land admits the Queen’s Speech is Labour’s manifesto.

The response to the Gracious Speech is an enjoyably ragged parliamentary occasion, full of ancient traditions and even more ancient jokes. Frank Dobson proposed the Humble Address and spoke with pride about his Holborn constituency where the anti-Apartheid movement had been born. He met Mandela briefly after his release from prison and encountered him a second time when, as newly elected President of South Africa, he addressed a joint meeting of parliament. Mandela tapped Dobson on the shoulder. ‘You do remember who I am, don’t you?’

Seconding the Humble Address, Emily Thornberry announced how pleased she was to have been abused by Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. It proved she’d arrived. He called her ‘scrumptious’ and ‘very county’. But Ms Thorberry corrected that impression and recalled her family’s eviction from her Guildford home by ‘bowler-hatted bailiffs’. Her single mother struggled on benefits and later became a Labour councillor – unusual in Tory Guildford – but the Conservatives were good enough to name a street in her honour. ‘Thornberry Way runs from the sewage works to the dump,’ she smiled. ‘Thanks.’

Over to Dave. He called the Gracious Speech ‘a Labour press release on Palace parchment.’ It was full of glaring omissions. No immigration bill. No sign of the promised regulations ‘to transform the culture of Whitehall’. And no mention of the NHS. This led Dave to deduce that ‘the NHS is not a priority for this government.’ That made Labour MPs very cross indeed. One leapt up and dared Dave to match Labour’s guarantee that cancer patients will be able to see a consultant within two weeks. Dave wriggled out of that one without quite making the pledge. He was then asked how he planned to maintain the army’s strength. This was bizarre. Labour MPs were acting as if Dave were installed in Number 10 and he had popped down to the house for his first PMQs.

Dave moved to Gordon’s record on employment. ‘The only jobs he has created are for his cronies,’ he jeered. He poured scorn on the ‘government of all the talents’, many of whom have taken ermine and moved to the Lords. ‘Never have so many stoats died in vain. Forget about jobs for the boys, it’s stoats for the goats.’

The most embarrassing omission in the government’s programme was the Kelly report. Cameron challenged Brown directly. ‘If he brings forward legislation to implement the rest of Kelly we will help take it through parliament.’ Brown stared down and pretended to fiddle with his papers. Dave tried again. ‘No one will understand why this vital work isn’t being done in this parliament.’ Would the Prime Minister accept Tory help? Afraid not. Gordon suddenly discovered he had something of vital importance to whisper into Batty Hattie’s ear. Dave swung a spotlight onto this Olympic display of dithering. ‘They’ve run out of money, run out of time, run out of ideas. And, we’ve just seen from the Prime Minister, they’ve run out of courage as well.’

Brown managed to raise the tone from low political knockabout to the loftier region of international relations. Afghanistan was on his mind. President Karzai had offered 5,000 troops (he didn’t specify ‘extra troops’) to hold ground recovered from the Taleban. And Karzai would soon introduce ‘an anti-corruption task force’. That sounds ominously like a new way to collect old protection money. Within NATO, Brown was pressing for ‘fairer burden sharing’ between the allies. Slovakia would shortly announce a doubling of its troop deployment.

When he moved on from the Queen’s speech, Brown relaxed a little and had some partisan fun with Dave’s proposals on inheritance tax. Labour rallied behind him, cheering with wild desperation like drunken sailors being kicked out of a party.

When Nick Clegg stood up there was an unseemly exodus from the chamber. The monarch, he said, had been asked to give ‘a fantasy Queen’s speech’. He questioned the need for yet more laws from a government which has already put over 500 measures on the statute book. ‘Legislation is Labour’s comfort blanket.’ Their proposals were full of superficial gestures. One example, a new measure against child poverty which ‘sets a target but doesn’t put a penny in the pockets of a struggling family.’ In the end, this was a Queen’s Speech written not on parchment but on rice paper.

“Never have so many stoats died in vain.” That was good. In fact, most of Cameron’s robust assault on Labour’s “press release on Palace parchment”, which I’ve just managed to watch, was good to very good – and sometimes excellent.

When all is done and dusted, however, and Labour’s pathetic policy posturing (no action will be forthcoming on any of it from incapability Brown – and thank goodness for that) there is only really one question left for the electorate: what shall we do with the drunken sailor(s)? The rest of the lyrics to that wonderful old shanty provide the answers. They do not make pleasant reading for Brown’s lame duck administration, which is now, surely, beyond salvation.

Praise the Lord!

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Having been bed-ridden with some kind of stinking cold for the past few days, I thought it appropriate to do something on health tonight. That’s not the only reason, of course, nor even the main one. The main one is Labour’s latest attempt to steal Tory policy thunder with an announcement by their child of a health minister, Andy Burnham, that filled this morning’s front pages, to rig NHS waiting list figures by making taxpayers pay for other people to go private.

Aside from the fact that this is an admission of abject failure, and that this sudden pledge, designed as it obviously and dishonestly is somehow to “Tory-proof the NHS” (as one Labour apologist put it) in an area where they are making significant headway with some excellent policy commitments of their own, some might be tempted to argue that making use of surplus capacity in the private sector in this way is a good idea. They would be entirely wrong.

Three of the central reasons why they would be wrong are that, first, private health care is preferable to NHS care, and many millions of people choose to pay the extra cost, because the spare capacity, deliberately made, creates a better service and zero waiting times. The spare capacity itself is made possible by high levels of properly managed investment and best management practice. The NHS – and government – has a lot to learn from private health care. The effect of the government intervening and paying private hospitals effectively to solve the problem of over-demand and inefficiency in the NHS will be to spread the disease: it will kill spare capacity in the private system leading, inevitably and quickly, to price hikes. In the end, private patients will actually be squeezed out of the market by government subcontracting. Perhaps this is the Labour party’s real aim.

The second of the central reasons why this is such a bad idea is partly a moral one. It’s not just private patients who will end up being clobbered by a government that once again seems willing to rig the market to mask its own total incompetence. It’s the taxpayers as well. Who does this government think it is? It must think people are astonishingly stupid if it thinks they will not notice that they will be paying for the same health service (already the most expensive and inefficient in the world) twice if, God forbid, this government actually won the next election and brought these measures in. It is not only an insult to the electorate’s intellegence, however, it is morally wrong for a government to use legislation to fleece the population for political and dishonest motives. Those motives? 1. To massage waiting list figures; 2. To further the notion that “entitlement”, in the socialist sense, is some sort of moral absolute and is something that only the state, not the market, can fulfil; 3. To embarrass the Tories (though I’m not sure how they expect this policy announcement will achieve that); 4. Possibly to gain some control of the private healthcare system by, effectively, buying it off. Some might have their doubts about this last one, but people should never forget that it has always been a long term aim of the Left to kill off all competition to the state provision of services, particularly in the areas of education and health.

The third central reason why this is such a bad idea is, of course, the most simple to grasp and straightforward to explain – and it’s the most powerful: it’s Labour’s idea and it would be a Labour ministry trying to enforce it. The past 12 years tell us very clearly, especially when it comes to PPP or PFI or subcontracting arrangements with and within the NHS (and everywhere else), that it would be a full-scale, monumentally costly catastrophe.

Health care is never free, but at least with the Tories there’s a chance we might get a bit more value for money. If this Labour government is re-elected all we will have is less and less for more and more – and Burnham’s blustering policy announcement proves that point perfectly.

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…if you want the nation’s government – and therefore the nation – finally to operate at its full potential.

Rene Kinzet, the excellent, vigilant guardian of the Tory flame in Swansea (where I work), explains so well why in this particular case, the ends do not necessarily justify the means, but they truly define them. All woman shortlists present no scary moral hazard once it is accepted that there’s a far bigger picture here, especially when it comes to that tired conservative (not Tory) standard: meritocracy. That bigger picture is the real picture. And it’s question of scale, especially when it comes to the long-abused meritocratic imperative. The notion of ‘meritocracy’ without the assumption of equality in terms of cultural, social and/or vocational expectations is an insult to the intelligence of every modern British subject.

As Mr Kinzet revealed to me in his response to one of my little comments:

Astonishing fact: 291 women and 4559 men elected to Commons since 1918.

David Cameron gets it. Suffering the understandable gripes of the establishment, with their familiar habits and attitudes, is a price worth paying to correct the ridiculous gender imbalance that defines and shames our system of political representation. Cameron has my full support if he is genuinely planning to suffer those unenlightened gripes. I think he is.

That’s progressive Conservatism. That’s what it means to be real Tory.

Our generation of Conservatives, in a Nixon and China sense, has the opportunity finally – and literally – to fix the sociopolitical problem which is the systematic ostracisation of women from politics. I say ‘sociopolitical’ because that’s exactly what it is: received societal expectations and “norms” constantly impacting on the political ambitions of that half of our population who happen to be women and generating devastating indifference among what would otherwise be thousands of potential Margaret Thatchers and, dare I say it, Shirley Williamses. (It works both ways!)

The short term gripes of anyone, especially male MPs and people who haven’t thought things through properly, are insufficient. The gripists, like Iain Dale for example, must ask themselves why they are really griping. And, shortly after they’ve worked out how wrong they are, accede to David Cameron’s visionary, just solution.

Speaking of that ‘just solution’, do you know what? I would go further, much further to fix this risible, archaic inequality currently being defended by powerful idiots everywhere. So my children won’t have to fix it, I propose an even deeper quick-fix than shortlists.

I propose that all three main parties get together and co-ordinate their all women shortlists so that at least 200 constituencies in the next election are guaranteed to return MPs who happen to be female. It can be done.

It should be. Bring on the gripes…

While I’m waiting, however, I think we should all watch this:

Satire, eh? QED.

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