Tag Archives: Westminster

Limited Term Politics

Now there was an announcement of interest – David Cameron won’t run for a third spell as Prime Minister, assuming of course he grabs a second by what won’t be more than the skin of his teeth. This caused surprising levels of disquiet among the Conservative Party, and the world of political analysis went into overtime to parse the meaning of it all. Was it clever? Was it reckless? What impact will it have on the election, and who would be the next in line? One question that doesn’t seem to have been asked though, is why it’s seen as appropriate for one individual to hold such a degree of authority in the nation’s politics for longer than two terms?

There’s no sense in dredging up the ostensible facts about the structures of British politics, cabinet politics, where technically the Prime Minister is only meant to be a part of a core team of fellow ministers. This isn’t the USA, some would say, Cameron isn’t the president and the differences in these systems means unlimited-term ministers are of less concern. But if we’re being honest, there has been a shift in the last two decades in the character of British politics that has seen the role of Prime Minister assume greater relevance. While still a far throw from being actually presidential, there’s no doubt a heady step in that direction was taken with the ascendancy of Tony Blair.

Even if that wasn’t the case, the question would remain – what is the logic and wisdom of allowing a limited group of individuals an unending seat at the tables of power? Why in this country is that effectively the default position for our ministers, from the lowly junior elect all the way up to No.10? Whatever bearing Cameron’s declaration will have on the imminent political landscape, and assuming the declaration was honest and to be borne out in the fullness of time, it’s hard to understand why it was greeted with any sense of controversy. Where were the congratulations for daring to be forthright about the limited extent of his political ambition?

It is a rarity that a political career of noticeable longevity was thus because of the excellence of the politician in question. More often than not it is a product of entrenchment, where the individual in question was simply able to cling on out of vanity and comfort, without any aspect of genuine competition for their place in politics. We see it in Westminster and in Washington, and in many other of the halls of governance across the world. That constituencies can be so utterly stagnant as to allow for the continuation of political livelihoods that span decades is surely something that defies the better wisdom of public service.

In the UK we have even enshrined the position of longest serving MP with the title “Father of the House”. For the last five years that honorific has belonged to Sir Peter Tapsell, although it may just be that this man belongs to that less common set of genuinely unflinching public servants, and it’s difficult, perhaps not even called for, to make criticisms of someone so broadly respected. This doesn’t mean the system in place that allowed a ministerial career that started in 1959 and runs to this very day, only disrupted by two years out of parliament from 1964-66, isn’t worthy of criticism.

It takes a glance across the Atlantic to see what is unquestionably the poster child for reformations to the allowed terms of public service, one Congressman Charles Rangel. How this perennial lightning rod of ethical discrepancies has maintained his 44-year career is no mystery, as we go back to those key words: vanity, comfort, entrenchment and stagnation. Leaving behind naïve ideals of politics, open ended political service is far more want to produce the Rangels of this world then it is the Tapsells.

Look to the expenses scandal our dutiful MPs found themselves embroiled in, in 2009. To date, eight politicians have had criminal charges brought against them, Labour’s David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley, Denis MacShane, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley, and Conservative Peers John Taylor and Paul White. All but Jim Devine had served for a period of not less than 13 years, in most cases considerably longer than this. Of the dozens of other MPs obliged to repay the public coffers for their indiscretions, most assumed office in or before 1997.

This isn’t to say that a prolonged stint on the public teat is definitively corollary with petty corruption, and many MPs were quite capable of resisting temptation, but it is simply another layer to the argument that ministers, let alone cabinet or prime ministers, should have better restrictions placed upon them. Besides, a traditional ideal of politics was that it never should have been a substitute for an “actual” career, namely one that began and thrived in the private sector and then ceded into public service once some form of wisdom or experience of the real world was accrued. In that sense, politics carried some characteristic of sacrifice, rather than opportunism.

Like or loathe or David Cameron for his politics, there is at least a little something to applaud in his apparent unwillingness to plough ahead indefinitely in Westminster, without doubt with regards to his role as Prime Minister. Periodically, new leaders, new ideas and a new direction are hugely important to reinvigorating national politics. While it also remains to be seen if Cameron becomes part of the “revolving door” dynamic of modern politics that sees many slip from office into some form of lobbying, there shouldn’t be anything implicitly negative about saying, in politics, “Enough is enough.”


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Britain’s Gay Marriage Headache

Good lord, just when I think I have a window to ditch this scene, I’m pulled back in. For a fortnight now I’ve been trying to write about something, anything, outside of the UK and with the gears of Westminster now steadily grinding out the latest EU nightmare, it seemed like a good time to look abroad. Scandal in America, political upheaval in Pakistan, Syria somehow finding another rung down on the ladder to hell… interesting things. What wins out unfortunately is Tim Loughton MP, and that acronym, if you didn’t know, for Tory backbenchers actually stands for Massive Prick.

Wadeth he into the gay marriage bill, single point of pride for Westminster in recent times, with not so much a cleaver, but rather covered head to toe in some foetid and unusually sticky substance, presumed to be the moral diarrhoea of his fellow party troglodytes. So angered are they by this government’s daring to level the playing field for people of all sexual orientation, before ripping the UK out of the European project without a moments forethought, that they are effectively holding the bill hostage. A pack of snarling, drooling infant vampires if ever there was.

The point was raised in last week’s Question Time, presumably for the approval of Tory throwback Philip Hammond, that it seemed unfair that heterosexual couples were only entitled to marriage, not civil partnership, whereas homosexuals would now have access to both. The Defence Minister, who tried to suggest that the people were also angered by the government’s prioritisation of gay marriage over the “economy”, must have taken this point, ridiculous and insignificant when compared to inequality and persecution of homosexuals, back to party HQ.

After a Satanic ritual resembling a bukkake sequence, during which these bucktoothed, horse-faced and over-bred pack of social regressors subliminally communicate their prejudiced, backwards views, it was decided. This would be the next stylus in the flank of their leader and the progressive hopes of the majority of the nation they conspire to keep from advancing into the 21st Century. Just when you thought the Conservative Party didn’t have a single remaining bullet with which to shoot itself, they dig one out of somewhere.

Adding this amendment to the Marriage Bill is intended to slow the whole process down and eventually even resign it to the dustbin of political stagnancy. That Labour initially came out with favourable sounding noises over the matter is a mystery and it was left to Nick Clegg of all people to call for some common sense. “Don’t derail the bill,” to paraphrase. But where Labour at least could claim honest support for the notion of equal access to both forms of personal union, the Tories have nothing to hide behind. Half the party voted against the bill in the first place.

But Labour have indeed now crunched the numbers through their little machine, the one that calculates public resonance and produces the most expedient course of action, and are tabling their own amendment, ostensibly to the same effect as Loughton’s. I’ve yet to ascertain why Yvette Cooper thinks this will “save the bill”, instead of producing the same gumming effect as Loughton’s, but apparently she is confident it would garner more cross-party support and would be free of some of the impediments that No.10 have cited.

Where the £4bn price tag for extending civil partnerships is from, is something about which I am just as curious as Cooper, but whether or not it is true, I’m slightly miffed by the presumption of her party that they are doing anything other than opportunistically grandstanding over Tory in-fighting. If they had just stayed away from the amendment issue altogether, there wouldn’t have been enough support for Loughton in the first place. It seems Labour just cannot resist the temptation to compound David Cameron’s woes.

He had to go begging to them not to support Loughton’s amendment so the bill could pass with greater ease, and Labour then have the audacity to attack him for undermining the bill by raising concerns over an amendment process. The opposition are clearly more interested in seeing Cameron fall, even if that meant the death of the Tory party’s moderate agenda. Labour would be fighting a much less agreeable conservative government in that situation, further proving they haven’t an ideological conviction of any depth to speak of. The Labour Party. Politics first.

To end on an emphatic note, if this latest of Westminster clusterf*@ks results in the gay marriage bill being shelved, I’m out of here. Just point me in the direction of the nearest moderate liberal nation whose legislators haven’t got their heads intractably burrowed up each others rectums. I already have the lowest sense of pride and confidence in our lot than I have ever had. There would be nothing left after a regression like this one. Marriage means whatever the hell we want it to mean and everyone gets the same deal, end of story.


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Spring of the Long Knives

Nigel Farage must be laughing himself silly. Not to be hyperbolic, but chaos has beset the main three parties, as the last few weeks show the knives being drawn from clunky sheaths by not the subtlest of hands. Just today, Conservative cabinet ministers Hammond and Gove turned up the temperature on Cameron by announcing that a referendum on Europe tomorrow would see them voting “out”. The pain isn’t limited solely to the Tory leadership however, as signs indicate Labour and Liberal Democrat factions are steadily beginning to murmur insubordination.

It doesn’t come as the greatest of surprises that Peter Mandelson is dipping his beak back into the news cycle at this point, with words that poor old Ed Miliband won’t be delighted to read. Attacking the vagueness of the rather insipid “One Nation” theme that the opposition launched at last year’s party conference, the more cutting edge of his criticism was about Labour’s broader trajectory and focus. “You have to be more than a slogan and more than a label to get people to vote for you. So much is obvious,” he says.

Clearly not obvious enough to his party’s Commons front bench, who have proved guilty of being little more than a hollow protest bloc under Miliband’s leadership. The odd whispers of exciting, intellectual social democratic ideas that he is reported to be a font of haven’t translated into notable policy or a cohesive party mission. And more importantly, they haven’t translated into an energising force in terms of the electorate. Miliband, and Ed Balls for that matter, have consistently polled worse than their opposites in government.

This will be a strange one for Miliband to compute, given that “One Nation”, a concept pinched off conservative Disraeli, was his attempt to plant the Labour flag much closer to the Mandelson-favoured centre-left. A mild twist, given that Miliband came up through the party in the Brown faction that never quite got behind the “Third Way”, and was propelled to the top by the unions. Without the support of the dark lord of the New Labour movement and having been recently thoroughly spanked by Unite leader Len McCluskey for not being a union lapdog, it seems that Cameron is not alone in his hapless scramble in the dark for an ideological foothold.

Perhaps the most speculative of the treacherous whispers is regarding Nick Clegg, although how his fate isn’t considered inevitably sealed by his party’s current flirtation with ruin is an enigma. Whether or not Gove’s suggestion that Clegg’s opposition to childcare reforms is an attempt to shore up his strength in the party is almost irrelevant. Supposing that the slyly propagated rumour was true, and even if Lord Oakeshott were to put Vince Cable on the throne, the party are doomed to face only more electoral pain for the coming years. The initiative is gone for the Liberal Democrats, and they won’t see another bump in the polls like 2010 for some time, if ever again.

Of greatest import currently is that we’re on the eve of dramatic activity within the Conservative party, with events since the local council elections telling us that Cameron is likely to surrender to most of his right wing’s demands on Europe and immigration. Unless he has suicidal tendencies. Even the “compassionate” sympathisers seem to be getting dragged by fear into the traditional fold as is particularly indicated by Gove, who has been a major supporter of Cameron up to this point and for a long time. The education secretary undercutting his leader so bluntly is no small thing.

Until the 25th hour Cameron was desperately trying to inject enough confidence in his EU “renegotiation” strategy with Merkel to avoid this sort of mess, but UKIP struck too soon and he simply failed in that respect. With prominent ministers speaking their rather expedient piece, adding to the anti-EU chorus of old Tory notables like Nigel Lawson, this bizarre vote on the Queen’s Speech amendment on Tuesday is about as clear a message to the PM that it’s time for obedience on Europe. That, or protracted in-fighting, which could consign the lot of them straight back to opposition.

Tense times, where centre-ground politics are at stake. The country is generally not at all lurching to the right, as the Daily Mail might idiotically suggest in an attempt to deny Labour some comfort out of a very soft performance in the polls, but the race to target the middle that New Labour initiated has presently lost its vigour. I don’t think it’s impossible that we see a set of manifestos come 2015 that much more resemble types from the pre-Blair years. It’s looking that way for the Tories and we still have to see for Labour, but the amount of time they take to start galvanising their bases is directly proportional UKIP’s consummately unwanted longevity.

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Forget Deference for a Moment

The blood boils. With an early evening cup of tea I watched Prime Minister’s Questions, seeking my usual dose of political theatre, hoping to glean a few hints between the lines of the questions, answers and raucous cheering and jeering. It’s usually an eye-roller, but today it was an eye-bulging, vascular ruining, aneurysm inducing affair. The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, is not fit for purpose, and that’s a very restrained assessment.

I’m loathe to repeat my general criticism of the Labour leader, I’ve already done so enough, but he drags me back in time and time again. The void of ideas, the steady stream of attack on government and the hypocrisy of his machinations in relation to his party’s time in government are bad enough, but he has sought new means by which to make tatters of the prestige of Westminster. I would advise you to watch this Wednesday’s edition and see if you don’t agree.

Being generously gracious, the coalition is not having the best time of things. It’s approaching shambolic territory really, and this is well understood by everyone. Criticism of this ill-matched union is well-deserved, as even their lingering claims of progress are being drowned out by the obstacles and regressions. Improved employment and increased exports aren’t enough to distract from huge benefit and public sector cuts, against a backdrop of an otherwise lame economy.

Cameron is visibly under fire. He looks tired, embattled, fearful of the whispers of a leadership challenge. The Conservative Party surely realises how utterly self-defeating this would be and yet I have a brewing dread based on their previously suicidal political blunders, not limited to becoming embroiled in social issues and the ever looming European question. Solidarity is beginning to waver and the struggles of government are plain to see.

So I say this of Mr. Miliband. If there is nothing he can do other than gesticulate like a precocious infant while riling up the Commons with petulant and entirely disrespectful rhetoric of precisely zero value, he should resign. Today was the end of my tolerance for his pathetic brand. Immediately to his left sits Harriet Harman, an infinitely better prospect for the party thanks in part to her maturity and experience, but also much more.

She at least is dynamic. Forget this talk of Teresa May taking over the Conservatives, unless Thatcher 2.0 is your thing, Harman should be the next female leader in British politics. And the sooner the better. God help us all if the dismal antics of Miliband and Balls are actually appealing to anyone, as their dereliction to the whole meaning of opposition spells doom for their potential in government.

I have no doubt Harman can dish out the salty Commons jibes with the best of them, and indeed has in her capacity as deputy under Brown. The difference between her and her two colleagues is that when offering criticism she also tends to offer alternatives. Not always fully formed, it must be said, but then I’ve never even demanded that of the increasingly symbiotic abomination that is the Labour leader and shadow chancellor. Just more than playground sarcasm.

Miliband was shockingly awful today. I can only hope people were paying attention. If they liked what they saw, they shouldn’t, because in every nasal taunt and scoffing assault were the signs of his total inadequacy. On their own it would usually only amount to the typical buffoonery of Prime Minister’s Questions, but coupled with his negligence and vapidity it’s an insult. Socialist ideas man? Thinker? Intellectual? My left nut. Prove it.

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The State of Governance: UK Edition Three

The long awaited Third Edition of this almost long abandoned series is here. It was my intention at the offset to write a regular article on the lesser machinations of Westminster and yet both initial attempts descended into angst and distraction. I like to think this is because I do care about the nation’s politics, however perilous a notion that is, but I’m also happy to invest plenty of the guilt in Westminster itself.

Where, oh where, oh where to start? Well, despite a recent wild assertion of Simon Jenkins that Nick Clegg is political mastery personified, and an article from Lib Dem president Tim Farron suggesting that the party is still a significant force not to be written off, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem’s are now entirely written off. Attach any variety of expletives to the prefix “catastro-”, and you’ll be in the right descriptive area.

Both Jenkins and Farron were eviscerated for these outrageous views and rightly so, with polls showing Lib Dem support holding to their once familiarly weak 10% vote share. The minor surge in popularity brought to the party by Clegg’s 2010 debate performances has been trampled under the perception that they have done nothing to vindicate a single vote cast for them. The Mansion Tax, voting referendum, university fees and Trident spring to mind.

The truth is that Britain was briefly fooled into thinking there was a viable third party when the Lib Dems were given a platform at those debates, the first of their kind in this country. I can only imagine how small the minority of regularly engaged political junkies is in this country. Most do not take great interest in PMQ’s much less any other venue for occasional Liberal bleetings, and so the sight and sound of an essentially new figure who could complete full sentences was hard to dismiss.

I’m happy to call it now. Come the next election Labour and the Tories will strip the Lib Dem’s back down to their core base, however disenfranchised that lingering gaggle may be. But what of the main two parties, what are they doing to earn those votes? Virtually nothing at a glance. While the Lib Dem’s have been haplessly consigning themselves to ignominy, messirs Cameron, Miliband and all under them have also been resoundingly disappointing.

Labour first. I will admit to having a more sympathetic ear to the Tories, notably after a fairly destructive 13 years of Labour power, but that doesn’t make my present distaste for the front benches totally biased. Wednesday’s PMQ’s provided sound context for this claim, as Miliband stood up once again to try on the latest of his tactics, those currently being aggressive derision for the Prime Minister.

It may appeal to the hardline Labourites but I would think that to anyone to the right of even a fairly liberal disposition is going to be turned off. Speaking for myself at least, I have no time for someone who offers little beyond hugely hypocritical criticism, and in a fashion entirely lacking in deference. He and Balls sit at the dispatch box like some smug cabal, apparently ignorant of their responsibilities towards the current climate.

Labour are direly in need of some housecleaning, starting at the top. It should have taken place in the immediate aftermath of their 2010 defeat, the electorate having only disposed of so much chaff. As much as I may lean towards centre-right views, I passionately believe in a proper socialist alternative to act as a foil and provide a genuine spectrum of political discourse. Labour under this pairing are offering us nothing of the kind. I’ve said it before and will keep saying it.

The Tories, of course, are now also in need of a similar purging. I was for quite a long time pleased and impressed with Cameron’s “compassionate” conservatism, effectively a ploy for moderation while hoodwinking the right of the party into thinking there were still some traditional values politics therein. The game is now up though, and as last night’s vote on legalising gay marriage showed, at least half of the party is significantly behind the times.

As a side note, the legislation isn’t all it could be. I do not like that it explicitly protects religious freedoms as I feel these are already well enough protected. The state recognising the right of homosexuals to enjoy full marital status should have been the extent of it. Churches of any description in the nation can now hide behind the law, without further consideration for the progressive direction of society. Not that it matters to me, but this lack of debate within these religious bodies places their future at great risk.

But that isn’t why over half the Tories didn’t vote for it. Listening to the Commons debate it was the usual bewildered denial of marriage being anything other than the union of man and woman, and similar baseless propositions. The definition of marriage is whatever we what it to be, as made clear by the distinct evolution that the institution has gone through over the centuries. As with some of the stronger anti-European members of the party, I wish they were only a minority. Theirs being the prevalent position would not be good for the country.

Beyond this stark question of identity sadly lies the substance of the Tory’s successes and failures, and here there is little cause for celebration. Farce after u-turn after mishandling after farce, has bombarded my once rosy outlook on the party with so much doubt that I further seriously question the general competency of government. Botched contracts, botched policy and the metronomic presence of scandal does that to a young observer.

The absolute judgement is inexorably tied to the state of the economy, which is presently often labelled “anaemic” despite George Osborne’s regular insistence otherwise. But the signs of his over-optimism are apparent, as with Michael Gove today retracting his plans for an English Baccalaureate we have further proof that disorder is systemic within the echelons of the party. The likelihood now that Osborne stands alone in getting things right, if the Pasty Affair hadn’t already minimised it, is minimal.

Cameron bears plenty of responsibility for not guiding the ship with a firm hand, perhaps the result of trying too emphatically to return to cabinet style politics from the more presidential model of the Blair years. But this failing is clear outside of the cabinet, made visible by the increasing resurgence of the old Tory faction. I frequently allude to his balancing act of satisfying this wing while moving the party forward, and the act is in a more endangered state than ever.

It is unlikely, but heavens forbid he be ousted before the next election. Our political system is essentially one of cheques and balances, where one major party acts as counterweight to the other. Just as we need a worthy Labour party, we need a moderate Conservative party, in light of the fact that people prefer multiple incarnations of Labour to a harder right Conservative image. It was the inability of the Tories to find the middle-ground that allowed Labour so much unhindered activity from 1997 to 2010. After barely three years, it would be disastrous to go straight back to that.

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The State of Governance: UK Edition Two

I need to start this article with an apology. In Edition One of this series I referred to a number of government issues, all accumulating towards a fairly straightforward condemnation of the state of things as they are. And yet I made one significant mistake. By choosing to repeat the moniker of one particular incident, that being the VAT surcharge proposed for certain hot goods sold on and off our high streets, I became complicit in my own pet hatred of a brand of political and media language that we can all do without. I dare not actually repeat the name in question but we’ll just say it stems from an infamous chapter in American history during which one Richard M. Nixon was obliged to resign from the most powerful office on Earth due to his direct involvement in the attempted cover-up of the break-in of DNC headquarters by subordinates ostensibly trying to uncover evidence of illicit funding to the DNC by Cuban authorities. Snappy.

The Watergate scandal, named after the Watergate hotel and office complex, went beyond this incident however and eventually Nixon implicated himself through recordings he had covertly made of private conversations with various individuals subsequent to this attempted cover-up. This was an astonishing episode in the narrative of US politics that had profound implications for the relationship between citizenry and government as well as the question of executive authority. Its importance cannot be understated.

And yet in the ensuing decades we have grown all too fond of the suffix “gate” attached to any and every scandal from the trivial to the somewhat serious. The aforementioned incident involving, amongst other products, a delicacy of the Cornwall region, was perhaps the final straw for me and despite my indiscretion I had sworn never again to exaggerate such pure banality as a Conservative case of mean policy diarrhoea with such a connection to a definitively seminal event. Even if that was what everyone else was calling it.

No, the use of the “gate” term has certainly now run its course, and likely did some time ago. It is idiotic to use such a term when in fact all this does is dilute the understanding of future generations of a time when the leader of the free world engaged in corruption and criminal activities that appeared more along the lines of an implausible Hollywood script, than the true precedent for the benchmark of genuine political scandal. I never felt more provincial than when newscaster after journalist after opposition member, with regards to what I will now rename Osborne’s Pasty Nightmare, regurgitated the term with that often apparent twinkle of self-satisfaction for having dared to be so terribly bloody clever. Oh, the scorn…

Having said this I could now take an elegant tangent back to what was the planned substance of this article, that being a disdainful look at the Labour party. But actually no amount of elegance could adequately achieve the seamless transition I dreamt of and so I find myself hijacked again by a propensity for distraction. I would rather stick to the issue of language in and around politics and my perception of that itself having been hijacked by the effete gaggle of politicians we are these days served by.

I have certainly mentioned in other articles that part of my enjoyment of the political process in a few nations is the theatre of it. This is partly symptomatic of my understood position of glib observer and commentator, but even though politics should be the serious business of making people’s lives better, it is simply true that there is an obnoxious element of PR and marketing. Stemming from this is the majority of that theatrical aspect, which I usually revel in. Sadly, the fun stops with a resounding thud when I’m forced to listen to the politician who, when grappling with profundity and neutrality all at once, in a struggle akin to grasping a lubricated fish, manages to say absolutely nothing. It is bewildering.

We could probably name the usual language of politicians a language entirely unto itself, and indeed, no longer do our esteemed MPs speak English, I hereby call them users of the unwanted dialect of unremitting twattery. Before you accuse me of being rather overly agitated by this impairment of communication, I should defend myself.

God help me but these are actually important individuals, involved in the important undertaking of running the country. I believe that in a democracy the people should be engaged, and speaking as an avid follower of these issues, nothing turns me off more than this dire situation. It does not surprise me in the slightest that direct democratic participation in the UK has steadily declined since 1997 when professional politicians began to outnumber the politicians of conscience (dare I suggest such a thing exists) and this language became prevalent. What ever happened to the statesman who with eloquence and frankness could deliver a message and actively engage the people with it? I am not imagining this was once a real thing as despite Tony Blair’s era bringing this foul culture into play, he was a supreme communicator. As is Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton for that matter, when either are in form.

It now seems the rare exception that a politician speaks in their fashion, although it so desperately shouldn’t be. Vince Cable is often hailed for undressed language, and it’s perhaps his greatest bit of political currency given his occasional habit of proposing curious initiatives. Incidentally, this opens the door to the question of the substance of policy itself. Maybe I am being too hard on the poor folks over in Westminster, as perhaps if they had even the nucleus of a good idea to run with they wouldn’t have to veil needless tripe with a barrage of meaningless qualifiers and exhaustively researched catchwords and phrases that tested well in sample groups. Perhaps if for once a policy could speak for itself we could entirely forgo the mildly sordid and intrusive experience of an MPs ramblings.

We should be so lucky. I realise again as I draw this piece to a close that I’m not achieving the higher goal of discussing such a diamond-in-the-rough as logical policy but then I can find praise for myself in this. Clearly lacking a decent idea at present I say that in distinction to the majority of our lamentable public servants I did not therefore choose to enter politics.

I honestly did want to spend some time with this piece discussing the Labour opposition. And in light of Nick Clegg’s recent surge of heinously transparent policy shifts away from the Tory side of things I think it would be just about reasonable to discuss him a little further. Despite the… Lib Dem thing. But I’m exhausted with rage now and should the House of Commons not collapse in on itself overnight, I’ll have wandered down that way and repeatedly smashed my ailing, frustrated head against its increasingly redundant walls for nothing.

Until next time. Although to corroborate this article and pre-empt the next, please watch this delightful clip featuring Steve Bell offering his commentary on the current Lib Dem conference. Ask no questions as to why I loathe them thereafter.

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The State of Governance: UK Edition One

As opposed to the rather more exhaustively referenced piece on Assange and his road to a Butch Cassidy-style ending (Ricardo Platino can be his Sundance Kid, although I’m concerned about the efficacy of English truncheons over Spanish rifles), this one is more visceral. Not just visceral, mind you, more visceral. Thus I defend all oversights of fact and errors of interpretation.

This decision wasn’t at all based on the advice given after the previous article, suggesting that while it’s good to inform, it’s also good to let my readership finish an article without having to catch up on another twenty first. I’m learning. In all honesty, it’s rather more based on the fact that PMQ archives are dreadfully catalogued, and reading endless transcriptions of the speeches of the most asinine political class since time began was making me very sad. I couldn’t be bothered. My hope anyway is that this issue is a little closer to home for some of you and basically irrelevant to the rest. You’ll either know what I’m talking about or not, and if the former, will sympathise or disagree with me based on your existing feelings. This sense is wonderfully encapsulated by a Gary Younge article written pre-election. So before I finish providing my own reasoning for writing this being a waste of time… UK government.

Two and a half years ago I was elated. I might describe myself as a libertarian, which is basically to say I think taxes and government are generally irksome and I prefer to do what I want, when I want. But this conflicts with my other brain which informs me that social justice and equality of most description is incredibly important, and although we can debate the use of taxes and the competence of government in relation to these, it’s not like anyone else is trying very hard.

But two and a half years ago, New Labour had been trying for 13 years and thanks to an affluent upbringing that brought with it some preconceived political ideology, and a smattering of national and global financial catastrophe, I was only too happy to see Brown finally walking the lonely walk out of Downing Street. This emotion didn’t suffer for the short period of uncertainty during which the Con-Lib coalition formed and there was actually a fleeting possibility that Labour could wrangle back the election with some ungodly, mutant “rainbow” coalition of sorts. I would have very seriously burned Westminster to the ground, seeing that democracy as we knew it had died, but I was denied this public service by the marginally acceptable outcome that was.

Even then I wasn’t a complete fascist though, and won’t ignore some of the good things Labour achieved, such as the adoption of the “Third Way”, provision of the national minimum wage and limited aspects of their tax and benefits reforms. Sadly these scarcely served to diminish my increasingly rancorous disdain for Gordon Brown, his affinity for an older, Keynesian model and general denial of the fact that apart from those embodied by Dennis Skinner, I don’t think anyone wanted him. It didn’t help that I found him personally odious, and it would be a good time to mention that I do believe in statesmanship. It may not be the most elevated concept but who leads the nation speaks for the nation, and I’m not ashamed to say that I would have found his disagreeable policies more palatable had he an ounce more charisma to convince me.

And so in came the Tories, rather jubilant after so long in opposition and content for having expediently arranged victory. The mood was such that you would have thought the Lib Dems were a Tory Lite rump, both parties were so eager for a measure of power. I honestly and totally unrealistically imagined this was the start of a golden age of sensible management and sensible policy, that the coalition would only have the best effect of tempering the Tory right and the more leftwards leanings of the Liberals, resulting in a gloriously harmonious government leading the nation out of recession and into prosperity. It felt inevitable and I ate the Rose Garden scenes up and asked for more. Did India really want independence? Those waves have been looking so glumly unruled…

Oh alas, where to begin? This very question has delayed publication of this article as after only a short while of considering this and marshalling my evidence and subsequent thoughts, my head hurt far too much and I had to lie down. The sheer weight of farce has even forced my to redress the theme as more introductory, the beginning of a serial on the many ways Westminster sapped my faith in humanity. For now, for a start, I think we can find significant complaint simply within the failed or misleading manifesto commitments of both coalition parties and the truly shocking degree of incompetence in the cabinet.

Today we have no electoral reform and no parliamentary reform, but instead a host of reforms to the NHS that were not only excluded by the Tory’s promise not to heavily reorganise, but are at this point broadly a pariah. Instead of the Liberal promise to scrap tuition fees we have the most expensive university attendance in history and instead of bolstering younger levels of educational support we lost EMA’s. Compassionate conservatism evaporated in an instant with punishing welfare and public sector reforms in the same fiscal policy that scrapped the 50p and corporate tax rates. New Deal-esque infrastructural and construction projects have failed to materialise and Trident failed to disappear, but then Mitt Romney did tell me recently that the Russians are still our greatest existential threat and I sleep soundly at night knowing we prescribe to his brand of wisdom. And Pastygate… the malicious brainchild of a demented goblin creature.

On a policy level the situation is clearly poor at best, and gets little better on a personnel level. Before we could blink we said goodbye to David Lawes, a so-called treasury and policy wonk ousted on the back of his miscreant expenses. Andy Coulson later followed under a storm of questions regarding his stewardship of the News of the World, with added embarrassment for David Cameron having firmly stood by him. Liam Fox departed his rather sensitive Defence role thanks to allowing one Adam Werrity to tag along whenever he felt like it. The shadow of the Murdoch’s would later revisit and almost engulf both Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt, the former for “declaring war” on the BSkyB bid and the latter being asked stern questions as to whether he enabled it.

Teresa May actually did go briefly to war with the Civil Service over matters of immigration, and Andrew Lansley with the entire medical profession for obvious reasons. Incredibly he was one of only a few cabinet ministers to take a real knock in the recent reshuffle. I despise reshuffles, such vapid and cynical posturing usually being the remit of a government running out of ideas. Throw in a touch of Oliver Letwin throwing government documents in a St. James Park bin, Francis Maude dangerously suggesting consumers stock up on petrol reserves during the strikes and Michael Gove’s attempts to reinstate Victorian-era educational methods and the cabinet looks to be in genuine disarray.

That’s before you even reach the big dogs. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are walking a razor’s edge. Clegg has almost singularly absorbed every gram of ire generated by his support base and their dissatisfaction with the Liberal agenda being thwarted at most turns. Osborne has become the walking, talking vision of nasty Tory ethics and probably avoids dark alleys in the wake of the hardship suffered by many during this time of austerity. And all of this, from Lawes to Osborne, trickles up to the detriment of Cameron. If delaying this article’s release did any good, it allowed me to observe today’s piece in the Guardian, unveiling the first of possibly many brewing coups. That Bob Stewart was loyal enough not to play along is likely only a temporary reprieve from the Tory backbenchers.

Appointing Maria Miller to Culture Secretary was a telling symptom of Cameron’s increasing fear of reprisals for daring to be moderate. Her voting record on women’s and LGBT rights tells all but are probably short of the mark in terms of satisfying the hard right’s blood-lust for some genuine anti-EU or anti-immigration reform. And so with the old Tory party vying internally for supremacy and an increasingly dissatisfied and obstinate Liberal minority, the coalition itself also looks to be in serious danger. How I long for the Rose Garden again.

It’s astonishing how poorly this coalition have failed in their early aspirations. I fully accept that my initially high expectations were unrealistic and naïve but to have been proved so completely wrong still comes as a shock. But then I truly bought the message of a new compassionate Conservative party, free of the dead weight of the Zac Goldsmiths and Maria Millers of the world, that could effectively function with the Liberals. Their defence of globally hard economic times be damned, I could accept that the recovery was still not really taking off if it weren’t for the tonnage of political ineptitude that also smothered it.

The only thing that remains to be said for now is that if the coalition hadn’t so painfully mismanaged the message of it having been Labour’s initial responsibility, they could still rely on that fact to some extent. But two years of being asleep or drunk at the wheel, and spouting that line with a twinkle in the eye, has killed it. Now I actually do just about agree with Miliband the Younger, that two and half years on the buck does stop at the coalition’s door.

This is not to excuse the Labour Party from further criticism however. I’ve run out of time but next up will be a closer look at the quality of their opposition in context and with their time in government. If possible I shall try to be even more shallow in my deference. Watch out Balls.


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