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Tag Archives: caretaker prime minister gordon brown

Nurse! Gordon’s Trying To Do Something Again!

Sometimes it is best for government to heed Ronald Reagan’s advice to politicians: “Don’t just do something … stand there!”

First it was screwing up the supply of grit during the snow. Now, in response to another natural occurrence which has created a lot of disruption, Gordon Brown has again decided to act. Oh dear. The ‘Don’t Panic committee’ COBRA has met.

So what is the government’s response to the situation where so many British voters citizens are ‘stranded’ abroad? Gordon will send in the Navy, of course. With the continent cut-off, the Ark Royal will be sent to the Channel. Well, after all, there’s no other way to get across the Channel except by way of an expensive aircraft carrier, is there?

Quite what will be done for the poor souls suffering the unbearable trauma of being stuck in places like California, Florida or Australia is unclear.

Now, what would Nick Clegg do?

Update 20/4: So, what of Gordon’s grand rescue plan? The Ark Royal wasn’t in the Channel, the coaches weren’t in Madrid, if you were in Madrid already you had to make your way to the Channel because the coaches were for people flying into Europe only. The HMS Albion ran out of space and had to turn people away. Nice one Gordon. I’ll bet another Nokia bit the dust today.

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Is It Time to Lay Off Gordon Brown?

Now I suppose that title can be interpreted in two ways … but in both cases the answer may well be “yes”. Of course, he should be sent into opposition at the General Election, but might it be time now to change tack as we approach the “official” election campaign?

YouGov this morning are reporting the Conservative lead down to 2%. Much panicking and gnashing of teeth has ensued.

It wouldn’t hurt for the party to start being a bit more consistent and clear about what we will do in power. Some of the problem is that, although political anoraks like myself could quote all sorts of areas where there is a clear distinction between the Conservative and Labour approaches, to the average punter there is little difference between us – an impression not helped by the expenses thing.

The bullying issue has had virtually no effect on the polls. Is it any surprise? In a week when a good few of the general public (too many, in fact) have been more concerned with a footballer sleeping with a woman who used to be the girlfriend of another footballer, and how that footballer is upset with the first footballer and … er, where was I?

Ah yes, the point is that, for those outside the political sphere, attacking Gordon Brown is now having the same effect as bombing a ruined city – we’ve made our point. It might even start to engender some sympathy in the average voter. It’s time to move on and concentrate on what we will do in power.

If we are going to cut taxes – even if it’s just a few – then say so. If we are asked about our approach to a particular issue, don;t start the response with “Thanks to Gordon Brown, widget production has plummeted ….” because by the time you’ve got round to the Tory vision for the widget industry, people have switched off.

It’s time to move on … or we might just find out how Labour felt in 1992.

Electoral Reform – Making the Best of a Bad Idea

Thirteen years ago, with a different election result, we could have seen a new Labour government forming a coalition with the Lib Dems, with electoral reform as their power broker’s fee. Of course, it never happened, though 1998 saw the Jenkins Commission recommend an Alternative Vote system

So it’s taken this long for Gordon Brown to suggest a referendum on electoral reform. (Is there an election in the offing? Maybe a hung parliament?)

Now there hasn’t, as yet, been any large organised campaign in favour of First Past The Post (FPTP), mainly because there hasn’t had to be, even though a number of different systems have been trialled in other elections, with varying degrees of success. “Success” being, as it has to be in politics, whatever you want it to be.

Discussions around electoral reform often settle around PR, which is based on the assumption – challenged too rarely – that a body of representatives that directly reflects the proportion of votes cast is “fair”.

Yet what is proposed today is AV, which is not strictly PR, rather a system that still retains the constituency link. Like PR, though, it tends to benefit more the smaller parties and – let’s be honest – the Left, which has been more prone to factionalism than the Right, at least in the UK. Not that that is in any way the Government’s motivation, is it? By getting electoral reform of some description in then open before the election, any coalition process with the Lib Dems in a hung parliament will surely be smoother, with the possibly unpalatable pill of electoral reform already swallowed.

So, as a Conservative, I guess I’m should be somewhat wary about electoral reform … and I am. Whether an AV, STV or “proper” PR system is in place, the end result will typically be more coalition governments. Now if you believe that the best form of government is one where you throw everyone into a political melting pot and the best ideas will magically rise to the top and a golden age of governance, world peace and love and big hugs all round will ensue, then you might genuinely believe yourself when you say that a series of coalition governments is a good thing.

There is a great irony about those who propose systems that naturally increase the chances of coalition governments. That is: who votes for coalitions? If Gordon Brown and Nick Thingy do a deal after May to form a coalition, we will have a Labour/Lib Dem government. Fine, you may say, but (a) how is it fair that a party with maybe 18% of the vote decides who forms the government and (b) unless any ballot papers actually featured a Lab/Lib candidate, we will have a government that nobody voted for – surely even less democratic than a government formed on the back of 42% of the vote?

But wait … do Conservative have something to fear from electoral reform? Probably not, in the long term. Firstly, we should qualify that question by defining “Conservative” in the broader sense of the Conservative movement. It is quite possible that just as AV or PR favours smaller parties on the Left (including, lest we forget, the BNP) so it will also do for the Right, so we may well see a higher profile UKIP. Those familiar with centre-right politics will recognise that a large bulk of UKIP support and activism is essentially Conservative with added Euro-scepticism (which is why Conservative leaders would do well to treat UKIP voters as lost sheep to be tempted back to the flock, rather than xenophobic outcasts to be shunned).

Some of my fellow Tories may fear the Conservative/Lib Dem 1-2 which voters may plump for, as the electors make the common mistake of thinking that the Lib Dems are somehow in the centre, to the right of Labour. Yet after a term or so, it is more than possible that centre-right voters will default to a Con-UKIP / UKIP-Con combination. So, not only would the Lib Dems not fair as well as they have been hoping for decades under a new system (and that’s not counting what a stronger Green vote would do their core support), but the possibility exists for many right-wing ideas to still find their way to fruition as part of Conservative/UKIP coalition in a electorally reformed future.

The PM Who (Doesn’t) Like To Say Yes

To be more precise, I expect he will say yes to Sky’s Leaders’ Debate, but he won’t like doing it. Then again, since I doubt either Cameron or the other one will be asking him, Andrew Marr style, about the contents of his bathroom cabinet, he might feel now that it won’t be all that bad.

Brown will say yes because he has no other choice. The trouble is, like a guilty person who has taken too long to answer a straight question, the real issue is why he didn’t just accept the invitation when the other two leaders did. One reason might be that it took this long for Labour strategists to come up with the strategy that was being rumoured last night: that Labour will suggest that there should also be debates between the top front-benchers as well.

So, in the Treasury debate, we will have Darling, Osborne and Cable.

Without fawning interviewers on the other side of the microphone, Vince Cable will probably see his media sainthood finally revoked.

Darling’s strategy will surely be to perform competently enough to keep himself in the running for the subsequent Labour bloodbath leadership race. His greatest difficulty will probably be to refrain from pointing out that it was all Gordon’s fault and that, like a Crimean battlefield nurse, there was little else he could have done. That line will, presumably, come after May (or March, depending on where you’ve put your money).

In fact, Osborne should be the only one who can really benefit – he already has to face jibes about his suitability for chancellor, based on his youth (and as he is only two days older than me, I am bound to defend him!). So with his stock already thus discounted, it would be the ideal arena for him to prove the sceptics wrong, and with Labour also now helpfully floating the unpalatable probability of tax rises and spending cuts, doing much of George’s expectations management for him, there will be little that he can really do wrong come the night.

Time for Some Courage, Gordon

So it seems a Summer of Discontent awaits us:

Wildcat strikes spread across Britain today as another 500 contractors walked out in a show of sympathy for workers sacked at the Total oil refinery in Lincolnshire.

An estimated 2,000 workers from refineries, gas plants and nuclear sites failed to turn up for work today in unofficial industrial action after the French oil giant dismissed 650 contractors last week.

Will Gordon try to pull back a few points by dealing firmly with such unofficial – nay illegal – action by trade unions? Fat chance. Firstly, a Labour Party on the brink of financial collapse needs every penny it can get from the unions. Secondly, courage, to Gordon Brown, is just the title of a book he “wrote” once. Thirdly, as Iain Dale has pointed out, standing up for what is right isn’t exactly Brown’s thing, is it?

Time to move into jerry cans, methinks.

Poor Jose Manuel Barroso

No, I’m not really feeling sorry for the unelected head of a “government” that seeks to control so much of my life – after all, Gordon Brown only has less than fourteen months until he’s out of No.10.

And I guess I don’t really feel that sorry for Mr Barroso (President of the European Commission) either, but does he really deserve the Curse of Jonah?

Gordon Brown has given his support for Jose Manuel Barroso to serve another term as European Commission president.

The prime minister met with the Brussels chief at Downing Street, and gave his public backing for the president to run for a second term in office.

Not that it makes much difference – I’m sure Barroso’s replacement will be straight out of the same well-worn statist Napoleonic mould.

We Are Saved. Not.

So, thanks goodness for Alistair Darling. A few tax breaks of dubious effectiveness which we will be paying for, with interest in a couple of years’ time. He has seen fit to lend our own money to us for a couple of years. That’ll help. Not.

And increasing the employers’ national insurance contributions just as (if we’re optimistic) unemployment starts to fall – very sensible. Not.

Increasing fuel duties to offset the VAT reduction, which I’m sure he plans to reverse itself when the VAT rate goes back up. Not.

Increasing fuel duties, in fact, so that the costs built into zero-rated VAT food increase, helping those struggling with household bills. Not.

He’s allowing loss relief to be carried back three years which, for companies, just partially reverses a negative change made by Labour not so long ago. The tax rise for small companies is being deferred, not scrapped, note.

Glenrothes By-election

So Brown is back as a colossus standing over the British political landscape. Apparently.

Well, I simply cannot bring myself to comment too much on the result of Brown’s bunch of Trots defeating Salmond’s bunch of Trots, other than to note that the Conservatives overtook the Lib Dems into third place (way-hey). Oh, and to note that there was a respectable swing to the SNP, so perhaps the BBC might want to balance its coverage a bit.

UPDATE:

Sorry, I just re-read the last sentence above. BBC … balance … coverage.

Well, it made me laugh.

If Only They’d Nationalise the Weather

I was listening (well, Radio 4 happened to be on and I was in the room) to the News Quiz, that politically-balanced (cough) and hilarious (splutter) look at the week’s news.

One of the panellists was continuing the leftist meme of the last few weeks in describing the current economic turmoil as the “end of capitalism”. Yeah, you wish.

This is no more the end of capitalism than a hurricane is the end of the weather.

I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first to paraphrase Mark Twain in describing the death of capitalism as exaggerated, but it is strange how the reaction of the Left to the events has been to decry the lack of regulation, surplus irresponsibility and short-termism in the City.

As Boris said this week (in welcome contrast to his bonkers views on the licence fee) there is plenty of regulation already and we hardly need any more thank you very much. As for irresponsibility, isn’t it odd that while attacking bank bosses and short sellers, those who were at the heart of the current crisis – mortgage borrowers who knowingly loaded up with a dangerous level of debt – are not only being largely forgiven but are now generating another burden on the taxpayer, many of whom may have been a lot more prudent? I certainly wouldn’t be the first, of course, to point out Gordon Brown’s own irresponsibility and short termism, for instance, in borrowing to the hilt when times were good and selling our gold reserves at the bottom of the market, as well as helping himself to another dollop of credit in the vain attempt to buy off the voters of Crewe and Nantwich.

OK, rant over. I’ll go and finish packing now.

One of Those West Wing Summits

Brown to Meet Oil Industry Chiefs

Well that’s going to be a productive meeting. Not. Rather more likely it’ll be one of those five minute summits a la The West Wing.

According to the clunking fist himself, writing in the Grauniad (all his own work, I’m sure):

The cause of rising prices is clear: growing demand and too little supply

Uh-oh. Gordon’s been reading the Dummies Guide to Economics again. Actually, that isn’t the only cause of rising prices. There is also clear evidence of a speculative bubble, fuelled by stock market volatility. Anyway, in his typically roundabout way, as summarised by the BBC, Gordon says that:

… an increase in the supply of oil would lower the price of fuel and ease pressure on the government over the planned tax increases.

I can think of something else that would help reduce the price of fuel at the pumps. It starts with a “t” and rhymes with “fax”, and he’s been coining it in for months on the back of the higher oil price. In any case, since a couple of weeks ago it’s clear that, contrary to the squeals from the Left every time a Conservative suggests as tax cut, it can now just be put on the plastic, along with the 2.7bn from the 10p “solution”. After all, Brown gave us ten years of prosperity (not boom before bust, oh no) so he can’t be wrong.

Declares the rocking-horse fancier:

But each country has also to act now to help those hit by high fuel bills. In Britain this means increased winter fuel payments; a new one-stop service on home energy efficiency; free insulation for people on low incomes and the over 70s and a £150m programme financed by the utility companies to cut fuel bills for lower income families.

In Britain this means fiddling around the edges with overly complicated solutions to the issue, rather than, ooh, say, cutting VAT on fuel? After all, aren’t we all tax cutters now?