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Tag Archives: David Cameron

Cash for Access (Part 94) – The Answer Will Still Be Wrong

You just know that whatever answer they come up with to the latest cash for access scandal, it’ll be the wrong one.

Number 10 is now publishing the details of who Cameron entertained on government premises. Like it will make a difference to anything. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done – of course it should; it’s public property so we have a right, within the usual reason (national security, etc.) to know what’s going on there. Apparently, Francis Maude , soon-to-be-reshuffled Cabinet Office minister, had gone some way by publishing details of meetings between ministers and lobbyists … up to June 2011, but then it stopped (though probably more through incompetence than conspiracy). Strangely, so eagerly awaited and pored over were these reports that no-one seems to have noticed that they had stopped until now.

Anyway, back to the point. There are calls for limits on the amount of donations, bans on non-individual donations (which might get traction, as it could – rightly – also include unions) and of course, the old chestnut, state funding of parties. The latter will hopefully not come to fruition, if not because of the current fiscal situation, then the fact that there is apparently no cross-party consensus on the issue … yet.

But the real issue is this – all this is mere tweaking. The fact is that the more areas that government insists on sticking its nose in, the more scope there will be for said government – of any colour – to be lobbied, cajoled, wined and dined, or otherwise pushed by the competing interests involved.

The more pies the state sticks its fingers into, the more people that will be wanting to lick said digits.

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Cameron Loses the Hilton Rudder

Steve Hilton, Downing Street’s policy ‘guru’ has left, fed up with the Whitehall machine and Europe to spend more time with his family.

The direction that Steve Hilton took the Conservative Party in was not to everyone’s taste, but at least he gave it one. Despite the capitulation to watermelon greenery, detoxification in principle was necessary, and Hilton’s euro-scepticism was credited, in part, as being a factor in Cameron’s quasi-veto back in December.

A couple of weeks ago, a conference of Conservative MPs heard from Andrew Cooper, the former pollster who is now at the heart of Number 10. His increasingly influential position is in contrast to Hilton’s; while all governments should have regard to public feeling, an increasingly prominent feature of the government in recent months has been an apparent heightened sensitivity to the headlines. Whether it’s the over-reaction to the Council prayer’s decision (which only served to open new divisions in the party) or the woolly response to the Heston bonus story, the pollsters influence on government business has been trumping whatever coherent policy direction that existed before – and that direction was pretty weak, diluted as it inevitably was y the politics of coalition and Cameron’s own antipathy to “-isms”.

Alas, with Hilton now taking his ball home with him the party’s rudder, erratic though it could seem sometimes, has finally disappeared. A government reacting to headlines and polls seems to have more in common with the last years of John Major’s. One could suggest New Labour as another comparator, but at least they had some grip on the media, rather than the other way around.

There is one consolation with this situation though – before now, Cameron’s government has been haunted not by the ghost of Margaret Thatcher’s time in power, but by Ted Heath’s – and that has nothing to do with Europe, rather the numbers of u-turns and compromises that destroy any confidence in the ability to govern.

Cameron is unlikely to be asking the electorate the question, without knowing the answer, ‘who governs Britain’. He’ll know the answer from the polls, we’ll know the answer is the polls.

There is an Alternative to Defence Cuts – It’s Called Free Trade

It saddens me that I should write blog posts that criticise a Conservative government. Fortunately we have a Lib Dem-led coalition government, so my loyalties are left conveniently intact, to a point.

Today sees the P45s being prepared for 2,000 service personnel getting the chop as part of the cuts. Not that I’m against cuts in the defence budget per se; there is an army sitting in Whitehall that could do with probably a many more Orders of the Boot but, putting it bluntly, there is a case for special pleading for defence.

Defence is an issue that is set apart from most of the other ‘cuts’ when it comes to views within the conservative movement. From a classical liberal perspective, for example, defence is one of the few core duties of government that only the state can practically provide. It is one of the few cuts that the left-wing marchers and breast-beaters remain strangely silent about, when they are otherwise so vocal about schools’n’ospitals.

Toby shows concern for his brother.

The West Wing's Toby Zielger: "free trade stops wars"

Sure, Labour have piped up and opposed the cuts, and as usual have offered no alternative. In most cases conservatives would affirm that there is no alternative to the cuts, if you want to avoid credit downgrading or the short-termist solution of even more taxes. However, unlike so many other areas defence is one where many conservatives can offer up an alternative which the Left would not wish to contemplate – overseas aid.

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Rioter Evictions: Don’t Kick Them Out, Kick Them Down

Not surprisingly

David Cameron back[s] councils planning to evict rioters
The prime minister has said people who “loot and pillage their own community” should be evicted from council houses.

[…]

David Cameron told the BBC he thought evictions were a way of “enforcing responsibility in our society”.

That David Cameron is backing a populist move I’m not going to criticise. He’s a politician. Alas we can only compare them by the number of bandwagons they jump on.

Back to the point, though: it’s a daft idea. Not the principle – abuse taxpayers’ ‘largesse’ and expect us to take such support away – it’s the practical aspects that cause the problems.

Why should children suffer because their sibling is a thieving scrote? What’s the point making them homeless when we’ll then end up re-housing them anyway?

On the other hand, it’s right that parent(s) take responsibility for their offspring’s crimes. Whining that “I can’t watch him and also keep an eye on little Chardonnay, Tyson and Kyle … I mean, have you seen the price of Sky subscriptions these days innit?” isn’t good enough. Children are a responsibility that you cannot turn off when you feel like it – it’s 24*7 – that’s even (slightly) longer than they have the widescreen telly switched on for.

Talking of parental responsibility and standards, we can’t ignore this gem from yesterday:

‘Sexy’ pics at 12, pregnant at 15 …and her proud mum’s delighted

A SCHOOLGIRL who posed aged 12 for controversial bikini pictures in a magazine is now pregnant at 15 – to the joy of her mum.

And why is her mum so overjoyed? Being a grandmother (again)? Looking forward to being a great-grandmother in her early sixties? Nope:

Jobless single mum Janis, 48, said she was delighted because the council will now have to give her a bigger house.
She added: “Our three-bedroom place was already overcrowded with her sisters Coco and Ritzy, her brother Tarot, Soya’s boyfriend Jake and one of her sister’s babies. Once the new baby comes the council will have to find us a place with four or five bedrooms.

 
“We’ve already started packing.”

F. F. S.

Interesting, in the context of evicting rioters, is what this tells us about what the parasitical classes value as status symbols. Yes, we can all think of the bull terriers, the plasma TVs, the chavved-up hot hatchbacks, but top of the premier league must be the size of your house.

(Not that different from so many, of course … except that if Joe Bloggs at last weekend’s barbeque had a five bedroom house, the assumption is that he owns it and honestly earned the money to pay for it (or service the mortgage). At a stretch, it may have come out of an inheritance, but the bequest was presumably not made under duress.)

So if the size of the house is such an important factor in what passes for the lives of the feckless, then we have a credible compromise when it comes to whether or not to evict rioters and their families. Don’t evict them from social housing completely – just move them into smaller accommodation. Had a four bedroom house before you smashed up the High Street? Now it’s a two bed. Had a two bed? Now it’s a studio flat. Hit them where, clearly, it would really hurt.

The cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the point is made, but without going through the ultimately pointless and even more expensive motions of eviction, B&B and rehousing in somewhere of equal size – or possibly, it cannot be ruled out, somewhere better than where they are now.

Now they can start packing.

On The Conservatives’ Bank Levy

Someone less loyal to the Conservative leadership might have wept yesterday morning when they heard that the party was now supporting a bank levy regardless of whether other major economies introduced it.

They might have scratched their head and wondered why it mattered so much that some other countries – the USA most notably, for example – were now going to introduce such a measure that we had to declare that we would do it unilaterally. The justification for the change in tack seemed to immediately negate the change from multilateral to unilateral introduction of the levy.

They might have watched the Andrew Marr show this morning and sympathised with Phillip Hammond, who only weeks ago was following the more sensible line that any such tax would only be workable if everyone did it. They would have seen Hammond having to perform logical contortions to try to fit in with this weekend’s policy.

Someone so less loyal to David Cameron and George Osborne might have gulped as they realised that, on this issue at least, the current disaster of a Labour chancellor was actually demonstrating more economic literacy then his own party’s leader and shadow chancellor when he stuck to the multilateral line.

They might also have baulked at the citing of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, and then rolled their eyes at the mention of President Obama, reflecting that just because an increasingly unpopular left-wing administration in another country seems bent on destroying the competitiveness of their financial sector, doesn’t make it OK for a future Conservative government to do so here.

Finally, that disappointed Conservative member might be reflecting that whereas a true Conservative would see an international move towards a bank levy / Tobin Tax / Robin Hood Tax as an opportunity to boost the City of London’s competitiveness by not imposing the levy, a socialist would see also see it as an opportunity – to introduce a new tax, something that is in their, not the Conservative, DNA (to borrow a Cameron phrase).

Me? Oh, I was just annoyed at the current fad of having David Cameron speaking to a backdrop of fidgeting, gurning (but carefully selected) party members which distracted from what he was saying to such an extent that I had to watch it all over again. (I had an invitation to attend that very event, but thought I would spare the nation the horror of looking at me over their elevenses). Surely Cameron could have made the speech in a traditional news conference setting, without corralling all those party members – candidates among them – who should have spent the Saturday morning campaigning?

The Morning After

Well, what did you expect? The speech of a Prime Minister in waiting, or the “everything is hunkydory I saved the world Tories will eat your kittens” skit that Gordon Brown treated us to last week?

George Osborne setting out some policies on how to tackle the debt crisis, or the Alistair Darling approach of donning the rose-tinted spectacles while waiting for said Mr Osborne to give him his next policy idea?

And whatever happened to Europe? On Sunday the media had decided that it was going to be the Nineties all over again, with Tories tearing each other to pieces over the Lisbon treaty … in the event, it seems the media had only put on the seven-inch radio edit of the mood music, rather than the long concept album that would have been the norm fifteen years’ ago.

Yet this year I was not there to get caught up in the usual post-leader’s speech euphoria (it’s powerful stuff – even IDS’s “turning up the volume” thing got us going in 2003). So I was seeing the speech in the same way that many “ordinary voters” would have, and through the media filters. Cheery? Not really. Honest? Yes.

All in all, a good workmanlike leader’s speech. Then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?

Straight Talking

“We talk about people being “at risk of obesity” instead of talking about people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty, or social exclusion: it’s as if these things – obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction – are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.

“Of course, circumstances – where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school, and the choices your parents make – have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make.

David Cameron’s remarks on reintroducing some moral judgement into how we regard the poor, overweight, and so on, have exposed some real nastiness in the Left. Old chestnuts are being dusted off, including comparing Cameron’s comments to Margaret Thatcher’s oft-truncated “there is no such thing as society” quote.

It is ironic that the Left accuse Conservatives of being the nasty party, then launch into a vicious vitriolic attack on David Cameron because he was born into an affluent background and went to Eton. After all, they wouldn’t dream of criticising someone because they were born into, say, a poor Afro-Caribbean family and went to the “bog standard” comp.

What Cameron has done is to open up a debate that has been brushed under the carpet for too long. There are two broad types of poor/disadvantaged in the world, which as a shorthand I will refer to as the “deserving” poor, and the “undeserving”. The latter are the subject of David Cameron’s comments: those who would rather wallow in self-pity, weighed down by the burden of the chip on their shoulder, blaming society and the government for their situation while equally (and, I suppose, logically) expecting the same to compensate them.

It’s vital that we do have this debate, for it is the undeserving poor that are causing the deserving to be tarred with the same brush, by countless hard working individuals who have been waiting for leading politicians to say what they have been thinking for a long time.

The reaction of the Left has been utterly predictable and indicative of why we find ourselves with the problems that we have today.

It has included the inevitable “it’s alright for an old Etonian to lecture the poor, what does he know?” to finding some genuinely deserving cases to be held up as being the alleged subject of the nasty Tories’ attacks. Finally, of course, they blame Mrs Thatcher for why we are where we are.

It is too easy, though, to put this off again, fearful of upsetting someone or having our remarks twisted, taken out of context and thrown back at us, as the “no society” quote was. As Cameron has said,

“… I have not found the words to say it sensitively. And then I realised, that is the whole point.

“We as a society have been far too sensitive. In order to avoid injury to people’s feelings, in order to avoid appearing judgemental, we have failed to say what needs to be said.

“Instead we prefer moral neutrality, a refusal to make judgements about what is good and bad behaviour, right and wrong behaviour. Bad. Good. Right. Wrong. These are words that our political system and our public sector scarcely dare use any more.

Immigration used to be avoided by many politicians for fear of being labelled racist, but now it is being rationally discussed in terms of the burden on public services. Equally, we have previously failed to address effectively the issue of “deserving” vs “undeserving” state dependency, lest we should be accused of wanting to kick away crutches. Yet it must be addressed, for until such “moral” judgements start to inform any overhaul of the welfare state, it will continue to lose credibility and support from those who have to pay for it.

(And, yes, that’s something that those of us in local government need to think about as much as anyone else.)

Thanks a lot

Full marks in the diplomacy/tongue-biting stakes to West Yorkshire’s finest as they face accusations that they didn’t find Shannon Matthews quickly enough. This, despite mounting the biggest manhunt in the county since the Yorkshire Ripper, and finding the lost girl when many were fearing the worst, against a background of “oh nobody cares about her as much as Madeline McCann is it ‘cos we is working class”.

The statement from the police was loosely coded, talking of “literally hundreds of people in a huge family network” in defending the length of time it took to check out even the “usual suspects” in such a case.

That some of the locals in Dewsbury (it was one of Shannon’s “huge family network” that made the first criticism that received coverage) thought it strange that such a task should take so long says something of the normality that too many children find themselves in. A procession of “uncles” – real and generic – as well as enough “steps” to start a ladder hire shop.

It was, in a roundabout and unintentionally timed way, the sort of thing that David Cameron was talking about yesterday in his keynote speech in Gateshead. Despite the derision that greeted Iain Duncan Smith’s report last year on social and family breakdown, nothing can alter the fact that a stable family background is the best defence we have against a whole raft of social problems. That is not to condemn divorcees, for instance – these things happen, sadly – but to strive to an ideal. To put the onus back on the community – even in its widest sense, including big business and those who drive our culture – is a significant shift away from the expectation that government can save us all – a flawed belief that has created many of the problems.