Monday, August 12, 2013


Sorry About This

I'm sorry about this- though regualr visitors will already have made the obvious conclusion- but I've stopped posting on my blog. I've been doing it since May 2005 which is not a bad stint and I've just found that I had become disengaged from regular blogging. I'm still as obsessed as ever by British politics but I find the itch sufficiently scratched via my teaching and academic writing not to mention occasional tweets- usually when very angry at something this awful governbment has done.

So thianks very much for reading my blog in the past, if that is your reason for logging on, but things move on and in my case I've decided to do so by ceasing to post on Skipper. Bye.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


UKIP Surge Drops Back but Neitherr Labour or Tories Benefit

I've always compared UKIP with the SDP in terms of its support and we do perhaps see a suggestion that the 'party of protest' is witnessing one of the characteristics of such phenomena: fading success once the spotlight of attention moves elsewhere. It took two elections and half a decade for the SDP but after the excitement of the local elections it really does seem as if voters have had a longer term think and placed Farage's vehicle in a more realistic place: level with the Lib Dems at 12%- a 6% fall from last month, though a 1% increase for Clegg's party. Does this mean their bolt is shot? By no means. They can still influence the outcome of many contests at that level of support, but it does mean that Tory MPs who feared imminent disaster and meltdown, were overdoing it a bit.

Labour's lead at 7% is consistent but not what it should be if victory in 2015 is to appear even a strong possibility. It also illustrates that the big push by Balls and Miliband to appear tough on the deficit has not really been noticed yet by voters. Any elation at the Tories slumping from 45 to 29% approval on the economy is also negated by Labour's own fall from 29 to 19%. A twinge of elatioon might be justified however, on perceptions of party unity. Last month 65% felt Cameron had the backing of his party- this month, it's down to 29%. Labour meanwhile is seen as pretty united behind Ed Miliband.

On the 'empathy' axis- 'does he understand people like me'- Cameron sees a slide downhill with only 29% saying yes and 65% saying no. Ed usually scores well on this but also ends up with a 5% negative score: 41-46%. :Much too early to get much of a handle on 2015 but it seems neither big party is currently trusted by voters: Cameron seems to be floundering and his much vaunted leadership skills cast into doubt. Ed's position is even more desperate. As for Clegg, he might just end up holding the balance of power again, courtesy of UKIP and the nationalist parties.   

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Sir Max Spouts Nonsense on Kenyan Victims

I'm a huge admirer of Max Hastings as a historian- his recent book on world war two was brilliant. But I've just heard him on World at One, burbling nonsense about the Kenyan victims of colonial torture. William Hague has announced the award of some £20m in compensation to over 5000 claimants against the terrible treatment; they will receive around £2500 each. Hastings lambasted the decision. Judges had lost their minds to make such awards. Which other ex imperial countries would do the same? We must be mad he raged. And all on the basis of dodgy verbal evidence regarding things which happened 60 years ago..

Martin Day, the claimants' lawyer was relatively gentle in his demolition of these staunch Telegraph- Mail views. There is vast amounts of written evidence- much of it in government archives. There is the book by Ian Cobian, Cruel Britannia, a carefully documented piece of research. There was the evidence of 'Naomi' on the programme who attested to how a bottle being thrust inside her when she was close to childbirth; how her husband was castrated and her children killed.

It seemed Max's only complaint was that it was so long ago and that other nations wouldn't have done it and many more claimants would now come forward to claim. Well, I think that any decent person would think we owed some kind of redress to people who had been so treated; the passage of time makes no real difference; and, as Day commented, several other nations have paid out similar compensation, including Germany to Israel. Max Hastings should hang his head in shame for perpetrating such disgraceful attitudes.      

Monday, June 03, 2013


Coalition Promises on Lobbying Shamefully Delayed

I can recall Cameron promising back in May 2010 to tighten up the rules on lobbying, predicting it was 'the next big scandal waiting to happen.' Since then we have seen lobbyists being hyperactive in seeking to hive off parts of the NHS and remove planning laws to make the work of developers much easier. If we look over the Atlantic we see a government operation which is so in the thrall of lobbyists that legislation to control the sale of firearms was derailed despite the fact that 90% of Americans were in favour of such measures.

The revelation that Sir Patrick Mercer, plus three peers were willing to take money in exchange for lobbying on behalf of an autocratic government, is disappointing and an indictment of promises made but unfulfilled. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, suggested it was the fault of Nick Clegg who is in charge of constitutional reform, and in theory the lead minister.

But my suspicion is that the Tories are not too unfriendly to the knock on the door from their friendly lobbyist and that this measure, so anticipated by the PM himself, has been nudged onto the back burner.  Now suddenly, when it's too late, the government are galvanised into promising something they should have done ages ago This is yet further evidence that this government has long ago lost its way and is desperately flailing to regain credibility.    

Friday, May 24, 2013


Coalition Spooked by Fears of 2015 Election

Nick Clegg's intervention earlier this week in which he attacked Tory rightwingers for bewing 'consumed by game playing' and aserted that the coalition would continue its vital work of reform and fixing the economy. My view is that Clegg's speech was caused by the rightwingers who are urgiung Cameron to end the partnership with the Lib Dems. But won't they be unable to pass any imprtant measures and therefore fail to continue their vital work?

Well, yes, but the Tory right have never quite accepted the need for those extra votes. Maybe they think that governing via a heroic minority will win extra support; most importantly it would enable Conservatives to be properly Conservaive instead of the milk and water version inflicted on them by the coalition agreement. Here we see possibly the real reason why those rightwingers want to to end the deal: scared for their seats, they want to win back the votes leeching away to that awful man with the broad grin, a pint in one hand and a fag in the other.

Sounds a daft plan doesn't it? It is daft but ideologically committed politicians are often led up cul de sacs because they are so sure they are right. Look at how Labour's leftwing behaved during the early 1980s? They were so sure that swinging to the left would presage a landlside as 'voters got what they wanted'. Except that they didn't, the left had miscalculated disastrously and the result was a huge landlside for Thatcher. Obsessed with the evils of the EU and convinced public expenditure should be slahed and not just trimmed as Osborne has so far done, they are drwn to the well springs of their Conservative beliefs.

Will the colaition break up? Of course, it must some time before the election, but both Nick and Dave are convinced they have to stick togerther as long as possible: Dave because he wants to pass new measures; nick because he hopes his share in government will win the respect and support of voters. I very much dsoubt now if Dave can win and overall majority in 2015 and Nick has work to do to stop his support disappreaing before polling day comes around. Two years is a olong time in politics and the Lib Dems could go down the plughole of popuklar support or, as I think will happen, they could restore some of their old support and win enough seats to be king makers once again

Monday, May 20, 2013


Dave's Attempt to Recast his Party has Clearly Failed

From 1992 when the Lamont tumbkled the UK out of the ERM, Tory poll ratings bumped along at less than a third of the vote right up until David Cameron, with his noteless confference speech, won the chance to remake his party. Following Lord Ashcroft's, corruscating 'Smell the Coffee' report on the party's standing in the country, the Thatcherite Cameron had decided to place himself at the head of a 'modernising' campaign to make the Conservative Party, electable again. Assisted by a handpicked team, many of whom just happened to be old boys of Dave's old school, he plotted a makeover not so dissimilar to Blair's New Labour transformation of the Labour Party.

We saw the cultural distance bridged by extravagant photo shoots and stunts involving trips to the Arctic- strong on the environment; calls for us interpreted as encouragement to hug hoodies- strong on compassion; and an attempt to detoxify the Tory brand as homophobic and uncool. Of course the economic Thatcherism, small statism, low tax and euro-sceptisism were retained. The idea was to keep the core vote onside while extanding the party's appeal to wider expanses of the electorate. The problem was that the Coalition, while ending the party's 13 year power-drought, has also placed the party under immense pressure. The failure of the economy to recover and the cuts in public spending, have done much to alienate voters across the board, while the Tory brand has been retoxified to a worrying degree. Like many parties in a crisis, the Conservatives have fallen back onto their core beliefs and call for more economic austerity and more hostility to the EU. Inevitably party activists are more likiely to do this than MPs who have to be acutely sensitive to how people will vote in reality rather than in theory.

Having seen his modernisation attempt compromised by what he feels are the imperatrives of his austerity startegy, he has tried to maintain his claim to be a compassionate Conservive with his totemic gay marriage bill. The trrouble is Dave's stock has plummeted within his own party, who are beginning to tire of his leadership and are looking to alternatives with names like May or Gove or even Hague. With the additional threat of UKIP washing around the prospects of Tory MPs in marginal seats, Dave has essayed a major push to make his party eurosceptic friendly. The trouble is, making so many concessions to them has made him look weak and no longer in chasrge of his party, as Lord Howe, the slayer of the Leaderene in 1990, said at the weekend. I fear Cameron's great plan to recast his party in a form conguent with the changed society we now live in has foundered upon Osborne's failure to revive the economy and the evidence that, unlike Labour, which began its jounrey into the centre ground with Neil Kinnock after 1987, Cameron has tried to do things too quickly. His party is still locked into thinking that is decades out of date and his chnacesw of winning the next electioon have virtually disappeared.     

Monday, May 13, 2013


Tories Lie to Sustain 'Truth' of Scrounger-Striver Distinction

Much of the Tory case for reforming welfare rests on the contention that a substantial proportion of those on benefits are not there legitimately: that they are, in other words, 'cheats'. This idea, for which there must asssurendly some fondation in reality has been amplified a thousand fold by the likes of The Daily Mail and used by Osborne and Cameron as the Coalition's battering ram to bring down the walls of this particular bit of the welfare state. So we were told by delighted Tory cheerleaders that the mere mention that people on incapacity benefit were to be medically re-assassed, led to a third of them surrendering their claims.

In the same way Iain Duncan Smith-IDS- claimed that his cap on benefits was working its magic even before it came into force:

   "Already we have seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs."

In other words, joy unconfined for Conservative MPs whose reason for living would receive such a crippling blow if the 'benefit scrounger' were to be undermined. IDS, the Thatcherite former leader -well, failed leader actually- who had undergone an emotional conversion to fight against povedrty while visiting the run down Easterhouse area of Glasgow, has based his strategy upon the assumption of the fecklessness of benefit claimants.

In a withering article in yesterday's Observer, Nick Cohen destroyed the basis for this assumption. Cohen asserts that IDS's staff brief the press with 'unpublished figures' which are eagerly disseminated by the Mail, Telegraph and the like. 

   . "By the time the true figures appear on the DWP website , and informed commentators can see the falsity, the spin, the old saying applies: "A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on."

Cohen reports how the UK Statistics Authority,whose job it is to oversees all official statistics, has shown there is no basis whatsoever in the figures to support the contention in relation to the benefits cap. Morever, Jonathan Portes, former chief economist at the Cabinet Office has shown that the claim about incapacity benefits is. according to Cohen, 'False and demonstarbly false'.

Far from being a 'good Tory' as Michael Foot said of Disraeli, IDS seems to be just like all the other Tories, eagerly accepting falsehoods about the lower orders because such people have always had a vested interest in denigrating the poor and disadvantaged. And the public, always receptive to such knocking copy, just lap it up. Well said, Nick Cohen.  

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