Category Archives: Coalition

Social Cleansing: Yet again government policy not living up to their rhetoric

Today we have a new scandal on the front pages, “social cleansing” and the movement of masses of people to other areas of the country.

This type of action is only something previously heard of in war torn countries or extreme right wing (even fascist) regimes.  Yet today, Grant Shapps, Conservative Housing minister is trying to explain why the actions of Newham Council are happening when he specifically told the country that this would NOT be the result of government policy.

Newham Council, in London, the Olympic capital for 2012, is in discussions with Stoke on Trent, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to take up to 500 residents from their area because they can no longer afford to provide social housing for people due to the caps on Housing benefit.

We were assured by ministers that the idea of “social cleansing” and the fear of wholesale movement of poorer people out of the well off areas of London was simply hysterical, is now looking a little hollow.

We were assured by Grant Shapps in interviews:

Housing minister rebuts opposition critics: “We are not being unfair”
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Concerns over Housing Benefit reforms “complete nonsense” says Grant Shapps.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/28/housing-benefit-cuts-defended

Now the very concern dismissed by the government is now becoming fact.  Whether by design or simply government incompetence (it is difficult to tell the difference at the moment) their policy is having the exact result that they stated would not happen.

The BBC reports:

Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.

The gap between market rents and the housing allowance is too big, it says.

It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it.

The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”.

It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.

The council has been “forced to look further afield for alternative supply”, it adds.

And unbelievably this is a “Labour” council.

But along with so much this government says like “no top down re-organisation of the NHS” ; “We are all in this together”; “No Banker will have a bonus of more than £2,000; and that they had no plans to raise VAT, all become hollow in the face of reality.

As with the NHS reforms that will have changed the service for ever, we will not know the full effects of the reforms until several years later, when the damage will have been done and most probably irreversible.

In respect of moving 500 people to Stoke On Trent, I understand that the “people” concerned have neither been consulted or their concerns heard.

This is policy could have some of the most vial consequences our country has ever seen, but we will sleep walk on regardless.

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DAVID CAMERON’S EURO SCEPTIC NIGHTMARE

We have so many Deja vu moments with the current government, however, last night was perhaps one that David Cameron would have preferred had not have happened.

Cameron has nothing to hide over Europe?

The spectre that is Europe on the shoulders of any Tory leader is a heavy burden.  Sadly for the British people, it has again weighed heavily on the shoulders of yet another Tory leader.  David Cameron, known for his clever political manoeuvres in the corridors of the Tory party and Westminster decided to politically take on a fight which has left him embarrassed, undermined and left his own power within in his party dented.

Instead of allowing a free vote and playing down the significance of the outcome of any vote, he decided to take on the euro sceptics and in the process has lost two ministerial aids; suffered the biggest backbench rebellion in 30 years and opened up old festering wounds that the Tories have been trying to heal for 13 years.

It reminded everyone of the catastrophic Major years –  81 voting against the government (half of the back benchers) not counting those that abstained and has prompted the euro sceptics to ask – Is Cameron one of them?

The longer the Euro sceptics look at David Cameron and his rhetoric the more they feel that actually he will dither and give bluster, but in the end is unlikely to repatriate much power back to the UK Parliament and certainly not in this parliament.

What could force his hand however, is a) that the back benchers will now put far more pressure on him and to placate them he will have to act to stop the inevitable split and back biting that will occur and b) Any systemic Euro zone restructuring to solve the ever growing crisis WILL inevitably require changes to the European treaties.

What is curious is why Cameron bothered to risk the stoking up of the hornets nest in the guise of Tory Euro sceptics?  He showed is political manoeuvres with the Liam Fox issue, delaying taking action so he was seen to be giving him every chance so as not to anger the right wing.  He could have done the same this time but decided not to.

The art of being a leader in politics is knowing the fights to take on and when to do it.  The judgement on this occasion was most certainly wrong.

David Cameron’s position is now clear, his problems of keeping his coalition together has just taken a turn for the worse.  He has been concentrating on keeping his coalition with the Lib Dems on track, but in doing so has angered the right of his party AND the Euro sceptic wing.

He has clearly damaged himself and will find going tougher in the months ahead and the coalition has suddenly been made harder to keep together.

LIAM FOX RESIGNS AS HE IS HOUNDED OUT OF GOVERNMENT

So finally Dr Liam Fox has resigned from government, and not before time.  Within 24 hours of the story breaking it was obvious he had to go, but many Conservatives would not accept this or even see what he had done wrong.

It quickly became clear that Dr Fox’s close friend Adam Werritty was being used as an “unofficial advisor”, without security clearance, and without a clear defined role that could be held up to scrutiny, accountability and transparency.

The very idea that being an important member of the government as defence secretary, going to important meetings with heads of state, and bringing his “mate” along to all these meetings all over the world costing thousands of pounds of “some ones” money, and that this would be acceptable just defies logic.

I can just see myself going to a business meeting, discussing confidential information and bringing a “mate” along to sit in on and take part in the meeting. I would be looked at as being completely mad, and rightly so.  Adam Werritty had no business being at those meetings and being able to take advantage of networking government contacts on the basis of being a “friend”.

There are still questions to be answered like who exactly was paying for Adam Werritty’s expenses and what was he gaining from the relationship, details we may now never find out.

As for David Cameron, I’m afraid he dithered on this issue.  We know that Liam Fox had already broken the ministerial code and acted irresponsibly and in a way that no ordinary mortal could have acted in business.  On this basis, I think David Cameron got this profoundly wrong and will be damaged by the affair.

I was wrong in my previous comments when I stated that Dr Fox would be gone within 5 days . . . . . . it actually took 6!

Sadly, I do not believe that the act of arrogance by Liam Fox will be the last we see in this coalition government.

bb

Liam Fox is on the run as the Hounds get the scent

Oh dear, it doesn’t take long for the usual sleaze and grubby nature of those in power to take the rise out of the tax payers that pay their wages.

So far we have had Andy Coulson, that is still damaging the Prime Minister, having to resign.  He should never have been employed in the first place, but hey ho.

We also have many MP’s who took the rise out of the tax payer through MP’s expenses, still in Parliament, giving a lie to the idea that all we had to do was have an election and eject those that were crooked.  When even the Prime Minister had to pay back expenses he morally should never have claimed in the first place, you have to question whether anything has changed.

Like Animal Farm – the noses in the trough never really changes.

The problem for the present minister in trouble, is that the public and the press are not in the mood to accept unacceptable behaviour, or even, behaviour that LOOKS unacceptable from those in power.  There is very little trust in public officials, and the press cannot wait to have a go at those politicians that have been rubbing their hands with glee at the hacking scandal.

So what of Liam Fox? Is he corrupt or simply a prat?  His relationship with Mr Werritty seems puzzling to say the least, but not surprising when those in power like to give their “jobs for the boys”.  It has always been who you know not what you know when you get into government.

The jury is out at the moment but it doesn’t look good.  This article shows the web within which Dr Fox is entangled Sunday Telegraph . What looks particularly bad is that when he has been asked very simple questions by the media he has refused to answer a single one.  He is well aware that any discrepancy in what he says will be pounced upon.  But what does he have to hide?

There are questions over soliciting meetings for business dealings; Adam Werritty taking advantage of their friendship by handing out business card stating he was an advisor of Dr Fox; and most seriously being involved in various situations where national security could have been breached.

It is all very bizarre, but the vultures are circling.  Silence is never a good thing when all around you are commenting on your alleged misdemeanors. The correct response would be to put all the facts on the table, if there is nothing in the story, and there is nothing to hide, then come COMPLETELY CLEAN straight away.  To say next to nothing and appoint an enquiry into your own conduct is not very clever.

One commentator this morning said it reminded her of the Major government, which is unfortunate to say the least.  The last thing this government needs is to divert their attention from the task in hand.  Whether it is Cat gate or Liam Fox and Adam Werritty’s relationship, it is a self made diversion that could well lead to a resignation.

The PM’s office was less than forthcoming in their initial support for Liam Fox which also casts doubt on his position.

The Preliminary report in the affair will be given to David Cameron tomorrow, and he has an important task.  With his dithering over the hacking scandal, News International and Andy Coulson, he needs to show that a) he knows what is going on and b) that he can make a decisive decision that he will not have to roll back later.

There is no doubt that there is a stench in the air, but whether this will take the scalp of Liam Fox remains unclear.  However, the talk this morning in various newspapers is that there may be a slight lack of judgement involved, trying to play down any misdemeanor that may be proven.  Surely a lack of judgement does not bode well for Dr Fox?

With the pack in chase, whether Prat or sleaze,  it does not look good for  Dr Fox.

Fox on the run?

Cat Flap, Red Ed and the Political Party really running the country

Well the Party Conference season is over and, for those that nodded off, it is time to wake up and see the new politics term take its course.

As usual the conference season was a largely pointless and boring few weeks where leaders make speeches thinking the world is watching, when actually, other than an awful lot of BBC and SKY journalists, nobody is taking a blind bit of notice.

The first conference by the Liberal Democrats even had their own supporters staying away, with seats empty throughout the conference, even in the leaders speech.  It was a drab affair with those bothering to turn up being in complete denial at their predicament.

You would never think that they were a party of government from the low key atmosphere and empty seats, but in government they are.  The funniest moment without doubt was the suggestion by one person in the “ask Nick” sessions that actually it was the Liberal Democrats running the government.  This got a good laugh in the hall and a round of applause – it certainly got a laugh outside the hall!

Then came Labour’s conference.  Oh how journalists must hanker for the good old days when a good punch up would ensue, with walk outs, open hostility and the certainty of a little drawing of  blood.

We have none of that these days, they are all too civilised you know.  Again the conference was largely unremarkable except for the Ed Miliband speech.  His delivery is not great, but at times he did look as though he meant what he was saying.

Unfortunately for Ed, he rekindled the “Red Ed” tag that had all but disappeared.

I actually thought the rhetoric of his speech was quite good with the point being we should encourage good business practice and not bad ones.  However, somehow the Tory press picked this up as being “anti business”.

This is somewhat worrying because this surely assumes that most British companies are actually asset strippers and have no social responsibility.  I would have thought that if companies work hard and create wealth that they would be in the “good” category rather than the vilified one.  Maybe I missed the point?

Anyway, whichever way you take the speech, the rhetoric is all very well but the reality is as yet the Labour Party has no policies to implement such high stated moral values on business or the economy, and frankly is unlikely to have. But at least he seemed to be questioning the general ethos and over riding ideology of the past 30 years, and he is the first of the main parties to do this.

Then we had the Conservative party.  This ended up being by far the most entertaining of the conferences.  Feeling very pleased with themselves for  .  .  err .  .  .  .  not winning the last election, they proceeded to bash the Europhiles, ditch their green credentials, spend £250 million on bin collections, and have an argument between themselves about a cat!  All most amusing.

Cat gate was truly ridiculous.  I have no idea what planet Theresa May lives on these days, but it is not within this universe.  There are obviously important arguments regarding the human rights act, but by choosing such a ridiculous story, that has little, or no basis of truth in it whatsoever, just made her look desperate and pretty silly.  Kenneth Clarke, being the plain spoken person he is, pretty much said so straight away much to the annoyance of his boss David.

It also doesn’t help that it is now being reported that she “lifted” cat gate from a UKIP speech!

Oh how amusing.  Even as I write this, arguments still ensue over the said cat as the immigrant in question plans to join his gay partner in a civil partnership next summer.  Surely this will please the Conservative Party and David Cameron in particular. After all they believe in Gay Marriage, not despite being Conservatives, but because they are Conservatives.   It all fits surely with their belief in family values!

Well, now the party is over, and cat gate rumbles on, I smell a bit of sleaze on the horizon  .   .   .   .   or is that a fox?

ECONOMIC CRISIS AS GROWTH IS CUT BY 50%

Economic woes – “it never rains but it pours” – can be the only description of the world economy right now.  The UK specifically is fully into its 3rd quarter of stagnation.

Yesterday the National Office of Statistics revised its growth for the 3 months to June down to 0.1%.  Down 50% from its previous statistics.  Confirming what everyone pretty much already knows (except George Osborne) that the UK economy is flat lining.

In addition IMF growth forecasts for 2011 have been downgraded to 1.1% from 2% 9 months ago, and for 2012 down to 1.6% from 2.3% and even this looks highly optimistic.  The IMF is clearly opening the door for a squirming back track by the UK government to reduce its deficit reduction plan. 

No growth = very little chance of cutting the deficit by the amount the chancellor would like.  No growth means continual falling standards of living in the UK.

Today the Bank of England kept interest rates at 0.5%.  Not unexpected, but even those on the right are now resisting calls to hike interest rates in the way they were calling for it a year ago.  The opportunity has been missed they say.

In addition they have announced a further round of Quantitative Easing.  The electronic version of printing money.  This was not altogether surprising, as it has been signposted by Goerge Osborne over the past few days.  However, the amount is far more than originally forecast, signalling that the financial crisis is still getting worse and not better.

The penny is beginning to drop for the coalition.  Growth is becoming far harder to come by, and the cuts are only just beginning to bite.  The chances of a double dip recession are massively increased with the continuing problems in the Euro Zone that does not look like ending any time soon. Yet, still no growth strategy except, cut and hope for the best.

I predict that sooner or later the UK government will HAVE to slow its deficit reduction plan, and a new banking crisis to ensue in the Euro zone leading to frozen liquidity in the world banking system.  Watch this space!

 

DAVID CAMERON THE U-TURN PRIME MINISTER

As the Conservative Party faithful look on in admiration expecting to see the next Margaret Thatcher in office, what echoes around the chambers of the House of Commons is the phrase “The Lady’s not for turning”.  Whatever else is made up by the Tory propaganda machine they can’t repeat this one!

Remember all those Prime Ministers question times when David Cameron attacked Gordon Brown for being indecisive? Remember all those Tory press conferences attacking Gordon Brown for not making decisions quickly enough?

Well true to his word, David Cameron’s Premiership has not been dogged by indecision, but rather quick decision making followed by a slow drawn out change of mind and having to reverse that decision either wholly or partly.

Remember all those Tory Party snipes at the labour Party for being control freaks?  Of course we know that David Cameron has let his hand picked ministers go off and formulate policy, and then found that he has had to over rule them when he realised, at the last minute, that their ideas wouldn’t work and they didn’t do their homework.

Being in opposition is a lot easier than being in government, and if we needed any evidence of this, then look no further than the Coalition government of the past 12 months.  The Conservatives became a naval gazing, opportunistic, opposition party, who took 10 years to finally pick a leading candidate as much like Tony Blair as they could find in order to win an election.

So what are we left with? Is David Cameron the U-Turn Prime Minister?

If we look at the evidence it is quite remarkable that his personal rating is as high as it is, far higher indeed than the ratings of either the coalition or the Conservative Party itself.  As we discussed here with Is this the most dishonest UK government since 1945?   the Conservative Party went into the 2010 General Election with pretty much a completely different manifesto than they have enacted.

Promises prior to the 2010 election

  1. The promise that they had no plans for a VAT rise
  2. David Cameron gave assurances that he believed in EMA and it was safe, shaking hands with the electorate re-assuring them face to face
  3. There would be no change to Family Allowance
  4. No Top down changes and re-organisation to the NHS
  5. Sure Start would be safe in their hands
  6. They would build more prisons and constantly attacked the Labour government for not doing so
  7. No one working in a bank should get more than a £2,000 bonus
  8. Quango’s should be got rid of to make government more accountable, and cost effective
  9. Anonymity for Rape victims
  10. NHS Direct would be scrapped
  11. Weekly Rubbish collections was stated as a crusade for localism by Eric Pickles
  12. Any one found carrying a knife would have a prison sentence
Following the election things turned out very differently, very quickly.  The result was not only u-turns on the above, but also in some cases, double u-turns! Quite remarkable.
  1. VAT announced would rise to 20%
  2. EMA announced would be scrapped.  Then another U-turn as they sought to claw back some credibility as they recognised that the figures they trotted out were not all together correct. see here David Cameron performs partial U-Turn on EMA 
  3. Family Allowance scrapped for some of the middle class
  4. The biggest changes announced to the NHS since 1945 – then a second U-Turn as they attempt to water down the proposals to placate a public outcry. Another double U-Turn
  5. Sure start funding scrapped and then a double u-turn as they keep some funding but is lower than needed and David Cameron continually misleads the House of Commons by quoting a budget that is not just for the Sure Start programme
  6. Prison building stopped and announced the cutting immediately of 3,000 prison places
  7. Banking wages and bonuses continue to rise, and in no way reflect risk, productivity or profits
  8.  The bonfire of the Quango’s becomes more of a flickering spark as they realise that many of the quangos actually do a job, for very little money.  Yet they go ahead and bannish a third of the quangos which the Commons Public Administration Select Committee criticised and stated “in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and can be much improved for future reviews.”  see Bonfire of the Quangos 
  9. Anonymity for Rape victims was rejected
  10. NHS Direct kept, but the phone number changed!
  11. No sentencing provision for knife crime
  12. No weekly collections to be re-instated as it is too expensive
Then the list continues as the 12 months in office has continued
13. Cuts to Coastguard funding – deemed too dangerous and amount of cuts reduced
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14. Housing benefit cuts watered down due to certain MP’s in the south east having the “jitters”
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15. School milk to be cut – then predictably reversed due to the Thatcher experience
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16. David Cameron’s personal photographer put on the taxpayers pay roll, after derision of Ed Miliband asking questions about it in the commons, taken off the pay roll and admitted as a “mistake”.
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17. The Forests Bill – a massive mistake as Caroline Spelman makes a complete mess of the bill, brought forward on ideological grounds and taking on the middle classes in the Conservative heartlands.  Bill completely abandoned
18. David Cameron announced the massive reduction of special advisers and a big criticism of New Labour – reverses decision as policy making and publicity becomes too difficult without them.
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19.  Criminal Justice Bill to reduce sentences by 50% to save money abandoned after complete embarrassment.
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20.  School Sports Partnerships stated to be cut, but funding then re-instated at a lower level as they were found to actually work
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21. Quangos again – this time, as we discovered at Prime Ministers Questions last week, the Prime Minister is about to triple the amount of quangos in the NHS  – there will now be more quangos than there were prior to the Coalitions election
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22. The Foreign policy was principally a travelling salesman’s act until the criticism over Libya, and now David Cameron is a Liberal Interventionist convert.
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So what should we make of the Prime Minister’s U-Turns.  There are various arguments for this.
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1  –  The Coalition argument – this dictates that there are more U-turns because of there being a coalition and the clash of minds when putting together policies.  This would account for some changes, but not by any means most and certainly not the big ones.  My analysis of the above U-turns, I would say 14%.  The principle intervention may have been with the NHS reforms, however, this in itself was a U-Turn by Nick Clegg who in an interview with Andrew Marr at the beginning of the year stated that the NHS reforms were actually a Liberal Democrat policy!
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The second and third arguments can be discussed in tandem –
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A Listening Prime Minister  Vs A U-Turn Prime Minister 
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There is certainly some truth to the idea that David Cameron is a Listening Prime Minister and is a reason why the Prime Minister’s status has remained high in the polls.  People perceive a lot of the U-turns as the Prime minister doing the right thing and listening.  There is no doubt that some of the decisions he has made in the U-turns have been based on pragmatism so in part I would agree with this point of view.  Indeed I have expressed this view with the Forests for example on this site.
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However, there is a tipping point in any changing of minds, when a considered approach that constantly has to back track looks like incompetence.  That tipping point is about to be reached.
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I am somewhat surprised it has taken as long as it has and could have disastrous consequences in the future.  There is only so many times a Prime minister can be seen to be back tracking on important policy.  It leaves ministers deflated or weakened and creates enemies.  If we look at Andrew Lansley as a case example, he now looks like a political figure dead in the water.  A trusted key member of the government has been decimated by criticism and scrutiny.  It defies belief that he could have been in the job as shadow health secretary and Minister for Health in government for a total of 7 years and yet come up with proposals that split the public and clinicians.  He also failed to bring his plans to the attention of the public in the entirety of the 2010 general election.
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This was complete incompetence and was politically underhand at the same time.  A corner stone of government policy that have the finger prints of both Conservative and Liberal politicians on it following Nick Clegg’s interview, show’s a lack of policy detail and competence.
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There are many aspects of the list above that are small fry, but what it shows is that David Cameron has a poor team around him that he trusts and has fostered in opposition.  They lack expertise and are bad at the policy detail.
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Some of the U-Turns also show a principle of dishonesty that runs through the grain of the government.  The promises on VAT, EMA, Family Allowance, Prison Building, Sure Start, Bookstart, MUST have been decided prior to the election and not just U-turned afterwards.  This was a DELIBERATE DECEPTION of the British people.
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The biggest deception however was the NHS reforms as announced by Andrew Lansley.  We were assured no Top Down re-organisation and David Cameron went out of his way to assure the public and NHS workers that the NHS would be safe under the Conservative party.  Yet now, almost every week, we are subjected to the same speech by David Cameron to assure the public that the NHS is still safe in his hands following the revealing of the biggest shake up of the Health service since 1945, that will cost a whopping £4 billion to implement.  Dishonesty??
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What is the real worry however, is that David Cameron is politically savy and knows he cannot afford another big U-Turn – yet more U-Turns are surely ahead.  A big issue could well come up in the following few months or years that will be politically unpalatable to make, thus boxing the government in when they need manoeuvrability.
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This could well be the economy.  With almost every statistic showing the economy in stagnation and austerity measures only now about to bite, a policy shift may be essential to stimulate growth.  If the government boxes itself into a corner this could damage any ability for the economy to recover.
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It is too early to tell if the “U-Turn Prime Minister” tag will stick with David Cameron, but it is not looking good.  It appears clear that he is being let down in his day to day government policy making by those around him, but in the end the buck stops with him.