Posts Tagged ‘British Politics’

Christopher Lee

February 5, 2013

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Cameron Goes Walk-About – so will his electorate

5th February 2013

There’s something rotten in the state of British politics. The Tories are voting themselves out of government – two and a half years before the scheduled General Election.

David Cameron the British Prime Minister appears to have lost all interest in domestic politics.  he has, like so many British Prime Ministers before him, become mesmerized by alarums and excursions in foreign fields. He has instinctively settled at a much higher plane than the boredom of the domestic politics of health care, crime prevention, schools and even the puzzling economy.

Instead, he is treading international stages with all the stature of someone playing the 21st century version of the Great Game. The past few days have seen Cameron in Algiers, Liberia and Libya.  This week his big photo-op was not with his discredited Chancellor George Osborne or his blissfully irrelevant Foreign Secretary William Hague nor even with his stand-in time share salesman of Whitehall aka Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, but with a three-way handshake between himself, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari.  If ever a trio looked liked successful lottery team, this was it.

The lottery theme is not irrelevant.  For Cameron (can we really believe anyone has ever called him Dave?) seems to be putting the currency of his leadership on some very odd numbers indeed.  For example, why would he truly believe that gay marriage is a big issue?  Does he believe that homosexuals and lesbians could turn the results of the next General Election? Or has he been told that it does not matter that his biggest Tory faith group, the Church of England is utterly opposed to gay marriage. Indeed the new Archbishop of Canterbury – leader of 77 million Anglicans – said only tis week that he’s against it.

The other two faith groups that count in the UK, The Catholics and the Muslims, are also against gay marriage.  How many voters has the Pope – as Stalin didn’t quite say – is not the point.  The point is that with the disaster of education policy and hospitals and care homes high in the public mind, Cameron has run out of ideas other than headline stuff.  So he has run off to foreign parts because domestic politics are far too difficult.

This was inevitable. Prime Ministers come into power and they go through the things that the voters care about – the economy stupid. Then in their first week they go to Washington to press presidential flesh.  The second week, they go to Brussels to nose-to-nose the EU.  The third week they go to Berlin for one-to-one with a real political leader and then to Paris for a swift handshake and very good A Level French jokes. It takes no more than a year for PMs to realize that the people back in the UK are boring.  Their issues are boring.  Worse, no one knows how to fix hospital problems, policemen not solving crimes, dementia treatment for nuisance mums and dads and of course the economy.  Three years in power and three years of decline.  Who needs it.

Whereas, Washington, Brussels, Algiers, Tripoli and even four hour drop in to our brave boys and gals in Camp Bastion give the prime ministerial personality a sense of something they want above all things: a power makeover.

Politicians do power.  Great stuff.  That’s why the common herd vote for them. But sitting at a Cabinet table lined with second rate people doing top rated jobs like Interior Minister, Health Secretary, Business Secretary and the rest make a PM realize that mostly he or she is power;less and days are always numbered.

So out come the focus group reports in spite of the fact that they are mostly bogus and out go the headline grabbing issues. Cameron goes foreign and feels a powerful man.  He gets respect even if the EU has relegated him to right hand side back row in the group photographs (could you imagine that happening to Thatcher or her protege Blair?

In a couple of years time, the result of all tis will be clear to the most important focus group of all – the general electorate.  They will see that the Tories have no original ideas, that they the people are worse off than before the Coalition of Incompetents and that the Prime Minister is hiding abroad.  The consequence? Bye Bye Tories. And the next lot will be as bad.

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Christopher Lee

January 12, 2013

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Heseltine Roars – Cameron Would Do Well To Hear The Last Of the Big Beasts

12th January 2013
Michael Heseltine has publicly told Prime Minister David Cameron that he would be wrong to go for what would effectively be an In-Or-Out? referendum on Europe.  

Heseltine has done so for two reasons: firstly he believes it to be a foolish political decision by the leader of the party of which he remains a passionate member and secondly, because he can say it and will be listened to.  The last point is the most important because Heseltine is a Big Tory Beast.  A veritable lion of Toryism.

And here’s the rub.  The Tory Party has few proper beasts.  It has few who command to be heard when they roar.  For the Party is dull, just as the LibDems are dull and so too Labour. This was never the case.  Now the Cages of Political Beast are left unlocked because that rare species has gone. Yet there are huge issues that demand Big Beasts to say things, be heard, to be sent to sort Great Troubles.  This is also what the public thinks.  A few examples:

A major city of the United Kingdom is in flames.  For 40 days and 40 nights, Belfast has burned.  Shots have been fired. The sham of the Blair Settlement is as charred as the building blocks of what should have been his greatest achievement (his biggest was to XXXX-Up the UK).  And yet where is the Big Statement from David Cameron, the man who passes himself off as Prime Minister?  Where is the high profile Cameron visit to Belfast to demand these are terrible events up with he will no longer put? Nowhere, that’s where they are.

And where are the forehead smacking and feet shuddering statements and initiatives from Theresa Villiers.  Who?

There are perhaps a handful outside Westminster who have heard of Villiers.  Yet this woman – a refugee from that other Something-Up of Blairite proportions, the Department of Transport – is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Villiers is the person appointed to fix Northern Ireland; she is the person we should be watching, hanging on her every word as kids under ten throw rocks and petrol bombs at UK policemen. We get? Nothing! (We would of course if this were happening in her Tory constituency of Chipping Barnet.)

Crisis? You would hardly know it from Ms Villiers. Hardly a soul knows her name. An, admittedly small, telephone straw poll last night from this writer’s office among reasonably informed adults and voter-age teenagers found no one who had heard of her and certainly no one who knew what she looked like.  A part of the UK burns and the profile and the words of the person in charge are unknown and unheard. There is no beast to roar good sense into the debacle that is Northern Ireland. Where else?

Abroad the really nice William Hague travels willingly to lie for his country.  On big issues he sounds insignificant.  Yet once, even as a teenager, he electrified the Tory Conference with his conscience rattling speech that the nation (and the Party) needed big ideas expounded by big ideas.  

Today Hague has said nothing outside Cabinet that is memorable.  Yet this man is there to manage in every country, in every institution from the UN to NATO to the EU the image of the British Isles.  Remember anything he has said?  Of course not.  We are reduced to remembering that he is bald – that is such a bad moment for us all.

So the Heseltine image of Beasts and Statesmen is all but gone.  But there must be some in the grim and corrupt lair that is Parliament?  Ken Clarke? He was once a great Chancellor  Hardly heard and rarely noticed.  He is now silent and obscure with no visible passion other than cask ale and jazz trombones.  The others?

Thatcher sits unknowingly in her SW1 drawing room. Carrington, wisely has gone to his estate (as Macmillan said he would) to keep his own counsel his and despair of the great upper chamber with its dropped aitches, flat vowels and time servers and none with original thinking. Howe’s voice grows weak with age and his memory becomes uncertain – yet this is the man whose valedictory Commons speech tolled the bell on Thatcher’s premiership.

And on the other side of the House? There is no one whose intervention can have the Press Gallery scratching at their pads and frissons of holding some front page somewhere. No ghosts even. No Callaghan. Certainly no Anthony Crosland. No Roy Jenkins. No Michael Foots.

Ironically, the only beast to prowl the corridors of common sense and devastating intervention must bide his time until electorate disaster strikes (in 2015?).  Boris Johnson is the only beast of Heseltinean mane. Well south of the mythical Watford Junction line – that is the start of southern England – people wait for Boris. If they could, southerners bin Cameron and would cheer Boris into his place.  They long for the rabble rousing roars that would give the southern English the warm feeling that Beasts once more ruled the UK.. North of that line, north of Watford, Boris is detested because he stands for everything that the Midlands and much of the North detest: upper class right to rule and roar at lessers and for fags to grill their toast and anchovy paste.

There of course we have it. The United Kingdom has become a spiteful nation with no care but self-care. It is a nation split as a consequence of the the Blair divisions of 1999 Devolution of powers from Westminster to Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. The UK is no longer a united kingdom. Thus Westminster has become a village in which there is no place for big ideas. Beasts Not Wanted on whatever voyage the British expense craving politicians think they’re taken the nations.  

Social reform, health and education may be billed as new thinking but this is nonsense.  Nothing is stretched. Nothing is grabbed and molded anew. No truly big ideas, no truly big men.  No Barbara Castles. No Harold Macmillans. No Joe Grimmonds. No Enoch Powells. No Thatchers. No Mad Monks to stir the Commons Tea Room cups of political curiosity and set normally sedate men and women trotting to their green benches to hear what was to be said.

Thus Heseltine is an endangered species and Boris’s time has not yet come and may never do so.  Best then Mr Cameron – who displays little sign of what he stands for other than power – should listen to the last of a generation that was not always admired but was, with very good reason, always heard.

Play Up Play The Game Cameron

August 17, 2012

The Cameron government has had to apologize for telling at the very least unintentional fibs over the number of school playing fields its selling off.  

Last week, PM David Cameron told the world that the legacy of the Olympics would be to give all children opportunity to play sport, even to compete in school games.

This week the Prime Minister, in spite of his bucket shop speeches, has shown every half observant parent and kid that he’s beholden not to principles but to bank balances.

The Olympic pledge and the glorious legacy is discarded by the Cameron led government and his Education Secretary Michael Gove.  This week, Gove came out with figures about the number of school playing fields sold off for development when children desperately need them.  It now turns out that someone was hiding the truth – a third more were flogged than the Department of Education admitted.

On paper it does not sound very much, but in this month alone, the government gave permission for schools to sell 30 playing fields but told the public that it was only selling 21.  Gove of course blamed his officials.  That’s what honourable ministers now do.  Not my fault they cry.  So who is boss? Gove.  Who is boss of officials? Gove.  Who then takes the blame?  No way Gove is going to admit to anything.  The officials carry the can.

But the story is bigger than the two-faced policy decisions of the Cameron government.  Here’s what has happened: the previous government and the Cameron led coalition have, in spite of saying publicly that they were going to halt the wholesale selling of precious playing fields, have done nothing of the sort.  Hundreds have been quietly flogged to fat fee paying developers.

The Blair and Brown Labour government sold 213 playing fields while saying they were not going to sell any more.  

But the Tories under Thatcher and John (now Sir John) Major sold off 10,000 between 1979 and 1997.  Yes, they flogged to anyone with the dosh, ten thousand playing fields – and then blamed the kids for not trying.

Worse is to come: Michael Gove’s department has over-ruled advisers who said it was wrong to sell off playing fields.

A spokesman from the Department of Education (a department that is so educated that it thinks it’s OK to leave out the o in of and so calls itself DfE) says “Ministers have sought to ensure that proceeds go to improving sports facilities for young people overall.”

Whoever told the spokesman to say that should be rated in the long contested Official Whitehall Public Fib-or-Worse Statement of the Year.  Ministers do no such thing.  The fields are sold to keep existing schools going. That is the level of successive government commitment to education – an essential strand in our society that has been continuously messed about with since the late 1950s by successive ministers including the politically adorable and useless Shirley Williams and don’t forget, Margaret Thatcher.

Getting rid of wonderful facilities (admittedly some went if a school was closing or merging) has left British schools with the cynical policy of having to provide only “suitable outdoor space.”

So, what did the utterly trustworthy Cameron say after the Olympics? There needs to be “a big cultural change” towards sport in schools and that schools must return to the “competitive ethos” in sports.

He says that while his appointed minister, Gove, is carrying out the government’s grubby cheating.  The government is cheating British kids at a time when hard working young athletes are setting examples that other youngsters want to follow.

Without examining the government political pressure cooker that children are thrown into by the likes of China and some of the old Eastern Bloc countries, it should be remembered that British schools offer some of the shortest sports times and the worst facilities in world education.  

People like Cameron point to Team GB’s number three slot in the Olympic medal tables and say that the UK must be doing something right.  The issue is bigger and two fold:  the government says one thing and is doing the other.  Rufty tufty adults can handle that.  Kids grow up to believe that unless they’re at private schools then they can forget the facilities that the Camerons are saying must be theirs by rights, even kindness.  

Secondly, this is not about winning medals.  It’s bigger.  It’s about an opportunity to do sporting things that will be fun, will be competitive, will be, frankly, a great improvement on the the national youth sport – texting and hand-held game playing.

But neither Gove nor Cameron have any real idea about that and worse still, do not seem to care.  The hard part of all this is that their predecessors in government did no better.