Friday 30 April 2010

Cameron: Inheritence Tax Only a "Small Amount of Money"

An audience member at the Leaders' debate, one Keith Bevan,  asked DC why he didn't answer questions on inheritence tax. To which the apparent reply was "It's only a small amount of money"...

As told to the BBC today. Strange it's not a lead story anywhere.....

The (Almost) Final Curtain...

What can you say?

The Leaders' Debates have come and gone, and the verdict of the instant polls is a "victory" for David Cameron. It is undeniable that Gordon Brown lacks the presentational flair of the other two, and that came across in the final debate last night. He also looked tired, but wouldn't anyone given the pressure he is under? Even so, I saw nothing in those debates to indicate a clear Cameron or Clegg "win". If anything, I thought Brown shaded it: he was more cogent, gave more facts and argumnets, and backed it up with passion and commitment.

I watched the debate on television, and Cameron said nothing, refused to answer direct questions and was the very personification, almost a parody, of his PR-driven personality. Clegg seemed (to me, but maybe I'm biased) to be Cameron MarkII with the difference that was extra ingratiating to the questioners, and he ran out of things to say on a number of subjects. And at the end of it, the viewers (with the exception of the ICM poll) thought Cameron had "won" with Clegg as runner-up.

Interestingly, for the second week in a row, that section of the population who listened to the debate on the radio put Brown first in their judgement. Which would seem to indicate that when you actually listen to what is said, Brown has more substance. Maybe its a fact that, on radio substance overcomes style, but on TV style overcame substance. And maybe, in the final analysis, the electorate prefers style over substance.

The question is: what do we do now? The newspapers are reporting the debate as if it was the election, and it's all over already. But there is still a week to go before the votes are cast. So the fight is still on, IMO.

The prospect of a Cameron-led government getting its hands on the UK economy and enacting the policies in their manifesto are really frightening. Whatever Brown got right or wrong, cutting the economic stimulus too early, as Cameron would do, is a recipe for disaster.

So Labour must not, indeed in the interests of the country cannot, give up on the campaign. Brown and his team must continue to push for their economic analysis to be implemented and they must ensure that the country is made even more aware of the dangers of a Cameron led majority or coalition government.

TBH, it's no longer about Labour loss or victory: it's about the future of the country, its economy and its social fabric. Above and beyond party political gain or personal ambition, these the things that are on the line, and these are the things that are worth fighting for.

Thursday 29 April 2010

The Dirty Digger Nobbles the Debate (With Help From a Noble Lord)

The blogs are sceaming with advice for the participants in tonight's debate. Do this Gordon, don't mention that. Dave should push on this subject, raise this matter..etc.  etc. etc.

But I'm very much afraid that Cameron's best tactic is probably to do nothing. Given his position and the support he has in terms of a compliant press and cash to spend, he really doesn't have to impress, just make no big mistakes that the press simply cannot ignore, smirk a few lines and go home. The Murdoch Empire will do the rest for the debates (Dave Done Great!) and Ashcroft's cash willl deliver in the marginals.

So Cameron and his supporters can relax. The foreign owned press and the non-dom millionaires are seeing him in with friendly media coverage and Central American cash. The Sun's headline is already written, (Cam 'e Won!), and it will be emailed from Australia before the debate begins so as to be in time for the first editions.

The price we, the people of theUK, will have to pay if DC does "win", and goes on to govern with the backing of foreign interests is worth considering. Murdoch and Ashcroft don't do favours: they do deals, and the deals they have done with the Tories will come home to roost, after (if) a Cameron victory.

The price we will pay is likely to include a damaging "review" of the BBC and the "privatisation" of some of its most profitable arms....guess who will be first in line for the auction? And of course, the nasty things said about non-doms: they'll disappear, as will any mention of fair taxation for foreign based millionaires who like to live in the UK but don't like paying taxes in the UK.

All that remains is for the Conservatve Party's registered offices to be moved to Belize and the official Tory logo changed to a wide brimmed sun hat with blue bottle corks suspended from the rim.

Hoorah! for patriotism and British Democracy.

Nightmare on Treasury Street

Oh Dear.

Gordon has put his foot in it good and proper. His side-of-the-mouth comments on Mrs Duffy in Rochdale were wrong, wrong, wrong. Not to mention disrespectful and hurtful. From his appearance after the event he is truly repentent, but the damage is reflected in today's newspapers, with a pretty unanimous flogging for the Prime Minister.

So, is this mistake the end of the road for Mr Brown and Labour?

In my opinion, and from the unsolicited comments I have picked up from friends and neighbours, not quite. Not yet. While nobody discounts the comments, there is a general feeling of "there but for the grace of God....". Who, after all, hasn't put their foot in it with unguarded comments? There is also a strong  feeling abroad that GB has been the target of an unrelenting and unfair press campaign, and that he is a better man than he is being given credit for. 

Where do we go from here?

Luckily for Gordon Brown, the third and final Leaders' Debate is taking place tonight, giving him the chance to move on and to play to his strengths. There is no doubt that the Labour team of Brown and Darling is stronger, and is generally seen as stronger, than the competing economic teams from the other parties. It is also clear that Labour has the best plan to address the recovery, and that the Conservative plans to reduce the economic stimulus as soon as they can is exactly the wrong tactic, more likley to cause a "double dip" recession than keep the economy on the current path to recovery. It is also clear that Cameron and Osborne do not have the strength of character or depth of experience to steer the country and the economy through the choppy waters of recession and recovery.

Gordon should repeat a simple mantra...

There is a Nightmare on Treasury Street and it is this:

Scene, Whitehall, May 7th, 9am.

Enter Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr George Osborne  ...
Mr Osborne "I say, could you turn my desk the other way please. And I don't really think I like some of the paintings in my office. I like them a bit bigger, with more blue in them, if you can. Thank you. Now, cut the economic stimulus... That should do it, I'm off for a stroll round the grounds".
 Distant echo from the money markets....."sell sell sell...."

Distant sound of economic indicators going though the floor..THUD!!
Increasing crescendo of rolling thunder as the economic storm approaches.....
Distant and increasing cry of regret from the British electorate... "AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!. What have we done?!!!"

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Tory PPC Suspended.

Tory PPC for North Ayrshire and Arran, Phillip Lardner, has been suspended by his party after what were seen as homophobic comments on his website. The News of The World website reports that..
.... the section, which was removed from the website this afternoon, said: "I will always support the rights of homosexuals to be treated within concepts of (common-sense) equality and respect, and defend their rights to choose to live the way they want in private, but I will not accept that their behaviour is 'normal' or encourage children to indulge in it.
"The promotion of homosexuality by public bodies (as per 'clause 28′/section 2a in Scotland,) was correctly outlawed by Mrs Thatcher's government. Toleration and understanding is one thing, but state-promotion of homosexuality is quite another.
"Why should Christian churches be forced by the government to employ homosexuals as 'ministers' against all that the Bible teaches? They are being forced by the government to betray their mission – would the Equality and Human Rights Commission be fined for refusing a job to Nick Griffin?
"Christians (and most of the population) believe homosexuality to be somewhere between 'unfortunate' and simply 'wrong' and they should not be penalised for politely saying so – good manners count too, of course.
"The current 'law' is wrong and must be overturned in the interests of freedom as well as Christian values."
Lardner is also a "climate change denier" and is on the religious right of the Conservative Party.

New Poster Art, continued.....

The Guardian has an article on how dismal the posters in this campaign have been ( I would exempt the "two-horse race" poster in my headline from that accusation..). Anyway, they have commissioned a number of artists to do their best to produce new ideas and better targetted posters.

All the posters are very good and thought provoking.

My favourite is this one....

...which seems to me to do exactly what a poster should do: it gets its message across quickly and with point and humour.

And it embodies an essential truth, i.e. that the Murdoch empire wants to destroy the BBC, and has Tory agreement that it will do so. Murdoch benefits from the weakening of a rival and, whatever the Tories think of the BBC, they consider its destrucyion a price worth paying for Murdoch's support.

Murdoch would also wish to dictate how a Tory government behaves, and impose its own, (the Sun's, Fox News'), social  and political "morality" on the Tories. A nighmare if ever.....

Sunday 25 April 2010

What's Worse, a Waste of Money or a Waste of Time.....?

Not strictly associated with the election campaign, but this report in today's Sunday Mail returns the spotlight to Scottish issues and particularly the failures of the so-called "Scottish Futures Trust" (SFT).

For new readers, the SNP promised to abolish the Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) that previous administrations had used for the financing and contracting of capital projects such as new schools and hospitals. The SNP would replace the "hated" PPP with a "Trust" which would identify and gather the finance for these projects and manage the projects to completion.

Unfortunately, the SFT was not  a real idea at all: it was back-of-an-envelope puff, dreamt up to put something, anything, in the SNP manifesto. The SFT did not really exist, with the result that it took three whole years before even the current SFT, a sort of hands on purchasing agency with no power or authority to raise money or spend much, could even be set up.

The result is that, whereas the previous Labour/LibDem coalition had been responsible for 237 new schools, the SNP administration at Holyrood has not yet built even one school. Not one brick has been laid in 3 years. In fact, even at the best estimate, the SNP at Holyrood has authorised the building of 37 new schools, and none of these has any chance of being completed before the 2011 Scottish elections. The educational legacy of the first ever SNP administration looks likely to be no new schools in a full administration, an unprecedented failure to deliver better facilities to our teachers and pupils.

The Sunday Mail story says that even now, almost a year after the SFT was officially set up, there has been £1.4million spent, but there is no sign of any concrete ( forgive the pun) progress on building new schools, hospitals or any other capital project.

Alex Salmond is fond of going on UK TV and boasting that his minority government is proof that a hung parliament can work. Maybes aye, maybes naw, but it depends what you mean by "working": if the measure of success of an administration is how well it provides for the future needs of its citizens, then the tale of the SFT is a tale of failure on an unprecedented scale.

The SFT is undoubtedly a waste of money, but worse than that, it has been a waste of time, of four wasted  years in which no schools were commissioned from Holyrood.

Alex Salmond may think that his administration is a "success", and he may bask in the belief that being invited onto the BBC to say so at length is some sort of personal or political endorsement. But not building schools is a definition of failure in any sane world, and the SFT is the vehicle of that failure.

The Future of the BBC Should be a Big Election Issue

The Observer reports that at least 50 prominent actors have signed a letter attacking Conservative plans for the BBC. David Tennant, Eddie Izzard and others claim that the Conservative position "threatens to devalue not just the BBC itself, but our culture as a whole", urging voters to consider the consequences for the corporation on polling day.

I would go further, and I have done so in direct conversations with BBC senior executives. I believe that the Tories have an agreement, formal or not, secret or not, with the Murdoch empire that, if the Tories win the election, the BBC will be attacked, weakened and perhaps made to divest of parts of its organisation, such as the much admired and successful BBC website and some radio or TV stations. The Murdoch empire will benefit by the weakening of a broadcasting rival and in furthering Murdoch's online ambitions by removing the BBC website as an obstacle to those ambitions.

I raised the matter during an interview I had on the weekly Newswatch programme with the BBC but I got no direct response, and that portion of the interview was edited out and never broadcast.

The Murdoch empire has been one of the least savoury influences in the degradation of the news media in the UK and in the USA. It's actions have been purely commercial and never taken in the interests of society, the country or any observable moral or ethical goal. The profit and growth of the organisation have been paramount, codes of accuracy or impartiality or morality have been notable by their absence from Murdoch's output.

The BBC, on the other hand, is one of the best, most respected and most impartial news organisations in the world. It produces a wide range of excellent factual and entetainment programmes on television and on radio and it has a world-renowned website. It is one of the best loved institution in Britain and a flagship of British culture and integrity abroad. It is a benchmark organisation in its field.

If the Conservative's win the election it will be the signal to the Murdoch empire that it is open season on the BBC. IMO, the BBC is too good a broadcaster and too precious a national institution to be damaged, diminished or even lost in the interests of privatisation and profit. And the Murdoch empire is too malign an entity to gain such a victory over the BBC.

The actions of the 50 TV actors  would tend to indicate that they have similar concerns.

There are many reasons, economic, social and ethical to reject the Conservatives. In my opinion the danger to the BBC from a Conservative/Murdoch victory is not the least of these.

Friday 23 April 2010

Who "won" the leaders' debate?

The question might be: did anyone win the leaders' debate? Indeed, can anyone win the leaders debate? What is a win and what is a loss in these particular circumstances?

There's the straight post-debate opinion polls, taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate. These show the first impressions of those who watched the action, and are pored over and puffed by the parties' spinners. According to these, last night's winner was not as clear as last week's, when Nick Clegg was declared ahead of the other two: Cameron second and Brown a distant third.

Last night Brown came up strongly on the rails. From 20% in last week's post-debate polls, to 30% this week. Clegg and Cameron, neck and neck and still narrowly ahead.

So, did Clegg win? Or Cameron? Or Brown win? Or was it a three-way draw?

The BBC is saying the "there is no clear winner".

ConservativeHome and the blog of Lynne Featherstone, LibDem candidate, both emphasise the matter of "momentum". They think that the actual result is less important than the strength and direction of the movement of their favoured candidate. Both of these sources claim that the "momentum" is with their man.

Maybe so, and neither Clegg nor Cameron lost ground (broadly), but the momentum argument is about movement, motion: and the motion, according to these polls is with Gordon Brown. From a distant third, on 20% approval in these polls last week, he has leapt to joint second on around 30%. This is a huge jump and, in terms of movement, it is the most real momentum of any of the three men.

If we carry the analogy further and apply it to a three-horse race, the competitor moving fastest as we approach the final furlong is the competitor with the best chance of catching and overtaking the other two. If we really believe in the argument on "momentum", then Gordon Brown has the momentum, he's moving forward faster and further than his two rivals, (who are, relatively, treading water), and Brown now has a chance, at least, to take the race, an outcome that looked most unlikely this time last week.


The results of an ICM poll done after the debate.

1.  Who would be best PM?  GB 35%, Cameron 33% and Clegg 26%.
2.  On the same question amongst C1's GB 39 v DC 27% and Clegg 26%, and C2s  GB 39, DC 33 and NC 22.
3.  On who would make the right decisions ins difficult times  GB 43%, DC 34% and NC, 18%.
4.  47% of all voters think DC is more spin than substance, 54% of C1 voters believe that.
5.  On decisiveness GB now leads DC 38 v33 and Clegg at 25.

So, substance can win over style. And GB is substance while DC and NC are PR.

Thursday 22 April 2010

War Declared: The Sun Invades the Independent...

Cleggmania is responsible for many thing, including panic in the ranks of the Tory Party's election advisers, as evidenced in the concerted attacks by the Tory press on Clegg today.

And Cleggmania also appears to have had an explosive effect on the Murdoch empire. This report  from Michael White in the Guardian reveals that young James Murdoch and Murdoch executive Rebekah Wade, blasted their way into the HQ of the Independent newspaper and bent the ear of editorial executive Simon Kellner. Kellner, the Independent editor-in-chief, has been "guilty" of running adverts in his paper saying that "Murdoch won't decide the election. You will".

The crime in question is that newspapers have a little "tradition" of not directly attacking each other. So rich newspaper magnates just don't attack other rich newspaper magnates. It's just not done, and young James was apoplectic in his defence precedence and politesse.

Behind all of this is the rise of Clegg, the man who was supposed to provide the ballast in the real battle between Brown and Cameron. The Sun in particular, and the Murdoch empire in general, has been plugging Cameron as the only choice for next PM and consistently dissing Brown as yesterday's man. But the rise of Clegg has been muddying the waters and threatening the Sun's favourite with, at worst, a hung Parliament and maybe even a straight defeat.

But there is an even bigger question behind the even that, and it is this: why on Earth should there be an agreement that newspapers don't attack each other? How can that be consistent with a free press? The vast majority of the press in the UK is aligned with the right wing parties, in particular the Tory Party. Murdoch inteferes in UK politics although he is not a UK citizen. The Daily mail is owned by the Rothermere family, the previous Lord Rothermere loved nothing more than to sit in his French Chateau while dictating his "daily dose of fear" to Daily Mail editors and executives: Europe the enemy but also the home to the noble Lord.. Gordon Brown has suffered many times the treatment meted out to Clegg today. Every prominent Labour politician is a potential target for the vitriol spewed by the Tory press, foreign owned or British owned.

Are other papers supposed to stay quiet on these issues?  If the effect of the press is to distort the political and social dicourse, by skewing coverage, misleading emphasis or downright lying, are other news organisations compelled to comply with some "gentleman's agreement" that these matters are somehow subject to newsman's omerta? Not to be mentioned? Not to be revealed to the gaze of the voters?

The most shocking thing about the Sun's invasion of the Independent is not the physical or psychological hurt to the fabric of the Independent newspaper. It's the blithe assumption on Murdoch's behalf that such an act of violence to a fellow newspaper executive was justifiable on any respectable moral or ethical grounds.

Or maybe Mr Murdoch wasn't thinking about ethics or morals? Maybe he was worried about the power and influence of his once dominant news empire......

Wednesday 21 April 2010

David Cameron says "Family is the best welfare state..."

On this video, David Cameron makes the claim that ..." is the best welfare state we ever had..."

Is it indeed....? So the 35 million Americans with no health insurance, and the 100 million or so with inadequate cover, can turn to their families when they need an operation or an expensive therapy or drug regime to save their lives or their quality of life?

Closer to home, can the ordinary person in the UK afford the best education for their kids from an average or below average weekly wage? I really, honestly, think not.

We in the UK have been fortunate indeed that the last century has been one of real progress on the social front. My grandfather was a day labourer, standing on street corners for the gaffer's nod.  In all of his life he never earned more than a pittence.  When his family needed help he went to "the parish", a sometimes grudging and judgemental provider of last resort and of cold charity. My father told me of going to school in parish boots and clothes. That family, my father's family, my family, however tight knit and supportive, had no chance in hell of providing more than the bare essentials, and sometimes not even those. Decent hospitals? ... no chance...A doctor to call?.....only if you've got half-a-crown...Schools with a sufficency of books and jotters and pencils? Forget it.  University.. you must be kidding missus, that's on another planet. Oh you mean as a shoe-polisher to the gentry? Now that's different...that we can manage.

Over the years, things got better. Gradually and grudgingly, thanks to Trades Unions and Labour politicians and people who cared about other people, the Conservative establishment was forced to give better rights and better conditions to the majority of our citizens. They didn't relinquish those right willingly: even at the formation of the NHS, Ernest Bevin  complained that he had to "stuff the mouth's of the consultants with gold" to get them to agree to a better, more universal and fairer health service for all.

Poverty is not what it was in those days, and a good thing too. But the lesson remains the same: the best services for the most people are best provided by the community acting through the state.

Maybe David Cameron thinks that his family is like all families. That one only has to cough and a distinguished physician is at one's right elbow with a soothing word and bottle of the latest curing tincture.  But it's decidedly not like that for the rest of us.

Getting the best health care or schooling (or indeed any healthcare or schooling) might be ok if your family is upper middle class, well off or even millionaires like Cameron and Osborne and most of the Tory front bench.... but isn't the lesson of the last 100 years that we, all of us, are better off as a nation if we pool resources, not just as families, but as communities. And the state can deliver much better social provision to a much greater number of citizens than family or cold Victorian charity?

David Cameron makes much of his conversion to being a supporter of the NHS through experiencing the unfortunate illness of his son. I read that, and today's statement only confirms my suspicion, as a sign that Mr Cameron lacks the imagination and historical perspective to understand the needs, wants and requirements of the people he desires to lead, and a real commitment to the institutions that the country needs to deliver those requirements to all, for the good of us all.

Now for something completely different.....Real Madrid and Scotland

Turning away from politics, just for the moment, I found this story interesting.....

A young lad called Jack Harper who lives in Spain but has a Scottish father plays for the Real Madrid youth team. Now young Jack has been called up to a Scottish under-15 training camp in Largs.....

If  Harper makes it to the top, (and it is a very big if as many promising young players don't make the grade, for whatever reason),  just imagine the game programme on the day ....  

Harper (Real Madrid and Scotland)....

Surreal is a much overused word, but it does have a sort of surreal quality.....

Anyway, good luck to Jack.... I hope he enjoys his stay in Largs

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Is he in Britain, or in Belize? That Shining Beacon of Tory Sleaze...

It is a great puzzle to me that the Ashcroft affair seems to have died down. In fact no-one seems to know where Ashcroft is: is he in Britain or in Belize, and why has our media lost interest?

As I understand it, Lord Ashcroft is still treated as a "non-dom" for tax purposes, he still gives cash to the Tory Party, he is still a Tory Vice Chair and he is still involved in the campiagns in marginal seats. The question of what he promised to William Hague, when he promised it, when Hague knew (or didn't know) about subtle changes to the outcomes of these agreements and what Hague subsequently told the British public, are all unclear to say the least.

There has to be at least the suspicion of some dirty work and questions against the judgement of senior Tory politicians, particularly William Hague. The BBC has a programme ready for broadcasting but for some reason, after Conservative contacts with the BBC hierarchy, it is being held back from transmission.

David Milliband took up the matter with William Hague during a BBC debate yesterday, but got no answer.

Today he has written to Hague (for the 5th time!) asking for clarification....

William Hague
Conservative Campaign Headquarters
30 Millbank

19 April 2010

Dear William,

I wrote to on 21st March, 29th March, 6th April and 12th April asking you two simple questions. I still await a response to the following questions.

1. Why did you say in my presence on March 4th that you learnt "a few months ago" that Lord Ashcroft was not paying tax on overseas earnings because of his non domiciled tax status, when in fact you admitted on Friday night (March 19th) on Any Questions that you knew this to be the case from 2000?

2. On the occasions when Lord Ashcroft has flown you, or others, around the world has he participated in meetings with foreign officials with you in countries where he has business interests?

I have yet to receive a reply and would request that you respond as a matter of urgency. This is matter of credibility for you and trust for the general public.

Yours sincerely,

david miliband

David Miliband
You can see Milliband's full aricle here...  and sign the letter, if you so wish...

Monday 19 April 2010

Is Dave Ducking Again?.....New Tory Election Broadcast

Has David Cameron bottled out again....?

The Conservatives were due to produce an election broadcast for today, and it was a swipe at Labour: a full blooded attack, as some of David Cameron's advisers were saying only yesterday.

But today he has abandoned the already completed film (not done lightly, these films cost lots of money to produce) and instead he has done a "straight to camera" piece targetting the Lib Dems. Only the Tories can bring change, apparently, and only a full-face Cameron can carry the message.

It looks like a cop-out to me. The PEB itself is weak, with  a set of almost repeat shots of Cameron talking to invited audiences, and the message, which Cameron wantd to be "only I have the strength to bring the change you want", is usurped by the fact that sudden changes like this in mid-campaign look like a panic reaction to events which you cannot control.

The actual message I got from the broadcast was: "we're panicking in the face of the Lib Dem poll surge". Rather than focusing the spotlight on the Lib Dems, the tactic has the result of focusing on the Conservative unease at the current state of the polls. It looks like they've been blown off track and had to change their tactic at the last minute, which gives the appearance of being very weak indeed.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Tories Call for the Lewis Carroll Solution....

Conservative Home reports that Theresa Villiers who is, apparently, a Transport Person for the Tory Party, has issued an eight point plan to tackle the crisis associated with the airport standstill.

So, now the Conservatives want Government action: but I thought that they wanted us, you and me, to be the Government, to take over failing public sector activities, schools, hospitals, airports and railways...

Maybe not. Now they want Gordon brown to rescue the British public from the failure of  the privatised transport companies.

In the past, when airlines and airports and railway lines and companies were nationalised, the government would have the ability to intervene, to direct actions and resources to the best outcomes for the public good. But the Tories have dismissd that as the dreaded "Big Government", which they abhor. They said that they wanted you to become the MD of BAA and CEO of British Airways.... and a plague on government intervention.

And now? Now they want Big Government to rescue us from our latest difficulties...

Lewis Carroll had it (almost) right...

You're old father William

the young man said

and your hair is exceedingly grey

and yet you continually stand on your head

are you impersonating Tories today?

Dave Bottles it, continued....

As posted below, it seems that David Cameron is trying to avoid any hard interviews, specifically with Jeremy Paxman. It has occurred to me that there is an alternative if he fails to trap....

Because, if Dave bottles it and doesn't turn up, the BBC has the option of showing the Panorama programme on Lord Ashcroft that the Tories have had banned. It's almost ready for broadcast now, and if Dave funks out, then there is a free spot just ready to reveal all on the Ashcroft affair once and for all..... a public service just crying out to be done by public service broadcasting... over to you BBC..

Stop Press...he's bowed to pressure...BBC website

Saturday 17 April 2010

Will Dave Bottle it -v- Paxo?

Nick Glegg has had half-hour Panorama interview with Jeremy Paxman which passsed without conmment, but that was before Cleggy became the star of the show. Gordon Brown has also agree to be grilled by the BBC's Grand Inquisitor.

David Cameron, on the other hand, is prevaricating... it appears that he doesn't want to face the firepower (and sometimes outright contempt) the heavyweight interrogator habitually trains on his victims. Some say Cameron''s a big fearty..... I would tend to agree, although you have to have a litttle sympathy. After his relatively poor showing in the first of the big debates, Cameron has a lot to lose: he is supposed to be the most media savay and the best communicator of the three party leaders, but he bombed on Thursday night.

And I don't see him having the grasp of detail of the strength of personality to combat Paxman. He also made a number of minor gaffes during the leaders debate, including a story about a sailor he met in Plymouth..( no ribald interventions please, this is a serious blog).

Anyway. Picture the scene..

Paxo: Tell me Mr Cameron, how does the Big Society work?

DC "Er um, ask Hilto or Govey, they think it's a great idea....".

P "Is it even a Conservative idea?"

DC "Isn't it? I thought it was...."

P "And what about immigration..."

DC "I met this 40 year old black man who had been in the navy 30 years....".

etcetera etcetera...

Of course, if Dave bottles it and doesn't turn up, the BBC has he option of showing the Panorama programme on Lord Ashcroft that the Tories have had banned. It's almost ready for broadcast now, and if Dave funks out, then there is a free spot just ready to reveal all on the Ashcroft affair once and for all..... a public service just crying out to be done by public service broadcasting... over to you BBC..

Friday 16 April 2010

The Dust Settles

Two items of news: the dust cloud from Iceland closes all airports and the dust settles from the Leaders' debate.

So who is the winner? Well the planes are still grounded, so the traveller and the airlines both lose against nature.

As for the debates, for what it's worth, I thought Clegg won the beauty contest, Brown won the contest of argument and substance and Cameron lost over all.

How that plays over the next few days and whether it has a long term impact on the opinion polls and the real election poll is still to be seen.

If it has an effect, and the Lib Dems pick up and hold on to a few more marginals, the Tories will be the big losers.

And the SNP in Scotland might rue a Lib Dem surge, with two or three holds that the Nats might be targeting.

Of course, there are two more debates to go, so it could all still change. Maybe Nick will bomb and Dave will soar.

Thursday 15 April 2010

JK Rowling Says It All

JK Rowling has a very powerful report in today's Daily Record. She spells out exactly why it is no ordinary person's interests to vote Conservative, and why she in particular will never do so.

In passing she tells why she pays taxes as a UK domicile, unlike many Tory contributors and indeed unlike the Tory Vice Chair, Lord Ashcroft. Put simply: taxes pay for the services and benefits we need, and anyone who can afford to pay for the welfare of others who need it, should be happy to pay any fair taxation.

Refreshing and heartening from a rich and influential celebrity who has not forgotten what it's like to live a normal, cash strapped, life. Good on her, I say.

The Truth Will Out

Looks like Alex Salmond is suffering from a compulsion to reveal the deep truth about his party....

The look on Eck's face is quite revealing too.....

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Mandelson Raises the Class Question...

The London Evening Standard is reporting that Lord Mandelson has indulged in a bit of class warfare, with references to "David Cameron's toffee nose..". It seems a bit tame to me, but it causing ructions at ConservativHome with charges of spite and jealousy and envy and what not...

Anyway, IMHO, the point about class is that it isn't really about class: nobody cares about that. Everybody nowadays agrees with Robert Burns: a man's a man for aw' that, an honest labourer is as worthy in human terms as any upper-class-twit-of-the-year.

With the Eton toffs the problem (apart from maybe not agreeing with the above) is that they belong to a very restricted milieu. They only mix with people the same as themselves, people who went to "school" (that's Eton for the uninitiated) or Harrow or Winchester or some such and then on to "oxbridge", and other millionaires and Aristos and Aristo-hangers-on. That's about 1% of the population, most of whom live in Chelsea and Knightsbridge and go to each others dinner parties and belong to the same clubs, and help each other through the original "social network" (no, not youtube).

So they have only a distant intuition about how us normal folk live and think. "The cost of living", what's that? D'ye mean caviar's got a bit scarce? I say!"

It is utterly unbelievable that David Cameron and George Osborne and Boris Johnson are simultaneoulsy the three people most able to run the country and that they went to the same school at the same time and the same university at the same time and were members of that same hooray henry club in the same university at the same time.

Co-incidence is one thing, privelege is another.

I wouldn't want to be David Cameron even if we swapped bank books and I'm sure he wouldn't want to be me. But I have a much better idea of how the vast majority of people live from day to day than he ever will.

So it is quite legitimate, and not envious at all, to question the ability of these people to be as good as they need to be and to be in touch with the needs of the electorate as they must to be to form an effective government for all of us, and not just a few of their mates.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Brave Dave's New World

David Cameron has launched his manifesto, the key themes being "smaller government" and "big society".

Judging by the detail, "smaller government" means less investment in schools, hospitals and public services generally.

And "big society" means, you pay the difference..... , yes I mean you my lad.....

Also: the Manifesto itself looks like a missive from the Ministry of Works, circa 1952.....

Given that these publications are pored over and designed to carry the internal "message" of the document: what message is a boring, bland, civil service-ese hardback from the age of austerity cover supposed to convey?

When ideas like this used to come up in "Yes Minister", Sir Humphrey would say "that's very brave, Minister", meaning it's a damn foolhardy idea Minister, but I'm not going to alert you to it if your too stupid to see for yourseself...

So, Brave for Dave, but how clever?

Monday 12 April 2010

Reality Eck Style

Been on the baby-sitting trail since 7am, an enjoyable but exhausting pastime, so have had not a lot of chance to keep abreast of the campaign.

I did see the Labour Manifesto launch which went quite well. Gordon and a bunch of hostile hacks, but he handled them well, I thought.

I also caught a snippet of the BBC Scotland 6.30 news. Alex Salmond was being questoned by a woman in Edinburgh about the SNP and its relevance to the UK elections...

He replied, and I kid you not "I see a vote for the SNP as being the only worthwhile vote in this election"...

Now, politicians have to have self belief and optimism. They need to believe in their party and it's reasons for existence. But, I mean: can there ever have been a statement so out of touch with reality?

The SNP is barely relevant at Westminster at the best of times, and Eck is so keen on the UK Parliament that he is chucking it (has already chucked it actually), and not standing again.

So the SNP "is the only vote that counts", is a very strange version of reality: most people would see the exact opposite as being true....

Sunday 11 April 2010

Labour's First Election Film, The Road to Recovery

Labour's first  film of the campaign. I liked it. It's optimistic without being cock-eyed. It acknowledges problems, points out that the Conservatives got it wrong at every step in the banking crisis and negotiating the recession. Cameron and Osborne were lost in a storm they didn't understand and couldn't control. If it had been left to them, the UK economy really would have been in the dustbin of history.

The Labour film appeals to the best side of the human character. Stick with it, be steady, be constant, all good human qualities, and while we may have some way to go, don't despair, Labour knows the way and working together, we can all make it to a better place.

No tax bribes...... 

Saturday 10 April 2010

Conservative Home gets it's knickers in a twist over Gay Rights

Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome posted a piece on the premise that "Cameron pledges "heart and soul" commitment to gay equality"

But (oh dear, oh irony) he has had to close the thread down because of the rampant homophobia and other neanderthal opinions it unleashed...

Montgomerie said "Very disappointing thread. I'm closing it down as strangers are using this thread to, I believe, hurt the Conservative Party"

Aye right. He means it exposes the Tory neanderthal underbelly.

Of course if Cameron really was "heart and soul committed to gay rights", he would have sacked Chris Grayling days a go.

Anything else is wind and water....

Friday 9 April 2010

So there is a plan....

Channel 4 has revealed that there is a secret Tory document which shows what they will cut to "save" the extra £6billion to limit the NI tax rise.

Tory adviser Dr Martin Read told Channel 4 News: "Let me assure you this is a very serious piece of work, behind each of those 5 points there are detailed numbers, and I am 100 per cent convinced that with the right political will and managerial motivation those savings can be got in the first year"

He said the party had been provided with detailed numbers, but said "the Tories have the numbers and it's for the Tories to disclose them".
Which makes you wonder: why will George not tell us what he knows..??

New Poster Art

I like the new Labour poster. Not just for the message which is never mind the Nats, they're not relevant in this election: it looks quite smart.

 Quite mid-20th century poster arty, IMO.

The Nasty Party is Only Hiding.....

David Cameron is in the Guardian claiming that the Conservatives, under Boris Johnson, introduced the Living Wage in London
The one progressive new idea we hear will be in Labour's manifesto – the living wage – is actually a Conservative policy: Boris Johnson has already introduced it in London.

Ken Livingston actually introduced the Living Wage, over Tory opposition. But when Ken dares to point this out on CiF, the nasty Tory poisonous invective flows hot and free.

The Tories apparently think they have had a good few days at the start of the election campaign and already they are becoming insufferable. The Nasty Party is being reborn before our eyes.

Dave may be applying the airbrush with all his might, but the cretins on the Guardian threads are more representative of the real Tory psychology.  Heaven help us if this lot ever get anywhere near the levers of power ....

Wednesday 7 April 2010

OECD Report Justifies Labour Approach

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) has issued a report which judges that Britain's economic recovery set to outstrip Japan, US and Germany. 

The report broadly backs the success of the Labour Government's approach to recovery, i.e., continued Government investment until the markets are active enough to generate growth under their own steam.
Britain's economic growth is set to pick up in coming months and outstrip that of the United States, Japan and Germany, according to forecasts today from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that come as a boost to Gordon Brown's government ahead of the eelction.
The Paris-based thinktank revised down its previous view on Britain's first quarter annualised growth to 2% from 2.4%, but that pace still beats its forecasts for Japan and Germany.
In the second quarter of this year, the OECD sees UK growth picking up to 3.1%, outpacing the United States, and all other countries in the G7 group of large economies apart from Canada.
The Conservatives approach has been and would be to cut deep and cut early. These figures, this report, shows that the Conservatives are wrong and, if the economy had been subject to their great "austeriy" plan, we would now be worse off, deeper in recession, perhaps not coming out of recession and/or risking a "double dip" recession.  

Subliminal Conservative Sex....No Wait...Don't be Sick...

This website has an interesting take on one D. Cameron and his relationship with PR (no, not Proportional Representation, advertising).

Among the allegations it makes is that when Dave was PR man for Carlton TV he had metings with financial journalists, specifically some things journalists had to say about him at the time;
  • “In my experience, Cameron never gave a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative, which probably makes him perfectly suited for the role he now seeks: the next Tony Blair”. “I wouldn’t trust him with my daughter’s pocket-money” – Jeff Randall, a chief executive of the Daily Telegraph
  • A “poisonous, slippery individual” – Ian King, The Sun Business Editor
But the best bit is the subliminal sex in the Tory logo.......

Tuesday 6 April 2010

The Reverend IM Jolly Speaks.....

Alex Salmond is out and about decrying the "dismal" choice between Labour and Tory. Not that Mr Salmond himself seems full of cheer. In fact he sounds a bit like ricky Fulton in his TV character as the Rev. IM Jolly (who is of course anything but jolly).

Here's Eck  ": Hulllooo... Reverend IM Jolly here.... it's misserabul intit? Evrythin'. It's aw missarabul... Ah wis saying tae Effie, Effie, dae ye no think it's aw missarabul....An' Effie said,...."
Oh dear four more weeks of nationalist miserableism and Tory tax bribes.

"Ah don't think ma system can take it, Effie...."

Me neither.

Monday 5 April 2010

Extracting Gay Teeth....

Chris Grayling has bungled his way into another elephant trap, with reports of a taped conversation with some "think tank" employees in which he says that he sympathises with the owners of a B+B who refused to let gay people stay in their establishment.

The case being put about out in part is that, as a B+B is run from somebody's home, they should be allowed to keep out people they don't like. But the law says they cannot discriminate on sexual orientation, so Grayling's position is strictly speaking, unlawful. Anyway, they are not allowed to discriminate on grounds of race or colour, so why allow it on the grounds of sexual orientation? And, BTW, my dentist runs his practice from a basement in his home: should he be allowed to refuse the extraction of gay teeth...? Of course not: the law is the law, and should apply to everyone.

Another leg of Grayling's position is that the B+B owners were "religious", and gay people offend their "religious" sensibilities. But the law is the law, and Chris Grayling is the Shadow Home Secretary: he hopes that he will get re-elected, that there will be a Tory government and he will then be Home Secretary for real.  So his beliefs and attitudes matter.

Grayling's beliefs are also an indication of how far David Cameron has been successful in transforming his party from the "nasty" (racist, homophobic, misogynistic, elitist, toff riden) party to the "nice" (gay friendly etc...) party. And Mr Cameron has not taken his party very far, if Grayling's private opinions are to be taken as any guide.

If the Home Secretary said that he/she was against equal rights for all before the law, they would be forced to resign. It would make little difference if these views were expressed in private. Chris Grayling has done worse than that: he has expressed one view in private, and another in public, and the view he has expressed in private (which we assume is his actually held view) is that he is against equal rights for all before the law.

His position is fatally compromised. He is unfit to be Home Secretary. He should go quickly, to do less damage to his party.

Thursday 1 April 2010

The Conversion of Saint David

David Cameron claims that the Conservative Party has changed, that ot's a nicer, cleaner, more inclusive party than the old "nasty" Tory Party. But the question he is never asked is: why did you, young David Cameron, join the Conservative party when it was at its rampant, Thatcherite, 19th-century-liberal worst?

When unemployment was being forced up to keep inflation down (unemployment up; succesful. Inflation down; failure).

When the justification for that  unemployment was "if it isn't hurting, it isn't working"?

When working people who fought for their jobs were labelled "The enemy within"?

When crime doubled, poverty over-all doubled and child poverty tripled?

When there were regular riots in the streets of our main towns and cities because of Tory policy?

When that same poverty, social unrest and unemployment was "A price worth paying"?

When the Tory reason for promoting greed and selfishness and denigrating socially cohesive action was that "There is no such thing as society"?

When to top it all, this same uncaring and incompetent government threw away the biggest free boost to the UK economy by wasting the oil bonanza, neglected our schools and hospitals,  presided over high inflation and record interest rates, destroyed the currency and wrecked the UK economy...

When even Conservative politicians called themselves "the nasty party"?

...why did the blessed Dave, fresh faced idealist that he is, think "They're the party for me"?

Was he "nasty" then and "nice" now? If so that shows a conversion remarkable in a mature adult.

And even if Dave really is "nice" now, is his party "nice" now, and how can we tell?

I long for  Marr or or a Paxman to put the question: "Why did you do it, Dave"?