Confessions of a Political Animal

August 19, 2009

Laughing on the left side of your face

udderbellySome things are predictable about the Edinburgh Fringe: it’ll rain, the ticket prices will have crept up again, by the end of your stay there you’ll have seen enough good stuff to not mind the hole in your bank balance and that someone will have a whinge about just how ‘lefty’ the whole thing is.

This year, the honour of providing that final ingredient falls to Mr Peter Whittle, writing in the Daily Telegraph under the oh-so-arch headline ‘Edinburgh Festival to feature smug Lefty Tory-bashing. Again. Yawn.’ This is the first time Mr Whittle’s work had crossed my radar, so I took the opportunity to have a skim through his Telegraph back catalogue. It’s something I’d strongly recommend doing yourself.

Mr Whittle, we are told, is the founder/director of The New Culture Forum. The good news is, that if Peter Whittle’s output is anything to go by, the New Culture will be poorly-written, ill-researched and predictable. Oh yes, he’s that good. When an online article straight-facedly carries the tags ‘Smug lefty comedians’ and ‘Smug lefty Radio 4’, genius is at work.

We could leave aside the school-boy factual howlers, well documented by the commenters on the original article, but given they serve to demonstrate just how heavily rooted in genuine research Mr Whittle’s work is, they are worth running through: (more…)

July 3, 2009

New Standard – same old news values

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

I am Political Animal, and I am a secret purchaser of the Evening Standard.

Well, just once in fact, so perhaps I don’t need to head for Standardholics Anonymous just yet. But yesterday, the sun was shining, there was 50p burning a hole in my pocket and my train home was 5 minutes late. So I gave in to temptation. But, honestly folks, I had a motive. I wanted to check a hunch I had. Bear with me.

I’ve written before about the running fiasco that is the Elephant & Castle regeneration project. This is probably the biggest such project in Europe and affects the homes and businesses of thousands of people in one of the most deprived areas of inner London. It includes thousands of new homes, businesses and transport facilities. Well, on Wednesday the newswires(alright, Google News Alerts, but that makes me sound so much less important) alerted me to the latest depressing development – or rather, non-development – in the saga. With the project already around seven years behind the original timescale, the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition at Southwark Council have failed to meet their self-imposed deadline of 1st July to reach a deal to progress the project. This follows two years of exclusive negotiations with struggling Australian property giant Lend Lease (also responsible for the Olympic Village) – the exclusivity deal expired on Wednesday. Where this leaves the project is anyone’s guess – in these difficult financial times it is entirely possible that Lend Lease will refuse the meet Southwark’s demands on affordable homes, small business premises and green space protection and simply walk away, leading to years more of delays. The thousand households in the soon-to-be-demolished Heygate Estate are effectively in limbo: no-one knows when their replacement homes will be built and the council is years behind targets in building the temporary ‘decant’ homes. (more…)

March 13, 2009

Friday Fun

Filed under: Conservatives — Political Animal @ 2:49 pm
Tags:

conservatives

As an apology for not posting anything this week…

Make your very own Tory logo here. Thank you, Bosworth Conservative Future!

February 4, 2009

A letter to the Mayor

boris-letter2

For all the Animal’s claims to socialistic purity, at heart I remain a money-grabbing little so-and-so and will happily jump at the chance to obtain some free cash. Even if it is only £3.11. But particularly if it’s from Boris Johnson. Below is the text of a letter dispatched to the Mayor this afternoon.

Dear Boris,

As you are well aware, London was subject to very heavy snowfall on the night of Sunday 1st February, which led to severe disruption of public transport across all modes on the following day. This included the withdrawal of almost all buses and severe disruption to rail, Underground and DLR services.

My journey from East Greenwich to xxxxxxx normally uses a combination of rail and DLR, with a bus alternative as a backup in case of disruption. On 2nd February, neither of these routes was available to me. Fortunately, I was able to reach my place of work via functioning sections of the Underground, with lengthy walks in difficult conditions at either end. My return journey used a combination of one of the bus routes re-instated later in the day, the Underground, a boat and another lengthy walk. However, I have no particular complaint about this. I fully understand that Monday’s weather conditions were exceptional and that is not financially or politically sensible to proof the city’s infrastructure against such a rare occurrence. I should also add that all members (more…)

January 15, 2009

Elephantine miscalculations

elephantAh, the Elephant and Castle. Exotic (well, exotic sounding) southern terminus of the Bakerloo line. World-class example of everything that was wrong with the car-centric planning of the 1960s. Site of one of Europe’s largest ever regeneration schemes. Perhaps. Maybe. One day.

The Elephant, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, is an unappealing mixture of vast, traffic-clogged roundabouts, slightly threatening pedestrian underpasses, poor quality housing, shabby shopping arcades and badly integrated Underground, rail and bus hubs. The people who re-planned the area after substantial war damage thought visitors would come to watch  cars going round the roundabouts. For some reason, that didn’t happen.

On the fringes of the Elephant is the huge, barrier-block Heygate Estate, one of the most deprived areas of one of London’s most deprived boroughs and itself the subject of a major regeneration scheme– albeit one which shows all the signs of being horrendously badly managed by Southwark Council, who seem to be intent on clearing the blocks earmarked for demolition before enough suitable ‘decant’ housing for residents is available.

The Elephant regeneration, which centres around the creation of a pedestrianised town centre and the construction of new homes and businesses, is, however, in an even worse state. Southwark (more…)

November 14, 2008

Academies: selecting for easy success

Inside the Ashcroft-Vardy Creationist Academy for Boys (formerly the Plato Academy)

Inside the Ashcroft-Vardy Creationist Academy for Boys (formerly the Plato Academy)

In September The Animal wrote about the increasing lack of local authority control over secondary schools in London partially as a consequence of the inexorable march of academies, particularly in the most deprived boroughs.

Part of my concern about this was the deep-seated worry, expressed well by Fiona Millar here, that academies have far too much independence in terms of their selection policies for a state-funded school and are becoming increasingly well versed in finding ways around what rules they do have to abide to keep ‘difficult’ students out. An unwillingness to take children with statements of special educational needs and a tendency towards very high rates of expulsions (8.7 per 1000 pupils in 2006-07 compared to 3.2 per 1000 in comparable community schools) are examples of this. If you (more…)

November 6, 2008

A good day to bury bad news?

tramAs the country’s attention is focussed across the Atlantic (hopefully a post on that will emerge before long), the Mayor has chosen  today to quietly announce – without mentioning it at yesterday’s public TfL board meeting – that he is, as predicted, dropping the continued development of at least three major transport schemes:

  • the Cross-River Tram (as discussed here)
  • the Docklands Light Railway extension via Barking Reach to Dagenham Dock (as discussed here)
  • the East London River Crossing

Yesterday was all about transport related bluster from Boris in his ludicrous Way to Go! document, admirably dissected by Diamond Geezer here. As far as I can see, the document was drafted by TfL officers before being sent up to the eighth floor of City Hall for various Boris-isms to be added, with the odd bit of Latin and phrases such as ‘traffic-throttling excrescences’ – I think that’s traffic-calming to you and me. Given this is a public-facing consultation document, I’d love to see the Plain English Campaign get its teeth into it. (more…)

October 23, 2008

Isn’t this an untenable position?

Today’s Guardian reports (Update: and The Standard has much the same story) that the latest twist in the ‘When Toffs Fall Out’ saga involving George Osborne is that Nat Rothschild is

declaring a form of uneasy truce 

with the Shadow Chancellor. The newspaper reports that Rothschild’s friends are saying that

he did not at this stage want to escalate the public battle with his old friend. They said Rothschild had not intended to bring Osborne down by disclosing the shadow chancellor’s involvement in talks about raising money from Deripaska. Instead, the friends said, Rothschild had intended it as “slap on the wrist” because he was furious that Osborne had breached confidences in an attempt to damage Labour business secretary Lord Mandleson.

So, Osborne has been given some breathing space. But beyond the very serious questions that now hang over his actions and judgement, surely there is a very serious question of national interest (more…)

October 11, 2008

A continuing question of scrutiny

A few weeks ago, I took Tory London Assembly Member Roger Evans gently to task for a low-grade ConservativeHome article in which he claimed that the Conservative Assembly group was doing a pretty good hash of their new-ish role as Boris’ cheerleaders ‘critical friends’. In that post I pointed out that the Tory group was asking a miserably low number of questions of the Mayor per member compared with the other parties and that the quality didn’t make up for the lack of quantity.

So, how goes the scrutiny of the Mayor from the ‘government’ benches? Well, the first big change is that Roger Evans himself is now the Conservative group’s leader. And the second big change…is that nothing much has changed. The Conservative group is continuing to table nearly four times fewer questions to the Mayor (questions for October 15th Mayor’s Question Time here) per member than any other party group. Even the Assembly’s increasingly delusional resident fascist Richard Barnbrook has found time – despite having single-handedly deposed Sir Ian Blair – to table five questions (and only two involve some form of race baiting! Well done Richard – you can kick the habit!). The Tories managed to piece together just 4.4 each, with Roger Evans and Brian Coleman, another (more…)

October 6, 2008

First Prize in Elitism

At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.’ 

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

‘The election of a Conservative government will bring – and I mean this almost literally – a declaration of war against those parts of the educational establishment who still cling to the cruelty of the “all must win prizes” philosophy and the dangerous practice of dumbing down.’

David Cameron, Party conference speech, 2008

Of all the lines of David Cameron’s conference speech, few got quite as guttural a roar of approval from the party faithful than that quoted above. There can be little doubt that the inclusion of an out-and-out attack on something called the ‘all must win prizes’ culture in education was chosen by Cameron’s speech writers because of its ability to sound like a much more innocent statement than it really is – and because party activists crying out for a more traditional Conservatism would understand exactly what he meant.

Those of us outside Tory circles and who are not frequent readers of the more reactionary sections of the national press might see Cameron’s statement as little more than a relatively harmless assault on (more…)

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