Confessions of a Political Animal

April 23, 2009

Brain drain or brain dead?

darlingSo now we know. You only have to wait twelve years into a Labour government before you get a sensible top rate of tax. Much celebration ensued yesterday at the Town Hall when we realised that our beloved Chief Executive would be…erm…required to contribute generously to the economic recovery.

And why these sour grapes from a certain Mr Boris Johnson Esq? According to the BBC’s budget calculator, a hard-working 44 year old married man with 4 children under 16, earning £137,759 a year, plus £250,000 of self-employment income, will be £455.32 better off, thanks to the Chancellor’s largesse.

But to be serious, whilst the introduction of the 50% tax band is welcome, it is as Polly Toynbee rightly says, too late. Whilst I thought Cameron’s budget response to be a rather empty exercise in rhetorical grandstanding, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the Animal last attended a university debating club, one of his attacks ought to stick, although not really as Cameron meant it. Criticising the level of the budget deficit and the PBR, he rehearsed the old line about Labour ‘not fixing the roof while the sun was shining’. (more…)

January 27, 2009

A lighter shade of green?

third-runwayThe past week has seen a lot of column inches devoted to the increasingly infamous Boris Island Islands airport plan, with puff pieces in the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard following the Mayor’s day out in a boat with a handful of carefully selected journalists. The whole ludicrous scheme has been carefully taken to pieces by Tom at Boris Watch, whose posts someone at City Hall would do well to read.

What is fast becoming apparent is that this is the purest greenwash, designed to at once allow Boris to maintain an opposition to Heathrow’s third runway, whilst not losing ground with the Tory petrol-heads(or should that be kerosene-heads?) who consider Cameron’s opposition to Heathrow expansion to be an unforgivable concession to unwashed tree-huggers, or something.

Now, I come from the starting point of opposing all airport expansion, pretty much anywhere, but particularly in the South East. I’m invariably drawn to the position, therefore, of considering both the Third Runway and Boris Island to be two evils of pretty much equal magnitude – and therefore, on this issue, to consider Johnson and Brown to be at the same level of ecological villany. The question is, should I? Let us assume, for one rather improbable moment, that the argument in favour of increased airport capacity for London had been won. From an environmental prospect, which is the worse option of a bad choice? (more…)

January 13, 2009

Not gerrymandering, but still a bad idea

House of CommonsThe reaction to today’s announcement from David Cameron that an incoming Conservative government would seek to slice off 10% of MPs has been understandably suspicious. After all, the Tories don’t have a great track record with electoral reform: in government the party preserved university seats and business votes and fought against universal suffrage. And the words ‘gerrymandering’ and ‘Dame Shirley Porter’ go together like the words ‘homeless’ and ‘asbestos-ridden tower block’. The Guardian’s article (linked above) is suitably sceptical, while even the Cameron-hugging Evening Standard rather damningly starts its article with the sentence

David Cameron will cut 60 Commons seats and redraw the political map to give the Tories more chance of winning elections [my italics], he revealed today. 

And that was my first reaction to the news as well, with a lot of talk about allegedly over-represented Labour heartlands in inner-cities and Wales seeing their seat numbers slashed. Obviously that would be to Labour’s disadvantage, but the reality is a lot more complex than that. (more…)

October 28, 2008

Is the game afoot?

One of the essay titles that I can choose to write 3,000 words about for my masters module on British Politics is ‘Can Labour win the next general election?’. Given that the questions were set some months ago, I’m guessing that they were expecting me to address the likelihood given a Conservative opinion poll lead of 20% plus. But now, at least temporarily, the rules of the political game have changed with those of the economic game. Keynsian economics is back from the dead and dead political ducks might just be learning to fly again.

So far in October, three opinion polls from two different organisations have shown Labour’s poll deficit to be in high single figures (either 8 or 9%). With the exception of one 9% lead in a September poll, this is the first time since April that the deficit has been that low, with no fewer than 20 polls having shown a Conservative lead of 20% or greater during that period. Throughout those past few months it was widely, and understandably, assumed that a Conservative majority in the Commons was now a (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 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…)

October 3, 2008

High Speed 2: Taking apart the Tory train set


As I’ve written here before about the doubts that I have about high-speed rail being a panacea for the UK’s transport problems, I was keen to look at the Tory’s much heralded plans to build a high speed route (High Speed 2, or HS2) linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds at some point in the next 19 years. As this was such a flagship announcement for the Conservative conference, thought I, no doubt I will at the very least be able to download a nice little pdf booklet from the party website setting out the (more…)

September 29, 2008

Boris’ dog whistle?

I have a problem with Boris Johnson. What’s that? You’d worked that out already? Well done; have a coconut, or something.

No, apart from all the other problems I have with our Mayor, my problem is that sometimes I can’t work out if he’s being serious or flippant, or if he is being flippant if there is something deeper behind the flippancy. Sometimes I’m convinced that Boris himself is a bit in the dark about this as well. Therefore, what follows could be entirely the ravings of a paranoid mind.

When the BBC News webteam puts an item in the ‘Also in the News’ section in the margin of their front page, I’ve always understood this as saying something like ‘Yup, there’s a hell of a lot of depressing stuff over there on the main body of the page, but here’s a quirky story about a pet mongoose saving its family from a fire to cheer up your day’. So, when they put in an article headlined Mayor Boris terminates ‘cyborg’ Arnie, the editorial staff must have thought the story was in that league.

I guess everyone knows the background to this story. At last year’s Tory conference, California Governor Schwarzenegger was overheard via video link describing Boris Johnson’s platform performance as ‘fumbling all over the place.’ As far as I remember, (more…)

September 5, 2008

Should Gordon take his cue from the GOP?

By which I don’t mean the Prime Minister should become a minimal-government, liberal-bashing, gun-totting, wilderness-drilling right winger.

Nor am I proposing that he adopts Senator McCain’s less than overwhelming oratory style. And I can’t see Brown quite pulling off a Palin…

However, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Republican National Convention has been the manner in which the party has positioned itself as one of opposition. An observer arriving in Minneapolis-St Paul without the most basic political knowledge would, by all accounts, had been hard pressed to know that this was the party of the current President.

In his speech to the Convention, for example, McCain laid into those currently in power:  (more…)

August 30, 2008

Who will be quickest to disillusion their electorate?

Filed under: Conservatives,US Elections — Political Animal @ 12:02 am
Tags: , , ,

Enoch Powell once said that all political careers end in failure. Usefully, despite the regiment of knuckle-draggers posting ‘Enoch was right’ all over the web, he successfully set about proving his own theory. So if failure comes to all politicians, disillusion is its first symptom. With the USA potentially about to elect the guy from the back streets of south Chicago and the UK seemingly certain to elect the guy from the back streets of Eton in 2010, the potential arises for a controlled experiment as to which one lasts the longest before disillusion sets in. Of course, the US could well mess it all up by voting for a 72-year old about whom no one has any illusions in the first place.

So, let’s look at the case for each of our contenders to attempt to judge who will find their voter’s enthusiasm waning first: (more…)

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.