Category Archives: Nick Clegg

Brussels spouts

54 Bootham, YorkThe stroll from the Redfellow’s Kozy Kot to Bootham Bar takes seven to ten minutes. On the way, at 54 Bootham, we pass W. H. Auden’s birthplace: quite a grand joint, well-suited to a well-heeled medic like Wystan’s pa.

Recipe for the upbringing of a poet: ‘As much neurosis as the child can bear’.

I rarely fail to acknowledge, to pay respect to the memorial plaque on the wall. Even on a chilly, wet morning like today.

Bringing home the bacon …

Well, there was a time when a selection of Auden’s verse was an A-level staple. So, in that way, Auden brought home the bacon for me over several years.

Today it wasn’t bacon: I was carrying M&S casserole steak, and the other makings (we’re surviving on slow-cooking, fries, and micro-waving until the new kitchen is installed).

I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen.

Once back to Kozy Kot, I caught up with Isabel Hardman’s piece on Nick “Calamity” Clegg’s Deputy PMQs performance. The bit that caught Ms Hardman’s eye was about Danny “Ginger Rodent” Alexander. The full exchange went like this:

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab):

Has the Deputy Prime Minister seen the comments of the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor, who said on Monday that “Nick Clegg complains quite often that Danny Alexander has gone native in the Treasury. I think there is some truth in the fact that he has gone native in the Treasury.”
He said:“The relationship between George and Danny Alexander is very, very good.”The Deputy Prime Minister will be aware of Stockholm syndrome, in which captives increasingly empathise with their captives. What is he going to do to de-programme “the Treasury one”

The Deputy Prime Minister:

I have just seen those quotes from the hon. Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) — I am not sure if he is in the Chamber — who claims that he is extremely close to the Chancellor, knows his mind and that he is his “wingman”. He is as good a wing man as Icarus was in flying off on his own wings, judging by his comments. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is doing an outstanding job on behalf of the Government and the Liberal Democrats. Only last week he said that further cuts for the wealthiest in society would happen over his dead body. That and so many other examples show that his Liberal Democrat heart is exactly where it should be.

The “honourable member” targeted there is Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East. Wilson is/was Jeremy Hunt’s bag-carrier (now, it seems Gids Osborne’s batman) and therefore parliamentary plankton. Quite why Clegg trawled so low remains inexplicable.

Daedalus and Icarus

The whole metaphor here seems rather confused.

The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.

If we read Clegg aright, the “Icarus” is Wilson. Which is fair do’s. Ten years and two parliaments to reach the dizzy heights of PPS. Should the Beaker/ the “Ginger Rodent”be possessed of a political “heart”, it must lie well to the right of any sternum. Any spine would be more difficult to find.

Anyway, it fitted well with the passing glance to Auden:

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The Old Masters; how well, they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; 
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting 
For the miraculous birth, there always must be 
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating 
On a pond at the edge of the wood: 
They never forgot 
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course 
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot 
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse 
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. 
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

The critics tell us that Auden visited the Brussels Art Gallery in 1938, and viewed the painting by Brueghel, which the poem is basically about. No, just the last half-dozen lines, chaps. There are a couple of other “Old Masters” — by one or other Brueg(h)el — referenced. In The Massacre of the Innocents (which, at the last count, wasn’t in Brussels, but Vienna) there are half-a-dozen examples of dogs go[ing] on with their doggy life, and — famously — the bloke having a wee up the wall.

Properly, too, it’s more commonly Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. You have to look hard for Icarus: all you get are a couple of legs, and some loose feathers. Which is the whole point.

Clegg, during those five years at the EU Parliament, may have found time to wander down Belliardstraat to the Musée.

Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both partners run out of goods.

Alexander, of course, was parachuted into the Treasury (and out of the Scottish Office) only because David Laws lasted just twenty-two days before his sins (£40,000+ of fiddling) found him out.

You shall love your crooked neighbour, with your crooked heart.

Attributions:

All the quotations above are from Auden, when they are not from Hansard. No poet/critics/essayists were harmed in the making of this post.

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Filed under Nick Clegg, politics, Quotations, reading, W.H.Auden, York

The pernicious influence of Goveian militarist clap-trap

As far back as March 2010, and that’s before he was enstooled at the DfE, The Times was mocking Michael Gove as a “meerkat“.  It’s not just the facial expressions: the constant self-grooming and sublime self-confidence are ever reminding of the fabulous Alexandr Orlov:

aleks_trans

Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse. However, Anne Treneman has his service number:

New Year, New Gove. It seems that over the Christmas break Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has been busy turning himself into a military man or, in his case, meerkat.

Field Marshal Gove, of course, is currently re-fighting World War I:

He condemned the widely held view that the prosecution of the war was “a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite” as the misrepresentation and myth-making of “dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely WarThe Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder” and “left-wing academics” such as Sir Richard Evans, regius professor of history at Cambridge. In fact, he denounced Sir Richard’s views as “more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate”. A dismissive comparison indeed coming from a man who thinksBlackadder is a drama.

Evans himself, Tony Robinson and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt all returned fire and even Margaret Macmillan, a historian praised by Gove, responded coolly saying: “You take your fans where you get them, I guess… but he is mistaking myths for rival interpretations of history.” Meanwhile, a fellow Tory member of the government said that “Michael should get back in his box”.

“Michael should get back in his box”

Ouch! And double ouch! What interpretation could possibly be lurking there? Here’s an unboxed clue:

2_0_ctm_meetthemeerkats-02_v21

Nosology

Nothing to do with the snout, but the “study of diseases”. In this case a verbal dysentery, “an inflammatory disorder of the mouth”.

When Gove shouted “Rule Britannia,”
When he’d sung “God save the Queen,”
When he’d finished killing Evans with his mouth,

Mark Wallace at the ConHome cheer-leader squad donned the brass-hat and the red tabs, and contracted Gove’s ailment.  His piece is thin as gossamer, but the rhetoric is instructive: “invade new territory”, “stronghold is collapsing”. ” new campaign”, “dodgy generalship”, “core territory”, “solid supply lines”, “drive his divisions”, “own fortress”, “sallying forth”, “super weapons”, etc., etc.

Don’t you just feel the military metaphors are a trifle overdone? It’s party — even partisan — politicking, for heaven’s sake! Not the drums of total war, June 1941 and Fall Barbarossa.

Surely we should always be suspicious of such strained, purplest prose: it generally disguises threadbare argument. It may encourage the troops (which, apart from providing a jam-pot for the Kippers to buzz around in, is what ConHome is about), but we deserve something better, more solid than either Wallace or Gove, in their separate ways, provide.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition

That was the thought that came to mind, reading Wallace.

It seemed a trifle Kiplingesque. But, no, it is as recent as 1942, and comes from Frank Loesser:

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate,
Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate.
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look,
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book,

Shouting …

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
And we’ll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can’t afford to be a politician!
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea.

So, two lessons here:

1. The war-talk is precisely what turns folk off political discourse. It’s unreal. It’s extreme. It’s contrived. It’s hysterical.

If political commentators or practitioners have something of point to say, that should be enough. Henry V before Harfleur, they are not. Today’s PMQs were instructive: Cameron seems to have relapsed into his shrill hectoring mode (his only alternative register to his pseudo-bedside palliatives). Miliband is experimenting with a softer, more measured, more deliberate tone. Nick Robinson, on BBC2 Daily Politics, murmured that the former might cheer the troops in the Tea Room and appeal to the lobby sketch-writers, but the latter could well have wider listener appeal. We shall see.

2. The other lesson is we are still sixteen months out from a General Election.

Under normal conditions — not this artificial fixed-parliament five-year-stretch abomination — we really would be waiting for the electoral starting gun.

Even at the outset, there was general agreement (i.e. everywhere except Nick Clegg’s inner circle) that five years was too long. Even the Commons own political and constitutional reform committee saw that:

Among its main concerns was the proposed length of the Parliament, which experts suggested should be shorter.

The government had justified the length by saying it went “with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution” – the maximum length of a Parliament was curtailed from seven years to five in 1911.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also said it followed the previous government’s precedent and would “give any government of whatever complexion enough time to govern and deliver a programme of change and reform”.

But the committee points out that the expectation of the 1911 changes was that five years would be the maximum – and, in practice, terms were expected to be four years.

Since 1979 four general elections were called after four-year parliaments, while three, in 1992, 1997 and 2010, were called after five years.

Constitution expert Professor Robert Hazell told the committee: “Those parliaments which lasted for five years did so because the government had become unpopular and did not want to hold an earlier election.

Instead there is still 1/3rd of a normal term to go. Parliament ought to have much unfinished business: it doesn’t. It has run out of puff. Lassitude is setting in. Every MP has eyes on May 2015, marking time, sounding off, filling in the voids, fretting on the majority. Among Tories, Item One is the inroads UKIP might make, particularly coming off a high in the Euro-poll.

In that sixteen months there is still ample room for umpteen mood-shifts either way. Writing off any — any — party (as Wallace does with contempt) and its leadership so prematurely is prejudging the case.

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Filed under Ann Treneman, BBC, Britain, broken society, ConHome, David Cameron, democracy, education, Elections, History, Lib Dems, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Nick Robinson, politics, Times, Tories., World War 2

The Times they are a-churning

This could be one of those intrusive Malcolmian asides. Indeed, that was how it started in another post that is cooking.

Let’s keep it as main text.

Malcolm’s morning trip to the doctor’s surgery allowed him to read Andrew Adonis’s account,  Five Days in May, of life in Downing Street, while the Quad were stitching up their ConDem package. This is being serialised in The Times.

Unless one is possessed of Mark Packian  (who will be featured in that other post) partial eyesight, Nick Clegg (along with the endearingly peremptory Captain Ashdown) does not emerge well.

This is part of the entry for 4pm Monday, May 10, 2010:

Gordon confirmed that Labour would definitely offer AV legislation and a referendum.

The issue now was the status of the Lib-Lab talks. They were for real, Clegg responded.

But, GB pressed, would he say that the talks with Labour were on the same basis as with the Tories?

“Well, we don’t want to bounce ourselves,” said Clegg, uneasily.

So they wanted to negotiate a final deal with the Tories while merely listening to representations from Labour.

The decision — at least on Gordon Brown’s part — was confirmed after Tuesday’s 1pm final Brown and Clegg meeting:

Ming Campbell, the most pro-Labour and pro-Gordon of the senior Lib Dems, erased any lingering doubts when Gordon spoke to him on the phone at about 4pm. “I wish it were otherwise,” said Ming, clearly dejected. Gordon called Vince Cable, who said much the same.

“OK,” said Gordon, putting the phone down. “I’ll do the call with Clegg at five. Get everything ready for the Palace immediately afterwards.”

Even in that 5pm phone-call, Clegg is procrastinating:

“I’m really sorry, but I still haven’t taken a decision,” was Nick’s opener. “Genuinely, I mean this. I’m sitting here with Vince and the party meeting now isn’t until 8.30.” […]

“I can’t wait that long, Nick. I can’t wait the whole evening,” Gordon said, urgent, insistent. “The country expects a decision.”

“Just two or three hours then,” said Nick, almost pleading.

And so Clegg bought himself another hour:

6.30 came and went. Still no Clegg call.

At 6.45, Sue put another call through to Tim Snowball in Nick Clegg’s office.

“I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting and I can’t get him out, ” said Tim.

“It’s really got to be now, Tim. It absolutely has to be,” said Sue.

Thirty seconds’ silence then Nick Clegg on the line.

“Gordon, I’ll tell you what’s happening,” Nick began. “Following our conversation this afternoon I’m basically finding out how far I can push the Conservatives on Europe. I genuinely take to heart what you said about that. We need some sanity on Europe. We can’t seek to renegotiate. I’m trying my best …”

“I’ll tell you what’s happening …”, “basically”, “genuinely”, “some sanity”, “I’m trying my best …” It all seems somewhat pathetic. And unconvincing.

Adonis’s account immediately continues:

Gordon interrupted. “I need to resign immediately  Nick. I can’t leave this hanging. I can’t be hanging on to power while we can’t get an answer.”

“But Gordon, this isn’t over yet …”

“Nick, you are continuing negotiations with the Conservatives and you have rejected a deal with us.”

“No, Gordon. Today is Tuesday. We have only just started the talks. We have not rejected you. We are trying to play our role, to find a stable coalition.”

“I have to do the right thing by both the Queen and the country,” Gordon continued.

Nick again said he hadn’t made up his mind. “As you know the working group weren’t able to answer some of our questions …”

“Nick, it’s past that. I have to resign as people don’t understand my clinging on to power.”

“Why? In other democracies trying to do this takes weeks. It’s quite right for us to to do it methodically.” His big concern remained Europe, he added.

What was Clegg’s end-game here? Was it to remain centre-stage for weeks, in some kind of Belgian government stand-off? Or was it part of the Cameron-Osborne choreography, with Brown forced to sneak out of Downing Street in the depths of the night?

Back with Adonis:

“Nick, you’re a good man. But I have to respect the British people. They don’t want me hanging on. I wish you well in the future. I think your decisions are important. I prefer the progressive way forward …”

Nick interrupted, reverting yet again to the negotiations not having gone well, particularly on the economy.

More shaking of heads in the inner office. David Muir [Brown’s SpAd] texted Jonny Oates [Clegg’s Chief of Staff]: “He’s not bluffing.”

Gordon: “Nick, I’ve no choice. I have thought through the implications. I cannot go on for another day. Your are negotiating with another party…’

Nick, dramatically: “Just five minutes. There are two more people I have to speak to. Then let’s speak again. Please.”

A collective groan in the inner office as the line went dead.

We are now in the dénouement:

The No 10 staff were now crowding into the war room, along with Sir Gus O’Donnell and senior Cabinet Office officials.

Five or so minutes later, Nick Clegg again. “Gordon, I cannot give you assurances. That would be acting dishonourably. But please, please don’t resign…”

“I can’t delay. I’ve got to resign now, Nick. I need to go to the Palace.”

“You are holding me hostage. You don’t need to act unilaterally. We have only spent five days holding these important negotiations. I can’t do anything about that …”

“No, Nick. I’ve got to go to the Palace. I’ve got to resign. I haven’t any choice now.”

“It doesn’t need to be like this …”

“It does, Nick, I’ve got to resign. It’s got to be now. I wish you all the best for the future. You’re a good man, Nick. I’ve got to go now.”

We wouldn’t want Nick Clegg to be perceived as acting dishonourably, would we?

 

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Filed under David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, politics, Times, Tories.

Constitutional reform only happens if …

… it suits the interests of those implementing it.

Not just an historical truth, indeed an axiom, but the punch-line of a beta++ effort by Steve Richards for Independent Voices.

Let’s take on face value Richards’ headline:

Why fixed terms parliaments are a nightmare for leaders and a gift for rebel MPs

Our Chief Political Commentator says that Conservative MPs can plot and stir because the next election is still years away

Hold on! Surely that’s what a true Independent would wish? And … err … yes, it somehow reminds Malcolm of …. Ah, yes!

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion…

If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?

Indeed, the authentic Burkean voice from the College Historical Society of Trinity College, Dublin (founded 21st March 1770), of which — much later, and far less oratorically polished — Malcolm’s alter ego was once a minor officer.

Richards’ Big Thing amounts to this:

The current parliament is already nearing the end of its natural life. Symptoms of mortality take many forms. In terms of policy Cameron has made waves recently with two big announcements. Both apply to the next parliament and not this one. His proposals for a referendum on Europe and high speed rail take effect after the next election. The more immediate agenda in the Commons is of little significance compared with those post-election policies and the near revolutionary measures placed before MPs in the Coalition’s early unprecedented flurry of reforming zeal.

In other words, the health of the body politic depends on a renewal of the parliamentary mandate in the short term, not in May 2015.

Yet, as he makes clear, with little to do, and at a time when MPs should be honing their knives for re-election, it’s all gone deadly, flatly dull. The death of the Bill to change boundaries was the last straw, which is why (even after Clegg slit its throat) the Bill was kept in suspended animation while all kinds of pressures were brought to bear:

  • Over the weekend, were the DUP really told they could exempt Northern Ireland, if only …
  • Why does James Kirkup (who should know better) and other susceptible post-adolescents keep afloat the notion that the Bill can be revived?

And, for the Satan’s Blood (“800,000 Scoville units”) in your political chilli, muse on what MPs get up to, when otherwise not exerted. Why, they plot, of course! Or, as Richards renders it:

There will be no election in 2014. After the next 12 months there will be another whole year before the election moves fully into view. There is still plenty of time to be disloyal, to speak up for principled conviction, to plot and plan against a leader. This has some danger for Clegg. But Cameron is the main victim as news surfaces of a plot to install a successor … if he loses the election. Such plots happen for many reasons. One is that Conservative MPs have time on their hands, lots of it. They will rally round next year, but not this. The fixed-term has made prime ministerial life less secure rather than more.

Even so, Malcolm has another gripe with Richards’ piece, particularly so in the rest of that final paragraph:

Constitutional reform only happens if it suits the interests of those implementing it. Presumably Cameron thought that in the unusual circumstances of a Coalition a fixed-term would bring stability. But most fixed-terms in other countries last a maximum of four years. Five years is far too long. And of those five this is much the most dangerous for leaders hoping to flourish when the still distant election finally arrives.

As Malcolm recalls, the LibDems, suspicious that Cameron and Osborne would dump them were an electoral opportunity to open, inserted the time element in the coalition agreement. Now, what could possibly have provoked that partisan fear into the pre-nup?

Second, Richards is absolutely correct. Five years was, is and always will be too long. Malcolm’s Pert Young Piece had considerable difficulty in  explicating the five-year term, at the Anzac Cove gathering, 2012, to a band of highly-dubious antipodean democrats. It’s also been commonly accepted, nearer home, ever since the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill was first out there in the wild. Anyway, consider:

  • The “ones-we’re-bound to lose” (Macmillan-Home in 1959-64; Wilson-Callaghan in 1974-79, Major in 1992-97; Blair-Brown in 2005-10) went into a fifth year;
  • To which might be added the “one we miraculously didn’t lose” (Major, 1992) which also went to the wire.

Versus:

  • the ones “we can win” (Thatcher in 1983, 1987; Blair in 2001, 2005) which took advantage of the opportunistic electoral windows.

On that basis alone, the 2010-15 government had given away its main electoral advantage: the chance for any prime minister to exploit a particular moment, one when the economic and electoral cycles could be matched. So, a Malcolmian prediction, when the next parliament assembles, if there’s a majority government, the 2011 Act will be repealed in short order and shall hear no more of fixed -terms.

In short, there’s that gross misunderstanding: in the unusual circumstances of a Coalition a fixed-term would bring stability. Richards, wisely predicates that with the weaselly “presumably”. Consider the normality of UK politics: in the forty years from Wilson to Cameron we will have had just three governments defenestrated — in 1979, 1997 and 2010. The success of Gordon Brown was that the expected Tory take-over didn’t happen (and, in Malcolm’s book, history will be very much kinder to Brown than current poison has it).

Burke, whom we had above, had the Fixed Term Parliaments Act bang to rights, and as far back as 1780:

Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. In such a country as this they are of all bad things the worst, worse by far than anywhere else; and they derive a particular malignity even from the wisdom and soundness of the rest of our institutions

Let’s add a word to the wise:

The people can recognise them. And resent them

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Edmund Burke, History, Independent, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, politics, Quotations, reading, Steve Richards, Tories., Trinity College Dublin

Abominable Cllr Phibbs: appalling arithmetic

More Harry Phibbs:

The defeat of boundary reform this afternoon, by 334 votes to 292, is not only bad for the Conservative Party but also for democracy.

The average annual cost to the taxpayer of a Member of Parliament is £590,000 a year (a peer costs us £130,000 on average while a Euro MP comes in at 1.79 million a time.) Of course it could be argued that reducing the cost of politics by reducing the number of MPs by 50 and saving a few million a year is modest set against state spending £700 billion. You could say the same about that element of our bill which covers MPs expenses. Yet it still matters. There is a question of MPs setting an example when the size of the rest of the public sector workforce is being cut.

That’s another of those waffles that seems superficially OK, but falls apart under any kind of scrutiny. After all, it is largely a direct rip from that journal of dubious record, the Daily Mail.

More to the point

David Cameron has created more peers more quickly than any of his predecessors: 126 since May 2010. That’s a bit more than one every eight days. So, taking Phibbs’s accountancy at face value (which is more than it’s worth), Cameron’s inflation of the Lords has cost the nation £16,380,000 a year. There’s a bit of off-setting available, then.

There are currently in excess of 800 members of the Lords. The Clegg proposal would have reduced this to 450. Again, accepting Phibbs’s back-of-fag-packet arithmetic, Clegg’s proposed changes could have put some £40-45 million annually into the nation’s back pocket. Every little helps.

For the record, for his services in 2011-12, Cllr Phibbs, received £32,898 (about the fourth  highest dibs among the 46 members) from the grateful Council Taxpayers of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

The Euro-phantasma

The EU is not perfect. One of the smaller changes that need to happen is the agreement that the European Parliament has a single seat, and doesn’t flit between Brussels and Strasbourg — and even Luxembourg. In point of fact, the EU Parliament has agreed just that. Not surprisingly, France has vetoed the desirable plumping for Brussels. Let it rest that the vast majority of MEPs would opt for Brussels; but that the Council of Ministers (i.e. Dave Cameron and his twenty-six mates) cannot get their acts together.

That should undermine the notion that a Euro MP comes in at 1.79 million a time. She or he doesn’t: the incompetence of national governments — not excluding our, and that of Cllr Phibbs — does.

What should concern us far, far more is the ‘democratic deficit’ — the lack of any direct constraints on EU administration. The same could be said for a UK government which can fix its own terms without reference to any mandates. Yes, Cllr Phibbs, we didn’t hear your affronted shrieks when the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill went through on Tory votes. Have a chat to our antipodean cousins (who believe a couple of years is enough to avoid corruption) and explain that one.

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Filed under ConHome, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mail, Europe, London, Nick Clegg, politics

Saying “different things”, South Antrim

Hair of the DogmaThere was a brief note on ConHome:

Boundary changes blow

“David Cameron’s slim hopes of pushing through boundary changes that would deliver the Tories 20 extra safe seats have been dealt a blow by the Ulster Unionists.” – The Times (£)

 Malcolm hadn’t seen this elsewhere, apart from below the fold on page 17. So he thinks The Times pay-wall should give way:

Unionists deal blow to Tory boundary plan

Roland Watson Political Editor

David Cameron’s slim hopes of pushing through boundary changes that would deliver the Tories 20 extra safe seats have been dealt a blow by the Ulster Unionists.

The Tories need support from across the minor parties if they are to see through the changes after Nick Clegg said he would no longer support them following the defeat last summer of his plans to reform the House of Lords.

But William McCrea, the DUP MP for South Antrim, said he would not back the changes, which would cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, and in Northern Ireland from 18 to 16.

Mr McCrea also told The Times that the boundary review process should be halted quickly to prevent public money being wasted.

Government sources who have tried to canvass support from the DUP said that “different Unionists say different things”.

The Tories would need all of the eight DUP MPs and six SNP MPs to have the chance of overhauling the 312 combined tally of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Mr Cameron had been pressed by the 1922 Committee to force boundary changes through before the election, thus boosting Tory hopes. But Labour and Liberal Democrat peers are expected to win a vote today that would delay any changes until 2018.

William-McCrea-291x275Dr McCrea may have the dogma, even if the hair has AWOLed over the years. Explaining the abstruse connection must await the end of this post.

The devil is in the numerical detail

Anyone with half a wit knew that, once Clegg had pulled the plug, the baby was out with the bath-water. Subsequently Paul Goodman came up on ConHome to regurgitate his calculations, which amount to 320 for the Tory gerrymander and 321 against. His punch-line acknowledges potentially-defaulting Nadines:

On the darker side, the biggest Commons obstacle to the new boundaries could be Conservative MPs themselves.  More gain than lose from the changes, but not all losers can be guaranteed to vote for their likely or certain removal from the next Parliament.

Doing the maths while minding mice at the crossroads? [See The Hair of the Dogma, page 171, and all is apparent.]

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Filed under Britain, ConHome, David Cameron, DUP, Elections, Flann O'Brian, Nick Clegg, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Times, Tories.

The political cavy

Guinea pigTwo years back, when Cameron shimmied off for the half-term break, we all had a moment of mirth:

Asked if he was in charge of the nation, Mr Clegg told Metro: ‘Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that.’

Later that year, in August, Clegg was once again ‘in charge’:

London’s in flames and the economy’s going up in smoke . . . but don’t worry, I’m in charge, says calamity Clegg as Cameron and Osborne stay on holiday

Nick Clegg today insisted the Government was still working ‘very effectively’ despite David Cameron and George Osborne remaining abroad.

The Deputy Prime Minister rejected criticism over the three most powerful men in Westminster taking a holiday at the same time after returning to work.

He said: ‘I reject completely this notion that somehow this Government hasn’t been functioning very effectively indeed last week and this week.

‘I have been speaking to members of the Government. I spoke to the Prime Minister this morning, to the Chancellor last night, to the Home Secretary yesterday, to the Business Secretary, to the Energy Secretary, to the Foreign Secretary; we are in constant contact with each other and we are working effectively together as a team this week as we do every week of the year.’

The Pert Young Piece of Redfellow Hovel shrewdly noted that Clegg’s days of deputising seem to have been curtailed.

She made a comparison with the infant who was entrusted with the weekend care of the classroom guinea pig — but only the once.

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