Tag Archives: Cameron

Warsi, Cameron and realities

A minor Tory name resigns her non-ministerial position (Whip in the un-Whippable Lords?). No earthquake. This is the week of the old August Bank Holiday: the silliest point in the silly season. Therefore Barnoness Warsi, for all her unworthiness, gets her headlines.

The Spectator had to have a holding piece while the Great BoJo Revelation came through — and the evidence suggests they had prior warning to get that cover ready for this week’s edition:

BuWIJeRIIAERyrj.jpg-large

Presumably, that diminutive figure under BoJo’s approaching arse is “Gids” Osborne, the heir presumptive. From whom (or from those ever-present “sources close to the Chancellor”) we shall soon be hearing more. It”ll be worth watching if Johnson’s parachuting into the safest of seats is trouble-free. My guess is not: he has too many undeclared enemies, and too many fair-weather friends.

In patient expectation of the new Caesar coming in triumph over Pompey’s blood, the holding job on the Spectator blog’s was Rod Liddle’s: Baroness Warsi – commendable but stunningly wrong.

I couldn’t give a toss whether Baroness Warsi is right (well, most of her views are), wrong, or “stunningly” so. What matters more is whether David Cameron is.

Let’s backtrack to 21st July and Hansard on the Ukraine (Flight MH17) and Gaza exchange.

I thought at the time that David Cameron’s line was inadequate, even one-sided. I wondered how long could this official line be held:

What is happening in Gaza is absolutely heartbreaking. We have to be clear, though, about how this could most quickly be brought to an end: that is for Hamas to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. If they stop those, all the other things that we need—the end of the Israeli operation, and the ceasefire—would be in place.

It didn’t ring true. It wasn’t the authentic bell metal.

Still, Cameron repeated that at least six times in answering questions. Each iteration suffered serial elision until the essential message became:

… we believe in Israel’s right to defend itself, we believe that it needs to exercise restraint, to avoid civilian casualties and to find ways of bringing this to a close. But the best way to bring this to a close is the fastest way, and that is for the rocket attacks to stop.

I didn’t see then, and don’t see now that the IDF’s actions are entirely limited to “defending itself”. The Gazan death toll alone, now approaching 2,000, underlines that is is a campaign of aggression, not “defence”.

If I read Netanyahu’s statements correctly, that isn’t his position either:

What is about to end is the IDF’s treatment of the tunnels, but this operation will end only when quiet and security are restored for Israeli citizens for a prolonged period… We don’t have any intention of hurting the residents of Gaza. It’s Hamas who is actually hurting them by preventing humanitarian aid. I think the international community needs to condemn Hamas. [That’s lifted from Monday’s WSJ].

To that extent, Lady Warsi has a valid point — and the Prime Minister has mislaid any he had.

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Gracias, Dacre!

A bit of intropective retrospection

Malcolm’s lay-off, while he removed house, did serious damage to his small-but-perfectly formed readership here at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service.

So, Malcolm is particularly grateful to his few remaining and loyal recipients. That includes a certain Tory SPAD (or his dopplegänger) who regularly checks whether he’s again been the centre of attention. He hasn’t. He isn’t.

ampelmann1And, of course, there’s the constant flow of visitors revisiting Nena and her Luftballons. Now, that’s real Ostalgie.

Memo to Malcolm: surely time for another of those “Not so great and not so goods”. Number 29 on Joe “Spud” Murphy still draws in the odd passing punter.

Any-hoo (as they may say on Slugger O’Toole, and places North), the point today is a small vote of thanks to Paul Dacre and his Daily Mail.

It has fired Malcolm to new efforts, as you see.

For Malcolm was tiring of preaching to a small band of converts, with minimal response. The game was no longer worth the candle (interesting pre-electric light era metaphor, that).

Then Dacre went rogue on Miliband.

Suddenly an old post here, all the way back to mid-2009,  became flavour of the day. In large part, admittedly, because a couple of more interesting sites hot-linked to that post.

Malcolm suspects it was those telling Rothermere quotations on “patriotism” (and the Mail is all over “patriotism” this week). Statporn leaped by a factor of two or more. Thankin’ all of ye!

Meanwhile, in the Mancunian demimonde

When even the Torygraph‘s Political Editor (young Master Kirkup) is less-than-gushing about the almost-Beloved Leader, on this day of all days, one senses the Cameron speech was barely notches above the warmed-over left-over level:

Maybe he was tired: there were some uncharacteristic shadows under his eyes as he spoke. Maybe the Manchester hall isn’t the place for soaring oratory: ministers say Birmingham is a much better venue for acoustics and atmospherics. Or maybe his heart wasn’t in it: this is, after all, the “spare” year of a five-year Parliament. We’re still a fair way from the election, so it’s hardly surprising Mr Cameron privately regarded this as one of the less important Big Speeches of his career.

The audience seemed to sense it too: the response was dutiful, not ecstatic.

Kirkup wasn’t alone:

David Cameron’s speech sounded as tired as the Prime Minister looked. Apart from a hint towards depriving under-25s of benefit, there were no new policies. If the loyal audience in the hall was bored and underwhelmed, the apathetic public will be even more so. This was a wasted opportunity.

  • Ditto Gaby Hinsliff:

Hinsliff

The Conservative party have just sent round a briefing note on the “everyone under 25 – earning or learning” proposal in David Cameron’s speech…

Normally I do not post briefing notes like this because they are long and detailed. This one is about as thin as they come.

UPDATE: A party source has stressed that there will be some exemptions. [Continued on page 94]

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song

By the by, that dental-grinding off-stage right must be the Tory ASMs. It makes one wonder what is the point.

Well, actually, the point is to trawl in those commercial and industrial sponsors who pay for the whole shebang, as , and James Kirkup explained a while back:

Lobbyists and other commercial visitors now almost outnumber grassroots Conservatives at conference.

Thirty-eight per cent of people attending the conference are party members, while 36 per cent are from commercial or charitable organisations.

The disclosure will add to fears that the party’s rank-and-file membership is collapsing, handing more power to a few wealthy financial backers and professional politicians.

That is your modern party politics.

Meanwhile, you spend all year trying to boost enthusiasm for Annual Conference; and Dacre allows the Leader of the Opposition to scrawl all over it, press-wise.

As for the Ally Campbell Death Star job on the unfortunate Jon Steafel, sit back and relish …

Death Star explodes

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Filed under advertising., BBC, blogging, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, films, Guardian, James Kirkup, Labour Party, politics, Private Eye, Tories.

Over-sold and over-spent

To hear Tory MPs yesterday (and reading Tory commentators today) it seems that David Cameron achieved a triumph in the EU budget matched only by Wellington at Waterloo.

And, of course, Frau Merkel’s parsimony (and the prospect of a tight Bundestag election later this year) had nothing to do with it.

The achievement was all Dave’s.

Except for one small detail: the EU spend (and therefore the UK’s contribution) is likely to increase.

What was agreed was a cap: the ceiling of possible EU expenditure over 2014 to 2020. As a matter of course, the expenditure is usually considerably less than the cap — a matter of, perhaps, 10% less. What has happened is the cap has been set lower, but not any commitment to spend. So the expenditure can rise closer to the nominal cap.

As a result the ceiling has been set at €908.4 billion — were expenditure by 2020 to reach that cap, the UK would be paying an extra 6.3%.

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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

Are your dogs barking?

We’ve been stuck since 1892 with that now-exhausted metaphor:

Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which he had formed of my companion’s ability, but I saw by the Inspector’s face that his attention had been keenly aroused.

“You consider that to be important?” he asked.

“Exceedingly so.”

“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

 “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Lloyd Evans’s PMQ sketch for the Spectator sought imaginative ways round (here’s another dead’un) that elephant in the room:

It was the croc that didn’t snap, the firework that failed to fly, the jeroboam that refused to go pop. Last week, David Cameron’s speech on Europe was supposed to heal a two-decade rift within the Tory family and to set Britain on a bold new course in our relationship with the continent. A week later and the great In-Out gamble didn’t rate a mention at PMQs. Not a peep. Not a syllable. Not a whisper. Ed Miliband didn’t bring it up either.

Once past the ritual exchange of abuse (or rather Cameron’s abuse when confronted by Miliband’s profession of reason), the main meat of PMQs:

  • included two excellent questions (one historical, one equine)

and

  • concluded with a poor ad-hominem response by Cameron to Gorgeous George Galloway’s ad-rem on double standards of foreign policy.

Let’s deal with the last of those first, here as Lloyd Evans saw it:

The session ended with a blood-soaked question from George Galloway. Referring to the latest troop-surge in Mali, he invited the PM to ‘adumbrate the differences between the throat-slitting jihadists’ of north Africa and ‘the equally bloodthirsty jihadist’ in Syria. Easy to answer convincingly but Cameron descended to mere abuse. ‘Wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of the right honourable gentleman.’

A pity he served up a slur rather than an argument against Galloway who, if nothing else, is a formidable debater.

 When the Speccie disses Cameron, as it does on a regular basis, there’s usually a grain of good sense involved somewhere. Though, but naturally, not on the visceral issues of Europe or renewables.

Galloway’s barb went home, and will fester. Because it came from Galloway, Cameron may endure it — at least until the Hercules descends at RAF Brize Norton and more body-bags from North or West Africa are delivered to Cameron’s back-door. Another, perhaps more dangerous wound was delivered from over Cameron’s shoulder.

Pontifical Sir Peter

Simon Hoggart, the wittiest of the lobby reporters and sketch-writers, has a regular vamp about Sir Peter Tapsell. Here, for example, from September 2011:

Does Sir Peter Tapsell actually exist? I ask the question following his own question – nay, speech – on Wednesday, which was magnificent. It could have been a pastiche of the perfect Tapsell address. I imagined his words being carved into tablets of polished black basalt, mounted in the British Museum, etched deep so that even the partially sighted can feel their way to his eternal wisdom.

Possibly Sir Peter is a mass thought form, created by Tory MPs, for whom he recalls their party as it used to be, and Labour MPs, who wish that it still was. Certainly it is true that the whole House looks forward keenly, yearningly, to his every word.

When the Father of the House arose in the middle of prime minister’s questions, a great throb of excitement ran along all benches, rather like the moment in a Victorian seance when the eerie manifestation of a dead Red Indian appeared above the fireplace. This moment of glee was followed, as it always, is by a hushed and expectant silence.

Malcolm will  be disappointed if tomorrow’s Guardian fails to include mention of lapidary inscription, or — at the very least — quills and vellum. Fortunately for the mirth and instruction of the nation, as Father of the House (the longest serving Member) Sir Peter has a proprietary right to be called at question time. So to today:

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): As my right hon. Friend sets forth on his pacific mission to Algeria, will he, with his great historical knowledge, bear in mind that when Louis Philippe sent his eldest son to Algeria in the 1840s on a similar venture, it took a century, massive casualties, the overthrow of the Third Republic and the genius of General de Gaulle to get the French army back out of the north African desert?

Hon. Members: Answer!

Mr Speaker: Order. We want to hear the Prime Minister’s answer to this question.

The Prime Minister: I can reassure my right hon. Friend that I am planning only to visit Algiers. I am sure he put down an urgent question at the time of the events to which he referred, and got a response.

Two things don’t come out in that bare Hansard transcript:

  • Only those backbench and the Speaker’s interruptions saved Cameron, gave him recovery time.
  • This was the second, in a row, of very effective questions. Cameron hadn’t done very well on the previous one, either:

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): On the subject of food safety, can the Prime Minister confirm that traces of stalking horse have been found in the Conservative party food chain?

The Prime Minister: Somewhere in my briefing, I had some very complicated information about the danger of particular drugs for horses entering the food chain, and I have to say the hon. Gentleman threw me completely with that ingenious pivot. The Conservative party has always stood for people who want to work hard and get on, and I am glad that all of my — all those behind me take that very seriously indeed.

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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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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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