Thursday, 30 September 2010

Going Home

About seven months ago I was asked what I was going to do in my future political life. My response was that "for the moment at least, I have decided to take a break from politics in Reading. I was 26 when first elected to RBC and am now 52, so I think I've done my shift for now. Any political currency I have left probably relies on my independent status, and that is how it will remain. I will not be standing as a candidate for any elected position, nor joining any political party in the foreseeable future."

But now, to my surprise, I find myself being drawn back into overt local political activity. I, like many others, have become angered by the way that the LibDem/Tory coalition government seem intent on wreaking havoc on the public services with no mandate whatsoever. And locally, we seem to have a coalition council which seems desperate to ape their Westminster cousins. And the ward where I live has been completely abandoned, or so it seems.

I have some respect for the Tories - even if I fundamentally oppose much of what they do - because they are simply following their consistent, ideological purpose. The LibDems have no such excuse - and they will, in the end, pay for it.

So I have re-joined the Labour Party. Recently, I have been helping to re-establish the Reading Trades Union Council and that work has brought me into contact with comrades old and new. We have a real fight to defend our public services and there are some really good people getting together to take up the challenges. I have also been really impressed by Ed Miliband. He has a tough job ahead of him, but from what I have seen, I believe he is more than up to it. I have been cheered, too, by the attitude of Chris Maskell, John Ennis and Jo Lovelock in only wanting to look forward, without rancour or debate.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

They Call It Public Sector Debt ...

They call if “Public Sector Debt”. In reality, it was the cost of bailing out the private sector banks that put us in this mess.

And here’s the money the government then paid to the banks to sort it out:

• £850bn bailing out banks… and £107.1m on financial advice
• £76bn To purchase shares in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group
• £200bn Indemnify Bank of England against losses incurred in providing over £200bn of liquidity support
• £250bn Guarantee wholesale borrowing by banks to strengthen liquidity in the banking system
• £40bn Provide loans and other funding to Bradford & Bingley and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
• £280bn Agree in principle to provide insurance for selection of bank assets
• £32.9m Slaughter & May – Commercial legal advice
• £15.4m Credit Suisse – Financial advice on a range of measures, including Bank Recapitalisation and the Asset Protection Scheme
• £11.3m PricewaterhouseCoopers – Advice on APS
• £8.7m Ernst & Young – Due diligence on APS, Northern Rock
• £7.7m KPMG – Due diligence on APS
• £7.4m Blackrock – Valuation advice on APS
• £5.3m Deutsche Bank – Financial advice on a range of measures
• £5m Citi Financial – Advice on Aps
• £4.9m BDO Stoy Hayward – Valuation of Northern Rock
• £4.5m Goldman Sachs – Financial advice on Northern Rock
• £1.5m Morgan Stanley – Financial advice on Bradford & Bingley
• £2.5m Other advisers – Financial advice on a range of measures and proposals to revive Britain’s ailing economy.

In the USA President Obama has made the banks repay their debts. This has yet to happen in the UK – instead we are told that the Public Sector has to be cut to repay the Public Sector Debt!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

You Can't Trust The LibDems On Education

Before the general election Sarah Teather hailed the Lib Dems as the only opposition to academies and branded the Tories' free schools programme a "shambles."

Of course, that was then and this is now.

The recent LibDem Party Conference, in a scathing attack on a key LibDem/Conservative coalition policy, agreed that the schools were "socially divisive, detrimental to special needs pupils and a financial drain on comprehensives".

However, in a complete U-turn, the now Schools Minister Sarah Teather said that her party conference could decide what it liked, but only ministers made policy and that the Academies and Free Schools programme would go ahead.

She probably could have answered her own party conference in fewer words - it sounded like just two.

Will Tories Finally Disown Lord Cashcroft?

Will the Tories now disown thier former Deputy Chairman and mega-donor billionaire Lord Ashcroft?

In the past couple of days he has slammed David Cameron for blowing the general election, then avoided paying £3.4million in taxes, despite previously promising to pay full taxes in the UK - what happened to "we are all in this together"?

According to Ashcroft, Cameron should have won a "thumping" victory instead of blundering into a coalition. Ashcroft also whinged that Cameron did not stick up for him enough when he was under attack over his non-dom tax status.

Perhaps Ashcroft is feeling sore after giving the Conservatives £15million to buy the election, he and his money are no longer needed. He delivered his damning assessment on Cameron in his book Minority Verdict.

But he criticises Cameron for letting slip a 20-point poll lead over Labour and asked: "Why did it not translate into a thumping majority?" He blamed the Tory's leader's failure to explain what he stood for and his decision to take part in TV debates. Many voters had little clear idea of what we stood for or what we intended to do in government."

He also made it clear he felt let down by Cameron after it emerged he was a non-dom who eased the nation's tax take on his vast fortune by stashing it mostly abroad. Labour said he had reneged on assurances given in 2000 that he would pay UK taxes when made a life peer.

Ashcroft wrote "It did prove to me that the Labour attack team was more effective than the Conservative defence team. They could have mounted a more spirited defence."

Monday, 27 September 2010

It's Ed Miliband - Yes!!

There's already been a load of hogwash about Ed Miliband having been elected by "the unions". Thankfully John Smith ablolished the "block vote" in 1993. Sadly, though, he didn't push through the "one member, one vote" system, so Labour once again laid itself open to the superficial political analysis we've seen over the last couple of days, quickly repeated by the ignorant, unthinking or just plain biased.

The fact that the votes of 264 MPs could have the same influence as 126,312 constituency members, let alone the 206,640 individual members of various associations (yes, including trade unions) has always appeared odd to me. At that ratio, 1 MP = 478 branch members = 783 society members - with all due respect,that ain't right.

But more to the point, all MPs should also be constituency members and some, even today, be members of a trade union. That person, would get 3 votes (of differing value) in the election. Some might even get 5 or 6 votes. Why? That's not a particularly good system is it?

However, now that's all said and done. I'm delighted that the disasterous Brown and Darling era is finally over and that the right Miliband brother has won. David Miliband had several chances to get rid of Brown, but always dithered and backed off. At least Ed had the guts to go for the leadership, even with his brother as the leading opponent.

Anybody who under-estimates Ed Miliband - be they Tories, journalists or, yes, trade unionists - would be foolish to do so. (I couldn't resist this from the New Statesman)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Our Man In Australia

An old friend currently living in Australia has sent me this story.

Essentially it describes how a strong push to appoint former LibDem party leader Menzies Campbell to the post of High Commissioner in Canberra has been frustrated by fears that a by-election in his North East Fife parliamentary seat could seriously embarrass his party and destabilise the British government.

And this after just three months! The LibDems are running scared of losing poor old Ming's seat in Scotland (which had a majority of over 9,000 votes in May) and denying him a few last days in the sun.

Mean and frit, frit, frit!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Clegg: Popular With Tories But Not Mums

Thanks to Richard Willis for highlighting the latest poll which shows that Clegg is now more popular with Tory supporters than with LibDems.

The new Ipso-Mori poll for Reuters shows that the Conservatives have hung on to their full vote share from the general election, but that a swing towards Labour has come solely from the LibDems.

Clegg's net satisfaction rating is 20% points higher among Conservative supporters than supporters of his own party. Martin Boon, an experienced pollster at ICM, says that he can't recall any other occasion where a leader has been less popular among his own tribe than those of another party. He describes it as "an extraordinary development", and adds that as the LibDems have already "haemorrhaged support to their left" it is even more striking to find that "the rump of loyalists are less keen their own man than the Conservatives seem to be".

Meanwhile Clegg took a pasting last week on Mumsnet, with the follwoing typical of his reception:

"I voted LibDem at the last election. Prior to the election, our LibDem candidate came round canvassing and I asked him "What will the LibDems do in the case of a hung parliament? I don't want to vote for you and end up having voted for a Tory government". He told me the LibDems would NOT be 'king-makers' and that in our area, only the Liberal Democrats to beat the Tories, so the only way to keep out the Tories was to vote Lib-Dem.

So I feel pretty bad now, that I was so let down by a party that has become regressive in its economic policies. And I am becoming increasingly tired of hearing LibDem ministers saying they had changed economic policies just after the election 'because of Greece'. Greece is a different country with a different economy. You changed policy because you wanted power, you wanted to be the first Liberals in government for decades."

In the end, Clegg could only plead he isn't a Tory - yeh, right!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Clegg’s LibDems Have Spent Their Capital In Its Entirety

This article caught my eye about the public's changing reaction to Clegg and his coalition party. It's worth a read, but here are a few extracts:

"Chancellor George Osborne will reveal the results of his comprehensive spending review on October 20. The results, however presented – necessary, fair, unavoidable, progressive and the rest – are certain to be brutal. Then the LibDems will have some explaining to do.

Those who succumbed to Cleggmania did not vote for this. The aim, now all but explicit, is to level the public sector once and for all.

Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron at least have an ideological purpose. It is coherent, as far as it goes, and consistent. The LibDems have no such excuse. As they prepare a return to the ethos of private wealth and public squalor that so disfigured the 1980s – any news on banking reform? – they stand exposed as a confused and divided party.

The polls, bad enough now, will get worse. The AV referendum will be lost less because the reform offered is pitiful than because trust in Mr Clegg, Vince Cable and the rest will have evaporated.

Forget the philosophical positions. The public sector may represent a deplorable culture of dependency ripe for Danny Alexander’s Treasury axe, if you believe the cant, but it also contains a fair slice of the electorate in these parts. That’s people, fearful for their jobs, who are not stupid – witness that poll – and who possess both memories and a vote.

Mr Clegg has supplied no answer. After decades spent demanding the chance to show its mettle in government, his party has expended its capital, moral and intellectual, in the space of months. The baby has gone. The bath water is murky and cold."

I have to say, this is beginning to chime with what I am picking up around the streets in Redlands.

UPDATE: Some younger readers have asked me to explain the photo: here's another clue - and we know how that ended!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Redlands LibDems Have Disappeared

Redlands LibDems are fond of telling us that they are "working for Redlands all the year round" and their supposed use of modern means of communication.

Sad to see, therefore, that their website tells us that:

* Daisy was talking to residents, posted 349 days ago
* The next ward surgery at St Lukes will be on 12 September 2009, posted 382 days ago
* And they will be in Hexham Road on 18 July 2009, posted 424 days ago.

Since the May 2010 elections they've only posted on 3 days - on 14 May, 11 June and 1 July - no "In Focus" newsletters - hardly much like keeping in touch is it?

All over us before an election, then they get power and disappear into the Civic Offices.

Friday, 10 September 2010

You Can't Trust The LibDems On University Fees

It is said that Nick Clegg and all the other Lib Dem MPs, including Vince Cable, who signed the NUS Pledge to vote against any an increase in student tuition fees may soon regret making this a big issue at the last general election.

Lord Browne's review of university finances is strongly believed to favour allowing tuition fees to increase up to £7,000 a year.

This is what Nick Clegg said before the election:

"Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign. Despite the huge financial strain fees already place on Britain's young people, it is clear both Labour and the Conservatives want to lift the cap on fees . . . The Liberal Democrats are different. Not only will we oppose any raising of the cap, we will scrap tuition fees for good, including for part-time students . . . Students can make the difference in countless seats in this election. Use your vote to block those unfair tuition fees and get them scrapped once and for all."

If he abstains on the matter - as laid out in the coalition agreement - rather than actively opposing any fee increase, Clegg will be hoping that students don't remember his boastful promises! The price of power?