Mind the Gaffe…

28 04 2010

In two days there has been two stories about two of  the men who would be Prime Minister. Neither reflect particularly well on the candidates, but Cameron seems to have escaped the media barrage which has firmly, and perhaps finally, destroyed the Labour Party. Even though Brown put a lot into the repair work following the ‘bigot’ remark, one cannot help but feel that in one small moment, a seemingly private moment, Brown revealed his true self to the nation.

I have long been a sceptic of Brown’s public persona. I have heard rumours of a fearsome temper, one which can be particularly short. Of course ‘his people’ do their best to mask this trait, and whilst the attempts to dress him up as warm and likeable seem destined to struggle, the effort is there on their part. So it was meant to be demonstrated today, and, in large parts of the meeting it was. He had most of the answers to Mrs Duffy’s questioning. He was inquisitive and friendly, asking how her grandchildren were dong at school. He looked damned uncomfortable, but he was doing what his rivals seem to find easy. The wolf was tarting up well in its new sheepskin clothing.

And then he threw it all away. As the leader of the Labour Party he is meant to be both accountable for and representative of the party as a wider whole. If this is what his party thinks of Joe Public then heaven help all of us. I realise, of course, that it isn’t what the party think of Joe Public, but that is what the newspapers and media outlets will run with. And that is what people will care about. A PM who isn’t willing to listen to his public. A PM who is willing to cast slurs on widows. Not even the apology was convincing. He apparently ‘misunderstood’ what Mrs Duffy had said. Except that, of course, being the intelligent guy he is, he hadn’t. He knew and understood everything that occurred. The trouble was that the only way out was to cast himself down, making it seem like he was not worthy of having a conversation with her. Like she was operating on some sort of higher educational level to him. She wasn’t, of course. She was, seemingly, a typical voter with typical concerns. The Labour Party as a whole should be concerned that for a party so defined by its concern for Joe Public, its leader does not seem to share that concern. The public wooing of the electorate seems so forced by Brown. He wants to get on with things. It’s like a particularly snobbish person coming into the shop where I work and treating me like I’ve just climbed out of a bin. It seems as though there is an air of it being almost beneath him to talk to the public. Or maybe I’m just reading it wrong.

The trouble is for the Labour Party, there is no-one to replace him. All the candidates are limited, and, in the case of Ed Balls, pretty unlikeable. When the election is lost the Labour Party will collapse, firstly into two factions (those who support Brown, and those who don’t). Then this will sub-divide further as those vying for consideration throw their hats into the ring. The party has become stale. It is no longer the voice of the working people it once was. If any further evidence is needed of this fact, just look at how the Conservatives are campaigning, using many of the traditional Labour watchwords. I wrote many, many months ago that the Labour fightback had already begun. It has. However, for the party there is likely to be a long period of grey days before there are any sunny ones.

On a lighter note, if you haven’t seen Newsnight’s musical campaigns, then you’ve missed a trick. Check out the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem songs designed to promote politics and voting to a younger audience. Especially check out the croquet playing Tory rappers. I kid thee not.

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The Choice…

7 04 2010

So I sit here having just submitted another job application. Whilst I do not fall into the “record youth unemployment” that Mr Brown has apparently created, I am, as most are, feeling the effects of the past few years. Finding work is difficult, yes, but there is something even more difficult approaching us. The question of who to vote for.

This will be the first general election that I am eligible to vote in. I missed the last one by a few months. So I feel that I should be feeling a sense of excitement. A sense of knowing that finally I am able to have a say in the country beyond local elections. A sense of arrival into the adult world of taxes and crime and pensions and housing.

But I’m not. I’m feeling disillusioned. I’m feeling like I don’t particularly want to vote on 6 May. I know I will vote, of course I will. But I don’t know who I will vote for. I know it will not be Labour, I’m frustrated by Brown and his ‘old guard’ who seem intent on red-taping everything that can physically be taped. That choice isn’t particularly hard.

The question is, should I vote Tory? I could, I mean, it seems to be the ‘easy’ thing to do. It’s probably the only rational choice if I’m keen on really having a say on who governs. But there’s something making me pause. Something holding me back from casting off my youth and throwing myself into the arms of Cameron et al. Something which looks like this. And I really don’t like it. Negative campaigning is as destructive to yourself as it is to the opposition. It reinforces the idea that the Tories don’t have all that much to say. It reinforces the idea that this election is not about ideas, but about personality. Most of all, it reinforces the idea that the Tories are desperate. They know they’ve lost significant ground in recent months, and are now trying to play with the suggestion that it’s pointless, and, by implication, dangerous to vote for the other guy.

But of course there’s more than one ‘other guy’. Ask Nick Clegg. There’s always that option too. Voting for the Lib Dems. Middle of the road politics with little hope of achieving much beyond a parliamentary footnote. That could be an ‘easy’ vote too. Except then of course, in the event of a hung parliament (one caused, of course by my own indecisiveness), the Lib Dems suddenly have all the cards. They probably would throw their weight behind Cameron, but the parliament would be weak, and probably even more of a threat to economic recovery. That might not happen if I stick with the Tories. If enough people like me realise that not voting Tory would hinder us in the mid/long term, then perhaps we could avoid a problematic hung-parliament situation.

Of course I could play my own moral card. I could vote for the Greens. I’d feel better in that I’d be lending my voice to a specific cause. However then there’s the issue of throwing my vote away, because, in all likelihood, the Greens are going to achieve nothing in the election. The sense of feeling ‘adult’ and concerning myself with taxes and crime and pensions and housing would be gone, stripped from me for the next five years. By that time, of course, there may be a clear path, someone who has said something which has made me sit up and listen. Something which has really made me think that they are the right person to support as they are the person who is engaging with the things I’m concerned with. Then again, there may not be that path, and my hope for feeling ‘adult’ may not happen for another ten years. Or fifteen. Suddenly I’m at the point where my mid-life crisis has hit and politically I’m still not feeling ‘adult’ as the things which the politicians should be speaking to me about are not being said.

And so the choice is a hard one. The options and implications are not good enough for me whatever path I choose. The Tories don’t fill me with confidence, and whilst I’m more optimistic about a government under Cameron than I am under Brown, this is only, for me, the lesser of the two evils. It’s like being optimistic that you’re only going to get burned by your toaster this month, as opposed to your toaster and your kettle last month.

There is of course, one final option. I could turn up, put a cross in all the boxes, leave my paper spoilt and feel that I’ve made my own political point. Ultimately meaningless, of course, but it would be my own message to the politicians. Except that this feeling of rebelliousness would fade very quickly, and the feeling of regret that my determination to pass into the land of the ‘adult’  has been ruined by a petulant act of teenage rebellion would stick around for all of the next five years.





Sporting Gimmick?

29 03 2010

I’m going to write two football related pieces today, simply because I can. Later I shall have a think about the Premier League’s issues and outcomes (winners, losers etc) but for now I want to pass some form of comment on this story, already dismissed by the Conservatives as an election gimmick.

Basically, Labour are suggesting that football clubs should be made more accountable to their fans and that these fans should be able to buy up to 25% of their club to prevent the levels of debt and financial ruin which are blighting numerous clubs up and down the country. The plans are, apparently, still under consideration, which seems to be short for “we know these are going to be practically impossible to implement, but we’ll say we’re looking at it anyway to see if that gives us a polling kick”.

Aside from the sheer impractical nature of forcing the shareholders to sell their stakes in individual clubs to a wide pool of ‘fans’, this proposal seems to ignore the fact that by creating thousands of new shareholders, the clubs would become harder to run in the long term. There seems to be little hope that this idea is a go-er. Instead, I find myself agreeing with the Tories that this is simply an election gimmick, one designed to win favour with the middle and lower class men who traditionally occupy the terraces up and down the land.

Which leads me onto the question of whether sport in general should be used to score political points? If Labour are going to harp on about making football more accountable for its money, should we not also look at the continually spiralling costs of the 2012 games? Should we not ask what Labour, or indeed, any political party are doing for the rugby world? Or the cricketing world? Should we not ask why the FA, UEFA, or FIFA are not publicly looking for solutions to the financial problems, yet politicians apparently are?

Of course football should work in the ‘real’ world, and not in it’s own isolated bubble of financial irresponsibility. However, the problems will not be solved by gimmicky plans such as the one suggested by Labour today. They will be solved by strict and stringent guidelines produced from within the sport, by the governing bodies, and not by enforcing regulations from the outside with the short-term hope of appearing to be receptive to the sport. Football must alter itself, it must look at what is happening from a financial point of view and it must change. It cannot do this by simply enforcing political guidelines on one nation.





To Coup With Too Few…

9 01 2010

I really don’t want to say anything about this weeks farcical Labour story, frankly it’s laughable and probably pretty embarrassing for most involved with the party. All I wish to do is to bring your attention to an editorial in the Indy on Thursday. It’s a pretty accurate summation of the situation the Labour party find themselves in, and, if I recall rightly, pretty close to something I wrote a while back. The article is here to read.





Televise That…

5 09 2009

And so, it seems, I was wrong. In part. And it’s not often I say that. I wrote, back in July that Mandleson was considering a TV debate, and how it’s something I would like to see, but not something I thought would happen as I didn’t think Brown or the Labour party would fare well out of it. Nor did I think the Lib Dems would get a look in.

Then I saw an advert today whilst watching Sky Sports, it was on behalf of Sky News, and it encouraged me to sign a petition. Now I sit up a bit when I see such requests on TV in advert form, as it is obvious that some thought has gone into this advert, rather than a chain email being passed around. The petition, available here to sign, is for a live TV debate with the three main political leaders. Apparently, since it was set up at the start of this month, Clegg and Cameron have both agreed, in principle, to the idea. Brown, as I suppose we’ve come to expect, is dragging his heels.

I’ve just put my name to it, and it seems I was the 6861st person to sign the petition, which goes to show just how popular this thing is. Which returns me to my original humble thoughts. I was wrong, I didn’t think this thing would happen. However I’m delighted to say I was wrong as it means that there will be some form of political engagement on a national level where the credentials of the party leaders are examined and scrutinised. From here the nation as a whole can begin to judge who the next PM should be. This is an important step on the road towards public re-engagement, it should be the first step of many made by MP’s over the course of the next few months.





Discriminate This…

9 08 2009

So our esteemed temporary leader (with Harman out of the country the buck stops with him) Lord Mandleson has announced he is considering the idea of giving poorer students a grade boost to help them compete for places at top universities.

This is rubbish.

All this idea does is confirm the view that there is a problem with access to education. It does nothing to provide a sensible long-term solution to the matter. It is yet more proof that positive discrimination is live and kicking in the UK at the moment. I have written about this before, and it is still something which really irks me.

Ok, so there is a problem with who has access to various levels of education. Again, I have written about the growing pressures on the university system before. However, a short-term, blind-sighted view that Mandleson appears to be appropriating here seems so painfully naive. It is simply a quick fix, designed more as a vote winning suggestion than anything substantial to do with policy. I say that for two reasons. The first is simple, the Labour party need all the votes they can get at the up-coming election. By throwing this into the water, they have something with which to attract voters back with.

The second reason seems equally simple, but therein lies my own concerns. It is simply that the idea seems very unconsidered. As the BBC article points out, there is a whole middle group of society who will suffer more from this idea and will be outcast from the better universities simply because there would be a quota of poorer students who ‘have’ to go to any given university. Finally there is the problem of what to do with those richer students/families who study hard, get good grades but have to go to universities lower in the rankings simply because the government has decided that it needs a greater social mix at the top universities.

The suggestion is ludicrous, and shouldn’t get any further than this. However, it will, if not in this form, then in some other. And it will remain stupidly annoying. Positive discrimination is here to stay as long as the Labour party decree it so and lead by such a poor example. It will never, ever solve any problems, and will always be a short-term solution to a larger, longer-term issue. It is nothing more than a daub of paint casually thrown at a wall to hide the two-foot wide crack.





Turmoil and Rationality…

5 06 2009

Apparently, following the departures of four members of the Government in the past four days, Gordon Brown’s time as British premier are numbered. It is apparent that the Labour Party are in turmoil, they are suffering in the local elections (I am writing this before the results are all in, but the early results do not seem good for Labour), they are suffering in the media, and, depending on what you read, they are suffering thanks to their backbenchers. The overall problem is that they are suffering. And, according to some sensationalist parts of the media, and a growing number of public voices, the only solution left is for Brown to walk away from the post he coveted for years.

This is irrational, illogical, and as far as I can see, will not happen. These may prove to be famous-last-words, but Brown will only leave No.10 when the results of a general election have seen him off. And, seeing as how he has the choice of when to call an election, I simply do not expect this to be any time soon. To my mind it makes no sense for him to call an election from his point of view. He wanted this job for years, and now he’s got it, he won’t give it up without a fight (which, according to Simon Carr in Thursday’s Independent, he has “got the hang of” now). Why call an election when he is suffering badly?

From a party point of view it makes little sense either, why call an election when you are guarenteed to be hammered pretty much everywhere, thus making the (presumably) Conservative majority even stronger? Would it not make sense to wait until 2010, ride out this storm, recover some ground somewhere, and really give the election fight a good go, thereby making some dents in the Conservative majority?

The other point is that there really does not seem to be anyone to take up the post. Alan Johnson has made a good job of distancing himself from the position, despite rumours persisting that he would be the most likely to succeed should Brown make way. Other names, such as Cuddas, the Milibands or Balls, hold only bit-part support. There is not much in the way of other options for the Labour party.

The public may want an election now, but this is the result of two things. The first is the media, who have been driving this frenzy pretty much since the Telegraph broke the first expenses story. The second is public naivity. They want to have a say in who is actually running the country, rather than watch someone, who was, in their mind, unelected, blunder his way from problem to problem. They do not seem to understand that a party was elected to govern, rather than an individual.

To dam the cascading torrent of problems with a cabinet reshuffle seems to be akin to stopping up the Niagara Falls with a rotten branch. However, today Brown has brought forward the resuffle to divert some of the attention away from the local election results. The one key thing which stood out for me was that Alistair Darling remained as Chancellor. To my mind this makes sense from Brown’s viewpoint. It is obvious that the economy is in dire straits, by keeping the same guy in the position of Chancellor, this can dissipate the blame away from Brown. If he had appointed someone else, the blame-game consequences would have seen him take on more, rather than less, responsibility for the state of British finances. By keeping Darling, at least he can be consistant in sharing the load for the predicament.

These are testing times for Brown and the party as a whole. The Telegraph revelations have now written their way into the history books. The results of these revelations are still being written.