Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Calamity or Saviour ?

So Clegg is the winner for the Lib Dems but will he be the herald of a new resurgence or the caretaker of the remaining decline?

One thing that has been completely absent from the LD leadership contest has been any clue about which way each leader will take their party.

Most agree that the Liberals must decide whether they are going to carry on appealing to the 'anyone but the Tories' voters as they have been doing since the late 1980's or start to develop policies that will attract the growing band of 'anyone but Labour' voters - especially in the Northern counties of England that may hold the key at the next election.

The problem is that two thirds of their Parliamentary seats, including this one, are held by MP's who have depended on tactical voting by Labour supporters (voting 'anyone but the Tories) and to keep those voters on board Clegg needs to sound reassuringly left wing.

The trouble is, that is the complete opposite of what he will need to do if he wants to motivate Tory voters in tight Lib Dem/Labour marginals to support his party instead of a third-placed Conservative candidates.

Given that Cleggs own seat (Sheffield Hallam) is a former Tory stronghold don't bet on a sudden change of direction anytime soon. Expect a Lib Dem 'hunker down' policy designed to hang on to as many of the former Tory seats as possible.

Whether Clegg is the man to do this successfully or not remains an open question.

Have a good Christmas, the site may not be updated again for a few days, now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What will Gordon be praying for this Christmas?

Todays newspapers are yet more very grim reading for the beleaguered PM.

In one fell swoop is antics in Europe yesterday have completely alienated both sides of the European debate.

Anti-Europe campaigners and newspapers like the SUN are angry because he has gone ahead and signed the new Treaty without the promised referendum; but pro-Europeans are now also livid because of the cowardly manner in which Brown failed to turn up for the official signing ceremony, instead arriving later in the day for a low-key affair on his own. This was as graphic a demonstration of our debilitating half-in and half-out attitude to the EU as one could imagine.

But the bad news doesn't stop there. Questions are today being asked about two very important events this summer that the new Prime Minister has used as 'foundation stones' for his new administrations purported competence; dealing with the floods and the foot and mouth outbreak.

1) The Audit Commission has criticised the Government for it's response to the summer floods, saying said the way the funds were allocated had not been well thought-out. The commission warned the unpredictability of the government's response meant people were likely to be left either exposed by councils that under-insure, or out of pocket by those that insure unnecessarily.

2) The Institute of Animal Health research has concluded that the second foot and mouth outbreak was a a direct consequence of the Government failing to effectively contain the first one.

All through the Autumn the Labour spin machine has been telling us how well Brown had coped with 'issues' like these now we have independent proof that this was simply not true.

And last but by no means least we also have evidence that far from being neatly resolved by a sale to the Virgin Group, the Northern Rock crisis may be getting worse, with stories emerging of the bidders being unable to fund their takeover plans. The crisis may only eventually be sorted out by full nationalisation of the bank with the taxpayer forking out many more tens of billions of pounds and being 'in hock' for decades.

I'd have thought the one thing Gordon Brown will want this Hogmanay is some hope of good news, from somewhere, about something, for 2008.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My fourth Christmas Party weekend awaits.

With still another fortnight to go before Christmas actually arrives I enter this weekend happy in the knowledge that I will eat at least one and probably two turkey dinners.

The Classic Car Club, Torbay Hospitality Association, Paignton Conservatives, Paignton Club, Torbay Conservatives, and IIRC, Kingsbridge Conservatives have so far catered excellently for me this season to which I have to add the MEP's lunch, the Candidates dinner, my firms London Christmas reception; the Honiton office luncheon, the works firm do next weekend, my wifes clients dinner (x2) and then the usual round of dinner with my family and my wife's family all of which will be (probably) turkey and hats all round.

So by Boxing day I will have been offered somewhere in the region of 15 Christmas dinners, easily more than last year - and in fact more than I used to have to eat when I worked in the hotel trade at Christmas!!

And the worst of it is I don't like turkey, or Brussels sprouts, or carrots, or mince pies. So if I come to your organisations Christmas dinner and choose the fish or vegetarian option please don't be offended.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why MP's must say NO again.

28 days might not sound a long time to be incarcerated when it's bandied about in conversation but imagine if you can being held in a cell like this for four weeks without necessarily knowing why you are there.

Imagine being picked up off the streets and stuck in a cell like this one (a remand cell) and then repeatedly interviewed day in and day out by determined police inspectors yet without having been charged with an offence. Are you sure you wouldn't end up admitting to something you didn't actually do, just to get it over with?

That is what has already happened to two innocent people already under our existing anti-terror legislation, and there may be others yet.

Under the latest Home Office proposals this could be extended to nearly two months. Put that in context, a six month prison sentence - such as which would be given for sex offences, violent assault or serious robbery would mean about the same time served 'inside'.

No I'm not a human rights softie but I cannot support a law that would undermine such a basic principle of our justice system.

The evidence everywhere is that this power has not been asked for by anyone other than the Met Police. The CPS say it's not necessary, the last Attorney General said it's not necessary and even the Police cannot point to a single occasion where they have needed the current 28 weeks.

It's more 'war on terror' scaremongering and even Labour MP's should be strong enough to say 'NO' for a second time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Britains latest 'hazard' - Angel Wings.

The latest fiasco to come from the health and safety madness at the moment hails from our own neck of the woods.

There was national press coverage for the pupils at Sacred Heart , RC Primary in Paignton, who were told that their little angels would not to be allowed to wear wings at the nativity Play this Christmas because of the dangers involved.

It was decided that candles in the church could, under certain circumstances, set the festive costumes on fire, or scratch sensitive little arms and so on balance it was decided to ban them.

Headmistress Linda Mitchell said the school made the decision after a "risk assessment". She said: "It is to do with health and safety. You have to be so careful nowadays."If the children are carrying candles there's a danger if they turn suddenly."

Mrs Mitchell added that in last year's nativity play pupils suffered scratches from the wings. She said: "Last year we had wings made from cardboard and flammable material, some children got scratched. The other teachers agreed it was sensible not to have wings."

Society is capable of periodic 'health and safety' madness.

The law that required people to walk in front of Motor Cars carrying a red flag is a good example, but currently things have got completely out of hand.

Partly this has happened because of council guidelines requiring managers and those in authority to take a few moments to actively think about what might go wrong in certain situations in an effort to be 'pro-active'. It's born from the fear of legal action after something has gone wrong; damages are mitigated if it can be proved that reasonable steps were taken to avoid accidents.

The problem is that this is a bit like going to the doctor and asking him what illnesses you might contract over the next year, almost whatever he said you would come away a complete hypochondriac.

Perhaps the law on damages needs a fresh visit and maybe the no-fault no-fee ambulance chasing lawyers need a bit of regulation, too.

But best of all would be to have more of our public service and local authority managers empowered to make decisions of their own rather than managing 'by the book' all the time.

Managers who felt more trusted by their bosses might just be a bit more inclined to use plain old common sense in these situations.