Monday, 28 February 2011

The wisdom of Peter Kelner

Isn't there a flower at Kew gardens that lives for two or three hundred years without flowering, suddenly flowers, gives off a terrible smell and then dies? asks Peter Kelner - president of YouGov, a supposedly independent polling organisation - gleefully likening it to the future of the LibDems on this week's podcast from Guardian politics.

I well remember the same Peter Kelner almost crying on election night in 1992 as his polls - having predicted victory for Neil Kinnock - proved wrong and his beloved Labour party faced five more years of opposition.

He continues if I were Nick Clegg I would regard my time as Deputy Prime Minister as a fixed-term five year appointment and ponder life outside British politics after 2015.

Its nice to know that after all these years there's still plenty of balance from YouGov then...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Big Society

 Let optimism beat pessimism declared Cameron in one of his best remembered lines after taking on the party leadership in 2005 - Let sunshine win the day. Five years on, it seems those lines now define the political future for a generation. A call to arms - a statement of intent - whose purpose is to transform the very relationship between people and the state. For the first time since Lloyd George and another memorable coalition government which set the political course for the next ninety years - state pensions, welfare, social justice and universal sufferage - Cameron has set a new and radical agenda that puts people - and no longer producers - at the heart of government.
In office, Cameron is not only keeping that pledge to the British people, he is building it from the bottom up. Day by day, policy area by policy area, Cameron is transforming the relationship between people and the state in every area of political interaction. In education, free schools will be directly answerable to parents. In health, GP commissioning will put patients in control of their health service. In welfare, local government, policing and even the electoral system itself, people are being empowered in a way that must terrify the reactionary forces of top-down, bureaucratic and centralised control that so terrifyingly dominated the twentieth century.

From the left, no arguments are presented against the Big Society. It is seen simply as a cover for cuts - Labour's deficit cuts at that. Whilst charities say it is incompatible with the an age of austerity. And no wonder. These are Labour's children - nurtured by a profligate state swollen by the revenues of dishonest and incompetent bankers on whose sands the house of Labour were built. But as Rachel Sylvester wrote in yesterday's Times, just as Facebook seems pointless, or incomprehensible, to people brought up to communicate by letter or telephone, so the Big Society is hard to understand when viewed through the conventional political prism.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Prisoner voting rights

By 234 to 22 our MP's have voted to continue breaking the law over prisoner voting rights. Apparently it's a great victory for that paragon of civil liberty David Davis. And the result? - an estimated £200 million in fines for the UK taxpayer. Not the greatest result all round then. Especially since MP's voted against this measure in order to prove their independence from the European Court of Human Rights. Not because they believe prisoners should forego their voting rights whilst being held at her majesty's pleasure. After all, if that were the case, there would surely be concerted efforts to separate out remand prisoners - who are usually presumed innocent until otherwise proven - or perhaps prisoners awaiting immediate release into the community having already served their sentence. Or even prisoners who's sentence was less than the electoral period involved. That would seem to most reasonable people at least an attempt at natural justice.

If you want to change the authority of the ECHR then introduce the legislation to do so. Don't play around with the voting rights of British prisoners.