Monday, 30 May 2011

Shoesmith, Balls & process

Agreeing with Ed Balls about anything may seem strange, but his decision to sack Sharon Shoesmith was correct. What a pity then, that he abandoned normal procedure in the way that he did it, laying himself open to this week's successful - and morally wrong - legal appeal. We now almost certainly face a compensation claim by an arrogant and incompetent (according to Ofsted) public servant with little or no conscience, now playing the victim.

The truth is that Labour built their centralised top-down state around procedure - of which the distorting impact of targets was the most obvious result. No doubt, in the case of 17 month old baby Peter, all the procedural boxes were ticked, all Sharon Shoesmith's department knew everything required of them about diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism. They just failed to prevent his death. At every miserable stage.

In Labour's legalistic society - remember them actually legislating to halve the deficit as if that would make it disappear? - procedure was more important than morality. Process was more important than people. Sharon Shoesmith says "You cannot stop the death of children" and "I don't do blame". She is the embodiment of everything that Labour's senior managers stood for. Devoid of conscience, humanity and of course responsibility for the department she lead.

And Mr Balls? His behaviour too was exactly what we have come to expect of the Labour party. They of course, enjoyed a "clunking fist" as their leader. Mr Balls was just another bully. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The rape of Ken Clarke...

I hear a lot of commentators misrepresenting Kenneth Clarke's comments on rape by taking them out of the context of the interview and purposely misunderstanding the words he used. Clarke did not for instance, say that women were in any way responsible if they were drunk, which some commentators have implied - in fact, drinking did not come up in the interview with Victoria Derbyshire at all. So to imply that Clarke said so is just lazy sensationalism.

Clarke did made the mistake of using sloppy language - of using the term 'serious', which people are taking to mean grave or worth worrying about, when he actually meant rape with 'aggravating factors' such as violence, pre-meditation or sadistic intent.

Far from saying that there is a scale of rape, with date rape at the bottom, he said some date rapes are indeed just as 'serious' - meaning date rape can and often is violent and should be treated in the same way as a random park rape (or as Clarke unfortunately put it, a 'proper, serious rape').

Clarke continually tried to stop the presenter from reducing his policy to a tabloid headline, but everyone is doing quite a good job of reducing the interview in the same way. Clarke never said it was less serious if you know your attacker, or if it was a date rape, or any other type of rape. He tried to stop Victoria Derbyshire from using the average sentencing figures (she suggested 5 years) because he said they included figures for statutory rape, which could include consensual sex between an 18 and a 15 year old - legally rape of course because we need to protect people under the age of consent, but anyone who wants to argue that this is the same as a violent rape is just plain foolish. Yes it is still rape and therefore subject to the same law and sentencing regime ('rape is rape is rape' as the presenter put it), but the fact that Victoria Derbyshire read out the judges sentencing guidelines which differentiate between the different circumstances within the crime of rape, shows exactly what Ken Clarke was attempting - rather poorly - to explain.

What a pity he was unable to articulate it better - particularly poor, coming from a Justice Secretary. And what a pity left wing BBC presenters are allowed to cynically manipulate poor expression to sensationalise and sex-up their own dossiers careers...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

People First for the Coalition

Or Labour can carry on being what it is now: risk-averse, ill-defined, dull and complacent in its assumption that the failings of the other side will coast them to power. Well, that worked a treat in Scotland, didn't it? suggests Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer, less than seven months after Ed Miliband became Labour's bright new leader.

Meanwhile, a salutary piece from Tim Luckhurst in the Mail as Labour's top-down, producer-interested elite prepare to take on the bottom-up reforms of the Coalition designed to put ordinary people at the heart of public services. As Lord Hutton - once at the centre of the New Labour cabinet that led similar reforms under Tony Blair - answers to the question what was New Labour's great achievement in public service reform?

The important achievement we had across a range of public services was to get through this very fundamental idea that introducing new providers (the private sector), zero tolerance for failure to deliver, for failure to perform, for poor outcomes, that we weren't just going to focus on who provides, we were going to represent first and foremost not the providers but the consumers of public services - that's the platform now which I hope the present government can build and can start really proper reforms of the public services.

Whether its academy's, welfare dependency, free schools, elected police commissioners or the NHS, Labour now finds itself on the side of producer interests and against the interests of the people with every major reform being proposed - despite the fact that most provide an evolutionary fit with New Labour's Blairite agenda. And with Clegg's big idea since super Thursday seemingly to oppose any reforms in the name of 'muscular liberalism', the LibDems, whose localism agenda provided the glue on which this Coalition's reforms were created, look perilously close to following suit.

As Tim Montgomery points out in an excellent piece in today's Telegraph over the past year, Clegg had appeared to reject the politics of the lowest common denominator, and backed bold reforms. Iain Duncan Smith regarded the Deputy Prime Minister as a decisive ally in his battle with the Treasury in overhauling welfare. The Lib Dems were also radical in switching the balance of educational funding from university to a child's first few years, when investment can make the biggest difference. On other issues, too – such as pensions, local government or lifting the poorest out of the income tax system – there was something exciting about the Coalition, and their contribution to it.

He concludes: Spending the next few years sniping at colleagues, navel-gazing about poll ratings and blocking vital reforms won't impress voters. Moreover, it will harm that other great hope of the Liberal Democrats: that experiencing the benefits of hung parliaments and coalition government will at last end the public's reluctance to vote for Britain's troublesome third party.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ed Miliband and leadership...

Interesting polling analysis from

A quiet triumph for the Coalition...

Labour told us nobody wanted it - not the parents, the pupils or the teachers. They told us the Unions would not wear it. They told us it would destroy our state education system.

Today, Michael Gove announced that more than 1000 secondary schools have applied to become academies - 240 in the last month alone. 647 have been approved. 384 have already converted. In the few short months since the Coalition's legislation was passed through the commons, a third of all secondary schools are either now academies, or in the process of becoming an academy. Schools are becoming academies at a rate of two every school day.

It seems that the education system has voted emphatically for the new reforms. What a triumph for Michael Gove and the Coalition government.

Monday, 9 May 2011

When Labour learns to love Tony Blair they will return to power...

First Polly Toynbee, now Jackie Ashley. Its turning out to be a bumper week for the political reality that is slowly dawning on the Labour party.

Tony Blair once said that the New Labour project would only be complete when the Labour Party learned to love Peter Mandelson. Naturally he assumed that after delivering three consecutive and hugely popular election victories, his own position would be unassailable. He also did not recognise the stupidity of the left.

Labour's problem is Tony Blair. The only Labour politician of our lifetime to have inspired a generation with his political vision and aspiration.

When Labour learn to love him, they will return to power.

The humiliation of the Yes campaign...

Really good analysis of the Yes2AV campaign from Liberal Vision. Well worth reading..

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The LibDems are being crucified by the left, Mr Cable, not the right...

As Vince Cable condemns the Tory attacks on Nick Clegg, he should be asking himself who exactly are his real enemies. In a perceptive blog, James Graham notes

A lot of Labour politicians are hellbent on a strategy that is about destroying the LibDems, even if it means effectively letting Cameron off the hook. There's no getting away from the fact that the LibDems are now seriously weakened, but what has that gained Labour? Look at Scotland. Labour let the Tories win the popular vote in England, which is an absolutely extraordinary failure.
You only have to read Polly Toynbee - doyen of the left and herself a former SDP member - to understand where such vitriol is coming from:And this is a view increasingly found across the left of British politics. The LibDems should never want power. Their job is to be a Labour party mark two - a chill out room for the main Labour event. A pale shadow of top-down, centralised, sclerotic socialism - but without the war in Iraq.
How badly they misunderstood the nature of their swelling support: they were a safe haven for voters not wanting tough choices, nice people with apolitical instincts, trusting Clegg's promised "new politics" would keep their votes clean from contamination. Had the Lib Dems stood apart and stood their ground, loudly opposing Tory plans, objecting to the savagery of the budget without quite bringing down the government, they might have kept their virginity.

In a well argued piece for Saturday's Guardian called The left is practically defined by people who hate Nick CleggAndrew Brown points out that on student fees - a cause seen by the left as the the LibDems greatest betrayal despite having been originally introduced by Labour against a manifesto committment 
the outcry against them comes from people who see themselves losing a privilege they had considered as a right. There's a word for that, and it's not "liberal"
He continues,
hatred of Clegg is concentrated on the fact that he betrayed some of the policies he ran on; but he did so because the country voted against them. That's democracy. Sometimes the majority is wrong. Sometimes it disagrees with you. But the majority still gets to decide, as the Lib Dems, in coalition, have discovered. There's no reason whatever that a party with 23% of the votes should get 100% of its programme through. The people who think it should are not being democratic.
As Olly Grender wrote in a piece entitled Don't Vote Against AV because you hate Nick Clegg, a week before the referendum 
both David Cameron and Nick Clegg will still be in the same jobs next week. A vote for or against AV won’t change that

It was published in the New Statesman and aimed squarely at the left - not the right.

The unpalatable truth, Mr Cable, is that the LibDems are being destroyed by the left. Just as Islam reserves the ultimate punishment for apostacy, the LibDems are being crucified by the left. Not the right.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Cable on Conservatives...

Ruthless, calculating and very tribal is how Vince Cable describes the Conservative party in an interview for Radio 4 this morning which immediately makes headline news for all the wrong reasons. If instead he had described the party as soft, woolly and disorganised, what do you imagine the reaction would have been? You just can't win...

The power of Primaries...

Among the more questionable arguments used by the Yes2AV campaign was that the system would make MP's work harder - having to appeal to an electorate beyond their core supporters. They would also have us believe that AV does away with MP's whose majorities are of such a size that they have a job for life. AV of course, does neither of these things. But although the arguments may be false, the intention to achieve both these outcomes would enhance our democratic system beyond recognition.

With The AV voting system now passed into history and with it any opportunity for major electoral reform anytime soon, the Coalition should be looking very carefully at open Primaries being held in each constituency at the mid-term point. Primaries are an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. These would have the effect of legitimising MP's with their local electorates, whilst ensuring that new candidates are able to put themselves forward through the open nature of such events. I am told that if primaries are tagged onto the back of other local votes - local authority, mayoral or even parish councils - the cost to each constituency of a postal vote is around £24,000 - around £15 million pounds across 650 constituencies nationally. A small cost to ensure MP's are popular, accountable and directly mandated by their electorate.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Hammering the LibDems

We believed, perhaps a little over-optimistically that the British people would understand the difference between compromise and betrayal says Paddy Ashdown after a night of fierce defeat for the LibDems in local elections up and down the country. We have yet to see any referendum results, but the omens do not look good. The party's eighty-year dream of electoral reform looks like remaining excatly that.

And the Conservative party that so meticulously negotiated, designed and forged that same national Coalition? Not a scratch. It seems that somewhere between goose and gander, equality has disappeared. Indeed the electorate have completely lost the plot.

The Coalition agreement generously awarded fully 70% of the LibDem's election manifesto and an estimated 60% of the Tory one. Not only were 59 LibDem MP's openly welcomed into every department of state as fully integrated Coalition partners - whilst many of the 312 Conservative MP's had to put ministerial careers on hold - a 'quad', comprising both Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, was set up to scrutinise all legislation before the Coalition made any policy committments. This, as with so many other inclusive and fully collegiate measures directly reflected the way this Liberal Conservative Coaltion was to be conducted. As well as destroying Labour's 'thick of it' macho political culture, the LibDems are given respect. Their views are valued. Their policies given far more weight than their numbers would suggest.

So when the junior, seemingly more progressive partner, is destroyed by the electorate whilst the major partner actually gains councillors, you have to ask why.        To be continued...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Miliband fails to deliver...

There was a sense that the royal wedding was a Tory Party broadcast in fancy dress and the first act in what may yet be a new Conservative century writes Mary Riddell finally beginning to realise how much of a mistake was the election of nice Mr Miliband.

Labour's #Yes2AV leader campaigned with LibDems's Huhne & Cable for a 'progressive majority' in favour of AV - with the latter two making all the running. Funny that, because implicit in the referendum is the need for each party leader to galvanise and deliver their party on the right side of the argument.

Both Clegg and Cameron have done exactly that, each enthusiastically arguing their case and commanding the overwhelming support of their party both for and against respectively. So the need for Miliband to deliver his 40% of the electorate and decide the outcome was paramount.

If the #No2AV campaign wins on Thursday, it certainly won't be Clegg's fault.