Archive for October, 2011

This Fox has been ripped to pieces, but his colleagues elude the hounds

21/10/2011, 02:47:55 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The blood lust of our “feral” media, combined with the unmistakeable whiff of a politician in distress, always ends the same way. But despite Liam Fox’s exit this remains quite simply, the luckiest government in living memory.

There have been no shortage of political scandals and pratfalls over the past 17 months that could have seen any number of Dr. Fox’s colleagues beat him to the ignominious honour of being the first cabinet minister kicked to Whitehall’s curb.

But Tory and Lib Dem ministers seem to be blessed with nine lives. Perhaps rabbits’ feet are handed out to ministers with their red boxes?

Take Andrew Lansley. Surely it is only a matter of time before a piano drops on his head? He has made a complete hash of the health bill, finding himself in the curious position of pleasing absolutely no-one with his proposals, yet he remains in situ.

And then there’s Michael Gove. Although he is a true Cameroon, of which great things were not unreasonably expected, his career has never quite been the same since he was pranged early on by Ed Balls, colliding into him over the scrapping of the building schools for the future programme. He wobbled, but has recovered, of sorts, only to now find himself caught up in revelations that he and his advisers operated a secretive email network, by-passing his department’s official channels. If compelled to publish the messages under freedom of information obligations, he may find he has strayed down a Fox-hole in terms of ministerial propriety.

Before Liam Fox, the previous holder of the dubious title “cabinet-minister-most-likely–to-resign” had long been held by energy secretary Chris Huhne. He has spent the past few months on the precipice of a resignation, as the excruciating half-life of his messy divorce sees both him and his ex-wife embroiled in an unseemly “he said, she said” squabble over one or the other’s penalty points for speeding. Although a fairly mediocre crime, in the grand scheme of things, it has acquired epic proportions given the energy secretary’s career is essentially being strafed by friendly fire.

Yet he clings on. Your average rhino resembles an Oil of Olay model in the skin suppleness stakes when measured alongside Huhne. His leader, however, is forced to develop a thick hide on the job. Nick Clegg has spent most of his 17 month tenure as deputy prime minister as a pariah. He is the unhappiest looking bloke in British politics, and with good reason; he is the most hated. He has scuppered the very essence of the Lib Dems’ brand by doing the coalition’s dirty work, and now his own constituency is set to be eviscerated in a pointless parliamentary boundary review he only signed up to in order the secure the doomed referendum on AV; yet he hangs on too.

But these are just the top-drawer near-death experiences of the coalition. There are another set of ministers who have had a close shave through good old-fashioned political bumbling. Take Ken Clarke’s howler of a radio interview about rape sentencing, coming on top of his faltering handling of his brief, which has seen Tory backbenchers turn puce at what they see is the forfeiting of their credibility on law and order due to Clarke’s leniency on sending criminals to jail.

Or Vince Cable’s silly self-aggrandising, bragging that he could bring down the government if he chose to by deploying his “nuclear option” as he sought to impress a couple of fetching young female undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph. Dufferish, old bloke failings, but indicative of senior politicians who have difficulty keeping their political antennae erect.

The last category is the weird and wonderful. Think of William Hague’s hotel arrangements. Or Oliver Letwin’s curious al fresco filing system. Or Caroline Spelman not being able to see the wood for the trees in relation to the flogging-off of national forestry management.

Any one or all of these ministers could have plausibly walked the plank during the course of the last year for either political or personal difficulties. Paradoxically, Liam Fox looked likely to become a cabinet mainstay. Meanwhile, the scalp to end all scalps, remains tantalisingly out of reach. For now.

The jet-black pelt of the chancellor is worth a dozen Fox skins. Osborne’s eventual embrace of a plan B for the economy warrants his resignation. The change of direction that will eventually come – and which Osborne puts off for the narrowest political considerations – should make his position utterly untenable.

Liam Fox will doubtless feel rather lonely as the first occupier of the cabinet’s sin bin. But he should content himself. He won’t be the last.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Matthew Collins’ war against hate

21/10/2011, 08:01:56 AM

by Dan Hodges

Matthew Collins is a Nazi. And a good friend.

Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. He used to be a Nazi. Back when he was young and angry and felt he was slipping off the world.

When I was young I was into a bit of politics and football and girls. This is what Matt was into:

“The little old ladies attempted to flee in terror but they had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. They were forced to cower together against the walls in united agonised anticipation of their bloody beating. Their own chairs were raised in slow motion against them. This was going to be a bloodbath”.

It was. And Matthew Collins perpetrated it. The description above relates to an attack he was involved in on a group of Asian pensioners at Welling library, in 1989. He was 17, and a member of the BNP.

The story of Matthew’s brutal assault is recounted in his new book Hate. I’m not usually into reviewing or plugging books. But you should stop reading now, shut down your computer, walk out the door, find a bookshop,  buy it and read it. Then you should  think about it.

Hate is about Matthew Collins’  journey; one that began that day in Welling, continued with his “defection” to the Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, and ended with him being in the forefront of the Hope not Hate campaign that saw the BNP routed from Dagenham and Nick Griffin subjected to his grotesque and glorious political humiliation. At some point over the next few months, the BNP will cease to exist as a political party. Its destruction will have been brought about, in no small part, by Matthew.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

My good friend Tony Gardner

20/10/2011, 07:30:57 AM

by Peter Watt

My good friend Tony Gardner died this week, aged 84 years old. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, but I kept in touch with how he was. He was the man who first really got me active in Labour politics and was a friend, mentor and supporter for many years. I know that I will miss his friendship. But I will always have fond memories of the pints of beer and conversation we enjoyed in The George and The Blue Boar.

We sat, supped, reviewed that evening’s canvassing and planned our assault on the political citadel of Poole borough council. His advice has stood me in good stead over the years, even if we never quite managed to take the borough chamber.

Tony was the Labour candidate in Wolverhampton South West in 1964, losing to Enoch Powell. He was elected to the House of Commons for the Rushcliffe constituency in 1966 and served for four years before losing to Ken Clarke in 1970. He stood again, unsuccessfully, in the two elections in 1974 in the Beeston constituency. He moved to Poole on the south coast and over the years he stood in countless local elections and then was Labour’s candidate at the 1994 European elections in the Dorset and East Devon Constituency. He once told me that he’d joined the Labour league of youth because its parties attracted the best girls. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Electoral registration is too important to be a lifestyle choice

19/10/2011, 02:24:51 PM

by Wayne David

It has been described as the biggest change in our voting system since the introduction of the universal suffrage in 1928. So far, however, it has failed to appear on hardly anyone’s political radar. This needs to change because if the government are able to get away with what they are proposing, it will have a hugely negative impact on British politics, with millions of people being unable to vote.

In the last parliament, the Labour government secured cross-party agreement for the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER). With the support of the independent electoral commission, the Labour government brought forward reasonable measures to modernise electoral registration and reduce the possibility of electoral fraud. The Tory-led government has taken these proposals, but then infused them with its own distinctive venom. The result is a set of proposals which profoundly undermine the nature of the country’s democratic process.

Under the government’s white paper and draft bill, which are to be discussed in the Commons today during a debate called for by Labour, it is proposed that the move towards IER should happen quickly. The result will be electoral confusion as the introduction of IER will coincide with both the general election and the next parliamentary constituencies boundary review. Right from the start, there will be a question mark over the new boundaries, as no sooner will the boundaries have been established, then they will be reviewed on the basis of a new and potentially very different electoral register. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Justice is a living thing: not something set out in a book

19/10/2011, 07:49:19 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, recently called the Mormonism of Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, “a cult”. In contrast, Jeffress endorsed Rick Perry, one of Romney’s rivals, as a “real Christian”.

Similarly, fears about a Catholic president were traded upon during John F. Kennedy’s White House run. As religion is a private matter, he retaliated; his religion would have no bearing on his presidential conduct. The philosopher Michael Sandel argues that Kennedy’s response was more than tactical.

“It reflected a public philosophy that would come to full expression during the 1960s and 70s – a philosophy that held that government should be neutral on moral and religious questions, so that each individual could be free to choose his or her own conception of the good life”.

This neutrality was central to John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Forty years on from its publication this remains one of the dominant texts in Anglo-American liberal philosophy. Tony Crosland conceded, shortly before his death in 1977, that the notion of equality advocated by Rawls was the same as that advanced in The Future of Socialism.

The first series of The Hour (a BBC attempt to go HBO about a BBC news show) opened a window on an ancient world. This series was set in the same year, 1956, as The Future of Socialism was published. Yet this book remains an integral part of any Labour thinker’s bookshelf. Given this centrality and the claimed agreement between Crosland and Rawls, it is curious that the communitarian critique of Rawls, led by Sandel, has made minimal impact on Labour thinking. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Politics – at least it keeps the weirdos off the streets

18/10/2011, 07:30:13 AM

by Tom Harris

As with many previous political scandals, it was my wife who offered a sane perspective.

“When you were a minister, you went on foreign trips, didn’t you”?

“A couple, yes”.

“Well, if you’d told me that you were taking our best man with you on one of them, I would have thought that was nice. But if you’d taken him on 14 of them, I would have asked if I could come instead on at least one of them”.

Which pretty much sums up how odd “Foxgate” (do we really have to call it that)? actually is. And how odd its main protagonist is.

Not that Liam Fox is any weirder than your average high-flying minister, because there’s something of the oddball in anyone who reckons that a career in politics is an acceptable way for a grown up to earn a living. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Cameron is far more interested in Fox’s job than your job

17/10/2011, 11:09:04 AM

by Michael Dugher

According to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, one Downing Street aide described the events of last week as “very weird”. Certainly the fall-out from Liam Fox’s resignation will continue to dominate events at Westminster this week, not least with the report of the inquiry into Dr Fox by the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, expected tomorrow.

Andrew Rawnsley correctly observed in his column that “in the grand scheme of things, most resignations from the cabinet don’t have a discernibly lasting impact. They only do so if the voters and media draw from them larger conclusions about the government”.  But the events of the last week were not just weird, but telling. And we have learnt a lot about both the character and conduct of David Cameron’s out of touch government.
Ed Miliband spent last week out and about. He visited businesses in Worcester, Southend and London, talking to apprentices and company directors about the big challenges facing our economy. Together with Ed Balls, he has launched a five point plan for jobs and growth which would help get Britain’s economy moving again.  In Parliament and outside, Labour has been challenging the Tory led-government to do more to help businesses and help get people back into work, so that we can reduce government borrowing and help build a better economy for the future. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The week Uncut

16/10/2011, 06:52:33 PM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

John Woodcock doesn’t like Cameron’s chances against Ed’s team

Peter Watt looks at the people behind the numbers

Matt Cavanagh on Cameron’s immigration speech

Dan Hodges drops in his thoughts on Ed Miliband between jobs

Rob Marchant gets carried away with Star Trek references

Jonathan Todd goes in search of common sense socialism

Kevin Meagher finds himself a little full after the leader’s speech

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour should champion good “producer” journalism

16/10/2011, 09:17:23 AM

by Carl Packman

At the start of last week many people were tuning in to watch the Lords debate the health and social bill. But at the same time, the House of Lords communications committee hosted a hearing attended by Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, the Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger and investigative journalist Nick Davies.

Up for discussion was what Roy Greenslade, writing for the Evening Standard, noted as the three things that haunt journalism: budget constraints, press freedom and regulation and libel laws. On the first of those, Alan Rushbridger mentioned that 70% of what is seen in the Guardian can be found free online, while in ten to 15 years’ time many towns will be without a local newspaper. For the most part, the panel were at pains not to do down the work of unpaid bloggers and citizen journalists. But, as they were keen to address, investigative reportage often costs money and takes time that volunteers often don’t have.

On the second thing to haunt journalism today – press freedom – Ian Hislop complained that Article 8 of the human rights act, respect for private and family life, has too much swing against Article 10, the freedom of expression. Nick Davies fantasised about throwing defamation law “in the river” and starting again “with a blank slate with statute law”. Balancing the right to privacy with free speech is one issue, but the other is how this fares in the eyes of the law. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Finucane should shock and appall us – and compel us to act

14/10/2011, 05:24:15 PM

by Kevin Meagher

A family sits down to dinner on a dark Sunday evening. They hear the sound of breaking glass from the front hall. The parents jump up to see what has happened. They find a man dressed in black standing in the hallway. The father slams closed the glass kitchen door in a bid to keep the intruder away from his family. A bullet smashes the glass and the father – shot – falls to the floor.

The intruder enters the kitchen and stands over the wounded man. His terrified wife and three young children look on. The gunmen calmly takes aim and opens fire, pumping round after round into the man’s broken and bloodied body. He is shot 14 times in all; with five bullets entering his head. A ricocheted bullet strikes his wife in the ankle.

Screams and smoke fill the air. The gunman, composed throughout, leaves. Job done. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon