Posts Tagged ‘Cameron’

Why the Tories are rooting for Obama

29/10/2012, 10:28:36 AM

by Mark Stockwell

Each year, as autumn descends, nature-lovers’ thoughts turn to the russet and auburn vistas of New England. Every four years, an altogether different breed joins them in gazing longingly across the Atlantic as the leaves crispen and fall at home. But the only colours they care about are primary colours – red and blue.

With the end of the party conferences and the return to a dank, dreary Westminster, Britain’s political classes huddle round to bask in the reflected glow of a US presidential election.

The states of New England, for the most part solid blue Democrat territory, are but a passing concern. These peculiar beasts garner what warmth they can from the battleground states of the mid-West and the sunshine state of Florida.

With the axis of US politics tilted so far to the right, there are quite a few UK Conservatives who back the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. It is, on the other hand, vanishingly unlikely you will come across anyone on the British left cheering for a Republican.

There are all sorts of good policy reasons why both left and right in the UK should welcome the Obama victory which seems the likely outcome of next Tuesday’s poll. But if Labour is looking to Obama to win vicarious battles on deficit reduction, the size of government, or the role of the state in the provision of public services, they are missing an important point.

As a guide to its own electoral prospects, Labour should be cautious about celebrating Obama’s re-election.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The coalition is on life-support

13/12/2011, 10:12:36 AM

by Rob Marchant

“Mummy, what is that man for”? This exquisite, though probably apocryphal, comment from a small child has been variously said to be about many politicians over the years, including Herbert Asquith. But Asquith’s successor a century later, Nick Clegg, may suddenly be finding that a real and painful question, as he reflects on the wreckage of last week’s European summit.

But first, what happened: Cameron vetoed a treaty amendment on European integration, leaving the remaining countries no alternative but to set up a separate group which would implement the deal outside the EU. It was technically a veto, but only technically: it stopped nothing. The sticking point was said to be the financial transaction tax (FTT), an oddly unfair idea that a group of countries with relatively small financial sectors could jointly gang up to tax the one country which has an unseasonably large one, and which would certainly have damaged British interests. In that sense he was right to veto. Since the FTT is unfeasible without Britain, it was very likely a deliberate ploy by Sarkozy, as Ben Brogan suggests, to insist on this point which he knew Cameron could not accept, thus removing the “difficult” Cameron from the scene and clearing the way for an EU which might just have a chance of agreeing what it needed to agree.

However, this does not mean a triumph for Cameron – far from it. It is, as former Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, told John Rentoul, “the worst foreign policy disaster in my adult lifetime”. But not because of the FTT. It is a disaster because it should never have come to this. Sarkozy took this action precisely because he knew Cameron was hamstrung and would never co-operate. Rather than the EU limping around with a British club foot, Sarkozy ruthlessly opted for amputation. But Sarkozy is no fool: he must have seen the attractions of a deal, but didn’t see it as possible.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why our politicians’ cracks need careful probing

14/09/2011, 09:19:54 AM

by Kevin Meagher

THERE is no roadmap. No right and wrong about how “down with the kids” our politicians are allowed to be. No clear indications about where the “line” is that they should not cross when it comes to humour.

Wit is allowed, that much is clear. Disraeli, Churchill, even Wilson were exponents. Sarcasm too; but after that it go all blurry.

Last week both the prime minister and chancellor found themselves in trouble after foraying across these invisible demarcations with faltering attempts at mirth. David Cameron’s description of Nadine Dorries as “frustrated” during a reply to her at prime minister’s questions drew hearty guffaws at her expense. “Frustrated. Ha! He means she hates the coalition – but he also means she isn’t getting any! Hilarious”.

His pregnant pause gave lie to his subsequent protestations that it was merely a slip of the tongue, so to speak. It seemed deliberate. All he had to do was tee-up the gag and let the dirty minds of our Parliamentarians finish it off. They ignobly obliged.

He is said to have form. Cameron has what earlier generations would have called a “blue” sense of humour. Not a denotation of political allegiance on this occasion, but a predilection for making nob and fart gags.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Cameron’s broken promises on policing

22/07/2011, 11:00:01 AM

by Matt Cavanagh

A few days before the general election, David Cameron famously promised that “Any Cabinet minister, if we win the election, who comes to me and says ‘here are my plans and they involve front line reductions’ will be sent back to their department to go away and think again.” As late as last September, home secretary Theresa May was insisting that “lower budgets do not mean lower numbers of police officers”. The breathtaking disingenuousness of these soundbites has been exposed again yesterday, as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary publish the first authorised estimate of how the government’s 20% cut in police funding, announced in October’s spending review, will affect police numbers – and in particular how it will affect the front line.

The report, based on detailed investigation of individual forces’ plans, estimates that 16,200 police officers will be cut between 2010 and 2015. This entirely undoes Labour’s investment between 2000 and 2010, taking police numbers back to 1997 levels.

There is undoubtedly scope for efficiency savings in the police. Some of these were already in train before the election (they are set out in Chapter 5 of the 2009 White Paper). But as is clear from the graph on p24 of the HMIC report, with 81% of police funding going on staff costs, and another 10% going on areas like transport and premises, the 20% cuts announced in the spending review were always going to cut deep into police numbers. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Cameron’s sleight of hand distracts from sentencing reform shambles

22/06/2011, 12:00:19 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

Cameron fools the tabloids into thinking he’s delivered his promises on ‘jailing knife thugs’ and ‘bashing burglars’ to distract from the shambles on sentencing reform.

Two weeks ago on Uncut I criticised Cameron’s cynical opportunism over knife crime: exploiting the moral panic in summer 2008 by promising to send everyone caught carrying a knife to jail, a promise he clearly had no serious commitment to delivering. As the latest figures show, never mind everyone caught carrying a knife going to jail, in fact a smaller proportion are going to jail now than under Labour.

In a now familiar pattern, Cameron had managed to escape direct personal damage for this broken promise, shifting the blame on to his coalition partners and cabinet fall-guys – this time Ken Clarke, who has come under sustained and vicious attack from the Sun. But it must have worried Cameron, and when he needed a tough-sounding announcement to distract from the shambles of the U-turn over 50% jail discounts for guilty pleas, it was knife crime he reached for.

He still had no intention of actually delivering his pre-election promise, even if he fooled some, including the Spectator, into thinking he had. What he proposed was different: a new offence of ‘aggravated knife possession’, carrying a mandatory minimum 6 month sentence – but applying to a much narrower category of cases, around 10-15% as many as are caught carrying a knife.

‘Aggravated knife possession’ means using a knife to threaten someone. This is, of course, already a crime – and not one which needs much clarifying. Not only is it already a crime, the sentencing guidelines – dating from that summer of 2008 – already recommend a minimum prison sentence of 6 months. So what Cameron actually announced, was a way to wriggle out of his original promise by narrowing it down to a small minority of cases, an unnecessary new offence to distract from this, and – the only genuine change – a new mandatory minimum in place of a recommended minimum sentence.

Luckily for Cameron, the Evening Standard among others ignored all this boring detail, and fell nicely into his trap with the hoped-for front page splash: “ALL KNIFE THUGS TO GET 6 MONTHS as David Cameron Cracks Down on Crime”.

So far so good. But Cameron had clearly been worried enough about how the day would go, to feel he needed more than one diversion. The second, splashed across today’s Mail and Express front pages, was his plan to “put beyond doubt that home owners and small shop keepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted”. This predictably sent the Mail and Express into raptures (the Express wins the prize with its “NOW YOU CAN BASH A BURGLAR”) but again, a longer memory – or a few minutes searching the web – would again have revealed Cameron’s history on this issue, and raised questions about how new this announcement really is.

In early 2010, Cameron successfully courted the front pages with another promise, to change the law on self-defence, to allow anything short of a “grossly disproportionate” reaction to a burglar or robber to escape without charge. That would have been a genuine change – albeit an unwise one. Yesterday’s proposal, which retains the quite different test of ‘reasonable force’ for people protecting their lives or their families or their property, appears simply to restate the existing legal position.

When Labour did this kind of thing – announce a new offence, or new legislation, seemingly to distract from how effectively or severely existing laws were being enforced – both the Tories and the Lib Dems complained. In 2008, for example, the then Tory shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling derided it as “using legislation as a public relations exercise”, while Nick Clegg sniffed that “weighing down the statute book with new laws is no substitute for good government”.

But leaving aside the politicians’ hypocrisy and the journalists’ gullibility over these diversionary tactics, what about the U-turn itself – should Labour gloat with the tabloids, or join the Guardian and Independent in mourning it as a setback for liberal reform? As usual, this is a false choice. Today’s impassioned Guardian editorial is right to call Ken Clarke’s original sentencing proposals “the revolution that never was”, but wrong in its analysis.

It is right to criticise Cameron for “backing the Clarke plans in private, then emerging to trash them in public”, but wrong to pretend that Clarke “stood ready to unlock 20 years of failed thinking”. I support sentencing reform, but these were the wrong reforms: carelessly thought out, badly framed, confusingly argued, and ineptly and weakly handled. Rather than lamenting their demise, we should charge Clarke along with the rest of his colleagues with clumsily wasting a once in a generation opportunity, and reinforcing the general assumption among the political class that reforming sentencing is impossible. It isn’t – but it is difficult, and that means careful thought, and careful handling. A smarter approach would have kept Labour onside and spiked the worst of the tabloid attacks. Instead we got an incoherent mix of Clarke’s view that “prison is an expensive way to make bad people worse” (which you can call liberal if you like, though I tend to see it as old-fashioned Tory pragmatism), Osborne’s cuts, and Cameron trying to be all things to all people.

Until yesterday, when Cameron came down against reform, and for the status quo. When he intoned at the press conference that “we will always pay the costs necessary to protect the public and to punish criminals, and we will not reduce the prison population by cutting prison sentences,” you wondered where he was in October, when his Justice Secretary and Chancellor announced that his government would do precisely that. You also wondered if you had slipped back in time to the Labour era. Blair Gibbs of Policy Exchange noted approvingly that “the objective now seems to be to ‘stabilise’ the prison population at around 85,000, not reduce it” – back to the Labour position. Mandatory minimum sentences – favoured by Labour, dismissed by Clarke as “ill-thought out, overly prescriptive, and over-used” – are back.

Cameron’s “three principles” were lifted straight from a New Labour script: “the first duty of government is to protect the public… Serious and dangerous offenders must go to jail and stay there for a long time … breaking the cycle of reoffending needs to be at the heart of the criminal justice system” (yes, even the third: Labour had a target for cutting re-offending, not for increasing the prison population).

We heard the same tired bromides we’ve had from successive Prime Ministers, Home Secretaries and Justice Secretaries about prisons being full of foreigners, and people with mental health issues and drug problems. We heard that the ‘drug free wings’ which were being piloted in a handful of prisons in 2009 have been renamed ‘drug recovery wings’ and are being piloted in a (different) handful of prisons. We were reminded about the Peterborough pilot for getting innovative social investment into schemes for tackling re-offending – a pilot started by Jack Straw.

It is not all bad news. There are sensible proposals which take forward the New Labour approach, including taxing the earnings of prisoners working on licence in the community, and channelling the money to victim support services. And Clarke still plans to go further than Straw or any other Labour minister in tackling the rising legal aid bill. This is both necessary and overdue, and those who oppose the detail of the planned cuts should suggest alternative savings, ideally within the legal aid budget itself. But overall this is a confused, confusing, and hobbled set of proposals.

The Ministry of Justice rather pathetically continues to describe it as ‘radical’, and Cameron gamely asserted yesterday that it would still somehow ‘transform’ the system. But the truth is, having talked up the problems – society was broken, crime rising, the justice system a failure and Labour’s policies hopeless – the Government has abandoned most of the radical solutions, with no replacement in sight. Even the solution urged on Cameron last night by his favourite think tank, Policy Exchange, expanding private prisons, they admit is “a continuation of a process that began under Jack Straw”.

Cameron wants to slip back into the Labour narrative and policies he spent years trying to discredit, and hope that everyone will forget this ever happened. But it’s not so easy. The budget cuts which drove the previous proposals remain in place, and the U-turn has done real damage. For all the ambitious talk, what we are left with for the remainder of this parliament is a cautious nervy incrementalism, implemented by a confused and demoralised department, living under the shadow of future budgetary crises. It reminds me of the Ministry of Defence in recent years – hardly the most reassuring parallel.

Matt Cavanagh was a special adviser on crime and justice under the last Labour government. He writes in a personal capacity.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Knowing me knowing… Jim Murphy

03/05/2011, 07:09:20 AM

This week shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy takes the Uncut hot seat

What was the last film you saw in the cinema?

Black Swan.

What was the last piece of music you bought?

Most recently bought - Elbow

Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow.

Which current non-Labour MP do you most admire and why?

Iain Duncan Smith.  He had a terrible time as Tory leader but has had the personal strength to bounce back, which I admire. Also, even though I don’t agree with many of his reforms, he came to Glasgow and seems to have had an awakening about poverty.

Who was your first crush?

Julie Dickson aged six. We used to share our school packed lunches. Then she emigrated to Canada and broke my heart. I don’t remember getting the chance to say goodbye.

What is the best thing about being British?

Tolerance – we are not a nation of extremes.

Describe David Cameron in three words.

Confident but arrogant.

Do you believe that the message of socialism alleviating inequality will be heard in our lifetime?

Yes it will be heard, but politics is about turning words into action – that’s the bigger challenge for Labour (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Cameron’s holiday from political common sense

08/04/2011, 03:50:36 PM

by Kevin Meagher

So Dave and Sam have bid “Adios!” to miserable old Blighty and jetted off to Granada for a sneaky break to celebrate the missus’s 40th.

In our belt-tightening times, Downing Street spinners are keen to point out the first couple flew by easyjet and that they are staying in a “mid-market” hotel.

Of course, if you’re a couple of minted minor blue-bloods, staying in a three-star family hotel is more “downmarket” than “mid market”. Still, I can’t quite see them draped across a couple of sun loungers like the middle-aged swingers in Benidorm.

Or perhaps that’s precisely how Dave expects to reconnect with beleaguered Brits. Taking a budget holiday that may still be just about affordable to many. Not the swinging bit.

But when he’s finished there’s the return to think about. Will he come back like Jim Callaghan, tanned and refreshed from an economic summit in Guadeloupe in 1978 and utter something to rival: “Crisis, what crisis?”

Of course Sunny Jim never actually used that particular formulation. It was paraphrased tabloid-speak. But it was the symbolism that mattered. As it does now. In a week that saw “Black Wednesday”, when the full putrid blast of the coalition cuts hit the public for the first time, there’s a question mark over Cameron’s political common sense.

What does he think people will make of his little jaunt? “Good on the multimillionaire politician who’s just trebled my kid’s tuition fees. I’m sure all that doctrinaire right-wingery takes it out of you. Put your feet up son”. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Go Fast Dave.

05/04/2011, 05:00:24 PM

by Dan McCurry

Dave Cameron likes to move fast. He can take big risks because he’s cool in a crisis; it suits him. He will make his mark, even if it is a skid mark from his handbrake turns on policy.

He moves so fast that his election honeymoon lasted only a few weeks and the voters’ mid-term blues appeared in the polls within months. That’s fast. Very fast.

When his domestic policy began to fall apart, he did what all elected leaders do, and turned to foreign policy. So fast is Dave Cameron that this came about before his first year of office was even complete. It took two weeks for his Libya policy to fall apart. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The week Uncut

26/03/2011, 10:30:52 AM

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

Tom Watson decided to back Cameron… and then changed his mind

Dan Hodges says Libya is not Cameron’s first war, it’s Blair’s last

Sally Bercow predicted the usual Tory fare on budget day

Atul Hatwal reveals how the fuel stabiliser will hike household energy bills

Peter Watt asks: where’s the social care in the health and social care bill?

Rob Marchant doesn’t want Ed to march for the alternative

Jonathan Todd thinks Miliband can own the future in a way Cameron can’t

…and in this weeks Half a minute Harris, Tom backed Theresa May on student visas

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why I’m voting with Cameron in support of bombing Libya

20/03/2011, 11:02:47 AM

by Tom Watson

Now that we know what we know about Iraq I vowed I’d never take a prime minister on trust again. Yet this is what I’m going to have to do tomorrow. My vote will be with Sarkozy and Cameron – and the united nations.

I have huge reservations. I have little choice. I have to believe that they’ll be true to their words: there won’t be a ground war. There won’t be an occupation. There has to be a plan, right? Parliament will be consulted regularly.

Cameron assured the House that the arab league states want this. I have to believe him.

And given that allied forces are already shooting out tanks, airfields and strategic targets, a vote against military intervention on Monday only undermines our country’s political strength on the world stage.

I have an ominous déjà vu feeling though. I asked the PM to say which countries were providing military assets to the coalition. He couldn’t tell me, or perhaps chose not to. Either way, it doesn’t instill confidence that this mission is entirely thought through. But I also understand the need for speed. When innocents are getting bombed there is little time for debate.

The UN resolution wasn’t supported by our key allies the Germans. It’s a cause for concern.

I’m extremely concerned that other dictators will use the focus onLibya to brutalise peaceful protests in their country. 45 protestors were shot dead in Yemen on Friday, for example.

We don’t know what Libya will look like if we can’t rid the country of Gaddafi. We don’t know what it will look like if we do.

There are hazardous times ahead. The future is uncertain. Cameron gets my vote tomorrow, but please God let this be over swiftly.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon