Posts Tagged ‘competence’

Labour – the new stupid party

22/10/2017, 10:30:08 PM

The Monday Column

How many times can you write: ‘Labour is screwed’ before you give up and do something else? Whatever the limit is, there’s a good chance we’ve now reached it. You can tell because correspondents on Uncut and many other blogs and publications on the centre-left have given up saying it.

I mean, what’s the point? 

Labour’s direction of travel is now set for the next few years, certainly until after Brexit in 2019. In lieu of issuing Cassandra-like warnings about the lurch to the hard left, there is little else left to say or write. The unreality of contemporary Labour politics merits little serious analysis.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn makes lots of speeches, but the content is invariably a reheated version of the same stump speech that he’s been making for the last thirty years (‘It’s not right that…’) There is little by the way of policy or strategy to scrutinise and discuss, with Corbyn’s recent Labour conference speech plumbing new depths of banality, culminating with a shout-out birthday greeting for Diane Abbott.

There is no attempt at widening Labour’s support base or providing a realistic programme for government. There is little to say about how an advanced market economy copes with Brexit and cultivates enough decently-paid jobs in a future of growing automation. Or how limitless demand for public services can be effectively managed and financed and our welfare state reformed so it provides affordable care for children and the elderly alike.

The mantra is simply ‘spend, don’t offend.’ There is no problem increasing public spending or extending public ownership cannot resolve. State-owned trains will never be late. The Royal Mail must be renationalised as a priority, apparently, just so the taxpayer can take on its pension fund deficit. Middle-class students’ university tuition will be eagerly paid for by working class young workers, (who themselves will never get the chance to go near a university).  Capital controls will ensure that jittery speculators and fund managers can’t rain on the socialist parade. 

Of course, the offer of ‘free stuff’ will not withstand a casual brush with the realities of government. But no-one seems to care about the small details any more. Even the Conservative Research Department must have given up keeping track of Labour’s open-ended spending commitments. (more…)

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The right attack on Cameron’s handling of the floods isn’t about cuts or climate change, but competence

18/02/2014, 09:22:27 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Number 10 has long wished to minimise media coverage of backbench rebellions to maximise airtime on economic recovery. Hence, Cameron’s concessions to his backbenches. But members of the government have needlessly distracted media focus from economic recovery. For example, Michael Gove picking another fight with Ofsted and the failure of government whips to have any women on the frontbench for PMQs.

These own goals confirm that Labour is not up against a crack operation. The floods, in contrast, are a crisis that Cameron’s government would have had to confront even if he’d run a tighter ship. They are, obviously, a crisis for the people whose homes are underwater. The nature of the political crisis that they represent for Cameron and what they reveal about his government is more contested.

By announcing that ‘money is no object’, according to Jonathan Freedland, the prime minister has performed the last rites on the notion of inevitable austerity. The prime minister’s words constitute an incredible hostage to fortune and a risk that he didn’t need to take. The careless political slips of his government begin at the top.

Reflecting on his time near the top of the last government, Patrick Diamond recently noted: “Policy is increasingly about resolving trade-offs accentuated by financial constraints and fiscal austerity”. Cameron, though, leaves no room for trade-offs. No matter how bad the floods get, irrespective of whatever ill-considered building decisions may have been made, in spite of whomever may be at fault, public money is still supposedly no object.

In a world of scarcity, as this world inevitably is, the prime minister’s remark is vulgarly illogical. It’s not – pace Freedland – that there is money when Cameron previously said there isn’t. It’s that this money has limits. Resources are finite. Governments must, consequently, decide how to allocate these resources to best effect. In this sense, trade-offs are even more fundamental than Diamond argues.

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Both competence and purpose are needed to lead for Britain

08/05/2012, 07:00:43 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Politics as usual is under pressure. The old moves aren’t working.

We say they are “out of touch”. They say we are an “unaffordable risk”. The attacks of both Labour and the Tories claim that the other cannot lead for the whole nation due to possession by sectional interests; be that the mateocracy, bankers, or News International; the trade unions, the public sector, or welfare claimants.

Rebuttals evade charges of sectionalism. Attacks claim national leadership. At the same time, what we are, as a state and people, is fundamentally questioned by Alex Salmond and the Eurozone crisis.

And then, increasing support for smaller parties, from our first Green MP in Brighton to Respect’s revival in Bradford, create a myriad of further challenges to the national leadership sought by David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

To a significant extent, all of this can be thought, in Marxist parlance, the superstructure to the economic base: an economic crisis, which has impaired UK growth more than the 1930s depression, has both created an existential crisis for the Euro and with it the EU, as well as opportunities for smaller parties.

As much as economic perceptions will do more to determine how votes are cast at the general election than anything else, it would be a mistake to think that everything in our politics can be explained in these terms.

While economic management is the primary competence issue, competency is a means to an end.

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