Posts Tagged ‘Dan Cooke’

Cameron: a Tsar is born? Or saloon bar prime minister?

07/03/2011, 03:00:30 PM

by Dan Cooke

Downing Street spinners apparently briefed this weekend that in future David Cameron plans to use his office to “act as a critic of the government” and speak “as a tribune of the people against the government when it gets things wrong”.

The prime minister recently “joked” to the Westminster press gallery that he is more a chairman than chief executive of the government. The response was negative commentary suggesting lack of grip, surely giving pause for thought about the wisdom of such remarks if not meant in earnest. Nevertheless, the suggestion must be taken as a significant indication of Cameron’s strategy for the rest of the parliament.

The prospects for success of any strategy of prime ministerial detachment from day-to-day responsibility for government depend significantly on which of two principal alternatives No. 10 has in mind.

First, the briefers hint at a desire to present the prime minister as elevated above the decision-making of his ministers, while intervening selectively to correct errors or chastise lack of progress. Such an approach might appear cunning in the mind’s eye of a strategist, but would be disastrous in practice (like a restaurant manager wandering into the dining room to taste the food after it has already been served, as one commentator has observed). (more…)

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The government has declared war on workplace benefits. Labour must save middle England from Picklesian puritanism.

21/02/2011, 04:00:44 PM

by Dan Cooke

I have been having a recurring nightmare lately that I go to work one morning and my boss has been replaced by Eric Pickles.

Maybe it stems from guilt that I let my office pot plant fade from neglect, when there are others not allowed to have them. Or it may be a deeper fear of what could be exposed and corrected. Can it be right that my employer subsidises my lunch every day? What about the free language lessons? And, even more embarrassing, the “Thai head massages at your desk” promised in my offer letter… I never did find out exactly what this meant but I know what Pickles would make of it.

But then I remember: I work in the private sector, so Eric can’t touch me. Thank goodness it’s only on TV that you can get a line manager like that (think The Office).

But a different type of guilt – and a different worry – persists when I ponder the pillorying of public sector “perks” like sandwiches in meetings and a work mobile phone that, in the jobs I’ve had, were simply things provided so you could do the job. Do government employees really deserve such different conditions from those in the private sector for similar work? And can their terms really be attacked without influencing the norms in the private sector as well? (more…)

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Cable has capitulated to the City. It doesn’t have to be this way.

15/02/2011, 01:01:41 PM

by Dan Cooke

What does Vince Cable have in common with Eric Pickles, Michael Gove and George Osborne? Oh, and Ed Miliband and Ed Balls too? Answer – they are all cursed by the iron law that their careers, like all political careers, will end in failure (or, at least, will be seen as a failure, whatever reasoned protestations to the contrary their future selves might make).

So, as renewed rumours have surfaced this weekend that Mr Cable is contemplating resignation when the independent commission on banking inevitably fails to deliver the radical restructuring he has called for, perhaps he should be sanguine about the harsh judgment that will, if he does so, be pronounced on his contribution to politics.

It is clear now that his resignation will be less a “nuclear” explosion for the coalition than the detonation of an ideological neutron bomb – devastating for his own influence, but leaving Tory and orange book values intact. Following the limp conclusion of “project Merlin”, maintenance of the status quo on bank structures would indeed be a sad anti-climax to the expectations fostered when Cable declared himself co-equal with the chancellor in banking policy.

It would represent a further blow to Cable’s reputation among former admirers after a miserable list of disappointments: his role in the tuition fee betrayal, the self-inflicted loss of responsibility for the Sky deal, the daily complaints that his department has no strategy for growth and its scrapping of regional development agencies (described by Mr Cable, as “Maoist and chaotic”, but allowed to pass all the same by this secretary of state). (more…)

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A practical, popular, socialist policy on high pay

10/02/2011, 12:00:43 PM

by Dan Cooke

It does not seem unfair to suggest that Sir Peter Tapsell, first elected on the coat-tails of Harold Macmillan in 1959, is not an obvious candidate for Ed Miliband’s “new generation”. By the same token, this enduring embodiment of the squirarchy would not commonly be associated with notions of “levelling down”, the “politics of envy” or – in language less likely to be heard within the walls of the Carlton Club  – action on excessive pay.

Yet in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Sir Peter – wittingly or otherwise – took the first major step in sketching out a meaningful prospectus for the high pay commission promised under a future Labour government. A prospectus that the Labour front bench has signally failed to provide so far.

In the Labour leadership contest, the proposed high pay commission was a signature issue for Ed Miliband: a sign that he would lead Labour away from the era when senior ministers were “seriously relaxed” about serious riches to a position where the party could take a stand against fat cat remuneration. When Ed said that the gap between rich and poor matters for all of society, and that excessive pay was a moral issue, it was not so much an applause line but a swoon line for many of his fans. (more…)

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