Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

British policy is imprisoned by the past – it needs to be free to fight the threat we face

22/08/2014, 02:35:31 PM

by Pat McFadden

The Prime Minister has hardly communicated energy in the fight against Islamist extremism with his yo yoing holiday plans but it’s not his physical location that matters most – it is the lack of a strong and clear plan to fight the battle in which we are engaged.

The ISIS killing spree targeting Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims, and the brutal horrific murder of American journalist James Foley should leave us in no doubt, if there was any in the first place, that we have to face up to the threat posed by the ideology which drives these actions.

The Prime Minister terms this a generational struggle.  He is right about that.  Yet he cannot bring himself to will the means to fight it because government decision making is imprisoned by the past, in particular by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and by the Prime Minister’s immediate decision following last year’s Parliamentary vote on Syria to take the option of military intervention off the table.

Public opinion in both the UK and the US is war weary for understandable reasons. Many lives have been lost and many brave young servicemen and women have suffered life altering injuries as a result of long military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet opting out of this battle is neither possible nor in the end desirable because we have to defend our way of life, stand up for our freedoms and combat an ideology of mass murder based on a gross perversion of faith. We don’t have a choice about whether to engage in this fight.  If we don’t go to it, it is coming to us.

In that regard, the government’s decision a couple of years ago to abolish Control Orders and give terror suspects in the UK new freedoms to move around the country and access the internet – and to put a sunset clause on the weakened regime even if the threat level posed by the person had not changed – now looks even more reckless and irresponsible than it did at the time.

The wrong analysis led to the wrong policy.  The Government came to office believing that the laws of the land posed a threat to our liberty.  But while security and liberty always have to be carefully balanced it is not the law of the land – heavily scrutinised by parliament and the judiciary – which poses a threat to our freedoms.  That threat is posed by the ideology which saw James Foley beheaded on the internet and which would inspire the people who carried out this crime to target people in this country too.

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Cameron’s reshuffle reshapes the battlefield to exploit Labour weaknesses

16/07/2014, 01:18:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Forget the breathless minutiae of who’s up and who’s down or biographies of the newly promoted, most analyses of the Tory reshuffle have missed the most important point: this was a reshuffle defined by Labour. Labour’s lines of attack and Labour’s vulnerabilities.

Ed Miliband was the silent witness, standing in the corner, at the back of David Cameron’s mind as the prime minister worked out his new ministerial jigsaw.

In each of the three major changes David Cameron announced – the promotion of women, the demotion of Gove and the installation of Phillip Hammond at FCO –  the same motivation is evident:  to reshape the battlefield with Labour. To make the Tories a smaller target, minimise the potential for distracting internal conflict and focus the national debate on the two areas where David Cameron is confident he has the beating of Ed Miliband: leadership and the economy.

It is debateable whether Labour’s repeated attacks on Cameron for sexism have won over many wavering voters, but they certainly had media resonance and diverted the political conversation away from the Conservatives preferred topics.

Ta Dah! David Cameron now has a defensible position on women’s representation. Labour will continue with its attacks, as was evident at PMQs today, but the traction is gone. Broadcast journalists are notably less opinionated than their newspaper comrades, but these tweets by ITV’s Chris Ship are indicative of the mood among the lobby.


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Reshuffles hardly ever make a difference. But that won’t stop the speculation

30/06/2014, 06:09:38 PM

by David Butler

David Cameron and Ed Miliband are preparing to shuffle their packs and make their final cut of this Parliament; for one, this will be the last reshuffle they preside over. Ministers and their shadows buzz around nervously awaiting the phone call that will determine the next few years of their political career. For a few, membership of the cabinet (or shadow cabinet) awaits. For others, the comfy leather of the commons backbenches is their destination. However, as much as fun discussing reshuffles can be, the act itself will be mostly irrelevant to either party’s prospects next year.

There is a media tendency to overhype the impact of reshuffles. In Miliband’s most recent shadow cabinet reshuffle was argued to be a cull of the Blairites. In fact, it was more of a replacement of Blairites associated with the Ancein Regime rather than Blairites per se. The 2012 government reshuffle was said to be a ‘rise of the right’ moment but has made little discernible effect on the overall direction of the government, aside from possibly the work done by Chris Grayling as justice secretary and Owen Paterson as environment secretary. Another discrepancy between media discussion and political reality is the perception that reshuffles are a political masterplans, executed with supreme efficiency; in fact, it is often the case that they are chaotic and messy. For example in 2012, the failure of Cameron to convince Iain Duncan Smith to move from the DWP to the MoJ caused a chaotic last minute rethink of the reshuffle and damaged relations between Number 10 and IDS.

The presence of a northern woman in the cabinet will not be the silver bullet to the issue of Tory unpopularity with urban voters and women, just as Sajid Javid’s appointment has not made the Tories more appealing to ethnic minorities. Without addressing the deeper roots of the problems – culture, policy, perception and history – that prevent the Tories from winning over said voters, such an appointment will have only the most marginal of impacts.

For Labour too, a few fresh faces, perhaps a promotion for Gloria de Piero or Dan Jarvis, won’t get over our problems of the lack of trust on the economy and Ed’s poor personal ratings. These are problems arising from strategy, communication and Ed himself. People don’t believe we will make the changes we have pledged and are sceptical that we can manage the economy and public finances well.

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Cameron wants to junk Juncker. He’s right and Miliband should support him

09/06/2014, 10:48:46 AM

by Renie Anjeh

In spite of his party’s victory in the Newark by-election, Cameron has been embroiled in yet another fight with his fellow European leaders. This time, it is over who becomes the next president of the European Commission.  Strangely enough, on this particular issue, Cameron is on the right side of the argument: Jean Claude Juncker is the wrong choice to become president and Ed Miliband should support Cameron in his efforts to block him from the presidency.

A fortnight ago, millions of voters across Europe voted for populist and far-right parties, something which should be of great concern to  all pro-Europeans and progressives. As Tony Blair told the CBI recently, the election results should serve as a “wake up call” for Europe and shows the need for pro-Europeans to press for reform.

To be fair, there have been other European politicians who have tried to come to terms with the results of the Euro elections, but Juncker is not one of them. Instead, he has arrogantly claimed that ‘entitled’ to become president of the Commission and that he is ‘more confident than ever’ that he’ll be the next president.

He is also the politician who told a group of finance ministers that politicians should ‘have to lie’ when economic situations become serious. His attacks on Britain in recent days, because of the Prime Minister’s opposition to his candidature, show that he is not serious about keeping the European Union together.

Juncker embodies the idea that the European Union by an out-of-touch, arrogant elite.  It may be an unfair perception but it is part of the reason why many voters have become disenfranchised. If European leaders appoint Juncker as the next Commission president, it would not just be a rejection of Blair’s sagacious advice but it would embolden extremists and populists such as Ukip and the Front National. That is not something that Europe can afford.

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A No for Scotland may not be as positive for Labour as we might think

04/06/2014, 09:33:15 AM

by Rob Marchant

The local and Euro-elections are done. As always happens in the unfailingly cyclical business of politics, we take a breather and start thinking about the next one.

This year, of course, our normal annual cycle is disrupted by that pesky little referendum. Yes, the one that could conceivably break apart the United Kingdom and throw politics-as-we-know it into convulsions, whose aftershock would last for decades, if not centuries.

Conceivably, of course, does not mean probably. While not impossible, it seems pretty unlikely that the Yes campaign will win (and if it does, all bets are clearly off).

Assuming it doesn’t, the scenario we might project is that Labour, which has largely spearheaded the campaign (in view of the little love the Scottish electorate at large has for the Conservative Party), comes off as the proxy winner and that that winning momentum rolls us through the following half-year until a close-run, but ultimately successful, general election result.

That, at least, is how we would like to see things. However, although we might have a pleasant moment in the sun as we enjoy having led the charge which defeated Salmond, it may also be neutralised by an effect few have even considered.

The annoying thing for us is that Cameron has, as John Rentoul observed in his Independent on Sunday column, actually done rather a good job on Scotland – it is a moment of bipartisanship, after all – and it is likely to be as much his moment as ours.

Let us now look at why he has done well (the areas of his leadership where he has done poorly are numerous enough). It is easy to say that he has done nothing; but take a look at the counterexample of his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy. Catalonia, which has had a nationalist government for most of the last forty years, is asking for a similar referendum.

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If Cameron was smart, he’d recapitalise the food banks

16/04/2014, 08:32:46 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Britain’s food banks are doing a brisk trade. And unlike their commercial namesakes, they’re doing it without a bean of government cash.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the largest network of food banks, today reports that 913,138 adults and children were provided with food parcels last year, up from just 61,468 in 2010.

David Cameron should love food banks. Well, perhaps not love, but he should recognise their existence is proof that the Big Society, that concept we thought had been buried under 20 tonnes of concrete, has something going for it.

After all, food banks are examples of well-meaning, civic-minded people and organisations stepping up to the mark to provide a volunteer-led response to make a difference in their local communities.

In pretty much every other instance, the Big Society simply exposes the utter naiveté of ministers in glibly assuming that by removing public provision we would see a flourishing of voluntary effort instead. It hasn’t. It won’t. It never was going to.

But because of the shock value of what they do – feeding the absolute poor in one of the richest countries in the world – every time food banks are mentioned in earshot, Cameron has the good grace to squirm.

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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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Our politicians are impotent in the face of events they cannot control

12/02/2014, 06:34:14 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It must feel like Groundhog Day in Whitehall. Ministers are now obliged to pay homage to the residents of Somerset on a daily basis. So they come, all wellies and wax jackets, with suitably solemn faces for the now perfunctory photo opportunity.

There they stand, knee deep in stagnant water, to receive their ritual ear-bashing from angry flood victims, unable to offer any reassurances about when normality will resume or even give a guarantee that the same thing will not happen again. As David Cameron put it at his press conference yesterday, these are the worst floods in that part of the country for 250 years. Translation: ‘I’m at the mercy of events, what can I be expected to do?’

But at least David Cameron can venture out to the flooded south-west of England. He dared not visit Scotland to deliver a keynote speech making the case for the Union last Friday, such is the toxicity of the Conservative brand north of the border. Instead, the Prime Minister delivered his call to “save the most extraordinary country in history” from the velodrome of the Olympic Park in London. A place, then, where people whizz round and round but don’t actually get anywhere.

Apt, perhaps, given the impotence of our politicians this week.

Despite their Canute-like assurances, even small changes in our climate pattern quickly overpower both our flood defences – and ministers’ good intentions. Adapting our infrastructure to meet this challenge is horrendously costly, which is why it has never been adequately done.

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If Dave thinks Merkel will ride to his rescue on Europe, he doesn’t understand German politics

23/12/2013, 11:18:25 AM

by Callum Anderson

After three months of intense negotiations, Germany finally has a new government. Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU centre-right party will enter a so-called ‘Grand Coalition’ with the centre-left social democrats, the SPD, after its members ratified the agreement in a vote a week ago.

The arrangement, however, could represent the proverbial ‘spanner in the works’ for David Cameron’s plans to repatriate powers from the European Union to individual member states. Although Mr Cameron does have a natural ally for EU reform in Chancellor Merkel, her coalition partners, the SPD, are likely to prove a substantial stumbling block for any attempt by Ms Merkel to collaborate with the prime minister.

For a start, the Euroscepticism of David Cameron’s Conservative Party is completely at odds with the staunchly pro-EU stance of the SPD. A German government, with SPD involvement, will almost certainly take a dim view of any potential “Europe a la carte” arrangement that the prime minister seeks, especially in regard to social regulations such as the working time directive. Indeed, it is highly likely that it will actively try to block attempts to return EU powers to national governments.

Difficulty also represents itself in the form of the new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also served in the same capacity in the last ‘Grand Coalition’, between 2005 and 2009. Steinmeier not only frequently scuppered Merkel’s foreign policy plans during that time, but is also considered one of the Social Democrats’ closest links to the French Socialist party. Indeed, Steinmeier is reported to have said in December 2011 that he expected the UK to leave the EU, remarking that, “I fear the decisive step for Great Britain’s exit has already been made. If the regular meetings take the form of a Europe of 26 without Britain, then a process of alienation will become inevitable and irreversible.” It is therefore likely that he will not idly sit by and let Angela Merkel freely negotiate with David Cameron.

The possible ramifications of SPD hostility are obvious. By blocking Angela Merkel’s attempts to work with the UK on a new relationship between the EU and its member states, the SPD will deprive David Cameron of a possible key ally in claiming powers back from Brussels. If Germany is unable or unwilling to work with the UK prime minister, other Northern European states such as the Netherlands and Sweden are also likely to become sceptical. Similarly, any significant strengthening of Franco-German relations could further weaken London’s hand.

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Cameron’s conduct in China was bad politics, bad ethics and exceptionally bad foreign policy

09/12/2013, 01:34:28 PM

by Sam Fowles

It’s that time of year again: Winter enough for the christmas lights to go up on Clapham High Street but still autumn enough for everyone to complain about it. The time of year when the fact that the hot water cylinder in my four person house only produces enough hot water for three stops becoming “something we’ll laugh about later in life” and starts becoming a significant cause of frostbite. Basically it’s getting cold. It’s the time of year when we all start wistfully staring at summer breaks in between the usual workplace internet pastimes of Buzzfeed and cat videos.

David Cameron, of course, isn’t restrained by such limitations. With winter descending on London he took 100 of his closest friends on a field trip to China. There to engage in such hi jinks as fungus banquets, playing with puppet horses (actually this one sounds pretty fun) and not talking about human rights.

I’m being flippant but there’s a serious point here. Cameron’s trip to China and his pledge that Britain will be China’s “biggest advocate in the West”, was bad politics, bad ethics and exceptionally bad foreign policy.

I’m not about to join in the various comparison’s of China to a string of historical baddies (although the Kaiser simile in the FT is particularly fun). China is a danger to the world because of it’s actions in the here and now. Even more of a threat are international lightweights like Cameron who think that jet setting around the world’s ugliest regimes with a carpet bag full of British products and a plastic smile makes them a statesman. Those with democratic mandates were conspicuous by their absence amongst the Prime Ministers “representatives of Britain. Evil may flourish when good men do nothing, but it’s certainly helped when mediocre men give it a round of applause.

The bad politics has been fairly well covered. Cameron came into office advocating a tougher stance on China’s human rights violations. He met with the Dalai Lama, prompting a diplomatic freeze from Beijing. Then he tried to row back, prompting some particularly unstatesmanlike groveling. This is amateur. You can’t imagine Barack Obama, Angela Merkel or even Francois Hollande accepting the sort of snubs that Cameron has suffered while in China. Yet our Prime Minister smiles and laps up what scraps of friendship the Chinese are prepared to toss his way like the desperate cousin at a wedding. Cameron’s obsequiousness has raised the status of the Chinese leaders at his own expense. You don’t need a degree in international relations to see that this is a pretty poor negotiating tactic.

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