Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

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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Under Cameron, it’s easier to become a teacher than to get a job in a burger bar

01/11/2013, 02:01:32 PM

by Kevin Brennan

At the end of what has been a busy week for Labour’s shadow education team, today exam regulator Ofqual has announced its planned changes to GCSEs. It is welcome that Ofqual want to strengthen the rigour and integrity of qualifications – but it is odd that David Cameron is doing the exact opposite when it comes to teaching standards. David Cameron’s policy of allowing unqualified teachers in our schools is damaging education standards in our classrooms- as we have seen from the case of Michael Gove’s Al-Madinah free school in Derby.

Labour would bring an end to the watering down of standards and guarantee that all teachers in state funded schools would have to become qualified. That is what this week has been about.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a fashion of which we have unfortunately come to expect from them, the Liberal Democrats performed a remarkable feat of political contortion.

Nick Clegg had surprised his own schools minister by declaring “we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”

It was a relief to hear Clegg agree with Labour policy on this issue. We have long warned of the dangers of the Government’s policy which allows unqualified teachers to teach in Free Schools and academies, and the inevitable watering down of teacher standards that it will lead to.

All this was a tad inconvenient for the Lib Dem schools minister, David Laws who just a few days earlier had passionately defended the policy of allowing unqualified teachers.

In an education select committee hearing last Wednesday, Laws was questioned about his party’s policy on this issue. Laws claimed that he supported a resolution at the Liberal Democrat conference which stated that “every child deserves to be taught by an excellent teacher and appropriately-qualified teacher, or a dedicated professional who is working towards such a qualification.” Then when closing up the debate that took place on Wednesday this week on the subject, he again indicated that he agreed with his party’s position.

It was a rapid volte face but surely welcome as it would mean that the House of Commons could pass a motion supporting having qualified teachers with Lib Dem support.

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There is a simple Tory response on energy prices and Labour needs to beware

30/09/2013, 09:42:23 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Ed Miliband provided answers to some questions posed by Uncut in the book we launched at Labour conference. Less so, others.

We asked where the money will come from. He committed to 200,000 extra homes a year without – unlike David Talbot’s chapter in our book – making clear from where the extra public resources needed to deliver this will come.

Miliband did tell us where the money for his promised energy price freeze will come from, the companies themselves. It is an imponderable whether this will result in reduced profits for them or diminishment in the green investment that Miliband treasures.

It is clear, however, that without the costs of this investment, there would be greater scope for lower household bills. Whether this investment will sufficiently dampen the impacts of climate change to justify its hefty cost is another imponderable.

The incoming prime minister of Australia is among those who doubt it. The prime minister of this country will have noted this and knows that reducing the green push will increase the scope to minimise household bills before May 2015. If Cameron were to take this option, the energy firms will align with Cameron, as both leaders would be telling them to reduce prices but only one would be enabling them to reduce costs – assuming Miliband remains faithfully green.

The public may see their bills fall before 2015 – a record of delivery for Cameron, potentially to sit alongside a steadily improving economy. Rather than return him to office, the public would be asked to vote for a freeze in energy prices by a Labour party likely to be enamoured by the green lobby but less so by business, at least big business.

Miliband needs to get on the front foot about the assistance he has offered to small businesses, while considering exactly how wedded he is to imposing green costs on energy firms. Unless these small businesses become Labour advocates, the party risks being painted as anti-business. Without some flexibility on green costs, Miliband may risk Cameron achieving more on lower energy prices before he is even in a position to implement his freeze.

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C’mon Ed, back an in/out EU referendum for the day of the next election and destroy the Tories

30/09/2013, 07:00:54 AM

by Anthony Bonneville

Europe remains the Tories’ Achilles heel. Polling conducted by YouGov for Labour Uncut reveals that 1 in 5 2010 Tory voters have defected, with 60% switching to UKIP.

These figures will worry an already jittery Conservative party. No matter what David Cameron seems to do, no matter how much he genuflects before the altar of Euroscepticism, it’s never enough. Core support keeps leaching out to the right.

As I’ve set out in my chapter in Labour Uncut’s recent book, “Labour’s manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why,” this peculiar spectacle presents an enormous opportunity for Labour.

On Tuesday evening, the night before David Cameron gives his leader’s speech, Ed Miliband should set aside his widely aired reservations and announce that Labour now backs a straight in/out EU referendum for May 7th 2015.

Such an intervention would transform the political landscape. All that has happened so far this parliament would be rendered instantly irrelevant.

On the pro-European side, a broad coalition would be assembled bringing together unions, business organisations and civil society groups, a true example of One Nation politics. Labour and Lib Dems would stand united on the most important issue of the next general election.

It would force quiet pro-Europeans (distant cousins of the quiet bat people) to come out and say it loud: “We need to stay in Europe!”

For Labour, which has had a difficult recent relationship with business, this would be a rare chance to redraw the dividing lines of political debate.

Labour would be the party standing with business. The Tories would be left making the difficult case that business people did not know what was good for their own firms. For those who recall the damage done to Labour’s 2010 election campaign by the letter from businessmen criticising the party’s national insurance policy, the irony would be rich.

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For hard working people? Come off it Cameron. Here’s the “Top 40″ of Tory failures

29/09/2013, 08:00:31 AM

Last year, I wrote a blog for Labour Uncut about Cameron’s top 30 “real achievements”.  But things have got so bad in the last year alone that this year’s round up is now a full “Top 40″.  As the Tories meet this week for their annual conference in Manchester, here’s my latest assessment on what Cameron’s Government has really achieved since 2010:

On the cost of living:

1. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 out of 39 months while David Cameron has been Prime Minister.

2. Wages are down by almost £1,500 a year on average since the General Election.

3. While ordinary people are seeing their living standards squeezed, David Cameron has cut income tax for people earning over £150,000.  And in April this year, bankers’ bonuses soared by 82 per cent as the wealthiest took advantage of the 50p tax cut.

4. Average energy bills have risen by £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minister whilst Britain’s big six energy companies have enjoyed a £3.3 billion windfall in profits since 2010.

5. David Cameron has broken his promise to force energy companies to put all consumers on the cheapest tariff.

On growth:

6. This is the slowest recovery for 100 years.  Since autumn 2010, our economy has grown by just 1.7 per cent compared to the 6.9 per cent expected at the time.

7. The UK is currently 3.3 per cent below its pre-crisis peak, while the USA is 4.6 per cent above its pre-crisis peak.

On the deficit:

8. David Cameron and George Osborne are now set to borrow £245 billion more than they planned in 2010 and the independent Office for Budget Responsibility has said that deficit reduction has “stalled”.

On jobs:

9. Almost a million young people are unemployed.

10. The number of 16-18 year olds starting apprenticeships is down by 12 per cent in the last year.  Overall, nearly 200,000 16-18 year olds are not in work, education or training, a rise since 2010.

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Once again we find Cameron standing up for the wrong people and mixing with the wrong crowd

26/09/2013, 06:31:09 PM

by Michael Dugher

Despite the fact that the city broker ICAP, which was founded and run by David Cameron’s former treasurer Michael Spencer, has been fined £55 million by regulators over the Libor scandal, it has been confirmed that Mr Spencer will be attending the Conservative party conference in Manchester.  This will give the Tory donor unrivalled access to both the prime minister and the chancellor.  No wonder people say Cameron can’t stand up for working people, just a privileged few.  Once again we find Cameron mixing with the wrong crowd.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the US has found that ICAP brokers, including one known as “Lord Libor”, helped rig the inter-bank lending rate for a period of at least four years.  And the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK has said that the culture at ICAP Europe Limited exacerbated the problem, which included a “heavy focus on revenue at the expense of regulatory requirements”.  Indeed, it was discovered that the desk at the centre of the misconduct was not audited for four years.

Cameron fought tooth and nail last year to avoid launching a proper investigation into the rigging of interest rates and now it has come out that the company of one his biggest donors was heavily involved in the fraud.  In the House of Commons in July 2012, Ed Miliband called for a two-part, judge-led inquiry into what happened as well as the wider culture and practices of the industry.  But Cameron repeatedly refused.  Why was it that he was so determined not to act?

Electoral Commission records show that Michael Spencer has donated a total of £4,804,681.46 to the Conservative Party.  This includes £279,389.59 in person and £4,525,291.87 through his holding company IPGL Ltd, which owns a chunk of ICAP.   He was also one of the “significant donors” who was given special access to the prime minister and the hancellor through private Downing Street dinners (the “dinners for donors” scandal) and as part of the Tories’ exclusive leader’s group.

Spencer was Cameron’s co-treasurer between 2006 and 2010 and he is still the chairman of the Conservative Foundation – an organisation set up to support the party’s financial future.  The minister for the cabinet office, Francis Maude, even described Michael Spencer as a “personal friend of the prime minister and the prime minister’s wife”.

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