Posts Tagged ‘Alan Partridge’

Time to get off Tony Blair’s foreign policy bendy bus

01/10/2012, 05:00:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I’ve tried to watch West Wing but, pace Westminster, always found it too hackneyed to endure. It may be an equally unutterable thing to say, at least within the beltway, but Armando Iannucci’s the Thick of It is becoming tired and predictable.

While we may be too gushing in our praise for Malcolm Tucker et al, Iannucci’s Time Trumpet never got the recognition it deserved or – in a case, given that Iannucci is one of the writers of Alan Partridge, of life imitating art – a second series.

Time Trumpet is a spoof documentary that purports to look back on 2007 from 2031. Tony Blair features near the start of the first episode. Iannucci’s commentary says:

“And we look back at this madman and how he ended up 20 years later dementedly wandering round the bins of downtown Baghdad.”

A dishevelled chap, the Blair of 2027, then appears and mumbles to himself:

“Further down the bendy bus, have your money ready please.”

All of which may be offensive to Blair and his most ardent supporters. While I am a Blair fan – he is, after all, the longest serving Labour prime minister ever, responsible for a tremendous amount of positive change – I cannot stop myself finding Time Trumpet hilarious.

We shouldn’t take ourselves or our heroes too seriously. And nor should we think our heroes beyond reproach.

We should – more than five years after he ceased to be party leader – be capable of having a mature debate about Blair. In some senses, this debate has already been had. Hopi Sen is right that it is Gordon Brown’s time as leader, rather than Blair’s, that has been under scrutinised and debated within the party.

However, debate about Blair has often generated more heat than light. Calm consideration has been particularly lacking around one part of Blair’s legacy in particular, a part that the Labour Party continues to live in the shadows of, foreign policy.


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Predistribution is just a meaningless word in place of actual policy

07/09/2012, 07:00:01 AM

by Atul Hatwal

There’s a great scene in I’m Alan Partridge where our hero has just been told by his BBC boss that he hasn’t got a second series. Alan frantically scrambles to come up with something, anything else that might be commissioned.

“Arm-wrestling with Chas and Dave”; “knowing  M.E. knowing you” and “inner city sumo” are just some of the suggestions he rattles off.


“A Partridge amongst the pigeons?”

The boss’s interest is piqued. “What’s that?” he asks.

Alan blurts out the truth, “it’s just a title.”

Armando Iannucci is a political doyenne because of the Thick Of It, but often politics more closely resembles his work with the redoubtable Alan.

What “a Partridge amongst the pigeons” is to primetime viewing, predistribution is to economic policy.

In case you missed it, predistribution is the new silver bullet. It’s how Labour can square the circle of a limited government spending while still bearing down on inequality.

Rather than rely on tax-payer backed redistribution, predistribution seems to entail regulating the market so outcomes are more equal and redistribution isn’t needed. At least, not on same scale as in the past.

The most frequently cited example is tax credits: if wages were higher we wouldn’t need to spend state funds on tax credits.

As an idea, predistribution has been floating around for a while, but was anointed by Ed Miliband this week, first in his interview with the New Statesman and then at the Policy Network economic wonkathon yesterday (rather snappily entitled  “the quest for growth: ideas for a new political economy and a more responsible capitalism,” though judging by the substantive output, finding Spock might have been a more attainable quest).

Already, think tankers and policy pointy heads are feverishly bashing out articles on what it means and how this is the big idea Labour has been waiting for.

Let me help. Sit back from the keyboard and take a deep breath.

It means nothing.

It’s just a title, and, in practical political terms, there’s nothing behind it.

In his speech yesterday, Ed Miliband tried to sketch out how his vision of predistribution would remove the need for redistribution spending:

“Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, higher wage economy.”

Hmm. That sounds familiar. Where have we heard those words before?


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