Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Spelman’

One sorry doesn’t save the Tory sinners

24/02/2011, 09:35:43 AM

by John Woodcock

There is a scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent, played by John Travolta, testily tells fellow hitman Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop giving him grief about the fact he has just accidently shot  a third member of their gang in the face.

“Did you ever hear the philosophy that once a man admits he’s wrong that he is immediately forgiven for all wrongdoings”? asks Vincent.

Now I am obviously not making any comparison at all between the drug-fuelled, murderous underworlds created by Quentin Tarantino and environment secretary Caroline Spelman’s disagreeable encounters with forest lovers. No one died, or was ever going to die, as a result of the hopefully now aborted Tory forest privatisation plan.

Nevertheless, there was a concerted effort last week to impose a Pulp Fiction philosophy on those seeking to assess the effect on the government’s credibility of David Cameron’s growing reputation for u-turns.

“A shining example of the new politics”, was how one robustly pro-coalition Liberal Democrat MP described Caroline Spelman’s humiliating volte-face on forests.

Bravo to the Conservatives for finally admitting openly that this mass sell-off of our English heritage, of which they had been extolling the virtues for months, was in fact bonkers. Shame on Labour for not having the good grace to join in the choruses of “For she’s a jolly good fellow” ringing out from the government benches behind the newly repentant environment secretary.

Now it has to be said that the way Ms Spelman baldly admitted she had been wrong and the tone she adopted in doing so were indeed striking last week. And they fairly disarming.

But the public are not daft. Yes, when faced with a government doing something they rightly hate, they would of course rather it changed its mind. But nothing beats not wanting to do it in the first place: having the good sense to realise from the outset what is totally beyond the pale.

And there is something else that fundamentally undermines the notion that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are taking a further stride into a new dawn with each successive u-turn. That is the fact that a Spelman-style mea culpa is actually the exception rather than the rule so far.

Compare her approach to that of defence secretary the previous day on an equally important issue – the military covenant between government and the armed forces. Liam Fox point blank refused to admit that he had backed away from the Tory commitment to enshrine covenant in law, ignoring all evidence to the contrary presented by respected groups like the Royal British Legion.

It was more Vicky Pollard: “I never”, than Spelman: “I’m sorry”. All supplemented with wild attacks on Labour to the effect that we never apologised, so why should they? (They were clearly too busy getting to grips with the levers of power to listen to our four month long leadership contest, when at times we seemed to do little else).

But the real test will come in how open David Cameron and George Osborne are with the public if they change course in the budget to tackle the lack of growth in the economy. Will the new politics extend to George Osborne standing up to admit that the economic masochism imposed in the first nine months of Tory-led government is not in the country’s long term interests after all?

I very much doubt it.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

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Carthorse Cable off for glue? Crowdsourcing the resignation

13/08/2010, 02:19:15 PM

He’s the most left-wing member of the government. He used to work for John Smith. And this week he learned that he’s got just half as many staff as Caroline Spelman at DEFRA. It has become about as remarkable as pointing out that Gerrard and Lampard don’t really work together in midfield, but it’s worth saying one more time: Vince Cable is a walking resignation.

Add today’s news that, presumably just to annoy Cable, the government has signed up Sir Philip ‘sophisticated tax status’ Green as an efficiency adviser, and the truth is more obvious than the hangover Dave’s never had from the ‘tins’ of Stella he pretends to buy from a supermarket he’s never been to: Cable will walk.

Vince has already manoeuvred his ally Simon Hughes into the party’s deputy leadership; and the grassroots, who still worship Vince, are preparing to brand Gove’s free schools programme even worse than first past the post. But a conference bust up over a ridiculous right wing policy almost certainly won’t be enough to precipitate Vince’s resignation in 2010. So just when will it come, and how?

Here at Uncut we’re crowdsourcing the resignation. We’ll start the ball rolling.

It’s late autumn 2011 and the drastic cuts Vince never believed in have led to the fabled double dip he always feared. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Lansley’s NHS reforms should have been concluded with a rather more substantive paragraph than “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”. And the increasingly ubiquitous media presence of Toby Young is – amazingly – one of the least upsetting consequences of Michael Gove’s DfE.

Directly elected police commissioners have been the disaster everyone predicted, and Cable’s own department has been reduced to hot-desking whilst trying to save British business because Danny Alexander ‘needs’ a spare set of computers in case he breaks his by spilling Tizer all over them again.

As he arrives at his office, a downtrodden Vince is forced to cross a picket line of public service workers. He can’t help but feel that they have a point as they protest at Con/Lib plans to axe 98% of social service funding based on the flimsy big society thesis that “maybe a charity will do it instead…hopefully.”

As he walks towards his office Vince wipes the rotten tomatoes from his beige suit and the eggshell from his off-white shirt to discover the final insult. Nick and Gideon are there, in his office, high on a cocktail of port, pimms and power, smoking cigars and doing impressions of the once national treasure using Vincey’s own signed copy of Joseph Stiglitz’ “Stability with Growth” as a makeshift bald cap. As he slams the door he shouts “what the hell do you think you are doing?”, but it barely registers. The braying continues, a defeated Vince turns and leaves, never to darken the great offices of state again.

A broken man, Vince spends the rest of his days pondering one question: how did I let it happen. How did I join a government that contained Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith. It wasn’t even nice while it lasted.

Your turn.

How do you think the end will come? Bust up with Osborne, schism with Nick. Or an offer he just can’t turn down to fill the vacant presenters chair on Nevermind the Buzzcocks?

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