Posts Tagged ‘Tories’

The Tories who failed to support Mandela’s “long walk to freedom” were not bad, merely wrong

11/12/2013, 11:24:54 AM

by Rob Marchant

With the thousands of pieces being written around the world about the death of a political giant, this is not about the great man himself – there are plenty of people better-qualified to write that one.

But it’s worth pausing to think about Mandela’s relationship with Labour.

Like many, I grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s constantly hearing about some or other horrific injustice from apartheid South Africa on the 6 o’clock news. We were too young for the Sharpeville massacre or the imprisonment of Mandela himself, but not too young to learn of the death of Steve Biko in police custody. In fact, you had only to listen to switch on Radio One – Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”, Little Steven’s “I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City” or The Specials’ “Free Nelson Mandela” – to be aware of what was going on.

It’s probably fair to say that one of the things which made me realise that it was Labour, and not the Tories, that would be my party of choice was the fact that the Tories seemed perfectly content with tolerating a regime where black people were not valued the same as white people. In 1985, Margaret Thatcher was rather dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing limited sanctions against the all-white Botha regime, whilst black citizens were still not eligible to vote. Others in her party continued to resist even that token action.

Different reasons appealed to the Tories for why it was best not to upset the applecart with Pretoria. There was, of course, the odd not-very-nice Tory who had business interests to protect, or simply a quasi-identification with the idea of blacks as second-class citizens. But more common were those who had not yet experienced the fall of communism and genuinely thought that “engagement” was the way to gradually improve things; or – a little less forgivably – that we should not interfere in “foreign cultures” which we didn’t understand.


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Letter from Wales: Understanding the Tory threat in Wales

04/12/2013, 07:08:49 PM

by Julian Ruck

Some might argue that without the Falklands War and internal Labour warfare Margaret Thatcher might never have imposed her ‘revolutions’ upon British society. Politics is always about luck (and of course Machiavellian expediency) and let’s face it, she had plenty of it. The grand irony perhaps being, that she dared to increase state control way beyond the temerity of any of her Labour predecessors, a fact often forgotten or ignored by the 21st Century politeness of please all and even their poodles, political endeavour.

No-one would argue that Thatcher’s sons ie Major, Blair and Brown carried her No 10 torch around the globe in one way or another.

So, how has Welsh Labour, and more particularly the Welsh Labour government, evolved over the years of  modern, innovative and more realistic Labour social democracy vs Tory Mammon worship?

It hasn’t, must be the only sensible answer. Years of complacent take for granted mandate has demolished new thinking and allowed the Welsh Labour political elites to wallow in unchallenged bowers of old Labour bucolic detachment and arrogant disregard for the norms of democratic oversight and scrutiny. Welsh Labour has undoubtedly added a new dimension to de Tocqueville’s ‘… socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.’

Carwyn Jones, his cabal of Ministers (although to be fair as far I know, there isn’t one Nell Gwyn amongst them), his pliant media apparat have managed to build up a reputation of non-engagement with the Welsh media, such as it is, that would shame even Paul Flowers into going straight!


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What next for the Tories after the cuts agenda?

16/07/2013, 04:10:20 PM

by Dan McCurry

You can tell what the Tory focus groups are saying by watching the way the Tories behave. Right now, they are trying to close down the perception that the government has no ideas or purpose, other than the cuts. They know they have no agenda, once the cuts agenda is done.

This explains the flurry of rather pointless ideas announced in the last few weeks. Each one of them is half-baked and each one is accompanied with same the line, “Labour did nothing about this in 13 years”.

An example is Theresa May’s call for a consultation of stop and search, arguing that the policy tends to target young black males. This was widely reported and became a talking point on the media, even though it was completely shallow. This is not serious policy, just a suggestion that people have a chat about something. Yet every Tory politician took to the air to attack Labour for doing nothing for 13 years.

On health they talk of a £200 deposit for foreigners entering the country. Again, MPs took to the airwaves to claim that Labour did nothing for 13 years of government.  There has been little response from Labour to this proposal, but Andy Burnham tells me that he can’t respond as he still doesn’t know the details. He doesn’t object to stopping abuse, but he does object to the idea that Labour had done nothing about the issue previously.

On prisons they seem to think they can ship convicts off to St Helena to serve their ten year sentence, then bring them back for the last six months to serve their sentence close to their family. Presumably convicts can send CDs home so that their children can grow up hearing daddies’ voice, then after several years of absence the children can get to know daddy on 6 prison visits. If they hadn’t cancelled Labour’s prison building program, then the whole sentence could have been served within travel distance of the family. Yet they say, “Labour did nothing in 13 years”.

The Tories don’t fear being called “nasty”, they fear being called “pointless”. Once the cuts agenda is finished, what is the point of them?

As usual, rather than addressing the problem, they address the presentation. They believe that if they can repeat often enough that Labour didn’t do this or that, they hope that people will perceive that the Conservatives are busy bees, while Labour are a waste of time, even though the opposite is true.


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Adam Afriyie. Who?

28/01/2013, 02:57:56 PM

by Kevin Meagher

What does Tory backbencher Adam Afriyie think we should be doing to boost the economy, reform public services and deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

Until I read yesterday’s newspapers, the thought to ask had never crossed my mind, but judging by yesterday’s Sunday Times it’s clear the MP for Windsor is the coming man; the saviour of a post-defeat Conservative party. A future prime minister. “Black MP is hot tip to be next Tory leader” ran the headline. I searched in vain in the subsequent story, (as bemused Tory MPs may have), for any indication of what Mr. Afriyie thinks, well, about anything.

Nevertheless, the paper reports “a secret operation is underway” to propel him to the party leadership. More than 100 Tory MPs have been approached to this end. A “friend” of Mr Afriyie explains that his cadre of backers are “very concerned” about the long-term direction of the party and believe that Afriyie is the best man to succeed David Cameron. “He has a fantastic back story and is very impressive.”

I admit to knowing the name and knew a bit of his biography, but to be honest I had quite forgotten Afriyie was there. He’s pretty low profile, but that’s not really an excuse as he’s been in parliament since 2005. Brutally, I assumed he had missed his mark and like Archie Norman and other business people who realise too late that the rough and tumble of Westminster is not their bag, led a quiet life before, inevitably, shuffling off back to business.

How wrong I was. What I did learn is that Afriyie is very rich and has a gang of eight fellow MPs pursuing his cause among Tory backbenchers in the expectation (hope?) that David Cameron will blow it in 2015.

I wrote last week that Cameron gives some of his troops the belief that he is weak and vacillating because he understands the compromises that are needed to make a coalition work. But within his own party he should be assured of more loyalty than he is clearly getting. A Thatcher, Blair or even a Brown would not be so sanguine about a well-heeled upstart flesh-pressing the backbenchers to build his on powerbase on the assumption of defeat for the party.

Where was the counter-briefing to knock holes in the Afriyie veneer once it became clear the Sundays were running with this story? Did Downing street do nothing to prick the bubble of arrant pomposity surrounding him with a pair of clod-hopping size 12s?


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Gove’s narcissistic dogma 1 – Evidence 0

28/01/2013, 08:57:26 AM

by Kevin Brennan

Last week’s announcement by Michael Gove that AS Levels would no longer count towards an A Level grade was a classic example of making policy based on dogma not evidence.

Back in 2010 Michael Gove announced his intention to get rid of AS Levels. They were originally introduced to give students a chance to study a broader range of subjects in year 12 (the old lower 6th). Students could decide to specialise in year 13 by dropping one or two subjects, but still have a good AS qualification to show for it. If they carried on, their AS mark could contribute to the final A Level grade in that subject.

One objection to AS Levels was that because of modular testing students in year 12 faced exams very early on, before having matured sufficiently. This was dealt with by getting rid of such early assessments which also discouraged entering early assessments just to ‘bank’ a mark. This was a reasonable reform to AS.

But Michael Gove was left with a problem that despite his stated intention to scrap AS Levels altogether, it was clear that he had very little support for his plans.

The right thing to do would have been to retain AS Levels as modified, but instead he has chosen to render them largely irrelevant by removing their ability to act as a building block to A-Level.


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This government is driven by venal self-interest

12/03/2012, 04:03:25 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

It’s a very strange time in parliament at the moment. Having changed the legislative calendar, with the Queen’s Speech now in May rather than the traditional November, parliament has run-out of business. The Commons is becalmed while the battles over health, welfare and legal aid being fought-out in the Lords.

With welfare reform cuts about to hit home and housing benefit caps forcing displacement and homelessness, the character of the laws due royal assent over the next few weeks show an old school Tory, right-wing, ideological intent to take government back to laissez-faire sink-or-swim economics; where the state sits back and does the very bare minimum to assist its citizens in trouble.

Whilst Labour souls worry about the Tory-led government’s woeful destruction of aspiration and hope, it is difficult to detect any noticeable or natural empathy from the likes of independently wealthy Cameron and Clegg and the many other millionaires in the cabinet.

Those with private wealth don’t usually know the fear of facing homelessness or joblessness. They can pay for private health insurance and secure their futures through top-class public schooling; can afford private care if disabled, frail or ill and enjoy their own pensions and investments, so have no need for the welfare state. As Tory grandee Alan Clarke once memorably explained, they live off the interest on the interest. Put simply, they can cut with impunity because they don’t feel the pain.

No clearer is this ambivalence evident than with the Health and Social Care Bill. The ramifications of allowing foundation hospitals to use up to 49% of their resources for private, non-NHS work, may not worry certain individuals that can afford US-style private health care insurance, however, NHS waiting lists will surely soar while paving the way for a two-tier health care system.


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Does Labour have the courage to stand up for the workers?

29/07/2011, 02:20:27 PM

by Tom Harris

Every elected Labour official has the same experience: hard-working constituents regale us with tales of how they receive no help from the state, whereas the plights of others, usually described as “immigrants” and almost always “unemployed” and “benefit claimants” receive the most attention.

The problem for my party is that such grievances have a dangerous amount of validity.

One parliamentary colleague describes how his father, having worked all his adult life, raised a family in their council house and never failed to pay his rent on time, was philosophical about the fact that his modest request for a new home, closer to relatives, would remain at the bottom of the priorities list. Why? Because he had worked all his adult life and never failed to pay his rent on time.

The government’s various panic-stricken maneuverings over council house tenures reveals that the multi-millionaire, privately educated members of the Cabinet (and I use none of those descriptions in a pejorative sense) are finding it just as hard to get a grip on this aspiration thing as many members of my own party.

The Tories and their Lib Dem partners seem to see council housing as a sign of failure, almost a punishment for not having worked hard enough at school. Their “solution” to the housing shortage is to force those living in such estates to bugger off as soon as they find a job and start to enjoy the fruits of their labour. In a sea of inept initiatives from this government, this is probably the most bonkers of them all: reserve council estates exclusively for those who can’t or won’t work, and remove all the successful, aspirational tenants, often against their will.

Where does that leave young people living in such estates? Where are the role models that teach them that hard work is rewarding? I’ll tell you where: nowhere near you, mate! (more…)

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Spare a thought for the poor Tory MPs

18/04/2011, 10:02:00 AM

by John Woodcock

Will someone please spare a thought for those poor Conservative MPs? The Liberal Democrats have been so unruly over the last week that the Tories are looking positively collegiate in comparison.

Back when their coalition was formed, Conservative whips no doubt insisted that making nice with a party they despise was a small price to pay for getting the chance to implement a governing programme that remained unmistakably Tory.

And for a while, being civil was made easier by the sight of their new partners soaking up public outrage as the government got on with implementing cuts that “Thatcher only dreamed of”. Not only were the Liberal Democrats locked in the boot of the ministerial Jag (just imagine, if you can, opening a boot and finding an angry Sarah Teather and Julian Huppert inside), but Nick Clegg was gallantly offering to pose as the little statue on its bonnet.

So the vast majority of Tories – many of whom have been denied ministerial office to make way for a Liberal – have spent a whole year biting their tongues and trying to play nice with their new friends.

Then they pop off back to the constituency for the Easter recess and find that the agreement to keep mutual contempt under wraps has been unilaterally cast aside by their junior partners.

Make no mistake, Vince Cable’s open criticism of the prime minister went way beyond the boundary of what would normally be considered acceptable by someone bound by collective responsibility.

It is a statement of the bleeding obvious that Labour’s time in government was not always a model of harmony between ministers. Clare Short repeatedly acted up towards the end. The Eds, Balls and Miliband, are absolutely right to pledge never to go back to the madness of the Blair-Brown squabbles that regularly spilled over into the press.

But even at the height of the bad feeling, no minister openly defied the prime minister like Vince Cable did last week and kept their job. And he was not acting in isolatation. Cable’s salvo came just days after a Liberal assault on the government’s health policy that was triggered by Clegg himself.

It is unclear where the Liberal Democrats go from here, and even whether they will ultimately stick together as a party.

But one thing is clear: Conservative MPs on their return to Westminster are going to be less willing to play the role of happy, Scandinavian-style coalition builders.

If Tory MPs ensconced in their constituencies are prepared to tell the likes of me how fizzing they are about the way the Lib Dems are flouting the coalition agreement, their anger when they get back to the bosom of the 1922 committee will be something to behold.

There is a real danger that the disgruntled Tory right flank may well start demanding the imposition of even more true blue policies to make up for this misbehaviour. The consequences of that for families and businesses across the country could be grim.

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

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Alex Salmond’s cosy relationship with Rupert Murdoch and the Tories

14/04/2011, 03:42:43 PM

At the 1992 election, Scotland was one place where the Tory-loving Sun didn’t publish its “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain…” front page.

The paper’s infamous attack on Labour would have been wasted on Scottish voters. Instead, Rupert Murdoch’s favourite tabloid switched support from the increasingly toxic Tories to the SNP. The objective, though, was still the same – to stop a Labour government at Westminster.

Fast forward nearly two decades, and we see that history may be repeating itself. The Daily Record political editor, Magnus Gardham, reveals in his blog that News International is hosting a “business breakfast” with first minister, Alex Salmond. It’s an offer that certainly isn’t open to other party leaders during the campaign.

In recent weeks, Murdoch’s Sun has splashed on celebrity endorsers for the SNP and attacked Labour at every opportunity. So it’s odds-on they’ll support the SNP – or at the very least Salmond – by polling day.

Magnus also highlights how this SNP Scottish government has not challenged the Tory-led coalition with the same vigour as they did the previous Labour UK government.

For example, there was no fight-back from Salmond over a recent clampdown on finances by Danny Alexander. According to Magnus, the treasury bean-counter informed SNP finance secretary, John Swinney, that the Scottish government could no longer hold on to unspent cash at the end of the financial year.

Magnus notes that “in days gone by, Salmond would have trampled folk underfoot in his haste to reach the Holyrood chamber for an angry emergency statement”. But not under a Tory government, it seems.

Obviously, there are huge questions about how our print media does actually influence voters these days. As Alastair Campbell reminds us in his blog, the Tories ended up with just one seat north of the border at last year’s general election, despite the Sun supporting them devotedly in Scotland.

The real problem for both the Sun and the SNP is one of credibility. The gymnastics performed by the Sun are of Olympic proportions. Only four year ago, the paper ran an election day splash with the headline “Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose”.

This time round, the Nationalists could find the Sun’s support extremely counterproductive, given that the paper is also supporting the Tories in its other UK editions.

The Scots are too canny to be taken in and will see through Murdoch’s motives. Endorsement from News International for Alex Salmond, the SNP or for both isn’t about what’s best for Scotland. It’s all to do with what’s best for the Tories at Westminster. And the last thing David Cameron wants is Labour first minister in Holyrood fighting for the things that really matter.

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Social mobility – judge the government by its actions not its words

05/04/2011, 02:30:43 PM

by Richard Watts

Whoever decided that the government’s social mobility strategy should be published in the week that the budget cuts hit has a very twisted sense of humour.

Children and young people will be the ones hit hardest by the cumulative effect of the cuts announced over the last 9 months, which start to be implemented from Monday. While for many comfortably off people the cuts will, at worst, cause some inconvenience, for many young people they will be truly life changing.

Only a true cynic would suggest that Nick Clegg is not genuine in his desire for Britain to be a more meritocratic country. However, his Faustian deal to reduce the deficit with unnecessary haste will ensure that the country he leaves behind will surely be less “socially mobile” than that he inherited.

There is no doubt that social mobility slowed down towards the end of the twentieth century. The definitive study by the centre for economic performance concluded:

“On average, the life chances of a child born into a poor household in 1970 were worse than those of a child born into a similar household in 1958. In particular, we showed that the earnings of individuals born in 1970 were more strongly related to the income of their parents than those of the earlier cohort”. (more…)

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