In the midst of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression of the 1930’s how are the Tories rating?

From Ipsos-Mori’s January political monitor

In terms of which party is seen to have the best policies for managing the economy, the Conservatives (30%) and Labour (29%) are now virtually neck-andneck – this compares with a 15 percentage point lead that the Conservative Party enjoyed in August of 2008.

Nice work George, nice work.

While I’ve been gone ….

28 January, 2009

I popped to the Progressive London conference which cunningly invited all the possible rivals to Ken for the Labour nomination for the  London Mayoralty in 2012 to the big massive Ken fest. The wiley old fox. There were also plenty of people from other parties which is a very smart thing to do given the voting system for London Mayor.

There was a seminar on blogging which I went to which reinforced in my mind the importance of news rather than comment. So armed with a trusty copy of Your Right To Know I have fired off a couple of FOI requests to Boris. I’m sure it will help the blond mop to know someone is looking over his shoulder. Anyway we shall have to wait for the results as the 2000 FOI act gives the public body plenty of time to answer.

In other news

This pdf is about as good a summery of the mid term playing field from a democratic perspective as your going to get.

And now number 44 …

22 January, 2009

nomorebush

Hattip Jon Worth

Watching the events on Tuesday I had a thought about the strange relationship between fiction and reality. As any West Wing fan will know Barack Obama’s political parentage owes more than a small debt to the glint in Matt Santos’s eye. The thing is even though the West Wing is a portrayal of an idealised Clintonite Presidency minced through the Hollywood dream machine the Obama campaign just shows that the depths of human creativity can be triumphed by the bright daylight of reality just sometimes. I’ve been saying wow alot recently and i’m not planning to stop any times soon.

As for the speech there will come a time when speech writers will have had there full measure of Lincoln but that time may be four score and seven years into the future. I thought it was a fantastic speech with many great lines but I think talk of a line like Kennedy’s patriotic call was overhype. Seriously how many lines can you remember from presidential inaugurations not many I’ll wager. That is not to dismiss Obama’s profound eloquence which will be remembered around the world for decades and more. That said I think the following three lines from the speech have the feel that they could enter our collective memory.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.

all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Calling someone an intellectual masturbator in the blogsphere is a bit like going up to a bouncer on a night out and saying “Oi big ears, I’ve been having your Mum I have.” except without the eye gouging. Dave Semple of Though Cowards Flinchblog and campaign co-ordinator of Canterbury CLP has been having a barney with Tom Miller although Tom has been far to kind in return “I just think that it would be nice if you didn’t diss me without knowing the facts, and I also think that we should be able to at least be fucking nice to each other. Please.”

In Mr Semple’s latest post he states “I’ll finally get a chance to reply to some of those who took me up on my criticism of Cruddas.”  I’m looking forward to it already but before I get accused of intellectually masturbating I should point out that the pages of my copy of A la recherche du temps perdu only stick together due to a freak accident involving superglue, superglue I tell you….

Fight, Fight, Fight.

Conor Ryan nails Tory hypocrisy:

There are now just 440 schools with fewer than 30% five good GCSEs – including English and Maths – compared with 1600 when Michael Gove’s lot were still in power (he has the cheek to bemoan the fact that “too many children are still being educated at schools which the prime minister classes as ‘failing”.)

Continues here

Watson’s wheels

14 January, 2009

If I was Tom Watson I would try to loose this picture but trying to separate a politician from an embarrassing photo opportunity is like trying to separate clouds from the sky. Still it adds to the gaiety of the nation…..

The trouble with PMQ’s

14 January, 2009

One of the benefits of impending old age is that I can remember the change in 1997 from PMQ’s being two 15 minutes sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays to one 30 minute session on a Wednesday. This was done to reduce the accountability of government to parliament or to make parliamentary scrutiny more considered and less of a bearpit depending on which party you belong to.

Today I don’t think much has changed. Government is no less accountable to parliament because they are experts in circumventing scrutiny anyway, all with the willing connivance of MP’s who seem more than willing to exercise the full cashiering of their pay checks yet they are reticent to exercise the powers that belong to a sovereign parliament in checking the power of government. The media and narrative of whether Brown or Cameron won misses the wider points that PMQ’s does nothing to raise public confidence in parliament or provide for effective scrutiny of government.

The best questions at PMQ’s are the one’s about MP’s constituents or constituencies or campaigns on serious issues. That’s what PMQ’s should be about rather than the PM verses leader of the opposition filling the media narrative of who won the panto duel. The planted questions, and lets face it both sides do it, are frankly an embarrassment that insults the intelligence of the public. The impression that politicians are asking questions not out of interest whether personal or constituency but for purely partisan reasons are one of the many reasons that politicians are held in contempt by the public.

That other innovation in prime ministerial parliamentary scrutiny of the Blair years the appearance before the Chairman’s Panel made up of the Chair’s of  select committee’s I think works rather better. For one thing there is greater chance to press the prime minister on a single line of questioning. Then there is the fact that it’s not in the chamber so you don’t have several hundred MP’s in the place to fill up the seats for TV with no actual job to do other than make embarrassing noises. Perhaps PMQ’s could be moved to a select committee environment with membership and the right to ask questions decided by lot except for the reserved rights of the opposition party leaders.

Can Parliament find any less effective ways of holding the government to account than PMQ’s.

Some other takes on PMQ’s here and here

Pick a policy any policy

13 January, 2009

Now the Lib Dems have a, ahem, flexible attitude to policy that is well known but it seems this flexibility is being extended to breaking point on tuition fees. Bristol West Labour Party have been tracking the positions of their local Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams who incidently is the Lib Dem Shadow for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Lib Dems federal policy committee which is a bit like the soviet politburo political committee without the AK-47’s. Anyway here is the email I got earlier  

The FPC (Lib Dem policy body) has voted to continue opposing tuition fees- in contrast to Stephen Williams and their front bench who are actively campaigning for them

As the article from a Lib Dem MEP states the fiscally conservative faction in the Lib Dems (to which Mr. Williams belongs) may still propose the measure from the conference floor.http://antonyhook.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/exclusive-lib-dems-fpc-vote-to-keep-scrap-tuition-fees-policy/

The problem is Mr. Williams has been CAMPAIGNING FOR tuition fees having promised to campaign against them.

Now that the FPC has made this decision we call on Stephen Williams MP to publicly state whether he will continue to campaign for tuition fees or abandon his campaign and return to his original promise.

More positions than the Karma Sutra….

Yes, Yes, Yes

13 January, 2009

News that the government wants to put a duty on all public bodies to reduce the gap between rich and poor is fantastic. Harriet Harman I could kiss you. The devil of course will be in the detail, for instance is Parliament going to exclude itself like it has disgracefully done over Freedom of Information? Unless it does this should mean an end to the exploitative intern system. Or perhaps paid internships across the public sector? Is this going to limit the Treasury from introducing any budget that shifts money from poor to rich? If it is that major and doesn’t get watered down it has to be a prime target for repeal by a future conservative government. But that would be a battle that the Labour Party would be well up for.

The attitude of the courts will also be interesting because this could have a reach over a huge range of policies so any pressure group or well funded individual could theoretically take the government to judicial review and I suspect the legal aid budget for public law is going to have to go up. The crucial question is how far the judiciary decide to push this new power which could alter the balance of power between government which is afterall elected and judicary which isn’t. Personally I don’t think the judges would push things that far. They are a fairly small c conservative bunch afterall. Would the courts stop the granting of planning permissions for the development of private schools for instance. I doubt it.

Still this could be a stunning piece of legislation.

Tory Ventriloquist Dummies?

12 January, 2009

Hang on a minute isn’t the conventional wisdom that the Conservative blogsphere is all wonderful and dandy. Free from central control, it’s supposedly the electronic embodiment of a libertarian society and with rapier wit and cutting analysis they hold the government to account.

Ummmmmmmmm as it is so often with conventional wisdom it could soon turn out to be even more conventionally wrong with Mr Dale Esq’s idea that conservative bloggers shackle themselves to Conservative Central Offices video feed of Cameron’s policy launches. At the moment with only 9 people logging on at the start not only is this another Tory e-campaigning mess but the shocking thing is even CCO can’t be bothered with Conservative policy so why should Tory bloggers be?