Archive for May, 2010

We now know Cameron’s Cabinet, it’s difficult to see how it would have been any different had the Tories won an outright majority.

Nick Clegg as deputy leader is on a hiding to nothing, set-up as the stand-in for difficult PMQTs and a seat at the cabinet table but precious little else. Deputy leader has always been something of a ceremonial role, no specific responsibility for anything as such, had Cameron not needed the Lib-Dems it is likely William Hague would have been deputy leader in addition to the Foreign Secretary post he will still be filling. And of course Clegg may be seen as a bit of an oik being from Westminster school rather than Eton but a safe pair of hands nonetheless. So no concessions by the Tories there.

William Hague as Foreign Secretary is a classic old Tory little England stance, whilst there were efforts to play it down before the election so as not to get caught up in the usual pro- and anti-Europe debate it was made clear whilst the coalition horsetrading was going on that the Tories had settled on a hardline stance toward Europe that is in direct contrast to the usual Lib-Dem way of seeing things. Add to this the Tory refusal to condemn their extremely right-wing, racist, homophobic and mysogenistic partners in their EU block one wonders how the Lib-Dems can possibly support any policies to come out of this area. So no concessions by the Tories there either.

George Osborne as Chancellor – this is the one that could perhaps have been key, according to reception after the Chancellor debates and public perception at large Vince Cable is regarded as the most competent for the job whilst Osborne was seen as a sufficient liability that he was forced to take a very backseat role in the last few days before the election itself. Unsurprisingly though it is Big Business friendly Osborne who will head up the treasury. So here in an area one might have held out a dim hope of concessions by the Tories there were none.

Teresa May – Home Secretary, a typical Tory women of the Teresa Gorman/Edwina Curry/etc etc type mould, she has been in the Tory hierarchy for some years and will definitely not be a reformist in the Home Office. She once referred to the Tories as being the “nasty party”, she was right, they still are. I cannot see any way of reconciling what she is likely to do in her brief to that which the Lib-Dems claim to stand for.

Liam Fox as Defence Secretary – Well the defence contractors in their old school ties and the MoD must be licking their lips now, for there will not be the sort of cuts the Liberals had wanted with Fox in charge, a man who came out and said he would have preferred a minority government than a coalition. Trident will be renewed and other funding increased as Fox has constantly attacked Labour for spending too little on defence (ironic when one looks at the costs of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan). Quite clearly no concessions for the Lib-Dems here.

Ken Clarke – Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for justice. I confess I thought the Lord Chancellor position had been abolished so this was a new one on me, Ken Clarke may seem like a Tory wet but that’s only because he’s pro-Europe and he’s only pro-Europe in so far as it benefits business, this is a man responsible for removing the maintenance grant for Higher Education students and having helped continue Nigel Lawson’s policies to favour the rich over the poor whilst Chancellor in the last Tory government. His appointment will be seen as a concession perhaps to the Lib-Dems because of his views on Europe which clash with the leadership stance but he is not in a position to influence that and on justice he will be decidedly sanguine about liberal policies, a clear wolf in sheep’s clothing .

Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary, Lansley served as both a private secretary to Norman Tebbit and and Shadow Health Secretary under the right-wing cabinet of Michael Howard so this is no moderniser, the man charged with showing the country that the NHS has meaning for the Tories, ie the man who will oversee its gradual privatisation, this is not a shock though, it is a process begun under the last Tory government and continued under Labour. Yet again it is becomming difficult to see where any concessions to the Lib-Dems might come in here.

Michael Gove as Education Secretary, well since I might struggle to find an education secretary over the last number of years that hasn’t been a right-wing butcher one might presume that nothing has really changed. One would presume correctly it hasn’t, at least certainly not for the better, Gove is a Cameron right-wing right-hand man, a former Murdoch journalist, policy think tank advisor and speech writer he is part of the inner cadre. He may be seen as the one most favourable to the Lib-Dems but only because he claimed to be prepared to give up his seat in the cabinet to facilitate a coalition agreement, this makes his appointment rather than a Lib-Dem to the position all the more surprising.

So those are the big jobs done, the main offices of state and there’s a bit of an absence of the coalition partners here is there not? Not a sniff of a portfolio for the Lib-Dems, all of the offices firmly in the hands of the old guard, a few the same old guard the country seemed so desperate to get rid of 13 years ago. Is it nice to have them back? Not if you’ve a brain or any political integrity.

Now we’ll come to the second-tier of jobs perhaps there’ll be something for the Lib-Dems lurking in here.

Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith – Oh Christ, you are joking, “the quiet man,” the man who defies satire because the jokes make themselves up, now trying to model himself as a more caring sharing Tory, gets let loose on the jobless – heaven help us all and our parents and our children in their gap years. Expect to see tazers compulsorily introduced to Back to Work interviews, the state pension to be abolished for anyone who doesn’t have their own county seat and the disabled set to work on chain gangs.

But lo, what is this, the lesser spotted Liberal Democrat cabinet member, well this is one for the log book. – Business Secretary – Vince Cable – a-ha so that’s where they bundled Vince then, a poisoned chalice position. One has to take the hat off a little to the Tories on this one because it is a quite superb piece of doubleplay. On the one hand it makes it look as if they’ve entrusted something tangible to Cable and the Lib-Dems, but what they give with one hand they clearly see as being potentially taken away by the country on the other one must bear in mind that the Tories cuts are likely by Cable’s own forecasts to seriously endanger the economic recovery not to mention the current market malaise that may see the lack of confidence in the Greek economy stretch to those other economies seen as having “overstretched” and precipitate another banking disaster. So Osborne needs a fall-guy, a man who is expendable who can act as a teflon shield to keep Osborne from getting his hands dirty and that man is definitely Vince Cable. What better way to ensure a potentially catastrophically incompetent chancellor doesn’t get found out than by putting someone with a little savvy doing all the work and taking the blame should it all go wrong.

Of course if Cable figures out how to wheedle his way out of it there’s always the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws, a man seen as being sufficiently conservative that George Osborne once invited him to join the Tories. A former investment banker it’s difficult to see how Laws would be seen as being anything other than ‘one of them’ in Tory cabinet circles. Not only that but now when Osborne fucks up the first time and someone has to fall on their sword he’ll still have another Lib-Dem pawn to use for the next time.

Energy And Climate Secretary – Chris Huhne – ooh look a named job, in an area the Tories really don’t give a shit about, despite what they might try to tell you. If you want an example of it, look no further than the cynical media play a couple of years ago that filmed David Cameron cycling to the House of Commons and made little mention of the large car that was following him bringing his smart shoes and paperwork. The Tories have learnt about image manipulation now and they are becoming more slick at it as time goes on, in a country with a right-wing media hegemony it is rare to find any dissenting voice. At the end of the day to be able to tackle issues to do with energy supply and provision and climate problems with any efficiency one has to have the support of other departments such as transport in particular and here Huhne will be very much isolated. In effect what the Tories have done is put a Lib-Dem MP in another area that could present media problems down the line ie announcing the building of new nuclear power stations which is a political banana skin waiting to happen, and one which until very recently the Lib Dems didn’t even agree with. Besides which Chris Huhne went to Westminster like Nick Clegg so he must be perceived by the Etonites as “a good egg if a also bit of an oik!”

Scottish Secretary – Danny Alexander – Not that there’s any real surprise here, the Tories have scant legitimacy for governing Scotland as they only have 1 MP from a Scottish seat in Parliament and that’s an increase on what they had before so sending a Lib-Dem up to explain to the Scots why Tory policies are being foisted onto them seems again a sensible move from a Tory perspective. This must have been concocted in a “What about the picts north of Hadrian’s Wall, don’t we have to send someone up there to keep them in line?” “Hmm yes, why not send one of the Lib-Dems then we can all stay in Surrey.”

In conclusion what I see is the main jobs and therefore the last line of decision-making in the hands of old school old guard Tory Ministers, a cabinet that will easily have the ability to out-vote any Lib-Dem dissent, and Lib-Dems in jobs that in truth would be prickly ones for Tories to take, whilst the cushy ones, the lucrative business-facing ones will undoubtedly be reserved for safe Tory hands. How Clegg has been persuaded to accept this from his “Kingmaker” position is beyond me, one might like to hope that he has exacted some seriously hefty concessions on electoral reform but since this is something the Tries not only would not be able to tolerate but not able to get through their own party I somewhat doubt it. I think what will happen is the Tories will get the Queen’s speech through and the first budget and then call another General Election knowing that Labour will not have galvanised the support to come close to challenging them and the Lib-Dem support will have had a wedge driven through it. This would allow them to claim they had won a mandate for a manifesto that did not include electoral reform and that the “people have spoken” It is interesting that the people who make merely one cross next to a name can be seen to be saying so much and yet those who might actually say something on their ballot paper have their words of wisdom discarded as spoilt ballots.

Or perhaps Cameron will be so happy with his new allies having filled the shit jobs that he won’t even see the need for a new election, I doubt it, this is the avaricious power thirsty mob that is the Conservative party. Expect to be asked to vote again, and then told what it is you have said.

Song Of The Day ~ Model Morning – Without You I’m Nothing

Enough Is Enough

The political system currently in Britain is insanity. Anyone who claims that without a democratic system we would descend into anarchy (a misguided sense of what anarchy actually means) cannot be watching in comfort as each hour heralds more horse-trading and selling down the river of any political principles. The right-wing media have been baying in a way not seen since the Thatcher years and all the “business leaders” are coming out of the woodwork to tell us what is good for the country, as if they’d have the first fucking idea!

We have the Tories who are a party based on the rule of the minority over the majority, a party whose electoral coverage hinges on large constituencies with very few people in them. This is the party of “I’m all right Jack” a party whose very name signifies them as being the very antithesis of progression. They are the old order and will resist any attempts to undermine that. We have seen already the cracks in the facade, the leaks as to the prospective foreign policy which far from distancing itself from the more neo-fascist elements of their alliance in the European Parliament seems instead to be hell-bent on converging with them ideologically. This is a party who almost managed to get elected by telling you absolutely nothing of what it was they actually planned to do and how they planned to pay for it and clearly showed their loyalties when letting slip that tax would be cut for the super-rich -this in a country that has in the last 30 years seen a widening of the gap between rich and poor to almost 3rd World proportions not to mention at a time of economic crisis.

We have the Labour party who claim to be in favour of electoral reform but have failed to do anything about it in their 13 year tenure in government. A party who have so divorced themselves from their core support that when the conservatives decide to vote Conservative again they lost their majority. This is a party who have plunged the left into years of disenfranchisement which has led to the rise in dissolutioned traditional Labour voters voting for extreme parties like the BNP. It has fuelled that anger at the way things are and allowed the Nazis to walk into that ideological vacuum and offer people a scapegoat for it all. The parallels with 1930s Germany make grim reading.

We have the Liberals, a party who’s very raison d’etre seemed to hinge upon enacting electoral reform in order to actually be relevant again. A party that has gained much support from middle-class voters on the centre left who feel, rightly, that Labour has drifted too far right to represent them.

The facts are these the Conservatives received 36% of the vote and receive 47% of the seats in Parliament, Labour got 29% of the vote and receive 39.6% of the seats, the Lib-Dems got 23% of the vote and receive 8.7% of the seats. It does not take a genius to work out that there is a democratic deficit. Look at Northern Ireland where the DUP get 8 seats in Parliament with only 0.6% of the UK vote, you could say that this part of the vote has to be ring-fenced because it is effectively a separate country but Sinn Fein got nearly 4,000 more votes and end up with 3 fewer seats and the Scottish Nationalists polled almost half a million and they only get 6 seats. A total of 5% of the population voted for the BNP or UKIP and receive no representation at all, one cannot however merely cherry pick the good bits!

Another thing to take into consideration is that forget what all the idiot commentators and conservative correspondents say, Gordon Brown has to remain in No. 10 or the Queen would be forced to name his successor because the uncomfortable truth is that the government remains merely the representative of the sovereign – hence the use of the words “My Government…” in the Queen’s speech. So if you didn’t thus far feel there had been enough disenfranchisement of the population there’s a bit more for you.

To add to the whole fiasco we have the markets seeking to define what the people should and shouldn’t do and what they should and shouldn’t have voted for – a market system that has proven itself to have absolutely no regard for the people, which has proven itself utterly incompetent in dealing with its own affairs with either fiscal prudence or transparency. We are even told that George Osbourne will become chancellor because key figures in the market are already telephoning him to talk about financial matters. Of course they are, they would far rather him than anyone who might seek to put the breaks on their rampant consumerism, big salry and bonus culture, golden parachute pension provisions, all funded to a great extent by the tax payer. Of course it is public spending that’s the problem, that’s the bad spending.

I had thought some sanity had been restored when Alex Salmond called for a progressive alliance between Labour, Liberals, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, this would have given at least a hope of genuine electoral reform as most of those within such a coalition would have been in favour of such moves. The Liberals would have been able to ensure political change for they could have voted down any Queen’s speech that did not contain it. However this is where Labour then lost all credibility by issuing statements within the hour that no deal had been struck with the SNP and that this was merely Salmond electioneering to cover up a disappointing night for the SNP. Labour do not now deserve to be in a coalition government, Nick Brown the chief whip has gone one step further and said that any Lab-Lib deal would be difficult for Labour MPs to accept – would it really, more difficult to accept than the wilderness of opposition?

It is true Nick Clegg was in a difficult position to begin with, but one most other Liberal leaders would surely have given their right arms for. He was right to say the Tories had the mandate to initially try to form a government, I fully expected him then to negotiate with the Tories and break off negotiations when it was clear that they would never countenance any electoral system reform, for as already stated it would be electoral suicide for them to do so and the Tories are many things that elicit nasty adjectives but stupid is not one of them. At this point Clegg would have been fully entitled to go to Labour and form a coalition based on the proviso of electoral reform and he could easily have demanded that Gordon Brown resigned and that another general election be called with the new electoral system in place later this year. The calls that this would be a travesty as they came 2nd and 3rd place is barely worthy of rebuttal, the combined vote of the 2 parties was over 15 million and therefore 50% more than the Tories so far from being a democratic deficit it would in fact be more representative of the people. The Conservative supporters do not wish you to look that much into it.

As it is there was always the suspicion that Clegg was more one of the centre-right Liberals as opposed to the more centre-left stance of his immediate predecessors. How though does this square with the party’s representation of those who had actually voted for them? Traditionally the Liberals have had to fight the accusation that they split the Labour vote in marginals and allow the Tories in, whilst they have benefitted from many areas where the Labour vote is small and the Liberals represent the only method of keeping the Tories out such as in the South West. What now must these people feel to see the Liberals in fact facilitating a Tory government that not only will not deliver on its electoral reform pledges but will be as far removed as it could be from core Lib-Dem values? The Tories do not agree with higher tax for the rich, they do not agree with raising the personal allowance for the very poorest, they do not agree with any reduction on defence spending and they are rabidly intent on attacking public sector spending.

According to the bookies the most likely outcome is a Con-Lib pact of some description and this may be so but paradoxically I think this will plunge us far deeper into a 2 party system than before because it will split the Liberal voting support and polarise people to one side or the other, Metropolitan areas will be more likely to go back to Labour, however reluctantly, and the rural areas to the Conservatives. I cannot see how this could possibly be in the interests of either Nick Clegg or the electorate.

Song Of The Day ~ Collide – The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum