Posts Tagged ‘Tory’
One of the more interesting follies on display in Westminster these days is the government’s absolute conviction that they are “right”, manifested most vividly in Cameron’s impotent fury at being brought to heel in the Commons by John Bercow. That sense of entitlement is gaining an increasingly brittle tone as they are dragged ever closer to an electoral precipice beyond which there is surely no recovery.
The sheer ‘wrongness’ of this conviction is seen again in Rebekah Brooks asserting her “complete bafflement” as to why she has been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and in Jeremy Hunt’s shrill insistance that he has behaved with the utmost probity in his handling of the BSkyB takeover. David Cameron meanwhile can be presumed to be sticking both fingers in his ears, rocking back and forth emitting a high pitched keening noise to block out the unwelcome prospect of cross examination by the Leveson Enquiry proving to be inconveniently thorough.
One would almost feel sorry for these wretched idealogues if the policies they were hell bent on introducing weren’t so palpably self serving. Their problem is, that in their mad minds, the cosying up to Murdoch’s News International is just part of “Rolling up our sleeves” and “Getting the job done”. As David Cameron never tires of telling us “I spent many years working in the media” (as some kind of PR stooge for a television company) and here one would have to say that many years working in the media has turned better people than David Cameron into power crazed sociopaths obsessed with the advancement of self.
I digress. The real point here is one that anyone who has had any exposure to corporate politics will recognise. The reality of what has happened in the Murdoch empire. There is enough of a chasm between the world of influence and power represented by the Tories and their media cronies and the world of semantics and law required by the Leveson prosecutors for the phrase “I have no recollection…” to be assumed to be a reasonable defence. In the fifth form this would roughly translate as “…I never!…”.
The fact is that big business is a world of sophistication away from the shopping mall. In this context, Cameron taking a posse of arms dealers with him on his tour of the far east seems entirely natural. The game is about influence and connections, it is no longer about superb products, that’s just the PR machine. Cameron witters about our world class security products (by which he is presumably referring to the instruments of torture that proved such a hit in the middle east) as if they were a gift we are about to bestow on the hapless countries we’ve singled out as “growth markets”.
In Cameron, Osborne and the rest of this bungling crew we have a government so firmly in thrall to the methods and madness of big business that they genuinely can’t see anything wrong. To many of us, the arms trade is tainted, a thing we wish the world could do without. To a businessman it’s just another way of turning a fast buck. Who cares if we’re enabling some tin pot despot, so long as it allows us into the market.
The Cameron family fortune was made by exploiting loopholes in the tax laws to establish some of the first offshore funds, siphoning millions out of the UK economy in order to maximise the returns for the very wealthy. It’s in his DNA. George Osborne inherited his multi million pound fortune on his 21st birthday. This government don’t know any other way to do things, pursuit of the pound without any guiding principles turns ugly very quickly. Meanwhile, big business does what it always has done, weave webs of influence into which these hapless inheritants have willingly hurled themselves. We can revile Murdoch and his ilk, but we can’t blame them for behaving like businessmen. As somebody astutely observed, in business, when you push on an open door, you generally go in. The blame then rests squarely on the shoulders of the politicians that have embraced this poisonous ideology.
Cameron is a wannabe Tony Blair, but what differentiates these Tories from the Blair government they would so dearly like to emulate is that Blair, for all his many faults was driven by a vision that was about more than the mere accumulation of wealth. The New Labour project was a revolution in society and politics, a revolution that delivered on many of its promises to the electorate and crucially, got re-elected with crushing majorities, time and time again. And ironically, a generation grew up for better or worse, in a climate of unprecedented wealth and enjoyed what now look suspiciously like the best years of their lives under that Labour government. I say ironically, because the generation that will grow up underneath these Tories should we be so ignorant as to reelect them, will experience nothing of the kind.
The Tories’ worst crime is that of arrogance. Against a government as unpopular as Gordon Brown’s they could not muster a majority. The smoking gun, if there is one, lies in the fact that chief spin doctor and News International shareholder Andy Coulson was able to work without high level security clearance in a job where he had access to material that any fool can see should be classed as confidential. If rumour is correct, Cameron’s main concern in the hiring of Coulson was that he sign an agreement not to write a memoir about “the Cameron Years”. It seems as though Cameron was so convinced of his entitlement to power that when he finally got it, he acted as though he thought none of the checks and balances applied to him. He saw no reason not to socialise with the Wades and the Murdochs, because their interests he naively assumed were his interests and therefore the country’s interests. It may very well be that there was no secret contract, but for a PR man, Cameron is exceptionally naive – in these days of the internet and wall to wall news, we see the whole story unfold and as the saying goes, if it looks like a crock and smells like a crock then it very probably is a crock.
A couple of points worth mentioning. 38 Degrees are in no way connected to the Labour Party. This is a line that has been trotted out before by Tory MP’s. One wonders if it is just laziness or a dismal attempt to undermine the credibility of an organisation that simply provides a vehicle for coordinated protest.
The assertion that Labour never revealed the risk register is barely worthy of the playground. It would be unusual to reveal the risk register if nobody asked to see it. The difference in this case is that people did ask to see it. In fact a legal ruling was made declaring it to be in the public interest to see it. A ruling the Tories ignored.
The declaration that Mike will stand up for what he believes in is interesting. Mike Weatherly was elected fairly, as the MP for Hove. At the time, the Tories were making several promises they have since broken. Amongst these promises was the claim that “The NHS is safe in our hands” and “There will be no top down reorganisation of the NHS under this government”. Presumably Mike was enthusiastically supporting these pledges at the time? Call me naive, but if an elected member of parliament chooses to ignore the the protests of his constituents, on the basis that he knows best, then I for one, would want to see a much better rationale than the one provided by Mike Weatherly here.
Unions? Pressure Groups? Utter nonsense. Mike, there are reds under the bed.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to my local Member of Parliament Mike Weatherley, Tory MP for Hove & Portslade, to enquire which way he had voted on the National Health reforms. It was a serious question, I want to know what my member of parliament is doing for his money and I wanted to remind him that his constituants care.
I didn’t expect an immediate response, but the automated message I did receive should have alerted me to the fact that customer service is very definitely not a priority for this Tory MP.
“Thank you very much for your email. Please be assured that I have received your message safely and will endeavour to respond within 14 days.
I can also be contacted by post and telephone…”
Anyway, he has taken the trouble to add me to his mailing list so that I can now report on his activities in some detail.
In a week which has been dominated by concerns about the National Health and the Governments relationship with News International, Mike Weatherley was having none of it. His communique has the chirpy upbeat style of a practised comedian – no glass half empty here.
1. He has “welcomed” a grant to the South Downs. I’m guessing this means he didn’t instigate it but would like to be associated with it…
2. He has “popped in” to the Little Fish Market and bought some fish for the weekend. He heartily recommends we do likewise.
3. He has chaired a debate on live music in Parliament. Not sure if this was a scheduled debate or an informal one in the members bar, but good work Mike!
4. He has “welcomed” the eviction of the St. Paul’s protesters. See point 1.
5. He has “hosted” a parliamentary dinner to discuss…wait for it…live music and in particular how the music industry can strengthen its stranglehold, sorry, maintain a competitive advantage in these straitened times.
6. He has “spoken out” against the huge public subsidy of trade union officials within Sussex Police. Figures released by Sussex Police, following a Freedom of Information request, show that the annual cost to the taxpayer of trade union officials in Sussex Police was £183,099.75 in 2009/2010 and £162,926.42 in 2010/2011.
It doesn’t amount to a whole lot of what I would recognise as “work”. All this “speaking out” and “welcoming” must be awfully wearing though and one wonders what the hapless owners of the Little Fish Market did in a previous life.
Setting sarcasm aside for a moment, one point Mike raises about the cost to the taxpayer of trade union officials is worth examining. This is a popular Tory mantra in their ceaseless mission to prevent “business” from being hamstrung by things like “fair pay” and “holidays”.
Let’s assume that a fulltime Trades Union official is paid £40,000 a year. It’s a guess, but probably not that far off the mark. That’s four whole Trades Union officers to represent the entirety of the Sussex Police. By contrast Mike Weatherley is paid £65,738 by the taxpayer to represent erm Hove. I wonder if the Trades Union Officers spend as much time debating live music or even “welcoming” grants to the South Downs. Add to this the fact that the police are not yet a privately run business and you have to wonder what on earth Mike has been smoking.
I’ve put off writing this post in the aftermath of the rioting, partly because I’m keenly aware that ranting about politics is not what this blog was originally set up to do, partly because I suspected in my cynical and road weary fashion that we’d get a bunch of soundbytes from Prime Minister Cameron asserting qualities such as ‘leadership’, blaming riots on the previous administration, followed by well, no coherent action. I wanted to see, if I was right.
Well frankly, in my wildest and most paranoid dreams I could not have predicted what a complete hash Cameron would make of it.
Firstly we got the soundbytes, exactly as expected. There was a lot of confrontational language on display. Words such as “fightback”, phrases like “zero tolerance” – not the words I would have chosen when dealing with a situation as potentially combustible as this, but exactly the sort of old fashioned Tory tripe I had expected to hear from Cameron.
And it got worse. Cameron enthusiastically blamed the Labour Party, the Police, the absent fathers – everyone and everything except the cuts, the joblessness and the despair his policies have visited upon the poorer sections of society. He proposed that not just the criminals, but their entire families be evicted from social housing. A suggestion immediately acted upon by Westminster council. A suggestion that flies in the face of fairness, human rights and common sense. And possibly the law.
Next, after a consultative process that must have lasted oh, at least five minutes, Cameron proposed to shut down Twitter, Blackberry messaging and damn it, if necessary the entire internet to stop these rioters communicating. I expect the telephone service and the royal mail to swiftly follow. Apart from the implausibility of the coalition actually doing this, isn’t this exactly what he so vociferously condemned the Egyptian government for attempting six months ago?
And then it got hilariously, stupidly, downright incompetently even worse. Without consultation with the police forces, Cameron appointed one Bill Bratton, ex chief of police for LA, a district so ridden with gang violence that it makes Tottenham look like Camberwick Green, to advise the government on how to deal with the societal issues that caused the riots. As offensive as this idea must have seemed to our own police forces, it was about to get even worse.
Bill Bratton is chairman of the private detective agency Kroll. (You can see where this is heading, right?) In June this year, Kroll were accused very publicly and in formal court papers by Dr Martin Coward, a city investment manager, of illegally planting covert surveillance equipment in his house and car. Evidence submitted to the court included the surveillance equipment and hilariously, a video of the goon squad going about their business. But of course as we well know, Cameron is a man who believes in second chances, so obviously he got his people to carry out background checks? Well, with crushing inevitability, it seems no background checks were carried out. So for the sake of a soundbyte, Cameron has done exactly the same thing he did with Andy Coulson. Arrogant? Ignorant? Incompetent? all of these?
There is just one good thing about this government. It is impossible to countenance the electorate ever again falling for a politician who combines poor leadership, empty promises and an empty headed view of people based solely on class, connections and money? Well, isn’t it?
Is the phone hacking scandal David Cameron’s personal Watergate? We appear to have all the ingredients necessary to topple an unelected government for whom cynicism and self interest appear to be the only identifiable characteristics. So why is the press tip toeing around this story like cattle avoiding an abattoir?
For those who haven’t been paying attention, this dismal tale began to look interesting when News of The World Editor Andy Coulson was appointed chief spin doctor to Downing Street at a time when the paper was already under investigation by the police after allegations of phone tapping were made public. The official line was that the phone tapping was the work of a single private investigator operating under his own initiative and that Andy Coulson could not possibly have known about it. Fast forward six months and amid allegations that senior police officers were wined and dined by the News of The World, that David Cameron spent Christmas Day dining with Rebekah Wade-Brooks and James Murdoch, and the kind of connections started to be made that rendered Andy Coulson’s position at the heart of the government an embarrasment. Quite where the appointment of Murdoch acolyte Jeremy Hunt to oversee the sale of BSkyB to News International, and the editorial support for the Tory party adopted by the Murdoch owned newspapers fits into all this is a question that newspapers apart from the Guardian seem curiously unwilling to ask. And as revelations concerning the hundreds of thousands of pounds allegedly paid to senior police officers stack up, it seems extraordinary for News International to continue to claim that their executives were innocent of any wrongdoing.
The phone tapping scandal reached its nadir with revelations that the mobile belonging to Milly Dowler was tapped and messages deleted from the voicemail service to make room for more by private investigators. These people were employed by News of the World journalists under an editorial regime presided over by current chief executive Rebekah Wade-Brooks. The cynicism and cruelty of this act beggars belief since relatives desperately trying to contact Milly were given false hope by the fact that it appeared that she had deleted the messages herself. A full mailbox accepting no further voicemails suddenly became accessible. This demonstrates a level of cynicism matched only by Wade-Brooks fatuous excuse that she was ‘on holiday’ at the time this happened. The fact is that as editor at the time she should be held to account for the culture of journalism prevailing in the company. It almost seems appropriate to quote Bill Shankly on the offside rule: “If he’s not interfering with play, what the F*** is he doing in the area!” Even if Wade-Brooks did not personally order that telephone to be tapped, she was responsible for the culture that did.
On Tuesday David Cameron performed another of his wonderful U-turns. Initially declaring that it would be inappropriate to order a government inquiry into the affair while an ongoing police investigation was erm ongoing, by the afternoon he had decided the affair could not be ignored and declaring the actions of the private investigators to be ‘dreadful’ he ordered the inquiry to take place. Meanwhile, BSkyB will be delivered to Murdoch on a plate, giving him control of approximately 50% of the media channels in this country.
The opportunism of Murdoch closing the News of the World absolutely demonstrates why we should be so concerned by the prospect of this company becoming the dominant force in the UK media. Before the scandal caused advertisers to pull out en masse (interesting that Tesco, Vodaphone and Orange saw no reason to protest), Rebekah Wade had already laid plans to merge the workforces of the Sun and the News of the World, and News International had already bought the domain name for the proposed Sunday Sun. All that has happened is that Murdoch has swung the axe more quickly and more widely than he had planned. This scandal has been opportunistically exploited to save Rebekah Wade Brooks at the expense of hundreds of jobs. Of course an executive with close ties to the Prime Minister is a valuable asset to the Murdoch enterprise.
Sometimes it feels as though the british public are like sheep being led to a slaughter. We are force fed salacious nonsense about second rate celebrities while unemployment rises, prices rise, inflation rises. The government ensure that what little money remains in the economy is channelled into the hands of the private sector, while peddling the line that all of this is somehow the fault of a Labour Government. David Cameron’s trade is public relations lest we forget. It is the one thing he really does excel at.
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was persuading the world he didn’t exist.” appropriately, that quote comes from a film entitled “The Usual Suspects”.
Andrew Neil’s polemic about the influence of the public school system on english politics and the evaporation of the meritocracy ushered in by the likes of Harold Wilson on the left and Margaret Thatcher on the right offered up some truly staggering statistics. Try this one for size – 75% of the coalition cabinet are millionaires. 66% went to public school. Men of the people they are certainly not.
The point the program made was not that private education and privilege should disqualify people from rule, tempting though that conclusion undoubtedly is, but that people whose access to an education of similar quality is denied, have little or no chance of becoming successful in politics these days. In this context, the draconian cuts that the coalition have imposed on education are even more alarming.
Andrew Neil is a brilliant journalist and a shining example of someone who has benefitted from living through times when the UK was a meritocracy. His interviews were drawn from a genuine cross section, including Sarah Teather, minister for education, Douglas Hurd, David Davis – the man who lost out to David Cameron in the Tory leadership contest, the ludicrous Jacob Rees-Mogg (“I’m a man of the people,Vox populi, vox dei.”) and Lord Mandelson. What emerged is the surprising fact that for the first time, we are seeing career politicians who have never actually had a proper job.
The route to power goes roughly like this – public school, preferably Eton or Westminster, University, preferably Oxford though Cambridge has a part to play, a stint as a researcher or ‘Spad’ – Westminster speak for ‘special advisor’ then ushered into a safe seat. It is worth noting that the roles of researcher and special advisor are extremely badly paid, requiring some private means in order to make ends meet. Of the Trade Unions, traditionally a route to power for the working man in the sixties, we heard nothing. Ironically, Margaret Thatcher, the last beneficiary of the meritocratic seventies, smashed this route to power with some deliberation.
We are left with the uneasy feeling that the rise of the new Tories was inevitable and that the meritocracy we thought we had achieved under New Labour was an illusion. The system has the last word and if you strangle the supply of talent, you are left with the government we have. How this is to be fixed is unclear. Equality begins with education and what is suggested by the evidence presented here is that until the comprehensive system provides an education that can match that provided by the public schools, the bias will continue.
As a parting thought, I believe that some exceptional people will flourish in the comprehensive system. I know that some teachers continue to do an excellent job of imparting the fundamental skills in the traditional manner. Of child centred learning I believe there are questions to be asked. I’d be interested to know which public schools employ these methods. The flaw in the concept of grammar schools was the eleven plus exam. It produced a two tiered system at an impossibly early age, both unforgiving and unfair. The tragedy is that the grammar schools worked.
I wonder sometimes if there are any limits to the Tory leadership’s contempt for the people of this country. It appears not, as a cursory examination of the background of Baron Browne of Madingly, the peer entrusted with the responsibility of achieving a sustainable future for higher education all to readily reveals.
The ‘official’ version is that Browne’s glittering career in BP, starting as an apprentice and ending as group chief executive from which lofty position he trousered a renumeration package of approximately £5.7m in 2004, equips him, as a man who has been there and done it, to make sound recommendations, not on corporate governence, of which more, later, but on education. Presumably on the basis he has attended a university at some point in the distant past. That would be Cambridge in case you were wondering.
From 1997, Browne sought to re-brand BP as a “green” energy company. The company linked itself in its corporate communications with green issues by the overt link of its BP initials with the phrase “Beyond Petroleum”. Browne stated that the right to self-determination was crucial for people everywhere, and that he saw his company’s mission as to find ways to meet current needs without excessive harm to the environment, while developing future, more sustainable sources of energy. He promised that BP would cut its production of CO2 by 10% by 2010, although it is as yet unproved whether BP met this goal.
All good and well, though I doubt the inhabitants of the Congo basin would applaud the oil industry’s efforts at conservation. However, Tom Bower, an investigative journalist who began his career on Panorama and went on to publish unauthorised biographies of Tiny Rowland, Mohammed El Fayed, Richard Branson and Robert Maxwell amongst others, disagrees.
Bower claims that Browne, far from prioritising the safety and sustainability of the environment, was responsible for a “ruthless” programme of cost-cutting at BP that compromised safety, and was therefore the man most responsible for a string of major accidents including the Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005 and the notorious Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. Bower also accuses Browne of tolerating only “sycophants” in his “corporate court”, including the hapless sailor Tony Hayward who succeeded him as BP Chief Executive. Browne has of course rejected Bower’s account, saying that he actually increased the number of engineers appointed to BP and flatly refused to take part in a BBC documentary in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. However, according to the Guardian, ”Browne’s reputation was tarnished by a string of accidents in the US which hastened his retirement”.
Incredibly, the rewards heaped on Browne’s sloping shoulders include a knighthood awarded in 1998 and a Baronetcy in 2001. The peoples of the gulf of Mexico will no doubt be tickled pink by his FIRST Responsible Capitalism award in 2000.
Ruthless cuts? Just the man for the job then. Set aside the embarrassing environmental record, after all, as David Cameron knows too well, if you say something often enough, it eventually becomes the truth. In any case, surely even the Tories would appoint a man of the utmost probity to the sensitive task of safeguarding the future of the next generation, wouldn’t they?
Well, apparently not. When Browne was eventually persuaded to resign his profitable position at BP, in the aftermath of some embarrassing allegations about the misuse of company funds, he successfully sought an interim injunction preventing details being published about his private life. Naturally, this quickly went pear shaped. In April 2007, after a court case lasting over four weeks, Browne appealed to the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, who ruled that he could not prevent Associated Newspapers from printing allegations about his romantic life and the alleged misuse of company funds. Browne finally resigned from BP on 1 May 2007, and resigned as a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs on 10 May 2007. More embarrassing still, Browne faced charges of perjury for lying to the court over how he met his former partner.
In a deposition to the court Browne initially said the pair had met when they were both exercising in Battersea Park. Browne later admitted this was a lie. He acknowledged that he had actually met Chevalier via a commercial gay escort website, Suited and Booted. Mr Justice Eady, the presiding judge in the case, said he decided not to refer the matter to the Attorney General with regard to possible perjury charges, as disclosure in the judgement of Lord Browne’s behaviour was “probably sufficient punishment”, adding Browne’s “willingness to tell a deliberate lie to the court, persisted in for about two weeks, … is relevant in assessing his own credibility … So too is his willingness casually to ‘trash’ the reputation of Mr Chevalier and to discredit him in the eyes of the court”.
Of course the judge could not possibly have forseen the phoenix like revival of Browne’s fortunes under the Tory government, but at the very least this displays (yet again) questionable judgement by David Cameron in appointing this man as an advisor on government policy? Or outright contempt? Is Cameron simply taking on anyone who will help implement his political agenda?
It may be a personal thing, but I don’t want people of this stripe to be involved in governing the country. I’ve never been known to be particularly engaged in politics, but I don’t like what I see going on in this unelected government. I don’t want to be governed by liars and hypocrites. Is that too much too ask?
By their economics shall you know them. Are the Tories about to pull off the most dramatic economic rescue of modern times as they would have us believe, or are they taking an irresponsible and potentially catastrophic risk with the economy in order to impose their ideology on the national consciousness?
The Tories have always advocated a free market with minimal state intervention. What we are seeing now is a government hell bent on dismantling the public sector using the excuse that the deficit can only be recovered by cutting public spending.
Let’s look at some of the facts. The Tories have just announced a bank tax of less than 0.1% on the wealth accumulated by the banks. The banks have responded with the usual veiled statements about reviewing the feasibility of the UK as a base. The money raised by this tax is calculated to be £2.5 billion a year by 2013. Seems like a lot of money? How about the £81 billion the Tories are extracting from the public spending budgets? Are 490,000 (yes, nearly half a million) jobs really going to be created by the private sector?
The Tories attacks on the quangos betray their agenda. The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues in this article that the attacks follow a pattern. That many of the quangos dissolved are bodies that hold corporations to account. That almost all of the surviving quangos are dedicated to increasing corporate profits and in so doing, sweeping large amounts of money into their own coffers. This is not about cutting back on waste, this is about increasing the power of the free market.
The economic policies espoused by the Tories have their roots in the extreme free market model created by Milton Friedman in the seventies. Friedman argued that the only successful economy was one where the market was unregulated and government intervention via public bodies was minimised. In such an economy, a kind of natural selection will ensure the survival of the fittest.
It’s worth considering the history of Chile. General Pinochet’s regime was advised by a group of CIA funded economists. Alumni of Friedman’s classes at the University of Chicago. All the usual suspects, privatisation, deregulation, massive tax and spending cuts were in place and the effects were catastrophic. By 1974 inflation had reached 375%, the highest on earth. Incredibly, on a personal visit to Chile in 1975, Friedman persuaded General Pinochet that the reason the experiment had gone wrong was that the cuts had not gone deep enough and that he should hit much harder. The result was another massive hike in unemployment and the near eradication of the middle classes. By 1982, unemployment had reached 30% and personal debt had exploded. However, the rich were richer and corporate interests thrived, with most of the money finding its way out of the country. Pinochet finally acted decisively. He sacked the economists and re-nationalised key industries. The economy responded and Chile came back from the brink.
It couldn’t happen here? Could it? Well Friedman’s policies are still being imposed on any disaster ridden country that will listen. Iraq being the most recent. I’ve saved the worst bit for last. Friedman preached that ”only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change”. After a crisis has struck, he added later, “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.” Ring any bells?