August 2009 Archives
In recent weeks, David Cameron and Gordon Brown have both fallen into the trap of believing they know best when it comes to the NHS.
While Brown probably has a decent handle on how the NHS is supposed to work, like Cameron, he'll be largely detached from the reality. Both will rely on politicians and departmental staff to tell them what's going on.
For Cameron, saying nothing about the NHS at the moment appears to be the best way: until he silences the NHS critics in his party, any promises he makes about this grand old institution will appear hollow.
Earlier this month, I argued that defence secretary Bob Ainsworth's infamous interview with the Telegraph in which he moaned about the way he was perceived was a very foolish move.
And so it's proved. The Mail on Sunday, arguably the bully boy of the Sunday press, spotted a weakness and aimed fire. Last weekend, it found a family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan which was connected with Mr Ainsworth in his constituency.
As it happens, James Fullarton, the solider in question, used to serve Mr Ainsworth in the local working mens club in Coventry. But the fact they had not received a letter of condolence from Mr Ainsworth gave the Mail on Sunday the story it needed to stick the boot in on the front page.
THIS weekend, what is left of Hurricane Bill is expected to "lash" the UK. By that, we should expect heavy rain, blustery winds and a Daily Mail story on bank holiday Monday which strives to blame Labour for the bad weather.
What perhaps couldn't have been predicted was the severity of the other storm which has strived to batter the UK this last week - the fallout from the Scottish Government's decision to release the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds.
While Hurricane Bill looks to just pass us by briefly, the stench of rank hypocrisy coming from America over Kenny MacAskill's decision looks set to linger longer. Like most bad smells, it won't go away quickly. And for all their protestations, the Americans denouncing the right of a democratic country to administer its own justice system have only served to prove Kenny MacAskill right. It was a brave decision, and it took a brave man to make it.
If the Conservative front bench was a stick of seaside rock, it would have the word "Oxford" running through it.
They positively ooze the confidence which comes from going to the UK's leading universities.
Yet, between them they don't seem to realise that the last thing you should do before exams results fortnight is announce that they have been dumbed down, and that you'd toughen them up.
Proof you can't teach common sense? Maybe.
ON a perhaps less serious note about the NHS, Tory leader David Cameron is really going to have to think about keeping his politicians on a tighter lead.
Daniel Hannan MEP has apparently waged a one-man war against the NHS for years so was delighted to appear on Fox News to explain why he hated it.
I don't really understand his argument that he finds it incredible that "a free people living in a country dedicated in the cause of independence and freedom can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system."
It sounds to me that he'd prefer to live in an each-man-to-his-own, survival-of-the-fittest society which loves the haves, but does little to help the have nots.
That'll be Thatcherism then - alive and well in the 21st century, and potentially a headache for David Cameron.
THERE are a lot of people who still snigger when Twitter is mentioned. While it may prove yet to just be a passing trend, there is no doubting it has altered the way many millions of people communicate.
In terms of political activism and grass-roots campaigning, it has built on the groundwork done by Facebook - the ability to organise a virtual protest via the creation of a Facebook group has done an awful lot to, as politicians and civil servants love to refer to it as, engage people.
But where Facebook group fails, compared to Twitter, is that it still relies on the organiser to alert others to its existence.
Put a message out on Twitter, complete with a hash tag, and everyone who follows your updates will see it, some will respond to it, and in turn their comments, complete with hash tags, will reach a wider audience with every link in the chain added.
Annoyingly, given it's the summer, it becomes very easy for politicians and their spokesmen to write off any story they don't like as "silly season" speculation.
And while the nonsense around the "who is running the country now that Harriet and Peter have left the country" probably belongs in that category, attempts by the Tories to put the VAT splash in the Sunday Telegraph into the same box are fanciful at best.
This smacks more of the Tories pushing out an idea - something of a quick fix to the problems they'll face should they win next year's general election - on a quiet news weekend to see the reaction.
At some point today, Ronnie Biggs, the most famous of the "Great" Train Robbers, will become a free man.
Almost 80, and only semi-conscious in a Norfolk hospital, he probably won't even know when the three guards who escorted him from a local prison, slip away.
He's been granted release for "compassionate reasons" by the increasingly erratic Jack Straw, just a month after Straw refused Biggs parole because he was "wholly unrepentant" over his involvement in the Great Train Robbery, his subsequent escape from jail and the 30-odd years he spent on the run from justice.
For Biggs's family, it has been described as a "victory," and proof that "commonsense prevails".
But when you put the case of Biggs up against that of Michael Shields, the young Liverpool FC fans who has been in jail for nearly five years for a crime he quite likely did not commit, who Jack Straw refuses to release, then it's not a victory or proof of commonsense. It's simply proof that this Government is in chaos.
HARRIET Harman has, in my opinion, been one of the top political performers in the Labour Party in recent times.
Fair enough, that's hardly a difficult accolade to win but, along with Peter Mandelson, she's been very loyal to Gordon Brown and refused to deviate from the party's core line that they need to focus on improving the economy.
Which makes her weekend comments about men in power all the more odd.
You can tell it's the silly season in politics when any interview given by any senior politician gets regurgitated and discussed for days, regardless what is said.
It's the time of year where, if I was a senior politician, I'd be extremely wary of interview requests. On the one hand, get your message right and you'll probably fill more space than at other times of the year. On the other hand, get it wrong and the deputy political editors have their agenda sorted for the week.
But Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, seemingly thought the chance of an interview with the Daily Telegraph, arguably the most arch Tory paper out there, was a good idea.
And he nearly pulled it off.