December 2009 Archives
The voters. All of us. Not a single one of us will benefit from the plan to have three televised debates between the leaders in the run up to next year's general election.
Don't get me wrong, the principle is sound. The main parties like nothing more than charging around the country, carefully avoiding each other, pushing their message forward to a sympathetic crowd and hoping that no-one asks too many questions.
The hard work convincing the voters tends to go on away from the cameras. Hard-pressed party volunteers - whose enthusiasm for the job varies from straining-on-the-leash to pushed-into-it-through-emotional-blackmail - knock on the doors and try and convinced people to vote. And then try to convince them to vote for their party.
So getting the three party leaders to go head-to-head in front of the lot of us, on live TV, warts and all, seems a sound idea. And, as at least a million people (or so it feels) appear to have said: "Well, it works in America."
But here's where it goes a little bit wrong.
Three days before Tony Blair called the 2005 General Election, I was sat with him in the cabinet office. What do you think we discussed? The war in Iraq? Rising interest rates?
Nope, he was talking about leylandii trees and insisting his government's decision to give councils the power to tell people to chop them down was proof his was a listening government.
I can't profess to a close relationship with Tony Blair. We've only ever met six times and wonderful that it was that on the latter three occasions he always began with 'David, great to see you again' I'm pretty certain that's more to do with the fact he had a good press office around him.
The only reason I was inside the very heart of Number 10 - so close to the sofas on which Blair and his team made all their undocumented decisions - was because the election was about to be called and the paper I worked for then covered several constituencies Labour was keen to keep hold of.
Whether Blair's sudden interest in leylandii trees - an issue among a batch of questions he answered on behalf of readers - ensured Labour kept that seat, we'll never know.
But with less than six months to go until a we have another election, I can't help but suspect current PM Gordon Brown's sudden interest in Everton's aborted move to Kirkby has more to do with votes in Merseyside than it does ensuring the Toffees have a ground fit for the 21st century.
Just days after one of his ministers - John Denham, responsible for the planning inspectorate - kicked out the tie up Tesco in Knowsley, Brown appears to have instructed 'minister for the north west' Phil Woolas to find a way for the plan to happen.
The official reason is that Brown is worried about the impact not having Kirkby would have on England's bid to win the 2018 World Cup.
Now, much as Everton's new stadium looked nice, I can't help but think sorting out the bickering among the 2018 bid team would help swing more FIFA votes. After all, the South African bid team managed to win 2010 despite including pictures of Preston North End's ground.
So what motive does Brown have here? I suspect this is the first of many interventions we suddenly hear of from the prime minister, and I dare say David Cameron will add his weight to a campaign if he feels there are enough votes in it.
Oddly, he appears to have picked on an issue which not even Everton seem particularly keen to pursue, and which still has a lot of local opposition.
But just as in 2005, beware politicians suddenly professing a sudden interest in local issues. The interest tends to wane once your vote has been cast.
I must declare an interest before I continue with this blog post: I'm not going away on holiday for Christmas, and even if I was, I certainly wouldn't be able to afford to fly British Airways.
But even with that level of envy towards those who can afford to jet off with BA, I can't help but think Unite has delivered perhaps the most spiteful industrial action in recent history, if not ever.
There are some professions you have sympathy with instantly, some workforces that you're prepared to stomach personal disruption for, knowing they are fighting a good fight.
Firefighters, yes. Nurses, yes (if, indeed, they can strike.) Teachers, even, once you get beyond the "12 weeks holiday and a 3.30pm daily finish" myth.
Air hostesess, maybe not.
David Cameron, out in Afghanistan via satellite link on Sky News today, claimed Gordon Brown's attempts to bring class back in the political arena was "petty" and "stupid".
Assuming he really believed what he was saying, then you'd expected Cameron to have been laughing as he said it, or perhaps just brushing it off.
But he wasn't. He looked angry, his voice rose as his spoke, he stared at the camera intensely. In fact, he looked rattled.
In my opinion, he has every reason to be. Because class - or the sense of the haves v the have nots - has the potential to seriously damage Cameron's increasingly shakey path to Downing Street.
The battle of the bonuses returned to the headlines today and it's not just Labour - returning to its rich v poor roots - which is fuming at the thought of big bonuses for the senior bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland.
The normally spot-on Vince Cable has joined the chorus of people saying that the Government shouldn't cave into the Royal Bank of Scotland board, which is threatening to quit if the Government blocks the payment of big bonuses.
He's quite right when he turns round and says that there are plenty of excellent directors out there who would happily take a place on the board of directors and do as the Government told them.
But is that what we want? Sure, the taxpayer maybe the 85% shareholder in RBS, but do you really want the strings pulled by Number 10, based on the public's whim?