March 2010 Archives
Maybe Alistair Darling is a political genius after all. Faced with delivering a budget which would be either criticised for penalising the public with tax rises or attacked for not cutting the national deficit fast enough, the man with the dancing eyebrows always seemed to be on a hiding to nothing.
So the fact that the first thing anyone on the street will tell you about the budget is that there's a whopping increase in the price of a pint of cider probably counts as quite a clever victory.
What's even more surprising is the apparent inability of the Conservative Party to get the pubic wound up about the state of the economy.
This should be perfect election-winning territory for them, yet they seem to only be succeeding in getting annoyed that the public aren't listening.
MAYBE if David Cameron fails to win the election, he should consider giving Mystic Meg or Russell Grant a run for their money.
About six weeks ago, he suggested lobbying would be the next big political scandal.
Lucky punt or inside knowledge? Either way, the money-grabbing antics of Patricia Hewitt, Stephen Byers and Geoff Hoon have proved him right.
EVERY MP who was sat inside the Commons chamber today for Prime Minister's Questions should ask themselves the following the question: Are you proud of what you were part of?
Sure, as a piece of political theatre, it was probably electrifying. A prime minister and leader of the opposition, neck and neck in the polls, doing a royal battle over the BA strikes. Crowds of backbenchers baying and heckling throughout, the speaker struggling to keep control. For those inside the chamber, I'm sure it was a day to remember.
But for those us back home, listening on the radio or watching on TV, what did we see/hear? In 30 minutes we saw everything that is wrong with British politics, played out with two leading characters who say they are determined to reform politics.
The extracts of Peter Kilfoyle's new book made interesting reading in the Mail on Sunday. Putting aside the irony of a Labour MP accusing other MPs of selling out after publishing his extracts in the Mail on Sunday, Kilfoyle raised some very important points.
Perhaps the most important one was the growing trend of the way parties are becoming more ruthless at parachuting their chosen candidates into seats, regardless of what the local party might think.
Kilfoyle particularly blames Harriet Harman for this, arguing she will galavanise women MPs behind her in a bid to become Labour leader after the general election. That sounds a bit fanciful as it relies on the notion that women will only support women, rather than the best candidate for the job - the very same principle which led to the all-women shortlists Kilfoyle is arguing against.
But his wider point, that too often local parties are being over-ruled in favour of a head office choice rings very true. It's one thing for the local parties to consent to have a party star as their candidate, but surely the local party should have the right to put its own candidates up to?
As I bloke, if I suggest that all women selection lists for parliamentary candidates in constituencies are a foolish idea, I run the risk of being called sexist.
But what if an audience of, say, 200 women, attending a political discussion saved one of their loudest rounds of applause for a statement from a woman who said: "I'd rather a woman was selected on her own merits, regardless of whether or not her rivals were male or female."?
That's what happened during Question Time last night, which was in front of a female-only audience to mark International Womens' Week. I didn't take a shorthand note of the statement mentioned in the paragraph above, but that's the gist of what she said.
HIDDEN away amongst the applause-hunting nonsense Carol Vorderman trotted out on Question Time last Thursday, was a small nugget of common sense.
She argued people wanted policy, not 'he said, she said' politics all the time.
Sadly, her statement of the bleeding obvious is dented somewhat by her decision to be a celebrity front for the Tories, the very party which has spent the last four years committing itself to nothing other than wanting to win the election.
Which is why, when I saw this poster this morning I felt rather envious of the woman involved:
You could almost sense the disappointment among the media who had assembled outside the Chilcott Inquiry yesterday.
Not only did Gordon Brown perform well in front of the panel, he seemed, at the end, to have enjoyed the experience.
For a man who seems to have walked from one cock up to another in the years in which he has been prime minister, perhaps it is unsurprising that a chance to go over his time as chancellor would play to his favour.
Regardless of where you stand on his handling of the economy in general - and the jury surely is still out on how much of the current economic crisis is down to his decisions compared to America's triggering of a global meltdown - there's no doubt Brown was a stickler for detail.
THE insistence by Jack Straw that he had to follow legal advice over the return of Jon Venables to custody would hold more water if he always did what the lawyers told him.
But as has been widely reported during the Iraq Inquiry, the former foreign secretary, not at the Justice ministry, hasn't always abided by legal advice.
In the small matter of whether the law was legal or not, the Iraq inquiry was told that Straw repeatedly brushed aside warnings that it was not.
Knowing that, his decision to insist the public can't know details of why Venables has been taken back into prison, seems even more bemusing.
It's not even over yet but I'd like to proclaim tonight's BBC Question Time as one of the worst yet.
And the reason contains two words, made up of numerous vowels and so on... Carol Vorderman.
Many people have criticised having celebrities on the panel for what is a political discussion. It works, sometimes, as long as people don't act like Kelvin Mackenzie, saying whatever you know will win applause from the audience.
There's no point going on Question Time to make holier-than-thou 'I'm not a politician' statements. Acting as though you are slagging off politics in general when, in fact, you are a celebrity front for a headline-grabbing Tory review into something is a very poor show indeed.
Pretending to be appalled with politics in general doesn't fit with working for one of the main parties.
Carol Vorderman is either incredibly in tune with the British public or just seeking to be liked. Either way, we don't need celebrities on Question Time doing that.
The panel mix tonight in general was a joke. Boris Johnson does not make a good panellist. Against him, Will Self and Carol 'I know numbers' Vorderman, Dame Shirley Williams and Lord Adonis didn't stand a chance. Yet their answers were probably the most considered.
Sat on a Metrolink tram as it trundled between Bury and Manchester today (why doesn't Liverpool get one of those?), I found myself wondering how much of an impact the Lord Ashcroft non-dom revelations will have had.
The answer, uncomfortably for those who have devoted so much time on air and space in print to the story, is not a lot. Will people be talking about it down the pubs tonight? Probably not.
But does it have the potential to damage the Tories at the election? I think so, especially in key marginals such as Bury North, through which my tram travelled today.
Lord Ashcroft, as we know, has pumped millions of pounds into the Tory Party in recent years. Despite claims by the Tories that his donations only equate to 5% of total donations, it's still a lot of money.