Daily Archives: 30 September 2008

Michael Gove is not having a threesome with me!

Just what is it about Tories and “families”? I for one recognise that having “family friendly” policies is both desirable and important but while Labour take that as a green light for interference, the Tories become obsessed with moralising. And interfering.

So it is that while David Willets is claiming that family breakdown is due to women becoming too big for their boots (er, the Bridget Jones generation was like 10 years ago), while Michael Gove goes one step beyond.

I don’t have a problem with increasing the number of health visitors per se (although I do have a big problem with yet another national politician seeking to micro-manage the NHS yet again), but what on earth is all this stuff about offering “counselling to couples about to get married”?

Apparently “people should not have to feel they were on their own when building a relationship” – er, excuse me but while polyamory is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice, I’m quite happen being “on our own” in my personal relationship thank you very much. I don’t need a state-sponsored person from a voluntary organisation on hand to proffer advice. Sheesh!

Who walks around saying “if only there was a third person in our marriage” (apart from Prince Charles of course)? If society really has collapsed to such an extent that people lack anything resembling a support structure via friends and family, we really do have much more fundamental problems than are being indicated here. If it hasn’t, then it is a non-issue. Which is it?

This sounds distinctly like one of those things like anti-social behaviour 12 years ago – an issue you never knew existed which politicians magic out of the air to have something to say but which soon becomes an “epidemic” and the subject of a moral panic. If you get to the point of getting married and have no idea of what you are letting yourself in for, a couple of counselling sessions are unlikely to help you. By contrast, if you think you need counselling you probably don’t – the path to wisdom is found acknowledging ignorance and all that. The voluntary sector already provides this sort of hand holding and there appears to be little evidence that, at this time of insecurity, this is even a real problem let alone a priority, so why bang on about it now?

What next? Hen and stag weekend planning services on the state? Free cake for every couple? An official to intervene if the father of the bride is not able to give her away for any reason (subject to a waiting list – with targets!)? If Gove doesn’t see this is an area for the state to back off, there’s no helping him.

But it does tell you all you need to know about the Tories’ attitude to love: one part financial arrangement, one part psychological disorder. That’s Eton for you.

Is groupthink really the correct response to financial meltdown?

David Cameron has announced his party will work with the government to tackle the continuing financial turbulence, whatever that means. Nick Clegg has apparently said much the same.

But is this really the correct response? There are certain instances – for example when the country is physically under threat at a time of war – when suspending party politics may be a good idea. But outside of such extreme cases, when has cross-party co-operation ever lead to good policy?

In the immediate aftermath of 7/7 and 9/11, opposition parties agreed to “work with the government” – the result has been a massive curtailment of civil liberties which continues unabated. Even though the opposition parties quickly regained their senses and resumed scrutiny of legislation relatively quickly, the agenda of detention without charge, identity cards and even internment was set. 2005’s “compromise” of setting detention without charge at 28 days was in many ways a tactical defeat on the part of civil libertarians.

Rolling further back, we have legislation such as the Dangerous Dogs Act – initiated due to a nation-wide panic. This is widely cited as a brilliant example of how badly Parliament can get things wrong, yet isn’t the ground being laid for similar poor groupthink?

It strikes me there is a massive ideological debate to be having at the moment. Outside of Parliament, the Keynsians are having a resurgence. But with all three parties signed up to a monetarist agenda and the drawbridge being self-consciously drawn up, will they even be heard? Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this or that economic society, surely at a time of FAIL we should be encouraging debate in an open society not battening down the hatches? It’s also pretty meaningless with Labour holding a majority in the Commons. Sure, the other parties have some influence in the Lords but it is distinctly limited.

So I’m afraid to say I’m quite, quite wary of this latest development. It is time for a massive ideological punch up in the Houses of Parliament not a group hug. The fact that this is the automatic reaction to every reaction suggests that our political system itself is broken in a way that isn’t the case even in the US.

Come on Nick, this is your big chance: don’t throw it away because of a desire to be establishment!

Was Monday the beginning of the end of the Cameron bubble?

By rights, it should have been. The Tories are in a total mess over the economy. I have to admit, I held my peace on Sunday over this idea about having the Bank of England step in when banks get in trouble. It sounded pretty much identical to what the government is doing now, only with even less oversight, but I felt that I must have been missing something obvious. 36 hours of listening to the empty soundbites emanating from the mouths of Cameron and Osborne and I can safely say it is every bit as vacuous a policy as I thought it was.

Ditto this idea for an Office for Budget Responsibility. We live in an era where the government ignores its own watchdog regarding compensating the people caught up in the Equitable Life scandal; why should they worry about another quango wagging its finger at it?

This issue also threatens to divide the party. Hardliners are unlikely to take this lying down. At a stroke, Osborne has directly contradicted two of the main principles behind Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell’s much vaunted “plan” – specifically:

* Devolving power to the lowest practicable level
* Replacing the quango state with genuine democracy

Quangos are now the panacea for everything while localism has been completely abandoned. As Carswell and Hannan like to remind people, they speak for a growing number of Tories these days, Tories who thought all that stuff about Cameron representing a new kind of Conservativism actually meant something. All that has been trashed now.

I actually got it wrong yesterday. I assumed that the Tories would underwrite a council tax freeze if inflation was running at 4-5%. Inflation may well be at that point if the Tories seize power at the next election (I hope not, but a massive interest rate cut now looks likely), yet Osborne only committed himself to a 2.5% freeze and even that was contingent on local authorities making cuts in their own public spending. So he isn’t willing to commit to public spending cuts at a national level but he is willing to impose them on perhaps the most efficient arm of the state, local government. Clue, anyone?

But perhaps the greatest indictment of the Tories on Monday was the video below. Highly reminiscent of Spinal Tap (note the shots of people sleeping during the speech – approx 1 min into the video), Osborne and Cameron manage to come across as feckless amateurs who are treating the whole thing like a jolly lark:

Seriously. Does anyone watch that video and not think “novices”?

See also: Sara Bedford, Jackie Ashley.

Lembit versus Lembit

Lembit OpikLembit is making a great deal out of the fact that he has more Facebook supporters than Ros Scott, which is fair enough. I’ve never bought into this idea that this election is a shoe-in for Ros Scott. He can also claim a mini-coup in the fact that Mark Littlewood has abandoned ship and is backing Lembit over and above his Liberal Vision colleague Chandila Fernando.

One thing that confuses me about the Lembit Facebook strategy though is how come he has two, apparently official Facebook groups? One has 516 members, the other features an official video. It’s almost as if they launched an official Facebook group but it was less successful than a disparate group of supporters who had managed to get more people to sign up in the same amount of time, so they abanoned ship. With the website change as well, it certainly does seem as if there has been a mini-coup d’etat within Team Opik. But if you have to save your candidate from himself, is he really worth saving?