24 October 2007

F*** politics, This Is Music

Hello people,

Just to let you know that I have decided - for the moment - to abandon political commentary and focus on music. Because politics at the moment sucks. Big time. A plague on all their houses. Who cares who the new leader of the Lib Dems is or what Gordon Brown's latest sell-out will be? Do the politicians even care themselves?

Before signing off from politics entirely though I must recommend that you go out and buy Raj Patel's new book Stuffed and Starved and anything you can get your hands on by Carbon Trade Watch. These are the guys taking it forward - for all of us. And as soon as I can get my head together I'll be with them. But not yet... too busy in the studio.

More to follow soon.



15 October 2007

Fare Well Camp Bell

A sad day, in many ways, that Ming Campbell has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I will miss his straight talking no-bullshit style (promised, but so far not delivered, by Gordon Brown) and wish him all the best. He never looked like Prime Minister material, but then neither did John Major, and he did the job for almost seven years... in any case, since when was there a realistic prospect of any Lib Dem leader becoming PM?

In the end, Campbell was done in by the media requirement for photogenic, identikit political leaders - politicians like reality TV stars. I have no doubt that Gordon Brown would have suffered exactly the same fate if he'd ascended to the Labour leadership after a long period of opposition, rather than being in the government for ten years beforehand. He's only been indulged so far as he's got previous form. And on the evidence of the last week's shenanigans, that might all be rapidly unravelling. But that is excitement for another post...

Now I'm not saying that Campbell was perfect - in many ways he was a one-man revivalist for the Michael Foot school of politics - the amiable old buffer zone... but then Foot was great too. Certainly infinitely preferable to Thatcher in '83.

Anyway, this raises the interesting question of who the Lib Dems will go for next... I think Nick Clegg would be their best bet. Certainly not Chris Huhne, who is an egotist to rival Robert Kilroy-Silk. And Vince Cable, while a great guy and an excellent Shadow Chancellor, works a lot better in that role than he would as leader. Most of the other alternatives are either too eccentric to be successful or too right-wing to be tolerable.

Anyway, the leadership contest offers a little consolation now that the election has been called off for at least 18 months.

06 October 2007


GB has bottled it...

Why do I feel the sudden urge to say "James Callaghan?" Gordon might very well rue this day when he's up against it in spring 2010 with time running out to go to the country.

Oh well.

04 October 2007

Post-Tory Conference polls out... now it's getting interesting...

Well, the Labour lead has definitely narrowed in the wake of the Tory conference... latest polls show:

YouGov (Channel 4 News) Lab 40, Con 36, LD 13
Populus (The Times) Lab 39, Con 36, LD 15
ICM (Guardian) Lab 38, Con 38, LD 16

Of course, 24 hours after they were saying an election was inevitable, all the papers, news sites, etc will now be saying that Brown will decide to call the whole thing off. If I were him I would still go for it, because it's more of a risk to hang on into next year. What about if the Brown 'bounce' disappears and he's facing a poll deficit during the whole of 2008 and 2009? He'll look like a right banana.

The way I see it, these polls are showing the absolute maximum popularity of the Conservatives, before any Labour counter-attack - just like the polls last weekend were showing the maximum popularity of Labour. In an election campaign the parties would no doubt settle down at a Labour lead of around 6 or 7 per cent. I can't actually remember an election campaign making a major difference to the relative popularity of the parties in my lifetime - people often cite 1992, but the actual problem there was that all the polls were way out of line because people didn't want to admit they'd vote Tory. A correction factor has been put into polling to control for this ever since and subsequent campaigns have been much more accurate.

I think Brown would be mental to call off now - he'll go into public folklore as a "bottler" and this could do him real damage in the long run. More later this week on why the Labour lead has narrowed - I don't think Dave's speech was good enough to do it by itself. Guardian Unlimited suggests that it was the announcement that the Inheritance Tax threshold would rise to £1 million under the Tories that produced the swing. If that's the case then IHT has taken on a political importance out of all proportion to the money it raises for the Exchequer. Maybe the Daily Express is gonna set the agenda for this election - which is very bad news. My view is that taxing inheritances is actually a lot more justifiable than taxing earned income, but more on that once we get into the campaign. If we get into the campaign...

01 October 2007

Dave and his party of dildos

Just came back from Blackpool where the Conservatives are currently holding their conference. Blackpool is one hell of a lame-ass town, but more on that soon - I'm still recovering from it.

Like the Labour conference last week, it was hard to get that worked up about this; the Tories are putting a brave face on it but the delegates I saw had the look of condemned men/women. Brown is walking away with the big prize and suddenly all Dave Cameron's careful work over the past two years looks very much in vain. A come-from-behind win for Dave in the forthcoming election is certainly possible - Ted Heath managed it in 1970 after being similarly written off by the pundits - but the electoral arithmetic still works against the Tories even after boundary changes. Dave would probably have to be 6 points in front to get an overall majority - he will likely start the campaign around 6 points behind. Even in 1992 (the election when the polls got it most wrong in recent times) they weren't out to that extent.

The new policy platform unveiled so far has offered thin pickings - George Osborne's pledge to raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1m will be popular but isn't going to swing many votes on its own, it's just not important enough an issue for the vast majority of people, despite the Daily Express's best efforts. Likewise cuts in stamp duty. The Conservatives still face a huge problem in trying to knit together the outputs from their six policy review groups into a coherent manifesto - it's not so much that the policies themselves will be incoherent, because Labour's 2005 manifesto (a model of vacuity if ever there was any) proved that you can win an election without having any policies. It's more that the whole rhetorical thrust of the two major policy reviews, Goldsmith/Gummer on 'quality of life' and John Redwood on 'competitiveness', are 180 degrees opposed to each other and that's a very large crack to paper over. Goldsmith and Gummer say - quite rightly - put the environment first, whereas Redwood says fly as many planes as possible and f*** the environment. How is Dave gonna square this off? Most likely he will fudge it somehow, but it's very hard to see a coherent policy platform emerging from these reviews at short notice.

And all the time there are senile senior figures sniping in the sidelines. This week's Spectator has a piece by Norman Tebbit lamenting the lack of 'popular' (i.e. quasi-fascist, in Tebbit-speak) policies among the Cameronite modernisers. Tebbit is now - or maybe always has been - so crazy that he thinks that all the Tories' current problems stem from Mrs Thatcher being 'conned' into joining the ERM by the 'Europhile Tories' who were apparently 'pulling strings behind the scenes.' Real reds-under-the-bed conspiracy theory stuff, and sad to see from a guy who once seemed pretty sharp, even if he was a complete wanker. Next we find Malcolm Rifkind saying 'a snap election would be an outrage' because governments with a working majority in the House of Commons should serve a full term. Presumably then Malc was saying the same thing in 1983 and 1987 when Maggie went to the country? She still had a full year left to run, after all. Also, isn't Malcolm's outburst rather at odds with Dave's insistence that Gordon call an election immediately when he became leader in June?

It's this kind of inconsistency that's going to make it surprisingly easy for Labour to fight the campaign. They just need to point to the endless selection of hypocrites, duffers and madmen in the ranks (and also some of them on the Tory front bench) and Dave's credibility will most likely evaporate. Of course, if the Tories wanted to do themselves and the country a favour there are several worthwhile and progressive points they could campaign on, for example:

  • the transformation of Britain into a low carbon economy, in line with the Goldsmith/Gummer blueprint, and constrasting strongly with Labour's rather faltering steps in this direction.
  • enshrining civil liberties and halting the steady drift towards a police state (which, of course, Mrs T started).
  • getting rid of the Stalinist 'target culture' in public services, substituting instead a reliance on competent and well-motivated professionals monitored by democratically elected oversight boards (or something like that anyway).
Sadly, whilst the Tory party is undoubtedly a more enlightened place than it was 2 years ago (and much credit to Dave for this), huge swathes of constituency organisations and the parliamentary Conservative party are still staffed by the most dreadful collection of quasi-fascist dildos imaginable (and I feel that I met a frightening selection of them at the Conference!) With raw material like this to start off with, Dave has always had his work cut out. And now that he seems to have lost his one trump card (good poll performance), there will be many, many Tories willing to kick the ladder out from under him should he deliver anything less than a hung parliament in the general election that will now almost certainly be held this November. It's gonna be emotional...