Saturday, 27 November 2010

Is T.I.N.A. Working?

More polling from the lovely people at IPSOS. And you know how Keir loves giving his view on what it all means.

It shows that 39% of people see the economy as the most important issue facing Britain today. And 54% gave the economy as an answer when asked to state which issues other than their chosen "most important" issue were important.

We could read this as being obvious given the times we live in.

However, Keir found the percentages of the other issues intriguing. Just 2% said the NHS was the most important issue. Also, 2% said education and 2% said housing. These are staggeringly low. Even in the second question, education only got 15%, the NHS 18% and housing 8% when people were asked to state other important issues.

What this tells Keir is that the Conservative narrative is working; T.I.N.A. is fooling the nation.

The Tory changes are going to hit education hard. The cuts and the barmy "free schools" policy are going to begin the ideological dismantling of the school system. The NHS is looking down a similar barrel.

And the cuts to housing benefit alongside changes to social housing tenure rules will, as the Tory Mayor of London put it, cause "Kosovo-style social cleansing."

So why don't these issues poll higher on the IPSOS Issues Index?

Keir thinks it's because the Tory line is working due to there being, in Political terms, no alternative. Labour is inactive. Whenever the Tories are challenged on a cut they are making, they respond with;

a) T.I.N.A.
b) "Difficult decisions to cut the deficit"
c) Big Society bullshit
d) "We inherited the biggest deficit since Alexander marched into Egypt"

Okay so the last one isn't quite accurate. But you get the point. They are smoke-screening all of their savage policies and cuts with these lines that are scaring people into going with the narrative. That is what is leaving issues like the NHS, education and housing so low down on the list of priorities.

Until Labour finds its alternative, that smoke will only get thicker.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau Is Not Dear To Cheryl

Says it all

Keir watched from the gallery yesterday as Welsh MPs Huw Irranca-Davies and Chris Bryant became noticeably agitated by the statement made to the House by Transport Secretary Phil Hammond.

Further to Keir's last post about the issue of rail electrification, it seems the Government is indeed intent on leaving Wales with a 20th century rail infrastructure as the rest of the UK moves into the 21st. Despite gleefully confirming a wad of investment for England's rail lines, Hammond stalled on committing to electrification from London through to Swansea, all but affirming rumours that the improvements will stop before the border.

Hammond tried to fob the issue off onto the Welsh Assembly Government but, as the First Minister pointed out, this is not a devolved issue.

Now, Hammond is just doing his job. But one person who isn't is Cheryl Gillan. The Welsh Secretary, surely the first Minister who will lose their job in some way or another, has evidently been putting no pressure on her Government on this issue. Gillan is facing increased pressure to resign from her constituents who, as if to highlight the difference between Wales and the place where she resides and represents, are outraged at plans to run the new HS2 rail line through the affluent English constituency. According to Irranca-Davies, Mrs. Gillan has now said she will resign should the HS2 development go ahead; surely she should be making such principled stands on behalf of Wales as well? She isn't. Instead she is making non-committal remarks about how she remains "fully supportive of electrification" and that she "hoped to work with WAG" on the issue.

And the Government's suggestion that there needed to be a stronger business case for electrification to extend to Wales was shown to be nonsense by Rhondda MP Bryant. South Wales and the Valleys needs this development to increase its ability to grow. But it seems the Government is playing stick and stick with Wales; forcing thousands of redundancies from the public sector whilst killing plans like this that would have stimulated private sector growth.

Keir's got a suggestion for a carrot the Government could use though: sack this useless Welsh Secretary and appoint someone to the role who can effectively represent the interests of Wales in this Cabinet of millionaires.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wales ConDemned. Again.

"Just get on the Megabus, Katherine"

Was meant to post this about a week ago; forgive Keir's tardiness.

Keir, along with other alert Welsh folk, anticipated the Conservative Government leaving Wales behind as the axe was wielded across the UK.

And last week we were given further evidence to support that.

Friend of the blog Huw Irranca-Davies MP took yet another concern of the Welsh people to Westminster, asking for clarification from the Government to quash rumours that the planned rail electrification between London and South Wales was going to be halted before it even reached the toll booths of Pont Hafren. The electrification of the rail line would provide jobs and a faster, greener, more reliable service at no extra cost to fare-payers. A Labour initiative from last year, it would keep Wales in line with the rest of the country in terms of infrastructure development. Yet now, as ever, the Conservatives seem to want to leave Wales behind.

And this would not merely be a short delay; according to one expert, if it doesn't happen now, it won't happen for a very long time. But then, he is using big theories like "economies of scale" that we can't expect our novice Chancellor to understand. In the same article, we are warned that failure to expand the electrification to Swansea as planned would be an economic "disaster" for South Wales.

Keir can't help but wonder whether it may help to have a Welsh voice on the Cabinet Committee for, hmmm I dunno, Economic Affairs?

Anyway, Keir would like to echo the words of the Ogmore MP:

"I would urge the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, to stand up for Wales and ensure that we are not left behind."

Maybe we can also call on the Government patsies to help the cause? LibDem Norman Baker wanted to take electrification even further than South Wales when he spoke on the issue last year, declaring, "The Liberal Democrats want virtually the entire network electrified by 2040."

A LibDem promise. Fear the worst.


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Competition Winner Announcement

Congratulations to Duncan Bruce who Keir has selected as the winner of the competition.

Duncan's suggestion for the best Prime Minister or American President that we never had was Robert F. Kennedy. A fine choice indeed. And excellent reasoning given too.

Kennedy's platform for government would have truly revolutionised America at the time.

Despite a number of excellent entries, Keir thought RFK was the stand-out suggestion.

Well done Duncan!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

This Royal business

Keir is not a particular fan of the Royal Family, and will not be commenting on the issue, other than this post. If you ever needed any reminding how out of touch the Daily Mail is, and how completely out of time much of the upper classes are:
However, Kate has not escaped speculation as to her traditional suitability as an untouched royal bride.
The Spectator magazine once commented that she 'may still have her V-plates intact'.
From today's Daily Mail

Monday, 15 November 2010

Lib Dem Liars and the Lies they tell

A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the "dead weight of debt", a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years. In a document marked "confidential" and dated 16 March, the head of the secret pre-election coalition negotiating team, Danny Alexander, wrote: "On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part-time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches."
From Saturday's Guardian.

This from a Jenny Willot leaflet delivered in the final few days of the election campaign from here
It's a simple equation. Jenny Willott won because of students. Students voted for her because her party said if elected they would get rid of tuition fees. Information now shows that was not the case.Cardiff North Liberal Democrat Assembly candidate Matt Smith (The Cardiff North perv) is already spinning away on Twitter, saying that abolition of fees wasn't one of their 'four key pledges' and that to implement policy you need a majority government. To Keir, it is simple. They campaigned on lies. They knew, even in their wildest dreams that they would not form a majority government and would be left to be junior partner in a coalition.
This is yet another reason that Keir will be saying #no2AV, as not only do the Lib Dems like to see themselves as "moderators" of the other parties, they also see themselves central in the practically permanent coalition that AV would result in; and Keir could do without their rancid smell. Alongside this, the Fib Dems jetissoning of their tuition fees policy is an example of what happens in coalitions. People vote for party A because of policy x, only for Party A to need Party B to get into government. Party B don't much like policy x, so don't support it. When policy x is as influential in garnering votes in certain places as the abolition of tuition fees has been; there is a problem.
Keir would rather be anyone than a Lib Dem activist out in student areas over the next few weeks.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Speaking in a Personal capacity

Remember this?
At prime minister's questions, Mr Clegg said Labour's Jack Straw would have to account for his role in the "disastrous" decision to invade.
Mr Clegg later stressed his opinion was a "long-held" personal one.
As he is wont to do when under pressure, while questioned on the Lib Dems involvement in the Coalition government the Cleggeron returned to his holier than thou default and said "Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Iraq Wah Wah Wah Wah illegal." This was later clarified as being his "long held" personal opinion. At the time Keir thought that a bit odd, as when you speak at the Dispatch Box you speak for the government you represent, but still...

And it's happened again. Guess who this time?

Vince Cable has described his own department's plans to scrap regional development agencies in England as "a little Maoist and chaotic".
A spokeswoman said the business secretary was speaking in a private capacity when he made the comments.
Now Keir knows the Liberal Democrats have never been in government before, but come ON! You would have thought they'd have got used to it by now. Really begs the question, do we have to take every pronouncement by a Lib Dem Minister with a pinch of salt? Maybe they should hold their hand up while speaking for the government, just so we don't get confused.

Oh and while we're at it, how can a government minister think his own plans are "...Maoist and chaotic"? Sort them out then Vinny!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Irony of Ironies

From the Gruniad.
Pickles, who has declared war on waste in the public sector, also spent £256.64 of taxpayers money hanging a new print of a photo of the Queen in his office reception.

The Lib Dems and their barcharts

In the week after Phil Woolas was exposed as a liar, and his appointment as Shadow Minister probably Ed Miliband's biggest misjudgement since becoming leader, Keir thought he would cast some light on one of the Lib Dems best known and loved campaigning practices. In the shadow of what has happened in the past week, Keir feels he must state that of course this practice is all above board and not at all designed to be misleading...

Drawn to Jenny Willott's (Useless, Cardiff Central) website after having to apologise in the house after supporting changes to housing benefit she had previously criticised (note Keir flagging up the sloppy editing of her website)  Keir spotted a very odd looking barchart on the side of the page. It just didn't look right, and maths wasn't one of Keir's strongpoints:

So, geniuses, in the General Election if the Tories had doubled their vote to 42% they would have won, but according to Jenny, 42% would have STILL put them behind Labour, while +10% for Labour would have probably put them into the lead! Well well well, those nasty lying Lib Dems.

Keir clicked on the bar chart and was taken to this page, where the numbers and the proportions look more accurate. To help, Keir tidied them up for you and put them in a graph:

But, unsure even of trusting the Lib Dems this much, Keir made his own: (1 is Lib, 2 Lab, 3 Con: his Excel skills don't stretch that far!)

So, this is a question of proportion. Why, one wonders, have the Liberals been so loose with the truth. I am sure this could be repeated in umpteen different constituencies throughout the country. Of course, in Cardiff Central the reason is that many Liberal voters are anti-Labour voters rather than dyed-in-the-wool yellowbellys, and if those voters in their nice houses in Cyncoed realise that a Tory win is plausible, they may go back home, leaving the Labour vote to stand up and nick it. Also, they motivate not only these anti-Labour voters but also their base by overemphasising how near the Labour vote is.

So, what's the rationale behind this post? Well, its quite simple. The Liberal Democrats not only lie on a large scale: about things like tuition fees, they are amongst the most insidious campaigners on the ground and this is one of the main reasons why they are detested by so many of all political persuasions.

Keir has a question for Jenny Willott's staff:

"In the interest of openness, especially after the ruling in Oldham last week, can you tell me exactly why you produce such a misleading bar chart on your website?"

Can't imagine there will be a reply mind...

A Day At The Demo: Students Will Need A Resit

I presume he had a hammer because he was planning on doing some manual work in London yesterday afternoon?

Keir watched events in London yesterday closely. From Trafalgar Square right down to Millbank Tower, with a few stop-offs and diversions in between, he cast his beady eye over the protest which started with so much potential and ended in utter disorganised chaos.

The nation seems to have graded the protest as a fail. Keir agrees.

The NUS has tried to distance itself from the unlawful acts of some of the protesters. Indeed, the speeches by UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt and NUS President Aaron Porter were very good and had a clear, non-violent, non-partisan message. These were, however, rare instances when the message was clear.

Keir was at Trafalgar Square at 11:30am and the crowd that had amassed the length of Whitehall by 12:30pm was impressive. A feeling of the seemingly boundless potential of this demo suddenly descended over this observer. That feeling was very quickly extinguished. The futility of tens of thousands of people, when poorly organised, became very apparent.

The message of this demo was to fight increases in tuition fees. It was only 1pm when I began hearing "Nick's a prick" chants as well as some particularly vulgar chants about Tories. Now, I despise both Clegg and the Conservatives, but on a march intended to halt tuition fee increases this sort of nasty partisan chanting is totally ineffectual; even counter-productive. Party politics was not the issue here. Students should have been trying to make the people in power hear them and listen to their argument. Calling them a "prick" probably isn't going to do that.

"Surely these people have been briefed?" Keir wondered. Turns out they hadn't. Sources close to Keir confirmed that the NUS had given no sort of briefing to University Union branches as to what the focus of this protest should have been. The NUS should have clearly briefed all Students' Union heads from every participating University that this march was about tuition fee increases and nothing else. Each of these people should have then gone back to their campuses and relayed this message to all of their attendees. With energy focused on one explicit issue the message would have been much clearer to the onlooking nation and would have also presented the students in an organised, powerful light. As it happened, "Fuck Off Tories" chants and placards suggesting Nick Clegg and David Cameron have engaged in penetrative homosexual activities with each other made even me, a student, think, "bloody students".

Keir then took a short-cut around the back end of Parliament Square, behind Westminster Abbey and around onto Millbank; thus getting ahead of the bulk of the crowd. Whilst on this route, it became apparent that Keir's lovely winter coat that his Nan had bought him last year was yet to be adorned by a Remembrance Day poppy. A quiet, reflective walk through the poppy vigil in the front garden of Westminster Abbey was a nice retreat from the loud protest and the £2 donation to the British Legion was worth not only the poppy, but also the lovely conversation with the fellow Welshman who was manning the poppy stand at the time. Then, whilst on my way out of the Abbey, some students decided to walk through the poppy vigil, waving their placards and singing their songs. After being given a negative impression of the protest so far already, this did nothing to help. I've lived on campus, but it's not that far removed from reality that you begin to lose all perception of what is acceptable behaviour in the eyes of anyone with an ounce of sanity and sensitivity. About 15 solemn mourners had their moments of remembrance disturbed by a few half-cut students. Utter disgrace. Although one person thinks there's a perfectly good reason why those protesters were doing nothing wrong. This particular person appears to be a former Officer at a Students' Union. I should add that these students marching through the vigil were clad in NUS gear, with UCU placards.

So how distant was the NUS from some of the more distasteful scenes?

Anyway, back to the events of the day. Keir arrived at Conservative Party HQ just after a small crowd had gathered. The very united chant of "no ifs, no buts, no education cuts" started to restore my faith that this protest could achieve something. That was until a colleague pointed out that David Cameron was in China. "Who's the target at CPHQ then?"

Said colleague just shrugged his shoulders. Indeed.

As we turned the corner into the courtyard of the targetless building that the protesters had gathered at, it then became clear that something else odd was happening. Fire.

Fine. "Could be fun. What are they burning? Effigies? Some sort of metaphor for the broken dreams of ordinary kids?"

Nope. They were burning their own placards. I became confused. Did this mean they were burning their message? One placard said "Not in my name". It was now burning. Did that mean the previous owner of that placard now wanted it all to be in his name? "Stop Education Cuts" placards were also being burned. Had the protesters performed a dramatic u-turn and decided their message was worthy only of being thrown into a fire; reduced to ash?

Nope. They just wanted to see some fire.

The window smashing, fire-extinguisher throwing, building-storming and roof-mounting that followed just rounded things off really. The message and the purpose had begun to descend into fragmented chaos from 1pm when the chants turned nasty and personal. Still, some people have even said that all of this was justified. A mystery person called Emmeline took part in a BBC 5Live debate to say that she felt this was the only thing that could force the government to make a change.

One protester, on a video at the Telegraph website earlier in the day, said of the destructive acts, "It's probably not the best way but it's the only way." So students have exhausted every route to a peaceful resolution in the month since the Browne Report have they? The irony is indescribable: I wonder how many of those people think we should have given Saddam more chances for peaceful resolution before we invaded Iraq?

The videos, apart from showing how many identityless morons we have in this country who just think that acting like Cook from Skins will give them meaning in life, are a damning indictment of the epic failure that was this protest. They also have UCU and NUS placards and banners all over them. I think it's time to accept that this was badly organised.

Every Labour MP asked to comment on what could have been a powerful protest will now have to begin their answer by condemning the violence. That immediately softens the blow of the anti-fees message.

Keir is 100% in support of the fight to stop this ugly coalition ending aspiration for poorer families with these fee increases. But there was so much wrong with yesterday's protest.

Even more than the things mentioned above.

Why attack Tories? Lib Dems should surely have been the targets.

Why attack a building? Does a building have a vote in parliament?

And if you really, really have to attack a building, surely go for the building where the power to make the change you want is represented?

I could go on for a lot longer. But I shall save you; dear, patient reader.

Needless to say, if it turns out to have been successful and the Coalition ends the fee increase because of this protest, Keir will happily eat his words.


UPDATE: Fresh from Guido, it seems that elected NUS Officials are condoning and associating themselves with the actions of those who occupied Millbank. Keir will ask again: how distant was the NUS from some of the more distasteful scenes?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Monthly Competition!

Keir Hardie presents his first monthly competition; the winner of which will receive signed copies of the first two volumes of ex-MP and Foreign Office Minister Chris Mullin's diaries.
These critically acclaimed books are much sought after, Keir assures you. Of the first volume, David Dimbleby said they were, "The most enjoyable and stimulating of all the political diaries I have read." And Prime Minister David Cameron commented on the second volume, saying, "Every once in a while, political diaries emerge that are so irreverent and insightful that they are destined to be handed out as leaving presents in offices across Whitehall for years to come...this is one such book"

So how do you win this competition, we hear you cry? Well, its really very simple. Tell us one thing:

Who is the best Prime Minister (or, if you like, American President) we never had? We're not going to judge this on politics, we're going to judge this on how good the reasons you give in support of your chosen candidate are.

The closing date is midnight on November 18th, so get writing. Entries to! Good luck!

Prisoners Voting

Keir finds it odd the people he is agreeing with today...

Once you commit a crime, and take away someone else's human rights, why on Earth do you deserve to vote?

If Cameron was principled (as he claims he is with the deficit: doing it for the right reasons) then he would be principled here and let the prisoners sue, let the public finances take a hit, because letting, frankly, shitheads like John Hirst having the vote is absolutely disgusting. Wont be surprised however if the coalition somehow manage to blame Labour for a decision that is theirs to take.

Fib Demmery and Student Fees...

The phrase LOL was invented for pictures like this...

Keir got a response to his email to the lovely Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, her of the new baby possibly conceived on the expensive bed that the taxpayer paid for. (It was so expensive, she claimed, to much derision at pre-election hustings, so it could be disassembled and got up the stairs of her terraced house. Anyone fancy getting onto Ikea and finding one cheaper for her?)

Keir was surprised actually, as until a frenetic few days of activity in the last week or so of October, she hadn't updated her website on any issues affecting her constituents; especially issues, such as the publication of the Browne Report affecting the ones that put her in place in 2005 and kept her their in 2010: students. (Something she still is yet to do)
2nd November 2010
Dear Mr. Hardie,
Thank you for your email about the Browne Review into tuition fees.
I absolutely understand your concern, I’ve campaigned against tuition fees throughout my time as an MP and long before I entered Parliament.  I believe that university education should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances and I was therefore very happy to sign the NUS pledge in the election.
Towards the end of the last Parliament, Labour’s Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, commissioned Lord Browne to look into increasing fees.  It is clear that Labour, who introduced Top-Up Fees in 2004 despite their manifesto promise not to, were seriously considering raising or even abolishing the cap on fees.
As you know, Lord Browne has now published his report and recommended abolishing the cap all together to allow universities to create a ‘market for education’.  His review assumes that those who go to the best universities will earn more when they graduate and therefore these universities should be able to charge higher fees.
I do not support this approach.  For a start many highly educated and intelligent people choose to become teachers, nurses or other public sector workers, or work in the charitable sector and will not make more money from going to a top university.  I want to encourage the best people to study at the best universities and take up these types of jobs, not force them to choose between being able to pay off their debts or accepting a job which is of great benefit to society.
As a result I disagree with much of the Browne Review and, if it were to be implemented in full would absolutely vote against it.  However, the Browne Review is an independent report and the Government has not yet announced what it plans to do.  I, along with my Lib Dem colleagues, am currently lobbying Ministers to try to ensure that the final proposals do not burden students with further debt or prevent people from less affluent backgrounds from attending university.
I will not support an increase in tuition fees, but would like to see what the Government proposes first before deciding exactly what I will do.
I hope that this helps to explain my position.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help further on this or any other issue.
Yours sincerely,
Jenny Willott MP, Cardiff Central
Keir has emboldened and underlined the most salient issues in her response. She starts off with a nice bit of blame Labour. Yes there is evidence that Labour wanted a review of HE funding. They launched the report process. This is where her attempts at equivalence fall down, because so what if Labour were considering it? (Whether they were or were not is immaterial really) Does that make it OK for the Coalition to do it?  Anyway, she is part of a government that IS raising the cap on tuition fees, not considering it.

She goes on to build a nice little get out clause, of course she would vote against the Browne report if implemented in full (which it almost certainly won't be). Leaves her a nice little grey area, and she ends on a cop out too, she 'will not support tuition fee increase, but...'. That isn't a flat out refusal to support it, that is deft footwork that Gareth Bale would be proud of.

If she does vote in support of raising tuition fees, then not only will the outgoing Lib Dem Jenny Randerson be replaced by the excellent Labour campaigner Jenny Rathbone in the Senedd elections next May, but come the first Thursday in May 2014/15 then Jenny Willott will be looking for another (well, her first *real*) job.

And in closing, this from a seasoned campaigner in Cardiff Central, where a mixture of faux outrage about student fees, Iraq, and their silly little focus campaigns helped them win in 2005 and just about hold on last time:
In[sic] student fees I love this quote from a Lib Dem in the local newspaper in 2004: "Cardiff's residents should see the recent rebellion by Labour MP Jon Owen Jones for what it is - a cynical attempt to win votes at the next general election" - forgive me for interpreting Jenny Willott's declared intention to vote against fees in exactly the same way.