So Gordon named the big day today, and we’re on with the campaign.
All went pretty much as expected – all according to the plans, everyone saying the things we expected them to say.
Or did they ?
Well – not quite – the press release for David Cameron’s speech said that he’d be talking about the people who he called “the great ignored” - “Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight.” (Armchair election: The great ignored – Financial Times Blog) and he duly did his “without notes speech” trying his damnedest to upstage Gordon Brown before he’d even announced the election, speaking outside the old GLC building over Westminster Bridge, and he certainly did talk about “the great ignored”.
Only he missed a bit out – He ignored his own planned reference to “gay, straight” people. Which only leaves us to wonder why. Especially coming hot on the heels, as it does, of shadow home secretary Chris Grayling’s reported comments this past weekends, in which he apparently defended the actions of Bed & Breakfast owners who had turned away an openly gay couple.
This was very quickly picked up on, and so we had the first “incident” of the election campaign.
I could tell it was making the news because when I turned on Radio 2 in the car (partly in an attempt to avoid the tedious repetition of the lack of election news on 5 Live), I was surprised to find the issue being discussed between the music – Jeremy Vine taking the issue up with Gavin Hayes from the left leaning Labour group Compass; and arguing the case against, was Telegraph columnist Charles Moore (he is actually a former editor of the Telegraph- and the Spectator, and is currently chair of the Right Wing think tank ‘Policy Exchange – which the BBC failed to mention. I think it’s fair to say he’s a Tory !)
Hayes promptly pounced on Cameron’s remarks, and brought up again Chris Grayling’s weekend comments citing them as evidence that the party had not changed, and that it was the same old Tories. A solid if fairly predictable response.
His opponent, for his part, did probably less well, choosing to focus only on the issues of Chris Grayling’s comments and taking pretty much the line of “An English man’s home is his castle, and I’ll be buggered if I’ll have sodomy going on under my roof”.
There followed a bit of to-ing & fro-ing, in which each protagonist re-iterated their position. End of skirmish.
One – Nil to Labour eh ?
Well I’m not too sure. I agreed with Gavin Haye’s arguments, and profoundly disagreed with the line taken by Charles Moore.
When all said and done though, my vote doesn’t have to be fought for – I’m voting Labour anyway.
That’s not the case for the votes of millions (well at least thousands) of listeners to Radio 2 this afternoon though. The casual listener, who hadn’t been following recent events could well have been forgiven for thinking that the right to exclude gay couples from B&Bs was a cornerstone of Conservative Party policy.
Which left them with an apparent choice between a party wanting equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation; and a party wanting to give business owners the right to exclude gay couples.
Now whilst the latter option is particularly odious to me, the sad truth is that there are many people who sympathise with that position. They also have a vote – and right now, the important thing is not to change their way of thinking – we have the rest of eternity to do that. No – the priority is in 30 days to get them to cast their votes for Labour.
So if you’re involved in this debate at some time over the next couple of days – don’t get suck into arguing about whether B&B owners should be able to exercise their prejudices. Point out instead the real choice that is available.
Point out that Chris Grayling voted in parliament to make it illegal for B&B owners to discriminate, point out that he’s said that he has no wish to change the law back, and point out that he’s happy to say and write and commit himself to one thing in front of the learned intelligentsia – but peddles something entirely different when he thinks he’s not going to be called to task.
Point out that David Cameron’s quite happy to write things down saying that his party’s changed, and that he’s not going to discriminate against gay people when he’s trying to demonstrate that his party has changed – but just like Grayling, he can’t be courageous enough to commit to the same thing in a live speech, that he knows will be seen by Sun reading potential tory voters, who might be a little anti-gay.
So point out the real choice, between a party that says that it is in favour of equality, and that takes steps to ensure that it really is; and a party that says it’s in favour of equality, but sometimes does something else – and whether you’re a homophobe or an egalitarian, you’ve no way of knowing what they’re really going to do.
My guess is this – what they’ll actually do is whatever they think it takes to gain them power – not because they believe it or want it, but precisely because they want that power. My feeling is that the reason the Conservatives find it so hard to say what their principles really are is because they really don’t have any – unless you count narrow self interest, and the pursuit of power and money.
Finally, I did think it was rather interesting, after having debated the issue of exactly who is or is not, on David Cameron’s list of “The Great Ignored” on BBC Radio this afternoon, that the BBC should then choose to not mention any of them on their website’s reporting of David Cameron’s speech. Cameron launches Tory campaign with ‘hope’ message
“And let’s win this election for the good of the country that we love.”
Mr Cameron said he was fighting the election for “the great ignored”. [ <-- OOPS ! THEY MISSED A BIT HERE - northernheckler !! ]
“They work hard, they set up businesses, they work in factories, they teach our children, they keep our streets safe, they obey the law and they their pay taxes,” he said.
Truly there are some things that are great, and are ignored.
I had no work to go to today, and so unusually I got quite a different slant on the news to what I usually do. I had breakfast to the ‘wallpaper’ of BBC Breakfast – although (I guess like many thousands of people) I wasn’t paying much attention. It seemed to be talking about local authorities and the need to make cuts in spending. The figure that stuck in my mind was “25,000 job losses”.
As the day went on and I did errands running around in the car I heard snatches of radio repeating this – again on BBC radio – this time Nicky Campbell’s phone in asking “Where do you think the axe should fall”. A clear message was coming from the programme that councils around the country were going to have to cut spending because the Government was going to cut the cash going to local authorities.
I didn’t pay it much attention – didn’t have time – but made a mental note to check it out on the web (which is where I normally get my news) when I got home.
Along the way I spotted Gordon Brown in the bank. Yes really ! He was actually on the telly – (BBC again) making a speech from Reading about fighting crime The Press Association: PM outlines plans to fight crime in which among other things, he debunked some of the myths about crime statistics which the Conservative Party have in the past been accused of making misleading claims about. This was reported quite significantly by the BBC :BBC News – Chris Grayling use of crime statistics ‘mislead’ public – so I figured that the Prime Minister’s speech would figure prominently in the BBC News when I got home.
I was wrong.
The front page of the BBC News website, when I checked it, led with – 25,000 job cuts in local authorities – (although this has since slipped down the list, at the time of writing & been replaced by the story regarding Lord Ashcroft’s “non-dom” tax status). The Prime Minister’s speech is not mentioned, and even on searching shows up only as a local piece in the Berkshire section of the website.
Obviously it’s been deemed less newsworthy than these job losses – so I had a look at it …BBC News – Council cuts threaten 25,000 jobs, BBC survey suggests
Well – let’s see – what’s it all about ? A response to a new Government announcement ? an election pledge perhaps ?
No – it’s a survey carried out by … Oh yes, the BBC !
A survey of local authorities in England. All of them presumably. Well no actually – just 93 of them.
That’s not to say that a sample can’t be representative of a larger group – of course it can.
The sample that this report’s based on though is just a sub-set of the total sample for the survey – just 49 of them who “think that they’ll need to make cuts over the next three to five years”. (Which let’s be honest, sounds like the answer to a bit of a leading question)
Notice that it’s not based on any word from the Government – or even the opposition – but just based on whether they “expect” to make the cuts.
Based on the answers to this question they’ve decided that up to 25,000 jobs could be lost.
Of course if the sample is a representative one then it could be much greater. In fact as far as I can work out, the sample represents 49 of the 354 local authorities in England – or 13.8% – which would represent around 180,000 job losses.
The sample isn’t representative though – it’s chosen only from the authorities that said they would be likely to make cuts – and who answered the survey. So it’s not at all easy – or wise – to extrapolate from this figure.
Bear in mind also that none of the authorities can possibly predict with any accuracy, how the economy will perform in the next few years – so all of this is guesswork. Bear in mind also that the spending round for next year is not indicating these kind of cuts thus far – my own school benefiting from a likely increase of around 2.3% for the budget from April – which is tight – but it’s not a cut.
All of which leads me to believe that this isn’t really news. But the BBC think it is.
I thought that the Gordon Brown speech – and the connections with the misleading figures quoted by the Tories, and commented on by the BBC and the UK Statistics Authority – was news. But the BBC thinks it isn’t.
I just wonder why ?
It’s perhaps predictable that there are those who are cynical of the emotion showed recently in television interviews by Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Alistair Campbell.
So predictable that it strikes me, that any politician who would ever fake such emotion for the cameras – as has been suggested – for instance here Who believes blubbing Brown? – would be ridiculously foolhardy.
Well they might be, but I think all of three of them have more savvy than that.
Of Cameron & Brown I say this – both have lost children, and seeing one’s children die before you do is something that no parent should need to endure – it is a dreadful experience, and they both have my every sympathy, no matter what their politics.
As Headteacher of a special school I cater for some of the most disabled children in our society. Many of them have reduced life expectancy.
I’ve not seem many deaths of children in my time in special schools – but I’ve seen a few too many. It’s always hard to handle, however disabled the child, and however well prepared that child’s family may be.
I’ve also had the responsibility on one occasion of telling a Mother that her Son was dead. It was a powerful experience, and I’m glad that I was able to fulfil that responsibility effectively. I’m not sure that I’d be able to conceal my emotions were I to be interviewed on television about it.
So Gordon & David have my respect on this matter. Their emotion merely demonstrates their humanity.
It would be easier to round on Alistair Campbell – he hasn’t had such a bereavement. He has however been involved at the highest levels with those taking the hardest decisions of all – to take a nation to war. Knowing that those decisions will result in many parents suffering the fate of seeing their children die before they do, but not knowing whether the action will result in fewer of them suffering that fate than would have been the case had another course of action been chosen.
That’s a hard cross to bear, and again I feel that he’s entitled to become emotional.
All things considered I’d be far more likely to vote for any of these three, tears or not, than for any of the spiteful nihilists who continually run them down.
BONUS : My title is taken from the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley OM’s ‘Cry to Me’ – listen here on Youtube :
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s so called ‘withering’ attack (perhaps withered might be more apt) on Gordon Brown over MPs’ expenses (see my post yesterday : Cameron is losing it ) today the top Tory launches a poster campaign (OK these days poster campaigns tend to just get wheeled round on the side of a lorry for a while – but they get a lot of press coverage).
Just feast your eyes on this :
It’s difficult to count all the ways in which this so spectacularly fails to hit home. Let me try though :
1. Health Secretary Andy Burnham has categorically denied any plan to introduce such a tax :
“The Guardian’s story suggests a £20,000 flat levy and I am not currently considering that as a lead option for reform,” he said.
“That figure was used in the green paper last year, but I do not believe a flat levy of that kind would be the right way to go. So I can say to you very categorically today that is not what we are considering.”
(Source : Brown’s ‘death tax’ denied )
2. He denied it after the Guardian article which he refers to (Inheritance levy to fund social care being considered by ministers) but before the poster was unveiled – The Tories knew it was a lie before it even hit the streets - so they’ll be accused of lying, and also not knowing what the Government’s plans are.
3. The Conservatives are in no position to draw attention to plans on inheritance tax. My post in November Just who would benefit from Cameron’s Tax cuts ? drew attention to Labour’s position re. the Conservatives’ plans pointing out that only those with estates of more than £700,000 would benefit from those plans.
4. Not only does drawing attention to Inheritance Tax reveal the unfairness of their own plans, it also reminds the public of one of David Cameron’s more spectacular trashings in PMQ’s by Gordon Brown – when GB came out with the taunt that
‘Cameron and Osborne “will know by name” almost all of the people who will benefit from these measures – and adding “Is this what the Conservatives mean when they say ‘we’re all in this together?’
5. The poster comes on the back of the Tories’ previous disastrous own goal poster which showed an airbrushed David Cameron, and launched a whole cottage industry of edited versions of the poster – it’s hardly likely to suffer a better fate – replacing as it does, the smooth forehead of David Cameron with the smooth stone slab of a grave stone. Will it be a good swap we wonder ? – I’d imagine there’ll be alternative versions of this on the net before midnight – perhaps here : http://www.mydavidcameron.com/ . Expect Zombies !
6. The phrase “death tax” is lifted straight out of the vocabulary of right wing American politicians – and specifically conjures up the ‘Death Panels’ talked of by right wing American politician Sarah Palin – a figure of ridicule in the UK. The expression was used in attacks on President Barack Obama’s plans to introduce universal health care in the USA, and alongside criticism of the UK’s National Health Service – this serves to remind the UK public, not just of the opposition by some Tories to the very idea of the NHS – but specifically of the maverick extremist Daniel Hannan, who claimed that the NHS was a “60 Year Mistake” on American TV , who stands by his pronouncements, and who has not been reprimanded in any way by David Cameron, despite his claims to support the NHS. ( See my post Daniel Hannan’s outpourings on the NHS – Will Cameron slap him down ? ) – raising fears of both the Tories’ lack of commitment to the NHS, and David Cameron’s inability to control the lunatic fringe (or is it the mainstream ?) of his party.
The whole Daniel Hannan episode of course sparked the massive #WeLoveTheNHS Twitter campaign, massively embarassing for the Conservatives, and which perhaps can be seen as a turning point in the fortunes of Gordon Brown’s government.
7. And finally … It’s just not all that funny. Surely they can do better than this.
So once again I say that David Cameron is losing it – losing the plot, losing the argument – and increasingly he’s losing the election campaign.
When David Cameron was selected as leader of the Conservative Party it worried me a little. I knew a little about him, and found him to be relatively sensible, and feared that he’d be quite appealing to a wide range of voters – a real threat to Labour.
It’s interesting to think back to those times, and the more recent times when the Conservatives have been riding high in the opinion polls, lulling themselves into ever more confidence of a resounding election victory. Interesting because on the evidence of his current performances he appears to be losing his grip, and losing the election.
Today we’re told by various sources that David Cameron attacks Gordon Brown over expenses MPs , and MPs’ expenses: Labour in ‘headlong’ retreat, says David Cameron, and DAVID CAMERON ATTACKS BROWN OVER ‘HUMILIATING’ EXPENSES CLIMBDOWN
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Tory Leader was on the up, if you just went by the headlines. I think otherwise.
The three Labour MP’s that this story relates to and who are facing prosecution for abuse of expenses – David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine – have all, you might recall, been barred by the Labour Party from standing at the next election as Labour candidates – so the Labour Party had already taken some action against these three.
So what ? I hear the baying mob call – they’re still due to retire with golden handshakes !
Well of course, because there’s this really quaint old fashioned old generation principle built into British law – it’s the principle that says a person is “innocent until proven guilty” – so Labour’s / the Government’s actions in not taking rash actions, without fulfilling a legal burden of prof – actually improve the chances of the law taking its course, and a fair trial for them taking place. It’s what one would expect – and the Government have presumably taken legal advice on this issue.
It would appear that Mr Cameron has taken no such legal advice – shooting his mouth off in condemnation of both Gordon Brown and the alleged offenders. So much so, as to provoke warnings from not just Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, (who lets be honest is part of the Labour Party) :
“He’s got to be very careful what he says or his comments might actually jeopardise the trial and none of us wants to see that happen,”;
but also the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow (who despite what some Tories say, is a Conservative with one of the largest majorities anywhere)
“The House will be aware that charges have been made against three members of the House and that therefore the sub judice rule applies to their cases.
“The matter is therefore before the courts and the House and members would not wish to interfere with the judicial process, risk affecting the fairness of a criminal trial or, furthermore, prevent such a trial taking place.”
I confess that I had visions of Stan Laurel standing up behind David Cameron, and shouting “Why don’t you hang ‘em !” – it would hardly have been a greater presumption of non-innocence.
Dave’s ire seems to be raised by the rumoured intention of the three accused to invoke Parliamentary privilege as a means of avoiding prosecution. Which would be fair enough – if it were any thing other than pure conjecture. Last time I heard though, solicitors were not in the habit of disclosing what their defence tactics would be ahead of a trial. Also, Alan Johnson – speaking on The Andrew Marr programme yesterday – clearly demonstrated that the Government would have no truck with that.
So anything else he’s bothered about ? Well he doesn’t seem to want the Labour Party funding their solicitors – well the Labour party say that the party
“has not and continues to have absolutely no involvement in the legal arrangements of these MPs, who were barred from standing as Labour candidates last year”.
Seems pretty clear cut to me.
Although let’s be honest, I’m a member of a trades union (the NUT) and as such if I were accused of a crime in relation to my work, I’d probably get my legal representation via them. Innocent until proven guilty remember – and that means entitled to legal representation – so providing they’ve paid their subs (stop it !) then maybe they are entitled to help from the party. But they’re not getting it anyway – so what’s Mr Cameron on about ?
It seems that what’s bothering him most is that the timing of Gordon Brown’s announcement that the three would be suspended from parliamentary activities, beat him to the draw with his planned (and widely trailed) speech about the issue.
So now instead of complaining that Gordon hasn’t withdrawn the whip, he’s now complaining that he has. Well which is it Dave ? because if someone is in “full retreat” in the way you want them to go, you’re hardly in a position to moan about it. If it had taken a long time then perhaps he’d have had a point – but no – the decision to prosecute was announced on Friday – the decision to suspend announced on Monday – that’s the next business day. Seems pretty quick off the mark in my book.
Mr Cameron said today that
“We are a new generation – come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability”.
Well he’s not (he was trying to get into Parliament in 1997 ), and neither is his sidekick William Hague, who’s been like an old man since he sucked up to Margaret Thatcher in 1977. William, viewers of the aforementioned Andrew Marr programme may have noticed, failed quite clearly for instance, to come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability when asked about Lord Ashcroft’s tax arrangements.
So – David Cameron – you’re losing it. Today’s bluster was a load of rubbish. I thought you could do better than that.
I read this piece on the Tory Radio blog last night : Labour giving up on being able to form a majority , produced in response to what editor Jonathon Sheppard (I’m assuming it’s him) called a “Labour reaction of glee” to the news that the newly published ComRes Poll in the Sunday Mirror : POLL EXCLUSIVE: David Cameron’s down again , was predicted to lead to a hung parliament, with the Conservatives 5 seats shy of a majority, in the next general election (Predictions from polls are hit & miss affairs by the way – but lots of fun – try Electoral Calculus to have a play around with some figures).
Well although I found the tone of the article to be childish and sneering, one does have to ask – why get so excited about the prospect of scraping a near draw ?
I feel that there are two reasons – and I look to the example of Tory ex-Prime Minister John Major for both.
John fought two general elections as Prime Minister. Let’s take the later one – the one where he was defeated – first. Major’s position before and as a result of that election, represents the doomsday scenario for any political party. Unpopular as his government had become, as the election loomed it became more and more difficult to salvage anything for his party. Like an aeroplane in free-fall, there came a point where it was impossible to pull out of the dive, and all that he could do was wait for the crash. When it came it provided Labour with possibly their most staggering victory ever – winning seats in places which had hitherto been considered untouchable.
Back last year at the time of the European elections, that was a scenario being painted by many for Labour – in third place in many areas, losing ground to fringe parties as well as established ones with cabinet ministers bickering in the wings trying to unseat the leader.
There’s another lesson from John Major though – from the 1992 election – which he won.
John Major’s Government was also unpopular then, and he was facing a slick election campaign from Labour’s Prime Minister in waiting Neil Kinnock. Neil Kinnock you may remember even managed to have the celebration before he’d won the election so sure was he of the forthcoming victory
There’s so many things in that short clip that provide echos of today’s situation – the Opposition cheered by the opinion polls, sure that the Government can’t win, but not yet sure that they can – according to the polls – but brimming with confidence, and sure that the Prime Minister is a “Box Office Disaster” to use John Smith’s words.
We know what happened – Kinnock blew the election – or was it the other way round ? I actually felt that John Major won it – he did his homework, he worked hard, and although even most of the Conservative Party didn’t really believe him until the votes were counted, he successfully delivered the goods – much to my own disappointment ( “At least he’s not Margaret Thatcher !” was my dejected thought the morning after ).
So which will it be for Labour ? Major’s 1997 Meltdown, or Major’s 1992 Rope-a-Dope ?
Back last Spring, the harbingers of doom were fairly sure of the Meltdown – but since then things have changed. In council by elections for instance there’s been no big evaporation of the Labour position. Gordon Brown, has become more vociferous and successful in his spoken comments – making Cameron look a charlie in many of the recent PMQ’s for instance.
There’ve also been a few embarrassments for the Tories as well – Cameron’s handling (or lack of handling) of anti-nhs extreme right wingers in his party such as Daniel Hannan has not gone down well publicly.
The traditional Tory press for some reason, also seem to take a delight in having a side-swipe at David Cameron, even whilst trying to rally the troops : see this in the Telegraph earlier this week David Cameron’s Tories are a one-man band that’s playing out of tune
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that there aren’t still big, big difficiculties for Labour – just that the crash landing is not inevitable – we seem to have pulled out of the dive.
Admittedly Labour could have done without Hoon & Hewitt’s shennanigins regarding leadership challenges – but the episode does seem to have galvanised unity within the party – for the time being at any rate.
So this opinion poll shows that yes there could be a hung parliament. Margins of error taken into account it probably also shows that the Tories could have a very small majority, or that their simple majority might be even smaller. When all’s said and done it’s just another poll – and they can be misleading as we know.
It does though, suggest that the total meltdown isn’t happening. Which suggests to me that Gordon Brown’s election may well be more similar to John Major’s more successful campaign in 1992 than to his disaster in 1997.
I think it’s this that the Labour faithful are taking heart with – because the poll hints at lessons from history which show that there is all to fight for in this election and that a Labour majority is by no means out of the question.
When you look at those airbrushed posters of David Cameron smugly looking out at you – who does it remind you of ? Tony Blair ? Margaret Thatcher ? No – for me it’s Neil Kinnock – having his party early – just as Cameron is.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over , and I’m Voting Labour !
Yesterday I attended the Fabians’ New Year Conference at Imperial College London. Pretty good stuff it was too, with an opening key note speech, screened live on both BBC and Sky News, by none other than the man himself Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Although sitting in the third row whilst Gordon effectively kicked off Labour’s General Election campaign was a pretty impressive experience for a political geek like me, if I thought that the close encounters with political celebrities were over for the day, I was very wrong.
A few minutes later I was seated in the same auditorium for my choice of the first group sessions of the day – which my followers on Twitter will not be surprised to learn was “Twittered out – will the new media really change the election ?” – a lively debate chaired by Twitter Tsarina & MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy (aka @KerryMP) , and a panel consisting of President of YouGov Peter Kellner, Ellie Gellard – better known as The Stillettoed Socialist or @BevaniteEllie, Nick Anstead of the University of East Anglia – (and co-editor of “The change we need” with Will Straw ), and finally James Forsyth, Deputy Editor of The Spectator‘s online edition.
High spot of the debate itself was when Peter Kellner was giving the predictable whine about how it’s impossible to say anything worth reading in just 140 characters – whilst he was speaking many of the audience were tweeting away, iPhone’s and Blackberries in hand, and received the message “Next to a Twitter hater on platform #fab10″ from @BevaniteEllie seated a couple of feet to his right. She smiled knowingly to the audience, and the audience tweeted back. There are those who know and there are non-Twitterers !
Which brings me to the point of this blog. As James Forsyth was winding up (and I’m sorry James but you were anything but riveting) my attention wandered to a small group of people who’d just come in to the auditorium and sat down just in front of me.
I did a double take, and realised that one of them was none other than the Dark Lord himself, Peter Mandelson. Kerry McCarthy had clearly noticed as well and attempted to engage him in the debate, pointing out to him that one of the most common questions she is asked by twitter users is “Can I follow Peter Mandelson ? – Is he on Twitter ?” Well I think this was one of those rare occasions where Lord Mandelson couldn’t really decide what to say next – yes I was surprised as well ! (@KerryMP: tells us “I asked Peter Mandelson at #fab10 if he’d start tweeting. He said “they” aka “the dark side” won’t let him!”)
So we reached the end of the session – which was followed by Peter’s session with the Young Fabians – people got up to leave, lots of people started arriving. I made a move towards the other side of the auditorium to ensure a good view of events on stage.
In doing so I came across a man blocking the way -
” Excuse me !” I interjected politely
- he moved to let me past just as politely – and I realised that it was Lord Mandelson once again.
Well I wasn’t going to be denied this time – “Pleased to meet you !” I said, offering my hand, which he shook with political aplomb.
I introduced myself, told him that my on line persona was “Northern Heckler”, and then … well didn’t know what to say really !
So I said – “I think I follow you on Twitter !” (I thought I did !)
“You don’t follow me, I’m afraid” he said.
“Someone who pretends he’s you ?”
- “I’m afraid so”
- “Well I’ll look forward to when I do follow you,” I said, ” nice to meet you !”
- and with a smile he trotted on to the stage and addressed around 600 Young Fabians – not failing to point out from the platform that some of them (like me) – were perhaps not all that young !
So – I think the time has come to launch the campaign – Lord Peter Mandelson needs to be on Twitter. We need him – He needs us. Twitter is full of people who, unlike the general public, actually find politics interesting. Peter Mandelson is one of those people who actually makes politics interesting for the rest of the population as well. So if he becomes a Tweeter, he’ll square the circle as it were.
Plus it would be lot’s of fun.
Mandelson’s one of the few genuine stars of British politics – some people love him – some people hate him, others merely throw custard at him – but it would take a very disaffected voter to hand on heart say that they were bored by him.
So my message to Peter – “Come on Lord Mandelson – there’s a tweeting mob out there who need some soundbites throwing at them (just ask Guido Fawkes !) – Your public need you !”
To all the people out there on Twitter, I say – Let the world know we want #Mandy4Twitter – doesn’t matter which party you support (if any), like him or loathe him, – you know you’ll follow him – tweet it, & re-tweet it : #Mandy4Twitter !
I’m obliged to Becky Walker aka @CollectorManiac (blog at Socialism Of The Heart ) for directing me to this article on the Times website re. Nick Griffin : BNP crisis as Nick Griffin faces jail over whites-only policy with the tweet : Nick Griffin may face jail – A story we can all enjoy. http://tumblr.com/xg15eviah
However, much as I absolutely share her dislike for Nick Griffin and his revolting bunch of racist thugs, I didn’t really enjoy the story so much. Let me tell you why.
First of all the story’s not really acting on new news – it’s just pre-empting the deadlines set after the county court hearing in October, brought about by the action of the Equality & Human Rights Commission which set the BNP three months to amend it’s constitution “so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any ‘protected characteristic’ – for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status – as defined in clause 4 of the Equality Bill” . The three months are up on Friday and the court hearing re-convenes on January 28th.
The article is therefore assuming that the BNP have taken no action, and will not before Friday – which is pure conjecture of course. I do however suspect that they may be right.
The article also has as it’s core subject, the possibility of the BNP leader being sent to prison. Well this would be extremely unlikely. I’m no legal expert, but I think that the County Court is a civil court – not a criminal court, and as such has no power to impose custodial sentences (can anyone confirm this ?) – of course failure to comply with the court’s instructions might – ultimately – lead to imprisonment.
Which brings me to my major difficulty with this story : If Nick Griffin were to be imprisoned it would be the biggest publicity coup they could ever have. Why ? Well – how many of us here in our snug homes in Britain were rooting for Morgan Tsvangiri in Zimbabwe despite having only the vaguest notion of anything about him, other than that he’d been unfairly imprisoned ? Well I was for one. He was unfairly imprisoned – and if Nick Griffin were imprisoned over this issue that would be unfair too.
The Times article states : “Officials question whether the head of a political party who has been imprisoned, fined or has had his assets sequestrated could continue to be its leader” . We need only look as far as Nelson Mandela for an answer to that question. Mandela achieved near world-wide sainthood despite being twenty odd years behind bars as leader of the ANC.
Of course neither the EHRC, or the County Court are likely to be short-sighted enough to risk the martyrdom of the BNP leader, but articles like this one may already have done a lot of damage.
To understand why, one needs to consider the likely mindset of potential BNP voters. Just this morning for instance I saw a message posted on Facebook which read “Dave : thinks this is just hypochrocy (sic) this goverment sends our brave boys to their deaths ,yet stands by & lets islamic fanatics march, all for the asian vote.!!!!!!!!!!!”
A reference to the planned march by some Muslim group in Wootton Bassett. Now despite me giving him this link : PM strikes out at Wootton Bassett Islamic march plans , which sees Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounce the planned march in fairly stark terms : “it would be disgusting and offensive” he still believes that somehow the Government are encouraging Islamic extremists to march in areas sensitive to the memories of British soldiers killed in action. It’s not true – but the damage is done.
I know Dave and he’s not a bad man, but neither is he a big reader of the political press, and yes he is susceptible to the likes of the BNP. So when he sees the “tabloid-ed down” version of the Time’s story on Nick Griffin’s ‘possible’ imprisonment, probably reading it in The Sun in his tea-break, he won’t do any in depth critique or analysis – he’ll just assume that the Government are trying to put Nick Griffin in jail, and then when Nick Griffin starts making claims comparing himself with Nelson Mandela, and Gordon Brown with Robert Mugabe, there’s a fair chance he might believe him.
So this report didn’t cheer me up much.
At least I broke my blogging drought though !
Been finding it hard to get time to update lately, so I’m a bit behind the times on this – here goes …
I just have to mention that on Friday 4th December I was privileged to attend the Downing Tweet Christmas Party held at No 10 Downing Tweet, and that was the name of the street – if you don’t believe me look at the picture.
The event was held by Sarah Brown – wife of our Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in aid of the Million Mums Charity – which can be found here : Million Mums and which is in turn part of the White Ribbon Alliance for safe motherhood – which campaigns to prevent mothers dying in childbirth and pregnancy.
The people there were all loosely related by the fact that they use Twitter to try to change the world – and there were some diverse people there – from @orangutans – who runs the Orangutan Land Trust , to singer @BeverleyKnight – well known on Twitter, and for her work with Christian Aid , the Stop AIDS Campaign and The Terrence Higgins Trust . Beverley brought the house down with performances of ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda” and “Gold”.
Many other celebrities there as well but personally I (and I’d say most of the people there) were rather more excited to meet some of the political bloggers and tweeters that we feel that we know already but in fact have never met. And they were there in abundance. ( Apologies to anyone I miss out on ) The Fabian’s & Next Left’s Sunder Katwala (@nextleft); the Twitter Tsar & Labour Whip Kerry McCarthy MP (@KerryMP), the stillettoed socialist and scourge of the right Ellie Gellard (@BevaniteEllie), blogger & feminist Grace Fletcher-Hackwood (@msgracefh), Labourlist editor Alex Smith (@alexsmith1982) to name but a small few of the crowd that were there.
Whilst to be honest, I was rather like a kid on Christmas morning, just being in and around No. 10, and would have loved it even if I’d stood in a corner with no one speaking to me all night, in fact it wasn’t like that at all.
The atmosphere was very friendly, not least because most of the people there “Twitter-knew” each other, even though they didn’t know each other too well in real life. This makes for some easy and relaxed conversation – and for me is evidence of the power that Twitter – and related new media – can provide.
Well that’s about all I’m going to say – it was brilliant – Thanks Sarah Brown for inviting me, Thanks Kerry McCarthy for putting my name forward. Oh and did I mention I met Gordon Brown ? Well I did !
Don’t forget to visit the Million Mums website.
The tragedy of a a person being hit by a train in the Harrow & Wealdstone area, thus suspending all trains in and out of Euston Station gives the unexpected silver lining of me being able to resurrect my much neglected blog.
I’m interested today by the Cameron Gift Calculator on the front page of the Labour Party website (the content will doubtless change in coming days). The little gadget there allows you to type in the value of your estate and find out how much you will benefit from the cuts in inheritance tax that David Cameron’s Conservative party are proposing.
Well my house, in South Bedfordshire is worth around £225,000 – I have a mortgage of around £100,000 but this would be more or less paid off with life insurance should I or my wife die.
So how much would – benefit ? – Well I wouldn’t – nothing, zero – I’m not wealthy enough to get a present from Dave.
No surprise perhaps. After all according to the same Labour website neither would 96% of the population. It’s what I should expect no doubt.
But here’s the rub – I’m a Headteacher – a London Headteacher and I earn well above median earnings. In fact my salary of around £78,000 is (according to this July 2009 BBC article : Just what is a big salary? ) not just above average, but puts me in the top 5% of earners – comfortably in fact, with the cut off figure for the 95th centile being £58,917. Yet despite probably being in the top 4% of earners, I’m no where near the 4% of people who’d benefit from these Tory tax proposals.
So in case there’s anyone out there thinking the Tories’ tax cuts would benefit the high earners out there – forget it. It’s old money we’re talking out – people who had the money from the day they were born – or at least the promise of it when Mummy or Daddy popped their clogs.
Lest anyone’s in any doubt – the inheritance tax cuts would not affect anyone with estates of less than £700,000 – and then not massively. But if for example you had an estate worth £5, 000, 000 then you’d stand to benefit by £520,000 (or your heirs would). As if you’d need it !
As Gordon Brown observed in Parliament today, Cameron and Osborne “will know by name” almost all of the people who will benefit from these measures – and adding “Is this what the Conservatives mean when they say ‘we’re all in this together?’
So before you go off and vote Conservative in the general election – ‘just for a change’ – remember what kind of people they are : They are really greedy people who just look out for themselves and their own kind !
UPDATE : PLEASE READ MY COMMENTS POLICY – MY BLOG MY RULES !