Friday, 14 February 2014
Something missing in the coalition
Something has been very wrong with the coalition from early on. It isn't very good. At lots of things. But it isn't very good at politics. Which is odd because that is its job.
One of the great things about the defeat of labour in May 2010 was the almost instant cessation of the babble of political non-news. A silence filled the airwaves. No one was in charge. So nothing much happened except hacks standing outside Number 10 watching a man hide behind a closed door.
For 13 years a constant stream of propaganda had poured out of the airwaves. Cabinet ministers had droned the exact same, word for word, media grid message as each other like boring Stepford wives. Non entity backbenchers would attend the opening of a door if a Spad could get them a photo in the local paper. If there was a crisis a minister would appear on TV, explaining what had not just occurred and assuring everyone that it was all the fault of the opposition, and that X billion pound would be immediately spent and then list 10 other things that they would do or had done that had no relevance.
And if there was no crisis a minister would appear on television with a planted non-news story or just repeat the exact same thing they had said the week before but pretend it was new.
It was incredibly annoying. But for a very long time, very effective. The New labour spin machine usually held the political high ground for the first 8 years or so. That was because it was totally orchestrated, totally managed. It was a Godfather organisation that had the power to demand service and reward loyalty and whack those who didn't recognise an offer they shouldn't refuse.
And run by some incredibly talented,evil geniuses.
Cameron lost his Luca Brasi very early on. And took years to find another.
If he had had a 'Campbell' we could expect the bedroom tax to have never left the think tank.
Its not a bad idea. It does , on paper, save money. And it does drive the personal responsibility narrative, make work pay ideals, of IDS.
But its political death. It ticks every anti-liberal box. It can be viewed as falling exclusively on the poorest and most vulnerable. It can't be properly implemented as housing is not in sufficient supply.
It disproportionately affects the disabled.
Someone should have told Frank Pentangeli IDS it wasn't happening. He could have bellowed and threatened all he liked. But at the end of the day he would have been told to run with benefits cap and universal credit and not the spare bedroom subsidy.
"Its bad for business Ian. Its got Poll Tax stink. So leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
Foreign aid. Perfectly laudable. The appropriate thing for a first world nation to do. Provide medicine and education around the world. Grease a few commerce wheels. Trade a few £mil favours. Maybe you can do something in return for us, someday? Hey! you like Jet fighters?" And in government terms its small change down the sofa.
0.7% of spending. Imagine you had to shave 0.7% off your annual food bill.. Wouldn't be hard.
And the Guardian absolutely loved the idea of ring fencing foreign aid,
But foreign aid is toxic. Its toxic because the ordinary voter in the Starbucks hears £11 billion pounds and thinks that must be the size of the total NHS budget or the cost of defence. And.. IT IS a big number.
Its a similar number as the temporary VAT increase from 17.5 to 20% that is never going to go away. We gave ourselves a tax rise to fund the Indian space program?
Cameron should have said "in these difficult times and during this difficult period, the government is going to spend 2/3 of this parliament's 'foreign aid' in our own country!" and take the hit from the liberals.
And if Cameron wanted to or had to pay out the overseas money, nick it from somewhere else and call it something difference. 'Don' Tony would have, without a second thought. 'Capo' Gordon would have suggested it to him.
"Peter? There is a problem I need you to take care of. "
The flooding. The initial response had been fine. Really it had. 40 homes in Somerset flooded. Well that's bad but not even unusual in February. What was bad was the crisis continued to grow. The land stayed flooded. And a response team took a very long time to form. No one was actually banging the government's drum until it was too late.
The evil genius team would have seen the opportunity for some minister for agriculture to get down there and blow on about how many £million had been spent since 1997 and how much extra £x million was being spent and the local party mobilised to do soup kitchens and food aid and a £1k cheque written for the sea scouts as they floated to help.
Gordon Brown used to look for any excuse to call a Cobra meeting.
Why didn't team Cameron see this coming and get ready? Why weren't there any sandbags actually in place or in a likely place with clear instructions and advice being pumped out by the relevant agency 24/7 until the water was starting to float up towards Whitehall? Behind the curve. Behind events with an unsure response of reassurance, blame and panic. That's a very bad place to be.
New labour would not have remained behind events.
Why, after almost four years, is the coalition?
Their business is politics. They don't HAVE to get it right all the time. But they do have to make us think they have or very soon will get it right.
Obama has declared a state of emergency in some states in America yesterday due to snow. Looking very' Pres' as he does it. Listing all the agencies who are doing something or other. Its what he does. Its what his job is. He isn't going to be filmed shoveling snow off the roads. He's going to be filmed looking like someone who is damned well sure he's going to get some other people to shovel snow off the roads.
That's his job.