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.


Anonymous said...

Heading of column in the table the wrong way round!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Good rant.*

* Except for the foot and mouth and the petrol tanker driver strike, they looked pathetically out of control then.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who thinks the aid bill is a big issue, is an absolute arsehole ignoramus who deserves to be ignored."

Ignore millions of voters?

Doesnt sound like a winning policy to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the coalition's media management seems completely amateurish. This is perhaps understandable - though not excusable - given the media's generally left-wing bias, often deployed in such headlines as: "The coalition's new figures claiming that .... were attacked by Labour on the grounds that .... Later we'll be talking to Ed Balls about it." I don't recall it being the other way round pre-2010.

We badly need to wean people off the idea that the answer to all their problems is more state. If a supposedly Tory-led coalition won't do this, we are well and truly doomed.

Ryan said...

"Anyone who thinks the aid bill is a big issue, is an absolute arsehole ignoramus who deserves to be ignored."

Government deficit £110bn, foreign aid budget £11bn. Seems like a big issue to me. We are funding foreign aid by getting into more debt.

People that are not rational are the ones that deserve to be ignored. Sadly, in the UK they appear to be held in highest esteem.

Ryan said...

The Tories should never have got involved in a coalition with the LibDems. The LibDems are a party of crooks and perverts that have no inate feelings of responsibility or expectation of getting re-elected to govern on their own account and so they do whatever they please to jerk the Tory's chain regardless of the impact on the UK.

Jan said...

Agree with Ryan over overseas aid. We're probably one of the poorest countries if you look at our debts. How does it make sense to borrow so we can give aid?

(My son has a direct debit for Greenpeace even though he owes silly money for his student loan! I think I must have gone wrong somewhere with the financial literacy education)

Bill Quango MP said...

MW: Foot and mouth caught them out. And the petrol strike almost brought down the government. But that was a lack of knowledge about how vulnerable the supply was and how quickly reserves would run out.
The government had potentially two months warning of what shape the floods might take. Long enough to make some calls to ensure the agencies were on the ball.

With the fuel strike by the time the government had told the police to move the lorries and the police had said they couldn't without court orders or military special equipment, the pumps were empty.
Government cave in followed.
New labour were not immune from criticism. And cock up, corruption, incompetence, waste and sleaze were constant companions. But a lot of that was mitigated by their efficient press machine.

Jackart is right even if badly put. The aid budget is small.
However the flood defences budget seems to be only £500 mil. So that is tiny.
The cost of keeping all libraries open is only £400 million.
All local DVLA offices have been closed to save £200 odd.
HMRC offices are being closed.

So an argument for giving aid to others but denying ourselves things as we can't afford them is absurd. And politically its a very difficult argument to have.
I would have urged Cameron to ditch foreign aid commitments. Do something else.
Start a new charity partnership department. Give it a happy, New Laboury name.
"The poorly children of Africa get well fund" and give the dictator bung money to the dept of Bus and sklz.

To leave foul smelling policies around not because they are central plank ideologies but because they 'might' make a difference to a few seems self defeating.

We could lump gay marriage in here too. Every European country has had to have the gay marriage fight so we must assume we know where that instruction originated.
But to FIGHT for the right was a mistake. Cameron had a perfect out. Let the Liberals take the bill through with his own mild support.
Take the political hit but no need to be seen to be demanding something that is not wanted by your own voters.

Did he not think it would create a stink in the Tory press? Its fine to annoy your backers when you have a 100+ seat majority. Not so when you don't.

Ryan said...

"Jackart is right even if badly put. The aid budget is small."

The aid budget is not small! It is £11bn every year! That is £550 per household per year!

We have got so used to politicians pissing huge amounts of our money up the wall, that we dismiss the lesser amounts.

Just to put this in contest, the average household voluntarily gave less than £4 to Comic Relief last year, so on what grounds does the government force us to donate more than 100x that on our behalf? Aid given to countries that fought us for their independence but somehow aren't quite independent and are still sucking on our teat?

Oh you like it, because YOU happen to agree with it? Well fuck you, I don't. The road to financial ruin is justifying all manner of expenditure that Tom Dick or Harry happen to like bu twhich is funded by debt.

DJK said...

The aid pledge makes no sense, especially when so many small services people value at home are being cut. It really can't win many votes outside of the ranks of BBC producers and Guardian leader writers, and as we see in the comments here, it's a major irritant to a lot of people. As Ryan says, £550 per household is not small change.

Budgie said...

I said right at the start of Cameron's term that the only way to save money was to close departments and quangos completely. DfID was one of them. The aid is either useless, counterproductive, or it's a bribe.

We could let the FCO do the bribing (£500M?) and scrap the rest. Clearly neither Cameron nor Jackart have bothered to read what actually happens to the aid, and how non-aid countries are either no worse off or even better off, by comparison.

There is lots more to do: privatise the BBC; scrap the Arts Council and subsidies; close the Environment Agency; scrap windmill and other eco-loonery subsidies; and many more.

Anonymous said...


About the financail education of your offspring.

The main charity used Greenpeace Ltd to carry out it's work paying 89 people £3.95mn or about £35K each on average. Somewhere it will show a CEO on a large lump of cash but I guess this rather than know.

Anyone thinking of donating to a charity should read the accounts first - you know who you are Oxfam.

CityUnslicker said...

ryan, applause

phil5 said...

Ryan, applause again

Electro-Kevin said...

The aid budget is a bribe. To stop foreign leaders packing their people onto planes and sending them here to set up home.

I don't think people would disagree with altruistically motivated foreign aid were it not for the fact that the cuts at home manifest themselves in the most hurtful places (strategically, by leftist councils to maximise the pain and show the Tories in bad light.)

I don't think people care two hoots about gay marriage either but for the fact that heterosexual marriage seems so disrespected - and why have the fight now anyway ?

It seems to be (gay marriage) the same contradiction as with the legalisation of cannabis. The most ardent of anti tobacco zealots are the strongest advocates for cannabis. Those that discriminate against heterosexual marriage through taxation say that they want marriage for gays because it is such a good institution.

Bill Quango MP said...

Should have done a separate foreign aid post instead of including it in the general muddled thinking and poor media responses of the coalition.

But its clear that on here our thinking and knowledgeable and politically, economically aware readers, consider foreign aid foolish.

Dick the Prick said...

You're absolutely right about them just not being very good at the old politics thing. I was caucus sec for a couple of years to our local council in leadership before & during the general campaign so made quite frequent phone calls to Bob Neil and some of the shit I was asking was merely for confirmation but the amount of times came the answer 'dunno Ricky, not sure anyone's thought about it' got my spidey senses tingling like Santa Claus' Mrs after lacing his cocoa with viagra.

They had 3 years, minimum, to prepare for government and yet apparently didn't even know that Lansley was ready to pop the NHS (accoring to Matt D'Ancona in 'we're all in this together') without bothering to let anyone know. That was when the public found out that these guys were amateurs. When asked, why do you wanna be Prime Minister, Cameron responded 'because I think i'd be good at it'. There, right there, is the total ambition of these kids from Notting Hill - not to rebalance the economy, not to fight for individual responsibility and reward but because he thought it a good gig. He won the ugly baby contest against nutters and has beens and yet doesn't have an idea in his vacuous head.

Osborne has got lucky by accident rather than design and is largely didning out that Ed Balls is more of a wanker than he is - sure, ND likes his fracking ambitions but for the rest of the time he's gone from total bloody indolence to rank stupidity. Fracking & Carney - I genuinely can't think of anything else, nothing, zip, nada, zilch. The economy has improved but it's got absolutely fuck all to do with him and he may have actively reduced it's potential.

Getting Coulson was always gonna be bad even if it didn't look bad - having Murdoch's man under the stairs is just pathetic and he was shite at the job too so another hit for some random reason which no one cares about - tosser.

They're just not very good at politics, hence the bullying, petulance, petty recriminations and cliquiness that has been the modus operandi of their entire administration. No gravitas, no philosophy and no direction - simply being slightly less shite than the next guys hardly gives rise to a glowing endorsement and this late on in the term with his core votes under 6ft of sewage, well, it's game over - they should do a Yeo and sort out their lifeboats.

I kinda like Teresa May, her age if nothing else appeals. I think the Home Office has beaten all the nievity out of her - I hope so. Fuck 'em, they had their chance and blew it - now it's Miliband's turn. Best thing Ed could do is STFU and just watch the car crash - don't rise to anything, at all, ever and it's a shoe in.

Nick Drew said...

Osborne was simply (and correctly) always banking on the fact that a flexible AAA economy will always recover in <5 years (and don't forget, that may yet save them!)

@ DtP, there, right there ... - yes, a wizard wheeze for a chap & his pals: and loyalty to pals scores way, way above everything else

(BTW: some would say this is the true test of character: "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country", E.M.Forster)

I've said this before, but I'd lay £££ the origin of the Foreign Aid pledge was a candle-lit supper at which a lovely county lady placed her hand on his knee and said now David, you will promise me, you are going to ring-fence the foreign aid budget, aren't you?

Electro-Kevin said...

Nick. Right there about the lady. I forgot that.

And I think the Iraq invasion really was born of something as shallow as two religious guys praying together and hearing voices.

Sometimes we miss the obvious.

Anonymous said...

This is an ideal situation where the EU could take over. After all EU foreign policy is being handled by Baroness Ashton. Why not just add this to her [heavy] workload and sack all the DFID's throughout the EU. Money saved could be used for ...say development overseas.

[Stand back and wait for it....]

andrew said...

part of the problem is that we have done all the easy things, we are now expecting the govt to control the tides (like canute)

equally, in the same manner that people really resent pay cuts, we really resent cutbacks

basically govts of both stripes are fairly trapped and increasingly far away from the great British public.

which is one reason for the rise of ukip

my point being not so much that they are useless, more that they cannot do much better than dismal.

Electro-Kevin said...

What isn't being admitted (apropos Miliband's recent exhortations on carbon emissions)

is that the policy will be to cede land to the sea at the same time as we are experiencing exponential population growth.

People from the third world arriving here to increase their prosperity (ability to consume)and thus their carbon emissions.

The indigenous population had got the message and had reduced their reproduction to below 2 children per couple and now Labour have reversed that in the most dramatic fashion - moreover they are telling us that it's all our fault for consuming too much.

Labour is Labour and wankers will always be.

It's not them I'm disgruntled with. It's David Cameron.

He conceals the obvious truth I mention in this comment. And yet he expects me to vote for him, like I'm some sort of chump.