Monday 22 September 2014

"Greater Scrutiny"? Desperate Stuff from Miliband

Well it's not going to be business as usual for a couple of weeks, is it ?  Party Conference season will see to that, unless ISIL or Putin really pull a stunt.

I understand the case for pessimism but am still very upbeat about the opportunity presented to Dave.  When we watch Miliband on prime politico-TV spluttering that he's not against English MPs being given greater scrutiny of legislation affecting England, we know he is completely disoriented.

Greater scrutiny ?   Everybody with a perspective on UK local government immediately recoils from the word.  It was introduced when the old local council 'committee system' was overthrown by the 'cabinet system'.  For those who don't know, prior to being allowed 'cabinet' government, the bulk of local authorities' decisions not delegated to council officers were taken by all-party committees, so that back-bench councillors - who would sit on several such committees - had a fair crack at genuine involvement.  This system wasn't without its flaws; but back-bench involvement was much diminished when it was replaced by 'cabinet', where all decisions are taken by a majority-party clique (and a well-paid clique at that).  The sop thrown to back-benchers was 'scrutiny' - powerless question-time sessions in which cabinet members have to explain themselves.  (The same thing happens in those few areas with executive mayors, when it is the Mayoral coterie that offers itself up for interrogation.)

The consequence of this is that non-cabinet councillors, which includes most of even the ruling party's number, get no closer to decision-making than asking the odd question of an actual decision-maker once a quarter.  They secretly hate it, even though (like parliamentary select committees) they try to puff themselves up and make it sound important - Keith Vaz in Toytown.

Now of course Westminster backbenchers already have this system: the Standing Committees that (despite the name) are convened specifically to go through each piece of draft legislation, line by line.  They are allowed to propose amendments, too, if they dare: but are ruthlessly whipped and have barely any meaningful autonomous impact, mostly serving to give the government a bit of breathing-space to introduce its own amendments (via compliant back-benchers) as the inevitable nonsenses in a hastily-drafted Bill become apparent.  

So for Mili to offer Greater Scrutiny as his solution to the WLQ is a mighty insult to all concerned, and one that any politico feels all too keenly.  Is that the best you've got ?   A really tangible expression of pure political panic, of existential angst.  In the season of last-before-election Party Conferences, he needs above all to be declaring glorious, dividing-line policies.  And what's he got ?  A 'constitutional convention'; the minimum wage; a promise his wife will be out on the campaign trail; and scrutiny.

Now we at C@W have a distinctly limited regard for the strategy skills of George 'Genius' Osborne; but it occurs to me that these are the situations perfectly suited to his student-politics talents.  In parallel with several months of serious decision-making (and I still fondly hope someone is up to this challenge ...)  there is the childlishly enjoyable task of making Miliband wet himself in public.  It ought to be posssible to paint him into a very damp and uncomfortable corner for the remaining duration of the Parliament, and the old Camerosborne double act should be capable of that.

And maybe - just maybe - atone for their grotesque mis-step on Boundary Changes.  Because this is an existential crisis for the Tories, too.



Bill Quango MP said...

Minimum wage - Again!
Labour can't resist spending other people's money.

Not even a sensible position, which could be , let's raise minimum wage but reduce, or remove the job tax.

Jan said...

......but the minimum wage going up to £8 per hour is what the Tories have to worry about as this will appeal to a lot of people on pittance wages. I would go so far as to say this is the only thing they need to worry about from Labour.

CityUnslicker said...

Minimum wage is a good gig for Labour but does not win them any votes of not already Labour supporters. Like the Tories cutting the top rate of tax.

ND is right though EVEL is toxic for Labour. If they accuse Cameron of playing politics just so they can themselves its looks terrible and cui bono?

However, I think the opportunity fot UKIP to become the English nationalist party is there - I hope they don't take it really, but that could well off-set Tory gains against Labour.

Electro-Kevin said...

CU - also the precedent of 16-year-olds voting. Impressionable young minds under the full-time influence of UNITE members.

andrew said...

I think the cons have found something they think they can use to win the next election.

'more power for England' is something they think will suck all the UKIPpers back into the fold and can bash Labour for.

A good sample was Balls on Today @8.10 this morning.
The first 5 mins of the interview was him being mercilessly skewered because he refused to admit that it was unfair that Scottish (Labour) MPs can decide English law and Policy, but the reverse is not possible.

Cheap laughs - partly because the defense is either non-existant, blatantly party political and also does down all English labour supporters or is on the level of 'its already wrong and it is only going to get a bit wronger'

The serious point 'this is probably the largest change to govt structures since 16xx' got a bit lost.

An that is a shame.

Not least because you can trust Cameron/Osbourne to score endless cheap points, but would you trust them to guide the country through immense constitutional upheaval.

After all the counties cot re-organised in '74(?) and we still are not happy about that.

K said...

I don't think that the unions have much influence over people at secondary school, but their presence at universities is scary. I was in the Strathclyde dorms a couple times 3-4 years back and there were Unite or Unison (can't remember which) posters everywhere.

I believe that at Strathclyde the unions own the dorms. So they basically get paid by government subsidies and students to indoctrinate students.

According to the Ashcroft poll after the referendum, 18-24 year olds actually voted in favour of the union and were the only age group other than 55+ to do so. Is this part what seems to be a general trend towards the right (not that the union is right wing, but the SNP's argument for independence was left wing)? There's been quite a few polls in the last couple of years where the young and old agree on things and the biggest lefties are actually 30-50 year olds.

16 year olds have no kind of perspective on anything. I can see the argument for their involvement in a simple yes/no referendum but anything else is ridiculous.

BE said...

There is nothing new under the sun. The proposition by Labour and Clegg that this is all too difficult and cannot be done at the same time as further devolution to Holyrood is laughable. Westminster has been looking at this issue for a long time.

We have Commons committees already. Instead of a committee of the full house we could have a committee of the members who are affected by a particular piece of legislation. As for it being difficult to disentangle whether a particular bit of business is English, English/Welsh, UK, this proposition is also laughable. If it is possible to say "X is a devolved issue" for Scotland, then X must also be an issue on which MPs representing constituencies in Scotland ought not to vote.

I agree with ND on cabinets vs committees. While I am reluctant to refer to Mother Eyes again, she was an opposition councillor for umpteen years and yet was quite the expert on planning and education issues because she was able to carve out that role. Long after she left, and after the cabinet system had been introduced, her party regained power and found that it knew nothing about planning issues - with the obvious results.

Whatever the result of all this, the last thing I want is yet further centralisation to sofa (or "curry" as it seems to be called under the coalition) government.

The reason that cabinet and parliamentary government worked so well in its heyday was because it did not require the PM to be an expert on every matter all the time, i.e. it reflected the reality of imperfect human knowledge and ability.

Even though I dislike his style of government, at least Cameron does not pretend that he is clever enough to manage the whole thing on his own. Ed Miliband has serious delusions of superiority, and I for one look forward to seeing him realise that he is not that clever after all. I just hope that point is not reached after he has been put in office.

BE said...

The ST pointed out that there might be a cleaner if less perfect solution to all this, which was applied to Northern Ireland between the 20s and 70s: reduce the number of MPs returned from devolved parts of the UK.

Anonymous said...

what a shambles

no lords reform 800 + bloodsuckers

no boundary change - an immigrant in rotten boroughs vote is worth two of mine

a Scotsman in a rotten borough three of mine

And now welsh, Scottish and Ulstermen continue to have say in my affairs

What a lousy lot of overpaid politicians - what we need are statesmen!!! bring back Enoch Powell!!!

Demetrius said...

In her blog, The Enlightened Economist, Diane Coyle has an item about how rats can out perform the best humans on trading desks, given an electric shock or two. I wonder if the rats could do a lot better than politicians or The Treasury. You are very right about the application of Cabinets to local government, it has been disastrous. No wonder local government is such a mess.

DtP said...

Tbf though - the minimum wage just takes from working tax credits (probably, assuming there's x amount of kids) so we're picking up the bill as it is and i've never been overly fond of government subsidized jobs - although i guess it's a lose lose situation.

Yeah, scrutiny and overview committees are a total ballache - we used to whip our lot to wind up the opposition and, fortunately, the gaffer was more than up for any questioning at caucus so it was totally democratic - assuming they were Tories ofcourse - even used to get punters off the street if they were seconded.

On Marr yesterday - I just found Miliband, well, a total twat - ah, the venal resentment brought up during an election campaign, a fond memory of err...happier times!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember when we didn't have mass immigration and we didn't need a minimum wage ?

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