Another Brick in the Wall


David Cameron at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham
Image by University Hospitals Birmingham via Flickr


David Cameron has a piece in the Telegraph today. It is headed:

Brick by brick, we are tearing down the big State.

It’s all quite laughable.

 I want truly open public services, where people can choose the hospitals and schools they go to, with the right information at their fingertips to make that choice; where different providers, from the private and voluntary sectors, can come in and offer new services that people can access free; where funding is directed to helping the most disadvantaged; and where these services are truly accountable to local people, not to politicians or bureaucrats in Whitehall.

People can choose hospitals and schools? Really? Is he planning education vouchers to give parents real choice in eductation? Nope. He is planning “free schools” – which means schools funded by central government rather than local. Is he planning health services where patients can choose hospitals for themselves, even private ones? Nope – he’s giving the choices to GPs. And what does he mean by “funding is directed to helping the most disadvantaged”? Who will decide who is disadvantaged then? Ah yes. Must be those bureaucrats.

To make that choice more meaningful, parents can now express a preference for any state-funded school, even when they live outside the catchment area – and local authorities have a duty to grant such requests if there is space.

He didn’t mention that this has been the law since Margaret Thatcher’s government made it so by the 1988 Education Reform Act. Nor did he explain why that choice has to be restricted to state-funded schools – after all, in the paragraph I quoted above, he mentioned private and voluntary providers coming in.

So today, as we publish our update to the White Paper, we are taking three new, radical steps. First, we are announcing an independent review that will specifically look at how we can extend choice to the most disadvantaged in our society. This means making sure that everyone has access to the information and support they need to make a choice, and that if they want to complain, they know how to go about it. Where we find this information and support is missing, we will act.

Oh my gosh! So radical! An independent review! And they will act. Definitely. Some time soon. Maybe.

Second, we are publishing draft legislation that would enshrine in law the right to choice. This means if your mother needs hospital treatment, or your child is about to start school, you will get a choice over where they go. And if that choice doesn’t exist, or you’re not happy with it, you will have a way to get your complaint listened to and resolved.

Obviously your mother isn’t allowed to choose for heerself then… But all pretty irrelevant really. He can pass all the laws he wants – if the school places aren’t there in the good schools, then you get a choice between rubbish or even worse. And his policy is to maintain the legal ban on setting up new grammar schools, so he obviously doesn’t care much about standards. But don’t worry. Your complaint WILL be listened to. By a bureaucrat. And resolved. To the bureaucrat’s satisfaction.

Third, we are going to consult on making it easier to set up neighbourhood councils. It has been too difficult for people to come together and have a say in how services are designed, prioritised and delivered in their local community. In fact, some local authorities have been guilty of the same kind of top-down bureaucracy that has been the Achilles’ heel of central government.

Some local authorities have been guilty of top-down bureaucracy! Really? And remind me again which is the leading party in local government? Ah yes, that would be the Conservatives, wouldn’t it? And why, pray, Mr Cameron, is the answer to create a further level of bureaucracy?

You’ve had central bureaucracy. You’ve had local bureaucracy. That’s not enough. Under Mr Cameron you’ll get neighbourhood bureaucracy too.

…no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up. I will not rest until the job is done.

Oh please!

It would be hard to find a more vacuous piece of drivel than this article.

But most interesting of all are the comments from readers. The article has drawn a positive tirade of angry and hostile remarks – and this on the Telegraph site – supposedly the home of Tory voters.

Says one – just to give you a flavour:

LIAR. You are a pinko statist.

Hey ho. I think Mr Cameron’s goose is well and truly cooked.

The David Cameron Show

David Cameron Poster

What a sorry spectacle the Prime Minister of our great country made today at the Conservative Conference.

He rightly told us that the risk of recession was as great as in 2008. He talked about tough times, and the need to build a “new economy”.

And he talked about the need to “pay off our debts”. What a shame his government has no intention of doing any such thing – even on the terms of their own spin, their intention is only to stop the debts growing.

Above all, what would strike any impartial observer (of which I am, of course, not one!) is the lack of ideas, the paucity of vision in his speech.

He talked about “pulling together”. He talked about “rejecting pessimism” and bringing in “can-do optimism”. He talked about the “British spirit” and not having to accept that “success in this century belongs to others”.

And yet he put forward no real vision of what needs to be done to change our country for the better. His passion was empty, just shallow meaningless marketing.

Britain has deep-seated and very serious problems. And Mr Cameron has no answers. His big idea for transforming the country is … to pay off its debts. Very necessary, to be sure – but those debts are symptomatic of a much deeper problem with our country.

Our people have got used to looking to the government to run their lives, to make decisions and to provide for them. They have, in effect, become infantilised.

Our wrecked education system has stopped equipping them to solve their problems themselves. Our regulation and tax-hobbled industries are struggling to compete with companies in more dynamic parts of the world. We have an underclass who feel no obligation to anybody, and a ruling class who have given up on Britain as an independent nation.

We have a civil service, once the envy of the world, that now struggles to do something simple like introducing a new State benefit or getting tax codes right.

We have been living on credit for decades, selling our industries to pay for cheap toys from Asia.

And we are facing the continuing drain of the EU, sucking resources and poltiical energy out of Britain as a vampire sucks blood from his victim.

Once upon a time the Conservative Party had a great vision for what Britain should be.

No longer. Now the Conservative Party is just the conservative Party – a Party that wants to keep things as they are, to block anything that might cause change. It is a Party that is motivated much more by fear than by any kind of “can do optimism”.

In the old left-wing phrase, they have become simply reactionaries – drifting along and simply hoping that something will come along to make things better.

Mr Cameron talked about building a new economy. He talked about how the most important part of this “new economy” was the foundations, and how the Tories are building them.

And yet, he did not tell us what this “new economy” means, or how we can set about building it.

The BBC comments:

Mr Cameron said it would be down to the British people – and British industry – to make growth happen.

And yet did he outline any plans to get the government off the backs of those people and industry, so that they could be set free to make the growth happen? No indeed – his government is committed to tax increases and has not tackled any of the red tape that is strangling our country.

Even on his own terms, Mr Cameron is a failure. His government, and he himself, are bankrupt of ideas, devoid of vision, scared of change, reactive, thoughtless and arrogant.

Interestingly, the BBC comments

He repeatedly stressed that only he could provide the leadership the country needs in “difficult times” – as demonstrated, he said, by his decision to go to war in Libya.

You see, even Conservatives can see the emptiness of Mr Cameron’s leadership. Make no mistake about it – his position as Tory leader is already under threat. The only mystery is why so many decent Tories continue supporting the Party, when in their hearts, they would love to have a government of a different kind.

David Cameron – Not Exactly Flying in the Polls

Rt Hon David Cameron MP speaking at the Conser...
Image via Wikipedia

David Cameron – Not Even Liked, Let Alone Regarded as Competent

The Daily Telegraph reports the results of a survey by IPSOS MORI that show that Lady Thatcher is regarded as the most capable Prime Minister of recent decades.

She received 36% of the votes, well ahead of Tony Blair on 27%. No surprises there really.

More interesting is that David Cameron received just 10%, behind Gordon Brown on 11%.

And Mr Cameron trailed heavily amongst Conservative voters too:

Current Conservative voters overwhelmingly preferred Lady Thatcher, with two-thirds saying she was the most capable compared to one-fifth for Cameron.

But what about Mr Cameron’s likeability? After all, Lady Thatcher might have been regarded as competent, but did anyone actually like her?

The surprising answer is that on likeability, Lady Thatcher was indeed beaten by Tony Blair (by 26% to 22%), but David Cameron actually trailed even on this measure, on 17%.

So the voters regard David Cameron as less capable than Gordon Brown and less likeable than Lady Thatcher.

I wonder how long the Tories will take to realise that they are in power in spite of Mr Cameron and not because of him.

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Habemus Papam

After a couple of anxious days of speculation and rumour, the white smoke has appeared over Conservative Central Office and a new Prime Minister has finally been chosen.

The fortunes of the various factions involved ebbed and flowed, as first one and then another seemed to have the upper hand. At times the spirit of the old Prime Minister seemed to float over the whole proceedings, like a rather paternalistic shadow.

The key discussions took place behind closed doors, and the information issuing therefrom was mostly rumour, speculation and guesswork. The media resorted to endless interviews with figures from the past, who had no part in the proceedings, pretending that those people somehow had an inside track on what was going on.

But now, finally, the old Prime Minister is gone, and a new one will take his place.

Britain’s New Prime Minister

David Cameron has been chosen to take the poisoned chalice of Number 10.

Mr Cameron is thought to be rather more Conservative than his predecessor. Writers in the media have suggested that he may be a supporter of marriage and the family, and even that he may believe in rewarding thrift. Others have pointed to his good manners and sense of fair play, and wondered if he has enough of a killer instinct to confront his foes.

But many others admit that they once had little time for him, but have been completely won over by those very qualities that are held in such contempt by his enemies.

The new Prime Minister faces chronic and endemic problems, and will need to adopt radical solutions to deal with them.

At the time, we must hope long into the future, when he too has departed from his new Office, will he be remembered as the man whose talent was too limited to tackle the huge issues he faced? Or will he be remembered as the man who gave his country a fresh start, who created opportunities from the problems, and was a true leader for his people?

Time will tell.

Today is a day simply to rejoice that the waiting is finally over. We have a new Prime Minister.

May God give him wisdom and authority. And let all Conservatives everywhere, and indeed all of the British people, pledge him our allegiance. He will need our support in the difficult days ahead.

Bye, Gordon

“That is good”, said the fish. “He has gone away. Yes.
But your mother will come. She will find this big mess!
And this mess is so big and so deep and so tall
We cannot pick it up, there is no way at all.”

The Cat in the Hat
Dr Zeuss

Gordon Brown has announced that he is stepping down as party leader.

And not before time. Many people wanted him to go last year. And that was just the people in his own party.

Enoch Powell said that all political careers end in failure. Gordon Brown has been no exception. And he started as he meant to go on.

With Prudence. For a Purpose. And the purpose was to pour other people’s money into failing and unreformed public services.

From his tax raid on Britain’s rock solid pension funds, to his flogging of Britain’s gold at the bottom of the market; from his borrowing boom that gave Britain the illusion of prosperity, to his hundreds of stealth tax rises; from his botched and stupid tax credit system to his extension of pensions means testing; this politician has been a walking disaster.

He started as Chancellor with failure, masked by Tony Blair’s skilful spinning and presentation; and ended in failure, with a drubbing in his only election as leader and an unseemly scramble to cling onto power with Liberal support.

He leaves our country poorer (the first Prime Minister to do so for many decades); in fact, he leaves a mess that will tax the best efforts of politicians to clear it up, for many decades to come.

I wish him very well in his retirement; I hope he will take the opportunity to spend much more time with his lovely wife (who never deserved the sneering she got from the press) and his children. I hope he will write his memoirs, and even manage to find a publisher who might print a few hundred copies. And I hope they don’t get remaindered too quickly.

And I earnestly hope that his contribution to British politics from now on will be very, extremely, vanishingly small.

Brown’s Hatred for Ordinary Voters

Gordon Brown has been caught out by comments that were picked up by a microphone he didn’t know was still switched on.

Ronald Reagan once was made to look silly in a similar fashion, joking that “bombing starts in 5 minutes” against the Soviet Union.

This is worse. Mr Reagan’s comments were a joke, if an indiscreet one, and everyone knew it.

Brown’s comments were not a joke. They reveal not only his private contempt for the electorate but also the character of the Labour campaign, with its focus on keeping Mr Brown away from anyone who might criticise him.

Mr Brown had just had a lively exchange with a Mrs Duffy, who described herself as a lifelong Labour voter.

Here’s what he said after their exchange, as he got into the car with the microphone still turned on:

That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous…

And what had she said?

Ugh everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous. I don’t know why Sue brought her up towards me.

Said Mrs Duffy:

He’s supposed to be leading the country and he’s calling an ordinary woman who’s come up and asked questions that most people would ask him… It’s going to be tax, tax, tax for another 20 years to get out of this national debt, and he’s calling me a bigot.

Well, she certainly understands the crisis we’re facing after Gordon Brown’s financial mismanagement.

Mr Brown later said:

Of course I apologise if I’ve said anything that’s been offensive and I would never put myself in a position where I would want to say anything like that about a woman I’d met.

First, Mr Brown, that isn’t the point. People aren’t upset because you said something offensive. People are upset because of what it reveals about your real attitudes.

And second, you did indeed put yourself in a position where you said that about a woman you’d met, didn’t you?

Do Labour really, really expect us to think of Mr Brown as being fit to be Prime Minister?

Gordon Brown Shows Us Why Labour are Third in the Polls

Gordon Brown, Tieless, Tries to Appeal to Younger Voters

Gordon Brown has made a speech to young Labour party members.

The headline phrase is that he asked them to “Get out and fight and fight and fight again” in the election campaign.

It is clear, then, that Labour are missing the top-level involvement of John Prescott, who showed the way in 2005 when a protestor threw an egg at him:

Mr Brown was launching the Labour “Green Manifesto”.

And in their green manifesto, they promise that all pensioners over 75 who get pension credits will get an additional winter fuel allowance of £100. And they promise a commitment to “help those on low incomes with their energy bills”.

Part of the green manifesto?? Sorry, guys, “green” means reducing people’s use of fuel, not helping people with their fuel bills. Whether it’s right or wrong to help people with energy bills, it’s definitely not green.

Their green manifesto also contains a commitment to “legislate for a statutory code of consumer rights”.

If you have any idea why this is anything to do with being “green”, please let me know.

Mr Brown became confused again when he talked about child poverty:

the very reason we created Sure Start, the very reason we backed free nursery places, the very reason we have fought so hard to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, because it is unfair for a child’s birth to be its destiny, unfair that the wealth of your parents should determine the end of your story and that instead of developing some of the potential of some of our people we should be a society where we develop all of the potential of all of the people.

So the way to help children from poor families succeed, is to stop children growing up in poverty. Which is, of course, fatuous nonsense.

Helping children from poor families succeed is a laudable aim. It means taxing them less, giving them sound education and promoting the values of work and enterprise. The opposite of what Labour do, and core Conservative territory.

Stopping children growing up in poverty is also a laudable aim. And it is one in which Labour has failed – the number of children growing up in poverty has risen since 1997.

Mr Brown claimed that the Tories are planning top-up fees for nurseries. He commented:

They are mounting this attack on children – not just nursery schools but Sure Start centres at exactly the same time as proposing a massive tax break to the 3,000 richest estates worth 200,000 each in the country.

To give the richest estates money while demanding money from parents for their nursery school education is simply not fair.

To Mr Brown, taxes are not “demanding money”. Asking people to pay for services is “demanding money” though. Taking less from people in taxes is “giving money” and State services that are payed for by taxpayers are “free”.

And what about that “tax break for the 3,000 richest estates”? He is talking about the Tory plan to increase the threshold for Inheritance tax to £1 million. By “the 3,000 richest estates” he means those worth more than that. But of course the whole point about that Inheritance Tax proposal is that it won’t only benefit those “3,000 richest estates”. It will benefit all estates over the current Inheritance Tax threshold, which is £325,000.

That is a lot more than 3,000 estates. In 2007/8, for example, 44,000 estates paid Inheritance Tax. If Mr Brown is right that 3,000 are over the Tories’ proposed new threshold, then the change would have taken 41,000 estates out of the tax in that year.

And when Mr Brown says “3,000 richest estates”, he wants you to think that means the 3,000 richest families in the country. It doesn’t. It means the 3,000 richest people who die in that year – a much higher proportion, since only a small proportion of people die in a given year.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, the £200,000 figure is made up too. Actually it’s an under-estimate. Since the Tory proposals would increase the threshold by £675,000, the saving in Inheritance Tax for those “richest estates” would be £270,000. But then maths was never Mr Brown’s strong point.

However, Mr Brown thought this this line on Inheritance Tax was so good that he repeated it no less than 10 times:

…massive tax break to the 3,000 richest estates worth 200,000 each in the country…200,000 tax cuts for a wealthy few…they are still prepared to see the richest given £200,000 each…1.5 billion pounds would be given to the richest estates in the country …£200,000 inheritance tax cuts for the few…cutting inheritance tax for the few…add to the savings of the wealthiest estates in the country by 200,000 each by a cut in inheritance tax…inheritance cuts for the few…promising an inheritance tax cut for the wealthiest…inheritance tax cut for the richest people in the country…

What a shame it was such nonsense.

His speech then spun off into utter fantasy:

[The Tories] have already marked out the regions to be hit first and hardest by Tory cuts.

Northern Ireland and the north east of England have been singled out as the first places for the axe to fall. They have Sunderland in their sights. Hartlepool. Redcar, Durham. Then it will be Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Morpeth – and what begins with the towns and cities of the North East will not end there – but will set the blueprint for their attacks on jobs and investment in the North West, the Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber too.

So next time you see that nice Mr Cameron on TV, just remember that he is really a cross between a Viking invader and Professor Snape. And if you live in one of those towns, be afraid. He has you in his sights, and his axe is at the ready.

The young party members in the audience must have been a little taken aback to hear Mr Brown pass them the ball, in spite of their extreme youth:

We’ve come so far in your short lives – now it’s up to you to ensure the country goes forward not back.

But Mr Brown was now unstoppable:

Get out there and fight for one million skilled jobs, for universal broadband, for high speed rail.

Get out and fight for a national care service and to beat cancer in this generation. Get out and fight and fight and fight again – not for our party’s future but for our country’s future.

You see, Mr Brown is not a Viking invader, nor is he Professor Snape. He is God and can beat cancer in a generation if you just give him your vote.

Against the backdrop of the biggest government deficit in our history, and of an anaemic recovery with just 0.2% growth in the last quarter, he had the nerve to say:

We are fighting an election on building Britain’s economy for the future.

Is this really the best that Mr Brown can do? No wonder he’s third in the polls.