This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Is 'Broken Britain' like The Wire or a bit more like Shameless?

Yesterday Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, warned that Britain was falling apart so quickly we were in danger of turning into an episode of 'The Wire'.

What a load of rubbish.

Instead of glib references to TV shows, why can't any senior Tory make a single thoughtful speech about what we can do to tackle crime and social deprivation?

It is true that there are people in the UK trapped on sink estates, without a job, dependent on benefits, living in poverty. I admit to knowing one or two families exactly like the Gallaghers in the C4 drama 'Shameless'.

But it is not the case that places like Manchester or Liverpool are even remotely comparable to Baltimore, where The Wire is filmed, and where there are hundreds of violent gun deaths each year.

The Tories are trying to paint a picture of a nation crumbling apart which is inaccurate, scare-mongering and panders to the poisonous Daily Mail agenda. This is not the sensible politics of a party which wants to form the next government.

Labour could do more though. We used to talk a lot about welfare reform. We used to talk about the 'Respect' agenda which I thought was very important and a good response to issues of social deprivation and community crime. But this seems to have all fallen by the wayside now.

I think Labour would improve its chances amongst voters if it recovered some of that early Blair radicalism on welfare reform and started to talk about these issues again. If we don't we allow the Tories to paint a picture of our society which is terribly misleading and terribly destructive.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

It was the right decision to release the Lockerbie bomber

I think the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, was the right decision.

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, made a very brave, principled decision which was clearly based on his strong values. In doing so, he withstood tremendous political and international pressure.

I think there is something deeply honourable about that and he should be applauded.

I don’t believe the SNP Government has damaged Scotland’s reputation either. The SNP has followed the law, under difficult circumstances, and shown that you can have disagreements with the United States without the whole edifice collapsing.

I actually think that when the dust has settled on this, the SNP Government will come out of it very well and the UK Government will look shifty and unprincipled, particularly if Gaddafi’s comments today that the UK Government helped facilitate the release are proven to be true.

It is of course entirely inappropriate for al-Megrahi to be given a heroes welcome back in Libya. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. And I can understand how upsetting that must be for the victims’ families.

But I do think Kenny MacAskill did the right thing. He showed a compassion to al-Megrahi which al-Megrahi never showed to the victims’ families. In an age when we complain that politicians are too cynical and have forgotten what they believe in and don’t do what they believe in, there is something refreshing about that.

I am not usually a fan of the SNP Government, but today Scottish voters should feel proud.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Tories would destroy the NHS

The Conservatives are all over the place on the NHS.

Bonkers MEP Daniel Hannan (seen in the picture) should have the whip removed. His actions are unpatriotic and have exposed just how unreformed and nasty parts of the Conservative Party still are.

He is clearly a nutter for comparing the NHS to North Korea.

Michael Gove, the Shadow Education Secretary, should not escape blame either. I think he is one of the most thoughtful and considerate members of the Conservative front bench but he was silly to put his name to a book “Direct Democracy” which argued that the NHS was a “1940s monopolistic structure . . . no longer relevant in the 21st century”.

The Conservative Cornerstone Group also produced a report in 2007 which described the NHS as ‘Stalinist’ and called for a compulsory insurance scheme.

So, is this the progressive party George Osborne alluded to earlier in the week?

Laughable. Indeed.

The row exposes the Conservative Party’s half-hearted commitment to the NHS. Many Tory members share Mr Hannan's views.

I also find it particularly distasteful the way Cameron, every time the NHS is mentioned, has to bring up the subject of his family (like he did yesterday morning). To his eternal credit, the Prime Minister has never done this.

If the polling of their PPCs is to be believed, the next intake of Tory MPs are even less committed to the NHS than this current lot. The British public should be concerned.

The Conservatives are totally divided on the issue. If today it is the NHS, tomorrow it will be taxes and Wednesday it will be Europe. No change.

The problem, as it has always been for the Tories, is that they think 1997 was a blip. That somehow the British public made a terrible mistake and they will finally see sense. It has meant the Conservative Party has never had to reconcile itself to its own failings in the way Labour had to do in the 1990s. It has never had a Clause IV moment. It has never had to change and adapt. This row underlines that.

It remains an unreformed, out of touch, pathetic little party.

David Cameron owes the doctors and nurses who work in the NHS an apology for his MEPs idiotic remarks.

Labour must exploit this mercilessly. We are the party of the NHS because we share the public service values and ethos that the NHS is built on.

I would hammer the Tories on this from now until the Election Day.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Why I like Harriet

You’ve got to give it to Harriet Harman – she doesn’t give up.

She is clearly enjoying standing in for Gordon while he is on holiday.

But if press reports are to be believed she has apparently used the opportunity to block a review into the operation of rape laws because she is unhappy with the scope of the inquiry.

She would like to see a wider review conducted which looks at the low conviction rates in rape cases, violence against women more generally and the legal question of ‘consent’.

Now, in the past I have not always been a fan of Harriet. And I also tend to think that although this is a really important issue, voters want to hear what the government is doing about the recession and getting them back into work. And this is what the Government should be talking about – Harriet included.

But you have to hand it to her. No other politician at such a senior level pursues an equality agenda with such gusto.

Over the last week, she has talked about the importance of women at the heart of government, focused on the thorny issue of the proverbial glass ceiling in the City and even said that Lehman Brothers might not have collapsed if it had been Lehman Sisters!

She may receive criticism from the likes of John Prescott for this sort of interference but this goes with the territory.

Over the years, she has consistently shown a commitment to women’s issues and now that she has an opportunity to actually do something, why shouldn’t she seize it?

In the past, there are people who have treated her with contempt. They have patronised her achievements and this has been wrong.

Since becoming Deputy Leader she has done well when she has had to stand in for Gordon at PMQs, she has robustly defended the government when needed to and she has been very clear about her purpose. In fact, she has been one of the strongest members of the government.

Unlike many of her colleagues, she is clearly not riding out the clock until the next election. I like this and she does deserve credit for that.