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

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My 'Top 7 Political Heroes of 2009'

In the spirit of annual yearly reviews and The Economist’s recent feature on New Labour heroes I thought it would be a good idea to compile my own list of ‘Top 7 political heroes of 2009’. Here they are:

1. Barack Obama

After one of the most gruelling and exciting presidential election campaigns of recent times, Barack Obama was inaugurated in January and has rapidly changed US policy. He is about to get his healthcare reform bill passed in Congress, which will insure a further 30 million Americans, and he has improved America’s relations with the rest of the world. He is my top hero of 2009.

2. James Purnell
More courageous than his colleagues, the former Work and Pensions Secretary challenged Gordon Brown’s leadership after the local and European elections in June and very nearly brought the Prime Minister down. His judgement on the leadership issue was right, I only wish more of his colleagues had followed his lead. I expect him to play an important role in the Labour Party after the next election.

3. Peter Mandelson
For being the best politician in the Government. For his competence. For his attacks on the Tories. For keeping the Government going. For a barnstorming speech to Labour conference. Over the last year, Lord Mandelson has rehabilitated himself and proved himself to be one of the most effective politicians of his generation.

4. Alistair Darling
Despite poisonous briefings against him by the media and some members of his own side, the Chancellor has remained one of the calmest and most competent members of the Government. Faced with the largest post war deficit in this country’s history and some terrible economic conditions, he has remained a quiet, thoughtful and steady presence on our screens. His decisions, including the brave one to raise income tax, probably saved us from an even worse fiscal situation than we might have faced.

4. Charles Clarke

Utterly relentless in his pursuit of Gordon Brown, Charles Clarke has stuck to his guns and repeatedly called for the Prime Minister to step aside. He has had the decency and honour to say in public what many members of the Party think in private.

5. Harriet Harman
A surprising choice for me but I think our Deputy Leader has been one of the most effective members of the Government this year. She has done a brilliant job facing William Hague at PMQs and attacking the Tories. People belittle Harriet Harman but she is one of New Labour’s great survivors and managed to get most of her equalities legislation passed in the House of Commons this year.

6. Ed Miliband
I have forgiven him for his disloyalty to Tony Blair because since the younger Miliband brother became Energy and Climate Change Secretary back in 2008 he has become one of the Government’s most competent and effective ministers. He single-handedly saved the Copenhagen climate change summit and has treated climate changes issues with a seriousness and sincerity that his predecessors lacked. Buy shares now.

7. Hillary Clinton

The great machine politician proved she could bury the hatchet and not in her opponent’s head, when she agreed to become Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. She has remained steadfast and loyal to her boss, while managing to pursue her own areas of interest like Africa and development policy too. In charge at the State Department, she has also shown she is good at running things.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Game On for Brown

I think it is a really good idea that Gordon Brown has agreed to take part in a TV debate during next year’s General Election campaign.

I can understand the reticence of any Prime Minister to agree to this, they have a lot to lose and it’s not like the opposition leaders aren’t given a chance every week to grill Brown during PMQs. But a proper debate, broadcast live, in front of a studio audience will give Brown the chance to shine and could provide real excitement during the election campaign. The proposed debates will be on the economy, public services and foreign policy.

It is fair enough that Clegg should be included but I think Cameron could have the most to lose. He will need to hide his temper and deliver the knock out blow people expect him to make, both of which he may struggle to do.

Brown, on the other hand, will be able to demonstrate his grasp of the issues, his experience and his intellect.

I don’t see why TV style debates should not be extended to other senior politicians during the campaign too. Darling versus Osborne would be good but Mandelson versus Clarke would really be one to watch.

In the past, some US Presidential debates have been game changers. With so little left to lose, the same could happen for Brown. Game on.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Brown should call a March election

Gordon Brown should call a March election. The circumstances have never been better for Labour.

Last week's Pre Budget Report pushed all the right buttons and with recent opinion polls showing the Tories only 9 points ahead, it is the best we could have hoped for.

It is hard to imagine what the Chancellor would say if he had to make another Budget Report before an election next year.

Instead last week's report did just enough to put Labour back in the game. It managed to spread the pain around for everyone and clearly lay out the Government's plans to halve the deficit by 2014.

The Chancellor’s announcement of a one off 50% windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses was music to my ears. At last, Labour politicians seem to have got it.

The tax may only last until April and bankers will do all they can to avoid paying it but, as well as bringing in more cash, the tax sends out an important message too. It signifies a change in Government priorities - no longer will we be in thrall to the Square Mile.

It may be populist but don't we need popular policies?

The politics of it are right too. We can't ask public sector workers and ordinary taxpayers to foot the bill without bankers paying for the mistakes they have made as well. It is fair and sensible, although a complete re-think about the tax system should surely be on the cards too.

It is doubtful the economy will drastically improve between March and June anyway, so what has Brown got to lose? This is the second poll we have seen which shows the Tory lead narrowing. If this continues, it looks like a trend and we would be foolish to delay.

Under these circumstances, why would Brown wait? He should surprise us all and call a snap election early in the new year. It would put the Tories on the back foot, help us to seize the initiative and end the drift which will surely set in early in the new year.

Don't do a Jim Callaghan Gordon, go for it in March.