Tag: Nick Clegg
The Little Englander v The Europhile
Whilst cocky Nigel Farage is looking increasingly like a pink Kermit the Frog, EU-enthusiast Nick Clegg retains the boyish charm and earnestness which won him so many plaudits after the 2010 “I agree with Nick” pre-election debates with Cameron and Brown.
Nowadays, Farage’s studied arrogance and increasing belief in his own publicity is beginning to water-down both his image and the argument. I say THE argument because he is also coming across as a one-trick pony and thus in danger of being perceived as the head of a right-wing pressure group rather than the Leader of a bona fide Political Party. I am not saying that he’s not a good bloke but had he debated Britain’s Defence system or the changes in Education, he would have gained more credibility. Instead, we had yet more déjà vu!
He is probably regretting the fact than post-January 1st 2014 we are NOT being overrun by screaming hairy hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians heading over the hill from Newhaven to the nearest Benefits Office. David Cameron has been very quick to respond to Nigel’s xenophobic hysterics and has an ongoing charm-offensive in place, aimed at the “at-risk” Nutty Right Wing of the Conservative Party. DC and Nigel both know that come the General Election, the many who have dallied with UKIP will retake their rightful place and step back into the Conservative thin blue line.
Nigel’s task of criticising the EU gravy train whilst simultaneously immersing himself in the gravy makes some of his arguments appear both hypocritical and increasingly valueless. He was obviously VERY uncomfortable when being asked about paying his wife a salary and lapsed into his usual defence of turning an attractive shade of fuschia accompanied by bluster and large numbers.
Nick Clegg, on the other hand, was a tad patronising and appeared to lack conviction – although he is doubtless a committed Son of Brussels. He too made the usual points and counterpoints and one could argue that he cheapened himself by even appearing on the same platform as the UKIP Commandant.
The upcoming MEP elections will demonstrate quite clearly that as far as Europe is concerned, the British public fits neatly into the “don’t care” camp….
As to who “won” the debate…If you measured it on well-known points and statistics repeated yet again…it was a draw.
House of Lords farce……..
Before MPs vote on whether or not to continue with the reorganisation or reformation of the House of Lords, with the ultimate intent of a totally elected Upper House, they should first consider a few things.
For instance, how many in the House of Commons are de facto “hereditaries”? That is to say, how many have fathers, grandfathers etc who were politicians?
What’s good for the goose…etc!
Will we be given the opportunity to elect The Lords Spiritual? Surely nowadays, a belief in Jesus is not enough of a legitimate credential to be handed a seat in the House of Lords, in spite of our mutant God-Monarch Constitution.
Will retired Members of the House of Commons, or worse still, those who lost an election, were rejected by the electorate, be allowed to contest another election for a seat in the Lords? A seat in the Upper House should NOT be a consolation prize.
Do we REALLY need political parties in the Lords? Is it democratic for both the Commons and the Lords to have the same political majority – because that is exactly what WILL happen if both Houses are elected under the same political banners. Inept bully-boy politicians such as the current crop would automatically wield power totally out of kilter with their ability and mandate.
Why don’t we start small. For instance, by ridding the Lord’s of their fancy dress. You know – the Lords’ Spirituals pretty frocks and the Lords’ Temporal “ermine” robes. The rabbit population would be ever so grateful.
My own suggestion? Leave it. There would only be a problem if they all turned up at once…and, oh yes……increase their daily allowance to at least £500. The present £300 per day is embarrassing. Leave the hair-shirts and ridiculously low wages for the Commons to deal with. They deserve it.
Make no mistake, today’s vote could be the straw which broke the Coalition’s increasingly splintering back.
(By the way, guys. While you’re playing at Lords, the economy is still burning. ………Just thought I’d mention it)
Closet or Cabinet?
Dr Liam Fox and now Oliver Letwin have given David Cameron the sort of distractions which he does not really need. There has been speculation about each man’s political future and the doom-mongers reckon that “it’s all unravelling”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A few years ago, I had a meeting at Conservative Central Office (when the Party could still afford Smith Square) with Lord Freeman who, at the time, was in charge of Candidates. We discussed the possibility of me testing prospective members of Parliament so that the Party did not have to rely on patronage and the depressingly amateurish local interviews which continue to be a feature of candidate selection.
Had we gone ahead with the plans, the present Cabinet would have contained some candidates who would have been pre-vetted by me. In the event, it was decided not to go ahead with something which may have caused certain future Ministers embarrassment. Mind you, this parliament has produced those who are managing maximum embarrassment without any external help.
However, in the main, DC has assembled a surprisingly able bunch of characters.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Cameron is a good, solid Prime Minister and, given the time, he could become a great one. There is just one thing holding him back – the lack of depth in his “one-downers”. The Cabinet.
Here’s the list:
Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Vince Cable, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Philip Hammond, Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Alexander, Lord Strathclyde, Baroness Warsi, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, David Willets, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Dominic Grieve.
No problems at all with the first five:
Nick Clegg has the most difficult job, both as a politician and nanny to his confused Liberals who, in spite of (mostly) enjoying the aphrodisiac nature of power, are still a bit uncertain as to whether they are really participating or merely ballast. His sometimes diffident manner disguises a will of steel.
William Hague has grown into his job, in spite of the shaky start with Libya. He has credibility abroad which is probably one of the most important attributes of any Foreign Secretary.
George Osborne, unsurprisingly has been the recipient of more “stick” than any other politician but , love him or hate him, he has shown courage and tenacity and sometimes, downright stubbornness. Whether those attributes are born of economic understanding or just downright bloody-mindedness, remains to be seen. What is in his favour is that, unlike many others – he takes decisions and stands by them.
Ken Clarke has made the legal system accessible. I know that sounds a bit fanciful but in spite of his occasional too-straight talking , he is a great antidote to a legal system which makes bankers and their bonuses look like paupers. Currently, both the economy and David Cameron need a Lord Chancellor who at least “appears” non-elitist because sooner or later, we are going to scrutinise the multi-billion pound cash machine that is THE LAW.
Theresa May is annoying. However, she is good at her job and so far, does not appear to have put a a faux leopard skin kitten-heel-clad foot wrong. She too is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Her handling of both the News International scandal and the inner city rioting was impeccable.
I would also add Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to the A-team. IDS has proved that there is life after political death and has been delivering spectacular results with his pensions initiatives. He is both a great theorist as well as having a rare quality among politicians – he is a “doer”.
Michael Gove has been quietly ploughing the Education furrow and shaking-up an over-bureaucratic education system and has not been afraid to take some very unpopular decisions. He too is a “doer”. His thinking on education harks back to the 60s when children were educated and not used as test and statistics fodder. 10/10
Philip Hammond at Transport also belongs in the A-team and is without doubt a star of the future. He is lucky though to have both Norman Baker and Mike Penning as Parliamernary Under Secretaries. Norman the Idealist and Mike the “no shit” British Bulldog. Philip Hammond is seen on TV as a government spokesman much more than you might expect from a Secretary for Transport.
Dr Liam Fox has been delivering what, on the surface has been a solid job – if not a bit over-influenced by the balance sheet. He has always looked like the Conservatives’ “nearly man”. Soon, he may be the “never really was” man – as his political career begins to unravel. He, in common with all politicians should remember that Perception is King. The current perception of him is now tending towards the seedy.
Vince Cable was always going to be a problem and continues to be a bit of a thorn. He is a natural backroom boy and looks terribly uncomfortable in the back of a Ministerial limo. However, by far his biggest handicap is the fact that he is having increasing difficulty in disguising his Socialist views. He seems to be in permanent pain. Very soon, his political career will describe the downward arc of the parabola. He is the Statler and Waldorf of the Cabinet and compared to some of the other youngsters is from the wrong generation. His obssession with the bankers is hurting his credibility because he has not managed to do anything about them and never will.
Chris Huhne is even more annoying than Theresa May (!) but his personal life and the alleged driving licence naughtiness has totally blown his credibility. He is lucky that he is a Liberal – otherwise he may have already participated in an exit interview with DC.
Andrew Lansley is running the NHS in the way that you would expect from a career Civil Servant. He is doubtless very able – as a Civil Servant – but the NHS currently needs a large dose of commercial thinking. Everything that he has put forward so far has been through the wringer. Wrong man in the wrong job.
Eric Pickles is a great man in every sense. He provides the Cabinet with some Northern credibility. From a Labour family, this ex-Communist has travelled the entire political spectrum and is one of the shrewdest operators in Government. He is one of the few in Cabinet who is 100% suited to his brief with the advantage of being a working-class Conservative.
One Cabinet member who one could have been forgiven for thinking would, by now be running one of the great Departments of State is Francis Maude. He is a rock-solid operator and should, without doubt be on the real A-team. As Minister at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General , he has been handed a temporary consolation prize. He has not peaked yet. As a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, he knows things. Street-wise.
Oliver Letwin is Minister of State at the Cabinet office is DC’s Policy Adviser. Like many intellectuals, he appears to be constantly stressed and “away with the fairies”. He is the archetypal analytical-amiable who cannot manage himself – or others – and has been given the “Special Projects” brief. He is currently the recipient of a press-roasting but, like a good luck charm, will always be retained in some capacity. It is a pity that other Cabinet members cannot spot “burn-out” when they see it.
David Willets, like Letwin is a white-hot intellectual who is good to have around. He is articulate and fiercely bright. He would have done much better , had he not looked like a spud. His great disadvantage is a lack of any “street-cred” because he has always been a political “wonk”. Having said all that, he is the ideal person to be looking after Universities and Science with the advantage of being so clever that there isn’t a single other member anywhere NEAR as suitable for this job.
Danny Alexander is another (young) career politician and his appointment has always smacked of tokenism with the added suspicion that David Laws is hanging about whilst DC waits for a respectable passage of time before he invites him back.
Sir George Young SHOULD have been Speaker of the House and his present post as Leader of the House is his consolation prize. He is marking time because he will probably be the next Speaker. In spite of a comparatively undistinguished Parliamentary career so far, he gives the Cabinet gravitas.
Next we have the Cabinet “solid citizens”. All are capable but not stars: Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Dominic Grieve are all OK but will never set the world on fire.
Finally we have the youthful, Lord Strathclyde, or should I say Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde. As Leader in the Lords, he is a very safe pair of hands and is a Conservative straight from Tory Central Casting. A great asset to the Cabinet.
Baroness Warsi is Chairman of the Conservative Party and although a competent TV performer, she always sounds as if she’s reading from a Tory pamphlet. She is very likely to be reshuffled out soon. Bearing in mind that Perception is King, her appointment smacked of tokenism.
So, you see that , in spite of the elitist-millionaire tags, the Cabinet is largely populated by a very cabable and solid bunch of operators – although the real depth of talent within the Coalition parties is still a bit of a mystery – even, one suspects, to David Cameron himself.
This Cabinet has a good mix of experience, intellect and toughness.
Whether or not you share their views or politics – they are (by far) the ones who have the very best chance of extricating us from where we have landed.
Cairo: Berlin Wall? Woodstock?
This morning I said on Twitter that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg showed a lack of statesmanship by saying on the BBC how “exciting” it was for Egypt to be experiencing their “Berlin Wall moment”.
Exciting? Berlin Wall? One commentator even said that Tahrir Square in Cairo was “just like Woodstock”.
This over-romanticised reporting of what is going on in Egypt has mercifully stopped because it has become apparent that Mubarak has been playing a waiting game and has now arranged for his own “supporters” to be drafted into the centre of Cairo. The result is inevitable – confrontation and aggression between the two factions which will allow the army to step in and be violent.
The sweet-stalls and drinks sellers have left and have been replaced by men with guns. The police, army and secret service personnel who have spent the last week incognito, mingling with the demonstrators will now do their job and begin to make arrests. By now, they know exactly who to target.
Perhaps Mr Clegg could strap on his guitar and give us a chorus of “Kumbaya”.
After all, it is quite exciting, isn’t it??!!
p.s. Our government is charging British citizens £300 each for repatriation. Once again, a clear demonstration that money is more important than the well-being of the individual.
At least our government is being consistent.
The Liberal Fire
In six short months, the Liberal party has completed the rocky journey from a small but effective band of highly-principled Westminster guerrillas to a motley collection of low-impact politicians which thinks that “principles” is a clothes shop and Parliamentary “tactics” are a type of House of Commons mint.
Last night, their Leader Nick Clegg (whose speech delivery appears have morphed into that of a Cof E country vicar)delivered a well-rehearsed soundbite by his appeal to all Liberal MPs to “walk through the fire together”. Well, there is no doubt that they will be walking into it but there’s no guarantee that they will emerge “unsinged”at the other end.
Nick Clegg’s lack of foresight and total absence of strategic thinking probably means that after the next General Election, the Liberal Party will disappear from the political landscape. Oblivion beckons.
None of us can forget the pre-election theatre when Liberal MPs were schlepping round university campuses garnering student votes under what now transpires to have been false pretences (see photo above). At the time, neither the students nor the general voter viewed the Liberals’ actions with any suspicion or cynicism. After all, wasn’t it their Head Rottweiler, Norman Baker MP who had asked the very first Parliamentary question about MPs’ expenses. They were obviously an honest party who could be trusted – not like ” the rest of them”.
Our collective cynicism towards politicians was gradually ebbing away until that day in May when the Liberals signed a political HP agreement with the Conservatives and left their principles as a down-payment.
In theory there is nothing at all wrong with raising student fees – although, as the country (and the poor) become poorer, the timing may be seen as somewhat suspect. However, once you promise something to the current and future electorates – especially something as politically-sensitive as student fees, you should fight tooth and nail to retain it, together with your beliefs. You do not roll over and have your face fanned by a Ministerial Jag “extras” catalogue while your new security man massages your ego.
Clegg still does not realise that he and his party are not being berated for agreeing to raise university fees. This is not about winning or losing a vote. It is not about fees.
This is far more serious. It is about the credibility of what once was a great parliamentary party.
When the vote is passed, Clegg will have scored the mother and father of all Pyrrhic victories. He will be able to justify an increase in fees because that’s the easy part.
How will he explain the jettisoning of Liberal principles?
One of the great talents of the CIA is the ability to destroy the reputation of anyone who crosses Uncle Sam. Look out for more women coming forward with anti-Assange claims. The CIA will be busying themselves engineering a “freedom-for-silence”deal with Assange. Even though only about 10,000 out of a possible 250,000 documents have so far found their way onto Wikileaks, the ” information genie” is well-and-truly out of the bottle.
Meanwhile, let us hope that Assange is not involved in any fatal car crashes, illnesses or suicides. However, if he really is a rapist, bang him up.
A point of order on the continuing survival of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber. Eighteen months ago, he was given only three months to live and was released by the Scottish authorities on compassionate grounds.
In spite of all the claims and counter claims about Gaddafi- threats to the United Kingdom and the evidence disclosed by Wikileaks of “harsh and immediate action” by Libya if al-Megrahi died in a Scottish prison, we can be sure of one thing.
Had Megrahi remained in the care of the National Health Service, he would be dead by now.
Ken Clarke, the Lord Chancellor seems very keen on releasing prisoners, so here’s an idea which I am sure would be very popular at Westminster.
Build a large hostel in SW1 – somewhere near the palace of Westminster so that all freed criminals would have somewhere to live on their release.
There would be several advantages to such a scheme.
Firstly, the authorities would know where all the lags were lodging with the added bonus that living among politicians, they would immediately blend in and feel at home..
University or REAL Success?
Let’s get one thing straight about the Coalition’s hurry in taking the brakes off University Fees. It has less to do with the country’s mountain of debt and much more to do with the rapidly growing student population.
University used to be one of those words which was associated with clever people. Then we experienced the advent of large unemployment figures which seasonally self-adjusted upwards when the school year finished and tens of thousands of school leavers joined the back of the dole queue.
Politicians had a meeting and thought ” What if we keep these youngsters in education or training and hence off unemployment?” At the time, the idea must have seemed a jolly clever wheeze. The resultant plan was Baldricesqe in its cunning: Allow every crap institution which houses anything to do with teaching to become a university, fill it with morons and you immediately remove the mid-summer unemployment “blip” plus, you postpone these special-needs-academics’ membership of the Unemployed Club.
Then you just sit back, dish out worthless degree certificates, continue to hire immigrants for the REAL jobs and “Bob’s your father’s brother”. You have a pseudo-egalitarian education system whereby every thick pikey with a pad of paper can wear the old mortar board and Harry Potter cloak as he fills out his Jobseekers Allowance form – three years after he should have done. What could possibly go wrong?
What was wrong was that too many wide-eyed hopefuls were hitting the university trail producing too many degrees without additional jobs having been created. All that the three-year postponement of unemployment achieved was that individuals bagan to collect their various allowances at age 22 instead of 18.
A university degree has now lost its kudos – unless it is from Oxbridge. Don’t believe me? Walk into any London restaurant and ask any waiter who isn’t Polish whether he or she has a degree. Try the same exercise at a Tesco or Asda checkout.
10% of graduates are still unemployed six months after graduating. That is the highest proportion for 17 years, which coincidentally is when New Labour came to power. There has also been a very marked increase in graduates taking jobs which do not require a degree. That has simply meant that they have placed themselves at a three or four-year disadvantage on the career ladder compared to those who began work immediately after leaving school.
A recent survey of 225,000 graduates has shown that rising numbers are taking jobs that do not require degrees, including as waiters and checkout workers.
The previous highest percentage of unemployed graduates was in 1992 when the number was 11.6%. At that time, the United Kingdom was approaching the end of the previous recession – which was nowhere as serious as the current economic situation.
Currently, only about 65% of graduates who are in-work achieve a degree-level job (as defined by the government) and the biggest “growth” area for university leavers is the retail and catering sector with ONE IN SEVEN graduates (15%) starting their careers within that industry.
Fine Art graduates have the lowest initial income (£15,000) which is £5000 below the average. The highest starting salaries are among students who studied Chinese. The future.
Over the last two years, it is the Public Sector which has continued to recruit a disproportionate number of graduates. That does not bode well for the future as it is this sector which will see the most savage jobs cuts. Degrees with a “Social Studies” or Healthcare-related bias have seen the largest graduate intakes in the Public Sector, although even those have only risen by 0.5% in the last year.
Contrary to popular opinion, IT-related graduates have fared the worst with over 17% still being unemployed six months after graduation. That is even higher than the ubiquitous Media Studies graduates who managed a comparatively decent 15% unemployment rate after six months. The rest are probably flipping burgers.
12% of engineers remain unemployed after six months whereas the more generalist subjects such as Geography and Psychology produced the highest graduate employment rates with only about 7.5% being unemployed after six months. However, many of those are working in non-degree-specific jobs.
It has been claimed by a UCU (University and College Union) spokesman that an uncertain job market and higher fees could “turn talented people away from university”.
That, theoretically, should be a good argument for not transferring any more of the cost of a degree to students. However, instead of the government paying the price for policies which have totally devalued a university degree, it is applying a uniform solution to our current economic chaos.
It is asking future generations to fund the mistakes of successive inept administrations.
Finally, there has been a lot of Ministerial talk on the subject of entrepreneurship and “stimulating young budding entrepreneurs”. I have some bad news. The Brits make lousy entrepreneurs.
Why? Because they do not have that “merchant” mentality. We are indeed a nation of shopkeepers, advisors, accountants and civil servants. That’s what we’re good at. We’re good at telling others what to do and at measuring things.
Here’s an extract of the top names from Britain’s latest Rich List:
Lakshmi Mittal, Roman Abramovich, The Duke of Westminster, Sri and Gopi Hinduja, Alisher Usmanov, Ernesto Bertarelli, Hans Rausing, John Fredriksen, Philip Green, David and Simon Reuben, Leonard Bravatnik, Sean Quinn, Charlene and Michel de Carvalho, Kirsten and Jorn Rausing, Samy and Eyal Ofer, Vladimir Kim, Earl Cadogan and Family, Nicky Oppenheimer, Joe Lewis, Sir Richard Branson, David Khalili, Lev Leviev, Anil Agarwal.
Notice anything about the nature of the names?
If you want to be successful, forget university. Either inherit large tracts of London and if that doesn’t work, become either Jewish, Russian or Indian. It is the dealmakers who shall inherit the Earth.
Most of the world’s great entrepreneurs did not attend university – they were too busy making money. Unfortunately, we in the UK still suffer from our own special brand of intellectual snobbery whereby a university lecturer on £30k per year will look-down on a barrow-boy from Essex with £10 million in the bin – on the basis that he’s thick and cannot distinguish between a Chardonnay and a Blue Nun.
Our problem is that we care more about appearances that we do about money and we like letters after our name. Paradoxically though, if someone hands us a business card with “BSc(Hons)” after their name or worse still “MBA”, we think that they are a jerk-off. We are a complicated people.
Britain’s (degree-free) working class parents dream of their Wayne or Waynetta attending university and “becoming someone” through the magic medium of a degree. “Get some QUALEEFEECATIONS behind you.” is the working class Mantra. Notice that it is “qualifications” and not education. Often we sacrifice the latter for the former.
It doesn’t happen, folks. In the United Kingdom, it is class and contacts that matter – alternatively, you need the credibility of a foreign name.
The university “thing” has been the biggest-ever con of the last twenty years and it continues to be so.
This time though, the government’s actions are driven by the very real need to reduce the number of university places so that a degree reverts to being a privilege for the very very clever poor, the very clever rich and the quite clever very rich . The government doesn’t really want our money, it needs to close those ridiculous pretend universities with the Mickey Mouse degrees.
If the Browne (another cunning disguise?) review which recommended the lifting of the current tuition fee ceiling has the effect of drastically cutting our graduate intake, it will be the best thing that happened to this country for a generation. On this occasion, support your government – and don’t go to university. Start to make your fortune three years earlier!
All those Aarons, Benjamins, Jacobs, Lakshans, Ashoks, Gregoris and Nikolais can also have an early start towards that first million.
If you think about it, when Nick “Tough Choices” Clegg, our Deputy Prime Minister changed his mind about University Fees, he wasn’t being a duplicitous spineless bastard.
He did our future economy a very big favour!
This is the image which most newspapers have used today. Some Liberals may find the image quite disturbing but if you look properly you will find the whole scenario even more frightening than Nick Clegg’s propensity to abandon principles.
If you ignore the moron attempting a bad yoko geri kekomi, you will notice that he is surrounded by photographers who are gathered in a three-deep semi-circle around their subject. The photo has no spontaneity and there are no other students within the circle. You may also have spotted the two policemen near the top of the picture. They are behind the snappers.
This is a contrived, posed image.
Whenever there is a mix of demonstrating students, policemen, reporters, photographers and competing photo editors, there is “naughtiness”.
In March 1968, I was at the Grosvenor Square “Punch a Pig for Peace” demo. We were all feeling very anti-American Establishment, although most of us weren’t quite sure of the exact location of either Vietnam or Cambodia. Still, it was a good day out and we had arranged to meet some friends that we hadn’t seen for a while.
Initially, the atmosphere was relaxed, we talked to the police but we were always conscious that we were being stalked by men with cameras. The demo was good-natured and there honestly was no intention (that we were aware of) of violence – don’t forget that the Summer of Love was still fresh in our minds and we were (mostly) still pretty-well mellowed-out.
Soon, our group was approached by a man who offered £1 if a couple of us would measure up to each other and pretend that we were about to fight. We took the money and did the business. There were other payments. I recall being paid for standing too close to a policemen who I remember was constantly moaning about the “fucking Inspector and his fucking whistle”.
( The police technique for keeping us away from the American embassy was to link arms and obey blasts from their Inspector’s whistle. It was a farce because those of us at the front were constantly being squeezed-out so that we would end up behind the police line. At that point, we would be jumped on by back-up plod who would grab us by the hair and throw us back to the other side of the Thin Blue Line.)
One thing was for sure – the police didn’t want to be there and many became very angry. They had no protection whatsoever and the ones that I spoke-to had been drafted in from out-of-town. Remember we were still in the days when a policeman’s weapons were a notebook, a truncheon and in extrememe circumstances, the acerbic remark.
Reporters and photographers were handing-out beer and dishing out £1 and 10/- notes for various poses and misdemeanours. I do not recall what the fee was for punching a policeman – probably £2.
There were certainly those “students” who had arrived tooled-up for trouble but as yesterday in downtown Westminster, they were a small minority and probably not students.
Demo-terrrorists have always existed. In 1968, they brought steel ball-bearings to throw under the police-horses’ hooves and they brought darts to throw at the police, their horses and at other demonstrators. Most were definitely NOT students. This year, they brought flares and steel-toecapped boots.
Look again at the photo above and notice how the “student” kicking at the window at 30 Millbank is dressed. He doesn’t look much like a student to me. Far too well-dressed – and his boots are polished.
The Brits are very civilised demonstrators because to most of them a demo is no more than a welcome exposure to our three favourite national sports – mass-queuing, a good bracing walk with a side-dish of a good-natured moan. Once Spring 2011 arrives, we may well see students joined by the unions and the unemployed for another West End frolic.
A year ago, I predicted the rise of civil unrest, driven by a badly damaged economy. The Millbank Melee is only the overture to what may become a long summer-symphony of protests.
Let’s hope that the violent ones stay in their bedsits – especially if they are the sort of demo-terrorist that we should really fear.
The one with a real surprise in his backpack .
It’s only a matter of time.
Here’s one for the “olds” . (Nostalgia definitely isn’t what it used to be):
“Global warming? It was the Bankers.”
“Lino” Clegg has firmly embedded himself in our psyche as the Spiro Agnew of British politics. Lino? Liberal In Name Only. It could have been worse – if they were still known as Whigs.
Meanwhile Vince Cable continues to carry the air of either Stadler OR Waldorf from the Muppet Show balcony. Vince’s face looks more and more tortured by the day – as if someone was trying to unblock his catheter by jumping on it.
It is increasingly apparent that in spite of the fact that the ConLib coalition is being promulgated as a “partnership”, it is an unequal union. They are not Joint Tenants but Tenants in Common and the Liberals are looking more and more like political ballast with 99% of the political tenancy being owned by Cameron and the Bullers.
Clegg’s obvious earnestness remains endearing, although one does have the feeling that an old-fashioned delivery bike may be a more appropriate mode of transport than a ministerial Jag. DC is using him as .a messenger/delivery boy and so far it looks as if “Lino” is quite happy “in the national interest”– his favourite phrase.
The “downside” is that DC has a price to pay for Lino Clegg’s innocuous presence. That price is the Business Secretary.
Ever since Vince Cable’s crack about Gordon Brown having mutated from Stalin to Mr Bean , he has worked very hard on his soundbites. In politics, there is nothing more powerful than a well-rehearsed ad-lib. Vince’s Ministerial Jag has given him more and more confidence to create increasingly colourful and outrageous metaphors – especially those directed at the soft target which is British banking.
He claims to be pr0-business but continues to take great delight in banker name-calling. It seems that it is OK for him to refer to bankers as “spivs and gamblers” but when he does that , he is only referring to a very small percentage of those who work within banking. It confrims the old-fashioned view that those who like to make money and flaunt it are ALWAYS bad people and figures of fun. That’s the British Way.
According to Old Man Cable, Capitalism is “killing competition”. Capitalism creates competition . Competition is only killed when capitalism mutates into monopoly – whether State monopoly or Private monopoly, the effect is the same. Although our banking system appears as a collection of separate businesses, the way that they are regulated and administered has just about removed any remnants of competition between them and the industry is now acting as a multi-headed monopoly.
Where is the competition between banks? They certainly used to compete but not any more. Because of the State’s intervention, they can now buy money at about 1% and sell it to the consumer for whatever they want. Worse still, they are now givenmoney by the State and then sell it to us for more-or-less what they please.
Not quite what Adam Smith had in mind and one feels that he would have been miffed by being quoted out-of-context by a Business Secretary who has a clearly perceived, self-inflicted “use-by” date.
Our collective appetite was whetted by the customary pre-speech leaks which suggested that the Business Secretary was to “attack the banks”. Why attack the banks for doing what comes naturally – something that few politicians understand – delivering profits for shareholders and rewarding those who delivered the profits?
Short-term profits are NOT damaging the economy. What has damaged most economies in the last two years has been the global con-trick of Goldman-Sachs spivs designing the Credit Derivative. Everything flowed and grew from that one fiscal spawn of Satan. The bankers were both victims and slack-jawed observers.
There has been a lot of criticism of Vince Cable delivering an “emotional” speech. The speech was not emotional per se – it was a contrived speech, designed for the front pages for the glorification of Vince Cable and to please his rapidly diminishing band of groupies.
The Business Secretary’s bleating about “restraint” in the payment of bonuses was pointless because all that he will achieve is to increase bankers’ salaries.
“I make no apology for attacking spivs and gamblers who did more harm to the British economy than Bob Crow could achieve in his wildest Trotskyite fantasies, while paying themselves outrageous bonuses underwritten by the taxpayer.”
That’s an easy one to sort-out, Vince. Keep Mervyn King’s trembling finger away from the printing-press “START” button because if you don’t watch him, he’ll do it again.
In actual fact, Vince Cable’s posturings were no more than a touch of “wind-and-wee”with a seasoning of badly conceived and amateurishly executed metaphors. All that he’s trying to do is to blackmail the banks into lending more at lower rates. Then he would be able to beat them up for “irresponsible lending” .
He also took the opportunity to call for the banks to be separated into Retail Banking (High Street) and Investment Banking (which isn’t really banking).
The Business Secretary has obviously forgotten that companies are created in order to deliver profits for the shareholders and the shareholders have the right to reward their executives however they wish. The shareholders are NOT social workers.
If your economic theory is more Trotsky rather than Keynes, you may be silly enough to say something such as: ” I am shining a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour. Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can, as Adam Smith explained over 200 years ago.”
NO you’re NOT and NO he didn’t. However, it has been noted that Vince’s ideas are 200 years old and second hand.
He continued: “I want to protect consumers and keep prices down and provide a level playing field for small business, so we must be vigilant right across the economy… Competition is central to my pro market, pro business, agenda.”
That rant is more bovine than Keynes.
He carried on to say that it is not easy for the Liberals to be Tory lackeys but added that “It’s necessary for our country that our parties work together at a time of financial crisis. It is an opportunity for the party to demonstrate that we have the political maturity to make difficult decisions and wield power, with principle.”
He has clearly demonstrated that he is attempting a brand new political trick – which is to be in Government (when DC is listening) and Opposition (when his Leftie Liberal chums are listening) . As Business Secretary, he should be seen to be a pro-business champion and leader. As a flabby very Left wing Liberal, he has to be seen to bash the banks and regurgitate Labour’s populist slogans. Every dawn sees him sounding more and more like Alistair Darling.
Was Vince Cable too high a price to pay for coalition and can he steer business and commerce through the rapidly approaching choppy waters of recovery within the context of a falling pound, collapsing market and high unemployment?
Too much F*****g Democracy!
“Where was I?”
Listening to Nick Clegg bang on about Proportional Representation is marginally less interesting than the door-step rant of a Jehovah’s Witness, an article about the England football team or a Ricky Gervais “comedy” show.
By the fifth minute, I had the urge to cut-off my ears and nail my scrotum to a Rottweiler’s food bowl. Enough!
Why don’t we just stop pussyfooting about, vote and then divide the votes among the candidates. I don’t care who represents me, as long as he is honest, sensible and can he can string a coherent sentence together. If it’s a lady, a hefty pair of breasts is always a welcome bonus. Most of us don’t vote for policies – just people.
Shallow? Yes, we all are. Why? Because I and many millions of others are tired of the various colours and flavours of democracy. In addition, we are bored witless with the many corresponding hues of economics which are constantly pushed down our already gagging throats.
The United Kingdom is not for steel-hard political decisions or “definites”. As far as the decision-making process is concerned, we are flabby. The announcement that there will be a referendum next May which will give us the opportunity to decide how we are going to vote , will be nothing more arousing than a measure of the apathy-level of about 50% of a near-comatose electorate.
Imagine the spoiled ballot papers! No point in giving instructions because many (those who cannot complete the Sun Crossword and think that Sudoku is a Japanese fish dish) will be concentrating more on the biscuit and cup of tea that they were told to expect after they’d voted. ” Oh….. that’s when you give blood is it….?”
It’s no good Clegg saying, “We have a fractured democracy, where some people’s votes count and other people’s votes don’t count”
That’s a finely-crafted soundbite but the fact remains that electoral voting of any kind can never be fair. For instance, the vote of an economics professor or political expert carries exactly the same weight as that of a moronic 18 year old who votes for a candidate who has a nice face. The vote of an Oxbridge graduate carries the same weight as that of an an illiterate. What’s fair about that?
The old dears who can only just manage a cross should not be expected to choose more than one candidate because to them, that’s meaningless and far too complicated.
We already have an imperfect system – so what should we do about it? Yes, lets give it to the Liberals and make it really complicated.
The first-past-the-post two Party system is fine for us Brits. Proportional Representation is for tofu-munching, tree-hugging continentals. Successive coalition governments push politics further and further towards the centre. Politics should not be about compromise – it should be abour principles and beliefs.
Here in the United Kingdom we have enjoyed generations of class warfare and the entire political system is as divided and tribal as our society. That’s the way we like it. It’s not perfect but it works for us.
We don’t want all the colours of the rainbow – we want just two: Red and Blue, Labour and Conservative, Democrat and Republican…,.. whatever you like to call it. Both parties have already moved well into the centre of national politics and we already have our token Green. That’s enough to satisfy most members of the of the electorate – and they’re the ones who matter.
We already know that our Labour Party is excellent in Opposition but useless in Government. That has been proved many times. The converse is true of the Conservatives.
The United States enjoys exactly the same situation. There, the Republicans are the natural party of government.
Currently, we have the ugly spectre of Liberals shacked up with Conservatives. Most politicians – including many Labour, would have formed an alliance with Satan himself if it meant throwing that posturing deluded pompous ass out of No 10 Downing Street. The collateral damage to Labour (and a price worth paying) was a lost election and the unedifying spectacle of a Lib-Conservative “arrangement”.
Let’s just leave it at that.
Cameron and his Conservatives will be campaigning for First Past the Post with redrawn boundaries and the Cleggites will continue to bleat about Proportional Representation, which also comes in many delicious flavours. The current Liberal favourite flavour of PR system is the Alternative Vote – but there are many others.
I am certainly not going to rank candidates in order of preference. An election is an opportunity to vote for the candidate that I would like to represent me. I am not remotely interested in voting or “ranking” someone that I know nothing about and I certainly would not be able to choose between a Liberal or a Labour candidate, or a BNP or Monster Raving Loony candidate.
Fixed-term parliaments? Fine. 600 MPs? Fine. Similarly-sized constituencies? That’s OK too as is the new rule that 66% of MPs will have to agree to a dissolution of Parliament.
But please do not frig about with the voting system and certainly do not hold the referendum on the same day as elections for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.
Pupil Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister (narf! narf!) has been given a project by Cameron the headteacher. It will keep him busy and out of the way of important matters of State and will make him feel important.
Next May, When the country votes to retain the First Past the Post system, the Liberal-Conservative coalition will twitch several times before being kicked into touch.
Then the Conservatives will be able to govern properly. It may be a struggle at first as they will be in a minority. Nevertheless, after the Libs have switched off their top-of-the-range laptops, handed back the keys to their palatial offices and Jaguar limos, then are once-again consigned to the corner of politics, their short adventure will have ended.
It will have inconvenienced the Conservatives for a short time but it will all have been worth it.
What a show it was! David Cameron all shiny and polished in his Saville Row suit and spanking brand new Shakin’ Stevens hairdo. Nick Clegg (in the middle again) looking like a Polytechnic student who’d been dressed by his mum for his very first Work Experience interview. Gordon Brown appeared to be leaning on his lectern like a supergrass who’d spent the day having the shit kicked out of him by Gene Hunt.
David Dumbledore was the evening’s host and question-master. The Shaun of the Dead audience leaned on each other as the ceremony began. The moaned quietly because thay had been told by the BBC “No laughing or clapping. Breathe quietly.”
From the beginning it was easy to see that Brown’s strategy was to ignore Clegg and attack Cameron. The trouble was that his technique is so bad as to make it totally transparent and ineffective. He simply appeared like a minor irritant to Cameron – a Jack Russell puppy taking the occasional gummy snap at Cameron’s hand-made Lobbs.
At the start of a debate, which was primarily focused on the economy, Gordon Brown was expected to shine because he is the only one who knows all the numbers and where all the economic bodies are buried. But in his single-minded uni-dimensional attempt to discredit Cameron and his policies, he did not make any use of his insider knowledge.
The run-up to the debate was overshadowed by a blaze of bad publicity for Brown after he had been caught by that lapel microphone calling Mrs Duffy of Rochdale , “bigoted” .
Earlier polls yesterday suggested that the incident had not seriously dented Labour support ahead of the May 6 election but for many it was still the “Elephant in the room” and weren’t we all dying for a reference to Gillian Duffy!
Although Brown swiftly acknowledged his mistake, it is debatable as to whether he should have mentioned it at all. He had probably been advised to do so in order to pre-empt any barbed remarks from Cameron and Clegg but they, quite rightly had decided to ignore the whole amateurishl- handled affair.
Brown began by mocking himself in an oblique reference to Mrs Duffy and then stressed his record, trying to convince voters he was the man to secure future growth. He did this so many times as to make it as ineffective as his attacks on Cameron.
“There’s a lot to this job and as you saw yesterday I don’t get all of it right,” he said. That remark was followed by his trademark scary grin which he should have left behind in Rochdale. In fact, there were occasions when the camera panned across to him when one of the others was speaking and he appeared to be either practicing his grin or auditioning for “The Shining 2”
“But I do know how to run the economy in good times and in bad. When the banks collapsed I took immediate action to stop the crisis becoming a calamity and the recession becoming a depression.” That seemed to be a written and practiced paragraph which was “full-stopped” by a raising of the chin and a Benito Mussolini-type puffing out of the chest and brief stare into the distance. Dumbledore was caught out by that one on a couple of occasions , not realising that Brown has stopped.
Clegg once again tried his “rose between two thorns” party trick and would occasionally step-back from the lectern gesture left and right to Cameron and Brown and attempt to bracket them in the voters’ minds as “the usual” and “the OLD parties”. This time it did not work because we saw it coming. At best, Clegg was competent but maybe crossed the line to “hippy management” by overdoing the “we” should get together and “we” should sort this out. He forgot that there comes a time when the electorate needs to be led by a strong character who is willing to take charge and not someone who is trying just that little bit too hard to be “right on, man”.
Cameron contrasted the Clegg inclusive approach by once again alluding to the time in the not too distant future when he would be running the show: ” If I am elected Prime Minister…..”
Brown warned that the Conservatives’ plan to cut a record budget deficit this year risked plunging the country back into recession. That was not a particularly sound tactic , especially as most of the electorate still needs to be convinced that we are out of recession.
Brown, Cameron and Clegg clashed on a range of economic issues, including taxes, the banking sector and the decline of British manufacturing industry, but all three largely repeated their respective well-trodden party lines.
Consequently, this final debate lacked shine and spontaneity. Most of the time, it seemed like the same old script.
By far the most lively exchanges of the night were prompted by a question on immigration, a topic which has surfaced in each of the three debates and which had triggered Brown’s Rochdale outburst.
Cameron repeatedly attacked Brown’s economic record.
“This prime minister and this government have left our economy in such a mess with a budget deficit that this year is forecast to be bigger than that of Greece,” he said. When the camera panned to Brown, he appeared to be shaking his head. That was confusing because that particular statement by Cameron was 100% accurate.
Yet again bidding to end 13 years of Labour rule, Cameron promised Britain a brighter future.
“If you vote Conservative , you can have a new fresh government making a clean break and taking our country in a new direction and bringing the change that we need,” he said – although he omitted to specify the direction in which he would lead us. Away from Brown would be a good start.
Normally that would have guaranteed a round of applause but the audience’s enforced silence and torpor coupled with our conditioning to expect audience reaction gave us more than one slightly uncomfortable moment.
Clegg (again) told voters not to return to the two parties that have dominated post-war politics.
“When you go to vote next week, choose the future you really want. Together we will really change Britain.” was Clegg’s parting shot. More of the “together” stuff which by this time had become a bit yawn-inducing and made him sound a bit like a Customer Services trainer rounding-off a week-long residential company course. Whoever gave him that final line should be shot.
Ostensibly, this final debate was about the economy which is the key election issue as Britain struggles with sluggish growth and a deficit running at more than 11 percent of GDP. However, there appeared to be tacit agreement between the three leaders not to frighten the electorate with any of the huge figures which were being bandied about just a few short months ago. It seems obvious that no party wants to be the first to tell the electorate that for instance, the next Parliament may see increases in Income Tax of up to 6% or that another 500,000 jobs may be lost.
All three leaders tempered bits of bad news with lots of positivity – much of it unfounded.
The overwhelming feeling was that this had been one debate too many. All three protagonists seemed to repeat themselves, especially Brown. That was probably because in the previous two debates, he had made a point of running for the cover of what he understands best which is economics. By yesterday’s debate, he’d already blown all of his best lines.
A Yougov poll for the Sun comic asking respondents who they judged had won the debate put Cameron on 41 percent, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on 32 percent and Brown on 25 percent.
A ComRes poll for ITV found 35 percent thought Cameron had won, against 33 percent for Clegg and 26 percent for Brown. A Populus survey for the Times newspaper put Cameron and Clegg neck-and-neck on 38 percent and Brown on 25 percent.
An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper was the only one not to rank Brown in last place, putting him second behind Cameron.
“It was Cameron’s best performance of the three debates and he won it narrowly from Nick Clegg,” said Simon Lee, politics lecturer at Hull University.
In spite of the bad news, Gordon Brown has no choice but to “up” his fight in order to retain power, with less than a week to campaign. For Clegg, the election cannot happen quickly enough because it seems that his popularity has tended to peak during and immediately after the debates but decayed quite alarmingly during the weeks following.
David Cameron finished the debates on a “high” and has visibly improved week-on-week. Clegg started strongly but peaked as early as Week 1. Gordon Brown was flat-lining when he started and has since deteriorated.
The one thing that these debates have shown is that whereas in the past, a Party’s policies were of paramount importance , our gradual decline into superficiality and the deification of “celebrity” has moulded an electorate which is now firmly focused on the cult of personality.
At last politicians have realised what we PR , sales and marketing boys have known for years. You don’t sell the sausage. You sell the sizzle.
Currently, it is DC who is sizzling.
After last night’s debate between our political leaders, it was good to see David Cameron, stepping up to the mark and looking and sounding a bit more of a leader. We were all expecting great things from him because of his performances at the Dispatch Box and his “note-free” speeches to Conference. However, the Dispatch Box only demands short paragraphs, delivered at machine-gun speed. The relaxed atmosphere at Conference, with a “tame” audience is a million miles away from close scrutiny by the nation and its press through the medium of TV debate. The TV “game show” format demands a subtly different skills-set.
Cameron is not a “natural” but yesterday, he seemed more at ease and remembered his training. There were only a couple of lapses where it was obvious that he had forgotten to look directly down the camera lens. On the whole, though, it was an accomplished, workmanlike performance which will have won the Conservatives votes.
Nick Clegg is a natural. That was a surprise to us all and possibly most of all, to Nick Clegg himself. The camera loves him, he was the most telegenic of the three but all that he delivered was more of the same. The surprise factor had gone but at least he did not crumble under a bit of scrutiny from Cameron and Brown. We expect our leaders to be focused on the horizon and Clegg looked “up” a lot which instantly gave him the air of a politician who is fearlessly looking forward. Clegg’s facial expressions were always open, friendly and appropriate. It is unlikely that he has notes in the margin saying “smile” – unlike Gordon Brown.
Gordon Brown remembered his coaching some of the time but when he was under pressure, he reverted to type and ran to his notes for cover . He is not a natural performer but his biggest drawback is that he does not “look” like a leader. His face had the “hang” of an individual who seldom smiles and who may be suffering from sleep deprivation. There is little doubt that he has sincerity but that is about all. All of his quips seemed over-worked and over-rehearsed and it was obvious that he was determined to use as many as he could. We could have done without “Get real, Nick!” and “They remind me of my two sons squabbling at bath-time”. He appeared to be reading both of those “ad libs” and his random “Hammer movie” smile also looked “inserted” rather that spontaneous and natural.
The great “positive” is to see what used to be quite respected Socialist commentators and journalists willing to sacrifice their own credibility by claiming that somehow, Gordon Brown was the “winner”. There comes a time when it is prudent to gracefully admit that your man is third-best and that the only way that he can win is to come out for the final round next week and deliver a double-knockout.
Elliot Morley has more chance of becoming Chancellor.
I have just finished reading the reviews of last night’s debate between our party leaders. It would seem that impartiality is a forgotten journalistic art. Either that of many of us were watching a different debate. For instance, the Commie red-tops such as the Daily Mirror have published reports indicating that Gordon Brown had “wiped the floor” with the other two leaders. No he didn’t and I suggest that in future, the Mirror journos record their opinions after the event – otherwise the facts are in severe danger of being overlooked.
Nick Clegg was the easy “winner” with David Cameron a distant second and Gordon Brown a faller at the first fence. Today, the Socialist commentators are all referring to Gordon’s quip about posters and airbrushing. He preambled into that little joke and it was scripted for him. He doesn’t do ad-libs so don’t get too excited, boys and girls.
David Cameron found it difficult to look relaxed and gave Gordon Brown absolutely no eye-contact. His appearance of being ill-at-ease was further compounded by the fact that as the debate progressed, his face went from pale pink , through pink blush to what appeared to be Antique Rose (see Dulux Colour Chart).
Only Clegg managed to retain his composure and look increasingly relaxed. So what was his secret? As a professional presenter, unfortunately I shall now lapse into a bit of “presentation-speak”. That will enable me to identify why Clegg did so much better and made the others look like a nervous groom at a Gypsy shotgun-wedding.
Here are some simple figures which will explain the most important aspects of a presentation: The surprising first fact is that for a presentation to be effective, the actual words spoken contribute only about 15% to the effectiveness of the message. Another 35% is contributed by the delivery – they way that the words are spoken and that includes the quality of the voice, the voice modulation, the volume etc. The remaining 50% is provided by the speaker’s APPEARANCE.
So, if you look like Quasimodo with a voice like Joe Pasquale, it won’t matter how wonderful your words are. The message will not travel or deliver well.
That may all seem terribly superficial but that’s the way it is nowadays and may help you to understand the reasons for all that make-up and voice-coaching.
Let’s have a look at them is reverse order.
1. Appearance. The poor man seems to be suffering from terminal sleep deprivation. He looks oh so tired and there are days when he appears to have been on the losing side of an argument with Mike Tyson. He has the sort of portly build which will never look good in either a suit or casual gear. He wears “policeman” shoes – plain with rubber soles. His quivering jowls and general demeanour suggest “old for his age”, “clapped-out” and “yesterday’s man”. His face has acquired the shape and “hang” of an individual who rarely smiles. That is why his smile appears so unnatural and macabre in that Jack the Ripper way
2. Delivery. His voice ought to be his best asset. It is deep and resonant. The Scots burr is usually an attractive asset because it suggests “honesty” and “straightforwardness”. Unfortunately, all those pluses are negated by that annoying “tick” when his mouth snaps shut like a gin trap and he does not posses any spontaneity. He runs for the cover of well-worn phrases which again tend to be very annoying and distracting. He rarely uses adjectives or metaphors and hence his prognostications appear to lack depth and style. His pre-rehearsed attacks on Cameron were ill-conceived and amplified his own negativity and desperation.
3. Words. Because he is an Analytical, he enjoys wallowing in a morass of numbers and detail. He does not realise that any “sale” of ideas is made on an emotional level. He should learn to use the link phrase “which means that”. For example, “we will be raising National Insurance” is a phrase with which he is constantly being beaten up with by Cameron. If Brown knew how to turn bare facts into benefits that voters could understand, his ideas would be far more palatable. For instance ” We will be raising insurance and using the extra cash to help our pensioners which means that none of them need be hungry or cold ever again”. Unfortunately, he would find the last ten words of that sentence very difficult because they are designed to tug at the emotions and that to Brown, is alien territory.
1. Appearance. He isn’t a “looker” either. He has an old-fashioned haircut – although he has recently (nearly) lost the arrow-straight parting. He always wears white shirts which do little for his pointy little pink face which tends to look as if it had just been enthusiastically scrubbed by matron with a starched towel. He should try another shirt-colour. Yesterday, during the debate, he did not smile until it was all over – although there was the flicker of a smile when Brown delivered that scripted quip about the posters and the airbrushing. You may have noticed that Cameron does not possess any laughter lines. He may well be a funny guy when he is with his friends and is a glass or two of claret to the good but his thin lipless mouth-only smile suggests an ungenerous spirit. His top set of teeth is rather small and “gappy” which discourages him from smiling under the gaze of studio lights. His over-smooth pink features make him look a bit “slimy” and insincere. According to many women I’ve canvassed, he does not seem to appeal to the ladies as much as he should.
2. Delivery. Cameron’s wife Samantha talks in Estuary English which is basically a posh person attempting acceptance through the watering-down of an accent borne out of a private education. Cameron has made no attempt to water down his accent and continues to sound like a toff. Nothing wrong with that except that it makes him sound elitist, distant and uncaring. However, he used to be very good in short bursts during the soundbite heaven that was the half-hour at the Dispatch Box when he used to attack the stuttering and bumbling Brown. He should stop writing his own speeches and seek advice – but not from Michael Gove who is as out-of-touch with the common man as he is. Remember that it was Cameron who wrote all those memorable John Major “funnies”.
3. Words. Firstly, he should not mention his son Ivan again. He is in danger of making us all cynical. Leave it, Dave. The words he uses are good but largely wasted because of the negative personal image. Yesterday both he and Brown seemed “locked into” their scripts and crib sheets. Much of what he says appears insincere and designed to make him look “ordinary” and a “man of the people”. He can never find the right words to say “I understand your pain” because he doesn’t.
1. Appearance. He is fresh-faced and good looking with a slightly less formal haircut than the other two. The haircut does on occasion look as if it had been cut by a nanny who’d had one-too-many Crofts but even that gives him a lovable air. He wears a suit well but is more M&S “off the peg” rather than “bespoke”. Yesterday, he smiled more than either of the other two participants and when they were speaking, he often turned and looked directly at them. By half-way through the debate, he was standing with one hand in his pocket which made the others looked like tensed-up club bouncers. He appeared totally at ease and that helped him to “think” whilst talking – not an easy trick and unlike the others, he was not a slave to his notes. As soon as the three protagonists were introduced last night, Clegg had scored points. Cameron and Brown were wearing dark suits which gave them an air of stiff formality. Clegg on the other hand, wore a lighter suit which immediately suggested informality and a relaxed state of mind.
2. Delivery. Clegg’s delivery was slow, measured and his voice was lower and huskier than usual. That gave him an air of believability. He did not involve himself in any bickering and stopped talking when he was told to do so. We all noticed that in the “wash-up” he had noted all the questioners’ names and referred to them. Cameron attempted the same trick but only managed to name two of the participants. Occasionally when Brown or Cameron made a point that Clegg did not agree with, he gave an exasperated smile and looked at the audience in order to involve them. He was only naughty once and that was right at the end of his own summing up. He was going for applause when he finished with “Thank you” and a nod of the head. That always produces applause. I suspect that he’d had a bet with Vince Cable. His delivery was helped by his openness and readiness to smile at the appropriate time.
3. Words. None of the debaters produced any memorable phrases or soundbites but Clegg was the one who kept away from jargon and spoke to the people in very simple terms. He used the phrase “Those two” several times which distanced him from Cameron and Brown, thereby bracketing them in our minds as a pair of habitually squabbling villains.
Today, as is the case in any political contest, there were three “winners”. That is the nature of politics. In reality however, Nick Clegg demonstrated PR and communication skills which were a million miles ahead of anything that either of the other two will ever be able to produce. It was very apparent that Clegg had been coached by a British PR man, whereas the other two had been coached by Americans.
Clegg’s credibility will now be enhanced by Cameron and Brown turning on him but only through having realised too late, what a real threat he is. The mere fact that they will inevitably begin to forensically dismember the Liberal manifesto tells us nothing more than the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town and that this is no longer a two-horse race.
The Tory-Labour cartel may well be heading for trouble and their joint fight for survival is about to get dirty.
(It is too late but the most revealing debate would be one without lecterns or notes.)
The Three Amigos
“Who are you calling c–t, c–t?”
There is one thing that all three participants in tonight’s election Debate have in common: none has ever been elected to the highest political office in the land. One of them however, has exercised squatters rights at No 10 Downing Street for quite a while but only because no-one had the courage to evict him. Those who did try have joined the “where are they now?” pile of political detritus which languishes in that forgotten twilight world, somewhere between politics and commerce. The Memoir Zone.
One of tonight’s participants may be joining them very soon.
There has been much speculation and anticipation about the “Presidential Style” debate which the media age demands. After all, we know that there is a certain inevitability of the United Kingdom eventually importing everything that is bad from American culture. We’ve already gratefully accepted obesity, gun crime, bad television and incorrect spelling so we might as well go the whole hog and allow our leaders to sacrifice their dignity in the name of entertainment.
British Prime Ministers have only recently enjoyed direct personal contact with the electorate because after all, they are only elected as ordinary MPs. Since the Thatcher era, the British General Election has become little more than a presidential contest because the majority of voters will deliver their verdict based only on their feelings towards a party leader. Nowadays, the function of most ordinary prospective Members of Parliament is no more than that of political “ballast”. Remember Blair’s Babes?
The Blair era demonstrated and established the presidential voting principle and there was a time when New Labour could adopt a cardboard cutout as candidate in the sure knowledge that it would be elected. It was the time when make-up, make-over and charisma smothered the old-fashioned politicians’ instinct to serve.
It is no coincidence that both Conservatives and Liberals have two comparatively young “pretty boys” as leaders. Gordon Brown’s persona and image are definitely from the pre-Blair era and as such, puts what was formerly “New” Labour at a great disadvantage. “New Labour” was a misnomer because in reality, it was Blair’s Labour.
Voter-perception and superficiality from the House of Celebrity are the new gods.
There will be no surprises tonight because all three leaders will play safe. They will all have scripted and well-rehearsed ad-libs up their sleeves as they are all aware that the most important thing for them to produce today is a memorable soundbite of no more than one sentence.
Neither Cameron nor Clegg will dare to go too far “off piste” because all that they have to do is not to make themselves look like clowns. Brown will definitely not attempt to go off piste , primarily because he won’t be able to find it – unless it is somewhere in his notes.
Predictably, both Brown and Cameron have gone Stateside for help.
Brown is being coached by Michael Sheehan who coached Barack Obama for his own pre-election debates – notably his TV duels with John McCain. Sheehan is a speech coach.
Cameron has engaged American agency Squier Knapp Dunn Communications. A partner in the company is Anita Dunn who until very recently was Obama’s White House Communications Director. Cameron also has a lot of input from Octavius Black who is not-only a PR man but also an old friend of his.
Clegg is coached by Johny Oates who was with PR company Bell Pottinger which is part of the Chime Group.
Brown’s primary task will be to try and shake-off his dour, old-fashioned grumpy image. Unfortunately, that means that there will be smiling.
Cameron’s image has recently entered the rather dangerous “Mr Slimy Know-all” territory and he will be working very hard to appear as our mate Dave. All that Nick Clegg has to do is to remember to face the front and lower his voice half-an-octave and to throw in a few “Cable-isms” which will have already been given to him by Uncle Vince. Clegg will be the one with the most colourful metaphors.
Brown and Cameron may decide to savage each other but Clegg will be treated well by both of them, only because either may wish to open post-election negotiations with him. In reality, all that Clegg has to do is to turn up and not knock-over any furniture..
Cameron’s strategy may be to help Brown to lose his temper and really blow it. Cameron will try and expose Brown as an old fuddy-duddy control freak. Brown in turn, will try and tell us that Cameron is inexperienced, shallow and not a man of the people. Clegg will highlight the constant points-scoring between the two main parties.
Look out for “palms-towards-the-audience” hand gestures from American-coached Brown and Cameron. It’s the “Hey look at me I’m unarmed with nothing to hide. Trust me” family of gestures favoured by politicians with lots to hide. The best exponent used to be Richard M Nixon. Nick Clegg will be very British and restrained and will keep himself very “narrow”.
The other thing to look out for is a simple mismatch between head movements and what is said . For example if a husband says to his wife in a loving tone “Of course I love you” and he is simultaneously shaking his head from side to side, instead of nodding – he is lying. Keep a sharp lookout – especially in Cameron’s case.
How do I know all these things? I did a lot of training for Bell Pottinger (Clegg’s advisor) and I have also delivered a lot of presentation skills training for Conservatice Central Office. Labour would not allow me anywhere near them – with good reason.
Prediction: They will all do well – but only if you believe everything that you read in the press.
During the latest Prime Minster’s Question Time, Angus Robertson of the SNP asked Gordon Brown: “The Chilcot inquiry has heard that you were in the Iraq war inner circle and refused key payments for our troops on the front line. Will you confirm to the house that there is no impediment for you to seek a time to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry before the general election?”
Gordon Brown replied: “This is, as I said, a matter for the Chilcot inquiry. I have written to Sir John Chilcot and I have said to him that I am happy to give evidence at any time. That is a matter for the committee to decide, but I will take whatever advice he gives me about when he wishes me to appear.”
Gordon Brown had already written to Sir John Chilcot and had said “I want to make it absolutely clear I am prepared to give evidence whenever you see fit.”
Chilcot fears that the Inquiry may become “politicised” as a result of the Prime Minister’s appearance – which will be within the next two months – and prior to the General Election.
The Chilcot Inquiry’s interrogation of Brown will probably be the equivalent of being flagellated by a warm marshmallow-on-a-rope.
Make no mistake, Brown would have preferred not to have been questioned at all – but for pressure from the Opposition parties – notably Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The Iraq invasion was a transparently illegal act of war. A sovereign state was invaded and that is why many say that the Brits and Americans should now be asked to pay reparations to the Iraqi people. In spite of the fact that there was more-or-less all-Party agreement and support for the invasion, it is the waythat that Parliamentary support was solicited and obtained that is in question. So, whether or not Chilcot agrees, this is a political matter.
It is probable that a Prime Minister lied to Parliament – possibly with the full knowledge of his co-conspirators – with Brown among them.
At the time, Brown was Goering to Blair’s Fuhrer, so in reality, they should both be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock, next to that latter-day Joseph Goebbels – Alastair Campbell.
I make no apology for the Nazi parallels because it is becoming increasingly evident that the Cabinet was manipulated, as were Members of Parliament of all Parties. It seems that for a short time, democracy was a stranger to British politics.
Brown has to explain in detail, his part in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
Jack Straw made it abundantly clear to the inquiry that he was anti the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq. At the time, it was the generally accepted feeling of both politicians and the secret services that any invasion of a Muslim state would result in increased terrorist activity targetted at the invading countries – and so it has come to pass.
Consequently, more and more of the United Kingdom’s and America’s resources are now focused on the “war on terrorism” which appears to consist of no more than sending young soldiers to obscure places to be blown up and the UK and USA “spook” population running around in ever-decreasing circles in the sure knowledge that their political masters have ensured that they have a spooking job for life.
The arithmetic is simple. Many more hundreds of thousands of people have been bombed, shot or blown up as a result of the West’s misguided attempts “prevent” terrorism, than have ever been killed by actual acts of terrorism.
Blair will be questioned next Friday – by then most of the supporting acts will have done their “turn”. Let us hope that Brown’s interrogation takes place while feelings are still running high and that the Brown-hand-picked Chilcot committee temporarily puts all thoughts of future Peerages on the back burner and does its job.
So far, their questioning technique is about as incisive as that of a old parish priest taking confession from a nun. Regrettably, there are no barristers present so we must not expect fireworks but it is hoped that Chilcot’s kindly old duffers pep up their somewhat moribund tennis-club-committee style of interrogation.
Originally, Conservative Leader David Cameron dismissed the Chilcot Inquiry as “an establishment stitch-up”. Let us hope that he was wrong.
Shagger Clegg – The new Main Man!
Type the words “shagger + parliament” into Google and Steven Norris still appears – but for how much longer?
Nick “Shagger” Clegg has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. The boy obviously liked to put it about a bit and good luck to him. He joins a long tradition of Parliamentary shaggers and I hope that “Shagger of the House” becomes as respected and venerable as Father of the House and Speaker of the House. It ought not to be a title reserved purely for the more salacious gossip columns – it should be respected and celebrated.
The ultimate, I suppose ( although unlikely) will be to hold all three honours simultaneously.
That Specsavers-dodging orthodontist’s friend , Lembit Opik leapt to Shagger Clegg’s defence. He said ” You can be a human being and a Party Leader”.
Lembit, dear boy, being a Party Leader and human is only optional and not compulsory.
Did you not meet Margaret Thatcher? Even Shagger Major had a touch of C3PO about him.