The Tories and Progressivism: Those Oxymorons

Politics is very exciting at the moment: real thinking is taking place, words are being articulated and debated, and ideas are the bedrock of policy once more. Take the example of Roger Helmer MEP, his stupidity on the subject of homophobia had a brief moment of genius, it was an analysis of the subject of etymology in that it focused on whether meanings of words stack up to public attitudes, and also how certain attitudes may be perceived from the outside. Deeply philosophical stuff. Only it was magnificently wrong. Despite Iain Dale’s totemistic, scant reflection.

Another revival of etymology in politics surrounds the word progressivism. George Osborne hyperbolically asserting that the Tories are the only progressive force in UK politics today, and Peter Mandelson riposting back that for Osborne to think this is categorically erroneous.

Indeed for these two former yachting buddies, as one blogger puts it correctly, it is a battle of ideas, and how to put those ideas into practice, which as cat-and-mouse as it might appear, makes for interesting reading. Mandy is right to say that what Osborne thinks he means by progressive is whatever it is that the Tories stand for “this month”. It certainly feels like that anyway, that Osborne figures that if a compassionate grin emerges from his po-face as he pours over public spending reform, this will sideline what lies behind the rhetoric.

This, too, goes for inheritance tax, which isn’t thoroughly progressive.

But, for the left, is there not a sense of satisfaction in that our historically right-wing party have found solace in entertaining ‘radical’ sentiment. Firstly it was Cameron’s call for a ‘day of reckoning’ back in January, saying that the nation’s modest earners – “nurses and cleaners and [sic] teachers” – should not have to fund the “multi-billion pound taxpayer bail-out of the banks” adding “[t]here cannot be one law for the rich and another for everyone else.”

Agreed. But this, given the circumstances, would have to imply a tax raise, and I’d like to think this was the case, but it will most certainly not be, so Hopi Sen accounts.

Then this notion of Red Toryism, or Conservative communitarianism, that amounts to replacing welfare with investment vouchers, or rather, a regulated system with a rearticulation of dog-eat-dog capitalism.

Progressivism is a system of formulating change, and the Tories at the moment are engaging in an exciting game of new words that would have once been oxymoronic such as progressive conservatism, but in actual fact it seems that its all talk. The Right inside the Labour camp are short-circuiting, and a shift to the left is imminent. A host of leftist elements are waiting in line, anticipating the death blow to New Labour. Why that blow has had to receive electoral punch from null Tory sentiment is beyond me, but to be sure, even if New Labour is hardly a progressive force worth defending lock stock and barrel, the Tories version of progressivism is a simple veil. Its a pity the traditional Labour base can not hold Mandy up as one of their own, in the battle of words in the new (possibly brief) epoch of political etymology.

On Iain Dale and Total Politics Top Blogs 2009

The ol’ chap down at Left Outside has it spot on about the Total Politics Top Blogs 2009 poll. Taking his advice from the well-meaning Tim Ireland he can see why calls for a total boycott are praiseworthy; they simply serve to dip Iain Dale into blogospheric formaldehyde (though he didn’t use these words) and credit him with way too much due, mentioning not the fact that his blog is “sponsored by APCO Worldwide, a pro-tobacco PR company with a history of astro-turfing“.

Its quite clear that we need to qualify this sort of criticism, but hang on. There is not only Iain Dale on the blogosphere, should we not, if we wanted to, surpress the urge to add his blog to our top ten and give other bloggers who we may feel are more deserving our praise?

Some will say Dale’s proximity to Total Politics doesn’t allow for this kind of protest vote, but the argument seems to get too silly, and will eventually tail off into how we should all stop buying this and that because its sponsored by this and that outfit of neo-transsexual nazi child porn cohorts who are in some way related to Uri Geller.

As much as I think buying fuel from Esso or gruel from McDonalds is ethically displeasing, I don’t think protest against Dale like this would be as kindly as other forms of pressure groupery.

I’m again with Left Outside when he says “I don’t think it’s enough to stop me joining in. I love a good old fashioned popularity contest.”

But I went one further, I voted for Dale.

I voted (for all the blogs I voted for), not out of any interest in behind-the-scenes narratives, or pinches and punches at the right-wing, but because I use the blog to widen my knowledge of politics, and since it is this medium of information that is likely to take over usual news styles, I would like my top 10 to be at the forefront of this revolution, in spite of possible reservations I have about their character.

As well as being a simple means of communication, political blogging should be about substance, not being held by whip or blackmail, by party line or man sans spine. If we look too deep into personality, we risk turning into the mindless crap of Guido Fawkes.

After all, Dale will often have something nice about politicians who I like, say here, and reveal their departure from politics as an exclusive, and this cannot be beaten.

My list is as follows (nothing controversial here):

1. Liberal Conspiracy
[http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/]

2. Bob Piper
[http://www.bobpiper.co.uk/]

3. Harry’s Place
[http://www.hurryupharry.org/]

4. Bickerstaffe Record
[http://www.bickerstafferecord.org.uk/]

5. A blog from the backroom
[http://hopisen.wordpress.com/]

6. Iain Dale
[http://iaindale.blogspot.com/]

7. And another thing
[http://www.tomharris.org.uk/]

8. Shiraz Socialist
[http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/]

9. Bob From Brockley
[http://brockley.blogspot.com/]

10. Hadleigh Roberts
[http://hadleighroberts.co.uk/]

Although this does not exhaust my list of first reads on a Saturday morning.

And needless to say, Daniel Hannan’s blog for me comes about 6, 675, 573th in this country because he is disgraceful. He asked recently, how should he react to meeting Nick Griffin? Why not like any other fascist he meets, take up his cause and ask people to vote for his party.

Andy Coulson in the shit

The shit really hit the fan for Andy Coulson today, Labour bloggers calling it their McBride moment, Tory bloggers den(l)ying about ever knowing him. Guido asking whether he will survive the “Labour dominated DCMS Select Committee”. So it won’t be as easy as being in the (Mur)dock!

Alistair Campbell expects little from the Press Complaints Committee, but then this might be realistic since we’ve all come to expect this from most of the press. I feel sorry for the good press(cott).

Cameron was relaxed, but clearly too relaxed, and too early on for his party’s Director of Communications & Planning.

Bob Piper expected the sound of silence from the Tories, how wrong he was, for now silence is drowned out by the sound of s(p)in and dry repentance.

And as for Dale, he, after accusing the Guardian of targeting Coulson, is unable to eat his words tonight, leaving his readers with a free space to poke fun.

Coulson’s hands are up, and his flag is white, and all us folk who knew that it was only a matter of time before the Mur(ky)doch leeches and the filth-laden Tories proved to us once and for all that they were unclean. Not cool ol’ son, Coulson.

(This entry was made with attempted NotW-esque puns)

Iain Dale didn’t buy George Osborne’s DVD

I just emailed Iain Dale’s show asking silly questions because its Friday, but I did ask him whether he bought George Osborne’s DVD, which the taxpayer paid £47 for -  for Osborne’s expense. Dale responded by saying he didn’t think the taxpayer should be paying for that.

Ah ha, sad as it may be this is Raincoat Optimism’s first exclusive; Iain Dale will stand as chancellor…

NightJack Hammered (by the spirit of the Times)

The blogosphere has today been awash with entries on Mr Justice Eady’s refusal “to grant an order to protect the anonymity of a police officer who is the author of the NightJack blog.”

NightJack had sought an injunction to stop The Times from revealing his name.

The pick of the blogs are as follows;

Iain Dale, after writing about the BBC’s reports about NightJack, was directed to the Times article (which he didn’t give a link to, and neither will I). He informed us that he had just read the “vomit inducing article”.

Hopi Sen ponders on the risk of an outed anonymous blogger.

Old Holborn has dirt on Patrick Foster, the outer.

Sunder Katwala has done a far better version of what I’m doing here.

And Fleet Street Blues and Curly’s Corner Shop both find it justified that the blogger is called up over his copper crimes.

In my opinion, this will keep happening in the light of the expenses scandals, that is to say the media’s attempt at undoing the anonymity of those things people keep anonymous.

Dishing the dirt is the current media Zeitgeist, or rather the spirit of the Times.

A debate sparked earlier on Iain Dale’s blog asking about whether this was in the public’s interest, and my two cents was, of course, no.

Unlike many on Dale’s blog, I don’t think this has anything to with so-called “ZaNu-Labour”, but rather it is a rat-race in the print communications to reveal the most shocking revelations.

For The Times, though, this will not be such a revelation!

But it does make one wonder; what will be next?

Is the Queen a member of the English Democrats in secret (and in spite of the legalities of her joining a political party); is Elvis the eighth pillar of wisdom; did Maggie steal Mr. Whippy ice-cream from someone called Dave Whippy; are the BNP in the employ of Trevor Phillips?

Perhaps the age of revelations will be exciting and fun, but not yet (and at present, with NightJack, just seems utterly cruel).

We can act on Conservative vulnerability

On Sunday morning I thought everything would be OK.

I’d started to read the Observer and on the inlay page saw that Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman had told Will Hutton in an interview that the UK economy was the best in Europe, and that not only are we seeing off the last dregs of the financial crisis, but we may well have beaten the city anaylists predicitions.

Well, I thought, aren’t we glad that the rebels bailed out last minute, that Blears apologised for leaving the way she did, that Miliband had a change of heart 9 days previous, and that despite all its talk, Compass effectively did nothing to start a ruck with the right wing of the Labour Party.

For that moment I thought we on the left were wrong, and for that moment it was a good thing we accepted GB in our lives.

That is until today, a most eventful day.

Virtually nobody has supported the decision to hold the Iraq inquiry in secret, from bloggers to the left (Sunder Katwala), to bloggers on the right (plenty to choose from, but I will stick with Iain Dale), from David Cameron and his call for openness, to Richard Norton-Taylor calling it ‘Another Whitehall whitewash‘.

The decision by Brown – though good in itself as Katwala remembers to credit – to hold the inquiry in public is allowing too much space for Cameron to manoeuvre, just like the public spending divide in the party has allowed space for George Osborne to appear on top of things, despite his expenses claims – which news of just disappeared into thin air – and his party’s plans to cut spending on public services anyway.

Of course as it is quite clear, the Tories cannot win on strategy – Osborne only has the Labour Party’s indecision making as ammunition, spending cuts are unpopular – but they can shout us down on competence – and we should not allow it any more (especially given the extension to their lead in the latest ICM poll).

But the – currently disavowed – battle between right and left in the Labour Party, over spending, and party direction – is not the same as the “in-fighting” John Prescott was moaning about at the weekend.

He mentioned;

“[I]magine my surprise when I was walking through Portcullis House in the House of Commons on Thursday and stumbled upon a meeting held by Charles Clarke, John Reid, Alan Milburn and a few others, huddled together in intense discussion.

I went over and offered to be the secretary for their little club. With nervous laughter, my offer was turned down.”

I’m pretty sure it isn’t the same anyway, and if it should happen to be the same, then Prezza is wrong. But I interpreted his remarks as this; currently there exists childish banter between frontbenchers that is only earning them media coverage – say for example, Miliband’s pointless revelation on Sunday – and it is obfuscating any real discussion on party direction, something that all in the party can agree is creating a massive void for the Tories to fill, at a time when their in-fighting is just as striking as ours.

And on that very subject, it should not be seen as unimportant the words uttered by Kenneth Clarke today: “If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened.”

This spurred on

“Bill Cash, the Eurosceptic backbench Tory MP, [who] demanded to know if Mr Clarke’s comments were sanctioned by the party leadership.

He said it was essential that Britain held a referendum on Lisbon, irrespective of the Irish vote. He added: “It appears that Kenneth Clarke has reinvented unilaterally Conservative Party policy on the whole of the Lisbon Treaty and European policy.”

This in-fighting has caught the attention of two main bloggers, firstly the Archbishop has said (in third person, of course);

“But Cranmer is puzzled by something further. Mr Clarke said that he decided to re-join the Conservative front bench because the Party is ‘less Eurosceptic than it was’.

When? Under which leader?”

And Bob Piper has said about it;

“It always amazes me how many Conservatives think of the Party as being eurosceptic. They are not. They know the public are though, and therefore, in opposition, they have consistently played the eurosceptic card.”

Overall, the Labour Party with a bit more punch, a bit more direction, and a lot less media curtsying could challenge a presently vulnerable Tory party. And it shouldn’t wait another second to attempt it.

Update: A concrete direction with regard to public services can now achieve two things: firstly it can dampen the blow of, and try to recitfy quickly, the TUC prediction that job losses in the public sector are inevitable. And second it will enable commitment over the Tories; “the party of cuts“.

That Labour unrest begins now

Hazel Blears, the second stand down shocker in 24 hours, leaves avowed articles in the Guardian reading: ‘Gordon Brown hangs on, for now’ and ‘Can he survive?’

Iain Dale has an exclusive on his blog saying that John Reid told Brown he should resign, quoting how the interview might have went as;

“Brown: Will you be my Home Secretary?
Reid: No
Brown: You have to support me.
Reid: No I don’t. I have to support my country and my party, and that means you have to stand down.”

But even more worrying for Brown is the 100 reported MP’s who have drafted an email calling on Brown’s resignation, but the article continues;

“Under party rules, 70 of Labour’s 350 MPs are needed to mount a leadership challenge to an incumbent.

The email states that its ringleaders will not publish a list of names until it reaches 50 in number, but they hope to secure “significantly more”.”

And the last thing tonight that won’t make good reading for Brown is the question;

“6. Is there any evidence that a new leader would improve Labour’s election prospects?

Recent polls suggest no potential Labour leader will have much more success than Gordon Brown in turning round Labour’s fortunes. But never underestimate the novelty factor.”

This bit of hard truth tells us that the very minimum of chance of a fourth term requires leadership  change.

Ignoring calls, as Brown did, to stand down might be the final chapter of a series of defeats for our PM.


Is legal action the only option for Ian Gibson?

Ian Gibson, the backbencher barred from standing over his expenses claims, joins three other Labour MP’s not allowed to stand at the next general election. BBC News reports;

“MPs Margaret Moran, Elliot Morley and David Chaytor – who already said they would not stand – were also banned.

But [unlike Gibson] they have not been expelled from the party or had the whip removed.”

Iain Dale among others have agreed that only legal action will come close to overule the decision made by disciplinary panel set up by Labour’s ruling body.

This will be just great won’t it.

Now we hate independent advice

This morning I was woken up by the lovely presenters of GMTV, waxing lyrical about some party or another they had attended. They then read the news items (or someone did), and it was from here that I first found out that Alistair Darling (et al) had paid for financial advice.

My first thought on the matter (tired as I was) was, oh bollocks yet another thing. But I realise now that my concern over the current carnivalesque show being put on in Westminster is informed only by how easy it is now for the opposition to point a finger and poke out their tongues.

Certainly this is what most Tory bloggers are doing right now. See Iain Dale’s blog entry for it. He positions YOU as the person funding all this independent advice. But, as I’ve just commented on his page, independent review is the idee de jour, only apprently not when it comes to the bill.

A lot of our MP’s have proven over the last three weeks that they are no longer to be trusted with autonomous financial revieiwing (we’ve heard a lot of ticked-the-wrong-box’s) and that therefore expenses claims need independent review (or public scrutiny by means of tax return publication, see other my entry on the ‘toberlerone affair’).

Alisatiar Darling has sought the advice that parliamnet has always deemed necessary, the only thorn in the side is that he is an unpopular Chancellor. It will make for banter at PMQ’s, but otherwise he has done nothing illegitimate.

Of course it comes at a time when nothing once worthy of oppsition banter is funny anymore. If anything, the expenses scandal might have taken the fun out of PMQ’s (although actually, this clearly happened way before).

Since MP’s are advised to take financial advice (even if your role in Government is finance) then in real politics this need not be as embarrassing as some will twist it to be. The really embarrassing claims are (from the Guardian);

• Ed Balls, the children’s secretary, tried to claim for the costs of two Remembrance Day wreaths. His claim was rejected by the Commons authorities.

• [Jacqui] Smith used her expenses to pay for a £240 Apple iPhone for her husband, who works as her parliamentary assistant.

• [Hazel] Blears and Yvette Cooper, the chief secretary to the Treasury, were among eight ministers who claimed for digital cameras or camcorders using office expenses.

(I make no apologies for leaving out Harriet Harman’s media training)

These claims border silly but within the recent context are rather damning, but Darling’s is less so.

Further, it seems not to have affected Tory defection much, since Cameron is calling on anyone who is upset to stand for them (pretty much…).

These are testing times for us all, eh’.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.