I’m a celebrity, vote me in here

Safe, as Cameron is, in the knowledge that anything he says he can do, and that Labour cannot do, will be bought and consumed like a hot-dog on Tottenham court Road, Friday night, way after the tube has finished and you’ve got to walk all the way home to Kilburn because the buses have been taken off the road due to the unprecedented amount of bikes blocking Edgware Road.

So safe in fact that Cameron will wax lyrical on the very thing that people want to hear, that also characterises the very thing the Tories are not in touch with: People Power (just observe the noticeable omission of proportional representation).

As Tamasin Cave has said today

“Only six years after a national poll found that over half of us felt we had “no say over what government does”, he’s today calling for “the redistribution of power from the powerful to the powerless”.”

But so far Cameron’s call has only seen Tory celebrities and hacks go to stand against disgraced Tory MP’s, that list so far is (from the Guardian);

“Simon Heffer, the Daily Telegraph columnist, said today he would to stand against his local Conservative MP unless he paid back £12,000 in expenses.”

[…]

“Esther Rantzen, who plans to stand against Labour’s Margaret Moran in Luton South unless she resigns.

Robert Harris, the journalist and writer, said he was considering challenging Tory MP Alan Duncan, and Lynn Faulds Wood, the TV consumer rights campaigner, is also considering running.

David Van Day, the former Dollar singer and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! contestant, said he planned to oppose Conservative MP Nadine Dorries.”

I’m a celebrity, vote me in here (don’t tell me you haven’t thought this!!)

What could be worse than MP’s expenses scandals than those same scandals of journalists and celebrities when they are our local representatives.

On this subject I started reading Nadine Dorries blog – which is back up (hat-tip)- and she was raving about Esther Rantzen’s decision to stand. She ended her entry by saying;

“Politics isn’t showbiz, it’s life; and if Esther thought the celebrity jungle was tough, she ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Nadine has her own jungle oppnent to worry about now, but as of yet no entry regarding it…

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Lies, deceit, hate and Tory melancholy

Tory hacks are not as wry as before the expenses scandals. I mean, everyone is sulking, but Labour have plans up their sleeves, whereas the Tories main election winning force – i.e., “liberal conservatism” – is shaking.

Three events have been talked about today that have made the Tories just that little bit sadder.

Firstly, the family of Winston Churchill, notably Tory MP Nicholas Soames, are angry that the BNP have hijacked Churchill’s sayings in order to drum up national pride (although the uncovering of Nick Griffin’s edited magazine ‘The Rune’ has wiped smiles of the far-right’s faces, showing Griffin on record praising the SS and attacking the RAF).

Second, Tory Student has asked readers to vote UKIP (pretty standard this one?)

And thirdly, Daily Mail writer Peter Hitchens is sick of BNP voters using the Mail as a platform of their own, waving Read the Daily Mail placards and bombarding their comments pages with hate messages (because that is the job of the editor).

Warning for the Bedfordshire Gays

It says on Liberal Conspiracy that reports are circulating on former Bucks Fizz singer David Van Day and his possible decision to stand in mid-Bedfordshire, where Nadine Dorries – who thinks the spending of expenses is an MP’s duty, being an extension of their salary – sits.

Though it seems “Burger Van Day” has a bad record.

While standing as a Tory candidate in Brighton he attended a charity fundraiser, PinkNews reported at the time;

“At a Valentine’s Day charity fundraising dinner in Brighton Pavilion, Mr Van Day gave a speech after a performance by The Brighton and Hove Actually Gay Men’s Chorus.

The Tory candidate said that the members of the choir “bend over backwards for anybody.”

He later apologised for his comments, but this will provide concern for the nice folk of Mid-Bedfordshire. Nadine  Dorries didn’t put her vote in for the issue of equal gay rights, as it says on her TheyWorkForYou profile. This important issue surely can’t be left alone to Van Day, can it? Isn’t Cheryl Baker a gay icon? Are they still in contact? Isn’t Van Day gay anyway?

Best case scenario; that red light go green on the road to Socialism

Remaining consistent with calls for reform, such as Ed Miliband’s concern that Parliament “looks to many people like a 19th-century institution“, Jack Straw has set the ball rolling for a cross-party talk on constitutional reform, one in which David Cameron has been kind enough to agree to, setting his views on reform in today’s Guardian.

Those reforms, in brief (thanks to an article posted on Liberal Conspiracy) are;

• Limit the power of the prime minister by giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections.

• End the “pliant” role of parliament by giving MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage. MPs would also be handed the crucial power of deciding the timetable of bills.

• Boost the power of backbench MPs – and limit the powers of the executive – by allowing MPs to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.

• Open up the legislative process to outsiders by sending out text alerts on the progress of parliamentary bills and by posting proceedings on YouTube.

• Curb the power of the executive by limiting the use of the royal prerogative which allows the prime minister, in the name of the monarch, to make major decisions. Gordon Brown is making sweeping changes in this area in the constitutional renewal bill, but Cameron says he would go further.

• Publish the expenses claims of all public servants earning more than £150,000.

• Strengthen local government by giving councils the power of “competence”. This would allow councils to reverse Whitehall decisions to close popular services, such as a local post office or a railway station, by giving them the power to raise money to keep them open.

The LC article goes on to comment on how Cameron continues his party’s opposition to proportional representation. This sets a precedent for Alan Johnson to push for a referendum on electoral reform and his support of Alternative Vote Plus.

Certainly proportionality, representation and equality are issues that could well return voters back to the Labour Party, and away from the fringe parties – whose presence is only, as this European election will prove, to provide a protest.

Roy Hattersley has been speaking today at Hay Festival about;

“There are many other basic ideas that socialists have to apply, with some care, to the modern world – among them the relationship between freedom and equality and the extension of genuine democracy.

Support for those principles is stronger than support for the Labour party itself. Far more people support socialist objectives than vote Labour. Many Liberals want a sustained assault on inequality. So do many Greens. Thousands of voters who feel no allegiance to any political party, and are antagonised by the unavoidable expediencies that accompany party politics, support all or part of the egalitarian agenda. The best, and perhaps only, way to secure a sustained period of progressive government is to mobilise all those forces in a radical alliance.”

And how true this is.

More influence in reform by Alan Johnson could at least margin the view by voters that Labour care little about the reform agenda, at best it could ask some serious questions again about the responsibility Labour has to return to socialism. For socialism is not simply a political referent, but a committed agenda for representation, and its high time questions like these are asked.

Moreover, it is hardly surprising that David Cameron, amid talks on radical reform, is not shifting on the question of electoral equality.

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’.

Has racism been here before?

The worries of Boris, and indeed the rest of us nice folk, are temporarily relaxed; he’s not allowed to go, its inappropriate. But the whole affair crossed my mind again – at a time when many are tired of the BNP even getting mentioned, saying why give them promotion, or why dedicate so much time on criticising them, it looks desparate etc etc… (I don’t agree, but I might be sympathetic to the idea that a protest at the BBC is worthless, and perhaps even detrimental).

But I was reading the Guardian review of Richard Overy’s new book The Morbid Age: Britian Between the Wars, and as I focused upon the examples given by reviewer Alison Light, of Julian Huxley etc, I realised that it wasn’t so much that racism in suits hasn’t shown its ugly head before, but, rather, it had and we did so much to curb it. Well, now its fighting back, and so it is well worth doing all possible to sideline the crackpots, but, and I’ll re-state again and again, more effort needs to be done in order not to show the crackpot-hater as the crackpot himself.

A protest at the BBC, I think not…

The right are ill-qualified for the fight against the xenophobes

It has emerged that 27% of voters plan to ‘send westminster a message’ by voting for a fringe party, the Guardian reports today (drawn from a poll of 1,010 adults between 20-21 May).

Though it seems the BNP vote will only garner 1%, some 4% less than the last European elections in 2004 (though as I’ve said before, and the article reiterated, voting intentions are not always so reliable for the xenophobic BNP). Ukip are down from 16% in 2004 to 10% on the voting intentions (perhaps their vote has been affected by the expenses scandals after all).

Two runners hoping to capitalise in on anti-Labour sentiment, have today been involved in in-party dispute’s over public perception. David Cameron of the T0ries, in the last 48 hours, has had to give two tellings off to MP’s for “unnacceptable comments”. Not racist comments, or slurs, but hubristic, nob-headed comments.

The Guardian‘s report notes;

“David Cameron today rebuked the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries after she accused the Telegraph of coming close to a “McCarthyite witch-hunt” with its disclosures of MPs’ expenses claims.

The Conservative leader also made it clear that party grandee Anthony Steen would have the whip withdrawn “so fast his feet won’t touch the ground” if he continued making “unacceptable comments”.

Yesterday, Steen claimed he was the victim of “jealousy” among his Devon constituents, who he said were envious of his large house.

“I gave him a very clear instruction after that interview – one more squeak like that and he will have the whip taken away from him so fast his feet won’t touch the ground,” Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “It was a completely unacceptable interview,”

(see also Liberal Conspiracy‘s version of the events)

The second party which has (also!) had yet another setback in its false guise of moderate modification is the BNP.

The Mirror informed that;

“A BNP candidate could be deselected for posting offensive comments online.

Eddy O’Sullivan, the party’s Salford organiser, wrote on his Facebook profile: “W**s go home,” adding, “They are nice people, ‘oh yeah,’ but can they not be nice people in the f***ing Congo or… bongo land or whatever?”

Mr O’Sullivan, 49, standing with party leader Nick Griffin in the European election for the North West region, said: “It was supposed to be a private conversation. I also may have had a drink at the time. I don’t believe those comments are racist.”

Clive Jefferson, BNP North West organiser, said if the allegations were proved Mr O’Sullivan would be suspended.

Deputy party leader Simon Darby said: “We will take disciplinary action if we find he has posted the comments.”

Now that really is rich coming from Simon Darby, who was photographed by Searchlight recently being greeted with fascist salutes by Roberto Fiore’s Forza Nuova party in Italy. One would choose their friends more wisely (advice extended to Cameron after mvoing his party to non-attached in Europe along with the likes of Le Pen and the Polish Law and Justice party).

These things are clearly embarrassing for the two parties mentioned here, for they show a presence of an image they would really rather keep quiet. For the Tories, I really believe that David Cameron really believes he is the new modern times Tory, when in actual fact, and despite their elections slogan, they are more of the same. The BNP, however, are desparately trying to seem way more with the times than they actually are (and unsuccessfully). It can be seen quite clearly from the recent amendments made to their manifesto, constantly redefining their ideas of what it is to be British, and their language and conduct entries. Change the voter’s mind, and dupe them later.

To really get under the skin of the BNP in the coming weeks, then months, and years to come, critics must do more to understand their warped appeals to moderation.

Which is why it should not be left down to some comic Tories who have started casually calling the BNP a far-left party – which also tainted some of Tim Montgomerie’s good work. See also Daniel Hannan’s recent blog entry and Harry Phibb’s unbelievable trite, with absurdities like this;

“What Conservatives can add to this critique is something that the left can never admit: Nazism and communism are ideological twins. The BNP is in fact an extreme leftwing outfit. It wishes individual liberty to be sacrificed to state control. It seeks the overthrow of capitalism, and rages against profit and speculators. It wishes to institute a siege economy with protectionism and the nationalisation of foreign-owned companies. In this it is being consistent to its founding inspiration. Hitler nationalised the banks and insurance companies, the economy was rigidly centrally planned, there was an extensive programme of public works, independent schools were banned.

How does he, then, define the far-right – and presumably in whatever way he does define it, he must be in it if everyone right of the Tories are socialist by default. These articles, in spite of their aims, are ample evidence that many respected commentators are ill-qualified to tackle a dangerous element rearing its ugly head in our democracy.

But unsurprisingly none of these party failures have restored any faith in Labour (due to their own party failures). Which is why I was suprised to read this;

“The Labour Party continues to enjoy a healthy lead at the polls according to the European Parliament election forecast even if its share of the vote has dropped over the past two weeks.”

But unfortunately, this article is taken from Times of Malta. At home some of our most respected commentators are still insisting on a Labour Party shake-up to end all shake-ups. Polly Toynbee rejects this flimsy word “reshuffle” for the heavier handed “mass exile“. And although it is well established that the European/ Local Elections are set to look pretty miserable for Labour, there some clean hands in that party (see here for the note on Chris Mullin, and here for Shiraz Socialist’s report on the Labour Party worth fighting for) and the general elections do not have to be half as miserable.

And on an optimistic note, all is not lost on British humanity, for our next generation are already showing a hint of rebellion in Loughton, Essex, where local school children have revolted and instigated a school walk out on account of newly installed CCTV cameras in classrooms. Bite the Flower!