Bad for Labour, yes. But it’s a national embarrassment too

MirrorpageIt’s an amazing unfolding story about Paul Flowers, the Methodist minister, the ex-Labour councillor forced to resign over inappropriate behaviour, the ex-Co-op Bank chairman who had no credible banking experience, and then being serial drug-user and user of rent boys.

While the revelations are deeply damaging to the Co-operative Group, and the Co-operative Bank, and the Labour Party, they are equally deeply embarrassing for the nation.

That our bank oversight and regulation is so weak that someone like Paul Flowers can be entrusted to run a high street bank is surely cause for national shame.

Sun_CoopI’m in agreement with Charles Moore in The Spectator that it neither speaks well of our press and media, apart from the Daily Mail, who’ve signally failed to uncover these sordid details before, nor of what Moore calls the ‘rotten heart of the Labour movement’.

How pained must those upstanding and loyal Labour supporters feel about this. Although change will be promised no doubt. Where there’s politics involved there’s skulduggery too, as Tony Blair observed. So change will be an illusion.

Is there a hidden deal with Tony Blair?

Slippery Tony Blair has surfaced from his money-making adventures around the world to pop up in his old constituency to offer support to Gordon Brown.

I wonder what the deal is with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Support me and I’ll keep the investigators away from prying into how you make your multi-millions. It wouldn’t surprise me.

David Cameron’s reaction, as reported by Conservative Home, is “Nice to see him make a speech that nobody’s paying for.” Well, that’s the question, isn’t it. If everything you do on leaving office is to do it for money, direct or through your own charity, then people will rightly conclude that there may be a deal behind his support.

It demeans the office of Prime Minister, to have a past one so keen to hide his income from public view. Tony Blair may have currency and status elsewhere in the world. He has none here in the UK. I’m somewhat surprised that he has homes here. That his children have Irish passports doesn’t speak of a commitment to this country.

If Labour want to use him in the election campaign, fine. But, for me he’s a lightening rod for negativity with Labour.

Others are quizzical about his reappearance too. Guido Fawkes, naturally. Peter Hoskin in the Spectator. Although the Jim Pickard in the Financial Times still sees traces of stardust around Blair.

Gunning for ‘La Hewitt’

Why do I like Guido Fawkes’ blog? Because of his terrier-like approach to holding the political high and mighty to account. Ok, he occasionally over does it. But, oh boy, he’s had an impact.

His current focus is on the non-executive directorship acquiring Patricia Hewitt MP. It’s not a good place to be, in Guido’s ‘cross hairs’, and HERE too.

Budget impressions: Part1: Performances

Budget day in Parliament is part finance, part politics, and part theatre. I didn’t set out to this, but after having watched the performances of the main players on TV, and by channel hopping I’ve decided on a two-part analysis.

Part 1 is on my impressions of individual performances, politicians and TV media, leaving to Part 2 my two analysis of the contents of the budget and politics.

Right, straight to it, while the impressions in my mind are not lost:

  1. Alistair Darling: Delivery – flat and dull; Content – thin and no shocks; Analysis of nation’s finances – poor;  Overall marks 5 out of 10
  2. David Cameron: Delivery – energetic; Humour – matchless: Content – rich; Analysis of nation’s finances – very high; 10 out of 10
  3. Nick Clegg: Delivery – trying too hard & boring; Content – thin; 5 out 10
  4. Huw Edwards: Laboured, needed to be snappier: 6 out of 10
  5. Stephanie Flanders: Clear authoritative and analytical; 8 out of 10
  6. Nick Robinson: Solid, dependable analysis; 7 out of 10
  7. Robert Peston: Irritating, too slow to make the point; 2 out of 10
  8. Andrew Boulton: Incisive – but, get rid of sandwich board man; 8 out of 10
  9. Lord Mandelson: Irritating, a serial interrupter, weak; 4 out of 10
  10. Iain Duncan-Smith: Sharp, landed good punches on Mandelson; 9 out of 10
  11. Charles Kennedy: An empty vessel: 2 out of 10 [lucky to get 2]
  12. Jackie Smith: Tough – but oh that hair-do; 7 out of 10
  13. Ed Davey: Weak; 3 out of 10
  14. Michael Fallon: Clear and authoritative; 7 out of 10

Note: my impressions of the bottom three were based on not much viewing.

On the day, the clear winner, by a country mile, was David Cameron. Sure I was expecting a good performance from him, but this was excellent. Where Alistair Darlings speech lacked the numbers, Cameron’s was number and analysis rich. I’ve not heard a better speech from him. It was the difference between Cameron, and Darling, and Gordon Brown in the earlier Prime Minister’s Questions that prompted this subjective analysis of individual performances.

Don’t accept the media’s conflating on Labour sleaze

I remarked a while back, HERE if you’re interested, that the media is generally anti-conservative – The Guardian, Financial Times, Independent, Mirror, BBC and media intelligentsia, for example.

Don’t for one minute let these people set your agenda on politics. The moment there’s a scandal involving Labour politicians, their aim is to conflate Conservatives into the scandal. Have no truck with it. Merging the scandal of paid lobbying with anything else is a clever tactic to hide the scandal as an election looms.

Judge everything you read in the light of an upcoming election. Some stuff is true, some half-true, and some downright dodgy. Best to begin with cynicism before giving support to a particular view.

Inhabitants of a parallel universe

What is it about MP’s that makes them think they live in a parallel universe devoid of morality or ethics? Any person living in this universe, and engaged in politics, would have put personal ethics at the very top of their to do list.

But, no. Three Labour ex-cabinet ministers have been caught touting themselves for hire as paid for lobbyists. Being an MP is a privilege. Having the ability to manage our national affairs is reward enough. Their leveraging every opportunity to enrich themselves is not what we expect.

The surprise for me was Patricia Hewitt, on whom I’ve been queasy before. Being ensconced on the boards of Alliance Boots and Cinven is clearly not enough.

Quote of the day: about Stephen Byers

A neat way of saying that Stephen Byers MP, who’s been caught lobbying government ministers for money, is a liar:

Stephen Byers has “an ambiguous relationship with the truth.”

Said by ex-Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, to Eddie Mair on the BBC PM radio programme this afternoon.

Labour reliant on union funding and election support

One result of the left-wing’s gazing too long on Lord Ashcroft’s contributions to the Conservative party is to bring about a similar gaze on Labour’s main source of funds and helpful political support – the unions.

And that has now happened.  An excellent article in the Times by Rachel Sylvester – In the Red Corner: Labour’s answer to Ashcroft, uncovers the role of the Unite union and Charlie Whelan, its political director.

Although as Iain Martin notes in Shining a light on Whelan and Unite, it’ll be interesting to see the extent of press and media coverage on Labour’s union ties, especially the Unite union. Unions have contributed over 60% of Labour’s income over the last nine years, with almost one quarter coming from the Unite union.

It may be tough for the Conservatives to do this, but one necessary job is to continue to highlight Whelan’s discredited tactics and that Labour are in thrall to the unions. It needs to be in the electors minds when they come to vote. Worryingly, Peter Hoskin in the Spectator says don’t bother. Couldn’t disagree more.

Well done Iain Martin and Rachel Sylvester. Vital work.

LATE UPDATE: Spotted that Labour supporting Financial Times says of course Labour is supported by the unions, and now move along please. Sorry, won’t wash Jim Pickard. It is a problem.

The cynicism about politics

In part 2 of my analysis on The parties and election prospects, I looked at the public’s expectations, and concluded that the public at large is cynical about politics and politicians.

How pleasing, therefore, to find the ever perceptive Daniel Finkelstein, chief leader writer of the Times, express the same view in his article today – Westminster chatter won’t change the result. Here’s where Daniel says this,

“The cynicism about politics is so pervasive that it embraces almost all political activity. Use a statistic? It’s a lie. Cry on television about your dead child? It’s an election gimmick. Attack your opponents’ policy? You would say that, wouldn’t you. And this cynicism extends to the media and our coverage. So not only politics, but news about politics, is seen as a fiction inside an untruth wrapped in a piece of spin.”

Daniel doesn’t explain why this has happened. But I’m pretty sure I know why. After 18 years in office the Conservative government lost the will to fight the extraordinary bile, character assassination, half-truths and lies from Labour in opposition, and also for the whole parliament that followed Labour’s election victory in 1997. 

Instead of leaving campaigning tactics behind them, Labour saw these tactics as the way to hold on to power. The low ethical standards of Alistair Campbell, Charlie Whelan, Ed Balls, Damian McBride, and even Gordon Brown is what has polluted our body politic.

I always come back to Michael Howard’s stinging rebuke of Alistair Campbell in a Newsnight. In my view it’s the only direct attack on Campbell’s malign influence that has occurred on-screen, and even that almost didn’t happen, because it was at the end of the programme. Watch it here again. Cleaning up our politics will only happen when these poisonous people are our of our political life, entirely.

Still not quite done on character

Andrew Rawnsley, political commentator and author of a book on New Labour – The End of the Party, writes in the Guardian about his Lessons from my 15 rounds in the ring with the forces of hell.

I watched a Newsnight discussion panel last week, where Andrew Rawnsley faced criticism from John Prescott, and others on his new book about Labour. Prescott turned puce while disparaging the book. I stopped watching after a while, as this was an uncomfortable blood sport, where out of the four panelists, three were looking for blood. Didn’t seem too balanced to me. Don’t like an unequal fight, although Rawnsley was holding out at the time I gave up.

Anyway, in his article, I’m pleased to read his way at getting back on John Prescott, with this choice paragraph,

“Gutter journalism” was the abuse which spat from the mouth of John Prescott, a man whose infidelities include having sex with a junior civil servant in a hotel room while his long-suffering and oblivious wife, Pauline, waited downstairs to have dinner with the treacherous and hypocritical toad. Her recent memoir describes how he slunk back to their home in Hull to confess to his adultery before it became public. His security staff preceded him into the house to dump a bag of his dirty smalls for Pauline to wash.I know which of us is better acquainted with the gutter.