Archive for May, 2009

Cameron @ the Open University

“No Revolution” but some tinkering necessary and a return of power to the people through personal responsibility, as well as greater independence to individual MPs and accountability of the Executive was the summary of this speech. It feels strange to hear of a right wing leader using the phrase ‘power to the people’ but it is an indication fo where this country has come in the separation of public servants and the public they are meant to serve.
Cameron encapsulated themes he had gone over prior to the expenses row but wrapped them in relevant themes: expenses, over zealous bodies such as the police and councils, ticking of boxes rather than common sense. The theme of subsidiarity is not a new one, I recall John Major using it in an attempt to dilute some typically all encompassing European initiative. However the desire does appear to be there even allowing for the media froth.
I was pleased to see Mr Cameron return to one of my favourite themes of the number of MPs! A reduction of 10% and an equalisation of population sizes is a very good start. It is ridiculous for the UK, especially given the powers of devolution, to have more MPs than India! Also it is farcical that Na h-Eileanan an Iar has 22,000 voters whilst the Isle of Wight has 110,000 voters. This country’s surface area is not so large nor its transport and communications so backward that there is a need for a 5x disparity in (voting) population sizes.
The messy beast that is proportional representation was explicitly torpedoed. I feel that the resulting LibLab concensus would lead us to the constant political mess that is Israel or Italy.
Unfortunately he did not address the West Lothian question, but that is the elephant in the room. It must be addressed in the first post election Parliament.
Europe was addressed by a promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and a desire to have powers returned. I would have thought DC would play this one down since it’s an easy whip to use against his party by the left.
This was a far reaching speech (and my synopsis does not cover all themes) but it was a SMART response to the country’s questions and frustrations.

nb: SMART: http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.html

Michael Martin keeps it short

Short and purely factual. Michael Martin eschewed the opportunity to leave with a jibe at his tormenters and to spare us the fake worship by those who were stabbing him in the back and chest just 24 hours previously. One sentence with the key words.
“…I will relinquish the office of Speaker on Sunday 21st June..”
Let’s hope that we can move on from this episode with equal brevity allowing MPs to focus on the key issues and leaving the matter to be sorted out by an independent body in the autumn.

Cameron on R4 and R5

An accomplished performance from Cameron obviously mostly about the expenses farce. It’s always uncomfortable dealing with the rants, sometimes rambling, of John Humphreys and of the great British public. He was very quick to respond in a reasonable fashion. Clearly welll coached but I was impressed.
The interview/phone-in moved on to the general election. Cameron pressed again for a July election, an event not seen since 1945 (clearly an extraordinary time) and before that 1902. He also refused to criticise the Speaker. It’s not clear if this is a case of disinterested, uninterested or Machiavellian.

Cameron launches Europe Manifesto

Somewhat dwarfed by the Speaker’s speech, David Cameron launched his manifesto for Europe today. He impressed with the first half of his brief oratory. The euro sceptics of the country have long called out for a representative who is not a europhobe. There is a clear distinction to be made between reform within Europe and leaving the cosy club (but that should always be retained as a possible outcome should change not take place). The direct connection of the rebate to CAP reform is vital if a CAP solution is to be found. It is a collective disgrace that farmers of wealthier nations receive more than farmers of poorer nations in what is supposed to be a club of equality. A commitment to attack the gravy train of the Eurocrats was also welcoming.
The second half of the speech was less inspiring. The call for a general election seems ill timed. The reaction of voters in a general election at this time is very much an unknown. Whilst DC has responded well to the expenses debacle, the Conservative vote is still down in polls and may lead to less seats than expected. In twelve months, DC’s reaction will be seen to be a sign of a man in touch with the nation but general disdain for politicians will have subsided resulting in a withering of the votes for the minor parties ensuring a smoother election result. Mr Cameron’s desire for government is understandable but in this case, patience is a virtue.

The Norway Debate

To watch the Speaker’s, Michael Martin, performance this afternoon was surreal bordering on the farcical. A perfunct apology was followed by a game of hide and seek behind the legal processes of debate. When finally cornered, the Speaker refused to countenance resignation, immediate or otherwise. It was clear that of those present in the house, the majority were in favour of an unequivocal statement in the opposite direction.
The Speaker may appear to be a victim of misdirected anger, a scapegoat. However it was Mr Martin who actively blocked attempts to use the FOI act to reveal the spending habits of MP’s. His response has been muted in public and obstinate in private. He is totally out of touch with the public mood. His example (his wife’s taxi fares) before this blew up, his failure to step forward as an impartial representative of the house of commons and his subsequent (in)actions clearly warrant his demise.
His supporters have long suggested that his opponents are waging war on a nationalistic (Mr Martin is Scottish) class front. Mr Martin is brusque at best and rude at worst but these are traits present in many of our business and political leaders. He has however been accused (below the parapet) of a lack of impartiality in his running of the house. Mr Martin will have thought long and hard about his response today. Clearly not long and hard enough.

MPs’ Expenses: Crime and Punishment

One must congratulate the Daily Telegraph on its ability to spin so much out of its outlay. This has been helped by its fellow media outlets who are still content to feast on the tawdry but irresistable nuggets. The initial reports were of breaking the spirit of the rules and I am not inclined to have MPs pay the money back. Like the public apology, I see no true purpose in it. What is needed is patience and a full redrafting of the manner in which MPs are remunerated and compensated for extraneous expenses.  Don’t blame the players, blame the game.

However what we are now faced with are two clear cases of fraudulent activity. It is astonishing that Ray Mallon, the mayor of Middlesbrough has had to ask for a police investigation to be instigated. Former minister Elliot Morley has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party after claiming £16,000 expenses for a mortgage he had already paid off. But when did he pay this back? If recently, then clearly there is a case for arresting and charging him for fraud. Equally husband and wife MPs Andrew MacKay and/or Julie Kirkbride have police questions to answer,

Bank of England Forecast

It’s clear that there are so many indicators that the BoE forecast is really just trying to stick the pin on the donkey.
A restriction of growth of 4.5% this year does seem on the dovish side but we shall see. Any upturn will surely be temporary as there needs to be an unwinding of our leveraged position by banks, businesses and households.


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