Archive for the ‘Journalism and new media’ Category

A tale of two brothers

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

David Miliband has to decide in two days whether to join his brother in the shadow cabinet – and in the next Labour government, whenever tat is – in two days.

The mainstream press has been having a field day, giving the Cain and Abel story yet another airing.

But the reality of 2010 is that these are two brothers who have been very close and fond of each other. Both of them have to decide what to do – not in the age of Cain and Abel – but in 2010, when both of them are being harrassed at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, by journalists and photographers, to tell us what they are going to do.

This is a nightmare for both brothers.

Ed has to make a speech tomorrow, trying to unify the Labour Party.

Meanwhile the mainstream press is telling everyone that he is thinking of offering David the job of Shadow Chancellor.

For which he is terribly ill-suited.

He has been a good Foreign Secretary. But he knows far less of economics than his brother.

The media has its own axe to grind. And Times Online is leading with a story about a poll, which shows that most Labour voters wanted David.


But what is certain is that Britain’s most powerful media tycoon would have preferred David. Rupert Murdoch who won it for Blair, wants Newer Labour to be like the New Labour of Blair.

Instead of something different.

So if David decides to join the Shadow Cabinet, the Murdoch press will lead the media pack seeking to highlight any differences between them.

But if he declines, the Murdoch press will lead the media pack in implying that Labour chose the WRONG brother.

The best solution would be for David to continue as Foreign Secretary. But the norm in British politics moots for a change.

If that norm rules, far better that David goes for something like Home Secretary.

In the hot-house atmosphere of the Labour conference, or any conference, it is unlikely that reason will prevail.

But we can always hope.

The un-expected sometimes happens.

The myth of the power of trade union bosses

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Predictably the right wing press has had a field day in painting the Labour party’s new leader, as Red Ed. Basing their analysis on the fact that Ed defeated his brother on the fourth vote because he had more of the trade unionists’ vote.

Less predictably the BBC, our public service broadcaster which of often castigated as being left wing, and The Guardian/Observer, which is our only well funded left of centre media group, mostly went along with this scenario.

Forgetting that the trade unions are not limited liability companies with bosses appointed by the shareholders and paid millions more than in the days of Arthur Scargill and Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones, in the 1960s and the 1970s when the trade union bosses were courted as avidly by the then Conservative leader, Edward Heath, as by Harold Wilson. The trade union bosses are elected by their members and cannot stay in office unless they continue to have the support of their members.

The mainstream press talks to the union leaders, including Derek Simpson, who as head of Unite, ran a very effective campaign supporting Ed.

But the votes which won Ed the leadership, were cast not by the trade union bosses, but by the members. No-one knows which unions the people who supported Ed, as compared with the many trade unionists who voted for the other candidates, including his brother.

But only a small percentage of trade unionists voted.

Who they were and why they voted that way, no-one knows.

But the assumption of the mainstream press is that they are blue collar workers led by trade union bosses.

But it is equally likely that they were white collar workers, some of them in not very well paid public sector jobs. Others highly paid engineers, etc., who happen to believe in trade unionism.

Which means working, with colleagues to influence what happens in whatever organisation employs you.

Ed Miliband won because, alone amongst the candidates, he remembered the historic links between Labour and the trade unionists. He risked the wrath of the Daily Mail.

Today’s Daily Mail online is front paging with:

An open door to benefit tourists: EU warns Britain it can’t stop thousands more migrants claiming welfare handouts

The only mention of the Labour leadership battle is in a column by their favourite red-bashing colunmnist, Richard Littlejohn, with a a hatched job alleging that Ed did not sign his child’s birth certificate. In the course of which Littlejohn harasses Ed for not being married.

He lives with a partner!!!

A woman not his wife.

Sadly, for the Daily Mail, this is not such a great scandal in 2010. If only Ed had had a male partner, the Daily Mail would have been able to frontpage on that.

Instead of leading with yet another story pandering to working class, and middle class, fears about foreigners.

The Pope needs protecting from himself

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Pope Benedict XIV is a decent human being. There is much to agree with in what he has said about the major problems facing the world in which we live in the llast few days. He deserves a gold star for focussing on human fallibility. 

Individual human beings often get it terribly wrong, however clever they are.

The Pope, of course, is no exception. He is quite wrong in his suggestion that Britain is in the grip of ‘aggressive secularism’. Richard Dawkins deserves that label, and in some of his latest pronouncments his tone is as strident and doctrinaire as the religious fundamentalists. But nearly all the other leading secularists use patient argument, and are all too ready to admit that there is still a lot we have not discovered about the creation of the world and just how the human mind works. Even Stephen Hawkins is much more tentative, even though he has now come to believe from his only speciality that the creation of the world probably happened without the guidance of a God-like figure.

Over-whelmingly the media coverage, on television, in the newspapers, and on the radio, has been sympathetic.

Benedict’s problem is that, now  he is Pope, he has an impossible job description. He is supposed to be ‘infallible’. Not to debate and discuss with other gifted human beings, including scientists researching in relenant areas. But to take advantage of being the only human being with a direct line to God. So when he is deciding what to do his aides protect him from all human contact. He goes alone in the garden to talk  to God.

God does not reply, as he allegedly did with Moses, by writing down  his instructions on tablets. He somehow gets the right thoughts into his mind. That is what Benedict and many other religious leaders believe. But there is no evidence to prove that their beliefs are  not delusions, to which all human beings are subject, however much they meditate.

And, of course, when the Pope castigates our celebrity culture, he does  not deal with the fact that he is right up there at the top of the Premier League. Thanks to his army of spin doctors he gets more front page treatment than any of the dolly birds or the footballers.

And this supposedly secular country gave him the full treatment. He was welcomed in Scotland  by the Queen and the Duke, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the deputy prime minister. He was welcomed to London by a gaggle of ex-Prime Ministers.

And David Cameron himself took the trouble to go to Birmingham airport to give him a rousing send off.

So this very fallible human blogger does not think the country is at risk from agreesive secularists.

On the contrary. For the past week the whole country has been in the grip of Popeomania.

Thank God (if he exists) that he is now safely out of the country. And the media can get back to telling us what is happening to the Labour Party leadership and how much Andy Coulson really knew about phone tapping.

Two sparrows and two massacres

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Two sparrows are chasing each other across the roof of the house opposite, watched by a pigeon sittting on a telegraph pole in the grey light of a cloudy dawn. A sea gull circles around, swooping down gently flapping its pure white wings. Just now two small black shapes have entered the picture. Swallows, or maybe young gulls. The silence is complete. The grand-children have not yet to greet the new day.

I am left with my thoughts.

Three hundred miles north in Cumbria, twelve families will be waking up, still stunnned by deaths  caused by the taxi-driver who went on the rampage with a rifle and a shot-gun, and killed twelve human beings, starting with his twin brother and his solicitor and a few of his mates from the taxi stand. Going on to who-ever came into his sites as he careered around the leafy lanes of the Lake District. Ending when he walked into the  dense woods near Boot, and shot himself.

Over thousand miles away on the Gaza strip, the Palestinians and their friends have just buried nine dead. What began as a peaceful attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaze, with a flotilla of boats sailing from Turkey, ended in a bloody war. The fully armed Israeli commandos shimied down ropes onto the deck of the biggest ship. The Isrealis say they were attacked by the Palestians with poles and clubs. The Palestinians say the Isrealis fired first. The Security Council has ordered an inquiry. So it will be  months before the full facts are established. Though, so far as I can glean, the dead had all been shot and they all came from the Palestinian side.

For days now these two events have dominated the media. A succession of pictures on our television screens. Thousands of words in the newspapers, reporting on, and seeking to explain, what has happened during the week of half-term holiday.

All I can do is mourn the passing of 21 human beings, whose lives were ended so abruptly

David Laws – another Greek tragedy

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

This is one of the saddest blogs I have written. David Laws is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and able members of the new coalition cabinet. As the number two to George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer he was nobly shouldering the principal responsibility for introducing the unpopular cuts in public expenditure which are necessary to deal with the financial crisis. But following the revelations about his expense claims in today’s Daily Telegraph and his own subsequent admissions,  his position is clearly untenable, and I expect his resignation letter to be on David Cameron’s desk before the weekend is out. And I would expect David Cameron to accept it.

Although it provides a major headache for the new coalition, of which Laws was one of the principal archiitects as the LibDem leader of the negotiating team. David Cameron and Nick Clegg this weekend will have  to find some other very capable person, with the right economic experience and political skills to take this hottest of hot seats in the cabinet. And that person should ideally be a Lib Dem to preserve the agreed balance of the coalition between the two parties. Who will have to learn the ropes quickly enough to take part in the budget preparation.

And for Laws himself it is a terrible personal tragedy. His political career has bit the dust, just at the time it was taking off.

So what did he do wrong?

The essential facts are agreed between the Daily Telegraph and Laws.

Between 2004 and 2009 Laws paid rent of £40,000 to James Lundie. Initially the payment was for a room in a flat in Kennington, which Lundie sold for a capital profit of £193,000 in 2007. Then he bought a house and Laws rented the second bedroom for £950 a month and paid almost as much as a contribution to utilities, services, etc. Which adds up to over £20,000 a year. Quite a lot for a room, even in Kennington.

Since 2006 parliamentary rules have banned MP’s from claiming for rent paid to partners or family members. And, as he nows admits, Lundie has been his partner since 2001. As Laws points out himself, he could have claimed the £40,000 he has now agreed to pay back, quite legitemately, if he had declared that Lunde was his partner.

He did not want to do this, because he wished to protect the privacy of himself and his partner. Apparently he had told any of his family or his friends of his gay orientation, despite the fact that they have been living together in Kennington and at Laws’ house in Yeovil, throughout.

So what did he do wrong?  He was not seeking to maximise his financial gains. He was not making extravagont claims for moats around his castle.

But he was breaking the 2006 rules by concealing the fact that Lundie was his partner. Ironically for a man called Laws, he was making his own laws. Which is a form of hubris.

He says today that it is an relief to finally declare his sexuality. And hopefully his family and friends will think none the worse for him on that score. He may find that most of them  guessed as much years ago.

But in career terms he is paying a very heavy price for one mistake. But that mistake is at the heart of our present democratic concerns. MP’s and particularly ministers, who make our laws, must not be caught out breaking them. If he stays how can Cameron and Clegg still go on claiming to be the clean up government they want to be.

(Photo from The Guardian)

Rage, rage against the morals of the Mail

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

It has taken me nearly a week  to calm down sufficiently to write about the entrapment by the Mail on Sunday of David Triesman, the chairman of the Football Association. My first impression was one of disbelief, that even the Mail could stoop so low, could score a new low in standards of decent journalism. The Mail, which purports to stand for everything that is good and decent in middle England, should put the boot in on a 66-year-old man AND on England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

If that’s Patriotism, folks, it should be sold with warning notice in large black print.


It has driven out of public life a 66-year-old man, David Triesman, who has given quite exceptional public service in his four careers. He was General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers, where he skilfully directed the energies of the membership to fighting the savage cuts of Thatcherism and Blairism, which threatened the quality of British higher education. He made sure the moderate majority forces were present in the conference chamber to stop the union’s left wing, succeeding in their campaign for an academic boycott of Israel. 

Instead of resting on his laurels he took on, aged 58,  an even more difficult job – General Secretary of the Labour Party, at a time when morale was low and the membership dwindling. He did that job so well that he was brought into the Labour government  as a junior  minister two years later.

In January 2008,  the year he collected his free bus pass, he took on another challenging job. He became the first independent chairman of the Football Association, a job he expected to enjoy, because he is a fanatical football fan and Spurs supporter. He went into this job with a boyish enthusiasm, still fuelled by all his happy memories of those Saturday afternoons on the terraces.

Thanks to the Mail on Sunday exposure, his last dream job has ended in tears.

Judged by one journalistic standard this was a major triumph. The Mail scoop made headlines in the national and international media and forced the immediate resignation of the target figure. Triesman was exposed as a sexual predator, a married man who had taken advantage of a young woman employee. And as an rash leader who had made allegations of bribery against European football leaders.

Judged by another journalistic standard the story was a disgrace.

The young woman, Melissa Jacobs, was actually 39. She was not courted by Triesman until he was no longer her boss. Then he took her out to dinner a few times. The proof of his immoral yearnings comes from the publication of his private emails to her, which show that he was behaving like a lovesick teenager.

But ‘old man besotted with younger woman’ does not exactly make front page news, even in the Mail.

But, when you examine it, the second prong of the story, is even more of a disgrace. The Mail, according to The Guardian, paid £75,000 for this story, via the publicist, Max Clifford. At their final dinner together Jacobs was wired up with a hidden microphone. During the dinner Triesman confided to the civil servant who had worked for him when he was a government minister, that he suspected bribes were being offered by some of the Europeans.

Now this is an important story, worthy of serious journalistic enquiry. Had the Mail  followed that up and done a proper investigation into the truth of these rumours, I would be singing its praises.

In the event they chose to put two quite different stories together in order to ‘convict’ Triesman.

By so doing they commited the worst of all journalistic sins.

They missed the real story.

The Times exposes Vince Cable

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

The Times has a scoop today, which makes disclosures that ‘risks opening a rft at the heart of the Lib-Con coalition’.  They have been told by insiders that Vince Cable made two telephone calls to Gordon Brown over the weekend urging him to work for a Lib-Lab pact and telling him he would rather work with Labour than the Conservatives. Rupert Murdoch will chuckle with delight when he reads it.

It is likely to be the first of many stories in the right wing press, looking for lively copy and pouncing on any signs of cracks in the coalition.

But my guess that this one will help Clegg and Cameron at tomorrow’s LibDem confernce which has to decide whether to back this coalition. Because it is one further indication that the leadership did not rush into bed with the Tories, but also vigourously explored the alternatives.

The Posh Boys and the Pensioners

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

When 28 people sit around a table to make decisions, only a few of them manage to say something effective before the decision is taken. This I know from lots of rather good academic research on what happens when human beings join in such meetings. And from my own personal experience, starting 59 years ago when I first engaged in university politics. So I can confidently predict that two members of this gang of 28 will have no trouble at all in getting more than one twenty-eighths of the speaking time.

Neither of these men (they are, of course, men) took a major role in the election campaign. And  both of them are pensioners. And this election, in which television (the news programmes as well as the television leader’s debates) have been dominated by two men striding towards the corridors of power, with all the bloom of their fortyish youth. Gordon Brown, though still six years short of his bus pass, was portrayed as  yesterday’s man clinging on to power. Which of course he was. But only in part.

He danced  to the young men’s tune. Under the tutoring oif Tony Blair’s spin doctors, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, he danced to the young men’s tune. He not only subjected himself to the punishing election schedhule of  whistle stop tours, he learnt new tricks. Like learning to talk to ‘ordinary’ people at tea parties.

 This strategy hit the buffers when he was over-heard, by the Sky Television microphone still live around his neck,  saying that the working class life-long Labour supporter whom he had just talked with was a bigot. And the real Brown emerged,  when he was on all the television news clips, hanging his head in shame after a radio interview in which he realised what he had done.

And against the predictions of the opinion polls and all the mainstream media,  the electorate denied Cameron his majority and demolished the hopes of the other young man, striding towards the corridors of power. They rejected Gordon Brown, but they voted for him in much greater numbers than anyone expected.

In front of the nation on television, both Cameron and Clegg united in the march towards change, emphasing the characteristics they undoubtedly share. They are both nearly twenty years younger than  the defeated ‘bully’ Gordon Brown.

But back to the cabinet table. The two pensioners who will carry far more weight than the average in this cabinet of 28 will not be at all shy in speaking out. Because at aged 69 and 67 they are not worrying about their next job, if this government fails. Both of them have major ministerial responsibilities, but both of them will speak out when the cabinet is locked in arguments about matters that do not concern their ministerial  responsibilities. Because they are not at all  worried about their next job.

They are both very happy indeed that they have been given proper jobs, in an age when in both the private sector and the public sector, have been urged to take early retirement, even at 50! They will not, God forbid, agree with each other, but both of them will have no trouble at all getting listened to in this cabinet of 2010 in which change is entrusted to 40ish youth. And  in which the Chancellor the Exchequer, not the brightest of the Cameron team, is given the top economic job, making him at 38, the youngest holder of the post since this the Stone Age. (This is a journalistic exagerration!)

Both of these pensioners will speak their minds. They may often disagree with each other. But both of them, together or separately are not Posh Boys. Both were born into working class families.

This is not obvious in the case of Ken Clarke,  who speaks in an accent so plumy, that any Old Etonian, would be tempted to give him a hug.

In fact his father was an electrician, who only began voting Tory when he had started on the road to entrepreneurship, by making his living as a shop keeper. His mother was a shop assistant with a near Communist Pacifiist grandfather. Young Ken was brought up with the Daily Mail on the family doormat. But he did not take their views as gospel truth. Though he was educated in state schools he won a scholorship place at Cambridge, when really began to think about politics. For a year or so he was an enthusiastic supporter of Gaitskellite Democratic Socialism.

But when  he began his career in politics he hitched his star to the Ted Heath brand of Conservatism, and learnt the trade in several humble jobs. Despite his always outspoken comments, he was also pulled in to serve Margaret Thatcher, whose venom against the Argies,  was  nothing as compared to her venom against Ted Heath, whom she thought had betrayed the Conservative cause. Nevertheless, Clarke  served her. But he did not make his mark  until Thatcher was succeeded by John Major, who made him chanceller in place of the the Thatcherite, Norman Lamont, who, as Chancellor, had caused Black Wednesday, that day in 1992 when Lamont’s actions had created a massive attack  on the value of the pound sterling. Some months later, Major fired Lamont and brought in Clarke to save his government and the country.

In the event he  saved both. His stewardhip of the economy, not only rescued Major, but it would international acclaim. He not onlly rescued Major’s Conservative party, but he made Blair and the rise of New Labour possible. Becaue by 1997, Britain, though not a world power, was not bankrupt. It’s currency was to be trusted.

Fast forward to 2010. Clarke is most definitely not a part of Cameron’s inner circle, although he is a member of the shadow cabinet. In the election campaign he was  wheeled in to orchestrate one of the main press conferences. Just at the time when the credibility of Cameron’s bosum pal, George Osborne was at it’s nadir, and Cameron was threatened by the quite un-expected surrge towards the Lib Dems.

Clarke served his chosen party well. By proclaiming what he believed. That a vote for Clegg, was  tantamount to a vote for Gordon Brown. But he also disclosed in the closing moments of that event, his own reservations about one of the Cameroons, Andy Coulson, the media chief and veteran of the Murdoch press, editor of the News of the World during phone tapping scandal.

The other pensioner  at the cabinet table, Vince Cable, refused to be dazzled by the prospect of acquiring power. So much so that he ruled himself out as leader of the Lib Dems, because he thought he was too old. He is now 67. Despite the fact that  he had won the hearts and heads of the nation. By opposing speaking against the Iraq war, which we now all now has  cost the lives of British soldiers as well as the millions of pounds which might have been spent on alleviating the plight of Britain’s poor.

And, co-incidentally, pensioner number two, Cable, is also  a working class lad, who has bettered himself. Unlike Clarke, who made his living as a barrister, he has not learnt to speak  with an upper middle class accent. But unlike John Prescott, Bllair’s deputy leader, he does not under pressure make an ass of  himself by talking incoherently, making himself an easy target for the ever watchful right-wing press.

Quite the opposite. Although his accent is not posh, he demonstrates that in intelllectual agility he is a match for any of the posh boys. And in terms of wit he excels. When Prescott fumed he became a joke. Cable never fumed but when he got angry he turned his opponents into a joke, because of his wit.

Cable’s father was a skilled worker in a chocolate factor in York, who happened to vote Tory. His mother was a packer of chocolates in a rival York chocolate factory. He went  to the local grammar school, where he did so well that he won a scholarship to Cambridge. Amazingly, because he was the first member of his family to go to any university.

At Cambridge in the 1960s he became active polically support the Liberal Party. He got thrown out because he advocated a merger with the social democratic wing of the Labour Party, a decade before the Gang of Four left Labour, formed the SDP and then went on to ally themselves with the Liberal Party.

Young Vince concentrated on student politics, so effectively that he ended up as President of the Cambridge Student Union, which then, as now, offered him a fast track into adult politics. Liberals, Conservatives and Labour would alll have considered him seriously.

But he was not ready for a political career. He took himself off to Kenya in 1966, for his first job, which was economic advisor to the Kenya government. Later he earned his bread as and advisor to the Commonwealth Secretariat. He first entered politics in 1970, by which time he had become a Labour supporter.  He stood unsuccessfully for Glasgow Hillhead in 1970. But he did become a Labour councillor and later worked as special advisor to John Smith in 1978, when Smith was the Industry Secretary in the Callaghan Labour government. In 1979 he tried and failed to win the Labour nomination for Hampstead, but lost to Ken Livingstone.

1979 also ushered in the age of Thatcherism, which resulted in the Gang of Four deserting the Labour Party and founding the Social Democratic Party in 1981. Cable joined them a year later and stood as SDP candidate for York in the 1983 election. He lost. He  fought two more elections which elections which he lost. It was not until 1997 that he first took his seat in the House of Commons. He was a new boy, aged 54! The New Labour prime minister, Tony Blair,  was 44, and looking younger,  radiating the youthful energy which was going to lead us into a brave new world. But  in fact Blair was a House of Commons veteran, with 14 years experience of asking Prime Minister’s questions, before he occupied the hot seat, when he had to answer them.

But in the last two or three years Vince Cable has been regarded as the wise elder statesman by the House of Commons, and by the audience listening, watching and reading the newspapers.

Both he and Clarke will make their voices around the cabinet table . Even if he wanted to Cameron could not steam roller this cabinet, which has a wide range of views amoungst the Tories. On some argues they will be arguing against each other, quite as  fiercely as against each.

One of virtues of the Posh Boys, is that they learn at their public schools, that the British aristocracy survived, while the French, the Russians and many other Europeans were getting their heads chopped off. They survived by bending to change.

In the last few days, Cameron has shown that he understands that. And it suits his personal style.


CamClegg and class in the new coalition politics

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Cameron and Clegg did some joking around in the garden behind No 10 Downing Street yesterday that prompted the newspapers to invite readers to suggest which other double acts they most resembled. None of the entries I saw, which ranged from Flanagan and Allen, Ant and Dec to Wooster and Jeeves were remotely appropriate. Most people watching found it re-assuring. Thank God they’ve got a sense of humour and are able to work together despite the hurtful things which they said about each other during the election campaign. The media are already calling it a love-in and asking how long the honeymoon will last.

So perhaps it is time to abandon this marriage analogy, which I used in my last blog when I termed it a marriage of convenience with Prince Charming escorting the Cinderella party into the corridors of power.

Cameron and Clegg are two party leaders, both of whom have just failed to get as many votes as they expected from the electorate. They are not promising to work together til death do them part. But they have emphatically committed themselves to working together for five years, sharing responsibility for introducing the cuts in public spending, which all three parties agree are necessary to save the country from going bankrupt.

Their partnership is not an equal one. The Lib Dems have secured five of the twenty eight seats at the cabinet table, which roughly the same ratio of the number of MPs each party has. It does not take any account at all of that the Lib Dems got 23 per cent of the national vote compared with the Conservative’s 36.1 per cent. By contrast Cameron has made very substantial concessions to take account of Lib Dem policies notably on political reform and on taxation policies to deal with the financial crisis.

There was a real danger that if the Conservatives had won a substantial majority in this election, and pushed ahead with its manifesto commitments, we would be facing riots on the British streets, quite as nasty as those happening in Athens. How much this danger has been reduced by the coalition is still an open question.

If I wanted to give that double act a name, I would call them the Posh Boys. Clearly one of the reasons they get on so well personally is because they have very similar backgrounds, born with golden spoons in their mouths, happily married to rich women, educated at two of our finest public schools, followed by Oxbridge. They could not be farther removed from the realities of the working class poor.

When you look at the composition of the cabinet the class bias is quite as worrying. No less than 59% are privately educated, compared with 32 per cent in the last Labour government. And 69 per cent went to Oxbridge compared with 32 per cent. The gender ratio shows a small rise of two per cent to a still derisory 14 per cent. So fasten your seat belts we are in for five years of government by Posh Boys and the compassionate sex is no better placed at the cabinet table than the Lib Dems to plead on behalf of the poor. Even while I was writing, Cameron has announced that ministers will take a 5 per cent cut in their own salaries. A step in the right direction, but my God they can afford it.

At this point I should mention that although I have been offered a cheap low cost property in France I shall be emigrating to escape the rule of the Posh Boys.

Because I do not think either of the two top Posh Boys are power seeking opportunists, willing to abandon their principles to get to the top of the greasy pole.

Cameron right from the time he was bidding for the Conservative leadership has been emphasised that his two favourite British Prime Ministers, were Disreaeli and Macmillan. Disreali came from a Jewish immigrant family and fought his battles against that very powerful of the left wing, Gladstone. But it was Disreali’s Conservative government, which introduced the education acts that gave the British poor decent schooling. Macmillan, like Cameron was an Old Etonian who married a woman who was not only super rich but was daughter of the poshest of the posh, the Duke of Devonshire. But he was a relatively poor scholarship boy and as a man never forgot the poverty he had witnessed in the North East of England during the great depression of the 1930s. And it is also worth remembering that Cameron, unlike many Posh Boys is educating his children at state schools.

Clegg is on the right of his party on many, but not all issues. He is a rarity in British politics, in that he cut in his teeth not in British politics but in European politics. In 1994 he jacked in his first job as a journalist on the Financial Times and went to work for the European Commission. By 1999 he had decided he wanted to work in Europe, not as a civil servant, but as a politician. His then boss, Leon Brittain (a former Conservative cabinet minister, whom many of today’s Conservatives would regard as a left winger), tried to persuade him to give up his Liberal Democrat convictions and stand as a Conservative. Clegg stood firm, and in 1999, he started a five-year stint as a Lib Dem MEP. 

He did not come back to London until 2004. The following year he won the Sheffield Hallam seat for the Lib Dems. The new deputy prime minister, who will be taking questions whenever Cameron is not there, and the vast majority of those asking those questions will have many more years of experience in the House of Commons than  him. They will also know, that know that he has faced some very public resignations from Lib Dem activists in the constituencies, like many in the South West, where the enemy is the Conservative candidate, with Labour having no chance of winning.

But most of all Clegg knows. I have said a lot about Europe here, because that is key part of his core political position, that Britain must play an active part in the mainstream of European politics, so the biggest personal risk for him is joining with the Conservatives who are presently alligned with the right wing extremists in Europe. So I think he will continue to fight for fairer society for the under-priviledged as well as a more realistic approach to the Europe of which we are a part.

I have written at length about these top two Posh Boys, because there is lots of evidence that neither of them wants a New Thacherism. The arithmetic of the cabinet table makes very depressing reading for the working class poor. So much so, that they that they may well be considering either a painfree suicide or building up a stock of petrol bombs reader for the battle of the streets.

But arithmetic is not the only option. As I will argue in my next blog.

Two men breaking the mold

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

They have been thrust together  by the force of events into a marriage of converience. But the detailed agreement, just released, and the allocation of the top cabinet posts show that both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are determined to turn what in one sense was a failure for both of them into an opportunity to create a new British politics in style and substance in  UK 2010.

They may fail, as commentators from all sides of the media are telling us constantly. But there is no doubt that they are making a bold attempt to work together in a partnership. And that they are going to work together to take their parties with them. Perhaps  the most important announcement is the commitment to fixed term parliaments. This is a change, unlike the alternative vote, which can be done without a referendum. The House of Commons can vote for it through, so the Prime Minister of the day will no longer be in a position to decide how long his government will stay in power, and call an election when the opinion polls show he has the best chance of winning.

That is important for the long term. But it also deals with the biggest fear of the Lib Dems, the junior partner in this alliance, that Cameron, if his star was rising, would call another election in a year or two. An election which would almost certainly hit the Lib Dems harder than than the two bigger parties.

It is not surprising that the two men get on well together personally because both are the products from the elite part of our public school education system. Eton has  the best playing fields a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle but the classrooms of Westminster is at least their equals in attracting excellent teachers, rich intelligent students, and nurturing self belief as well as good scholarship.

Both men are far removed from the lives of the working classes. And their parties are overwhelmingly from the priviledged and educated middle classes. The Lib Dems no less than the Conservatives. But the today’s package suggests that they have taken on board the interests of the working class and all poor, in the all important economic portfolios.

George Osborne  becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is one of Cameron’s oldest friends, who has not shone during the election and whom some journalists thought Cameron might ditch in favour of the vastly experienced Ken Clarke. Once the hung parliament became known, journalists speculated that Cameron might solve the problem by making Vince Cable, 67, Osborne’s number two as Chief Secretary of the Treasury. In the event Cable has been given the job of Business Secretary with responsibility for banking. The job done presently by Peter Mandelson, probably the most powerful man  in Brown’s government, who did much to save  him from oblivion.

The Chief Secretary goes to David Laws, the shadow education minister, and one of the most talented of the Clegg inner circle. He had been expected to be given the education portfolio, but he is a former City banker who has practical experience. And in terms of the personal chemistry, the chances of him forming a good working relationship with Osborne look better, since both men are fortyish. It would not have been easy for Osborne to have a deputy like Cable, the wise old man who not only got it right, but was able to explain it to the nation.

I shall have to continue this later as family duties call. But before I go, to finish the opening thought. It would be one of the ironies of history if this Gang of Two actually succeeded in breaking the mold of British politics, which the Gang of Four failed to do in the 1980s.