Well, it’s done.
The first meeting of the new council has happened, and the vote for leader has been cast. Congratulations to the new leader of Southend Borough Council, Councillor Ron Woodley.
The actual votes were as follows:
Cllr Woodley (IND) 31
Cllr Lamb (CON) – 18
Absence – 1
Abstention – 1
The abstention was the mayor, and the absence was Labour’s Cllr Royston, who is still recovering from an operation. All five UKIP councillors backed Cllr Woodley, which is mildly surprising. They aren’t a part of the joint administration, and I had wondered if James Moyies would be a little bitter at the failure of his pact with the Independent Party Group. It’s actually a bit unfair to blame that on the Indies — it actually comes down to lacking the numbers.
But the result means that the joint administration has taken power, and there is a now a whole new executive team in place.
Earlier this morning , at a press conference, it was announced that a deal has been reached between the Independent, Labour and Lib Dem groups to form a coalition administration on Southend Borough Council, under the leadership of Ron Woodley.
News this may well be, but to anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention it won’t come as a surprise.
I must confess, I’m somewhat confused about this whole David Laws affair.
The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury (who, let it not be forgotten, was responsible for orchestrating last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review with George Osborne, and is responsible for the current cuts which are causing so much woe) resigned as a minister last year as it came to light that he had claimed £40,000 between 2004 and 2009, to pay rent to a man who happened to be his husband. This blatant breach of expenses rules was explained as Laws trying to keep private his sexuality.
This didn’t wash with me at the time, and it doesn’t wash now. Did he really need to pretend that James Lundie was his landlord? And did he need to pay him a small fortune? It seems incredibly iffy.
Today he was censured by the Parliamentary authorities, made to apologise to the House, and suspended for seven days. This is a fairly harsh punishment, as far as Parliament goes. And yet, the Lib Dems and apparently the Tories are eager for him to return to cabinet. Witness David Cameron; “I think he has a lot to offer public life and I hope he stays in public life.”
This is a man who falsely claimed £40k of taxpayers money. This being the man who nearly caused a rebellion in his own party when the original expenses scandal broke, with his hardline approach to expenses offenders. And yet now he wants David Laws back in his cabinet? That doesn’t seem to tally.
And just to add to that, remember Eric Illsley? The former Labour MP for Barnsley Central, who was jailed for his expenses? He falsley claimed £14,000. David Chaytor? £18,500. But David Laws falsely claims £40,000 and he gets an invitation back to the cabinet. Could it be because he’s one of the so-called “Orange Book-ers”? Or because he’s one of the increasingly rare friends of Clegg?
The really galling thing, though, is that the Liberal Democrats spent the 2010 general election campaign running on a “new politics” platform, as the only party untouched by the expenses scandal. David Laws campaigned along those lines- despite clearly knowing that he had breached the rules and abused the system. So he’s a liar and hypocrite. As I recall, Phil Woolas lost his seat for that very crime.
And the idea that he did it to hide that he was gay? This is supposed to be an enlightened age. Sexuality is not supposed to matter. If Laws wanted to maintain his privacy, he could have done. Blaming it on his sexuality seems to me like a cheap, sensationalist attempt at distraction, and really it only brings shame to Parliament and the Lib Dems.
(Speaking of, where did the Lib Dems get this reputation as a pro-LGBT party? Does anyone remember the 1983 Bermondsey bye-election? There’s only one party which has ever done anything of note for LGBT rights, and it isn’t yellow.)
Basically, it just seems strange comparing the reactions between Laws and other MPs who broke expenses rules. Laws seems to be treated as the victim, whereas others are demonised. I’m not sure why this is exactly, but it seems that Lib Dems are still treated as whiter than snow. I haven’t a clue why, given how many promises they have broken, and how much hurt they are causing. But it certainly doesn’t seem fair that Laws should get away with a slap on the wrist and an invitation back into cabinet, for what the public were calling for the heads of other MPs for doing.
Vince Cable’s transformation from national treasure to national disgrace has been staggering in its speed. I remember when I was hoping that he’d get the Chancellor’s job rather than Osborne. Now with the latest scandal to hit the Tory-led coalition, courtesy of the Torygraph, he just seems like a joke. He’s truly transformed into Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin, from Batman).
Now, for my own part, he lost all credibility with the debacle over tuition fees. He flip-flopped over whether he’d vote for, against, or abstain. This all despite the fact that he was elected on a longstanding policy and a pledge not to increase them, but rather to abolish them. That moment, along with all of the Lib Dem MPs who voted for the rise, he lost all legitimacy in my mind.
The latest scandal has seen a recording of him saying that he could bring down the coalition and would do so if they pushed him too far. When I heard this, I wondered what exactly would be too far, given that he’d already u-turned on tuition fees, cuts, the EU, and countless other things. But hey, I don’t care. It pissed off Tories more than anyone.
And now today, immediately after a bland press conference held by Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Cameron and Clegg) on “how brilliant the coalition is, and doesn’t everyone agree?”, the BBC breaks the news that he also made claims about Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over BSkyB. Apparently he’d said that he was “at war” with Murdoch, and was going to use all of his powers to stop the takeover.
This matters more to me. Rupert Murdoch already has near monopoly over the print news media,
and Sky News’ weird Fox News impersonation caters to the right-wing audience, but Mr Murdoch has never been one to settle. He won’t be happy until he has complete monopoly over the media, and controls all news access.
But now Mr Cable has come out and declared that he won’t let Murdoch take over BSkyB. Fantastic. Except that he’s the Secretary of State for Business, and is supposed to be making impartial decisions. Now he’s tainted his own impartiality, and given Murdoch and his advocates (i.e. Sun-reading, Sky News– watching, Conservative-voting right-wingers everywhere) ammunition with which to argue for his removal from the case and the decision.
So as much as I agree with him being against Murdoch, he’s still an absolute idiot for bringing personal bias into the matter, and even more for publicly announcing it. He’s set back the movement against Murdoch-isation massively, and quite possibly handed BSkyB over to the closest thing to Darth Vader walking around in the real world.
I remember when Vince Cable was acting leader of the Lib Dems (during the election campaign that led to the appointment of Clegg), he said of Gordon Brown, “The House has noticed the Prime Minister’s remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean.” Personally, I think that’s very bloody rich considering his own transformation from loveable OAP, to utterly incompetent berk.
Well done, Mr Cable.
There’s been a lot of political anger floating around the internet this week. This blog has carried a fair bit of it too. In the wake of the tuition fee travesty, and a host of other assaults on social equality and justice, the Lib Dems have borne the brunt of it.
It’s hardly surprising. The Liberal Democrats are the ones who are keeping the Tories in power. The majority of Coalition policies being enforced are directly contrary to everything the Lib Dems campaigned for in the 2010 Election. (Interestingly, it’s fun to take a look at the Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, and try to spot the parts that are actually to be implemented. It’s like a political game of “Where’s Wally?”). People feel deceived by the Lib Dems, and the excuses that “Oh, we didn’t know how bad a state the country was in” and “You have to compromise in coalition government” are wearing thin, because yes they did know how bad it was, and for a compromise they seem to have gotten very little out of the deal.
People’s anger at the Lib Dems is entirely justified, let me make that clear. They lied. They’ve gone back on promises. But although they should carry their share of the blame for the economic and social vandalism that’s taking place at the moment, it’s important I think for us to remember that they aren’t alone in this. The main power, behind the yellow scapegoats, is the Tories.
And the Tories never lied about it. Not really. They said that they’d changed, that they weren’t the nasty party any more, but I don’t think any of us seriously believed that. For the most part, they were disgustingly up front about what they intended to do to our society, and the Lib Dem’s involvement has only given the opportunity to be more vicious.
It’s easy to attack the Lib Dems. They’re cowards. They’re weak. But the real power here, the force that it slashing public services, that is playing fast and loose with the economy, that is making the poorest in society pay for their misguided ideas, are the Conservatives. Whenever they’re in power, Conservatives cut. We saw it under Thatcher just as much as we’re seeing it now, and I can guarantee you that the Tories would still be cutting and cutting hard even without a recession and deficit as an excuse.
We (the people who believe that what is happening is wrong) can focus all our fire on the Liberal Democrats. We can tear them down as cowards, traitors to their principles, opportunists, liars. We can make sure they never win a seat again for the next generation. But the real danger is, and always has been, conservatism. Liberal Democracy is conservatism in a yellow jacket and a smug sense of superiority.
The next election will, whatever happens, be a straight slog between the left and the right. Labour and the Conservatives- the Lib Dems are effectively finished now. What is shaping up is an ideological battle the like of which we haven’t seen since the fall of Thatcher. And we, the left, need to start getting ready for it now if we’re to really win. We need to be tackling the Tories head on, not just rubbishing the Liberal Democrats. We need to make sure we remember who the true enemy is.
[Many thanks to Kieran Patel, for spotting my embarrassing mistakes]
Today, as you are no doubt aware, is a hugely important day. It is also the biggest test of your moral fibre that you will undergo, I suspect, in this Parliament.
You have been considered the “party of students” since the Blair government introduced tuition fees in 1998 (Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, c.30), and since then you have campaigned relentlessly on this. I’d point out that in elections following this, you gained 17 seats (before the 2010) election, something in which I posit your student-friendly stance played a large part in.
And at the election in May, you took it one step further. Every one of your Prospective Parliamentary Candidates signed the NUS’ “vote for students” pledge. Maybe I should remind you what it said:
“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”
It’s a remarkably clear political promise, don’t you think? And for every one of your party’s candidates to sign it sent a powerful message to students: ‘Vote for us, and we will fight for you. We will oppose any attempt to raise fees as our principle concern’ And it worked. You might have lost seats at the 2010 election, but I can assure you that you were viewed by students as the best choice, and they voted for you en mass, precisely because of your pledge.
Now, I understand that coalition means compromise. I understand that you weren’t going to be able to get all of your policies. But what sticks in the craw is that despite the fact that you were elected on this promise (I’ll be honest with you, only the real hardcore of Lib Dem supporters, and people with an active interest in politics care about electoral reform- most of the general public just don’t care) you didn’t press for it.
Your party has meekly and quietly accepted the rise in tuition fees, and I would highlight this passage in the coalition agreement:
“If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.“
I honestly don’t see how this is a victory. What it says, is if the government decided that they were going to raise tuition fees, Lib Dems would still have to break their promise, only through abstention rather than actually expressing their views. You have been, in other words, gagged. The agreement you signed was not to not vote for an increase, but to vote against an increase.
The end result of this will be that prospective students will be dissuaded from university by the prospects of massive debts. It makes no odds that you’re giving token gestures to make the repayment less harsh, people will still look at £27,000 worth of debt and think “No thank you”. Hence a great many capable, brilliant, but poor students will be put off the higher education that could be the gateway to their future success, and the country will lose out as a result. We benefit nothing from higher education becoming the purview of the rich and privileged.
If you look outside Parliament this afternoon, you will see thousands of people there protesting. If you go to any of the major university towns and cities, you will find their centres besieged by protesters. They aren’t there because “they don’t understand” the measures. They aren’t there because the NUS has misled them. They are there because these measures are massively unpopular, and yet you who promised to oppose them are lining up behind the Conservatives on this. Motions have been proposed to delay the vote, in order to give time for a proper investigation into the impacts, and the possible alternatives. You have even voted against those.
Today, as I said above, is a hugely important day, for you especially. This day, and your response to it, will be long remembered. Some of you will vote for the increase, and be remembered as turncoats and spineless opportunists. Some of you will abstain, and be remembered as cowards who let others walk all over the promises they had made. Some of you will vote against the measures, and be remembered as heroes.
It’s not often that a chance to be a political hero comes along. I hope that you will make the correct choice.
Matthew S. Dent
Since he became Tory leader, David Cameron has been insistent that the Conservatives aren’t the same “nasty party” that were decisively voted out of power in 1997. Since he took power, he’s maintained the facade of compassionate Conservatism, even as he and his government have been instigating cuts which target the poorest sectors of society. Now, hardly any of us were fooled, but they went to great pains to keep it up. Until today, when the mask slipped off completely for a telling moment.
Lord Young’s comments in the Daily Telegraph have been front page news, so most people probably already know what he said, but for those who don’t here is the key part:
“For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started…”
He was referring to low interest rates, and arguing that they had benefited those with mortgages. This is, of course, completely ignoring the vast numbers who lost their jobs in the recession, and whose homes were repossessed, not to mention those millions who will suffer greatly as a result of his government’s cuts.
Lord Young has resigned over his comments, but the damage is already done really. It shows the attitude of a Conservative party, and a coalition government, that frankly doesn’t care about the people who it is going to be hurting. All that nonsense about all in it together is clearly rubbish. For the frontbench of millionaires in the cabinet, life is as good as ever, so who cares about the rest, right?
Cameron was fairly quick to denounce Young’s comments, and the enterprise advisor has spent much of the morning cap in hand, apologetic, and looking thoroughly ashamed of himself as the Tory PR chiefs clearly instructed him to. But given the seriousness of this gaffe, and especially considering how emphatically Cameron distanced himself from the comments, why did it take Young until the afternoon to resign?
Cameron clearly wanted him to stay on, despite the offensiveness of his views, and wasn’t going to sack a leading Tory peer. Young only resigned because of overwhelming pressure brought upon him by the media, the opposition parties, and the people of this country. When Cameron heard of the comments, he should have immediately sacked Young. The fact that he did not seems to speak volumes about his own views on the matter, and consequently of his party’s views.
The catchphrase “all in this together” has been ringing hollow since the government first started spouting it, but now it seems like the cat is out of the bag. The Tories haven’t changed a bit. They’re a political group out for themselves, and their only guiding principle is self-interest. Never mind “all in this together”; as we always knew it was, the true Tory catchphrase seems to be “we’re set; screw the rest of you”.
At the start of this academic year, I bought myself a clock radio, so I could wake up to the radio rather than whatever annoying noise my phone conjures up. Now, in Brighton I can’t get Absolute Radio. I personally cannot stand Chris Evans. So with Absolute and Radio 2 ruled out, I plumped for Radio 4. I quite like the Today programme, and John Humphrys’ voice isn’t an unpleasant thing to wake up to. (Quiet!)
This might seem an odd way to begin a blog entry, but it leads into something more substantial now. This morning I was half awake, listening to a bit about how dire Ireland’s economic state is at the moment, and how it looks like the EU is going to have to bail them out.
Now, I might have missed a bit, as I was still waking up, but nowhere did I hear any parallels drawn between the Irish situation and our own. They suffered in the recession. So did we. They gained a large deficit as a result of bailing themselves out of the recession. So did we. They ended up with a Coalition. So did we. They set out on a program of radical cuts. We have just begun a near identical program.
And here’s the problem. Before the election, back when he was Shadow Chancellor, rather than axe-wielder-in-chief, George Osborne wrote an article in the Times newspaper about Ireland. You can read the article for yourself, but it contains the key quote.
I’m not an Osborne fan. I think he’s a moron, and I wouldn’t trust him with my pocket change, let alone the Treasury. But still, I’d have a lot more respect for him if he could let go of his damned cutcutcut obsession and looked at the bloody facts. It’s particularly galling when he himself laid out the sensible advice back in 2006.
“[Ireland] have much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.”
And right you were, George. They taught us that sudden, drastic cuts when the economy is still unstable are a bad idea, and can result in a plunge back into recession. Not the lesson that he imagined they would teach us, granted, but important nonetheless. And yet despite eschewing the benefits of paying attention to Ireland and learning from their blunders, he seems not to be willing to learn himself.
It’s not surprising, of course. The Coalition government have set out on a program of economically-destructive cuts, and damn it they’re going to carry it out. That’s ideology. That’s politics. Any climbdown now would be tantamount to the lumbering mutant creature shooting itself in the face. But why are the rest of us not shouting louder about this?
Alan Johnson pointed out Osborne’s raging hypocrisy re: banking regulation, back when the CSR was delivered. But no one is waving Ireland around as an example of him ignoring the red lights and warning signs. Is there some reason for this? Is Ireland a no-go area for some reason?
Whatever, some brave MP (from either side of the House) needs to table a question to ask Osborne- or that Tory-apologist Danny Alexander- to explain why they are now ignoring the Irish lessons which they were so adamant we should learn from.
My fellow students,
Yesterday I marched with you in London, protesting against the Coalition plans to cut the Higher Education budget by 40%, treble tuition fees, abolish EMA, and a host of other ill-advised and regressive policies. For the most part it was a pleasure to be a part of. We marched from LSE down towards Parliament, shouting slogans (and general verbal abuse of Lib Dems/Conservatives) and waving placards (some of which were a bit mental, but hey, it’s a protest- you’re allowed to be a little mental).
Then, after about 2pm, it all went wrong. The attack on Millbank Tower (regardless of whether it was or wasn’t Tory HQ) was a stupid move. It turned what was a respectful, peaceful demonstration, into a riot. And maybe some of you are looking at today’s headlines and realising what a mistake it really was.
The fact is, that most of the 50,000 students gathered behaved completely respectably, and didn’t engage in stupid acts of aggression and violence. The ones who attacked Millbank Tower and tried to occupy it were a minority, hailing from certain factions of the left and of the student community. I won’t specify who, but I’m sure that all of you who know anything about this are aware of who I mean. And I suspect that a good deal of that minority went to the demonstration spoiling for a fight.
I can understand the anger and frustration that led to it. Everyone there was passionately against the unfair moves being taken by the government, and in particular at the broken promises of the Liberal Democrats. I’m sure that if Lib Dem HQ wasn’t hidden down an anonymous sidestreet they would have seen much more aggression than they actually did. In the end, students were angry about policies that would disproportionately hit the poor, and that anger both boiled over and was taken advantage of by certain elements.
The end result is that the protest has been sullied. The focus is on the minority of violent individuals who acted unacceptably, not the overwhelming majority who behaved more reasonably. I think it’s exemplified by the fact that David Cameron was able to give a statement on the performance of the police and the unacceptability of rioting, and completely ignore the issues that we were protesting against.
And the worst part, for me, was that we had the moral high ground. For the most part, we weren’t protesting for ourselves. The impact of these cuts and policies on present students will be minimal. It’s the future generations who will be disadvantaged, and it was for them who we were marching for.
Please understand that my criticisms were aimed at those who perpetrated the attacks on Millbank Tower, and not to the rest of the students. In particular, those who broke windows, tried to occupy the building, and unbelievably dropped things off the top of the building. I am a student. I am a left winger. But I like to think I’m not an idiot. This hasn’t helped anyone, and has hurt our movement and our aims.
Those who gave in to violence, vandalism and thuggery make me ashamed to have been there. However, all of you who didn’t disgrace yourselves, who peacefully demonstrated to make our voices heard. All of you make me proud to be a student, and to have been on the march which will unfortunately be remembered for the idiocy of a few.
Matthew S. Dent
(3rd year LLB student, University of Sussex)