Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’
Will Liberal support crumble, Tories take a battering and Labour win back seats and councils now they are in opposition? More then likely – the question is whether this shows confidence in Ed Milliband or dislike of austerity measures under the coalition. The later as negative is more likely to motivate people to a ballot box when you consider how in first past the post (FPTP) the chance of your mattering is slim unless contest in your seat even.
That we may get rid of FPTP will be because people want a Labour/liberal coalition to be more likely. The desire to hurt Nick Clegg for going through the door 10 Downing Street with Cameron would be a misjudgement for the left. However AV really is a dilution of political choice, rather than an accurate reflection of votes cast equalling seats in parliament.
To American readers, where Democrat and Republican is the choice this may seem mute. Your primaries give you the chance to choose the candidate from your party before the General Election in the way ours does not. Here a handful of party hacks usually select candidates.
The Labour left may not agree with my analysis because they may fear always needing liberal support. They would rightly take the neo classical liberals as a threat to a radical labour government. That forgets that Labour wins by taking and defending the centre ground. Tony Blair, he and his party management knew how to do this. Brown did not. Milliband needs to learn how to and appear a real credible alternative government in waiting.
I will not be staying up for the results. A good night’s sleep much more exciting. But if you cannot sleep you may want to read the other blogs on the Alternative Vote system (AV).
The Conservatives are having their conference in Birmingham this week, and despite Brown’s speech last week closing the gap the Labour Party is still on course for the worse drumming in an election since Michael Foot was leader in the 1980s with a manifesto described as the longest suicide note in history.
However, it is easy to be popular when you tap into people’s resentment. The real question is what policy alternatives do you have? Whether this is just a gimmick to engage the public or they really do not have a clue on this is unclear. They have opened up policy discussion on their blog to make suggestions for what policy might be on the Conservative Website. Just as Gordon Brown borrowed from America his wife introducing him before his speech, this idea comes from Obama’s website.
George Osbourne (Conservative Shadow Chancellor) made the point in 2006 on blogs:
In politics and in the media we’ve both assumed that we do the talking and the people listen. Now the people are talking back.
It’s exciting, liberating, challenging and frightening too.
There are 57 million blogs and the number increases by 100,000 every single day.
Over 125 million people have created their own MySpace page – and 250,000 new people do so each week.
This is not quite virtual democracy, uniting the world. The majority of the world’s inhabitants do not have access to global communications. In 2006 only 57% of UK households had access to the internet. The other point is the impact by which using this medium has on the political process. Organising could not be easier – just start a facebook group, send some chain e mails around. Contacting elected representatives is as easy as a few key strokes. You can write a blog, with no one to edit your content. Political parties are encouraging people to target blogs with comments.
I can see where this is heading. Regime change by blogging, and commenting. It could even be used to encourage dissent, rather than by supplying money or arms, by positive comments to a blogger to keep on undermining a government with their criticism. Or creating blog accounts to coordinate rumour mills in the digital internet age to shape events in the real world through cyberspace. Blogs written by covert agents of the state to influence people both foreign and domestic.
On the one hand a force for good, but also one for conspiracy. Just another medium for the propaganda war. The real significance of what the Conservative Party is doing is making existing activists feel more motivated to take part, and garnering publicity. They can perhaps dream of the website contributing to party funds the way it did for Obama. Cameron lacks the inspiring qualities that make people jump up from their seats and extend their wallets to be part of a movement for change.
Are we too cynical to think change is ever going to happen, or do we just lack a charismatic leader that could inspire us that way here in the UK? Well we did have such a politician that knew how to raise the roof, and in many ways it made me a political activist because I could see the things that needed change. That was Tony Blair, and in many ways I think it is easy for us to forget how popular he was when first elected as we remember him now for Iraq and unfounded public loyalty to George Bush defending the indefensible.
In a world full of bloggers you will not please them all, but you will get widespread opinion out there. But the person busy typing away is still a human being. One motivated to get their message across to people, or vain enough to think people will read and take notice of what is said. The internet offers new opportunities – it does not however change the nature of the political animal.
If politics has taught us anything though, it is that governments have their own agendas often shaped by things beyond the public’s control. It is not so much us the people that influence policy as legitimise a group to formulate and enact them on our behalf. We have the power of veto by removing a government for a particular bad policy. However, with George W Bush and Tony Blair reelected after sending troops to Iraq and the incompetence and human rights violations that entailed I do not have the confidence in the electorate being relied on to exercise that veto. But if it is business as usual when you change the faces then what real power do you have?
If you want change it is not enough to just change the people in office:
‘Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people.’ (Napoleon)
It is often said that power ultimately rests with the citizen if only we exercised it. Perhaps that is where blogging may work in communicating ideas. The change it gives birth too though may be as effective as writing down your frustrations and grievances in a notebook which you keep under your pillow. It makes you feel better having got it off your chest – but are you actually using it as a call to action on others, to inspire others to change the universe?
It is a battle of ideas, with cynicism being the barricade on the way to progress. But that cynicism is not just other people, but what we can have ourselves. Because sometimes we may think even a small thing will not make the difference, and that a blog is no more an instrument for change then a notebook under a pillow. Yet we can do more then dream on them:
Each time a person stands up for an ideal,
or acts to improve the lot of others…
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope,
and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. (Robert Kennedy)
I suppose the real secret if you can inspire people is not to get killed for doing it.
In Britain we are not faced with an immediate election contest. Rather with the death by a thousand cuts of Gordon Brown, where rumours keep circulating of Labour MPs wanting him to either change his leadership or step down. The latest being MPs seeking nomination papers to change the Labour leader prior to the party conference.
Not quite up there the Obama/McCain campaign. This is whispers and murmurs, and stories recycling themselves into fresh intrigues in dark corridors. Discipline seems lacking (not surprising when your own whips turn against you) as backbench MPs challenge on issues ranging from stamp duty on houses, fuel allowance payments and the recent demands for a windfall tax on energy companies. On these issues it seems that Number Ten is being led rather than providing the leadership – and MPs feel like Brown has his hand on the tiler of the Titanic.
Once he was thought as a sure winner for Labour – much was made at the last General Election that he would succeed Blair. There was even suggestions that Blair would only win with Brown. Now, it seems the only person that would do better than Brown is Blair (though as he is not an MP highly unlikely). Though that poll reflects that anyone replacing Brown would not shift party fortunes with the iceberg of a Cameron revived Conservative Party taking over. The once thought unsinkable Brown appears very vulnerable.
If some MPs believe that Labour will be out of government then part of their behaviour which seems disloyal and undermining can be seen as trying to influence the government to have a radical socialist agenda which would be impossible under a Conservative Government. Another way of looking at it is that with the election lost, lets do what grass root activists would like. They may even hope that such policies may genuinely improve opinion polls, or at least save their seats at the next election.
Where Brown went wrong was to give the impression he would call a General Election soon after being nominated unopposed to the Labour leadership – to receive a symbolic mandate from the people (which constitutionally comes from his MPs). In many ways appearing chicken by not calling it having allowed the rumours for several months made him loose the bounce he had when becoming Prime Minister.
How can Gordon improve things? He needs to rally the troops – if he cannot unite the party on common
ground, or inspire natural supporters h will continue to look weak. He has to look like he is in charge of the agenda. Writing and editing books while Prime Minister, despite his work ethic, is not helping his image. He is not a natural orator (unlike Tony Blair) – but he needs to play to his strength as a man of details who knows what is going on, and leadership that he knows what he is doing rather then reacting to events.
Above all he has to realise that he has to earn the right to be Prime Minister every moment. He had no natural right to it as a successor to Tony Blair. Nor have Labour MPs been elected with him as their leader. The moment to call an early election is over. Right now the government has to show that when it comes to economic turmoil their social justice agenda and economic competence of the past means they are treid and tested, and with current policies a new Conservative Government lacking experience is not worth the risk.
It is a tall order. Perhaps Gordon Brown does not want to take the risks involved, or even believe that he can do this. In answer he has to fake it till he makes it. Past glories as Chancellor, bringing in the minimum wage and independence are not enough now with Northern Rock going bankrupt and a faltering economy.
As the whispers show, even his own MPs are beginning to voice that he cannot make the grade. The media, lacking anything of real significance and lusting after the US election campaign, go for intrigue and machinations. Where survival depends on Turkey’s not voting for Christmas, Brown needs to hush his critics, or do what John Major did with a put up or shut up challenge which showed balls inviting a leadership challenge after winning a General Election – which he won.
The fact that I am suggesting that John Major showed better leadership qualities than Gordon Brown is in itself a testament to the hole Gordon Brown has dug himself in. He needs to climb out, and he needs to reassert his leadership. The fact that no one else can improve the fortunes of the party gives him the cover to be bold. Otherwise the cuts will at some point draw enough blood to bring him down.
I want to ride my bicycle – for me it is either that or public transport to get from A to B, and when flying over the Atlantic for about 5,000 miles I considered that my 4 mile round trip to work on my bike has at least helped reduce the carbon foot print. In Britain David Cameron, the Conservative leader, did make a big thing about cycling to work – the effect was diminished when it was revealed that a car was behind him with all his belongings (including shoes). Now a tabloid reporter filmed him cycling up one way streets and through a red light. Clive James satirises the whole thing rather well, and his article below is re posted from here. Enjoy!:
David Cameron may be fond of his bike but what will be its impact on his political credibility?
I’m glad I’ve had a whole week to consider the questions raised by an inspired tabloid sting that caught Conservative Leader David Cameron, on his way to work, cycling the wrong way up a one way street as well as ignoring at least one red light.
There is so much involved in this case that an instantaneous response would have been useless.
Personal morality versus official responsibility, credibility versus hypocrisy, physical fulfilment versus the duty to reduce carbon emissions: all these things were in play from the moment that the redtop reporter got on his bike and started trailing Mr Cameron in the direction of Westminster, with the impending-chase music from Bullitt playing ominously on the soundtrack.
For the reporter, it was no easy job. He had a video camera, so he had to ride one-handed. He had to follow Mr Cameron through a red light and along a one way street, going the wrong way.
At any moment Mr Cameron might have stood on the pedals, calves globular, and streaked out of sight like a sprinter in the last hundred metres of the Tour de France.
The reporter also had to be careful not to get run over by the car that might be following Mr Cameron on these cycling expeditions because there is no provision on the leader of the opposition’s bicycle for his briefcase, official boxes, sandwiches and, apparently, shoes.
Tory Central Office insists that no such car has followed the cycling Mr Cameron for some time now, but you never know when it might appear again.
I recognised the bit about the shoes. Though I myself am no longer a cyclist, at least once a week I walk all the way to my office from the railway station, cushioning my feet with an old pair of trainers.
Behind me, at a respectful distance, comes a vintage straight-8 Daimler shovelling the white smoke of burning oil as my driver, a retired Ghurka who was mistakenly allowed into the country by immigration officials under the impression that he was a terrorist, struggles with the slipping clutch. Beside him, on the front passenger seat, are my shoes.
I always suspected that there was something wrong with this picture and now that I’ve read all the documents pertaining to the Cameron cycling case I can finally see what it is.
From the viewpoint of credibility, one is vulnerable if one pretends to be a self-sufficient cyclist when there are actually two of one, the other being the driver at the wheel of the car carrying one’s stuff.
But I can’t think of any other rules I break as I walk to work. I don’t even jaywalk, for fear of being knocked down by some high-echelon politician cycling the wrong way down the street after ignoring a red light.
It’s the flagrant flouting of the rules of the road that has got Mr Cameron into trouble. His apologies have been touching, if not entirely convincing.
“I have obviously made mistakes on this occasion and I am sorry.” Notice how he leaves the way open for the inference that there might have been countless other occasions on which he has not made mistakes.
Obviously he realises he has bared his flank to suggestions that his present behaviour on the road when in charge of a bicycle might throw doubts on his future behaviour in 10 Downing Street when in charge of the country.
Here, I think he and his advisors might take courage from historical precedent.
One of the things that made Queen Elizabeth I so great a ruler was that she regularly cycled to work. Her skill at riding a bicycle was kept a secret from her adoring public by the fact that her voluminous crinoline concealed the bicycle.
To the common people, she seemed to be skimming along the ground at remarkable speed with her hands in her pockets and almost no expenditure of effort, thereby enhancing her reputation for unearthly powers.
Another great bike rider was Louis XIV, who regularly cycled between romantic assignations with Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon.
At the peak of his cycling career he was able to get the time down to under ten minutes, so that either woman was able to convince herself that he had not been unduly detained by the other. His collection of bicycles was so extensive that he eventually built the Palace of Versailles to house them.
When Cardinal Mazarin borrowed one of the king’s bicycles without permission, he would have incurred the monarch’s wrath even if he had not crashed making a tight turn into the Tuileries, his cassock riddled with broken spokes.
Mr Cameron’s advisors should also draw his attention to the evidence provided by the comparative failure of heads of state and prominent politicians who did not cycle to work.
When it was suggested to Napoleon that he should ride a bicycle to the battle of Waterloo, he proudly refused, with disastrous results.
He travelled by heavy coach, turning up hot and bothered a crucial few minutes late to be faced with the spectacle of the Duke of Wellington already in position and fighting fit, the Duke having arrived at forty miles an hour on a Raleigh lightweight aluminium racing bicycle with a fully aerodynamic wheel-set and low spoke count.
In America, General Custer was proud of his seat on a horse but not at all pleased with his seat on a bicycle. He found it impossible to make a cross-cut swing of the sabre without slicing through the bicycle’s front tyre.
So at the battle of the Little Big Horn he galloped rather than cycled into action, to be hopelessly outmanoeuvred by chief Sitting Bull and half the Sioux nation all mounted on imported Suzuki trail bikes.
But back to reality, in which, we presume, Mr Cameron might want to go on riding his bike despite the dangers.
I know I did. Among the many dedicated bike riders at Sydney Technical High School none had a bike to match mine. It had all the kit.
It had the gear trigger positioned just under one of the brake handles so that I could change down in a flash when pounding my way up the hill on the far side of Kogarah Bay. It had the cheese-cutter saddle positioned high on its post so that I could steadily castrate myself while showing the maximum length of leg.
There were no lycra shorts in those days, civilization not yet having come to an end, but I rolled my ordinary shorts right up to give that bulging thigh effect that all true cyclists are convinced is so attractive, just as men whose heads rise from a purple lake of tattoos are convinced that their perfectly ordinary features have somehow been rendered more interesting.
Thus equipped and adorned, I cycled everywhere at blinding speed, my legs a blur as I wove in and out of traffic, diving dramatically past the driver’s cabin of the school bus as all aboard put their hands over their eyes.
A crash under a truck almost killed me and the sight of me in the casualty ward almost killed my mother, but nothing could stop me cycling for years on end, until the day I realised what was missing.
I couldn’t read while I rode. I tried it, but when the Kogarah police caught me reading a novel by Erle Stanley Gardner as I rode no-hands down Railway Parade I realised that the game was up, and ever since, for about half a century now, I have used public transport when I’m in the big city.
For someone who does what I do for a living, public transport is even better than a car.
You can’t legally read in a car unless somebody else is driving, and my Ghurka isn’t always available to drive the Daimler, because he’s down at the immigration office being told why having risked his life for Britain a few dozen times isn’t enough to earn him permanent residence or even a full pension.
Nix the car
So when I’m in London I ride the tube and the bus, and I imagine that Mr Cameron, too, is under pressure to forget about the bike.
He could answer that if he permanently nixed the car carrying his shoes and just rode the bike with his shoes on, he would be doing even less to damage the environment than if he rode on a bus, and far less than if he rode in a car. But he might find it hard to convince the Chinese of that.
When and if Mr Cameron becomes Prime Minister, he will be faced, as he travels by kayak across the globe from conference to conference, with platoons of Chinese gerontocrat Party bigwigs who all grew up riding bicycles but now wouldn’t be seen dead on a bicycle even though most of them, by our standards, should be dead already.
Of the more than a thousand million people in China, a high proportion rode bicycles until recently, but now they’d rather not. They would rather go by metro or by bus, or, better than that, by taxi, or even better than that, by car, preferably a car they own.
Nobody in the West is going to persuade China to find a way of developing its economy without consuming energy.
Even if we reduced our own emissions to zero, the saving wouldn’t amount to much beside whatever a few hundred million Chinese do next instead of riding bicycles.
The reason for Mr Cameron to ditch the bike is that he has things to do.
He’s been given a car so that he can work in it. Riding his bicycle to work, all he can do is think, and he’s already made it evident that in such circumstances he can’t think fast enough to figure out what a red light might mean if he goes through it with somebody taking pictures of him.
Tony would have made Cherie sit backwards on the pillion, looking out for spies.