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Whatever happened to coalition caution?

Mark Easton | 16:14 UK time, Wednesday, 11 August 2010

When power changes hands, the dynamics shift in subtle ways. For a time, we try to make the pieces fit into the existing frame, to analyse the new game as though it is being played by the old rules. But when events don't quite add up we are forced to reassess. I think we are in that period now, after almost 100 days of a new British government.

Cabinet meetingFew predicted the election result and its consequences, and the creation of the coalition was conducted to the noise of head-scratching pundits. A story-line was hurriedly developed to try and make sense of it all.

The tale was of a forced marriage doomed to fail, of profound philosophical differences eating away at the foundations of the governmental relationship.

The precarious nature of the arrangement would make radical policy impossible, it was assumed, an administration paralysed by the fear that any dramatic movement might bring the whole edifice crashing down.

But it hasn't really happened like that. The accepted principles of adversarial and tribal British politics have not played out in the way many had anticipated. There may well be cold shoulders and hot tempers within the coalition, inevitable tensions and disagreement, but there has been little to suggest the kind of internecine warfare that existed within New Labour from the moment it entered Downing Street.

As for the argument that consensus politics would translate as cautious politics, well, the first three months suggest the opposite. When people read the claim in the coalition's programme for government that it had "the potential for era-changing, convention-challenging, radical reform", the response from many was "yeah, yeah, yeah..."

But there can be no question that the wind has changed in Whitehall, driven by economic necessity perhaps, but around some departmental corners the squalls have an unexpected freshness and bite.

PrisonFew predicted the kind of major reform emerging from Richmond House, the Department of Health, signalling a rebalancing of power in the NHS in England. The noises coming from the Ministry of Justice suggest a philosophical rethink on the nature of punishment and rehabilitation.

The Department for Education appears unflinching in its resolve to push through significant change to England's state school system. The Home Office hints at a change of direction with a consultation on getting rid of Asbos and a determination to introduce elected police commissioners in England and Wales. Plans for electoral and constitutional reform are hardly uncontroversial either.

All of this as the machinery of government negotiates huge and deeply unpopular cuts to public spending.

This is a bold (critics will say reckless) government, not timid, and the narrative for the coalition needs urgently to be updated. If energies are focused looking for tiny cracks in the ship's hull, passengers and crew are not in position to shout "iceberg!" or "land ahoy!" as required.

It is far too early to know whether it can deliver, but almost without being noticed, the coalition has embarked on what Francis Maude can reasonably claim to be the most radical programme of any new government for 30 years. We would all benefit from careful scrutiny of the published policy plans as the detail emerges, not allowing our concentration to be broken by mesmerising whispers of backroom plots.

The combination of coalition and financial crisis has, curiously, given David Cameron's government more, not less, room to be radical. The administration knows it will be deeply unpopular anyway as the cuts bite and so there is not so much to lose in being audacious in other areas.

Coalition politics seems to strengthen the hands of departments which, within our political system, already enjoy more autonomy than their counterparts in other countries. It is as if, apart from the odd expletive from Andy Coulson, No 10 is content to practice the kind of hands-off decentralisation within Whitehall that the Conservative manifesto preached for the country more generally.

What effort there is from the centre to control the machine is being channelled through the Treasury as ministers negotiate their budgets ahead of the autumn statement.

The risk, as others have pointed out, is that the government opens up too many fronts and loses control. That may indeed sum up the new political narrative for the autumn - a government over-excited by the possibilities of power is in danger of exhausting itself before the real challenge of public-sector cuts has even begun.

But then again, perhaps there'll be another unexpected twist to the story-line?

Comments

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  • 1. At 5:15pm on 11 Aug 2010, Brian_NE37 wrote:

    Well done Mark. At last a journo who has the sense to recognise the way things actually are and the honesty to say it. It's just a pity there are so many who still have their their heads buried in the sand (probably literally at this time of year!)

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  • 2. At 6:46pm on 11 Aug 2010, Malcolm Parker wrote:

    I've no idea why you thought internecine warfare would be present when all Nick Clegg wanted was a scent of power. A scent of power for which he was prepared to disreguard almost everything the LibDems stood for prior to this election. This is a bold Government undoubtably, but because the Labour party is being reformed and the majority of the press are on the side of Cameron, don't be misled into thinking that the wholesale scrapping of anything and everything of value is going through without being noticed. The BBC seems to have swallowed the "no alternative to cuts" message without question, but this is not how it HAS to be and economic reports show how completely inefectual this major surgery has so far been. The plummeting support for the LibDems should be seen for what it is, a recognition by LibDem supporters that this is a Conservative government in everything but name and one they would be well advised to distance themselves from sooner rather than later.

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  • 3. At 8:26pm on 11 Aug 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    What happened to Coalition caution?
    Was the Coalition supposed to be cautious?
    After 100 days, The Coalition Government is all over the place - Welfare, housing, the NHS, schools, the police – all (and maybe some I missed) preparing for major reform.
    Sometimes, I find myself in a state of shock as I watch the demolition of state institutions that were years in the making under Labour. Everything about The Coalition is quick, maybe too quick, too upsetting, too destructive. The public seems rather apathetic, as though change for change's sake is the name of this new game.
    What about the risk?
    The most evident is financial. What does it mean that Mr. Osborne is removing £40bn (€30.2bn) from public spending? Does it, will it mean, double-dip recession? Who knows the answer?
    Mr Cameron, with his community self-help program, lacks clarity on what exactly is his intention. Desire for "the Big Society" does not contain too many little detailed steps leading to reality.
    Personally, the inconsistencies are driving me 'round the bend.
    Iain Duncan Smith, Welfare Minister, promises to make work pay; so why are officials evicting council tenants who have improved their working circumstances. In its talk of transforming welfare, the biggest ever overhaul of the NHS and all these new arrangements, the Coalition Government seems to be too involved everywhere at the same time.
    As austerity becomes real, the public will need to know the pangs are being shared. Most Conservative ministers don't find their comfort level in speaking about social justice; so, Mr. Cameron must work very hard to underline his one-nation suffering in the same stew-pot philosophy.
    And now, AND NOW, the Coalition is talking about
    - the 2012 London Olympics and
    - the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
    Well, it's always nice to have something to look forward to...But accountability, professionalism, pragmatism - it's these things that the public voters expected from the Coalition. They may delivering; they're just running around so fast I can't keep track of them, or maybe in running around they simply give the appearance of delivering.

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  • 4. At 9:16pm on 11 Aug 2010, andy pennington wrote:

    "Few predicted the election result" ?????????really ?

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  • 5. At 06:53am on 12 Aug 2010, Tara wrote:

    Malcolm Parker

    "A scent of power for which he was prepared to disreguard almost everything the LibDems stood for prior to this election."

    I would disagree with that because I really believe that the presence of the LibDems have encouraged the more socially reforming Tories to come out of the fold. Especially with criminal justice reform, an area, I'm particularly interested. Prior to the election, David Cameron was endorsing prison ships and increasing prison capacity. But in coalition politics they are endorsing the Lib Dem policies of greater use of community sentences, reducing the use of short term sentences and real work in prison.

    This has meant the government has received plaudits from traditionally 'liberal' organisations like the Howard League for Penal Reform, http://www.howardleague.org/francescrookblog/three-good-things

    I would say that, generally, coalition politics is bringing out the best of both parties.

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  • 6. At 09:44am on 12 Aug 2010, Usually-Right wrote:

    New politics, ha ha.

    This is the old politics of roll back the state, try and undo all the reductions in crime, improved health outcomes, educational outcomes etc of the poor plebs created by a progressive government back to a base point.

    This is Conservatism plain and simple, the Liberals are half Tory anyway and the other half are going to have a terrible realisation if they lose a vote on electoral reform that all they have achieved is another generation of lost opportunity and increased costs for the next progressive govt. to try and rebuild the institutions that ensure fairness, re-distribution of wealth, protection of people in all communities, offer educational opportunities in all communities etc.

    Conservatism is the name of the game, the need to go further and faster with budget cuts versus Labours plans is just dogma and a belief the state should be smaller regardless of economic or moral reality. The UK is not a Greece had very little prospect of being so given a whole set of reasons mainly:

    Long dated nature of govt. debt (roughly double that of rest of Eurozone or 15yr versus 7yrs repayment/roll-over period)

    Presently low interest rates or roughly between a tenth of the interest rate charged to the Greeks and only marginally higher than the German bond considered to be one of the safest places in the world.

    Relatively low total debt to GDP at beginning of Crisis due to either paying back of debt under Labour or keeping the net public sector borrowing at roughly half the rate of the last Tory govt. And relatively moderate total debt to GDP projections when compared with other Eurozone or OECD members.

    For these reasons the un-scrutinised policies of this coalition forced through our democracy, the narrative that society and economy of Britain is broken and broken by the Labour Government must be challenged and reality be brought in and exposure of this direction of Govt for what it is: A Conservative roll back of the state, people have short memories of why Labour where voted in and the previous Thatcher/Major Govt. became so despised.

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  • 7. At 11:12am on 12 Aug 2010, HardWorkingHobbes wrote:

    I'm not a Labour fan but my biggest gripe with their time in power was that they had such a huge majority (for the first 2 terms) that they could have done anything in power, they could have brought in a huge sweeping socialist reform, it might have worked it might not but they could have tried.
    Instead they brought out all this wishy-washy policies where everything seemed like a compramise and where no-one had the courage to go all the way, the result I feel was a failure to such an extent that true socialism will not return to British politics for a generation.

    While the Tories don't have the majority on their own, with the coalition, the lack of any Labour leadership and the huge financial debt to blame this is their chance to establish a capitalist system of government.
    If they started slowly and the economy or the opposition improved then they might have to restrict their plans in the future and would end up with another set of compramise half-baked politics.
    They need to go in hard and fast or else it will be as big a waste as the Labour government.

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  • 8. At 12:31pm on 12 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    2. At 6:46pm on 11 Aug 2010, Malcolm Parker wrote:
    The BBC seems to have swallowed the "no alternative to cuts" message without question, but this is not how it HAS to be and economic reports show how completely inefectual this major surgery has so far been.

    Malcolm, I don't think you can seriously say the reporter or the BBC has "swallowed the no alternative to cuts message".

    Given that the BBC is likely to face a big reduction in its funding and a possible total re-appraisal of its public value as part of the next TV licensing review, I think it is more likely that the opposite is true.

    Try to look at this report as someone just giving their assessment of what they think is happening currently. You may not agree with him, you clearly don't like it, but it doesn't make him gullible or naive.

    And maybe, just maybe, he could right in what he is saying?

    Life's like that sometimes. We can sometimes be convinced we are right about something and yet be 100% wrong at the same time.

    Only time will tell on this one.




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  • 9. At 3:00pm on 12 Aug 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    okays this country is in a mess I woke up today to find that Im being done for benift fraud. for employment... So much for big sociaty. do voluntry work and get branded a criminal for it. Shambles...

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  • 10. At 4:31pm on 12 Aug 2010, stanilic wrote:

    How long is it going to take commentators to stop using the irrationality of the New Labour government as if that was the norm for all government? I appreciate that New Labour went out of its way to court the media but it seems you collectively swallowed more than its ridiculous message.

    The simple truth that what went on when New Labour was in office but not in charge, can only be seen as a nightmare that broke the Civil Service, sold the Constitution, got involved in foreign aggression which it then failed to support and finally brought about an economic catastrophe of truly biblical proportions that will linger for generations.

    The coalition government is having to start from the premiss that the government not only has little money, it is in all practical terms bankrupt. This does rather constrain their approach. This means that a lot must be achieved but with minimum financial input. This is the direct reverse of New Labour which achieved very little but with maximum financial input.

    So there is a rebalancing of power in progress. This may not be what the coalition would prefer but it is inevitable. Every modern theory of government that existed to date is now defunct. This is a new game.

    Change is coming and the wise bend with the wind.

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  • 11. At 5:00pm on 12 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    8. At 12:31pm on 12 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote
    Try to look at this report as someone just giving their assessment of what they think is happening currently. You may not agree with him, you clearly don't like it, but it doesn't make him gullible or naive.

    And maybe, just maybe, he could right in what he is saying?

    ======================================================================

    The opposite could well be quoted, maybe, just maybe he could be wrong in what he is saying?


    As this country has relentlessly moved to righ wing politics for over thirty years, at what point do we then compare to some extreme right wing countries?
    some suggest that telephone numbers should be screened during television programes so we can tell on benefit fraud, or if we see something out of the ordinary, this could be terrorist's even though we have no real proof, was this not how the gestapo operated.

    Those living in council houses Mr. Cameron suggests should only have tenure for limited a time, this is incredibly cruel.

    The government now tell us that the benefit system has to change to get people off benefit into work, just where is the work to be found? When the government cuts start to come to fruition then unemployment will rise even higher.

    I have no doubt that the interesting time to come for the Lib Dems will be the next time elections come along, for example in Scotland in May next year, it will be good to see how well the Lib Dems do then just as many of the government cuts are starting to bite, will the Lib Dems accept their responsibilty or just blame the SNP, perhaps they will blame their ex partners the labour party. No one doubts the need for cuts, it is the necessity for imediate and severe cuts, which even the Lib Dems campaigned against that will perhaps swing voters of hypocracy.

    The tories at least were honest enough to say the would have swinging cuts even endangering a double dip recession.

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  • 12. At 5:20pm on 12 Aug 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Warning to everyone out there its a Crime to have personal health insurance and claim state benifits to top it up :(

    So the witch hunt has begun. I wonder if i was one of those featured on the news that showed unemployment fell by 54000 :)


    Anyways I found out what im charged with which is an error of the witch hunters to cross referance files so im having to refuse the caution and go straight to court which hopefully will cost the tax payer a lot of money..


    maybe im just paranoid but is someone out to get me o.0 :D

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  • 13. At 6:21pm on 12 Aug 2010, OpenRoads wrote:

    Welcome back, Mark.

    "We would all benefit from careful scrutiny of the published policy plans as the detail emerges, not allowing our concentration to be broken by mesmerising whispers of backroom plots."

    Wise words.

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  • 14. At 8:31pm on 12 Aug 2010, Charles Jurcich wrote:

    John Ellis,
    Wise move, and good luck. Remember, keep your powder dry (don't volunteer any information), and make them prove their case. They wont show you mercy, so show them none!

    Kind Regards

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  • 15. At 8:40pm on 12 Aug 2010, PaulRM wrote:

    Taking each of your (effectively) highlighted points of interest in the new government's policies, I beg to differ on the core philosophy, and originality of the thinking, that lies behind those announcements that have reached the publics ears thus far.

    1. The planned overhaul of the NHS is being imposed from above, and without any consultation of those who will bear the brunt of the new system - namely GPs. Further, the system that was put into place using PCTs as the core of patient planning & provision is working, and working well. In addition, whilst PCTs are public bodies that are theoretically publicly accountable, GP practices are self-employed businesses accountable, in reality, to nobody. What is worse, the demands of the new centrally imposed system will require the recruitment, in such practices, of specialist financial planners/managers to cope with the fundamental step change of responsibiities, thus imposing new levels of admin and responsibility that will, inevitably, distract GPs from their primary function, that of treating patients.

    2. There is no evidence that Ken Clarke has experienced a Damascene conversion from a retributive justice system to a more warm and fuzzy one that has at its core a philosophy of "hug a hoodie". Not a scrap of research or evidence has been presented by the MoJ to support the new position. What we have, in reality, is a cynical manipulation by that master of the "black arts", dear Ken, of the public into believing that this is what conservative ideology/philosophy is, and always was, about. Never mind our Ken served in a government that actively sought to reintroduce the death penalty, and in Michael Howard, someone who brought about the single greatest increase in the prison popultion in recent history. Smoke and mirrors anyone?

    3. The nice Mr Gove, in all his plaintive pleading for the ordinary family to have an opportunity to educate their children more effectively, fails to mention he is stealing money from the IT initiative to promote a piece of Tory misdirection. The true objective is to decouple education from the public sector and return us to a system that Dicken's would find familiar. Therein, we will find those with sufficient resources will continue to ensure the education of their offspring, and in turn their privileged future, will be maintained courtesy of the private sector. Meanwhile, everybody else will be scrabbling to find some form of education that will hopefully prevent their children from becoming McDonald's fodder.

    4. Doing away with ASBO's is supposed to empower us? If those responsible for monitoring individuals under such order would only do their job, and stop moaning, perhaps we would see more effective results and outcomes. Once again, we have a recipe for penny pinching and the state failing to take its responsibilities seriously. The whole woolly and muddled thinking behind this proposal is, it would seem, linked to that other brilliant wheeze, the big society. Instead of the police protecting the public, we should all rise up, both individually and severally, and tackle anti-social behaviour on our own. Quite how this will work, I am not sure. Will it involve neighbourhood patrols, and will members be allowed to "tool-up" to protect themselves from the miscreants they encounter? Who will set the rules of engagement? How long will it be before we have a Daily Mail headline raging against the death of a "have-a-go" pensioner killed whilst standing up to a thug. Or, worse still, the death of an alleged criminal at the hands of such a neighbourhood group, and the inevitable "will they, won't they prosecute". All the while, the true objective will be to cut costs by reducing police numbers.

    5. Changing the electoral system is one thing, but trying to slip in, through the backdoor, a complete re-definition of what constitutes a parliamentary constituency (designed to favour the conservatives) is nothing short of gerrymandering - something the Tories have form for - anybody remember Shirley Porter and Westminster City Council?

    Thus far, the pain of the Tories planned cuts have not begun to impact the country as a whole. More importantly, it has not affected the constituencies of those Tory backwoodsmen that still infest the "nasty party", so described by Thersa May after the Tories 1997 defeat. As Lord Heseltine pointed out during the coalition discussions in early May, such potent individuals still exist within his party, and will not be backward in coming forward if their they think their cherished hardline beliefs are not being adhered to.

    There has been scant evidence presented to justify the speed and severity of the cuts proposed by Mr Osbourne, and his claim that the OBR is independent and behind the governments proposals, is pure fiction. Worse still, and what I haven't seen anybody pick up on thus far, is the stated aim of this governement to return spending levels to those pre 1997. Do we really want to return to a time in our recent history when the NHS struggled to provide even basic medical care, where the education sytem was on its knees, and the public sector was demoralised and emasculated - if not actively vilified?

    What we hear from this governement is populist nonsense, with frequent attempts to stigmatise a small sub-section of society. Mrs Thatcher picked on the unions. Mr Cameron is picking on the those least able to defend themselves, those receiving welfare payments. The story goes, as it does with all demagogue's, that if we can only get rid of this or that bunch of wasters, all will be well and we will be delivered into a world of "milk and honey".

    It is a lie, it always is. What Mr Cameron conveniently forgets to mention is that the level and scale of errors in the administration of benefits far outweighs the scale of fraud. But nothing beats a good headline - the latest, unbelievably, involving the use of private companies to spy on, and report to, governement agencies on the spending habits of those on benefits. So much for reigning back the surveillance society.


    The purpose of this goverment's present propaganda serves one purpose, and one purpose only - to set the majority against the minority (however defined) and to deflect attention away from the activities of those controlling the levers of power, and their potential misuse.

    "No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin."
    Aneurin Bevan

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  • 16. At 8:58pm on 12 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    8. At 12:31pm on 12 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote
    Try to look at this report as someone just giving their assessment of what they think is happening currently. You may not agree with him, you clearly don't like it, but it doesn't make him gullible or naive.

    And maybe, just maybe, he could right in what he is saying?

    ======================================================================
    11. At 5:00pm on 12 Aug 2010, weredoomed wrote:

    The opposite could well be quoted, maybe, just maybe he could be wrong in what he is saying?

    Well isn't that self evident from my previous use of the word maybe?

    Only time will tell, what ever you or I may think. You could be wrong, Mark Easton could be wrong etc or could be right...

    At this stage it is all just opinion.

    I am sure you know you are right in what you are saying. And if that certainty makes you feel better, well, I am very happy for you.

    Best regards

    Jeff

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  • 17. At 09:46am on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    15. At 8:40pm on 12 Aug 2010, PaulRM wrote:

    "No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin."
    Aneurin Bevan

    ================================

    Hear, hear! This Govt will, over the next fews years, use whatever means possible to cling to power well after the next election. This is purely the start of things. There will be worse things than gerrymandering going on. I fear for the future of our so called Democracy with these ideological thugs in charge. Cameron seems very adept at preying on people's worst fears and prejudices. Sound bite politics, whilst in the background the really sinister stuff is being planned.

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  • 18. At 10:55am on 13 Aug 2010, Tara wrote:

    Fedupwith govmt -
    Cameron seems very adept at preying on people's worst fears and prejudices. Sound bite politics, whilst in the background the really sinister stuff is being planned.
    ----------------------------------------

    What? Like sanctioning an invasion by manipulating intelligence? Like eroding our civil liberties through ID cards? Like criminalising large swathes of the population by creating over 3000 new offences?

    Sorry, as far as I'm aware this already took place under New Labour. As far as I can tell, the coalition is trying to reverse this trend.

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  • 19. At 12:44pm on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    18. At 10:55am on 13 Aug 2010, Tara wrote:
    Fedupwith govmt -
    Cameron seems very adept at preying on people's worst fears and prejudices. Sound bite politics, whilst in the background the really sinister stuff is being planned.
    ----------------------------------------

    What? Like sanctioning an invasion by manipulating intelligence? Like eroding our civil liberties through ID cards? Like criminalising large swathes of the population by creating over 3000 new offences?

    Sorry, as far as I'm aware this already took place under New Labour. As far as I can tell, the coalition is trying to reverse this trend.

    =====================================================

    How are they trying to do this please. By the way I am no great lover of the previous administration.

    Which party supported the 'illegal' invasion. How many laws are the coalition going to wipe away? How many more are they going to create. They are already looking after their corporate friends e.g. Experion spying on benefit claimants (you talk of civil liberties), they have stopped the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters after a bit of cajoling from a Tory supporter who happens to own a rival company (although of course that had no bearing on the decision). They are already implementing policy that was never in their manifesto. The Tories have already changed the majority needed to win a vote of no confidence - very democratic. Just wait until they start on the boundary commission. Go figure!

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  • 20. At 12:52pm on 13 Aug 2010, Kieran wrote:

    Some interesting points. It is good to see some focus on actual policies rather than bleeting over poltical tensions without substance (we get it - many within both parties aren't happy, it will probably fall apart at some point, but they are obviously trying at the moment to make it work), and it is good to see the government is not afraid to try some sort of radical things.

    I mean, Mark is right - cuts were always going to be very unpopular (hence why none of them really addressed it before the election), whether they are Tory led or Labour led (which ones specific cuts plans would be worse for the economy being fairly irrelevant - they'd still be unpopular), so why not risk a little more.

    I cannot say all the Coalition plans are ones I approve of, but I still have hope enough positive things can be achieved. But they will need to be examined closely. The die hard within all parties supporters will never be satisfied (as the look at any comments section will indicate), but, given the chance, maybe we can get some good out of this alliance after all.
    -------------------
    Cameron seems very adept at preying on people's worst fears and prejudices. Sound bite politics, whilst in the background the really sinister stuff is being planned.
    ----------------------------------------

    What? Like sanctioning an invasion by manipulating intelligence? Like eroding our civil liberties through ID cards? Like criminalising large swathes of the population by creating over 3000 new offences?
    -----------------------
    Agreed. I've no doubt Cameron will, in the background, plan policies plenty will regard as sinister, while trotting out other stuff to deflect from it. But that is politics. The new politics is really just same old politics but confused because of the newness of a Westminster Coalition. Annoying certainly, but nothing new to get angry about

    On another note, I remain confused as to how Lib Dems compromising by backing some Tory policies supposedly constitutes a betrayal. They wanted to do other things, but lack a majority to do so. Therefore, they back some things they do not want in order to get some things they do want. They would have had to make identical 'betrayals' of some of their policies in order to work with Labour. Either working with other parties is a betrayal or it isn't. I don't like plenty of what they've compromised on, but when you have a choice between painful accessions and other, different, painful accessions, you have to prioritize. I remain convinced they will suffer for this Coalition, but hopefully not too badly.

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  • 21. At 1:00pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    17. At 09:46am on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:
    This Govt will, over the next fews years, use whatever means possible to cling to power well after the next election. This is purely the start of things. There will be worse things than gerrymandering going on. I fear for the future of our so called Democracy with these ideological thugs in charge.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    My suggestion to you is to write your worries down in a book and then, in 5 years time, if the UK has become a dictatorship led by the thugs you refer to, you can come back and tell everyone you were right.

    On the other hand, if you are wrong, I'm sure you will also come back and explain what went wrong with your analysis? Yes?



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  • 22. At 1:51pm on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    21. At 1:00pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:
    17. At 09:46am on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:
    This Govt will, over the next fews years, use whatever means possible to cling to power well after the next election. This is purely the start of things. There will be worse things than gerrymandering going on. I fear for the future of our so called Democracy with these ideological thugs in charge.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    My suggestion to you is to write your worries down in a book and then, in 5 years time, if the UK has become a dictatorship led by the thugs you refer to, you can come back and tell everyone you were right.

    On the other hand, if you are wrong, I'm sure you will also come back and explain what went wrong with your analysis? Yes?

    ==========================

    Ok. And your point is?

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  • 23. At 4:45pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    22. At 1:51pm on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:
    21. At 1:00pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:
    17. At 09:46am on 13 Aug 2010, FedupwithGovt wrote:
    This Govt will, over the next fews years, use whatever means possible to cling to power well after the next election. This is purely the start of things. There will be worse things than gerrymandering going on. I fear for the future of our so called Democracy with these ideological thugs in charge.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    My suggestion to you is to write your worries down in a book and then, in 5 years time, if the UK has become a dictatorship led by the thugs you refer to, you can come back and tell everyone you were right.

    On the other hand, if you are wrong, I'm sure you will also come back and explain what went wrong with your analysis? Yes?

    ==========================

    Ok. And your point is?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Well simply this. It is easy to make doom and gloom predictions that don't have to be accounted for afterwards. It is unfortunately part of our culture, - house price crash, mass death from swine flu and .... jackboots marching up Whitehall to name but a few. It all gets an airing but the positive side often gets side-lined.

    It would be great to get these doom-mongers to account for their forecasts later on. And maybe they would be a little less free with their negativity if they knew they would have to apologise for being 100% wrong at a later time.

    Just a thought.


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  • 24. At 6:02pm on 13 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    16. At 8:58pm on 12 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    Only time will tell, what ever you or I may think. You could be wrong, Mark Easton could be wrong etc or could be right...

    At this stage it is all just opinion.

    I am sure you know you are right in what you are saying. And if that certainty makes you feel better, well, I am very happy for you.

    Most of my contribution pointed to what the government had either implimented or wanted to impliment,I also pointed to this country moving to the right over the past thirty years or so.

    As to opinion for the future as thing pan out,this certainly is my opinion, that the Lib Dems will pay a heavy price at the polls, especially in the forthcomming Scottish elections, personally I care not for them or any other political party for that matter, however, I certainly do not feel better for any of this perhaps you do? I fear not for my future as my future will not extend as long as my grand children, whom I really care and fear for.
    I would be delighted to admit I am/was wrong if my grand children have a good or better lifestyle than I have had. Just as the fact, not opinion, that the gulf between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent of earners has widened continually over the past thirty years, I see nothing in the present government that will change this pattern in the future, this could cause all sorts of unrest in the future, this is of course my opinion, not only my opinion many others share my opinion and fear for the children of the future.

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  • 25. At 6:51pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    24. At 6:02pm on 13 Aug 2010, weredoomed wrote:I fear not for my future as my future will not extend as long as my grand children, whom I really care and fear for. I would be delighted to admit I am/was wrong if my grand children have a good or better lifestyle than I have had.

    Just as the fact, not opinion, that the gulf between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent of earners has widened continually over the past thirty years, I see nothing in the present government that will change this pattern in the future, this could cause all sorts of unrest in the future, this is of course my opinion, not only my opinion many others share my opinion and fear for the children of the future.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I don't think you need fear for your grand children if they have been loved and cared for. Money isn't everything provided they have enough to live. Happiness and love are far more important than rating them against the top 10% of earners.

    Let's stop blaming successive governments for our current position. We are all responsible for what happens in this country. Let's take responsiblity for what happens rather than acting like poor helpless victims.




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  • 26. At 8:51pm on 13 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    25. At 6:51pm on 13 Aug 2010, jefffromleeds wrote:

    Let's stop blaming successive governments for our current position. We are all responsible for what happens in this country. Let's take responsiblity for what happens rather than acting like poor helpless victims.

    So what then, No Government has any responsibility for the countries present predicament? No government can make or break a country?
    So no government has any responsibility for education, health care or police and justice, we have all to fend for ourselves, it is every one for themselves!

    Whatever happened to society, big or small? why should I pay taxes at all then? maybe even be like some billionaires and pay less tax than those on the minimum pay!

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  • 27. At 01:00am on 14 Aug 2010, john wrote:

    Of course Governments must take their share of the blame . For the last thirty years this country has effectively been asset stripped with Government assistance and blessing. To talk , as some do , of the Socialism of the last government is arrant nonsense . They made it quite clear in 1997 that Thatcherite policies would be continued . They have hidden under the banner of 'New Labour' - which is effectively Blue Labour - nothing could be further from concerned socialism ( apart from the Tories ) than Blair and Brown and the others of their government who were busy setting up nice earners for themselves - never mind the populace they don't matter. In the meantime the financial institutions have been given free rein to induce ' feel good ' by encouraging borrowing against an artificial yardstick - your home.. .So now in May this year we called the receivers in - this is just what they are and people will be downgraded to items on a balance sheet - some to be kept and some to be disposed of. I think it was Wedgewood-Benn who said that a large section of the electorate had been disenfranchised because they had no one who they could vote for - let's face it the choice in May was New 'Blue' Labour - Tories ( blue as ever ) - and Lib-Dems ; not exactly a stirring call to arms for a large number of electors - just look at how few really turned out . Some posts on other blogs from the young show a bitterness at the whole situation - no public assets , no jobs , low wages, no chance of a home and no real choice in elections . Continued cuts in society will bring about the environment for these dispossessed to start thinking about taking matters into their own hands - then the Tory dream of minimal government will have finally been realised.

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  • 28. At 03:06am on 14 Aug 2010, Testifier wrote:

    "By George! I think he's got it!"
    I think Jabber_jabber has hit it right on the head. 30 years of Thatcherite rule. New labour sold out most of it's supporters just to kick the tories out & get their own noses in the trough. They practiced most of the same thatcherite policies, prooving elitist. Now this lot have come in with an agenda that would make even Thatcher & Tebbit blush. IF we are really SO much in debt (& I'm very suspicious of that claim), what's the sense & justification for such SAVAGE & immediate cuts. They hit the poorest hardest, damage the really crucile services we all need (unless you're loaded of course-then you'll probably vote tory anyway)& they will cause very quickly massively more unemployment & hardship. Suicides will rise, as will family break ups(we are appalling as a society at dealing with that issue)& crime.
    It seems to me to be that what this goverment is doing is setting different sections of society at each others throats. This is very regressive. All the time big buisiness & money is presented with a labour pool increasingly willing to work for less & for lower terms & conditions. THAT is what "globalisation" is really about.
    I think people are each & every one precious. Nobody is "worthless" or a "loser". None of us are perfect. Our goverment would do well to avoid denegrating or villifying people, especially for cheap political gain- or indeed as a smokescreen to get their way.
    I am white-knuckled appalled at what this goverment is doing.

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  • 29. At 06:50am on 14 Aug 2010, Soul News wrote:

    But all the doom and gloom does get a bit wearing.

    Last year these blogs were full of people complaining about Gordon Brown. Within days of the election they were full of people complaining about Cameron. Everyone seems to always expect the worst, and almost pray for it so they can say "i told you so". And then people blame the government because the UK isn't great. How can it be great when everyone predicts doom and prays for it?

    I'm far from a conservative, and I do think that a lot of the problems we're facing now can be traced back to Thatcher's disposal of the working class. But, just as it was ridiculous to blame Brown alone for a global financial crisis, it seems to me to be ridiculous to already be totally anti everything Cameron suggests. Give the guy a chance!

    Those people who complain dramatically about everything will be ignored. Far better to accept that even parties you didn't vote for might have some good ideas, some that you don't agree with - but aren't the end of the world, and some that are terrible.
    Complain about them all and people will write off your opinion as biased or irrational - better to pick your battles and focus on the really important points. (Boy who cried wolf, and all that...)

    ---

    The simple fact is that the UK has gone through huge changes in the last 50 years, and many of them were totally out of the control of the UK government. The UK doesn't exist in a vacuum and sometimes governments have to play the hand they are dealt. We've lost almost all production and most working class jobs
    - we can complain about this and yearn for the good old days. We can try to protect them like France and lose all international competitiveness. Or we can do the best we can with this situation and try to come up with some alternatives.

    PS/ if you choose "weredoomed" or "hatethegovernment" as a user name, it's hard to take anything said seriously, as it shows a pre-determined viewpoint that's likely to just be spouting doom, gloom, hate and propoganda - rather than having an open-minded discussion.

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  • 30. At 10:46am on 14 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    28. At 03:06am on 14 Aug 2010, Testifier wrote:

    "I think people are each & every one precious. Nobody is "worthless" or a "loser". None of us are perfect. Our government would do well to avoid denegrating or villifying people, especially for cheap political gain- or indeed as a smokescreen to get their way.
    I am white-knuckled appalled at what this goverment is doing.

    I am sure that this view is very well intended but I think it has within it the seeds of national destruction. UK governments have a long history of supporting free trade (i.e. globalisation) not because they have had a suicidal streak, but because our national well-being has been crucially dependant on trade. Once you allow the message to get abroad that it really does not matter how little or much you contribute, you destroy the crucial incentive to work. In many ways I blame the Right for the mess we have got into with welfare. When I was at school about 50 years ago,we were taught that early attempts by French politicians to support the unemployed were laughed out of existence because all they could come up with were schemes to pay people to dig holes and then pay them to back-fill them. We too laughed. Yet the more I think about it, paying people to so nothing is even worse; this not least because it creates the ridiculous situation in which people think it justified to continue to live off the taxpayer because the margin - if any - gained from employment is too small to be "worth it". Obviously, giving people mindless work to do is far from satisfactory, but, speaking personally, if I had to chose between being paid for doing nothing or being paid to move several tons of sand from A to B using a shovel and wheel-barrow, knowing that tomorrow I would have to shift it from B to A, I am sure I would chose the latter. I say this for two reason; first for many the effects of sitting at home doing nothing are, literally, lethal i.e. the unemployed have a death rate very appreciably higher than those in employment, a gap far too large to be explained by differences in material circumstances. Second, even if the task has no larger objective, the conditioning effect of working would make me far more employable.

    Obviously, it would be far, far better to find the unemployed useful work and I have long favoured a scheme a Swiss agency has introduced into Cuba in which the unemployed young in particular are drafted into teams which, under skilled supervision, build houses specifically designed for such a workforce. If those so employed were part-paid in units of future ownership, their wages could be kept to the level of unemployment pay. None of this would be easy to set up, but the alternative of creating a vast number of people funded to do nothing creates an unsustainable cost burden that will destroy our chances of competing in the world economy. And if we fail there, bang go our hospitals, schools, welfare benefits and all.

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  • 31. At 1:06pm on 14 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    29. At 06:50am on 14 Aug 2010, soulgrind wrote:
    But all the doom and gloom does get a bit wearing.

    PS/ if you choose "weredoomed" or "hatethegovernment" as a user name, it's hard to take anything said seriously, as it shows a pre-determined viewpoint that's likely to just be spouting doom, gloom, hate and propoganda - rather than having an open-minded discussion.



    Actually I chose the the name weredoomed from private frazer from dads army well before the recent election, not because of any tory government! no matter how comical some in that government may be.

    Indeed are you equally vociforous about the doom and gloom of the governments own propaganda of the need for such extreme austerity?
    It is very difficult to have an open minded discussion as everyone brings their own prejudice and political viewpoint to the debate.

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  • 32. At 5:20pm on 14 Aug 2010, Jim Mortoza wrote:

    I am half English and Half Bengali, I much prefer the term Eurasian or mixed descent rather then half breed as I find the latter term offensive and derogatory. My parents both met here soon after the war when they both worked for a defence in the Royal Ordnance. My father was a Chemical Engineers and my mother worked as a design technician. When they married back in 1953 they had never thought that they would end up on the other side of the world but they did. My father was a civil servant working for the chemical corporation when I was born in Dacca in what is now Bangladesh in 1960. At that time my mother had my name entered on to her British passport and it was removed from it when she sent it for renewal in 1973. In fact all of our names were removed from her passport by the then British High Commission in Bangladesh stating that because we were not British that our names could not be placed on her passport! So when I was 16 I had to apply for a Bangladesh passport and as I was born there it was allowed and the British High Commission placed a “Certificate of Patriality” on it to show that I had a right to live freely and work in England.
    This is what the law said and still is valid to this day.
    “All those who are in this Act expressed to have the right of abode in the United Kingdom shall be free to live in, and to come and go into and from, the United Kingdom without let or hindrance except such as may be required under and in accordance with this Act to enable their right to be established or as may be otherwise lawfully imposed on any person.”
    When the Certificate of Patriality stamp was placed on my passport I remember being told that it would always be valid and that I could use it whenever I wanted to return to England. Just before my 18th birthday I began travelling and came to England where my older brother was since he was a 17 year old. By then of course he was 21. I then went on to America when I was 19 to start studying there in Utah but I always came back as my mothers family are all from England. Once I had settled down in 1988 I came back to live in England permanently as my affinity and cultural outlook has been more English then it has ever been Bengali.
    Over the years I have worked in IT as a developer and in 2007 at the age of 47 I had a heart attack. This is also the time frame when new regulations came out from the UKBA that I was not aware of that infringed on my right of abode. Apparently there had been a half Australian and half English lad who was caught in Afghanistan and was shipped to Guantanamo Bay. Both his parents were English so he also had a right to British citizenship and obviously also had the right of abode by virtue of his descent. According to my research he was granted a British passport in the morning and then it was taken away soon as the laws were hurriedly changed bring in draconian measures that could actually strip a person of their right of abode if the home secretary thought it was not conducive to the public good. There was much argument in Parliament about this and at that I was totally unaware of things as I was busy recovering from a heart attack and working for a consultancy involved in designing an IT system to track noise pollution and compensation for home owners for the BAA authorities for Heathrow airport. Between that and taking care of my heart I did not even once think that the circumstances of my life were going to ever change dramatically. New laws were brought in that effectively gagged me from even having a political point of view of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as it could be construed to be supporting or glorifying any of the acts of terrorism even though I am not even a believer of any faith either then a very secular view of the world. Apparently to even stand in elections in an opposition party like the Conservatives or Liberals could be seen as not good for the public by the Labour home secretary. Very quickly the Lords ask for guarantees that this would not happen but it was not watered down by much. So it transpired the age old views of mixed and divided loyalties once again surfaced from the age old Raj that children of mixed descent were not to be trusted!
    In November of 2009 I soon ran into problems. During this time I had let my passport expire on the assumption that eventually I would either naturalise or if the promises of the reforms actually materialised I could finally be a British citizen by descent something both my younger sisters had as a cut off date of February 07 1961 had been imposed which divided even my brothers in sisters into two groups. Those who were British and those who only had the right of abode. They could travel and work in Europe and I could not freely. However in England I was led to believe I had every single right that a British citizen had so never was too fussed.
    The new regulations that were passed by Liam Bryne the then junior minister allowed the UKBA to expire my existing right of abode and start charging a fee. At this time I was unemployed and simply could not afford the new fees being charged and so the great UKBA authorities through their telephone helpline gave our advise that if my certificate on my expired passport had expired they suggested falsely that so too had my right of abode. I have fought this and now at the point of bring a employment tribunal case against the agency who have directly discriminated against me and the UKBA has been responsible for indirectly doing so.
    I have been reading up on the law and found there are some inconsistencies in them. The certificate I have on my passport states it is valid for presentation at a United Kingdom port. The UKBA state that my rights have not expired but my ability to evidence this right has expired. This seems a strange attitude. The passport is the same its got my picture the certificate is an original one issued by Her Majesty's government and I have a new passport so surely it must prove that I am the same person who I claim to be and that even my expired certificate is valid to prove that I have a right of abode. I then looked at the regulations and the law and found that nothing in it said my rights had expired nor did it say that it was mandatory to have a new certificate and finally when I looked at the laws that prevent an illegal persons from working I found clearly that it did not apply to those who have a right of abode. What a paradox I seem to have entered here. All the laws say I am not subject to immigration control or permission by the immigration authorities but all their actions show that they have done just that.
    So I waited for January to come in and with it the new bill of 2009 that became law and that finally removed the February 07 1961 cut off date for me to claim British citizenship. I was soon disappointed to find out that this method had also been effectively blocked by the imposition of high fees (£540 at the time of my writing) and I unlike anyone else would have to undergo background checks into my character as well as attend a civil ceremony. I did not recall this ever happening to my two sisters and soon discovered had my father been British and my Mother Asian then I would have been an automatic citizen and no checks or fees would be required. Indeed I found this also to be true for those born after 1983.
    So if anybody thinks that all these actions have not discriminated against me and other persons like us then think again. The UKBA and members of its staff have contrived to use every method available to them to give those of us who were born to British mothers between 1948-1961 the hardest of times. Why ? Because of our age and because we are descended from the female line. Today I am still fighting this issue. Even immigrants who hold ILR a status that is subject to immigration control can evidence their on going right to work with an expired passport, but not apparently the children of British citizens who were born here and are of Anglo Saxon descent and of course as we are a pluralist society today of anyone who is a British citizen today.

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  • 33. At 5:53pm on 14 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    30. At 10:46am on 14 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    I find myself in agreement with some of what you say, but at the same time find myself alarmed at some of what you say.

    I agree we have always as a country wanted free trade and we need trade to survive, however do you really suggest that we must always compete on pay and conditions, for example there are many today working to supply Britons with goods for a dollar a day, there are children seven and eight working almost as slaves to supply goods for the british markets, this is not only wrong it is immoral. Should people be working in Britian today for a dollar a day? I know how to work for £5.80 an hour, some business would say the minimum wage is to high!

    I also would agree that to put teenagers on the spiral of unemployment is a total waste, instead of focusing just on education at universities, some money should be spent teaching youngsters a trade, your point of getting youngsters to build homes in my view is a good example, but should also be used in conjuction of training with qualifications to go on to be more employable as bricklayers, joiners, electricians etc.

    your point of pointless work moving things from A to B was done in the thatcher years called the YTS. To make any scheme work you must encourage and give a sense of purpose and value. Where as the YTS only denigrated, devalued and wasted the money spent, but it did massage the unemployment figures! Perhaps if Mrs. Thatcher took your advice we would still have a manufacturing sector instead of closing the supposed uneconomic industries, it was more economic to pay unemployment benefit than pay miners to mine coal, steel workers to produce steel, steel incidentally that was only uneconomic because of the high value of sterling.

    Adam Smith in his book the wealth of nations, came to see that capitalism has to be controlled whether nationally or internationally, this is more true today than ever before.

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  • 34. At 9:38pm on 14 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    33. At 5:53pm on 14 Aug 2010, weredoomed wrote:

    I think that we agree on the facts; we - and the rest of the western world - face an appalling situation. At school we used to sing the hymn in which there is the line "When Earth's proud empires fade away...". We then had the remnants of an empire but, for the life of me, I could not see what was going to stop us fading away. I still can't. We need free trade to survive but our standard of living represents an on cost that makes us uncompetitive. The trouble with steel and the mines was that the those working within them explicitly told the tax-payer that they expected to be at the top of the wages tree whilst still receiving the massive subsidies they needed to keep them going. That situation was totally unsustainable. So is the argument that it is better to subsidise work than unemployment. All you finish up with is people who think that productivity is unimportant because they are unsackable. The only real hope it seems to me is to get the message over that we are in a national fight for our lives and that in the Duke of Edinburgh's immortal words, everybody has to pull their finger out. Sitting back on welfare or working unproductively will no longer do. If you want a figure to think about, here is one I heard on the radio about 15 years ago. It came from some academics at Harvard. They then calculated that the old industrialised nations were then having to compete against about 90 million newly industrialised workers in what we now call the Bricks (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea etc). On their calculation, within in two generations the comparable figure would be 1.2 billion. We are now a good way through the first generation. No wonder things are starting to hurt.

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  • 35. At 09:02am on 15 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    34. At 9:38pm on 14 Aug 2010, Mike Waller


    You quote the steel industry, well the steel industry received less in subsidy than the bonuses paid by the banks that have been bailed out by unimaginable amounts of money. In particular Ravens Craig was one of the most productive plants not just in Britain or Europe but world wide, it’s product was in high demand, that was until government policy on the extraction of north sea oil forced the value of sterling higher, thus making steel from Raven Craig to expensive, nothing to do with high wages or workers demanding a job for life!

    Remember the tilting train, Britain was the world leader in this technology, we now buy from Italy, just because it did not work perfectly on it’s first trial run, nothing to do with workers wages or demands for conditions.

    I remember a company called Stonefield vehicles that developed a new four wheel drive vehicle, they asked for five million from government to help in development and production set up, this was denied as unaffordable, no similarity to Sheffield forge masters there then!

    When you look at the motor industry the major difference to Say Rover and Say Nissan, is in the attitude to investment and management, yes the trade unions reacted badly and in some cases suicidal, however, management was totally arrogant and incompetent

    I always find it amazing that the French can not only have nationalised industries that make a profit, so to do the Germans, in fact just look at the British utilities now owned an operated by nationalised French or German companies, British management are in many cases over paid over rated sadly. Just look at the greed of Bankers and our politicians expenses to look at a few.

    Yes many millions were poured into loss making nationalised industries, these sums pale into insignificance in comparison to the billions in subsidies to the banks and bankers recently, no other public sector worker has managed to secure pay and bonuses like those appropriated by the banks. You quote the Duke of Edinburgh, similarly David Cameron says, we are all in this together, except some seem in it more than others!

    I do agree that the country faces a huge problem in the emerging countries of the world, however the answer is not to lower expectation or paying slave wages, I ask again do you really suggest that people in this country should be paid a dollar a day, should children be working almost as slaves from seven and eight years old?

    I would repeat that a man much wiser than I Adam Smith, maintained that capitalism must be controlled, a totally free market will end in many tears and death!

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  • 36. At 12:09pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    35. At 09:02am on 15 Aug 2010, weredoomed wrote:

    I don't know what age you are but I lived through the period. Various governments poured billions into different companies from Upper Clyde shipbuilders to Leyland and very little good came out of it. The only positive example I can think of immediately is Ted Heath's saving Rolls Royce Areo-Engines after that fool Benn had pushed them into the disasterous RB211 deal. No doubt there were other viable horses they should have backed, but hindsight forgets all the hopeless old nags that would also have got money if more generous criteria were applied.
    As somebody who worked in British industry at the time, I am not convinced that I and my colleagues were as daft as you make out. What we usually found amazing was the lemming-like mentality of unionised labour. For example, the big steel plant which sat idle in Wales for 18 months because the workers wanted more money for operating it; the two polish ships that - with government subsidies - would have been built in the North-East had some demarcation rules been relaxed (they weren't). And, in my own case, asking a union convener was he not worried that the his actions might shut down the massive Courtaulds plant at which we both worked. "No", he said, "I would just go and get a job at Thorn's Colour Tubes". Needless to say, both plants are now long since closed.

    What I think is deeply worrying is that the UK was only ever in the industrial forefront when it was first. Once other countries started to get into the race we fell further and further behind. My feeling is that it has something to do with the quality of our workforce. We have some world beaters but, compared with Germany, to many people who struggle to make their way economically. Why this is so is very complex. It sounds crazy, but I think that the Normans have a lot to answer for. Their brutal destruction of Anglo-Saxon England and the imposition of a new elite created a deeply entrenched "them" and "us" mentality from which we still suffer. Ironically it was the mistaken belief that the UK ruling elite were so all-powerful that pressed hard enough they could meet virtually any wage demand, that pushed us into devastating wage-led inflation. [The union convener referred to above went on to assure me that "A company like Courtaulds would never open a plant it could not make money out of"]. I also now think that the "boring old fools" who used to bang on about "too much talk of rights, not enough about duties" probably had it right. Another problem, is the marked unwillingness of the English - myself included - to accept being told what to do. Wonderful in terms of maintaining a democracy; something of a problem when trying to compete economically.

    Regarding the bankers, it is idle rhetoric to bang on about the special treatment they got. I heard Alistair Darling on the radio yesterday talking about the banking crisis. He, I believe, was one of the great heroes of the hour. Yet he made it very clear that he had nothing but contempt for the mess the bankers had got us in. The trouble was, as he and any thinking individual knew, if they were allowed to collapse the whole world economy would go down. So that is why they had to be saved. That said, unlike British Steel, British Rail, Leyland etc. etc., it looks highly likely that we will get out money back, plus a reasonable profit.


    Sadly, all the above is historical lumber; salvation lies in dealing effectively with the here and now. And the only hope there is for people to except that it is no good relying on the government for money, they haven't got any. Nor is it wise to sit back and let others fund you; that isn't going to last forever. Nor is it sensible to hope for international regulation as per Adam Smith. Do you really suppose that countries like China are going to settle for a system which leaves our citizens so much more privileged than theirs?

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  • 37. At 4:21pm on 15 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    36. At 12:09pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller


    While I accept that there have been one or two billion of state subsidy to the motor industry in the midlands mainly, Trade unions activity there could only be described as suicidal, however, the unions had no say in the range of models, the out of date machinery, for example it would be a management decision to put a square steering wheel on a car!
    The UCS you allude to did not ask for, get, or need anything like billions, indeed during the union action many boats were launched, this in spite of a government that created the difficulty in the first place.
    On the 11th February 1971 Mr John Davies, author of the "lame duck" strategy and Secretary for Trade and Industry announced that Yarrows would be taken from the consortium and returned to the private sector and indicated that no more public money would be made available to UCS. Although UCS had made no request for further money at this stage the Minister's statement brought about a rush of creditors' claims and UCS was refused further credit. By June 1971 the company's cash flow ceased and the management requested a further government loan. On Friday June 11th UCS Chairman Anthony Hepper announced to a meeting of the trade unions that to survive the company's present cash crisis he had sought £6m from the government. The alternative was to petition for a provisional liquidator. The Glasgow Herald on Saturday 12th ran an article pointing out the dire consequences of the impending collapse of UCS and warning the government, "the economic and social cost - never mind the political cost - of allowing UCS to go to the wall could be vastly greater than £6mand Lord Rubens - did not inspire those at UCS with confidence.
    http://www.gcu.ac.uk/radicalglasgow/chapters/ucs_workin.html#Tory
    I to also remember shop steward conveners when told that the singer sewing machine plant in Clydebank being closed because they could not keep up with plants in Italy, in reply the convener said give us the computerised machinery the same as the Italians instead of our steam operated presses, then we will not match them, but beat them.

    £850bn: official cost of the bank bailout
    (and still RBS is demanding another £1.5bn in bonuses)
    By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
    Friday, 4 December 2009
    I personally can not imagine 850 billion pounds this may be idle rhetoric to you, I would repeat that nothing like this amount has ever been spent on supporting manufacturing industry. Indeed I would go further the bonuses paid to bankers from the beginning of the credit crises is more than that paid in state subsidies to industry.
    I would agree the bail out had to happen, the bonuses and early retirements did not. Lesser employees would have been sacked for gross incompetence. If we get our 850 billion back then the country will be in the black again, so why such extreme austerity? Not including profit of course.
    I can only suggest not being in any way an expert in the matter the historical class system and greed is to blame for much of the industrial unrest, just look over the past thirty years where the gap between top ten percent of earners and bottom ten percent of earners has grown year on year.

    Within your last paragraph I can only conclude we are heading toward a third world war eventually, if no form of international agreements can be arranged, the western world will not accept easily there loss of power!




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  • 38. At 4:51pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    37. At 4:21pm on 15 Aug 2010, weredoomed wrote:

    There were two major reasons why British companies failed to re-equip as fast as other countries did: 1. the "stop-go" policies of a series of governments made capital investment very risky. Staff could be laid off; a million pound investment just sat there gobbling up money. 2. In the context of 1960/70/80s industrial relations, capital investment turn Marxism on its head. When he spoke of "those who control the means of production" he meant the owners; with capital-intensive industries of the period, it became the workers. Any factory boss who tried to face down strike action soon had company accountants on his back saying that they would go bust because of the debts incurred to buy the plant in the first place.
    As to why we had so much "stop and go" my inclination is to think (a) that the sacred status then given to full-employment mean that governments were continually trying to stimulate the economy which led to repeated overheating; and (b) high interest rates were seen as the only way of supressing incessant wage demands.

    As for UCS, I remember reading a book about Fairfields, one of its precursor companies. In it it was claimed that when work-study engineers from other industries were brought in, many of the tradesmen were found to be only putting in about 2 hours effective work per shift. [Remember, this was the era in which it was alleged that it took 14 different trades to drill a hole]. The real tragedy was that people who had been habituated to such work practices found it virtually impossible to re-establish more usual working patterns.

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  • 39. At 8:36pm on 15 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    38. At 4:51pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote

    Remember, this was the era in which it was alleged that it took 14 different trades to drill a hole.

    This statement reminds me of the mythological deep fried mars bar from glasgow. Both in my view are folklore that in some minds have become fact!

    The real tragedy was that people who had been habituated to such work practices found it virtually impossible to re-establish more usual working patterns.

    This point could be more akin to the mass unemployment of the eighties, many were consigned to a life of benefits.

    Your point 1. I would agree with more or less. Your point 2. While there undoubtedly were major times of disruption through strikes unjustifiably, there were many areas of industry with relatively good records of production.
    A great many within senior management in the 1960/70 were still from the old school tie, not always the best for the job. How many times both past and present have we seen senior management taking large pay rises or bonuses, while telling those on the shop floor that pay has to be restrained. Not all strikes were wrong or just about pay rises, for example was it right that women doing exactly the same job as men were paid almost half that of men. Negotiation failed at Ford they went on strike for equal pay.

    You may think there is something wrong in the British peoples mentality, I believe the British people generally are every bit as good workers as the French, Germans etc. given a similar envirionment. Just look at again Honda, Toyota or Nissan today.
    Again I would remind you of Ravenscraig where the workers were among the most productive in the world making a good quality product that the world wanted, not there fault that government policy made the product uncompetitive by the rise in sterling.
    Instead of them and us, unions or workers committees and managements should be able to work together, but as recently was shown when a billionaire employer boasted on panorama that he paid less tax than the cleaner in his office on minimum pay, this can only foster mistrust. We still I would remind you have over the past thirty years seen the gulf between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent of earners grow year on year. While you point to incessant pay demands, and tell me of china, I ask again do you suggest that some should work for a dollar a day and we should we be making seven and eight year olds work in sweatshops?
    I believe the German system of having employee representation on boards to be a sensible system.
    I believe that the trade unions made a major error of judgement in not accepting the white paper in place of strife under Barbara Castle.

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  • 40. At 10:52pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    When you speak of the pound being too high I am minded of the fact that when I first went to Germany in 1959 I think that we got about 11 marks to the £1. I cannot recall the precise exchange rate when the Euro came in but I think it was in the range of 2 to 3 marks to the £1. So even periods in which the pound was said to be too high, it was only high in relations to a fairly continuous process of weakening. For a very long period we were attempting to devalue ourselves out of trouble, much of which was self-created.

    As to whether people people should work for a dollar a day, it really isn't my call. My stance is simply that of pointing out that there is an express coming down the line and we are simply sitting on the track. Sadly, my reading of the past does not give me much hope of our shaping up sufficiently to meet the challenge. Your insistence that certain things simply cannot be, puts me in mind of a tragic case in which a German-Jewish family in the mid 1930s abandoned plans to immigrate because mother insisted "we cannot leave, this is our home". It cost them their lives. Sometimes, to find a solution or a least worst option, you have to think very seriously about what may happen. Banging on about what might have been or what is simply not acceptable does not help.

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  • 41. At 10:37pm on 16 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    40. At 10:52pm on 15 Aug 2010, Mike Waller

    You fail to consider that the mark was still struggling from being totally worthless at the end of the war to that of a growing economy hence the fall in value of the pound to the Mark.

    The main time of devaluation certainly in my lifetime was that of Harold Wilsons tenure, this devaluation was not an attempt to devalue ourselves out of trouble, indeed the government did not want to devalue, but was forced to devalue by Lyndon Johnston. Had the Wilson government given into the Americans then the Americans would have supported Sterling, but Wilson refused to send troops to Viet Nam so the Americans refused to back sterling, Wilson was forced to devalue! Wilson was right in my view to refuse Britain to be involved in Viet Nam.

    I would agree that this country is facing major international competition, with many hurdles ahead, however, as you raise the 1930’s, I to will give a metaphor for your consideration, in 1940 when we were not the junior partner as David Cameron got so wrong, no one gave Britain any real chance of survival against the Nazi onslaught, on this commemorative dates of VJ day and that of the peak of the battle of Britain, I prefer the attitude of Winston Churchill, that not only could the Nation survive, but that we will succeed as a Nation, this of course really depends on the efforts not only of those on middle or low incomes giving a little, but those that are on high or wealthy incomes giving their share as well! Just as the Country came together then, I believe we can do an equivalent again!
    This is not hoping for what might have been, but hoping that if, and it is a big if, we can again all work together rich and poor then this Nation will face the future well, if David Cameron can persuade all, that we are all in this together, the poor have little to give in comparison to the rich, so far the top have not pulled their weight. Again I would remind you of the billionaire recently on panorama that boasted he paid less in tax than his office cleaner on minimum pay.

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  • 42. At 12:02pm on 17 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    I note that with all your explanations for the UK's post-war difficulties, it is always somebody else's fault, this time LBJ. As I recall it, there was a major run on the pound because the international money markets feared, rightly, that Labour would not be able to get on top of our then chronic industrial relations and low productivity. That was the period in which the UK was starting to wilt as Japan and Germany came back on stream. What the US was unwilling to do was throw its money away. Far from wishing to destroy the UK economy, the US was very unhappy when the UK announced that, for economic reasons, we would no longer be able to operate east of Suez. In fact, the Vietnam War gave a major stimulus to those economies able to bring attractive goods to the US market. So much of the US economy was being redirected towards to war, there was ample scope for good foreign consumer imports.

    As to WW2, I am as proud as anyone about the period in which we stood alone, but as for winning the war, forget it. Three things stopped the German invasion: the RAF, the sheer scale of the Royal Navy and the English Channel. None of these seem to me to have much relevance to our future economic survival. Victory turned on Hitler's attacking Russia and his extreme folly in declaring war on the USA. Again not factors which seem to me to have much relevance to our present difficulties.

    Far more relevant are a couple of snippets I pick up on the radio this morning. First, an economist said that whilst the UK paid much the same as anybody else for commodities, we usually suffered from higher inflation because of higher service charges. [No doubt greedy bankers are to be included in that, but quite what you can do about it has defeated abler minds than yours and mine. Banking is a truly global business and although there has to be one major centre in this time-zone, upset them enough and our bankers are quite capable of decamping to Frankfurt or Paris. And just in case you are tempted to say "Good riddance", it is worth pointing out that if the South-East could in some way detach itself from the UK, it would be well within the top ten richest countries in the world and the rest of the UK would be well and truly in the soup.] My second snippet concerns the settlement of the BAA strike. Utilities were amongst the high cost services the economist referred to. Clearly airports are utilities and those controlled by the BAA are virtual monopolies in some major areas. So, as hundreds of thousands of workers face job loss rather than pay cuts, those employed by BAA have used their undoubted muscle to ensure that the huge adjustments that we must make to cope with the new world order are not going to have any effect on them. 'Twas ever thus!

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  • 43. At 7:26pm on 17 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    42. At 12:02pm on 17 Aug 2010, Mike Waller

    Might I suggest you watch Andrew Marr's history of modern Britain, he also points to LBJ forcing the UK to devalue because the UK would not commit at least to use Andrew Marr's words a military band in support of the American effort. You also only read what you expect to read, I have on many occasions pointed to the Trade unions making mistakes, it is unfortunate, those in senior management, and those on big bonuses would almost claim to be omniscient.

    If you would at least consider some others points I have already agreed that the Banks had to be bailed out, I do find your bias quite extreme, indeed you boast of the bankers blackmailing the country by the threat of upping sticks and moving country, while the BAA employees exert their muscle for there pay, or the south east if it could up sticks and form its own country it would be in the top ten richest countries, this so proves the point of the extremes of this country over the last thirty years, the utter greed of the top ten percent earners continued growth in wealth at the expense of the lowest ten percent. Your point of the south east also shows the lie of the Tories, we are all in this together. Is that all except the south east?

    You have views on so much yet when challenged you avoid the question should people in this country work for a dollar a day obviously in sterling equivilant? should seven and eight year olds be working in sweat shops? After all nearly all that we have blogged is not yours or my call, they are views or opinions, recall of history etc!

    The point of the mention of the battle of Britian has the same relevance of the jewish German family, except I have no insinuation of anti semitism. My point was the British people can and usually do rise to the challenges in life,

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  • 44. At 8:08pm on 17 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    If I took it seriously, I would find your suggestion that my holocaust example was in any way "antisemitic", deeply offensive. From the moment I first heard the story, I had the untmost sympathy for the family concerned; the mother's problem was that of failing to understand the unspeakable barbarity of those they were confronting. Fortunately, I just see your response as the desperate throw of somebody losing an argument. I take the same view of your suggestion that I boast about banker greed and South-Eastern wealth. I state these as facts, not in any sense something to be boasted about. I see the bankers not as better or worse than BAA employees but, like me, made of the same self-interested material. As for the South-East, as a Londoner myself, I have never heard anybody suggest that it detach itself from the rest of the country. Its status if it did is simply an economic fact; in practice, South-Easterners have always shown a remarkable willingness to carry the greater economic burden.
    If you really wish to improve your understanding of the way in which the British economy performed under the pressures of WW2, get a copy of Correlli Barnett's magisterial "The Audit of War". In it he compares our performance in producing weopens with those of the Americans and the Germans. What he finds is well caught in an extract from a review written by the late John Rae, published on the front cover: "Read it. It will make your blood boil at the incompetence of the past".

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  • 45. At 8:52pm on 17 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    44. At 8:08pm on 17 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote

    I see the bankers not as better or worse than BAA employees but, like me, made of the same self-interested material.


    I believe that for a society or a nation to succeed we must sometimes put self interest aside and help those less fortunate. by you statement above do not have much care or concern for others.
    It was not I that made any suggestion of the south east separating from the rest of the country it was yourself. I see no reason to raise this fact, other than to suggest separation. Perhaps in your self interest it will be the south east that will suffer more with the rise of China and India. after all the rest of the UK by your words will be in the soup anyway.
    My view again is that the UK must get back to manufacturing, but, I will say it not with seven and eight year olds working in sweatshops or people working for a dollar a day.
    to quote a former tory prime minister, a fair days pay for a fair days work. If only some one could give a definition of a fair days work, or a fair days pay.


    In your book you quote, was all the incompetance just on the shop floor, or did it include management?

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  • 46. At 10:40am on 18 Aug 2010, Mike Waller wrote:

    I am a very obliging chap and if I could shoe-horn myself into your simplistic class-based analysis I would. Trouble is I just don't buy into it. As I have made clear, I think no more or less of greedy bankers than I do of myopic workers (or, for that matter, pensioners like me who don't want to see their standard of living drop). I just state as a cold fact that there is nothing in our national history that leads me to believe that we will be able to undertake to massive reductions in our personal expectations necessary to successfully reposition ourselves in this rapidly changing new world order. Sorry.

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  • 47. At 11:57am on 18 Aug 2010, were doomed wrote:

    46. At 10:40am on 18 Aug 2010, Mike Waller

    I appreciate you being obliging, even with your ridicule.
    If you are correct in your assertion that the UK will not find a way of competing well in international markets, then your standard of living will almost certainly decline, I may add my standard of living has already declined a little, but I still have an acceptable standard of living. Those on low incomes are also experiencing a decline in their standard of living, with more to come, in contrast those at the top of the tree have not been in any real sense targeted as much, it is my hope that when the real squeeze comes along that they will also share the pain, not to punish, not in envy, but in fairness, after all we are all in this together as the government tell us.
    I may add that if you read Stephanie Flanders blog many young people would question why pensioners should have a good standard of living, because they feel unfairly financially disadvantaged, perhaps it is because I am approaching that era myself, but I agree that pensioners should have a reasonably good standard of living in retirement.

    I would accept that my view of someone on minimum pay having to pay more in tax than the billionaire employing them is totally immoral, may well be construed as simplistic, this does not detract from the fact it is immoral.

    It may well be simplistic to think that there should be some link between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent of earners, that this gap should not continue to get greater year on year for well over thirty years and continues to grow today. History also tells us that where there is such a large imbalance then some sort of rebellion usually take place.

    I would also accept that it is more in hope and faith in the people of this nation that we will find a way of competing in world markets effectively may even be naïve.
    I do hope that your despondency is wrong and that perhaps my naivety proves correct, not that I have anything against you, but, that we all may maintain a reasonable standard of living, including pensioners like yourself, both now and in the future.

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  • 48. At 8:10pm on 24 Aug 2010, cping500 wrote:

    I have been trying to find your blog Mark since it is not in the blog list.

    Just a bit of a moan. In June at the Budget the Government published the Spending Review Framework which made it clear that

    "While it will rightly focus on reducing Britain’s record deficit and restoring sound public finances, it will also provide a platform to consider new and radical approaches to public service provision.'

    and that it is based on Departments.

    The link is here

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    There is no commitment to any overall strategy or to joined up government. Just 'less is best' and perhaps implicitly 'Let one thousand privatisations bloom'

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  • 49. At 12:15pm on 02 Jun 2011, U14890913 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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