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Monday, 5 April 2010

Two Tribes

I’m not political, but I feel that it is incumbent on me to comment on the state of the parties in the lead up to the UK’s General Election.

As I write, our Prime Minister is putting the finishing touches to his ‘umble address to HM Queen Elizabeth. In doing so, he’ll cry Havoc and let slips the dogs of war.

Except the dogs in question are less Pit Bull more Lap Dog.

I’m old, my senses are dimmed, and my faculties are shot yet even in my decrepitude I can suss out a fake when I see one.

David Cameron is no pedigree dog. He should be: his breeding shouts good stock and excellent training. Son of a stockbroker, he went to Preparatory school, Eton and Brasenose College, where he gained a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Advisor to Norman Lamont, speech writer to John Major (he was commended for his efforts), and Director of Corporate Affairs for Carlton before becoming an MP and thence Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. A trouble free rise to eminence.

So why the gripe?

Is it his lack of experience? Well Tony Blair hadn’t much before he became leader and then Prime Minister. One strike.

Is it his lack of substance? Surely not, except listen to what he says. His “Big Society” idea. Besides the grand sentiments, the sweeping statements what does it mean? It means keeping as far away from Government intervention as is possible. But somehow it means “the state must be there "galvanising, catalysing, prompting, encouraging and agitating for community engagement and social renewal."” But hold on didn’t he earlier say “For the past thirteen years we've had a government that has increased the power, role and size of the state.” So his state will galvanise, catalyse etc without intervening.

On Public Sector reform one of his big ideas “ Breaking open state monopolies - and even giving people who work in our public services the chance to take ownership of the organisation they work in.” Yeah that’s called privatisation – your hero did it near 30 years ago.

“We're going to bring in a new Big Society Bank”. Scare me won’t you. Big Brother or what. And this Big Idea – “We will use unclaimed assets from dormant bank and building society accounts and get extra private sector investment to provide hundreds of millions of pounds of new finance directly to social organisations.” Now reel back to 2005 and the Labour Government published details of a scheme to “allow money in dormant bank and building society accounts to be reinvested in society… the money should be reinvested in the community, with a focus on youth services that are responsive to the needs of young people, and also on financial education and exclusion.”

He lacks not only substance, but imagination and a memory. Strike two.

Strike Three. He is indistinguishable from Nick Clegg. He’s more a lap dog than a Ridgeback.

He and Cameron were separated at birth. Nick Clegg is reticent about his age, at least on his website. It’s not mentioned. By golly gosh, he was born in 1967, about the same time as our David. He has a similar background to David Cameron. His dad was a banker, and like David he had a gap year; he as a ski instructor: an obvious choice. He went to Cambridge to study Archaeology and Anthropology. Some would say an ideal discipline for the future leader of the LibDems.

His trajectory towards the commanding heights was less direct than David’s. Working for the European Commission. (Interestingly Nick was in charge of an aid programme to the former Soviet Union in the early 1990’s . About the same time David claims to have been approached by Soviet agents). Then a stint in the European Parliament, before deciding the action was in the UK. And leadership of the LibDems.

So what does he stand for? Frankly if their strap line is anything to go by. Anything vacuous. I quote “If you want things to be different, really different, choose a party that is different – the Liberal Democrats.” Pretty Vacant. Strike one.

What does he offer…on the economy. Under a picture of Vince (the Hobbit) Cable we’re told… “People today are struggling with spiralling debts, rising food and energy bills and unaffordable mortgages. A decade of complacency by Gordon Brown has meant that with plummeting house prices, falling growth, rising inflation and rising unemployment, the outlook for the UK economy has not looked so bleak since the Tory recession of the 1990s.” Fine that’s your analysis and you’re offering…

“We want to offer real help to the millions of families trying to make ends meet, so we will get wasteful government spending under control and give the economy a boost by cutting taxes for people from the bottom up. We will also crack down on big business and the super rich who exploit tax loopholes and do not pay their fair share.” Tell me Nick how is that different from David’s line? Strike two.

Is he consistent? Well not exactly. He appears to be all things to all people. So on the one hand he thinks that fuel bills levels are unfair to the poor and elderly. But he wants to help the capital rich to install micro-generating plants. For consumers he pledges to reduce “red tape” yet will introduce additional regulation through the Office of Fair Trading. On the one hand he wants to protect green field land, but will encourage farmers to convert existing buildings into homes. Square that if you can? Strike three.

Less a street fighting dog more a home loving pooch.

As for Gordon? I’ve a sneaking feeling he’ll end up pissing all over the other two. But you can’t have everything.

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