Thursday, 30 September 2010

50% of Tory voters don't want a Tory government

The latest ICM poll for the Guardian (from the pollster that was rated most accurate in the May 2010 election) has the Tories two points behind Labour. This, incidentally, is the first time since September 2007 (just before the-election-that-never-was) that Labour has had a lead with this polling firm.

Most amusingly, though, is the statistic picked out in by Julian Glover in his Guardian report - that only 50% of Tory voters actually want a majority Tory government. Go figure...

Tory voters want to tax the rich, a higher minimum wage and better workers rights


Which group of voters massively favour the following?

• A higher levy on the banks

• Making people who can afford it pay more in taxation

• Giving more employment rights to temporary workers employed through agencies

• Introducing a higher minimum wage


Conservative voters (and everyone else)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Defence: cuts and leaks

Another day, another leak from our lords and masters.

These leaks seem to fall into two categories:

a) those that are intentionally leaked by Number 10 to the press, normally about quango x being shut or public sector outfit z being downsized, and ordinarily without said organisation being given advance warning;
b) those that are leaked by disgruntled civil servants, who are fed up for members of the ruling coalition telling (normally Tories) telling the media how rubbish the civil service is.

This leak (complete now with spectacularly over-the-top response) is likely to be an example to file under category b... although some cynical souls are claiming it is Liam Fox trying to do the dirty on Osborne and Dave.

Whichever it is, it's looking increasingly like the government are going to be fighting on all fronts over the coming years (unlike the army, by the looks of it).

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Labour go ahead in the polls (and Tories slip at local level)

In the first poll as Labour leader, Ed Miliband has pulled the party ahead of the Tories for the first time since the election that never was in 2007.

Meanwhile, local by-election results over the last few months are pointing to an 11% drop in the share of the vote for the Tory party, which, if continued, would see the party lose numerous seats to Labour in next year's local elections (and may see the latter gain full control of the Welsh Assembly).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sink or swim continued: School Food Trust

An post on this blog last week lamented the Government's total lack of interest in public health care. Well, further evidence was provided in the recent leaked list of quangos to be culled. Slotted in amongst a host of health-related organisations, was the School Food Trust.

The short-lived body was given the 'unique' remit to "promote the education and health of children and young people by improving the quality of food supplied and consumed in schools", which includes taking action to "reduce diet-related inequalities in childhood". Along with likely cuts to other initatives to tackle poor diet, this decision is another sobering example of what is in store for the future of whole sections of British society.

Five departments reach deal with Osborne

It looks like the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DEFRA and the Department of Communities and Local Government have reached a deal with slasher on their budget reductions.

The size of their agreed reductions are not yet known, but with the serious leaks that have emerged over the last few months, no doubt we will know soon enough...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Tory council to privatise everything

More evidence, as if it were needed, that Tories across the country are using the current economic climate to push an ultra free-market agenda further than ever before:

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Voters: Osborne's cuts bad for economy

Over at UK Polling Report, Anthony Wells has reported on the latest polling from YouGov. It is interesting in two ways:

Firstly, it's the third polling group (after ICM and IpsosMORI) since July to have the Tories and Labour level (with Harris' last poll giving the Tories a tiny one-point lead).

Secondly, as Wells points out, "for the first time, a plurality of respondents thought the cuts will be bad for the economy (by 43% to 40% who think they will be good)."

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tory health care: sink or swim

The importance of primary health care - the tackling at a community level of the root causes of illness and hospitalisation (public health projects, preventative interventions etc.) was once summarised neatly with this hypothetical situation:

Imagine a line of people walking into a river, one by one. Hospitals - doctors, nurses and their allied professions - are in essence the equivalent of a life raft, hauling people out of the water, one at time. Those in the raft will manage to grab a fair proportion of those in the water, and safely get them out. However, they will also miss a few - the unlucky ones.

Now, what is the best way to stop this happening in such a way as to save as many lives as possible? One answer is to build a bridge over the water - so that people don't fall in in the first place.

This project may be expensive and highly time-consuming, with little apparent benefits initially visible. However, given time, investment and appropriate planning, the longer term benefits will save both lives and resources, as the life raft becomes less of an essential component.

This example is useful metaphor for public health care: frequently expensive, time-consuming and with little in the way of visible benefits, perhaps for years or decades. But, given time, programmes to tackle the root causes of illness (diet, access to preventative medicine etc.)  can reap huge long-term rewards for society.

Norway is frequently cited as a successful (and rare) example of this being put into practice in a major way. In the late 1960s, the country decided on a long-term strategy to tackle its then poor record of heart disease and related illnesses, through an extensive programme of public health intervention. In contrast to the route taken in many other western nations, Norway's social democratic traditions led it to follow a path of regulation of both the production and marketing of food and other products linked to diet (and therefore illness). The result was a transformation in the health of the general population.

The UK didn't have this tradition. Instead, investment in the more immediately visible parts of the health care system - hospitals, doctors etc. - took priority. The NHS Plan 2000 went a good deal towards addressing this problem. In it, it gave a priority to "increase and improve primary care in deprived areas" and specifically stated that "Primary care trusts will identify and maintain registers of those at the greatest risk from serious illness – concentrating particularly on areas where ill health is most prevalent – so that people can be offered preventive treatment. In the process the NHS will help tackle health inequalities".

The years following the NHS Plan put this promise into action, with large numbers of new Primary Care Centres being built around the country, right up until this year - a total of 750 in all.

The Coalition

If there is a theme developing in this current government's approach to primary healthcare, it is that they don't want much of it, which they've demonstrated by axing planned regulations on the fast food industry and cutting back on the very healthcare professionals that deliver public health projects. Something that they are set to continue doing in the approach to the Comprehensive Spending Review. Most of all, one of the main victims their anti-bureaucracy drives, Primary Care Trusts, are precisely the type of collaborative organisations (linking GPs, community health and mental health professionals) that can be used to improve levels of public health.

Still, this is the Big Society... DIY health care. If you want help, then help yourself. Sink or swim...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Lib Dems reject Free Schools

One of a number of problems for Clegg now bubbling to the surface is the lack of support amongst Liberal Democrat members for the Tories' Coalition's education policies.

Hence this today...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

More Lib Dem defections...

Another week, another slew of Lib Dem defections. On Friday it was announced that Solihull councillor Simon Slater has joined the Labour Party and also Sheffield councillor Ben Curran has done likewise.

This is in addition to Sharron Brook's defection in Barnsley earlier in the week.

On the eve of their conference, the Liberal Democrats have every right to be concerned. The polls, whether it's YouGov or Ipsos MORI, are looking very, very poor.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Transport cuts on the way

Indications are that the Department of Transport has reached an agreement with the Treasury on budget cuts.

Hundreds of jobs are to go at the Department - up to 600 according to the Guardian. Meanwhile, bus services are set to be particularly hard hit. In London, protests by bus drivers have already begun.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

"They are going to put the weakest to the wall. That was the last straw"

Barnsley's sole Liberal Democrat councillor is the latest defection to Labour.

Meanwhile, over at the Guardian, Simon Jenkins has some kind words for Clegg...

Yes, Minister

The problem about banging on about the excesses of the government in opposition is that it invariably comes back to bite you.

And so with this government, fresh from allegations of making political appointments to civil service roles has now been accused of encouraging the politicisation of civil service press releases.

38 Degrees petition on Sky takeover

38 Degrees, the highly successful crowd-sourced lobbying organisation (who, earlier in the year were instrumental in raising opposition to the planned changes to no confidence votes in the Commons) are now trying to raise awareness of the planned expansion of Murdoch's power in the UK.

Sign the petition here:
38 Degrees Stop Murdoch - We're with you Vince!

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt gloats as the BBC starts to shrink...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

News of the World phone hacking - Hollywood joins the fray

As Steve Coogan and Sienna Miller look set to join in the growing numbers seeking legal action against the News of the World, it's worth pausing to look at the sheer scale of the potential victims of the practice that is alleged to have been pursued at the tabloid. 

A staggering 4,300 people might have had their phones hacked by journalists at the News of the World. Here is the latest list of those who are either known to be seeking legal action as a result of alleged hacking and also those who are have been identified as possible victims of the practice. It includes some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment and in politics.

At least two of the second list have settled with the News of the World for around £1.7 million.

Whether the defening silence on this issue by the likes of the Times (qu'elle surprise), the Telegraph and the Daily Mail is about protecting Andy Coulson (and therefore the Prime Minister) or whether it is the fear of revealing that the practice goes wider is an interesting question.

Seeking legal action:

Sienna Miller, actor
Steve Coogan, actor
Chris Tarrant, tv and radio presenter
John Prescott, MP
Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard
Chris Bryant, MP
Brendan Montague, investigative journalist

Other known targets for potential phone hacking:

Andy Grey, sports presenter

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
David Davies, Executive Director, Football Association
Elle MacPherson, Model
George Galloway, MP
Gordon Taylor, Former Chief Executive, Professional Footballer's Association
Heather Mills, celebrity
Helen Asprey, Aide to the Prince of Wales
Sir Ian Blair, Former commissioner of Met police
Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, former Private secretary
Jo Armstrong, Legal adviser to Gordon Taylor
Kieren Fallon, Jockey
Max Clifford, PR Agent
Mike Fuller, Former Assistant Commissioner, Met police
'Miss X', Alleged victim of rape by celebrity
Nicola Phillips, Former assistant to Max Clifford
Paddy Harverson, Prince pf Wales' communications secretary
Paul Gascoigne, ex-footballer
Prince Harry
Prince William
Simon Hughes, MP
Sky Andrew, Football agent
Tessa Jowell, MP

Monday, 13 September 2010

Britain's 'Berlusconi moment'

A number of commentators have been raising the spectre of Rupert Murdoch gaining unprecedented power, through acquiring the remainder of BSkyB, and through his (and the current government's) assault on the only large UK competitor, the BBC... something that has been described as Britain's 'Berlusconi moment'.

The question on many people's mind is this - does a Tory party in many respects indebted to the Murdoch clan for their support during the election campaign have a strong enough belief in a genuinely competitive free media market to block the takeover?

Don't go holding your breath.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Public health specialists axed

Cameron 11 September 2010: "[We need] a horizon shift – moving away from short-term calculation to taking the long-term decisions that will ensure Britain's success".

As he wrote that, the Department of Health confirmed that 100 public health specialists (leading programmes dealing with alcohol misuse, teenage pregnancy and others) were being axed.

Might save a few quid, but just how 'long-term' is that?

Friday, 10 September 2010

OECD: Don't cut too soon (or too much)

Obama has been warning for a while about too many European countries introducing draconian austerity measures at the same time. Now the OECD has repeated those fears.

The Tories will, no doubt, push on regardless. The question is whether they can take the Lib Dems with them...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Anthropogenic Global Warming. And Jesus. (And HIV)

We might have our fair few right-wing nutjobs over this side of the big pond (Daniel Hannan anyone?) but over the Atlantic, they really know how to do bonkers. Ladies and Gentleman, I bring you the Erie County Party:

"The regulation of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere should be left to God and not government and I oppose all measures of Cap and Trade as well as the teaching of global warming theory in our schools"

Mind you, that piece of crack-pottery is NOTHING on this gem, which brings to mind a certain episode of Chris Morris' 1990s news satire Brass Eye, and the fictional presenter's comment about 'Bad Aids':

"I oppose the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy of the military and believe that all same sex partners should be banned from combat duty in the military because of the propensity to transmit blood-borne diseases in the theatre of battle".

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Press turns on Barclays. Coalition stays silent.

With the honorable exception of Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott, the government has stayed almost totally silent on the decision by Barclays to lob a load of cash, and power, in the direction of whom many would describe as a professional gambler.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail, of all papers, has described the decision as "a direct challenge to democracy in this country" and the government response to the whole issue of banking as "slow and supine".

This blog is ostensibly about the current government, but it has to be said that, with the very rare opportunity of having both public and media support (right and left) on their side on this issue, the last government failed to do anything concrete either.

Now we have to rely on a Tory government to do something about this issue. The wait, unfortunately, may be a long one...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What a difference two years makes

Two years ago the investment banking community were slated by the political right and left alike..., as government austerity measures consign more people to the dole queue and send more businesses to the edge of the precipice, they are back, and set to be more influential than ever.

What is most bizarre about this whole crisis is that, despite the irony of ordinary people having to pay with their jobs and their services for bailing out an industry that may as well occupy a different planet from them (whilst senior staff in that very same industry go on to continue like the whole affair never happened), anger is not focused.

People are upset, yes; angry - certainly. Fearful too. But their wrath is directed at many targets beyond the gambling investment banking community - politicians, civil servants, recipients of benefits, immigrants. The right-wing press, meanwhile, has seized on this marvellous opportunity to slash and burn the public sector with aplomb...

... and out of this mess, not many are left smiling. Except for Bob, above, and the collection of multi-millionaires and recipients of inherited wealth that make up the representatives of our supposedly modern democratic system. 

OECD calls for UK to maintain investment in higher education

The OECD has produced a report highlighting the increasing number of countries with higher proportions of graduates than the UK, and advises the government to do the opposite to that which it is proposing.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Could Coulson be in the dock?

After what, from a number of accounts, looks like a fairly dubious original investigation into the News Of The World phone hacking saga, the Met look set to open a new investigation.

The betting odds on Coulson to be gone from Number 10 within a year must surely be tightening.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Four more Lib Dem Councillors quit over cuts

Three councillors in Cheshire have quit the Liberal Democrats over the economic policies of the Government...

...meanwhile, down the road in Manchester, a city councillor has followed suit.

The beginning of this month saw a the Lib Dems fall to their lowest score in the polls since 2007 - just 11%, according to YouGov.


A Tory councillor has now defected straight to Labour - again over cuts.

PoliticalHackUK: Don't read all about it!

PoliticalHackUK on the latest NoTW phone-hacking allegations.

Not fair, not particularly open

In all the furore over the 'is he or isn't he?' Hague situation, one smaller but far more important issue has been missed by most of the media (although the Guardian today has now picked up on the story). That is why the Tories feel it acceptable to appoint members of their party to paid civil service roles (as opposed to posts as overly political Special Advisers)?

This is particularly important as civil servants are meant to be impartial (unlike Special Advisers) and they are meant to be appointed in a fair and open way. On top of all this, isn't there supposedly a recruitment freeze across Whitehall?

Looks like jobs for the boys (and girls).

Daily Mail misses the point...again

The shock news of the week, apparently, is the fact that NICE has spent LOADS of money on themselves instead of spending it on cancer drugs (the b*stards).

Except, erm, as I've posted before, NICE doesn't pay for these drugs - it merely recommends medical treatments based on a cost-benefit analysis (boring I know, and clearly not as efficient as the Daily Mail approach, which is based on ignorant conjecture).

True to form, the Mail have also wheeled-out (not for the first time) a balanced critic of NICE to further their argument.