At the other end of the spectrum, here’s Boris Johnson – who wants to be the leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore prime minister – squirming as he tries to defend his integrity in the face of evidence of his own former behaviour:
Together they make an excellent case for putting your cross next to a candidate who isn’t a Tory. Agreed?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
David Cameron is already a laughing-stock across Europe because of his recent begging tour, traipsing around the continent trying to grub up support for his silly ‘reforms’ – and failing.
What Michael Heseltine seems to have forgotten is that Jeremy Corbyn recently allowed Labour MPs a free vote on another matter – air strikes on Syria – and maintained more support than his forerunner Tony Blair, when the former prime minister called a vote on military action in Iraq.
If Cameron allows a free vote and more than half his Parliamentary party are against him – as is believed – then the public will draw the obvious conclusion, that the Conservative leader cannot control his party but the Labour leader can.
It’s political suicide.
However, if Cameron doesn’t allow a free vote and a significant number of his Parliamentary party is against him, the result is even worse. It proves beyond doubt that he can’t control his party.
It’s political suicide.
Cameron’s only hope is that his MPs pull together behind him – but that’s a forlorn hope at the moment.
Perhaps that’s why he is chumming up with Rupert Murdoch again – to put a PR spin on the situation, with the power of the right-wing press to imprint it on the nation.
… Except the right-wing, mainstream media isn’t as powerful as it used to be, and is losing ground every day.
Indeed, every time the MSM is called in to bolster a failing administration, those of us who monitor such things will have another gauge by which to measure the collapse of press barons like Murdoch.
It is, therefore, with some surprise that Vox Political applauds Michael Heseltine’s words.
David Cameron will become “a laughing stock across the world” if he gives ministers a free vote in the EU referendum, according to Lord Heseltine, the Conservative former deputy prime minister.
The pro-European grandee said if Cameron gave in to pressure to suspend collective cabinet responsibility during the referendum campaign, he would split the Conservative party in a way that could result in it being forced from office.
But Owen Paterson, the Conservative former environment secretary, disagreed, saying a free vote would allow the party to reunite after the referendum to get on with implementing its manifesto commitments.
Ill-judged: Blue-scarved Chuka Umunna should remember that Michael Heseltine did much to destroy the UK’s communities as part of the Thatcher and Major governments.
After the story in The Guardianthere are only two things required of Chuka Umunna: Repudiation – or his resignation.
The article states that Blue Labour stalwart Umunna would call on Conservative heavyweight Michael Heseltine for advice if Labour wins the general election. If this is true, it is madness.
Heseltine was a leading member of the Thatcher and Major Conservative governments of the 1980s and 90s, pioneering the disastrous ‘Right to Buy’ initiative that sold off the majority of council houses without replacing them, leading to the current housing crisis and the Bedroom Tax.
More recently he authored the ‘No Stone Left Unturned’ plan which made 89 recommendations on ways of stimulating local growth – 81 of which were adopted by the Coalition Government, with little effect. The UK economy has been stagnant for many years, with productivity at around the same level as it was when the Coalition came into office; it seems any boost in GDP has come from other areas – possibly the reduction in wages brought about by the widespread abuse of zero-hours contracts to rob working people of their rights to a steady job and entitlements to holiday and sick pay.
Yet it is in this area – revitalising the cities and regions – that Umunna wants Heseltine to advise. It would be an utterly pointless exercise.
For any stimulation policy to work, it has to put money where it can be most effective – in the hands of the people who actually need it to pay for things they need. But Heseltine is a Tory – they take money away from the proles; they don’t hand it out to them. He’ll devise something that makes towns look very pretty in order to hide the rot inside as local businesses and residents go to the wall.
Not only that, but it seems Umunna has not learned the overriding lesson of the Scottish referendum campaign: Voters will not tolerate a Labour alliance with the Conservatives on any level at all.
One of the main reasons the SNP is polling so well north of the border is because of a myth propagated by its candidates and supporters, that Labour and the Conservatives are “in bed”, “in cahoots”, “in alliance” – choose the phrase you prefer. It isn’t true – Better Together was an alliance of convenience because both parties wanted Scotland to remain in the union; they have very little else in common (although the SNP has exploited the very few examples of common ground to great effect, also).
Now along comes Chuka, thinking he’s clever with a plan to be inclusive and revive the “big tent” policies of Tony Blair – another figure who is now widely reviled by the electorate – and confirming everything the SNP whisperers have been saying!
Is he trying to stab Ed Miliband in the back?
If not, then now is the time to deny the Guardian story and put Heseltine back in his box.
David Cameron and Tory election candidate Chris Davies: A suit full of hot air next to a suit full of nothing at all.
Here’s one to file under “missed opportunities”: David Cameron passed within seven miles of Vox Political central and we didn’t know about it.
He made a surprise visit to the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Radnorshire, to talk about some agricultural scheme – but we don’t need to discuss that. Nor do we need to discuss the fact that the bronze bull statue in nearby Builth Wells town centre was found to have had its tail ripped off shortly after the visit; it would be wrong to suggest that the comedy Prime Minister was responsible but if he starts sporting a uniquely-shaped swagger stick, well, you read it here first.
We don’t even need to discuss the fact that Cameron arrived by helicopter, which is an exorbitantly expensive form of travel. Yr Obdt Srvt was watching a documentary about a Doctor Who serial made in 1969 and featuring a helicopter – just starting the rotors cost £70, which was a lot more money then than it is now! Next time you hear that there isn’t enough money around, bear in mind that this government always has the cash to hire out a pricey chopper!
No, Dear Reader – what was really shocking was the fact that Cameron allowed himself to be photographed with Chris Davies, the Tory Potential Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire – a man who this blog has outed as having no ideas of his own, who parrots the party line from Conservative Central Headquarters and who cannot respond to a reasoned argument against the drivel that he reels off. Not only that but the new Secretary of State for Wales was also at the Showground – his name is Stephen Crabb and he is on record as saying that the role is “emptied and somewhat meaningless”.
Bearing this in mind, those who didn’t attend the event, but would like to recreate the spectacle of David Cameron flanked by Messrs Davies and Crabb, can simply fill a few children’s party balloons with hot air, arrange them in a roughly human shape, and put a suit on them – that’s Cameron – then add two more, empty, suits on either side.
Discussion of empty suits brings us inexorably to the dramatic cabinet reshuffle Cameron carried out last week, in which he replaced his team of tired but recognisable old fools with a gaggle of new fools nobody’s ever heard of. The whole situation is reminiscent of a routine that Ben Elton did back in 1990, when he was still a Leftie comedian.
Still topical: Ben Elton’s ‘cabinet reshuffle’ routine from 1990.
The parallel with today is so close that the routine may be paraphrased to fit the moment:
These days the cabinet minister is a seriously endangered species, constantly culled by the boss… How stands the team today? All the personalities have been de-teamed, and Mr Cameron was rather left with a rack full of empty suits. So he reshuffled Philip Hammond, a suit full of bugger-all from Defence across to the Foreign Office. Then he reshuffled Nicky Morgan, a skirt-suit full of bugger-all who had been at the Treasury for 13 whole weeks. She was reshuffled to Education and is also now Minister for Women and Equalities. A suit full of bugger-all called Wright, who nobody had heard of that morning, became Attorney General. This is the British cabinet we are dealing with; not the local tea club.
Now Nicky Morgan, come on, be honest, six months ago, who’d heard of her? Hardly anyone. Since then she’s been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Education Secretary; nobody can say the girl hasn’t done well because she has. She reminds me of Jedward – everyone’s saying, ‘She may be rubbish but at least she’s trying!’
Who the hell is Jeremy Wright? He’s the Attorney General, that’s who. When he leaves home for work in the morning, even his wife doesn’t recognise him! ‘Bye bye darling – who the hell are you?’ … I confidently expect to see Keith Lemon elevated to cabinet status, with Gary Lineker becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer due to his amazing powers of prediction (“The Germans really fancy their chances, but I don’t see that”). He’ll be joined at the Treasury by financial wizard Jimmy Carr. Katie Hopkins takes over as Iain Duncan Smith so no change there.
This isn’t a party political thing. There have been lots of towering figures in cabinet before. Tebbit! Heseltine! … Lawson! You may not have liked them but at least you’d heard of them! These days, what have you got? The only reason a ‘dramatic’ reshuffle is ‘dramatic’ is because it takes so long to prise all their faces off the team leader’s backside, that’s why! They’re all stuck down there like limpets; they’re clinging on to the mother ship! If they all breathed in at once, they’d turn him inside-out.
That’s why they all speak so strangely – their tongues are all bruised and knotted from the team leader trying to untangle the top Tory tagliatelli flapping about behind.
Cabinet government is one of the safeguards of our precious democracy. It involves discussion, consensus, and it has produced great cabinets on both sides of the House. Churchill – the largest, perhaps the greatest political figure in the last century – a Tory, he was a constant thorn in the side of his boss, Baldwin. Wilson included Tony Benn, even though they were never friends, let’s face it. Heath employed Mrs Thatcher. They all understood that cabinet is a microcosm of democracy – but these days, it’s different. Nobody must dissent in cabinet. And nobodies are exactly what we’ve got.
There was more talent and personality in JLS – and at least they knew when to quit.
The Manchester Gazette ran this striking image alongside an article on what the bedroom tax would mean for that city. You can tell that they weren’t thrilled.
The failure of government to replenish social housing means that the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ from April next year will lead to a huge increase in human suffering.
It was (of course) the Conservative Party that first decided to sell off council houses, at discounts that went up to 70 per cent. The first sales took place in 1980, piloted by Michael Heseltine, after the plan had appeared in the Tory manifestos for 1974 and 1979.
Even then, the Tories were obsessing about shrinking the state. This, and the now-infamous privatisation of state industrial/utility assets, were both conceived as populist moves to encourage private sector alternatives indirectly. They understood that the welfare state was popular and that a frontal assault on it would harm their own credibility.
The plan was phenomenally successful. By 1990, 1.2 million houses had been sold – one-fifth of the entire council house stock. The sales raised £20 billion.
Whatever happened to that money?
We know it did not go into new council house construction – the annual level slumped from 86,000 to 21,000 during the 1980s and this meant there was a worsening social housing shortage by 1990.
Now, more than 20 years further on, that shortage is diabolical.
Everyone who is affected will know that the bedroom tax affects anyone who has a bedroom that is going spare, according to strict rules devised by the Coalition government. I’ve gone into these rules elsewhere so I won’t rehash them.
The intended result – what the government wants – is generally taken to be that people with too many bedrooms will ‘downsize’; they’ll move into smaller homes.
The problem with that is: there aren’t any. This means people who no longer have the funds to stay where they are will have no choice but to continue doing so anyway, getting into a debt that they may not be able to repay.
Housing associations have already stated that they cannot afford to fund the deficit that is likely to build up, meaning they will throw people out onto the streets.
But don’t take my word for it. Many Vox readers are affected by this. Let’s see what they have to say.
“I’d bet money that most social housing countrywide is (or was – before the great sell-off of the 1980s and 1990s) three-bedroomed,” according to my blogging colleague Smiling Carcass. “Almost all were built as homes for families; three and four bedrooms, gardens, and flats generally had two or more bedrooms. There just isn’t, and never was, enough single accommodation to displace all the ‘under-occupied’ people from three- and four-bedroomed houses because they were conceived as family homes for life.”
How about this from Joanna Terry: “Not only is there an issue with the amount of one-bed properties available, (none where I live) but what about those just below pension age that need to sleep in separate bedrooms because of their health (I have a friend like this)? You can’t force people like this, not without causing phenomenal stress.”
“This will massively impact, mostly on the women now in their 50s who are divorced,” wrote Victoria Brown. “Chances are they are the same women who have struggled and raised children alone on either benefits or very low income jobs and because that child has flown the nest that is the reason they now have a spare room. We are alone and childless with no purpose and soon no home too. Many will kill themselves rather than live on the streets or commit a crime to at least get prison accommodation because there are no one-bedroom properties for us to downsize in to and there is no spare cash if you are on benefits to pay the Bedroom Tax with.”
Tony Bennet wrote: “There are times I feel like giving up. The more I read about these changes, the more I see it will affect us and we will be lucky to keep our home. With the changes to DLA and the UC I can’t see how I will be able to pay our bills and feed us.”
Morry: “I am going to be taxed on a box room that you might – if you’re lucky – fit a single bed in, and that would be it. I can barely manage to survive as it is and that means wearing as much clothing as possible and keeping the heat off as long as possible and living on salad and sandwiches. I have also been trying to get out of this house for the last five years.”
Graham: “We have asked for a bungalow/ground floor flat – one-bedroomed, so no stairs to climb. Guess what? There are none – not enough to go around. The Government know this, but they are intoducing a law to tax us knowing that there are not enough houses.”
There are not enough houses.
Back in 1974, the then-simply-Margaret Thatcher MP outlined her plans: “Our new policies are designed for the needs of today. A nation of home owners, who will be self-reliant, independent and able to do what they want with their own lives in their own homes.”
That was her self-professed dream. It seems modern Conservatives, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, are determined to turn it into a nightmare.
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