Tag Archives: pasty

Pleading to stay in the government is like begging to be left on the Titanic

It is hard to believe the lengths to which some people will go, to stay in the public eye.

This weekend, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi appealed to David Cameron to keep her on as chair of the Conservative Party in his forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.

Incredibly, she claimed she fits the demographics of all the people the Tories need to get voting for them at the next general election, being a woman, who is not white, from an urban area, in the North, and who is – most unbelievably of all – working class!

Good luck to her. I’ve always found her inability to listen to – let alone respond to – any views other than her own extremely off-putting. Keeping her in place would be the best way for Cameron to lose support from the groups she claims to represent. And I’m all for that.

One person who will, it seems, certainly return to the cabinet is former Treasury minister David Laws. His creative approach to accountancy necessitated his retirement to the backbenches after only 17 days in place, back in 2010. But it seems the kind of crime that would put any other citizen in jail for six months – defrauding the state out of £40,000 – is not serious enough to warrant the continued punishment of an ex-minister.

One thing I’ll say in Baroness Warsi’s favour: At least she’s more honest. She admitted failing to declare rental income (and was eventually let off the hook for it).

The main cabinet posts are also likely to remain fixed, despite some of their holders being unpopular, according to a Vox Political poll. The question was: David Cameron is expected to reshuffle the cabinet in the very near future. Who should he sack?

Before I reveal the results, I should warn you that the number of respondents makes this nothing like representative of general opinion. But it’s fun, so let’s open the envelopes and see the results.

In third place, with 7.7 per cent of the votes, is cabinet pie-muncher and local government minister Eric Pickles! It seems Eric’s plan to abolish Council Tax Benefit and force everyone to pay increased local taxes just to stay in their home has got your goat.

Second, by a massive 30.8 per cent share of the vote, you asked David Cameron to remove himself from the cabinet! Perhaps if he had concentrated more on solving the nation’s problems than playing video games or jaunting off on jolly holidays around the globe, ‘Call Me Dave’ might have avoided the wrath of the public.

But your winner, with an overwhelming 61.5 per cent shareholding, was Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne! Gideon’s persistent inability to balance the books, letting his rich corporate buddies off paying their taxes while squeezing the rest of us until our pips have well and truly squeaked, have had you squawking in protest (and tweeting, too). His fiscal austerity plan that forced the UK economy into a nosedive was a serious enough misjudgement, but what really browned you off was his idea to charge VAT on pasties, depending on how hot they were.

George deserves a prize and, considering the nature of this vote, I propose we call it the Golden Boot Award. I’ll be keeping it at my house until he can be bothered to turn up for it, at which point I will gladly bestow it upon his posterior.

Trouble at the top – who’s best for Britain?

There’s trouble at the top of both the UK’s main political parties, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has become slightly more popular than the Labour leader Ed Miliband, allowing the newspaper to stoke fears of a new power battle at the top, mirroring the problems of the Blair/Brown rivalry.

But the Conservatives are no better off, after George Osborne was singled out as the weakest member of the Coalition cabinet and the one most people wanted moved in the much-anticipated autumn reshuffle.

The Guardian article asks you to believe that Balls and his shadow treasury team have become hard work, demanding that no commitments can be made on anything that has spending implications without clearing it with them first. He is said to be demanding that shadow ministers should just keep repeating his five pledges for growth.

I think this is media-manufactured mischief.

My instinct tells me it is an attempt to continue a narrative that has been created around Ed Balls, that he was a key supporter of Gordon Brown against Tony Blair, while Brown was preparing to take over as Labour leader and Prime Minister, a few years ago – by suggesting that he remains a disruptive influence today.

This would be invaluable to supporters of the Conservative Party, which is losing support rapidly for reasons I will tackle shortly.

But I think it is a false assumption. We’ve all moved on a long way from the time when Mr Miliband parroted the same answer, no less than six times, to a series of questions from a television interviewer. That made him – and Labour – look silly and Mr Balls would be a fool to encourage any repeat of that situation now. And he’s nobody’s fool.

The Blair/Brown rivalry was played out while Labour was in power; today that party is in opposition and the greater priority by far must be the removal of the Conservatives from government. All other considerations should be secondary to the people at the top of the party. If Ed Balls is guilty of the kind of posturing suggested by the newspaper, he needs to suck it in, get behind his leader, and show – by example – that Labour is united.

The problems within the Conservative leadership are far more serious.

I think, as a nation, we are more or less agreed that George Osborne’s tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a disaster.

His spending review in late 2010 stalled the economy. Growth flatlined for a period, then the UK fell into double-dip recession, with GDP now less than it was when Labour left office.

His budget in March this year is now generally considered the most ridiculous travesty in living memory, featuring plans to give a tax break to the richest in society – the now infamous cut in the top rate of tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent – which would be supported by a range of hare-brained schemes including taxing static caravans and heated pasties.

And it is now accepted that the Coalition is unlikely to reach its two main economic goals – the reason the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came together to form a government in the first place – before the next election in 2015, according to the Tories’ own Centre for Policy Studies thinktank. This is due to the failure of Mr Osborne’s fiscal policy.

The coalition had already given up hope of getting rid of the structural deficit by 2015 and the chance of ensuring that public-sector debt is falling by the time of the next election is now slim, the organisation has stated.

The Guardian/ICM poll says 39 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 want Osborne moved to a different cabinet role, if not sacked outright. Asked if Osborne is doing a bad job, agreement goes up to 44 per cent.

But it seems Mr Cameron might keep Osborne, firstly because the chancellor is his closest cabinet ally – his own position is stronger if Osborne remains in place; and secondly, because he believes changing chancellor midway through a Parliament indicates weakness to the country – and, in particular, the markets.

Mr Osborne might be the most prominent problem for the Tories, but he isn’t the only one. There have been calls for the sacking of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary who brought privatisation into the NHS despite Mr Cameron’s claim – on Tory election posters – that he would not harm the health service. Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt are also in the firing line.

Transport secretary Justine Greening has threatened to resign over plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport, and internecine squabbles have broken out, with Nadine Dorries attacking fellow Conservative Louise Mensch, who is quitting as an MP, for being “void of principle”.

So which party is in the most disarray?

Call me a loony leftie Labourite if you want, but on the evidence above, I don’t think there can be any doubt. Despite attempts to manufacture disunity in Her Majesty’s Opposition, it is the Conservative Party – and therefore the government – that is falling apart.

Or am I misreading the situation?