Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Good things come to those who wait

David Cameron, seen here with his wife outside Number 10, is back as prime minister this time with a Conservative majority

David Cameron, seen here with his wife outside Number 10, is back as prime minister this time with a Conservative majority of 4

Today is one for the history books. The Conservative Party, beyond all expectations, has won its first General Election since 1992 when Sir John Major was prime minister. The Tories are back in power as a single majority party for the first time since 1997 with a working majority of four.

This is a truly momentous day.

I joined the Conservative Party during the dark days of Iain Duncan Smith’s tenure at the top of the Tory tree when there was of course no tree on the logo but the stern torch of Conservatism. Ironically, it is this hard but necessary approach to dealing with the economy after the mess (yet again) Labour left the country which has propelled David Cameron back into Downing Street. When it came down to it, the great British (well English) electorate decided to stick with a party who know how to run a successful economy. The Conservatives were also helped every time Nicola Sturgeon opened her mouth – the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition saw thousands of disaffected Tories returning home.

The voters resoundingly rejected Miliband's socialist vision for Britain

The voters resoundingly rejected Miliband’s socialist vision for Britain

Socialism has well and truly been defeated in England – it had already been by 1992 and Tony Blair new this in 1997 but Ed Miliband thought he could turn back time. He was resoundingly proved wrong and rightly fell on his sword this morning. Can anyone hear Russell Brand today? No, me neither. Let’s hope this is permanent too.

In 2010 I was up all night at the Ipswich count, which culminated in the man I had selected when Chairman of the Ipswich constituency Conservative Party – Ben Gummer – being elected with just over 2000 votes. By 5am this morning his majority was increased by nearly 2000, which signalled the Conservatives were heading for outright majority at Westminster.

Nick Clegg realises catastrophic loses

Nick Clegg, seen here with his wife Miriam, realises catastrophic loses

Last night I spent the evening in London watching the results come in live in a bar in Westminster – a different but very exciting experience. History was being made in front of our very eyes. A highlight was seeing the big beasts of the Liberal Democrats topple like dominos: Hughes, Cable, Kennedy, Laws, Featherstone, Moore, Swinson, Alexander…the list goes on. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg hung on in his Sheffield Hallam seat but saw his majority slashed by 13,000. By the time the poll bloodbath was over, his party had seen their seat total reduce from 56 to eight – Clegg subsequently resigned as leader of his party a few hours later.

Labour were decimated in Scotland with many big names booted our by the public including Douglas Alexander and the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Later, after dawn broke, former henchman to Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, lost his Morley and Outwood seat – this was justice for being on the bridge advising the Chancellor when he crashed the economy in 2010. Miliband then had no choice but to resign as well.

UKIP failed to break through, capturing just one seat – Clacton, won by Douglas Carswell in last year’s by-election – and unable to retake Rochester and Strood won by Mark Reckless in November. Nigel Farage didn’t win South Thanet either, losing to the Conservatives. As he had promised, Mr Farage resigned as his party’s leader (for now) and said he was off on an extended holiday over the summer before the leadership contest in the autumn.

And at that David Cameron had seen off three party leaders in a morning and was summoned by the Queen to form the next Government.

This has been a day I have waited a very long time to see – a day I thought may never come. A new dawn has broken, has it not (hat tip to a Mr. T. Blair)? Time to celebrate like it’s 1992 – and as the greatest Conservative Party leader since Churchill famously said: rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

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I’m back!

Ballot box

Yes and in more ways than one!

Firstly, sorry for the lack of blogging of late.  It’s been a difficult few months but also very hectic with performing in a play, starting a new job and (still) trying to buy a house. We’ll get there eventually.

But I’m also back in the political sense or put another way: I’ve come home. Yes, after being disillusioned by our illustrious leader of the Conservative Party and the painful partnership with the yellow peril for five long years, it’s time to frankly accept that voting for any other party than the Conservatives is, as Iain Duncan-Smith puts it in the Daily Telegraph today, like writing Britain’s ‘suicide note’.

David Cameron might not be a Tory in the Margaret Thatcher sense but then she was not really a Tory either – she was a Thatcherite, clearly. But she was the leader of the Conservative Party, a broad church but with core beliefs in the individual, free markets and removing the dead hand of the state from people’s lives. Conservatism is also about tradition and rejecting rapid change – it is sadly these values David Cameron has ditched in a failed bid to win over the Guardianistas and the BBC. But that will not stop me voting Conservative on Thursday and I’d like to explain why.

There is one thing the Conservatives still know how to do: build a strong economy. Some forget very easily where we were in 2010 after Gordon Brown had spent so much on tax credits and welfare creating his client state utopia where working was an option not an obligation. When the financial tsunami hit our shores in the form of a failed financial regulatory system in the US and here in the UK, the country almost toppled in to the abyss. Thank goodness for an election and the defeat of Labour.

Despite this financial armageddon landing in our towns, streets and homes, David Cameron was still unable to win an election because of his misguided attempt to make the electorate like the Conservative Party rather than respect it. But nevertheless he had enough seats to form a Coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats – a partnership he clearly liked – and with that the Conservative Party could get the UK back on her feet.

The economy is not the system we had in the 1980s which helped so many babyboomers become wealthy in their retirement – capitalism does need reform – but today we have the healthiest economy in the whole of Continental Europe. This is not an accident – it is as a result of policies by Chancellor George Osborne and his team to cut the deficit, to encourage more businesses to start-up and existing ones to flourish, which in turn has created 2 million new jobs in the private sector in the last five years.

Let me be straight: Ed Miliband ideologically does not like capitalism. His Labour Party believes in higher welfare payments for the work shy; they want a large public sector; they do not like private enterprise and given a chance will make life tougher for them to do business. Millions of people rely on the economic model we have in this country; it is far from perfect but it is the envy of Europe. Labour in cahoots with Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of the SNP would tear it apart to implement their socialist dream.

We can’t let that happen. The nightmare does not have to come true if you join me in voting Conservative on Thursday.


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The lack of political leadership is making our politics dull

Osborne doing Blair

Follower not leader: UK Chancellor George Osborne

Right, I’m going to start blogging regularly again without having to wait to write a New Year’s resolution to motivate me!

I think one of the reasons I am blogging less is because of the way all the mainstream parties have coalesced in the centre ground, which has resulted in a very dull political landscape in Britain. This has been ongoing since the early 1990s with the speed of dullness being turbo powered by Tony Blair’s Government and obsession with focus groups. It is only in the last five years the status quo is being punctured by UKIP and previously (albeit on a much lower scale) by George Galloway’s Respect party.

Melanie Phillips, the Times columnist, summed it up well on the BBC’s Question Time last night when she said the problem was a lack of leadership. So true – leadership is vitally important as it gets things done. This is the case everywhere not just in politics – look at how Tesco has fallen to its knees since Sir Terry Leahy stepped down as CEO to be replaced by the now defunct and hapless Philip Clarke. The difference between Nigel Farage, the Respect leader and Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband is the UKIP and Respect leaders have a set of principles and they are not afraid people will disagree with them, as they believe they are right and want others to follow them.

Political leadership can move countries and the world: Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan undoubtedly had it. Many would say Tony Blair had it too – but did he? Mr Blair actually achieved very little himself as he admits in his autobiography, A Journey, – ironically, it was Gordon Brown who did the most change in implementing a client state paid off in benefits and tax credits and unleashing the banks to fund his spirally welfare coffers and public sector wages bill. Those were highly destructive actions but it required thousands of civil servants to implement them, which required leadership. Tony Blair may have had the brightest smile but it was Gordon Brown who was actually running the Government between 1997 – 2007, which made it even more ironic he failed so spectacularly in the most senior position when he became prime minister.

But where is the leadership now? A photo on a popular right-wing political blog (displayed above) struck me today as encapsulating the political class who follow rather than lead. One Gideon Osborne is doing his best to look like Tony Blair – not in any sense of mockery but because of admiration – even down to the thumb on top of hand gesticulation, which Blair mastered so not to be all ‘pointy’ in his speeches, which the professionally offended would find, well, so offensive.

And why has the Submarine Chancellor surfaced today: to announce a lack of leadership. The EU have sent us a bill for £1.7bn. Two weeks ago David Cameron went to Brussels and enacted a faux anger over the bill, prodding his finger on the lectern to make his point, almost knocking it off the stage into the press pack. The anger was not real – David Cameron is from aristocratic stock: the first thing mother says to you when you are born into the aristocracy is: “Never get angry”. Emotion is treated as wrong by the upper-class, which shows you what an actor David Cameron has become. Just like a Mr T. Blair. Leadership is not acting – that’s following someone else’s script, in this case UKIP’s.

Now Mr Osborne claims to have cut the ‘surprise’ bill in half. But has he? The small print tells us differently – the EU will use Britain’s rebate to pay off the rest. So the money we get back each year (although we still plough into Brussels £6bn more than we get out each year!) is being used to pay this new bill. So the Chancellor hasn’t reduced the bill at all.

And who secured the annual rebate: one Margaret Thatcher. It takes leadership to make a real difference.


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So what does the reshuffle all mean then?

Ken Clarke bows out of Government, having spent a total of 20 years in ministerial posts in several Tory Governments

Ken Clarke bows out of Government, having spent a total of 20 years in ministerial posts in several Tory Governments

It is David Cameron doing what David Cameron does best: the heir to Blair. But just like another heir to the throne he doesn’t quite fit the same clothes.

But our dear leader does try nonetheless. Out go all those nasty white middle-class men (oh, you mean the ones who vote Tory by the millions?) and in comes the ex-TV presenters. But Dave being Dave, he does like a bit of blood when doing his re-shuffles, so he axed his best mate Michael Gove, booted fellow Europhile Ken Clarke to the backbenchers, and even two-brains David Willetts was fired.

William Hague chose the opportunity to sneak out the back-door and announce his retirement from politics at the General Election next year. It’s a real shame about the boy from Yorkshire who told the old fogeys at the 1977 Tory Conference they’d all be dead by the time he was in power never really fulfilled his potential. Yes, he made it to one of the big offices of State, the Foreign Office, but he was pure prime ministerial material if it wasn’t for the unfortunate episode of being Conservative leader straight after John Major had been royally kicked out of Number 10. That did it for “Team Hague” and the same passion he showed in 1977 was extinguished by the start of the noughties. Frankly, I’m surprised he hung on for over a decade more since he was sacked as leader.

Dave being Dave decided to axe the only real Tory in the Cabinet, Michael Gove, from his brief at the Education department because the teachers didn’t like him. I think that’s a bloody good reason to keep the man on – he must be doing (and was) a fantastic job. But it was all too ideological for Dave so he had to go. Replacing him is the excellent Nicky Morgan but again this will be a waste of talent as all she has to do is see the reforms Gove made implemented – I wonder if she’ll be able to stop the civil servants and the Lib Dems from watering down the legislation? Gove spent most of his time, it is rumoured, spotting and tackling mandarins, Nick Clegg and David Laws as they tried to stop the Government putting children first and teachers second.

One thing the British Civil Service is good at is changing the guard in an efficient manner: she’d hardly stepped out on to Downing Street after a chat with Dave (it is unsure if it was over red wine) when she was up in lights and Gove was kicked into the dark corridors of Westminster as the new chief whip.

I’m not overly fussed by the re-shuffle really: most of the electorate didn’t know who was in the cabinet on Sunday and most won’t know tomorrow.  It’s all about the politics and whose mush shows up on the regional and national news, hence former GMTV presenter Esther McVey being promoted to Employment Minister and “will attend cabinet” – in other words she is the new “minister for TV” – expect to see a lot of her on the airwaves between now and May next year.

Dave is obsessed that it is the nasty right-wing white males who are his problem, hence the cull of many white males (arguably right-wing but not all). This will cause a lot of rancour on the Tory backbenches and in the shire constituencies (where the Conservative base is), which might counter the new female faces he has promoted to step in front of the camera.

One thing which will really annoy the parliamentary party is the insult chucked at Liam Fox. The previously-fired former Defence Secretary (a position now held by Michael Fallon after Philip Hammond was shunted to the Foreign Office post-Hague) was offered by Dave a junior ministerial position in the Foreign Office if he wanted to return to Government. Dr Fox declined putting out this statement.  This blog is a family-friendly site so I shan’t provide the translation but it goes along the lines of “naff off” as Norman Fletcher used to say.

And in other news, Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords, has been nominated as the UK’s next European Commissioner. Who?


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As even Nick Clegg says, it is “flamingly obvious” Britain is a Christian country

David Cameron visits the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in March this year

David Cameron visits the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in March this year

The Prime Minister just before Easter dared to state the United Kingdom was a Christian country and the backlash from the atheists and secularists was immediate and lengthy, culminating in the arch-Atheist, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Yellow Peril Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

All very predictable. But the large numbers of people in the UK stating they consider themselves Christians (59% at the last UK Census in 2012) and even a momentary glance outside of our personal lives into the civic world of Great Britain suggests the atheists and secularists are wrong. Even Nick Clegg had to admit earlier in the week it was “flamingly obvious” the country is founded on Christian values.

Former Arch-Leftist Bishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams popped up today to announce Britain was “post-Christian”, which followed earlier in the week current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stating the country was not a Christian country – judging by the numbers in the pews. The Church of England really is a funny institution: they are either so divided to the extent they might as well consider tabling a motion in Synod stating believing in God is optional or their high command is going out of its way to describe its irrelevance entirely. Oh dear oh dear.

It is clear why we focus on the Church of England when it comes to judging the popularity of Christianity: it is the Established Church and our Head of State is the Defender of The Faith. But let’s not be blinkered. Pop down to a Roman Catholic Church on a Sunday in any reasonably populated area (any ordinary provincial town will do) and the pews are overflowing. Join the faithful on an Easter service (e.g. Good Friday) and it is literally standing room only.

David Cameron knew what he was doing by igniting this debate. I do not doubt his sincerity when he describes moments where the “healing power” of faith has affected his life. But he didn’t become Prime Minister by not understanding what to say and when to say it. He knows he needs to win back his base before the General Election and knows policies like gay marriage haven’t helped. So he has calculated it’s time to ramp up the Christian and religious rhetoric. This is good as it reminds us we are, despite the best efforts of the Anglican Church, still a Christian country with all the values and tolerance which comes with that. The atheists and secularists who wrote to the Daily Telegraph denouncing the PM’s article in Church Times accused Mr Cameron of “fostering division”. Really? We are a Christian country, which welcomes and tolerates all faiths and none. I’d say by emphasising that he was doing quite the opposite.


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EU elections campaign kicks off

 

Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg in LBC EU debate on Wednesday evening

Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg in LBC EU debate on Wednesday evening

On Wednesday, the leaders of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats debated with each other on whether Great Britain should stay in the European Union.

Hosted by commercial radio station LBC, once London focussed but now broadcasting nationally on DAB radio, and chaired by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari (he does not look very Italian!) the debate was a stark choice between In or Out of the EU.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage came straight from the pub to the central London venue, umbrella in hand and donning a fur collar three-quarter length coat on a cold March evening whilst Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg turned up – sans coat – with a Met Police detective (I presume he was guarding him) after being dropped off further up the street in a ministerial limo.

During the hour long programme, Chairman Nick Ferrari insisted on referring to Mr Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister despite the debate being a party political event between two political leaders. Nick Clegg was merely there as leader of the Liberal Democrats not as a government minister.

Sky News televised the debate and it was also broadcast from LBC’s website. It may have come as a surprise to see Sky and LBC so intertwined. It shouldn’t be as Sky produce LBC’s news slots and veteran Sky newsreader Kay Burley hosts a phone-in on LBC on Sunday morning. It’s a small world…

So on to the debate proper. There was nothing new to the arguments. For political geeks it was a case of ticking off the key points one by one as they were trotted out by Clegg and Farage. 77% of Britain’s laws are made in the EU, said Mr Farage. No, only 7% are according to Mr Clegg (which was even the BBC rubbished the next day). The Lib Dem leader mocked UKIP Nigel Farage for saying 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians would descend on the UK once the transition controls were dropped on 1st January. Mr Farage denied he said they would all turn up but then cleverly stated it wasn’t 29 million who have access to our jobs and houses, it was 450 million: the population of EU countries. And, of course, he’s right.

The cost to Britain of being in the EU “club” was raised by Mr Farage. It’s £55 million a day if you’re interested. The Lib Dem leader had to slip in that the NHS would collapse if we curbed immigration into the UK. *Yawn*. And, of course, Nick Clegg said we’d lose 3 million jobs if we left the EU. Mr Farage batted back that the 3 million figure comes from one academic report written in 1997 and there is no reliable evidence this is true.

You get the point.

It was political candy for political geeks like me but I doubt much of the electorate were watching or read and heard about the debate in the copious column inches, tweets and analysis written and verbalised by the hordes of journalists, bloggers, radio DJs and TV presenters gathered in the “spin room” next to the debating hall.

Emperor public gave Farage the thumbs up after EU debate when YouGov declared him the "winner"

Emperor public gave Farage the thumbs up after EU debate when YouGov poll declared him the “winner”

Who won then? The mainstream media, as Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph, has pointed out today (in contrast to his colleague Fraser Nelson who’s gone all “wet” on the issue of an EU debate), wanted Nick Clegg to win as that was the consensus the London metropolitan journalist elite had decided before the debate had begun. As soon as the debate ended the ‘pundits’ were calling it for Clegg and calling Nigel Farage sweaty. Then once YouGov had crunched their instant poll numbers, they quickly U-turned once the emperor public had shown the thumbs up for Mr Farage by 57% to Nick Clegg’s 36%. 

I think Nigel Farage spoke with passion and sincerity – you can see he really believes what he says. Whereas smarmy Clegg just parroted the Brussels line and showed faux shock at the Ukip leader’s views. It was interesting to hear why the Westminster journalists thought Clegg had won (especially as they go against public opinion): he spoke directly to the camera unlike Farage (except Farage did); unlike the UKIP leader, Mr Clegg called audience questioner’s by their names (except Mr Farage also did); Mr Clegg showed he’d done a few of these debates before (you mean he looked bored and drank too much water); and Mr Farage looked sweaty and shifty (errr, HD TV has been around for a while now and even this picture didn’t show a bead of sweat on Mr Farage’s brow).

In short, no one really won. The views of both contenders were not a surprise. However, most people in the country will have not heard the key points on either side of the argument before so – for the electors who tuned in – it was very worthwhile having the debate for that alone. I applaud LBC for organising this debate and for Sky News broadcasting it on a free national TV platform. Mr Clegg and Mr Farage now do it all again on the BBC next week, when audience numbers will be far higher.

This was Nigel Farage’s first national TV debate. David Cameron is still resisting sharing a platform with the UKIP leader in the 2015 General Election debates but he may have no choice if the public’s verdict on Mr Farage translates into real votes in the European Elections on 22nd May.


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Osborne helps savers in Budget

Chancellor George Osborne and his Treasury team outside Number 11 Downing Street before he delivered his fifth Budget today

Chancellor George Osborne and his Treasury team outside Number 11 Downing Street before he delivered his fifth Budget today

First up, I’m sorry for not blogging for over three weeks. I have recently had a big change in my life as I moved away from Ipswich, where I had lived and worked (in business and politics) for nearly thirteen years, to Chelmsford in Essex. It was sad to leave Ipswich but it was time for a change and since stepping down from active politics as a local councillor and Tory activist the opportunity was there to open a new chapter in my life.

But (unfortunately for some I am sure!) you won’t stop hearing from me in the electronic world as I will continue blogging on politics, mainly nationally and internationally until, perhaps, I feel the need to comment on the shenanigans of local politicians in the county town city of Essex.

So here goes with another post..

George Osborne has today announced his fifth budget for UK plc, with key headlines for me being the increase in the income tax threshold to £10,500 (delayed until next year) and the big one: increasing the ISA allowance (in either cash or shares) to £15,000 from July this year. This is great news for everyone (as all are entitled to earn up to £10,500 without paying income tax) and savers, who have suffered far too long since the banks and the Labour Party wrecked the economy in 2008.

It was interesting to see two MPs who I personally know – and have campaigned for – standing on the doorstep of Number 11 next to George Osborne at the customary photo op when the Chancellor of the Exchequer holds up the red box before driving off to the Commons to deliver his budget. Both Nicky Morgan (Con, Loughborough), who is Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Rob Wilson (Con, Reading East), who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor, were in Downing Street with Mr Osborne for the group shot of the Chancellor’s team before he took centre stage.

We had the announcement at the front-end of the income tax system on the personal allowance but Mr Osborne also told us the higher rate tax threshold will rise from £41,450 to £41,865 next month and by a further 1% to £42,285 next year. Not a lot but it will help the 1.4 million (since 2010 alone) who are, frankly, on modest incomes (especially if they are the only breadwinner) but have been dragged into the 40% bracket. Let’s not forget the LOWERING of the 40% threshold was a deliberate Coalition Government policy since 2010 to pay for the increase in the personal income tax allowance. So all in all higher rate taxpayers are still losing out – some (in fact most) will say “so what?”, as the majority do not earn enough to pay 40%, but I remind you hundreds of thousands earn just over the threshold and their increase in salary due to a promotion is then swallowed up by HM Treasury – hardly fair.

I’m no where near about to retire and won’t be able to afford to do for many decades thanks to the out-of-control housing market and Gordon Brown’s raid on pensions back in 1997 when he removed the tax relief available to pension funds. But I am pleased George Osborne has started to recognise the huge problems being stored up for those on defined contribution pensions, which, if they have a pension at all, nearly everyone in the median working age group (i.e. my Generation) has rather than the gold-plated salary pension schemes (also known as defined benefit) my parents’ generation enjoy. I won’t begin to try and understand the detail (not yet anyway) but the Chancellor has removed tax restrictions, meaning defined contribution pension holders won’t need to buy an annuity if they do not wish to, and the taxable part of pension pot taken as cash on retirement is to be charged at normal income tax rate, down from 55%.

Straight after the budget, Sky News went to Wakefield to interview two local businessmen (and yes, they were men!). Both interviewees were positive about the chancellor’s announcement with the key word “confidence” being used. Most ordinary workers are yet to feel the benefits of the economic fixes the Conservative-led Government is putting in place to rectify the monumental mess the Labour Party, of which Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were very senior members, left the country in 2010. But I sense a warming amongst the electorate towards the Conservatives when it comes to the economy, which will be THE most important aspect of the General Election in 2015. “It’s the economy, stupid”, as Bill Clinton said.

However, David Cameron’s Conservatives have an uphill struggle if they are to actually win a general election for the first time since 1992! The constituency boundaries are skewered in Labour’s favour, thanks to the cry-baby antics of the Liberal Democrats when they weren’t given Lords Reform (something not mandatory in the Coalition Agreement although boundary changes were if Nick Clegg’s party got their referendum on the Alternative Vote system, which they did) and the general feel in the country that the Tories are still the party of the rich, which Labour leader Ed Miliband focused on again today during his budget response in the House of Commons. The surge of UKIP, to be boosted further when they may indeed win the European Elections in May, will also be a major factor on whether Mr Miliband takes the keys to 10 Downing Street or not. The yellow peril for all their puffed out chests in government (despite losing seats in the 2010 election), are an irrelevance.