Tag Archives: governance

Political chaos and political reform

If you haven’t read the extracts from Anthony Seldon’s forthcoming book on Boris Johnson’s mismanagement of government, being serialised in the Times and Sunday Times since Saturday, you’re missing something that you can usefully quote next time you come up against a Tory candidate. Seldon is not a commentator who can be dismissed by the Right as a ‘leftie’ intellectual. Biographer of Margaret Thatcher, former vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, son of one of the founders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, he is a pillar of the conservative establishment. (Full disclosure: his mother canvassed for the Liberals in the Orpington by-election, and Michael Steed and I stayed there for a week.) The extracts quote from insiders who knew what was going on.

And it’s devastating. Chaotic, with an incompetent prime minister dependent on an adviser (Dominic Cummings) who despised him almost as much as he despised Parliament and the conventional rules of constitutional government, and with a new partner/wife with her own political views and expertise. It portrays inability to take clear decisions at the centre or to implement them through Departments, with an inbuilt tendency to bypass ministers and civil servants whenever possible and to prioritise presentation over substance. This was politics as a permanent campaign, rather than a recognition that government is complicated and unavoidably slow-moving.

The Conservatives campaigned in 2017 and 2019 on a platform of strong and stable single-party government, against what they portrayed as the chaos of coalition – by which they meant a Labour government dependent on the SNP. What they’ve inflicted on the UK is the chaos of single-party factionalism, compounded by dreadful leadership choices in both Johnson and Truss. Opinions on May and Sunak are a little less negative, but both have been hamstrung by internal conflicts within the parliamentary party between a dwindling bunch of pragmatists, a group of ambitious cynics and an ideological right. The defenestration of Raab suggests that the chaos will roll on to the 2024 election, likely to be postponed to the latest possible date by continuing squabbles between ‘realos’ and ‘fundamentalists’.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments

17 April 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Keegan: You don’t need a maths A-level to see that these plans don’t add up
  • Government Pushed to Vote on Banning New Coal Mines
  • Government reported for breaking purdah rules
  • Sunak investigation: Another accusation of a Conservative PM bending the rules
  • Government defeated as Lib Dems win vote to ban new coal mines

Keegan: You don’t need a maths A-level to see that these plans don’t add up

Responding to Gillian Keegan’s morning media round about the Government’s maths announcement, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

Gillian Keegan’s empty words are an insult to millions of people who are looking to the Government for

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Welcome to my day: 26 September 2022 – a bad time to be poor, or vulnerable, or…

High inflation, rising interest rates and a mad scientist approach to economic management do not tend to instil confidence, as the markets indicated on Friday, following Kwasi Kwarteng’s “this is not a budget” statement. The hedge fund guys have already made hay – they obviously had a pretty good idea what was coming – and now the rest of us can find out what is in store.

There is little doubt that there is much that needs to be done in order to build a thriving future for the United Kingdom. From how our country is governed, to the supply of housing or provision of energy, and onto protecting our environment, many tough decisions will need to be taken. And, from a “customer perspective”, some patience is needed too. You can’t turn round the NHS overnight, just as infrastructure projects, especially big, strategic ones, don’t happen just because someone announces the intention no about it.

But the first thing you need is government that can think strategically, and not just about securing its own future in office. The outgoing administration seemed solely focussed on this week’s headline, making it to next weekend without imploding. But you would have to admit that this one does seem to have a strategy, even if it seems hard to credit it.

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Mistakes, trust and power

A long time ago, students on my English Language and Literature course were invited by the Language professor to come to the next lecture with a new word that had been coined in the previous year. I knew exactly when mine had appeared and who invented it. A certain Jo Grimond had said we needed an Ombudswoman. I shan’t go into the gender politics here, but my example had a short shelf life. Others had more clue about new words which would last.

However the crucial aim was getting us to recognise the fluidity and development of the English language which has been going on since Chaucer’s version of English triumphed over a number of other regional varieties. Grammar and syntax can change but at a much slower pace. Even slower are changes in spelling.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

8 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Latest resignation shows damaging consequences of PM’s Brexit approach
  • Liberal Democrats condemn Government for “destroying” UK reputation on the world stage

Latest resignation shows damaging consequences of PM’s Brexit approach

Responding to news that Sir Jonathan Jones, head of the UK Government’s legal department, has resigned following the Government’s decision to introduce legislation which would undermine key aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

The head of the Government’s legal department quitting over Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit should signal how serious a situation this is.

For Johnson to think it is acceptable to row back on international agreements

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The Johnson Government and democracy

Today’s Conservatives have a very crude idea of democracy, and no concept of local democracy at all. Those who watched the government’s daily press conference on June 11th will have heard Matt Hancock appeal to British citizens to do their ‘civic duty’ by observing their government’s latest revision of the rules for social distancing. He then went on to welcome the new test and tracing system, and thank Serco and Sitel for the part they had played in setting it up.

I had watched successive scientists commenting on the days before about the unavoidably local basis of …

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 21 May 2020

2 big stories

One of the interesting aspects of the Coronavirus crisis is how government, and in particular the Civil Service, has coped with the disruption and the demands placed upon it. At the centre of that is HM Revenue & Customs, who have, from a standing start, have processed one million applications under the Job Retention Scheme, protecting approximately 7.5 million jobs, and more than two million applications under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, with well north of £10 billion claimed. And all that with the majority of their staff working from home.

Its American counterpart, the Internal Revenue Service, is …

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Over-centralisation and the response to Covid-19

England would have managed its response to the Covid-19 epidemic better if our local government had been stronger, and encouraged to play a larger role. Liberal Democrats should now be arguing, even more vigorously than usual, that over-centralization leads to failure on the ground.

The first wave of testing centres was outsourced by the government, through a non-competitive contracting process, to one of our largest consultancy firms. The consultants’ understanding of regional and local geography was evidently limited, and their assumption that all health workers would have their own cars and would be willing to drive long distances for several …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

“To govern is to choose”

One of the first aphorisms I learned when studying history and politics was: ‘To govern is to choose’. It was Pierre Mendes-France’s maxim when Premier of France in 1954-5, cutting through the morass of postponed decisions left by weak coalition governments and negotiating the withdrawal of French troops form Indo-China. Good government means taking decisions, even when they are hard decisions.

Which underlines how appallingly incompetent Britain’s current government is. It has raised the art of postponing decisions to an art form. If it could postpone presenting Parliament with a clear choice on Brexit until the afternoon of March 29th, it …

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