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June 2010

Ed versus David

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Ed Miliband, ever since he worked like a dog through the almost pointless Copenhagen summit for climate change last year. Franny Armstrong's excellent "Stupid Show" videos on You Tube caught Ed, exhausted but still upright at the end, trying to maintain a politician's gloss on what was a shambolic failure. He really looked like he meant it. Maybe I'm a sucker.

It was Ed, let's not forget, who wrote the Labour manifesto going in to the election, and he put many straightforward green targets in, which frankly were a lot less wishy washy than the Tories/LibDems appeared to be. Good old Ed, eh?

We're told that Dave is a bit of a Blairite, and Ed's a lot more of a Brownite, so then it's time to look at the boys' voting records to see where those differences in their attitude toward key issues really lie. This data is taken from the excellent and indispensable site "They work for you". (Sorry my table making skills are dreadful. I left the borders in because it all got a bit lost in the page otherwise).

Topic David Ed
Equal gay rightsStrongly forStrongly for
Iraq warStrongly forn/a
Iraq war enquiryStrongly againstStrongly against
ID cardsStrongly forStrongly for
Transparent ParliamentMixed resultsMixed results
EU integrationStrongly forStrongly for
Replacing TridentStrongly forStrongly for
Student top-up feesStrongly forStrongly for
Autonomy for schoolsMixed resultsModerately for
Anti-terrorism lawsStrongly forStrongly for
Ministers intervention in inquestsStrongly forStrongly for
Removing hereditary peers from HOLForFor
Wholly elected HOLStrongly forStrongly for
Hunting banForFor
Laws to stop climate changeModerately againstMixture of for & against
Stricter asylum systemStrongly forStrongly for
Foundation hospitalsStrongly for
The smoking banModeratelyVery strongly for

So where is the wiggle room between these famous brothers? They both love the Iraq war and ID cards; they both want fewer foreigners in the country (don't we all! Er, no); they support PFI in foundation hospital building and Ed *really* doesn't like smokers. Either all of that, or they've just slavishly following the party whip. And why would two such independent enterprising, energetic, passion driven future leaders do that?

...because they're more of the same.

The General Election

As with most people who maintain a fervent interest in the way their nation is governed, I've just started coming down from a rollercoaster ride of quite magnificently chaotic proportions which has gripped the country for six days.

I was slightly unprepared for the affection I had, which must have been hidden deep down, for Gordon Brown, listening to his resignation speeches and thank you and goodnights. He supported the Iraq war, despite personal misgivings, because he didn't want to lose his job, and that is an insurmountable wrong. He supported PFI and understood profoundly that the gaping hole in the country's financial infrastructure left by the death of the country as an industrial force had to be filled with banking, and income being generated from the Square Mile. Yet that deep, and important understanding led to a de-regulated environment (to keep them all in the country); a London with housing stock so expensive that non-bankers have difficulty renting, never mind buying and most importantly, a culture where bankers were rewarded for taking greater and greater risks. It is Gordon Brown's undeniable understanding of the forces at work there which helped lead our economy, as much as everyone else's, in to a huge bust.

This Gordon as a banker was hidden from the electorate and from the party members who saw him as a battling middle lefty academic with his heart in the right place and here's the thing. I think that image is right. I think he did have his heart in the right place, apart from the war. Er, and PFI. But if the govt had not supported the banking community, what would have happened? GDP growth slowing down, the banks deserting for New York or Germany... unpalatable a truth it may be but the banking sector is vital to Britain's growth. The post-Crunch proposed legislation has been weak and vague in comparison to the public rhetoric - the reason? THey can't afford for the banks to piss off elsewhere. So it is with bonuses. There are vague noises along the lines of "Well, we'd rather you didn't", a one off tax which the city gritted its teeth over and soon forgot, but that's about it.There discussion as to whether to break investment banks away from high street banks will merely change banking company email accounts.

And what now? Cameron's doorstep speech was surprising in that it was long, sounded relatively earnest and in the first sentence he reminded the voting public how different the country is today than it was 13 years ago - and that's as a result of the Labour govt. If anything, I think the Lib Dems provide a good fit for *Cameron* if not the Tory Party as a whole. But that's to the good. Someone already commented this morning that he may well be using Lib Dem cabinet member appointments as a way of cold-shouldering old-school tories who would otherwise get the jobs.

I worry about the very poor, and those not capable of joining this 'big society' (ie: devolved community responsibility with no budgets, unlike the alternative state run funds or institutions) for the many variable reasons that never come up in statistics. I'm not sure that the schoolfriend of Nora's who has to live in a one room bedsit with her mother and nearly-teenage brother will benefit. The important question being will the be concretely disadvantaged. God knows. But all sorts of rumblings are also happening, as well as a referendum on AV (hmmm. I think it's a cop out but at least it's better, I suppose, then FPTP), the scrapping of ID cards, fixed term parliaments... go on. Be radical on the good stuff.

Whilst I worry about the very poor, I worry more about environmental policy. Whilst the Labour Party was far from perfect, Ed Miliband had become synonymous with strident, strong campaigning from within. You could tell he'd written the party manifesto for the election given that he'd put the party down strong targets, with strong accountability for carbon reduction. the other two (who are now of course in power) were dithery in comparison. Cameron's view seems to be "Let the markets decide" which is exactly what the markets have been saying they *don't* want - needing a strong legislative framework to innovate against. I know from people who have worked with them though that the Civil Service environmental experts are a superb, concerned bunch. I'm hoping that the new Environment Secretary (whoever they - or should I say he, will be - and he won't be a Lib-Dem) will end up going native as Miliband did, because faced with the evidence of what's happening, I don't understand how anyone couldn't.

Anyway - all this change is going to take some getting used to. We'll see where we are in a year - I suspect back bench ructions will end up breaking out if Cameron is seen to be giving Clegg / progressive policies too much leg room. Reading The Labour Party twitterer, there  seems to be a massive registration surge in membership, as presumably disaffected Lib-Dems leave in disgust. Will their MP's all pull together? They've got way more to lose if they don't.