The Thick of It


Monday, October 27, 2008


Wherever Peter Mandelson has been there is sure to follow a media storm. The Prince of Darkness has been known as a master of spin, however his abrasive style has always attracted mud. The Tories fear Mandelson so will attack him. The media dislike Mandelson so they will attack him.

Mandelson will always give as good as he gets. George Osbourne was naive to think he could make Mandelson's criticisms of Gordon Brown public and get away with it. Bringing Mandelson back was still a good move by Brown. At the very least the media is now talking about the Tories and about Mandelson and has left Brown to get on with his job.

I expect Mandelson to survive the current maelstrom of media attention. It doesn't look like he has done anything wrong. He hadn't broken any rules previously with the loan from Geoffrey Robinson or the Hinduja passport "affair." Contacts between powerful businessmen and powerful politicians may look distasteful but it is naive to think they will never happen or never did.

Osbourne has now apologised: "To be honest this didn't look very good and that's something I regret." Both parties have slung mud at each other. Nothing can be proven either way. Mandelson can live with the attacks. It is going to be interesting to see how the Tories deal with their first real public scrutiny in some time.

State funding of political parties would of course remove many of the suspected underhand deals between business and politics. Neither of the main parties want this as they both seem to be infected by the desire to woo big business and big donations.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cameron's speech: "I am a fiscal conservative" .

Yesterday David Cameron came across well without wowing me. He comes across well because he is a natural speaker and PR man. Gordon Brown is not one of those. Brown's speech was as good as one could expect, likewise Cameron looked better.

Cameron's focus was very much traditional Conservatism. His focus was on the family and small government as the remedies to the so called "broken society." This was predictable and showed Cameron appealing to his core vote, socially and economically conservative with a big and a small c. Brown's speech was a similar appeal to his party who needed reassurance that he was up to the job. Cameron didn't need to do that, but still touched on the Tory hot spots.

By stating his priority to be low taxes and praising Thatcher's economic revolution Cameron was appealing to a Tory party that hasn't changed its values. The Tory part has changed, but only in that it now has the confidence to appeal to the country and behave like they expect to govern.

The lack of belief in government to enact positive change is the sort of Thatcherite mantra that dominated the 1980s of my childhood. "People create jobs, not government" stated Cameron. couple this with tax cuts and falling tax revenue in a declining economy and this signals severe cuts. Cameron won't say that now, but if the Tories win we'll see it happen. The Tories have shown this in local government in Hammersmith and Fulham.

The claim that the Tories are the party of NHS is laughable. However, t many in the Labour Party and on the left play into Tory hands and prepare the ground for Cameron to make that kind of claim by constantly complaining about details when the NHS is substantively better than it was ten years ago. When do you hear of patients left to die on trolleys each winter? That was commonplace when I grew up and simply doesn't happen anymore.

I was angered when Cameron claimed that Labour doesn't believe in community, that we only believe in government and individuals. By the end of his speech Cameron was aggressive and in his pomp. I've no doubt he'll rise to whatever challenge Brown sets. What is clear is that Labour has been divided and introspective, while the Tories are united and talking to the country.