Tag Archives: david cameron

Paper Thin Policies

I suspect politicians have one of those paper fold up thingies. You know the thing I mean. As a kid you would write names under the fold down flap and do a passable impersonation of a chick opening its beak as you counted out the number of letters in your birth month and then counted your birth date. Wherever this origami divining device ended up revealed the name of who you were to marry. 

Remarkably I always ended up with “Mrs VFTN”. That meant little to the ten year old me. 

This must be the way that politcians make their most crucial decisions, for sense and logic seem little to do with it. So they all sit around the table and chant C-O-B-R-A as Theresa May darts her fingers back and forth. They then  count the number of second and third homes those present in the meeting have and David C opens a flap to see what the policy announcement is going to be for the next day. 

That must be they way they do it. It can be the only explanation. 

So when the great and the good gathered together to consider the problems currently existing at Calais they came up with stopping benefits for the family of failed asylum seekers and making it a criminal offence for a landlord to not evict them. 

Brilliant. We are going to force people, and let’s make no bones about this, including children homeless and penniless in order to deter them from coming into this country. If the answer of our Government is to make the desperate more desperate then someone at Calais can have my place in this country because I want no part of a nation like that. 

Do our politicians realise what the majority of these people are fleeing? These are not EU nationals exercising their right to freedom of movement. These are people who are fleeing poverty and war. I am sure that if you took a quick straw poll of half a dozen Syrians and asked them “What would you rather? Penniless and homeless in the UK or almost penniless and at risk of having your house bombed and your town taken over by ISIS in Syria?” you would probably have a fair number taking their chances in the shop doorways of Kings Cross. 

People are dying to get into this country. I do not mean that metaphorically. People actually die. The conditions in the camps at Calais are not the stuff of Hi-De-Hi. Making those people homeless once they are here is just going to drive them into the sorts of camps they already live in.  Stopping the meagre benefits of £36 per week is not going to deter many people who are desperate enough to buy a wetsuit from Decathlon to try to swim the Channel. All it will do is make those that are here turn to crime. 

Give a leaflet to every inhabitant of the various ghettos around Calais explaining to them that this proposal awaits them if they get to the UK and see how many pack up and leave. It will be somewhere in the region of “not very many”. 

The disorder at the Tunnel Terminals is a serious concern. The state of the world which drives people to exhibit this level of desperation and lawlessness is a serious concern. The measures that the Government propose are not a serious answer. They lack humanity and they lack sense. 

Real politicians would have real answers, not answers that pander to a perception of the UK as a soft touch and the target of the avaricious layabouts of the world. The reality is that these policies are not made by folding pieces of paper but they are made for the headlines that make the front page of the daily papers. 

The Real Thing

In David Cameron’s conference speech in October 2010, five months into the coalition government, he referenced the 70s Pepsi advert slogan – “Lip smacking, thirst quenching, ace tasting, motivating, good buzzing, cool talking, high walking, fast living, ever giving…..Pepsi.” 

Now this advert has always had a special resonance for me, having the words emblazoned across a favourite yellow t-shirt of mine as a very, very young child in the decade that Coca-Cola was trying to teach the world to sing (other brands of cola are available).

It strikes me that the Conservative Party have once more reached back through time for the basis of their entire campaign strategy up to now. I expect to see a poster propounding “Odd looking, sandwich eating, geeky looking, back-stabbing, Britain hating, kitchen owning, brother slaying, SNP wooing, woman loving…..EdMil.”

It would seem that the Conservatives have identified that the perceived oddities of Miliband is their greatest strength. I find it difficult to recall a time when mainstream politicians have so concentrated on a negative attack on the personal characteristics of the Leader of a Party. 

Such portrayals can define an individual forever in the minds of the public. One need only to think about the Sun’s characterisation of the football manager Graham Taylor as a turnip. But this only works if it taps into the general view of the failings of the individual involved. It works if the negative portrayal simply gives voice to the view already held. 

Obviously the public will think Miliband looked odd eating that bacon sandwich. Yes his voice can say more to you about the chap from IT, rather than a statesman. However I am not convinced that the public have written him off entirely. And I suspect the strategy thus deployed is making the public warm to this underdog. It is allowing him to repeat, time and time again, “yes, this is all said about me, but you know what, I’m still standing.” 

It is also backfiring. I tend to want those charged with Governing the country to have intelligence and judgement. Neither seemed on display in Michael Fallon’s accusation that Miliband “stabbing his brother in the back” somehow renders him unreliable when it comes to defence of the realm. 

Ed’s defeat of David in the leadership contest was no more a back stabbing than David Cameron defeating Ken Clarke and David Davis for the leadership of their party. This was a gratuitous and inaccurate personal attack. And a hell of a non-sequitur, in any event. 

Ed Miliband stood against his brother in a democratic process therefore he cannot be trusted with making decisions that impact upon the armed forces? Really? Does that make any sense?

I may try this tactic in court. I will cross-examine the witness to a robbery along the lines of “How can the jury believe you about what you say you saw, when you have taken the decision to pair that jacket, with that tie?” Or conducting an appeal with the logic “You must allow this appeal, because the Judge once slighted a member of her own family and is therefore completely devoid of reliability.” I suspect I would be laughed out of court more regularly, and with greater gusto, than already happens. 

The worst consequence of the current approach by the Conservatives is that it makes the news story either about Miliband or about the judgement of Fallon in making such a personal attack. The actual point, the substance of what is being said, becomes secondary. Or even totally lost. The decision about Trident is an important issue for consideration by the electorate. The Miliband fraternal relationship is not. 

This tactic is, in part, a product of things like “The Leaders’ Debate.” Quite how this has reached the prominence in our process that it has, is beyond me. We are not electing a President. We are electing an MP to represent our constituencies, who will form a Parliament, who will then go on to decide who forms the Government. 

Yet we have a Leaders’ Debate in which you have parties that are not standing in every or even most of the constituencies, a leader in Farage who is not yet elected to Parliament and Nick Clegg, who may not even be re-elected to Parliament, let alone have any role to play in a future Government.

Let us have informed and constructive debates about our future. Not this sort of personal attack. Leave that to the sketch writers and the satirists. Allow the commentators to comment. Let us have politicians talking about politics. 

A Letter from Dave (and Alan) about Ed (and Alex)

I got a letter from the Prime Minister yesterday. This is not an everyday event in the Hamilton household. This caused a stir of excitement. The Prime Minister! Writing to me!! Whatever could he want? He is a very important man, and here he was, taking the time to write to little me. 

When I say take the time to write, the letter was in fact typed. This was no personal “black spider” correspondence type scenario. But it was signed. The personal touch there. Well, I say signed, closer inspection revealed that the signature was what some term a “facsimile” and other people call a “fake”. 

Nonetheless the Prime Minister was writing to me, Jaime Hamilton. Which was how the letter started. “Dear Jaime Hamilton.” Using both my names. Not the cosiness of just “Dear Jaime” nor the more formal “Dear Mr Hamilton”. Even the man I spoke to the other week about cancelling my Sky gave me the choice. As I have never met the Prime Minister I guess this was a hard decision for him to make. I mean Jaime is a funny first name. He may not even know whether I am male or female. Tough call for the man. Not that Prime Ministers should be beyond tough calls. The funny thing is most correspondence I receive addressed “Dear Jaime Hamilton” are usually emails informing me of the fact that the sender has £17 million he has to move out of his country and, should I care to let it rest in my bank account for a few hours, I could keep the odd million or so. All I need to do is give them every detail of my bank account. 

I was sure this letter was not going to be so full of empty promises and fanciful financial shenanigans. 

So the letter began, in bold type no less, “The Conservatives’ number one priority in government has been to get Britain’s economy back on its feet.” This made me burst into a spontaneous round of applause. Not because of the sentiment expressed, but because of the impeccable use (and non-use) of apostrophes. Bravo PM. 

I actually did not agree with the sentiment. I kind of think that the government’s number one priority should have been to keep me and my loved ones safe in a well organised, free democratic society. But my new penpal and I were not going to fall out about that. 

Our Glorious Leader went on “We’ve come a long way since 2010. And now, thanks to the hard work and determination of the British people, we are making our way back:” I was beginning to get confused. We had come a long way and now we were turning round and heading back again? Was this a day trip to Whitby on a wet Thursday? 

He wrote some more about the deficit, taxes and jobs. They were down, they were up, and when they were up they were up and when they were down they were down and if Miliband had his way they would be neither up nor down. Or something like that. And then “And the choice you face now is whether we stick to a plan that is working, or turn back”. Oh come on, Grand Old Duke of Chipping Comfort, you told me three sentences ago we are now making our way back having come a long way and now we have to decide whether to go back again? Make your mind up. One of your predecessors was famous for not turning. You, however, are making me dizzy. Are we going to Whitby or not?

The Prime Minister needed to move the correspondence forward. We needed to re-centre on our relationship. Concentrate on why it was that the PM had singled me out for this letter that also came with the personalised reference number CHEA6600024298. And was promoted by someone called Alan Mabbutt. I am not sure who Alan Mabbutt is or why he was promoting this billet-doux. 

Now for the “ask not what can your country can do for you but ask what you can do to give me Chequers” moment. 

Apparently, the Prime Minister told me, my constituency was one of just 23 the Conservatives need to win to keep Ed Milliband out of Downing Street. This confused me. I thought he needed 326 seats to get his majority. Turns out he only needs 23. Whatever the maths, this was his point “So today I am writing,” he wrote, as you may have guessed from the fact it is a letter and he used the words ‘I am writing’, but I digress, “to ask for your support to finish the job we have started.”

He promised me more jobs and better wages. This is where the spell was broken. He did not know me at all. He had no idea I was a criminal lawyer More jobs? Tell that to the hundreds of solicitor firms his Government is about to put out of work. Better wages? Cut after cut has decimated the professions. 

So as he blathered on about Ed Milliband and Alex Salmond I really stopped reading. Because the best our Prime Minister could come up with to persuade me to vote for a candidate he did not even give a namecheck to, was the prospect of a Scottish bogeyman giving us Sassenachs another Bannockburn. I want vision. I want a fair society and a democracy that shines out to the world. I want better than “Our country simply can’t afford the chaos of a Miliband-led government with Alex Salmond pulling the strings for the next five years. The only way to stop that happening is to vote Conservative.” 

Of course this is not the only way. The other way is to make sure everyone votes for someone other than a Conservative. If you want to know a bit more about that kind of thinking, sign up up with the Vote4Justice mailing list by clicking here. And consider how your vote impacts not just on big business, not just on the bottom line. But on society. 

The letter that began “Dear Jaime Hamilton” was just another piece of correspondence that promised me untold riches if only I would help the author out with a spot of local difficulty. 

My response “Dear Dave, Jog On.”