Sunday, May 16, 2010

Layer 311 . . . Cameron, Liberal Conservatism, Will Hutton, Fair Pay, and Reinventing Labour

As someone who believes it's right to give credit where it's due, I have to say Cameron's performance on the Marr programme this morning was impressive. I have plenty of reservations about someone so young and with so little experience being able to run a country, but he really sounded like he's thought long and hard about how to run a government, and his performance was pretty flawless. What's more, he even sounded sincere.

He was calm, unflustered, and actually addressed Marr's questions, instead of making prepared statements, which is what we've become used to with Blair, Brown, and co. As a personality he's far more appealing than any of the New Labour mob, who were truly gruesome, with the sole exception of Harriet Harman. For example, I'm trying to remain open-minded about Ed Miliband's bid for the Labour leadership, but it's impossible to warm to him as an individual, and he's a very unconvincing speaker.

I'm not saying I like Cameron as an individual, but it's hard to actually dislike someone who appears genuine and sincere, even if he is a Tory. Down the years I've come to at least respect other 'liberal' conservatives such as the latter day Ted Heath, as well as Michael Heseltine and lately Michael Portillo. Today Cameron described himself as a liberal conservative, which is going to alienate him from at least half of his party, and this is much to his credit.

It strikes me that he has a great deal in common with Barack Obama, and not just politically. The Democratic Party occupies much the same part of the political spectrum as Cameron's 'progressive conservatism', and it has to be said that Cameron is developing the ability to speak convincingly, and to think calmly and objectively.

So what did he say today? Firstly, that he's asked Will Hutton to chair a fair pay review. BLOODY HELL! Will Hutton! Fair pay! If the last government had done this we'd have been ecstatic! Those bastards didn't even TALK about fair pay. This is amazing. The one thing I really wanted from the last government was to adopt the proposals Hutton made in 1995 in "The State We're In".

What's more, Cameron is actually talking about reducing inequality! When did New Labour ever do that? Those bastards were 'intensely relaxed' about the super rich. Cameron also said no civil servant should earn more than 20 times the pay of the lowest paid, which means that top pay has to be reduced or the lowest pay has to be increased. Bloody hell!

He also said that it's wrong for civil servants to be given bloody bonuses, and for £1.5 billion to be given to bloody consultants! Amazing. What New Labour never understood is that it's wrong to pay huge salaries to civil servants when their retirement pensions are also calculated on the basis of final salaries. When you do this, what incentive is there for civil servants to speak truth to power?

It's wrong to give 'commercial' salaries to people in safe government jobs AS WELL AS generous retirement pensions. It's got to be either one or the other, which is the way we used to do things in this country under the old social democratic concensus. You have to say it looks like New Labour were prepared to bribe their senior civil servants with fat salaries to keep them sweet and keep them onside.

But back to Cameron. He said he still has no plans to raise VAT, which is a tax that hits the poorest the hardest. Having put down this marker it will be hard for him to backtrack on it. Excellent.

He said he'd raise capital gains tax because people were cheating by calling part of their salaries 'capital gains' in order to get the lower rate of tax, and this isn't right. Excellent. He also mentioned the capital gains people get from selling second homes, etc, and said this shouldn't be seen as being as beneficial to society as capital gains arising from investment in business and industry. Why couldn't New Labour have said this?

He said he wants to see the big banks broken up and wants to crack down on their obscene bonuses. Why didn't New Labour do this?

He said he's a liberal conservative and modern Conservatism should be about achieving progressive ends. Yes!

He drew attention to the fact that he's legislating for fixed term parliaments, which takes away from his powers as Prime Minister.

We already knew this government will also legislate for a fully elected second chamber and for a referendum on voting reform.

They've also agreed to drop the Tory proposals for raising inheritance tax and for tax cuts for couples who marry.

I have to say that at this rate Cameron is going to win over a great many floating voters who were very afraid that the next Tory government would be hard line Thatcherite, and not at all progressive.


Now this could all be window dressing - putting the most attractive goods out front in order to compensate for the fact that the shop in fact contains a lot of very nasty products inside. We shall see. But there's no getting away from the fact that this government is doing and saying plenty of things that New Labour should have said and done.

There must be a real chance, however, that Cameron is indeed the liberal/progressive Conservative he always claimed he was, and that he's about to drag his party into the genuine middle ground of one-nation conservatism. If so, he deserves the respect and gratitude of social democrats and democratic socialists, not their scorn and sniping.

The fact is, the country decided to boot out Labour and give the Tories a chance to run the country in alliance with LibDems, and the best that Tory opponents could hope for is a government that seems to give a damn about fairness, social justice, civil liberties, political reform, City and banking reforms, etc. To have them also talking about fair pay, capping civil service salaries, etc is a big bonus.

The left, in particular, should be grateful that, thanks to the loss of the election by New Labour, there's now an opportunity to purge the Labour party of its nasty elements and completely marginalise people like Adonis, Campbell, Balls, Blunkett, Prescott, and all the other muppets who were cheerleaders for Blair and Brown. They have no further use or credibility. Not that they really had any in the first place.

As for the Millipedes, only time will tell. I can't see that Brother Ed is going to excite anyone except a dyed in the wool New Labourite, and as for Brother David - well he may be making friendly noises towards the likes of John Cruddas, and giving himself a social democratic makeover, but as my son says - who's going to vote for HIM?

Oh well - there are maybe four or five years to go before the next election, which is time enough for a substantial figure to emerge. In fact, if this government holds to the centre ground, as it seems to want to do, and if it's at least competent, and if it successfully banishes the spectre of the Thatch, then there may well be a ten year stretch before the Labour party stands any chance of winning an election. By which time - who knows? - this government may have decided that PR isn't such a bad thing after all.

A world in which the key players are Obama, Clinton, Cameron and Clegg doesn't look nearly as scary as a world that was driven by Bush and Blair.

The Labour party has a lot to be ashamed of and a lot to recover from. In five years time the LibDems might easily be more popular than Labour, if all goes well with this government. I'm sure Cameron has factored that into his thinking, and will do what he can to assist the LibDems to go up in the polls. Besides, just being in the political spotlight, as we've seen, is bound to help the LibDems.

As for the Labour party - it must surely now set out its stall as a party of social democrats and democratic socalists, which is what it should have done back in 1997, and is what it's supposed to have been from its inception. Anything else is a waste of space, and those political careerists like the Balls Family and the Millipede Brothers can just fuck right off. They had their chance, and they blew it on the New Labour project. Very badly indeed.

These are very interesting times.


Wild Flowers and Full Moon Fever

I forgot to mention yesterday that one of Tom Petty's best albums is Wild Flowers. It's also one of his most melodic and original collections of songs. My favourite order of play is to begin with Crawling Back To You and Wake Up Time. I love the chord progressions within these tracks, and the feelings they evoke. Tom may not be in the same class as say, Dylan, as a lyricist, but he's a brilliant writer of melodies and a creator of music that is pure emotion. The use of an orchestra on Wake Up Time is also pretty special.

Full Moon Fever dates from the Wilbury period, and could easily be the third Traveling Wilburys album, since it has such a similar feel and is produced by Wilbury Jeff Lynne, who also co-wrote the tracks with TP. Interestingly the two Wilbury albums were called Volume One and Volume Three.

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