Politics.co.uk Blog

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Spare a thought

The Budget day is a special one for all sorts of people. Life in the Treasury beforehand gets rather hectic, politics.co.uk understands. So perhaps the poor souls who carry huge piles of paperwork over to the rapacious hacks of the parliamentary press gallery have it easy.

Despite this, yesterday the staff of Alistair Darling's department decided to take it a little easier than usual.

You would not have thought this, after they had lugged over the many 'Budget packs'. These contain an index of documents, a booklet of press notices, a DirectGov release, 161 pages of 'Budget notes', the Debt and Reserves Management Report for 2010/11, an audit of assumptions for Budget 2010 document and, as if we almost forgot, the Budget report itself. A lot of carrying. But in fact this is just the beginning.

With the afternoon wearing on an official contacted press gallery staff, notifying us that hard copies of the departmental savings - another bunch of press releases - would not be forthcoming.

The image of Treasury post-room staff, utterly exhausted by the physical effort of dragging so many copies of the Budget around Whitehall, seems irresistible.

This might explain a teeny-tiny lapse of judgement. "We may have to do it all again in June/July!" one joked in an email. Good to see Her Majesty's civil servants have absolute faith in the widespread appeal of the policies of the government...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Conservatives cheat more

On the one hand, today's news that those looking for affairs are more likely to be Conservatives seems eminently surprising. After all, this is the party of tradition and family values, back-to-basics and church on Sundays.

But the results, from IllicitEncounters.com, which provides a forum for married couples to cheat on their spouse (marvellous what capitalism churns out isn't it?), are not as surprising as you might think. For a start, remember that sex scandals usually ruin Tory careers, while Labour careers are crippled by financial scandals.

Secondly, and as the website's CEO Adam Scott points out, Tory voters are usually more ambitious and wealthier than their Labour or Lib Dem counterparts. The ambitious are less likely to put up with the faults in their current relationship, and the wealthy are more likely to able to afford an affair. Never forget, affairs are pricey – it's like starting to date all over again, but with added hotel costs. And that's not even mentioning the money you'll haemorrhage on court orders when you inevitably get caught.

What we weren't quite expecting was the higher showing for the Greens and Ukip. Sorry, but that stumps us. Feel free to send in suggestions.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Politics.co.uk named best politics website!!!

NO REALLY!!!!!

We're not prone to bragging all that often over here at politics.co.uk towers.

No honestly we're not!! No really honest!!

But we can't quite help ourselves on this one. The only thing is….we can't quite work out how this little piece of praise from the Sunday Times slipped through the net, we're usually much better at monitoring when we get a mention in the national newspapers.

And this one's a cracker!!

Naming its top five politics websites in the February 14th edition of the Sunday Times, politics.co.uk is the top website to be mentioned.

The article says:

"Politics and the internet are a combustible mix, with many websites so partisan they may as well be manifestos. At least one seemingly independent blog draws private support from a wealthy figure in the Conservative party."

But there are sites and blogs that entertain while dodging any overt political allegiance.

1 politics.co.uk

Promising balanced coverage and impartiality, this features around 300 stories written for the site every month. Its collection of “briefings & guides” is a bit like a set of political pass notes, covering everything from Gulf war syndrome to tobacco advertising.

The list of best websites also includes BBC political editor Nick Robinson's blog, Mayor of London Boris Johnson's blog, the US conservative website townhall.com and er...

timesonline.co.uk.

Ah who cares? We're number one!

Not all those on the left fear a Labour implosion

With a general election looming - how many more times can I use the word 'looming' with regard to general elections without losing the last vestiges of journalistic self-respect? - the unions are making life for the Labour government pretty hellish.

Perhaps they forget how much worse things would be under a Conservative government. I recently attended a rally of the striking Public and Commercial Services union which suggested feelings towards Labour ministers was something akin to a hatred born of a fundamental betrayal. Apart from a few warning notes here and there, the alternative was barely considered.

Now the unionist 'militant tendency', as the absurd Tory-driven attempt to drag up the past would have it, is placing Gordon Brown under huge pressure. This could all work out alright, if the prime minister manages to come up with a deal before time runs out. But confrontation seems much more likely to remain unresolved. David Cameron has been handed an unlikely boost in his quest to oust the PM from No 10.

The left's tendencies to ruin their own chances throughout recent decades are well-documented enough. And, it is now becoming clear, many of those in the socialist 'campaign group' on the far-left are beginning to think their prospects might be boosted by a resurgence of militancy.

For those who hanker over the good old days, a strong Tory majority and hardline approach to the strikers could lead to many of the older Labour MPs, who have stayed quiet under New Labour, to be polarised themselves.

In this scenario the Labour party could find the gulf between its left and central wings growing wider and wider. Bridging it will be a tough task for any leader, that's for sure.

What is so striking - forgive the pun - is how enthusiastic those who are committed to fostering a stronger loony left actually are. A slim Tory majority could cement its position in a quick follow-up election as Labour's cohesiveness slips further and further.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The party that gets in your head

It's been six or so decades since the Liberals were last in power, so they have come up with a new tactic for making that ever-elusive 'breakthrough'.

This time round it's a variant on that old chestnut, the campaign song. How could they possibly find anything more gut-wrenchingly, jaw-droppingly, facial-contortingly awful than D:Ream's Things Can Only Get Better?

Our llittle orange friends have succeeded where musical scientists had failed. By enlisting the help of the Liberal Democrat Community Choir their words of wisdom will have you howling along forthwith.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Clegg in City grovelling shock

Nick Clegg began his speech to the City this morning in an unexpected way: with a "grovelling" apology.

Could it be the Lib Dem leader is finally making up to the bankers after 12 months of sticking it to them at every opportunity?

No - it turned out he was just sorry for being 28 minutes late.

There were some in the room who suggested Clegg was not quite important enough to be worth hanging around for.

But his excuses were well worth the wait.

He didn't bother proclaiming something breezily about matters of state, or privy council, or high-level talks. It was just that he was - how to put it - late.

"Firstly, grovellingly embarrassed apologies," he began. "It took me two hours to get across London... I've been tearing my hair out, not least listening to Ken Clarke and Liam Byrne talk about the deficit."

If the City folk gathered to listen to his wise words had harboured hopes he might switch his banker-bashing tendencies to something more muted, they were destined to be disappointed, however.

Clegg compared Britain to Iceland, backed a ten per cent levy on banks' profits and said "balance" needed to be restored to reduce the influence of the City's "vested interests". He certainly wasn't sorry about that.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A brain dump

A wave of jargon is sweeping across the public sector. If coterminous thinking outside the box is not immediately meaningfully dialogued, plain English champions are warning there is a grave danger the government will go bottom-up.

This paradigm has only been uncovered following a brain dump from the Local Government Association, whose engagement in blue-sky thinking on the problem of better sense-capacity offers the best hope for winning headroom for change.

"The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases," the LGA's fast-tracked fulcrum of functionality, councillor Margaret Eaton, explains. This iteration is cautiously welcomed by most, for surely local authority catalysts have already actioned area-focused steps?

Alas, predictors of beaconicity appear to have taken a deep dive. Ms Eaton's knowledge bite shows just how far from a level playing field the direction of travel currently is.

"Why do we have to have a 'webinar trialogue for the wellderly' when the public sector could just 'talk about caring for the elderly' instead?" she asks.

Ms Easton's efforts to create leverage by engaging users are compact and full of cross-fertilisation, but one questions whether she has a full appreciation of the cashable cohesiveness her demands imply.

After all, civil servants, whether interdepartmental or cross-sectoral, have a can-do culture where benchmarking and incentivising offer an early win. Has she had enough face-time to edge-fit her innovative capacities? One fears her conclusions may form a low-light, not a baseline benchmark of best practice.

Undeterred, her horizon-scanning continues nonetheless. "Any organisation that spends taxpayers' money has a duty, not only to provide value for money to local people, but also to tell them what they get for the money they pay," she says. "People would be furious if they had no idea of what services their cash is paying for and how they should get to use them."

Wait! Perhaps her extensible pursuit of learning outcomes offers some meaningful reusable interactivity, after all. We propose a menu of options which could help provide improvement levers.

Firstly, clients could receive a core value compendium from a combination of pooled budget, pooled resources and pooled risk. But there are fears a swimming pool to help the mandarins calm down might distort spending priorities. So a quick dip in the revenue streams might prove more joined-up.

Alternatively, a transformational trajectory could be provided by a thought shower. Again, there may be disbenefits. The idea of naked civil servants wallowing in their own self-aggrandizement probably offers a bit too much transparency.

We must discount outright the desperate final option. The least said about pump priming the better.

"We do not pretend to be perfect," Ms Eaton continues, a little desperately, before adding that "we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide".

We are all agreed, then: without future proofing against this verbose threat no one is safe. Significant slippage in wordy standards has been reported. This is a step-change for the worse. All the signposts suggest there is no quick win towards normalisation. Besides, they haven't been tested for soundness.

Britain's governors face a problem which must be solved across-the-piece, otherwise the next generation of facilitators will face a real hereditament.