April 2006

Spinning out of control

Andrew Rawnsley, reviewing Labours week of woes, observes:

This failure is emblematic of New Labours worst habits as a government. It is mad for writing new laws, but bad at ensuring that laws which exist are effectively applied and that core functions of the system work.

This illustrates again the cost of pursuing the next days headlines at the expense of considered and strategic action. There is accumulating evidence that the immigration service ignored foreign prisoners because so much of its energy was concentrated on making good Mr Blairs attempt to assuage an earlier media storm by pledging to reduce the number of asylum applications. There appears to have been no serious effort to track down the missing prisoners until the scandal was making headlines.

This really does sum up the fundamental problem with so many of Labours legislative proposals - ID Cards Act, Racial and Religious Hatred Act, a new Terrorism Act and a new Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act - that have no real value over and above what already exists.

The problem is not that existing laws arent strong enough, but the the Government is completely incapable of applying them.

Quite a lot of other bad news has been buried under the atrocious news from the Home Office. It is nine years since Labour came to power promising that there would be no more than 30 children in any primary school class. It was revealed last week that the number of classes with more than 30 has risen again. The introduction of a new system of farm subsidies has been messed up, an overspend on legal aid is going to lead to job losses in the court services and ministers have had to admit that new staff contracts in the health service have come in at £610m over budget.

And while Gordon Browns supporters are cheerily looking forward to a speedy handover from one New Labour politician to another, its worth bearing in mind that the Chancellors house isnt in quite as good an order as he would like us to believe.

The Brownites must be reckoning that few will have noticed that the public accounts committee has just revealed a continuing failure by the Treasury to sort out the colossally expensive chaos that continues to characterise the payment of tax credits. For the second year running, £2bn has been paid out which shouldnt have been, money which will either have to be clawed back to the distress of the recipients or written off at a cost to the taxpayer.

New Labour have eschewed ideology in favour of managerialism. Unfortunately the truth is that they have no direction and are quite clearly unable to manage.

Green pee

Francis Maude, the Conservative Party chairman, is urging the nation to pee on its compost heaps to help the environment.

Of course, if you were Dave Cameron, you would need to fly someone over to do your peeing for you.

Jam Tomorrow

London Underground. Watch, listen, enjoy.

Legislative friendly fire

While discussing the wider impact of the Scottish ban on smoking in public places, Mark Lawson notes that:

Thank You For Smoking, a satire about the tobacco industry, could not have been shot in Scotland.

Go read the rest

The identity trap

Hanif Kureishi on the need for political theatre:

During the 10 years between the Southall riots and the demonstration against The Satanic Verses, the community had become politicised by radical Islam, something that had been developing throughout the Muslim world since decolonisation. This version of Islam imposed an identity and solidarity on a besieged community. It came to mean rebellion, purity, integrity. But it was also a trap. Once this ideology had been adopted - and political conversations could only take place within its terms - it entailed numerous constraints, locking the community in, as well as divorcing it from possible sources of creativity: dissidence, criticism, sexuality. Its authoritarianism, stifling to those within, and appearing fascistic to those without, rejected the very liberalism the community required in order to flourish in the modern world. It was tragic: what had protected the community from racism and disintegration came to tyrannise it.

Identity politics will always be tempting. They allow a group to band together against a perceived injustice, reinforce that sense of injustice amongst themselves, and then agitate to rectify the injustice. However, its also in the nature of identity politics that they are very open to exploitation by extremists - be they radical Islamists or the BNP - who seek to create divisions and takes us down a path of seperate sets of priviliges for different groups.

Tribalism is never a good thing in the long run and, instead, we should seek to support and promote universal rights for all and encourage an open dialogue regardless of who gets offended.

(via Pickled Politics)

Daves guide to being green

Dave Cameron has made quite a big issue of his green credentials. Flying to Norway to look at the sort of damage that can be done by too much air travel, for example. But thats okay, because he cycles to work. Followed by a car.

Mr Cameron has been much-photographed cycling to Parliament on his mountain bike and plans to install a wind turbine in his home.

He has also said people need to walk or cycle on shorter journeys if they are serious about tackling climate change. But the Daily Mirror newspaper has published photographs of the MPs driver taking his shoes and briefcase in a car following him to work.

If everyone gets as green as Dave, were all doomed.

(via The Apollo Project)

All mouth and no trousers

The Liberal Democrats are calling for Charles Clarke to resign and have started an online petition in support of this.

As Rob Knight points out:

Under Charles Clarke, the Home Office has been very, very busy. Just this year, weve had the ID Cards Act, Racial and Religious Hatred Act, a new Terrorism Act and a new Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act. Barely a week goes by without some new initiative being announced.

Maybe if Clarke had spent a bit less time dreaming up eye catching, but dangerously ineffective, policies and then whinging about the press, he wouldnt be in such a mess today.

Update: According to the Guardian, two-thirds of the electorate want to see the back of Clarke as well.

Blair Clarke Dictate their Definition of Liberty

Heres quite a good summary from The Melon Farmers:

From the people that:

  • are hell bent of mandatory ID cards with nasty penalties for not reporting address etc
  • have initiated state access to all communication records
  • tacitly support torture, Guantanamo & rendition
  • wanted to silence of justifiable criticism of religion
  • require that accountants snitch to the State about petty offences, eg expense fiddling
  • require financial institutions report relatively small transactions
  • allowed paedophile persecution of innocents even when trumped up evidence was revealed
  • proposed 3 years imprisonment for possession of legally produced staged violent images
  • imprisoned people for trading in harmless adult consensual images
  • invented ASBOs to restrict freedom without needing to bother much with proof
  • have set up a massive amount of technology to monitor everybodys whereabouts and travel

Tony Blair and Charles Clarke have hit out at critics who have accused the Government of pursuing illiberal policies.

Quote of the Day: Elrond is out to get you, Mister Anderson

The speakers [for my iPod] come with a remote control device the size of a credit card!, as it says on the package. Does this seem like a feature to you? Look, we provide you with an important component that you can lose while making coffee! Put it in your purse; you wont find it for a week! The buttons are suitable for elves, and I rarely see elves on the street. I dont even see elves in the Apple store, where they would be sure to congregate.

- Jon Carroll

The Forest in Winter

To reddish girl, forest is peaceful joy - this thinking is false

The Forest in Winter is absolutely fantastic. Im not going to give anything away, just go watch it.