Five ways to see if your MP provides value for money

parliament

Published in The Huffington Post on 11th July, 2013.

The issue of how much we should pay our elected representatives is again causing debate and outrage. Having worked in Parliament, I have seen firsthand that many MPs work incredibly hard, are committed to improving the lives of their constituents and are involved in politics for the right reasons (Steve Rotheram immediately springs to mind).

That said, I have also come across too many MPs who have only minimal interaction with their constituency and who are lazy, arrogant and vastly unfit for office. Some MPs in safe seats – those that are unlikely to ever lose an election because the support for their party outstrips the opposition – simply do not need to put the hours in because they know they have a job for life.

The appropriateness of giving MPs a £6000 pay rise at a time of economic stagnation and when a lot of people, especially those in the public sector, are really suffering, will understandably dominate the headlines.

Continue reading

David Cameron on Europe: “weak, weak, weak!”

David Cameron - Europe

Published in The Huffington Post on 14th May, 2013.

“What would you do,” asks Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, “if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

That is just one of many questions that must be running through David Cameron’s head right about now. Few things in life are certain but one thing you can bet the house on is that the manic fixation that Conservative MP’s have with Europe will, at some point, lead the party to tear itself to shreds.

Take John Major. During the dying days of his premiership, the terminal division over Europe drained the last glimmers of life out of a government that was already on life support.

It led Tony Blair to ask at the dispatch box: “Is it not extraordinary that the Prime Minister of our country can’t even urge his own party to support his position? …. His weakness and his failure of leadership are the reasons his government is the incompetent mess it is.”

He famously summed Major’s position up with one devastating line: “weak, weak, weak!”

Continue reading

Young people pay the biggest price for PCC election shambles

Source: The Guardian
Source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on 19th November 2012.

‘Farcical,’ ‘a complete shambles’ and ‘a comedy of errors from start to finish.’ That’s just a taste of the autopsy report on last week’s elections to appoint Police and Crime Commissioners.

Turnout ranged from a dismal 11.6% in Staffordshire to a high of 19.5% in Northamptonshire. The number of people that voted (4.8 million) was only half the total number of reported crimes last year (9.1 million – including London). Despite spending £125 million, David Cameron and Theresa May have somehow managed to preside over the worst election result in British history.

The absurdity of this has naturally dominated the airwaves and blogosphere. Are the results legitimate and can the new PCCs claim a democratic mandate? Why did the government insist on forcing through plans that seem so at odds with the public mood? And why was the money not spent on saving some of the 16,000 police jobs currently being cut?

Continue reading

Exam hysteria risks costing Britain billions

Published in The Huffington Post on Thursday, 16th August, 2012.

The reaction to the release of exam results has become all too predictable. The results are announced, records are broken and then a chorus of negative comments dominates the headlines.

The number of students receiving the highest grade may have slightly dipped, but instead of celebrating the success of a generation that is often unfairly demonised, we insist on ignoring the hard work carried out by both students and their teachers. As a result, the response to Thursday’s A Level results was about as surprising as the clenching sensation you get by listening to Michael Gove speak for more than 14 seconds.

It goes without saying that this is a dangerous ritual. Not only does it undermine the achievements and confidence of hard working students, it also risks damaging one of Britain’s key exports.

Continue reading

Tony Blair aiming for gold in Olympic revival

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 8th August, 2012.

Anyone who follows British politics could not have failed to notice the re-emergence of Tony Blair in recent months. He has hit the headlines for defending the Games, for speaking out on the West’s ignorance to Islamic extremism and for his take on the hysteria over bankers.

From the Sunday morning politics shows to bouncing around the Olympic Park faster than Usain Bolt, he’s literally popping up left, right and centre.

This is all part of a strategy for Blair to “re-engage” with British politics, developed by his new Director of Communications, Rachel Grant.

The timing is no accident. Blair and his team are acutely aware that the feel-good factor of the Olympics provides an invaluable opportunity to remind the public that it was his government that brought the Games to London in the first place.

Continue reading

Blair Continues to Cast a Long Shadow over British Politics

Image source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 25th July, 2012.

Following Parliament’s break-up for the summer recess, BBC Radio 4’s This Week in Westminster interviewed former Chancellor Lord Lawson to give the Conservative Party its end-of-year report card.

Lord Lawson added his name to the long list of figures calling for George Osborne to focus his attention on the Treasury and give up his role as chief Tory strategist. He also suggested that Cameron’s leadership style is one of the reasons behind the current uneasy relationship between the Conservative Parliamentary Party and its leader.

He remarked: “David Cameron has modelled himself very much on the Blair style (of long term premiership). I think that the Conservative backbenchers prefer the Thatcher style and I think that is an underlying reason for a certain tension.”

By sheer coincidence, the interview was aired on the eighteenth anniversary of Blair being elected leader of the Labour Party. Following the untimely death of the great John Smith, Blair became Leader of the Opposition on 21 July 1994.

Three general election victories later (and five years after he left Downing Street), Tony Blair’s influence continues to be felt across the political landscape. The current generation of politicians are defined, either favourably or unfavourably, against Blair.

Continue reading

The Coalition’s War on Privacy

Source: PA
Source: PA

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 4th April, 2012.

It’ been a torrid couple of weeks for David Cameron. Ministerial incompetence combined with headline grabbing cock-up’s such as the Granny Tax, the Pasty Tax, a tax break for millionaires and the fuel crisis have produced an entirely self inflicted news cycle that refuses to die.

You have to feel for Armando Iannucci. Anything in the new series of The Thick of It will look positively tame in comparison.

The government has broken Westminster’s golden rule: they have done the hat-trick of getting the policy, the politics and the PR catastrophically wrong.

Continue reading