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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Same old same old

If there is one thing that the constant and unremitting attack on the Liberal Democrats role in the coalition government has done, it is to distract attention in the mainstream media and elsewhere from the rather mediocre leadership debate going on in the Labour Party and their reluctance to face up to their own mistakes and flaws in government.

This article in this morning's Independent on Sunday sums up nicely the toxic legacy that Labour has not yet shaken off.

It is of course possible to excuse the fact that leadership contender, Ed Balls once accepted hospitality from notorious former media tycoon Lord Black (no relation by the way) as just more Westminster tittle tattle. However, Balls' links with the disgraced tycoon through the Bilderberg group and from having shared a plane with him, serve to underline the way that New Labour played the power game and were not so fussy on who they got into bed with.

As the paper points out the trips also sit uncomfortably with Mr Balls's condemnation of senior Tories including David Cameron, three years ago, for their "jet-set lifestyles". As ever with New Labour, it is do what I say not what I do.

This article by Henry Porter in this morning's Observer lays more serious charges at the door of four of the five leadership contenders (the ones who have a chance of winning). He argues that none of the four has a distinct political voice or character, because while they are not all Blairites they were all moulded by the Blair years:

A process of de-Blairification is required, which three years of Gordon Brown oddly never achieved, and one of those candidates needs to make the breakout speech that spurns the worst of New Labour's legacy. By this I don't mean a return to fundamentalist unelectability but rather a definite sense that the party is reverting to proper standards of conduct.

He continues: The problem of New Labour, so evident in the news of the last few weeks and in Peter Mandelson's book (now vanished in a blizzard of publicity) was essentially not ideological but one of principle and values. The candidates persist in talking about their own distinct values simplistically as a matter of brand management, but in reality they offer only what the Italians call sfumato, a blurring and blending of the old and the new, a seamless modification. None has reached the stage, vitally important to alcoholics and repeat offenders, of recognising and admitting to a room of glum faces that they have got a problem.

They believe they can finesse the record, yet some things are so serious they cannot be forgotten or ignored – Iraq, for example. Who doubts the truth of what Nick Clegg said when he classed the Iraq invasion as illegal, while being needled by Jack Straw as he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions? Straw was at the heart of the decision to go to war and it seems mildly surprising that he showed his unembarrassed features in the Commons to confront Clegg just a day after the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, gave her damning evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.

For an administration that made so much of its intelligence about Saddam's threat to Britain, it is astonishing how Blair's people ignored, or simply did not ask for, the advice of the head of MI5, who stated that there was a very limited and containable threat from Iraq and that there was "no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks". Lady Manningham-Buller's evidence was certainly useful but Carne Ross, the UK's expert on Iraq at the UN, claims in his article today that documents are being held back from Chilcot by the civil service and that the panel is in any case inept at cross-examination. This is deeply troubling and seems to suggest that New Labour's corruption entered, and apparently still remains, in Whitehall.

Porter argues that one or more of the Labour leadership candidates needs to come out and say what went wrong and why New Labour practised the great deceit on the British public, causing untold damage in Iraq and, as Lady Manningham-Buller suggested, to our relations with Islam. His conclusion is damning:

Defiance of the rule of law is not some negligible policy issue that can be forgotten as soon as the party has a new leader but is at the heart of the critique of the last 13 years, its many wild diversions and the attack on civil liberties, the last of which a rather testy Ed Miliband has begun to concede. Until one of them comes clean and makes that break, Labour will be unelectable as a party that can promise good government.

It is a reminder that no matter how much vitriol Labour pours onto the coalition government, no matter how tough the decisions that we will have to take to put right their financial mess over the next few years, Labour remains in denial about its own illiberal outlook, it flaws and its inconsistencies, the very faults that caused it to lose power in the first place.

Electing a new leader will not be enough. The Labour Party needs to admit to and atone for its record in government before it can even start to adopt a new narrative.
Sorry but this is just the usual deflection. In case you haven't noticed, Labour aren't in power and they are unlikely to be for at least a decade. The big issue is when and how Liberal Democrats are actually going to deliver something meaningful from this coalition. Telling the public that "its nothing to do with us" is hardly a strategy.
Well firstly if it is a deflection it is not mine. I have only quoted what is in the paper.

Secondly, though I would argue that Labour's vitriotic attacks are the real deflection to distract attention from their appalling record in power and the mess they have left the country in.

I am astonished that you expect results in two months but just to help you there is a lot in the coalition agreement and currently in the legislative pipeline that will deliver the meaningful results you crave.
Just a thought Peter, what would happen if you were to enter the Upper House, "Lord Black" is already taken, would you be Lord Black of Cwmbwrla?
I can understand why you have been selective in your choice of articles but I see no evidence of the vitriolic attacks from Labour you mention in either. Banging on about toxic legacies is already getting old.

The point about something meaningful is an instance where a coalition minister announces something from the Lib Dem manifesto without a subsequent u-turn caused by a negative reaction among the tory seniro partners. I'm sure you have some to hand.
Actually I can think of no examples of anything of the sort. All I have seen is speculation and innuendo, mostly from Labour. You are right that there is nothing vitriolic in these two articles but there is plenty elsewhere. Labour's toxic legacy will not get old until it is addressed. You may be getting bored with it but then we are getting bored with Labour's hypocrisy and selective amnesia.
It is noticeable that none of the Labour MPs discussed as serious aspirants to be the next Labour PM are in the current contest. They know their history; the first replacement for a defeated prime minister doesn't get to win an election.
talkin TOXIC the lib dems have got to stress their environemntal policies laid out in the manifesto to the most unwilling environmentalists, the Tories...we will have Toxic air toxic rivers toxic laptops toxic shoes and toxic moustaches if the environment is nt stressed more in
I notice you have quoted from the interesting article concerning the £300 million pound the Liberal Democrats have agreed to spend on an airport for St Helena. I thought we were broke Peter.
Jeff, you will know that the Coalition Government, rightly or wrongly, has ringfenced two budgets - health and Overseas development. The latter in accordance with the commitments made by Gordon Brown when he was PM, which no doubt you support. We have also sought to preserve capital projects where they are affordable.

The St. Helena airstrip comes from the Overseas Development budget but, more importantly there is a very good business case for it that shows that it will save money in the long run. It is an invest to save project.
My understanding although I might be wrong is that Labour had decided not to go ahead with the airstrip. Interesting use of overseas development money to allow very rich tourists to add to global warming.I also understand that Mandelson and Macfadden are going into the Department for Business to review the background papers on the Labour government's decision to give a loan to Sheffield Forgemasters according to the London papers. If this is the case then they must be very confident that there was money allocated for the loan contrary to the spin from Nick Clegg.
If you know anything about St. Helena, Jeff then you will know it has nothing to do with rich tourists but everything to do with the self-sufficiency of the island and the viability of British aid to it. After all we still have a governor there. You are right that Labour had decided not to go ahead with the airstrip but the new Minister took a different view. There are certainly Labour MPs who have been pushing for this airstrip to go ahead.

We will see what emerges from any investigation into forgemasters. I am sure you would not want to prejudge.
Peter it seems that the Forgemasters loan was looked at by the independent Industrial Development Advisory Board which concluded that it represented 'good value for money'. Hardly surprisng since the investment was designed to enable the UK to compete in the production of nuclear power station parts with Japan. But why provide jobs in Sheffield with a loan thta would have been paid back when you can spend the money in the South Atlantic.Given the speed in which the Labour decision not to waste the money on an airport in St Helena was reversed I wonder who lobbied the Tories on behalf of the island and for what reason. After all as the Independent argues this morning 'The Tories are running the show' and introducing policies which make Magaret Thatcher look a'moderate'.
I dont know enough to be able to defend the Forgemasters decision, I will leave that to Clegg and other Ministers. However, I do know that the International Development budget, which you will recall was ringfenced because of cross-party commitments promoted by Gordon Brown, was not enhanced in any way to build this airstrip. The choice you promulgate therefore is a false one. It was not a question of either or. Both projects were assessed independently of each other and the decisions on each taken separately.
Peter I've never said it was one project or the other . It merely illustrates that there is money available if the project has the right sort of support. In the case of St Helena the key figure it was that great supporter of the Coalition Lord Ashcroft. The aim it seems is to try to reduce the £17 million a year subsidy the 4000 islanders get from the UK government by encouraging wealthy tourists to go to the Island.
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