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Jerry Hayes

My father’s advice should be heeded by MPs. “Always buy your round, never bollock an employee in public and never, ever, humiliate those who can’t answer back.”

August 28th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Many years ago, when I was a baby barrister, an elderly judge summoned me into his chambers. After pouring me a bowl of malt whiskey (well, it was 11am), he leaned towards me. “Young man, I’m going to give you some advice that has stood me in good stead all my life”. Eagerly I awaited the words of wisdom. A catchy little line from Cicero? Some wise words from Socrates? A bon mot from Homer?  ”My boy, just remember this. Never miss the opportunity to have a pee. Never trust a fart. And never waste an erection, particularly when you are on your own”. Then off he staggered to sentence my client to ten years.

Well, that was good advice, but not as wise the the three cardinal rules that were drummed into me by my father. “Always buy your round. Never bollock an employee in public. And never, ever, be rude or humiliate those who can’t answer back.”  Those simple rules have given me an instinctive revulsion to those who are rude to secretaries, waiters or anyone who could lose their jobs if they answered back.

I find it almost incomprehensible that so many MPs have not grasped why the public treat them with less respect than those who appear on the Jeremy Kyle Show. At the last election even the Jehovah’s Witnesses were treated with more warmth when they banged on doors. So, after all the horrors of the great expenses scandal, a little humility would not go amiss. People could not comprehend why the political classes thought it was perfectly permissible to hold out their grubby little palms for free food, trips to Party Conferences, cash without receipts and most sickening of all, wreaths for the Glorious Dead on Remembrance Sunday.  And now, what do these insensitive, vain, little Hobbits do?  They shout, scream, swear and abuse those who are trying to help them through the labyrinthian new system of expenses. Of course the new arrangements are quite insane. It is mad that MPs should have to jump through all the Kafkaesque administrative hoops. And of course there will have to be some commonsense changes. But mateys, you were caught with your fingers in the till, our till, and you set up the new system; you reap what you sow.

I know MPs, even the thoroughly decent Denis McShane, have been parading bleeding stumps, “exhausted after the campaign…….I didn’t come here to be a clerk, but to help my constituents, blah, blah, blah.”  But there can never, ever be any excuse for foul behaviour to staff. So, do MPs have to adopt  different rules of conduct than the rest of the public? In short, yes. In the same way that we expect higher standards from the police and the armed services. It is what makes us civilised. It is what makes us British.

I can honestly say that in my fourteen years in Parliament I never saw a member of staff being shouted at or reduced to tears. Alright, you had pompous old farts like Roy Hattersley who made sure everyone knew their place; provided it was well below him. Even Diane Abbott  had a reputation for being shirty with the police. And there was that wonderful time when Ann Clwyd accused security staff of being negligent when her car had been stolen from the Members’ car park. She raised merry hell. Only discover that it hadn’t been stolen at all. She had just left it in another car park at a main line station. But that was the sum of it all. Nothing to hang your head in shame for.

Perhaps attitudes changed when the In the Thick of it mentality became the perceived norm for behaviour. If  Members saw Campbell scream at a journo, Mandelson threaten colleagues or Brown’s thugs making the Krays look like naughty schoolboys, maybe they thought that’s how they should behave.

But a word of warning. Anyone, who has been abusive to waiters knows that they are perfectly capable of peeing in the soup or snotting in your porridge. Members of Parliament had better adapt or be regarded as only marginally more popular than burglars .

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How I used to be pimped; men in high places used my body to make money. A shocking story.

August 26th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I have a terrible confession to make. Many years ago I allowed myself to be pimped. Men in high places used my body to make money. The shame of it all still courses through my veins. Sometimes I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. This is my terrifying story. And let it be a warning to other poor vulnerable boys.

Late at night I would get a phone call. “Tomorrow your assignment is to arrive at the address by 7pm. There will be drinks, perhaps a few nibbles. All you have to do it chat and be friendly. Make them feel important”. But I knew I would have to give more, much, much, more. Once again I promised myself that this would be the last time. But I knew I was trapped. So, after a shower, a change into the sharpest of suits and with just a tease of cologne, off I would slink to my assignment. A great oak door would be open to reveal a roomful of middle aged men with dandruff on their collars and breath that could kill a gnat a fifty paces. One, with with lips so large that I doubt whether he got them from sucking oranges, placed a sweaty palm on my shoulder. “Welcome to the Club Jerry. I’m sure you will meet some very interesting people”. And there I was, ensconced in the faded gentility of  Number 12  Downing Street as one of the “Prominent MPs” people had paid a small fortune to meet.

There will be so much utter bollocks talked about, “cash for access” over the next few days so I thought I’d get in quickly. People pay to rub shoulders with the not so great and not so good in the same way that they go to Madame Tussaud’s and are snapped with a Lenny Henry manikin. But they have just as much influence over the real dummies as they had over the wax ones. If you honestly think that by having a warm glass of Blue Nun with William Hague that he will act on your brilliant plan to pull out of the EU and enter into a trading partnership with Nigeria, well, more fool you.

John Gummer, when he was Chairman of the Tory Party used to dine out on the splendid story of when he was approached by a member of a certain ethnic community at a fundraiser, who suggested that his boss, a squillionaire, would make a fine member of the Lords. Gummer, being polite, said that she was sure the fellow would be an adornment and moved on. A week later the same man requested an urgent meeting. He was ushered into the Chairman’s office. A large briefcase was placed on the table. ” A small donation to the Party, Mr. Chairman”, said he as he opened the bag to reveal a million pounds in fifties. “And would it be possible for the Peerage to be arranged for sometime next week ?”  When Gummer finally recovered his composure, both briefcase and man disappeared, never to be seen again.

But it just shows how totally unrealistic people’s expectations can actually be. Parties, unless the taxpayer pays, have to raise money to fight elections. Provided people are not trooping off to Ministries and provided no favours are done,  these little pieces of vanity are perfectly harmless. And all parties have been doing it since time immemorial. The potential for real corruption is  the way that Parliamentary passes are handed out to interest groups, lobbyists and trade unions. The informal mingling with the great and the good, when you have something to sell is corrosive.

But back to my pimping at Number 12 (as this was the Whips Office one could always be political there). The first lady I had to entertain was a sinister confection dressed from head to toe in black. “Don’t you think,” she foghorned through her diamond encrusted veil, in a voice that would have made Dame Edith Evans wince, “that there are far too many Jews in the Cabinet?”  ”Well,” I said, “it’s not the sort of thing I’d really thought about”. By this time I thought it was time to run, before this ghastly apparition, Miss Haversham without the fun, told me how badly Hitler had been misunderstood and that she lived with his niece in Pinner who bred white Rotveillers. Then I saw my means of escape. Chris Patten hove into view. “Oh, look. It’s Chris Patten! He’s a Catholic!” I squealed. But rather than a look of joy, a look of horror could be seen beneath the shroud that covered her face. Satan had entered the room. And with a strangulated cry of “A Catholic!”, which made, “a handbag” sound like a death threat, off she shuffled to off to devour her next prey.

So the next time you read about businessmen paying to meet prominent MPs, think of the victims. There should be a charity for us.

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Labour must choose whether it wants to exterminate the Lib Dems or Woo them. It can’t do both.

August 23rd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

How appropriate that at a time when astronomers warn us not to look for life in outer space but for sentient machines, Labour leadership candidates stagger from turgid press release to dreary Fabian meetings like extras from Shaun of the Dead; but without the jokes. Why do these normally sane people behave in such an irrational way? David Miliband, in a poor imitation of some ghastly instructor from Ladettes to Ladies, patronises party workers to give their filthy working class hovels a damn good vacuum before they are in a fit state to watch a dumbed down DVD of the great man pontificate. And little  Ed, like a Dalek on crack, but without the charm, urges the extermination of  the Liberal Democrats. To be fair to the poisonous Balls, at least he is inviting them to join the Party before having them interned, tortured and shot. And the turncoats should be pathetically grateful for even that.  Today, he launches his plan to save the Mail.  This man has become so ruthlessly authoritarian one wonders whether he was referring to the Daily Mail. Yet on the left, only the Guardian’s Jackie Ashley,  has had the courage to write the unpalatable truth: Labour has become the nasty party. It really has to make up its mind how to deal with the Lib Dems, they have to decide whether to destroy them or woo them. You can’t do both.

These defection stories are now veering on the infantile. The latest, that Mike Hancock will soon be in the warm embrace/death hug of Labour bears a little scrutiny. We are told that he has been in talks with none other than Dennis Skinner!  Firstly, a visceral hatred of all thing Liberal Democrat runs though his veins; it’s in his DNA. He would rather bite his own head off than be seen with one.  Secondly, Skinner has as much influence with Labour high command as the President of Europe  has with Bill Cash. And lastly and rather sadly, the poor old boy has been gaga for rather a long time. So the Hancock/Skinner story is pure fantasy.

Of course this is a tough time for Nick Clegg and his Party. But he must surely see that a bored and hungry press and a ruthless and desperate Labour party  will want  to goad them into doing something rash. And the nearer we get to the Lib Dem conference the more insane the allegations will become. The more fevered the stories, the more jittery the rank and file.

But is the Lib Dem split markedly different from the right and left in the Tories or the Modernisers and Neanderthals in  Labour?  Of course not. Are they being used and abused by Cameron and his dark forces of vicious Thatcherism as a human shield?  Don’t be daft. All major arguments in this government are not between Tories and Lib Dems. They are between to warring factions within the Conservatives. The reason the right of the Tory Party and the chancers of Labour despise and want to destroy this coalition is because it works. And what  really brings these people to a frenzy is the that the public approve.

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Like a Benjamin Britten opera, Simon Hughes is not always as bad as he sounds; but the Kennedy problem has to be addressed.

August 21st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Nick Clegg’s relationship with Simon Hughes is not unlike the dilemma that every parent has when dealing with a small child who refuses to be potty trained. Day after day, you sit them on the bloody thing and day after day they scream, shout,  cry and yet still manage to poo all over the floor, just to wind you up.  So what do you do? Are you patient, understanding and just keep trying?  Do offer little inducements like gold stars and sweets? Or do you just give them a hearty clip round the ear?  So far, Clegg is being sensibly and remarkably, understanding. Yes, Simon, we know you like to shout, scream, throw your toys out of the pram and poo on the floor, but we understand; it’s part of growing up. It’s just a phase you are going through.  So he clears up the mess, pats the boy on the head and awaits the next little accident.

But Simon Hughes is an irritant rather than a problem. Many Lib Dems, accept that he probably has a bit of a point, but the the Munchean Scream method tends to shed more heat than light. Yet, like an opera by Benjamin Britten, he is not always as bad as he sounds. Hughes is tolerated as a sort of in-house conscience on mind bending substances.

However, I do worry about Charles Kennedy, both as a politician and more importantly, as a human being and friend.  We were both elected together in 1983 as very young men; him twenty three, me 29. We appeared on and presented, countless television and radio shows. He is a man of decency, vision and honour and presented the face of pragmatic, non tribal politics with a human face, when Cameron and Clegg were at school. So if anyone is the embodiment off  what this coalition is all about, it is Charlie. Yet, there were rumblings about his unhappiness even when the Coalition was just a twinkle in his leader’s eye. Why?

I do hope that his real friends and not the political chancers that inhabit the sewers of Westminster, are keeping careful and caring eye on him. The break up with his wife, no matter how amicable, must be a terrible strain and not seeing his son every day, sheer agony. When you are fighting demons, the worst possible scenario is returning to an empty flat and gazing in the half light at the siren bottle of amber poison. Just one drink. Just one. But it never is.

But why are rumours gaining currency that he is about to defect to Labour?Perhaps it was as a result of a careless private comment at a moment of extreme frustration. Like Ming Campbell, Kennedy was the victim and the eventual  human sacrifice for political expediency. It was nasty, mean and mostly unfair. Welcome to top level politics. The irony was that he never really wanted the leadership.  A long, long time ago, over a few drinks, I asked him if he really wanted the job. He looked at me with a sad shrug. “What choice do I have?”.  Of course, he had none. To fail to stand after the resignation of Ashdown, would have been seen as a betrayal. I often wonder whether that sad shrug was because he knew that being leader would sow the seeds of his own destruction. But I genuinely fear that Kennedy is about to be exploited by unscrupulous power brokers fanning the dying embers of Labour and the tiny minority of Lib Dem Luddites who to want to blow the Coalition apart, and go back to the good old days of wild and woolly opposition. Unless, he makes a personal clear and unequivocal statement soon, in other words, in time for the Sunday newspapers, gossip and rumour will dominate the news right up to the most important party conference the Lib Dems have ever had. The consequences, though not fatal, would be very damaging. In the unlikely event of him defecting to Labour it would be an unwholesome and unpleasant freak show, where a decent man in need of help, would have every last drop of political advantage ripped out of him before being thrown, eviscerated of honour and friends, onto the bonfire of the inanities. I can’t see that happening. What is more likely, is that he will maintain a brooding silence which will cast him into another unwanted role: leader of the plotters. Charles Kennedy is a talented politician whose plain speaking and human frailties endear him to the public. Unless Clegg makes use of these considerable talents and welcomes him into the family, there will be blood.

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The day Blair out Mandelsoned Mandelson.

August 17th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Deep in a gilded bunker, somewhere fashionable, but not quite elite,  a frenzied dagger tears into a grinning, but masterful face. The canvas has become a gaping wound. “Damn you Blair!” Screams Peter Mandelson, his exquisitely hand painted kimono steaming with the hot lemon juice and water that had exploded from the delicate bone china cup when a beautifully manicured hand smashed it against a freshly ironed Guardian. “You bastard. Without me you were nothing and this is how you repay me”, he sobs onto a rare handwoven rug, picked by the arthritic hands of blind children in an Afghan sweat shop. For this is the day that the battered reputation of the architect of New Labour, the creator of all things Blair, the slayer of enemies, the burier of Brown, finally descended into the furnaces of that great political crematorium.

In a brilliant piece of footwork, Tony Blair detoxified his brand and stunned his enemies. To donate all the proceeds of his autobiography to charity is amazing in itself. To donate it to the Royal British Legion specifically for the rehabilitation of the maimed and wounded, is an act of genius. The sneerers  will snarl that this is chickenfeed and is merely an act of penance and self flagellation for a wicked war that he bitterly regrets. Nonsense. Blair is as convinced now as he was then, that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. And chicken feed? Four million is a hefty chunk from a man dependent on public appearances.

So far, the press have been uncommonly generous, mainly because they were so taken by surprise, as to be totally open mouthed. Even Diane Abbott, with the eloquence of Satan denouncing sin, was the first of  the Labour leadership Oompa Loompas to heap praise upon Blair.

But it does show the difference between gold and mere glitter. Mandelson’s squalid little tome of bitchiness and bile was lauded by the press as a masterstroke for beating Blair to the book stands. And, as always , he reveled in this notoriety. For every character that he assassinated, Brown, Blair, Campbell, anyone who got in his way, interviewers were met with quizzical astonishment. “Moi?  But I say more good things about these people than bad! ” he would charm. For Mandelson it is the death of credibility. There was always a hint that  as Blair’s creator and mentor, he was always the silent, but guiding hand. Well that hand have been severed with the skill and efficiency of an Iranian executioner. The eminence grease is no more. Mandelson has been out Mandelsoned. Stuck in the twilight limbo of loathing and distrust, he will never be a welcome figure in the Labour party. Lower that ermine.  How tragic that the man who said that The Project would never be completed until Labour learns to love Peter Mandelson has been responsible for both to whither and die. But spare a thought for George W Bush and every other former leader on the make. Bit of a moral dilemma here.

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Iain Dale & John Prescott have lit the touch paper of debate on tribal politics.

August 15th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I know that this is the the silly season where windsurfing ferrets and breakdancing meercats push the weighty matters of Katie Price’s new implants/marriage/divorce/latest shag, off the front pages. But today’s newspapers have turned August insanity into a Turner Prize winning art form. Take, for instance, the rather dull story that Alan Milburn is to become an advisor to the government on social mobility. Yawn. Well, it’s his area of expertise so where’s the big deal? I wasn’t at all surprised that that old class warrior, John Prescott, weighed in by accusing him and all Blairite revisionist, Cameroon lackies and Cleggite running dogs, like the traitors Hutton and Field, of being “Collaborators”. Collaborators to precisely what?  And betrayers to whom? A working class that only exists in the fevered minds of  Marxist academics perpetuating theories that nobody under sixty takes seriously? No doubt ice picks will be provided. But, in many ways, I can see where Prescott is coming from. He is a Party man, a loyalist to his fingertips and to his credit, could never be accused of the self interested, selfish, plotting conducted by everyone else in the cabinet. His view has always been that no one person is bigger than the Party and although he’ll give one hundred and  forty percent support to the leader of the day, he’ll tell them in private what he really thinks. If only the sniveling little shits like Mandelson and Balls and their fetid courtiers had behaved with the same dignity and decency Labour wouldn’t be in such terminal decline. So I can, just, see where Prezza is coming from. You are either pissing out of or into the tent. There is no halfway house. But what did cause me to raise an eyebrow was the reaction of  my old friend Iain Dale.

Iain Dale is as insightful as he is well respected, but he knows that his bread is buttered as a controversialist by the right of  his party. He poses the simple question, “why couldn’t Conservatives be appointed to these jobs?”  It’s a fair point, because obviously they could. No doubt Conservative Home will be awash with those convinced that Cameron wants to destroy the Tory Party, that his whole election strategy was designed to this end and that he and Clegg are committed to making Waloon the national language and letting in the French hordes to steal our jobs and women. The reason that Cameron has appointed these people is as much for what they represent as for their expertise. The subliminal message is simple. These people are regarded as moderate, decent and honest. They won’t stop voting Labour, but are prepared to put aside their party differences for the national good. Every task set for them embraces equality, social mobility and fairness. It is what New Labour aspired to, but never achieved. Gone are those awful, nepotistic, tribal and basically corrupt days, when the party in power divides up the spoils of victory to the camp followers and paymasters. Why do you think that Britain’s, bloated and self serving quangocracy has to be dismantled?  Because they are stuffed with party hacks and time servers  who have turned into professional quangereers. Some have had no other means of employment for years.

So it really is time that the right stop sniping and sneering at the Coalition because they are losing out on the spoils of battle.  And it’s no use jeering that Cameron is happier in Coalition than with an outright majority. Of course he is. Do they really believe that the sensible and radical remapping of how this country is governed could be hapening with a small majority? To survive the Conservatives would have had to ape the headline chasing strategy of the last government and would have been run out of Dodge within a year. Or even worse, be propped up by those whose every political reaction is looked at through the prism of Ulster. So Iain Dale and John Prescott have lit the touch paper of a debate that will run and run. There has not been such an incongruous alliance since Michael Foot and Enoch Powell joined forces to defeat Harold Wilson’s plans to reform the House of Lords in 1968.

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The greedy, hypocritical, Trade Union porkers need their snouts removed from the workers’ trough

August 12th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

What a disgusting, hypocritical, nasty piece of work, Bob Crow is. I don’t give a damn that he is a rabble rousing communist whose idea of social justice is firmly  rooted in the nineteenth century. And I only get mildly irritated when he regularly does his very best to screw up my day on public transport. But what I despise him for is lining his bulging pockets with the hard earned cash of his members,  many of whom face a cold and joyless Christmas on the dole.  At a time of pay restraint and the dread of the Treasury scythe he awards himself a staggering 12% pay increase, or £10,000 extra in cash. This fiscally obese porker should be setting an example to his members. At £145,548, he earns more than the Prime Minister. “Worth every penny”, squeal the other little piggies at the RMT. But we know they they are just as eager to place their grubby little snouts in this fetid little trough.

But the appalling Crow is not alone. Look at that hopelessly bloated paymaster to Labour, UNITE,  with two million members and £10m of vanity money to fritter away at elections. Worse, they are loading the dice in favour of Ed Miliband, who looks likely to win the leadership campaign. UNITE has two General Secretaries and two headquarters since the merger of two large unions. Tony Woodley earns £135,330 a year and Derek Simpson a staggering £196,497. Woodley also has a very favourable arrangement for a grace and favour house in London which has raised a few eyebrows and Simpson has twice been helicoptered to that great trade Union event, Glastonbury. Oh, and Simpson, the worker’s Brian Sewell,  used his members’ £50,000 to purchase an original painting by Anthony Gormley.

It is right that greedy bankers and venal MPs should be thrown to the wolves. But why does nobody have the courage and good sense to point the finger at the unspoken political class who live and behave like mediaeval barons? Why is it that that supremely over rated and loose cannon in waiting, Baroness Warsi, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, is allowed to make fatuously stupid remarks about Ministers forgoing their severance pay,  whilst ignoring a scandal which insults millions of decent, hardworking, trade unionists?   We need strong and effective trade unions to look after the interests of workers who are being exploited every day by sweatshop owners and unscrupulous employers.

Last Sunday, on Marr,  Simpson had the nerve to boast  that he would never have anything to say to the government and point blank refused to break bread with Cameron. This is the man who thought nothing of Tweeting sensitive negotiations with BA  as they happened.   These guys are nothing short of a disgrace and are still living on planet 1945. It really is time for the Big Beasts of government to speak out. It would be even nicer  if someone from Labour would demand the the unions put their houses in order. Some chance.  Gordon Brown has a better chance of having his book of collected speeches rocket from 2,895 on the Amazon best seller list to number one.

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How Malcolm Tucker might have dealt with milk snatching & why Cameron won’t want to always be the man from Del Monte.

August 8th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Imagine the scene at another time with another government. Malcolm Tucker is sitting at home having a leisurely breakfast whilst drawing up lists of ministers he is going to maim and torture. The phone rings. “The fucking bitch has done what? Get her now!” Another phone rings. “Anne do you know where your boss is? No. Well, I’ll tell you. He was meant to be having time at home with his beautiful daughters, instead he’s having his balls beaten with a rusty hammer with the Chief  whip pulverising his prostate. Why? Because some mad cock minister has put forward some fucking fuckwit proposal to steal milk from young kids. Do you know what that makes our Prime Minister look like?  Margaret fucking, milk snatching, fucking, Thatcher.  Have you ever stood in a wind tunnel up to your knees in dogshite with pig’s piss raining from the sky? No?  Well, unless you kill this mindless bollocks you will be praying for it. Don’t know what to say? You’re a bloody woman. Say you’ve got your period or PMT, or what ever it is that makes you go mad and kill your fucking husbands”. He slams the phone down and rings another. “Jamie, who’ve we got on Marr?  Jesus! Fucking two brains baldy, dissembling, Willetts!  Tell him to kill this shite. Yes .Kill! kill! Kill!  What do you mean there’s no fucking phone signal?  Those evil, shitty, fucking bastards at the BBC!  Get me that twat at Culture, I’m in the mood for a shout.”

Of course, it would have been nothing like this in the Cameron government. A panicky call from a press officer and a languid thumbs down from the PM before Simon Hughes could rush to a microphone. Then back to the kedgeree.  But eyebrows must be being raised as to why nobody at the DOH seemed to notice that this could have been a defining moment for the government, what ever Labour supporter has been praying for; a sobriquet smashing though the windows of Downing Street,  ”Cameron Son of Thatcher”. Back to the eighties. But it wouldn’t be firing up the Quattro, it would have been stoking the flames of political hell. Yet, with a  speed and ruthlessness that would have made an African dictator blanche,  the prospective policy was aborted; slaughtered before it was even born.

Andrew Lansley is a shrewd operator. Simon Burns, a former Whip,  is no fool. Even poor, gaminesque,  Anne Milton is a former nurse and member of the Health Committee. Why didn’t any of them see that this was a disaster waiting to happen?  And shed a tear for little Andy Burnham who lost his big moment to shine. He’ll claw something out of it, but it won’t be much. He will look even more hang dog and dejected. You almost expect him to whimper, “if you don’t vote for me it will like strangling the Andrex Puppy”.

But there is a very serious lesson to be learned here. Lansley and his team have such a massive job at DOH,  there is a danger of  them not seeing the wood from the trees. They need to be left to get on with the job of the largest reorganization of the NHS since it was created. There are going to other “milk snatcher” timebombs. What they need is an experienced hand to filter through, or at least think through the implications, of each proposal. That’s not weakness, just practical politics. The reform of the NHS could be a shining monument to the Coalition. It is important that it doesn’t become a cracked tombstone in a graveyard of expectations. David Cameron will not relish being the Man from Del Monte every time a Minister falls asleep at the wheel of a Red Box. But how appropriate that Britain’s best known gripe water is called Milton and the the Department of Health is known as DOH. How delightfully Homer Simpson.

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Who of the coalition is going to be brave enough to offer the hand of conciliation & consultation to the Unions? And who will be courageous enough to take it?

August 7th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I have a horrible sinking feeling that the Coalition is going to do something really, really, stupid. A theme seems to be emerging from somewhere in the bowels of some manic right wing think tank, some nursery of adolescent pipsqeakery and foolishness, that the government is considering banning public sector workers from striking. The whistle is being blown, but so far the dogs are not responding. But it won’t be long before the hounds of hell from the Mail and the Sun will be let loose on the unions. They will be biting, scratching, slavering  and howling for the blood of Bob Crow and all those who want Britain dragged back to a Winter of Discontent. I can fully understand that the unions must fight for the jobs of its members. But strikes, disruption and chaos is a blunt and largely ineffective weapon. Did the action of UNITE do anything to assist cabin crew workers? Of course not. The public turned against them. Has Bob Crow’s interminable threats and disruption achieved anything of  substance for his members?  In his dreams. Will causing misery and mayhem save one single job when Osborne’s axe swings? Not a chance. That’s why it was so cheering to see Unison’s press release today, urging consultation over the tectonic changes that will soon engulf the NHS.  Radical change is inevitable in all areas of the public sector, but it has to be properly managed with sensible, candid, dialogue between management and Unions. There has to be something that has been so sadly lacking in Britain’s woeful history of mismanaging industrial relations; trust. Andrew Lansley would be very foolish indeed to spurn Unison’s perfectly reasonable request. But it won’t be easy.  This autumn could be an historic opportunity for government and unions to show to the public that they can thrash out  deals that are fair for both workers and right for the economy. But I fear that it may not work like that. The TUC conference will be stuck in the time warp of its past. Fight the Tory cuts it will shreik. Close down schools. Wreck the transport system. Smash the state. And all of this will play into the hands of those who want to finish the job that Thatcher started.

There is nothing new in a non strike agreements for public sector workers. But agreement it has to be. The Unions are going to have to be given something in return. Any thought of passing a law to impose it would be suicide for the Coalition. I’m not even sure that such a bill could pass through Parliament. And if it did?  Hefty fines? Imprisonment?  Bankrupting the Unions?  Only one thing would be certain, political martyrdom and the army called on to our streets to restore order. The politics of the asylum.

What Cameron has to do is adopt the approach of Jim Prior in the seventies. Oh, the right and the red tops will call him weak and bringing back the bad old days of  days of beer and sandwiches. Heffer and Hitchens will sneer from ivory towers that the vulgar business of solving industrial problems is not a matter for government. Well, with the public sector facing its biggest upheaval there has got to be cooperation. But do the Unions have the cojhones and common sense to seize the opportunity and embrace the challenge?  I hope so, as there are legions of public sector workers terrified at the prospect of being thrown onto the scrapheap, with a dull dread of how they will pay for Christmas.  And this is where Iain Duncan Smith could play a key role. The last few years has shown him to be a man of vision and understanding. He must shout the message which goes back to the days of Harold MacMillan, that government must be like a game of snakes and ladders. They must provide the ladders of opportunity and the nets to catch you in hard times. To pick you up, dust you down and put you back on that ladder of work and self esteem. So who is going to be brave enough from government to address the TUC Conference in September offering the hand of conciliation and consultation? And who is going to be courageous enough to face off accusations of Quisling and traitor and take it?   This will be the real test of whether this is the New Politics or just a reheated dogs dinner of the old, in shiny new bowl. Just don’t send in the Minister responsible for Industrial Relations. It’s Chris Grayling.

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Gove must reform his Department or be doomed. Cameron must deal with the threat of widespread industrial action with fairness and pragmatism.

August 5th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Michael Gove has the brain the size of a small planet and bollocks of such steel that they could proudly hang outside any reputable pawn broker. But I am beginning to wonder whether the Cabinet Secretary may need to step into fumigate his department of all things Balls. Gove is trying implement a policy of such importance, not just socially and educationally, but upon which this government will eventually be judged. It is called the Department For Education for a purpose. Many years ago I met Sir Keith Joseph for a drink. He was Education Secretary.  A man busting with ideas, whose mission was drag his department from the monochrome of state control to actually give children, particularly the deprived, real life changing opportunities. And there we sat, sipping warm white wine, in gloomy mood with this highly intelligent and vigorous man in total despair about his department. With the vein on his temple pulsating like a puppy’s penis, he  wailed that his officials wouldn’t let him do anything. That the department wasn’t  for education, in fact, it wasn’t  for anything at all, except  cosy, vested interests.  And that is why the Department of Education and Science eventually became the Department For Education. It was both a message and a warning. Both seem to have been lost. Both must be restored or else Michael Gove will spend his first valuable months, not fighting for children, but the enemy within. It was a battle that Peter Walker fought at the department of Energy during the miners strike. His department seamlessly morphed with the NUM; there was no join. Which meant that there was no loyalty to Ministers. Peter built a small team of totally trusted civil servants in his Private Office. This became the engine room of the department. All minutes to Cabinet colleagues by passed the Whitehall network for fear of leaks. They were personally delivered by one of Peter’s trusties. But Walker was an old hand at the machinations of  Whitehall, he was a master of playing the game and winning. Gove has only had a couple of months of trying to run a department that morphs seamlessly into the teachers’ unions and local education authorities. He had better start building his team of trusties quickly, or else those bollocks of steel will be surgically and publicly  removed.

The Autumn will be particularly traumatic for the Coalition.  The unions are in fighting mode. There will be widespread industrial action, causing misery and mayhem every area of public life. Cameron is going to have play this one very carefully indeed.  History has taught us that although  most industrial action seriously upsets the voters, it has little impact on government fortunes unless they appear to have lost control, or there is a whiff of unfairness in the air. The middle classes turned against the government during the miners strike because they felt that an injustice was being perpetrated on hardworking and decent people. And it was the inherent feeling of unfairness about the implementation of the Poll Tax (which it never was), which sowed the seeds of   Margaret Thatcher being bundled in the back of the Prime Ministerial limousine on a journey to oblivion. So the key word for David Cameron must be fairness. The country has accepted the need for draconian cuts; that argument has been won. But if the Coalition is perceived to be heavy handed or vindictive, rentamob will turn into something ugly and unpleasant. And it will be Mail, Sun and Telegraph readers who will lead the fray. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the eighties. Look at the Social consequences of government action and consult. But if you listen to the honeyed growlings of the right for the smack of strong and ruthless government there will be serious and lasting social unrest and a bitter ending to an incredible experiment. Tricky for the government, but a nightmare for the poor devil who leads the Labour Party. Does he take to the streets as Tony Benn, the left and the unions are shreaking for and face the charge of being bought? Or does he steer a middle path and be accused of betraying the very people his represents?