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Jerry Hayes

The Achilles heel of the Coalition is it’s treatment of Parliament. Timetabling the AV referendum Bill is an act of monumental folly.

August 3rd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

As the Shadow cabinet huddle round their Ouija board in a desperate attempt to make contact with the living, their leadership contenders sleepwalk their messages through the media. The poor devils Zombie their way from ghastly meeting to awful gathering with all the enthusiasm of  doorstep encyclopedia salesman. More than a month to go and they still can’t stir up apathy. At the Weekend Miliband D hit the airwaves in an embarrassing punt at populism with a,  ”save our pubs” campaign. His press release, written in pure Jim Garnerese, gave parady a bad name, “It could be last orders for British pubs” , he squealed. “Make no mistake……”  I really can’t go on, it is just too painful, save to say that there is a photo of the great man with a pint of bitter poised at his lips. We are told it is London Pride, probably because some ghastly wannabe thought it would be good for the gay vote.

This morning it is the turn of Mr. Balls to grace our breakfast tables. The sight of this grotesque, smug, Jabba the Hutt like figure lecturing the Labour party on how to win the next election would be comedic if it wasn’t so tragic. The only battle he is trying win is not being slaughtered in the polls by that political genius Diane Abbott. The poor man is totally deluded. He is not just going to be beaten for the leadership, his treatment will make the stringing of Mussolini from a lampost look like a charm offensive.  But he still doesn’t understand. After, being shot,stabbed, fed Prussic acid and floating down the St Petersburg Canal encased in ice, even Rasputin eventually got the message.

It’s all very well for  Labour to try and derail the coalition by picking at the scab of Liberal Democrat cutting fast and loose with their voters, short term its quite effective, but long term the public will soon get bored. The real Achilles heal of this government is its treatment of Parliament. I had hoped Cameron had learned his lesson in his ill fated attempt to pack the 1922 with his supporters. Sadly, not. The Cameroons had crack at removing Bill Cash from the chair of an important European Scrutiny committee. This was pretty stupid, not just because it failed, but because Cash is a busted flush; a political irrelevance.  As a result, a lot of backbenchers, particularly of the right, nurse a simmering resentment. But the message still hasn’t been taken on board. The government intends to timetable the AV referendum Bill, leaving just two days for pre legislative scrutiny. This is an act of monumental folly. This is a bill that abolishes parliamentary seats, and redistributes boundaries. This a bill that proposes to hold the AV referendum on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections. This is a bill of immense constitutional importance and deserves proper scrutiny. Try and railroad this one through old son and you will unite every parliamentary bore with a grudge from every wing of every party. At the end of the day, this is a bill whereby a large number of  vociferous turkeys are being asked to vote for Christmas, so at least humour them before Mr. Bernard Mathews wrings there little necks. And listen to Graham Allen. Graham Allen is the chairman of the select committee monitoring the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. It is his committee which as been given just two days of pre legislative scrutiny to one of the most far reaching constitutional changes in a century. He is cerebral, honest and has carved out a niche in the Commons as the man who has fought fearlessly against his own government to restore power to the backbenches. He has that rare commodity in Westminster; respect. Yesterday, in his own quiet and unassuming way he warned the coalition of the folly of curtailing debate. They will ignore him at their Peril. Sometimes it is necessary for a government to stand firm and unyielding for fear of appearing weak. This is not the time for big willy machismo games. Parliament has been given a new and more powerful voice, it must be allowed to use it. Think again Mr. Clegg. Remember that it was the bedrock of pragmatic realism that this Coalition was founded upon.

The vote on AV is not about fairness but raw politics. If MPs play party games their gonads will be dangling from the lamp posts

July 3rd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

The cash registers of Newspaperland will be in near meltown as gin sodden hacks cheer that the, “first cracks appear in the coalition’, story might be based on a grain of truth. Today, we learn that the government could be toppled by those political titans of the right, Bernard Jenkin (of expenses fame) and Andrew Rosindell (of absolutely no fame). The Mail’s Peter Oborne, whose bulldog like appearance reflects a perpetual fury about anything his editor wants him to, has predicted the date of the government’s collapse; 5th May 2011, the date of the referendum on AV. Oborne confides in his column that only Cameron really believes in the Coalition and that most Tories are plotting for its downfall. And now for the killer fact: “I have been told”, he thunders, that this includes George Osborne. Hold the front page! This man has more scoops that Mr. Softee.  Except, of course, that it is utter bollocks.

Even the super, soaring, coalition supporting, SUN, gives disingenuity a bad name with it’s headline, “Brits oppose £80m referendum”. The joy of this piece is that they commissioned a You Gov poll which came to the conclusion that 69%  favoured a referendum. Work that one out, Dr Freud.

That is not so say that there is not troubled road ahead for this referendum. It was the price Cameron had to pay for a workable coalition and the early date was Clegg’s recompense for having to take so much grief over the cuts. Now, I don’t want to get wound up about the merits or otherwise of AV. The Liberals have always wanted it because it used to be their only chance of getting a whiff of power and the other parties opposed it because turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. It has precious little to do with fairness, just raw politics. But it’s raw politics of the old kind. Things have changed. An electorate, buckling under massive debt and personal sacrifice won’t take kindly to petty partisanship putting economic recovery at risk. If the tribunes of the people play fast and loose on this one, their gonads will be dangling from lamp posts.

If you cut through the blather, the  arguments are simple. Jenkin’s gripe is that by having the referendum on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections, who already use an AV system of voting, his lot will lose. Have it on any other day and his lot will win, as most people won’t be bothered to vote. The wily Jack Straw,who has morfed into a shadowy Gromyko like figure, who would only grant you the time of day on a need to know basis, is far more cynical. Delay, obfuscate and oppose. Little nods and winks that it would only take thirty nine Tories to side with Labour and bingo,we go back to the good old days of large majorities. Hooray! The cheery days of government by dickheadism could return. Except, it is all so crooked. If Labour is mad and bad enough to oppose something it actually proposed, even though a tad cynically, it will have no future, only a present, which is just a recurring past.

So what will happen? Douglas Carswell of the Tories will warn that the voters of Little Todger South didn’t elect him on a manifesto commitment to AV, so the whips have no moral authority over him. There will be a flurry of unattributable briefings from the Wagnarian wing, about how unhappy they are, and how this runs contrary to Conservative principles. The press will run “Cameron on the brink”, stories and will hint that he will have to resign if he loses and that a battle is being fought out behind the scenes between Hague and Osborne for the leadership. And as for Labour? Ed Balls will climb from under his stone and spit venom, whilst the Milibands will write worthy intellectual pieces in Prospect, which nobody will quite finish. But, it won’t be over until Diane Abbott sings.

And the result? Despite all the wailing, beating of breasts, gnashing of teeth, threats of mutiny and walk outs, a few Tory and Labour MPs will rebel, mostly by abstention. The Bill will sail through, the referendum will be won and British politics will be changed for the better. Forever. Hoo, bloody ray.

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