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Jerry Hayes

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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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?

I would be amazed if Tory & Lib Dems didn’t stand as Coalition candidates at the next election. Just don’t try it at the local elections; they should be fought on local issues not national policies.

July 31st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Downing Street officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the health of David Cameron. Each morning, when being briefed by his press chiefs on the stories of the day, tears begin to well in his eyes, his chest begins to heave and terrible noises emanate from his chest. This mad, hysterical laughter at each report of another right wing plot, is just not good for his health.   Well, I hope that yesterday’s bizarre report in the Financial Times about The 92, Cornerstone and No Turning Back  right wing dining groups that  are to meet to decide how to deal with the Coalition, was not shown to him. The reaction of him and Cleggy would have been akin to when the aliens in the old SMASH adverts spied that the Earthlings peeled and boiled potatoes and then actually mashed them.

So what will this last, desperate, supper be like? A growling and grunting meeting of the survivors of the Klingon Empire lamenting the ascendancy of that handsome and personable, captain Kirk. Or perhaps they will plot  to build their Orc army to defeat the Elves and the Hobbits who are now running the show. I suspect neither. The young Turks will want to a fight a guerrilla war, whilst wiser heads will counsel a wait and see approach. Wait for the cracks to appear in the Coalition, crowbar them open and then detonate some serious explosives and watch the whole edifice blown to pieces. Cameron should treat the right like political haemaroids. When they are really irritating and inflamed, smooth them over with gentle and soothing ointment. But don’t try and cut them out, as this can be bloody and very painful. So, at the moment Francis Maude is administering the suppository of,  ”our policies are more radical than Margaret Thatcher’s” . It should work for a little while.

The problem they have is that there are no really big issues of contention that have yet emerged to be likely catalysts to open crack in the Coalition.  The referendum on AV is about fair votes and the public can smell the political dishonesty of those who oppose on a confection a mile away. The Trident argument is only about saving a fraction of the £100bn touted by the likes of Abbott and will disappear with hardly a wimper. Academies are a potential problem and some Lib Dems have serious concerns. But their manifesto commitment of a Pupil Premium to help the disadvantaged has been accepted and should head off any real rebellions. And, at the moment, that’s about it. Of course, there will be unexpected and totally horrendous issues that will appear from nowhere and cause serious worries to the stability of the Coalition. But provided Cameron and Clegg continue to tell people how it is, consult and act with pragmatism, common sense  and honesty, this government will last. And that is what terrifies the right. They want the Lib Dem vote to sink so low that they will be wiped out at a General Election. They want to lure them into a false sense of security and then pull the plug and allow the Tories to romp home in the polls at a snap election. But this is the politics of the madhouse. Not only is it dishonest it is totally counter productive. The electorate would never forgive the Tories and the beneficiaries could be an alliance between the Lib Dems and the sensible wing of whatever is left of Labour. Then it would be the Tories in the wilderness — forever. This is not a plan that would flicker across the Cameron mind for a nano second.

I haven’t got a clue what the Cameron Master Plan is. But I know it is not to destroy the Conservative Party. It is adapt or die. The Tories have always been very good at this and the Lib Dems are learning fast, whilst poor old Labour is stuck in a time warp, a black hole from which it may never re emerge.  And for those who think of this Coalition as a temporary fix; think again. What would amaze me is not that the Tories and Lib Dems would stand as Coalition candidates at the next election, but if they didn’t. Unless there is a major fallout in policy, it would be bizarre not to. In fact, it would make no sense at all, as both parties would want to show that the government was a success. This could not and must not be tried at a local government level. There would be mutiny. Let local parties fight on local issues. I’ve always thought it was fairly stupid to fight local elections on national policies and totally meaningless. So let local government be really local for once.

Even Michael Portillo is saying nice things about the Coalition, so I suppose we should be roasting the fatted calf. Today, he even said that Cameron was civilising the Conservative Party. Years ago, when I was angry with him for his betrayal of John Major I stood at the Member’s taxi rank berating, “that cunt Portillo”. I hadn’t noticed that the diminutive Ann Widdecombe  was in earshot. “Oh, I’m so sorry Ann”.  ” No need to apologise Jerry, the only word I objected to was ‘Portillo’ “. Well, I’m happy to withdraw the insult. Welcome home Michael.

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Thatcher goes to Number 10: the return of the mummy

June 8th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Having shared a desk with Enoch Powell, read a Liz Jones column and seen Frankie Boyle live, I am no stranger to psychoanalysis. But what weird mental aberration persuaded officials that it would be a good wheeze to invite Margaret Thatcher to Number 10 to have a chat about her concerns with the Coalition? It’s not going to appease the Tory right, who are spoiling for a fight whatever Cameron does and is a gift to the Rampton Wing of the Labour press. Wheeling the old dear out for a photo call with Cameron and Clegg at a time when the Treasury axe is being taken to public services, doesn’t quite send out the right message. But Thatcher, whatever you think of her, is a symbolic political fetish of great potency. She stands for courage, determination, leadership and singlemindedness. She is also, of course, as mad as a box of frogs. Even, Gordon Brown  invited her over for tea. God knows what they talked about. Perhaps she wondered where all the immigrants were coming from.

The most remarkable thing about Thatcher is that for someone who has become an icon of the Western world, she has absolutely no sense of humour. She could not understand, when being fimed by ITN in 1979,  why the crew collapsed in hysterical laughter when she picked up a Black and Decker drill saying it was the largest tool she’d ever had in her hand. Or the time, when astride a large field gun in the desert, she remarked that she hoped it didn’t jerk her off.

And not only without humour, but also rather unwordly. I’ll never forget the time when Willie Whitelaw slumped into an armchair in the smoking room with a bucket of whisky clamped to his shaking hand at the time of the government AIDS campaign. ”What’s the matter Willie?” we chirped. Ashen faced, he told us that he had tried to explain anal sex to the great lady. I would have loved to have been a fly on that particular wall.

But she did like a drink. I remember being on a large gin palace with her sailing towards a newly refurbished Tower bridge which she was due to light up. The Remembrancer, the City of London’s head flunky, couldn’t undertand why she was spitting tacks. ” Ive been filling her up with the best champagne”, he wailed,”I just don’t understand”. When it was explained to him that her tipple was J and B whisky, a police launch was despatched to Bottoms Up and civility was restored.

Yet Thatcher arouses deep primal feelings. Worshipped  by the right and ferociously hated by the left. When John MacDonnell said that his quip about  assasinating her was a joke, he was sending a very clear gutteral message to his supporters. There was more than just a glint in his eye.

The difference between the coalition and Thatcher is that Clegg and Cameron are only too aware that, drastic as the cuts must be, they must be managed in socially responsible way. I don’t think she had a clue the misery that some of her policies would cause, nor now how divided society would become. The Coalition is not going to make that mistake. Far better to launch it as a blood, sweat and tears national crusade, implemented by consensus rather than brute force.

So when Margaret Thatcher is invited to Tea at Number 10 let let be for no other reason than an act of compassion for a weary old lady wanting to relive old memories through rheumy eyes. But certainly not for advice

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Call me an old cynic but what is Vince Cable up to?

May 30th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

The personal tragedy of David Laws is not the beginning of the end of the coalition nor even the end of the beginning, but it has diverted attention away from a potential hazard that puzzles me. I can understand why Vince Cable wanted to relinquish the role of Deputy Leader of his party, which is about as relevant and utilitarian as a cat flap in a submarine. To abandon the rubber chicken circuit, administering counselling to a potentially fractious grass roots is a distraction from the enormities of his cabinet job. In fact,nobody in their right mind would want the job, which is probably why Simon Hughes is so keen to get it. But why did Cable anoint him as his successor?

Simon is a lovely chap, delightfully disorganized and brimming with ideas. Yet he does represent the Rampton Wing of his party. In the days when the SDP was just a mischievous glint in David Owen’s eye, Simon was leading the unreconstructed woolly hat brigade. Bizarre compromises would suddenly appear from nowhere. In the emotionally charged debate on the age of sexual equality Simon announced to the House that the age on consent should be seventeen. Why? Heaven knows. And recently, in an almost Whovian strangulation of logic, he came up with the corker of setting up Lib Dem shadows for his own coalition government. Matron! Medication quickly!

So, call me an old cynic, but what is Vince Cable up to? He is a thoroughly able member of the government and committed to the coalition, but every fibre of his cerebral cortex is that of tax and spend. The poor chap has probably had to develop more reverse gears than an Italian tank. Does he want Hughes in place to stoke the flames of Liberalism? To be the tweaker in Chief of consciences? To harrow the government with every crackers idea that slips into the Hughes mind? This may not be the plan but the reality could be a total nightmare. It’s difficult enough getting policy through the department, then Number 10, then the Treasury, then the Commons and Lords without the added factor of Hughesian bonkery validated with some form of democratic mandate.

And then there are the other candidates for the job. Just where are they?  I’m sure Tim Farron is a lovely chap, but when I Googled him, Paris Hilton’s dogs got more column inches. He’s not even a household name in his own household. But there are some perfectly sensible people who could do a sane  and sensible job in helping keep the Lib Dems’ feet on the ground. What about Don Foster, Bob Russell or even bring in old stagers like Alan Beith or Malcolm Bruce. And what about shoving Paul Keetch into the Lords and giving him the job?  The talent is there, it’s just that someone at the top needs to think this through.

And as for Simon Hughes? A challenge. Put him in charge of a commission which will take years to report back, make him President of the Council of Europe. You could even make him Governor of Bermuda. Just keep him busy and out of the way.

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