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Rene Kinzett

Off to Manchester

September 27th, 2010 by René Kinzett

Am en route to Manchester for my first Labour Conference since 2002. You will remember that was the Conference, in Blackpool, where Tony Blair made his stirring speech readying the nation for the prospect of a second Iraq War.

This Labour Conference will see a new Leader, the first to be elected in an open competition since Tony Blair in 1994, make his attempt to set a new course for a defeated and dysfunctional party.

I do not buy into the whole “Red Ed” stuff and object in the strongest terms to the Daily Mail trying to make something out of the new Labour Leader’s marital status. I also find news of the “cheering” at Tory HQ following the election of Mr Miliband a confirmation of the suspicion that I and a lot of ordinary voters think about the immaturity and blindly partisan nature of many of the people who spend their entire existences submerged in the political mire. Remember guys, “The Thick of It” is a comedy, not a “How To” guide for the political machine.

I do, however, regret the election of Miliband jnr to the position of Labour Leader, not least because I thought Miliband snr would have done a better job. And I mean “better job” as in he would have done a better job of being “Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition” than his younger bro. Many of my fellow Tories will shriek in horror at this and accuse me of rooting for the wrong side. Well, such people should pipe down and remember that the role of Parliament is to check the executive, hold HM Government to account and, on some occasions, to seek to defeat the Government or to make them think again about certain proposals.

It is in the absence of good opposition that Government’s find themselves bringing forward the worst policies and ideas – precisely because they can get away with what the hell they like! When Mrs T was at the height of her powers and Parliamentary Opposition was negligible, she brought forward the Poll Tax. I suppose I ought not to be too down-heartened regarding the lack of opposition from the Opposition Benches, as these days it is more likely going to be the delicate workings of the Coalition Agreement that will provide the necessary checks and balances. Indeed, it was opposition from within the Tory Party that eventually put the ultimate break on Mrs T’s power trip.

Regardless as to whether internal checks or the balance of a good Opposition Party is key to keeping Government on its toes (and thus ensuring better decision-making), the Constitutional role of the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition is still a crucial one and it remains to be seen as to whether Ed Miliband can fulfil the role with as much eloquence, passion and ability as his older brother possesses, as demonstrated at today’s session of conference.

Youthful frolics

September 6th, 2010 by René Kinzett

The race to be elected Chair of the Conservative Party’s youth wing, Conservative Future, is hotting up. Nominations for the prestigious Chair and the various other spear bearer positions have now closed. And what a choice awaits all those eager young things who are to vote for the milk monitors, hall monitors and prefects of the Tory youth movement.

One of the candidates for Chair is Craig Cox, a chap who, when a Student Union officer at Nottingham University, decided it would be a jolly good jape to wave aloft a sign calling for the reintroduction of slavery. Mr Cox’s initial (and later withdrawn) excuse was that he didn’t know what it said on the sign and he certainly caused a campus political rumpus, resulting in a petition to remove him from his position. Maybe healthy discussion of turning back the clock 200 years and offending huge numbers of potential Tory voters is what Cox means when he expresses on his website a desire for more “banter” within the youth wing?

Zooming in on Wales, the candidates for Chair here include one Grant Tucker who, despite being a terribly nice and polite young man, managed to call for the murder of a former MP via Facebook whilst he was Chair of the Welsh Conservative Future. No matter what one’s views are on Mr Galloway, there are more efficient and less troublesome ways of enquiring after the services of hit men than using a social networking site. Anyhow, this foul up led to Mr Galloway making a police complaint and Mr Tucker being shown the door by Welsh Tory HQ.

Still, all this is great fun and at least more interesting than the boring and sterile Labour Party leadership campaign. But then real politics is often less interesting that the insular and bitchy world of student politics, proving the rule that there is an inverse relationship between the passion and vitriol expressed to the size of the prize on offer.

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Bringing home the bacon

September 5th, 2010 by René Kinzett

The Liberal Democrat Leader of Swansea Council, Chris Holley, has written an extraordinary letter to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, asking for investment and other favours from Government for the City of Swansea. Perhaps not unusual for a Council Leader to be batting for their city? However, read the letter posted above and you will see (apart from the appalling grammar – at least one 6 line paragraph containing one sentence and no punctuation whatsoever)  that Councillor Holley’s plea for intervention from his LibDem pal in Westminster is not so much to do with economic regeneration for a city much in need of properly planned investment, but rather to boost the flagging election prospects of their party locally.

I was (for 2 years) a member of the ruling Liberal Democrat/Independent/Whoeverwantstojoinus coalition on Swansea Council and I saw at first hand the lack of intelligence, imagination and political nous of those who hold the top jobs in the Cabinet. Most observers agree that the quality of leadership in our city is dire. However, what has also now been exposed is the level of political mendacity, partisanship and cynicism which really underpins the coalition. If Councillor Holley thinks there is nothing wrong in pleading for special favours from Government simply for party political advantage, then my Deputy Leader was right when he accused the ruling group of lacking any form of “moral compass”.

Wales’ second city is being led by a paranoid coalition convinced that every other party or branch of government is out to get it and do the city down. The truth of the matter is that a coalition with no political mandate, no agreed plan to govern the city by and no commonly-held philosophy is doomed to fail and take the fortunes of our city down with it. I am heartened that, at last, the national media in Wales is picking up on the mess that is Swansea Council and I can only hope that our local media take the issue of the good governance of our city more seriously in future.

I have no real hope that the few sensible and intelligent Liberal Democrat Councillors in Swansea will actually do the right thing and remove Councillor Holley from his post and give us someone more capable of doing the job of Leader of the Council, but I do expect a few of them to reach for the forms and make a complaint to the Ombudsman about how beastly I’ve been to them in this blog.

UPDATE: The Leader of Swansea Council has responded through an article in today’s South Wales Evening Post.