UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

August is Not the Quietest Month... This year

August is usually the quiet month in the political calendar, the sleepy summer season where our parliamentarians take themselves off to foreign climes for a spot of R’n’R, and re-acquainting themselves with their loved ones. Not only our ministers and MPs but the political correspondents, the Pollys and the Andrews, for whom politics is a spectator sport concentrated on the London Arena (sorry, Houses of Parliament).

Perhaps it was to be expected that the London Olympic Games would be too much of an attraction for the publicity hungry, and so it has been proved by Boris Johnston. Not so much BoJo, as Baw Jaw, he seems to believe that achieving column inches in the press is equivalent of proving himself popular, while ignoring that for all his column inches, Simon Cowell would have a hard job being elected as town rat catcher. Worse, Baw-Jaw still believes that smooching the evil empire of Rupert is a way to power. Way to go Boris.

Not to be outdone however, Nick Clegg has stamped his pampered foot and throw all his toys out of the pram. It looks like the Rose Garden love-in is over.

His party has stood by and allowed Boy-George free rein over the economy, a man whose study of economics has been as in-depth and insightful as Mr Blobby’s study of nuclear physics. Indeed, his colleague Danny Alexander has been cheer leader for the worst chancellor in the post war period. (See Will Hutton http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jul/28/george-osborne-disaster-will-hutton?INTCMP=SRCH )

For this the Lib Dems have been seen to pay an electoral price. Well, partly for that, we must suppose. For some voters it is probably their betrayal of the nation’s students that hurts most; for others joining the Tories in support of Lansley’s NHS plans. That certainly cost Shirley Williams her place as “the people’s peer”. How can you pose as the Nation’s Grandma while helping dismantle the most cherished institution in the country?

For her and her fellow Lib Dems, it is indeed a pity the Olympic opening ceremony a la Danny Boyle didn’t come earlier – they would have learned something; that the coalition pact priced at the privatisation of health care is a price too dear.

For Clegg it was all worth it for the “broader” liberal agenda. Probably he honestly believed that the betrayal of working people the length and breadth of the UK was worth a coalition agreement that bound his party to neo liberal economics. The jewel in the Clegg crown was constitutional reform. The first try was on changing the electoral system. A referendum in May 2011 on the alternative voting system was a monumental success - for the no vote who won by 69% to 31%. Still, Nick persevered. He wanted to “reform” the House of Lords. While the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, those in work see their incomes slashed and the numbers of young employed grow greater, for Nick the priority was a deeply flawed plan to elect the House of Lords.

The plan encompassed partial election to the House, party lists based on regions; and 15 year terms with no re-elections. This “new house” was to act as a brake and a scrutiny mechanism on the Commons. It pleased no one - not the Tories for whom the status quo is adequate and those in the Labour Party for whom an all elected chamber are the key. (Would that the Labour Party had a reasonable debate on this - for the radicals among us, nothing short of abolition will do. Why do we need an additional retirement plan for political sycophants? Isn’t the best public sector pension available enough?)

Well, the Labour Party was not in the coalition but the Tories signed up to it for a position as senior partners. It did not stop large numbers of them trooping through the lobbies to oppose this part of the coalition agreement. Mr. Clegg’s lord and master declared the game was up. Nick tried again. Could they settle that it could be part of a longer agreement? But the Boss said no.

Hence the Cleggster has his tantrum, announcing that if Tories don’t support the constitutional reform of the Lords, then the Lib Dems won’t support Tory gerrymandering of electoral boundaries for parliamentary elections. They suddenly have the right policy, if even for the wrong reasons, as the Tory plans for cutting the numbers of MPs were based on one thing only – ensuring a Tory majority in the commons. Hopefully his MPs will follow him in this opposition - unlike his coalition senior partner who seems very unsure about the extent to which the Tory troops will follow him. Politics has just got very interesting.

Not be out done however, Louise Mensch, the publicity hungry representative for Corby, has resigned as an MP. Best known for her willingness to defend the indefensible in support of the Tory party, as long as it kept her in the headlines and the television studios, Ms Mensch was reported as finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile being an MP with her family role this week.

Only a few weeks ago however she was being quoted as seeking promotion to ministerial office. Then a few weeks later she was in New York launching a new internet venture and today announcing that we should expect another novel from her, once she is settled into her new life in New York. No matter her motives may remain impenetrable, but her actions are unquestionably in the best interests of the people of Corby.

They now have the opportunity to replace a fading star of the Tory A-list with an MP who will fight for the working people of this country. Her actions are a fine example to all those Tories in marginal constituencies whose seats are feeling a trifle wobbly just now. Should you wish to follow her lead and slink back into merchant banking while the going is good, we wish you well and advise the earliest possible exit.

It looks like the fun could just run and run. And it’s still only Aug 8th.