Life on Mars…

Life on Mars

We all like to indulge in a bit of nostalgia from time to time. Who among us doesn’t take a glimpse back into our past, usually through rose tinted spectacles, remembering the highlights and pining for ‘The good old days’?

This is one of the main reasons why TV programmes such as ‘The Seventies Revisited’; ‘The Fabulous Eighties’ and the ‘Naughty Noughties’ are so popular, alongside dramas such as ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’.

Though this mild obsession with the past is probably not the best use of our time, it is a harmless bit of whimsical melancholy that causes no harm.

The same cannot be said for our political leaders, some of whom appear to have been transported back to the seventies if some of their more recent policy pronouncements are anything to go by.

It seems likely that tomorrow the Labour Party will elect the man who was only put on the leadership ballot paper to ‘broaden the debate’. Jeremy Corbyn wants to include re-nationalising the utilities, re-opening coal mines and re-introducing flared trousers as compulsory dress wear in the next Socialist manifesto he presents to the country.

Not to be outdone in this back to the future approach to politics, the Conservative government have decided that Trades Unions are, indeed, the enemy within, and are about to introduce a raft of legislative changes to impact on union activity that can most graciously be described as cracking a nut with a bloody great sledgehammer.

David Cameron QUattro

The governments’ proposals are an outdated response to the challenges of the modern workplace and are counter-productive. This is not the cry from Lennie McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite. It is the considered opinion of CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

They point out that the number of working days lost through industrial action today stands at less than a tenth of what it was in the 1980s, whilst consultation with its members suggests their relationships with unions are generally good.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese commented: “Government proposals appear to be targeting yesterday’s problems instead of addressing the reality of the modern workplace. The number of days lost to strike action in the last twenty years has dropped by over 90%.”

It may be that in the Westminster bubble that they claim to hate so much, the Corbynistas and the chancellor and his mates crave for a return to class war. But for business, the nightmare of the breakdown of consensus politics and a return to extreme positions on both left and right of the political spectrum, is seen as totally unnecessary and as irrelevant in the twenty first century as an abacus is for the schoolchildren of today.

Cameron Setting himself up for a Fall?

Cameron Prime Minister Questions

Prime Ministers Questions has been a bit of a pantomime for some considerable time now. John Major was probably the last PM who actually tried to answer questions put to him by his parliamentary colleagues at the, back then, twice weekly event – and look what happened to him!

Tony Blair, who hated ‘PMQs’, reduced the session to once a week, and over time became a master at using the occasion to simply point score off his political opponents, whilst managing friendly questions from his own backbenchers.

Gordon Brown continued little from Blair’s New Labour style of government; but he too seldom addressed questions directly from the dispatch box and he was as adept as his predecessor at batting away any challenging scrutinising from MPs, albeit with a far less charm.

David Cameron has carried on with this unfortunate tradition and practice since becoming Prime Minister in 2010, and following his victory on May 7th has adopted a style that was described by Labour’s acting Leader Harriet Harman this week as “gloating”, telling him to “show a bit more class.”

I have to say that I have been surprised by Cameron’s tone at PMQs, as he takes every opportunity to patronise and tease Labour members in a way that may be fitting for a dormitory bully at a public school, but is hardly befitting of the country’s leader.

I hope that this new found sneering approach is a temporary aberration, born out of a victory that one senses he still can’t quite believe. Sooner rather than later his own backbenchers will be harrying him over the EU, immigration, the human rights act and who knows what else. Members from all sides of the house will only enjoy his discomfort just that little bit more if he continues to act with the pomposity that he is demonstrating right now.

He would do well to remember the phrase ‘be kind to people on your way up the ladder…

Get Ready for a Deluge of ‘Royal’ Visits

Sexy Politics

Lancashire will be a key area in deciding who will form the next government, with a number of marginal seats to be fought in the county at the polls in May.

At this moment in time all the polling evidence suggests that we are heading for another ‘hung’ parliament with none of the two ‘big’ parties pulling up any trees at the moment; the Tories obsessed once again with the issue of Europe, and Labour being led by a man that is clearly struggling to impose himself in the minds of the electorate as a potential Prime Minister.

For the Liberal Democrats the Coalition agreement has proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and for all their protestations about their input into policies surrounding the low paid, the green agenda and, indeed, the economy, the perception voters have of Nick Clegg & Co is of a party that sold its soul for a whiff of the red ministerial boxes. The tuition fees U-turn effectively killed them.

Labour had hoped to pick up the majority of Lib Dem discontents, and win the election by simply adopting a more traditional social democrat, safety first approach that would enable them to hit the 35% of the vote mark, which would give them a small, but workable, majority.

They had not factored in the backlash to traditional politics that we are witnessing at the moment, nor the fact that they are likely to lose a significant number of ‘safe’ seats themselves north of the border to the Scottish Nationalists.

The Tories will lose votes, if not seats, to UKIP, that may lead to them missing out on some of their target constituencies, and who knows how other minority parties like the Greens and even Plaid Cymru will perform.

It all means that just seven months out from the election, we really have no clue as to the type of government we will have in place next year. The lack of genuine, consistent leadership from either Cameron or Miliband makes it a wide open race, and that means that every vote will count, particularly in this part of the world. Expect a series of high profile visits from Ministers and Shadow Ministers over the next few months – and then sit back and watch as Alex Salmond becomes the Deputy Prime Minister in the next Coalition that is cobbled together post May.

Cameron will lose even if he wins


We are now just over six months away from the next General Election and if I were a betting man I would say that the Conservative Party will remain the largest group in Parliament following the May poll, with a question mark over whether they will continue to need the support of their minor coalition partner the Liberal Democrats.

The lacklustre Labour Party conference, epitomised by its Leaders ineffective speech and the seeming belief of the official opposition that they can win enough seats to form a government by simply banging on about the NHS and hitting the 35% mark of vote share will leave Ed Miliband short of where he needs to be.

The UKIP bandwagon may continue to gain momentum if the media remains as fascinated with the buffoons who represent this inconsistent and slightly hinged bunch of non racist, non homophobic folk, but surely as we approach the big day there will be at least some scrutiny of their policies by Andrew Neild and Co!

So Cameron will in all likelihood remain as Prime Minister, at least in the short term, whilst Boris gets his leadership campaign organised, but will he be able to look back at his time at the helm of his party with any great satisfaction?

David Cameron won his party’s leadership with an agenda that promised a new Tory Party, ‘Caring’ Conservatives who would ‘hug a hoodie’ and that was so committed to the green agenda that they changed their party logo to a tree.

He promised to put all the internal Eurosceptic nonsense behind them, and move his troops to the middle ground, much as Tony Blair had done with ‘New Labour’ a decade earlier.

As he approaches the end of his first term in office, Eurosceptisism is at the top of the Tory agenda, he is peculiarly on the run from the UKIP fruit loops, promising an in-out EU referendum that he has now lost total control of, and appears more concerned with keeping the likes of John Redwood happy than Michael Heseltine. As for the environment, forget it because he has.

Add to this the return to ‘Nasty’ Tory policy around the welfare agenda, and it is easy to see why many commentators believe that Cameron may be ‘in post’ but not ‘in charge’.

Whatever the result of next year’s election, it is hard to see how David Cameron can really win.

Labour’s 50% Gamble


Depending on your politics and point of view a 50% tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 per year may seem fair.

However, there is absolutely no economic sense in taxing the highest earners at this level as it leads to a fall rather than an increase in the tax take for the exchequer.

How can this be so? Well, at 45p in the pound a successful business owner or entrepreneur may wince a little, but psychologically they will live with it.

Once you tell someone you want half of their income, it is of little surprise that they start to aggressively investigate the many loopholes that exist to stop HMRC getting their mitts on their hard earned cash.

The other problem with the 50p rate though is that is does cap aspiration and ambition; it signals a culture of envy rather than enterprise; and most worryingly it prevents business owners from investing in growing their companies. What is the point of adding £500K to your bottom line if the return you get is likely to be less than 10% of that? It is a risk that is not worth taking.

That is why I think that Ed Balls announcement that a Labour government would re-introduce the 50p rate is wrong, and more ‘gesture politics’ than economically savvy.

Labour believes that the majority of us who can only dream of a salary of 150K support the measure and will vote accordingly.

I think it will enable the Tories to paint Labour as anti ambition, anti business and as the party of taxation. It was a road tried and tested by Neil Kinnock and John Smith in 1992, much to John Major’s delight.

It didn’t work for Labour then, and although scandals with banks and our big financial institutions means we are in a different place today, I doubt if it will work in eighteen months time when the country goes to the polls again.

Nonetheless, the battle lines have been drawn and it will be interesting to see if Cameron and Osborne take a gamble of their own by announcing a further cut in top rate tax to 40p; and how shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna convinces business leaders that Labour support his ‘British Dream.