Monday, 24 April 2017
The First Week
There was a raft of news about the election over the weekend including new polls which conformed what we already knew and what may have prompted the PM to call an election last week. The Tories are way out in the lead and the public simply does not believe that Chauncey is competent enough to lead his party let alone the country. Indeed the early days of the campaign have confirmed this with Chauncey himself, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler tying themselves up in knots when asked fairly simple questions about Labour policy and positions. They are going to find the next 7 weeks very trying indeed.
Labour, we were told, is not going to have a single manifesto. It is to have a rolling manifesto. In other words they are making it up as they go along and every time someone has a light go on over their heads it will be published pronto. A rolling manifesto does at least have the advantage that they can simply pretend none of it ever happened once their idea is ridiculed or shown to be unworkable as with most Labour pronouncements these days. Last week Chauncey would say something only for a spokesman to recant a few hours later. All Chauncey needs is his own Shaun Spicer and the image of incompetence would be complete.
Over the weekend Chauncey appeared on TV and said he would not necessarily order the killing of the ISIL leader offering a number of questions he would want answered before giving the order.
Indecision is his firm policy. Probably.
On one issue though he is firm and resolute. He doesn't want to keep Trident. This despite the fact that it remains Labour Party policy.
Never mind though, if Chauncey manages to get elected he's going to give us all 4 extra bank holidays. That's sure to stir the passions around the country. I'm looking forward to hearing him shouting about that through a megaphone. What do we want? 4 more bank holidays. When do we want them? In March, April and November.
Given all of this the Tories will probably be content to lay low and say as little as possible over the campaign. Indeed this seems largely to be their intent from what we can judge thus far. There will not be a huge opus like manifesto. They will get away with giving opaque answers to questions and being studiously vague so as not to be tied down. Mrs May last week didn't exactly say that the pensions triple lock was being abandoned. She just avoided trying to give a firm commitment on it. She is right to do so, since we cannot afford it. But it will have upset a lot of people. She gives the impression that she will relent on this as on many other issues if the question is asked persistently enough.
And why is she sticking with the idiotic pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid when this angers so many people and is demonstrably wasteful? Surely a better form of words could be found rather than a ridiculous and ruinously expensive percentage target. All that that kind of target does is create a vast fund of money that DFID has to cast around to spend. It leads to waste and corruption. A better approach would be for the Government to set out its ideas for aid spending each year or over a period of 2 or 3 years and ask Parliament to authorise them. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a rough target for aid spending as there is for defence spending, but why set it in stone? There should also be a contingency fund for major emergencies such as another ebola outbreak. That is the kind of aid the British think of when they hear the word, not some of the absurd schemes that keep being funded. This is not to say that the argument about the need for soft British power in the wake of Brexit is not a good one. But the story of the previous weekend in which aid spending and defence and security spending could be merged was the right approach. While they are at it why not simply lump aid spending in with the Foreign Office budget?
The latest poll over the weekend showed that Chauncey is regarded with such contempt and derision that Labour are now second to the Tories on their perceived ability to manage the NHS. That is how badly Labour are set to fare in this election. Thus the Government's willingness to be pragmatic and to say as little as possible is understandable and wise. But they are unlikely to get away with blocking questions for the entire campaign as they did in the first week. We hope and trust that they do have answers.
Here's a primer for them though. Conservatives believe in government being as small as possible and for taxes to be as low as possible. Tories know that when taxes are cut this is not, as Labour would term it, a tax giveaway but just allowing people to keep more of their own money. Tories also know that the rich are already paying their fair share and to put taxes up would be self defeating and likely cost money. This has been proven time and time again. It would be nice, given how far ahead in the polls she is, if the PM were to reaffirm these basic Tory principles.
All in all though it's been an encouraging first few days. A safety first approach is the sensible one. But please think again about aid spending. It annoys people when at the same time the Government is cutting back on so much and apparently abandoning the triple lock. The British people are not against aid spending per se. Just aid spending as a way of shoring up a Tory image. As is being shown in Scotland, being true to your principles often has its own reward in the end.