Thursday, 23 February 2012

Welcome to the 2010s: the era of reactive, populist, say-anything politics

What has David Cameron done so far, which has marked him out as a prime minister? The answer is, surprisingly little, as John Rentoul observes in theIndependent on Sunday: “…the Prime Minister seems unformed. He is adroit at reacting to events, but not so good at making them happen.”

But that does not mean he is unpopular (despite lots of potential reasons for this to be so), or that he will lose the next general election. It is just an example of an era, post-2010, which has seemingly been defined by a lack of seriousness of purpose on the part of the major parties.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The so-called party of law and order is failing on counter-terrorism

On Monday, Abu Qatada, widely recognised to be one of the world’s most dangerous men, was released on bail. Everyone thought it was wrong, including the government. But when the executive starts blaming the judiciary for the implementation of the laws its own leaders are responsible for drafting and maintaining, something is usually wrong.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper gave rather a good summing up:
“…the Government could have appealed the decision and begun urgent negotiations with the Jordanian Government. Instead the Government did nothing, leaving a judge to decide there was little progress being made in deporting Qatada”
It was handy for the Tories to have a Euro-bogeyman, the European Court of Human Rights, to blame, and it is true that the ECHR’s tunnel-vision about possible torture of suspects, irrespective of the circumstances, did not help. But it was operationally inept; plus, if the government hasn’t got good enough legal controls, it needs to get some in place, fast.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A good day for corruption

I know, I am not Spanish, and perhaps this subject is very boring for my (mostly British) readers. I am only Spanish by marriage, and through friendships. But rarely have I felt so strongly about a legal injustice as what happened last week in Madrid

On Thursday night, I was struggling to remember the last time I felt so frustrated, for comparison. I think it was probably when the Stephen Lawrence murderers got off, a wrong which has now been righted, at least in part. But in some ways, abhorrent though that was, this is worse. It is worse because this was not an issue of someone guilty walking free, but of someone who is innocent being deliberately convicted to get them out of the way. For a start, alarm bells start ringing when, unprecedentedly, as the New York Times observes:
“The Spanish prosecutor’s office has actively opposed both trials, saying there were no grounds for a criminal case. During the trial, it called for the charges to be dismissed because they had no basis in law.”

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

What Chris Huhne’s departure tells us about British politics

So, Chris Huhne has left the cabinet. Entire forests have already been destroyed over the interceding months, since the story broke about the speeding points allegedly taken for him by his wife. He will now be charged and is innocent until proven guilty: that is the fair play to which he is entitled.

We will never know – or at least, not for a while – whether Huhne genuinely went willingly, or was pressured to resign to avoid being sacked. But we’re also in new territory entirely: this is the first time a cabinet minister has been charged with a criminal offence in as long as anyone can remember, no-one quite knows what the rules are. And here’s a thing, which some have questioned: would it be right for a cabinet minister to have been made to go under such circumstances, given that he has not, as yet, been convicted of anything at all?

Yes, it is. Because this is not a parking fine. It’s a criminal charge, and criminal charges have to be taken seriously. Here’s what can happen when you don’t.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Camps vs Garzón: an extraordinary inversion of justice

Carlos Liria, friend of former President Camps, on the hotel balcony minutes before the jury was
Imagine a major British political figure, like the Mayor of London or the First Minister of Scotland, in the middle of a political scandal which everyone thought he would go down for. At the last minute a jury finds him not guilty by one vote, amidst accusations of jury-nobbling, and the man walks, to the amazement of everyone. Meanwhile, the internationally-respected judge who first investigated the case is being tried on a apparently trumped-up charge of overstepping his judicial authority, brought by – wait for it – the BNP.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Labour needs to get back in touch with business

This month, Alex Smith's pamphlet, Labour's Business, is being published online, chapter by chapter. Today is the turn of my own chapter 3, Reaching out: engaging with business at every level of the party. To mark the occasion, I posted this at the Huffington Post, and you can read the chapter online here.
In all the furore over Luke Bozier's defection to the Tories last week - perhaps best described as a storm in a hand-held device - important points seem to have gone AWOL. First, as former General Secretary Peter Watt pointed out, the invective directed at Bozier himself has told us perhaps more about the state of the party than about the man himself.
As a national press story, the defection of a former party apparatchik - not even an MP, for heaven's sake - is hardly up there with the euro crisis or the prospect of war with Iran, as you can be sure the man himself would attest. Most of us activists might not go as far as leaving the party, but it's also sad that we can't seem to make the party a comfortable place to be for those less tribal. We need to remember that, outside our membership, many of our supporters - who are the people we need to hold onto to win elections, after all - and probably the majority of the public at large, are closer in their views to Luke Bozier's centrist, less partisan stance than they are to die-hard tribalists like a lot of us.
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