Archive for the ‘Tories’ Category

Cameron seeks to cure the flu by banning sneezing

2 December 2009

Every now and then I’m tempted to be impressed by David Cameron. And let’s face it – the man has achieved quite a bit. He’s transformed the Tory party from an unelectable object of national derision into our pretty much taken-for-granted government in waiting. But then he always manages to come up with something that disappoints, that misses the mark, and that shows him to lack that grit and courage that successful politicians require.

Take his speech yesterday on health and safety (rather neatly following on from my previous post). In it, Cameron makes the case that excessive health and safety is crippling society. Hardly a brave thing to say, given that the papers are filled to bursting with ‘elf-and-safety horror stories. And not everything Cameron says is wrong. He makes a sensible case for making people responsible for their own action and not preventing common sense things from happening because of over-cautious regulations.

But he blatantly fails to tackle the real problems. He lists a marvellous tabloid array of examples of health-and-safety stupidity – goggles for playing conkers, no scissors for trainee hairdressers – all of which have a tenuous relationship at best with actual health-and-safety rules.

What he totally fails to address are the really knotty issues, such as the recent furore over criminal checks for volunteers working with children.

And most fundamentally, he fails to recognise the cause of so much over-caution. He blames the easy targets of the EU and the Labour government. Fair enough. But will he have the courage to stand up to the bereaved mother, desperate that the terrible accident that befell her child should never happen again? Will he resist the pressure to tighten regulation in the clamour for ‘something to be done’ when a child is abused and murdered?

Cameron tackles the symptoms, but not the causes. Excessive regulation is not the cause, it is the symptom. A symptom of a society which constantly demands action after each tragedy, and of politicians who do not have the courage to say ‘I will do precisely nothing about this’.

It is easy to mock excessive regulation. For more difficult is to challenge the desires of the bereaved, the maimed and the bankrupted. Cameron has shown himself happy to mock. He has also shown himself unwilling to challenge. For me, he fails the test.


Referendum RIP

5 November 2009

So, it’s all over for the Lisbon referendum. As widely predicted, David Cameron baulked at the idea of holding a referendum that would be essentially meaningless. As I said in my post yesterday, at least it shows that he has some understanding of the way the world works.

Of course, the reaction of some sections of the right has also, as widely predicted, been somewhat cross, to put it mildly. The irrepressible Daniel Hannan MEP has thrown his toys out of the Tory pram in order to campaign for a referendum and more, as he puts it, ‘direct democracy’.

Personally, I find the prospect of not having referendums a great comfort. It is one of the more regrettable novelties of the past generation that referendums, those erstwhile playthings of despots and dictators, should have wheedled their way into the European body politic. Let’s face it: a referendum is a tool used by politicians to get out of political scrapes. All this talk of ‘giving the people their say’ is just a load of sanctimonious guff, and those who are lured by the siren call of referendums should be very careful for what they wish for. Those who see a referendum as their salvation from the menace of the EU have short historical memories: 1975 and all that (and that before February 1975 there was an almost 10 per cent lead in the opinion polls for withdrawal).

Politics is complex: it’s why we have politicians. To reduce huge questions of national importance to simple ‘yes-no’ answers is not just asinine, it’s positively scary.

Lisbon and the Cameron dilemma

4 November 2009

So, after many, many long years in the making, the Lisbon treaty finally crawls into existence. And now we wait expectantly for David Cameron to announce his much anticipated volte-face on whether to hold a referendum. Eurosceptics in the Tory party are already apoplectic that he might renege on his supposedly cast-iron promise.

If Cameron announces today that he will not hold a referendum on Lisbon, he will simply be showing himself to be a sensible politician with an understanding of how the world works. His error, and it was a serious one, was to make his ‘cast-iron’ guarantee in the first place. It showed a worrying willingness to make very short-term political gain at the expense of both his own, his party’s and his country’s longer-term interests. I sincerely hope that the mess he now finds himself in will provide him with a useful lesson.

Europe has been uncharacteristically dormant in British political life over the past few years. There is a distinct possibility, given the vitriol poured against the EU by much of the right, that Europe will once again mark a Tory premiership. The circle that cannot be squared is that huge swathes of the Tory party cannot abide the EU and want out. Cameron, having a modicum of sense, cannot give them what they want. They will never forgive him for it.

Cameron looks set to be our next Prime Minister. How he manages his European policy, both in these last months in opposition, and in the first few months in office, will be a key indicator as to whether he is up to the job.