Now I surely don’t need to explain my pro-American outlook, do I? If I do, it will have to wait for now because I thought I’d make some observations on America’s (narrowly secured) embrace of a new health care system – even health care service –  after President Obama made this the defining issue of his candidacy during the last Presidential race.

It was shameful for certain British Conservative politicians to attempt to assassinate our NHS in the US media – going far out of their way to do so. Nonetheless a word of thanks to those who tried. Not only did they reveal some real Tory hostility to the NHS – still – but they also illustrated the growing ties between the Tories and the US Republicans. More on that later, too. 

 The introduction of a new health care system in the US should give British progressives a warm glow; we were the torch bearers for this and we remain the torch bearers for this in every country around the world. No single piece of legislation in this country has changed British society like Labour’s introduction of the NHS and it’s hard to envisage a piece of legislation that will ever have a similar effect.

Like with the introduction of the NHS in the UK, Obama and the Democrats have had to square up to powerful vested interests in the US. The fight has been a fierce one and much political energy and capital has been spent on securing the Bill’s passage. So much so that it might severely damage the Democrats in the mid-term elections and severely damage Obama when he runs for re-election. The Bill has been so divisive in some quarters that it may actually cost Obama the Presidency.

 Bravo, I say. Progressives march towards the sound of gunfire – not away from it.  Political office is a tool with which to achieve change, not just a chattel to be sought and played with. Political office must have a purpose – otherwise its pursuit is meaningless. So if Obama, on the back of these reforms, is cast aside as a one term President, he can leave the Oval Office knowing he did more to transform the lives of millions of ordinary people in four years, than most Presidents have ever done in eight. That’s not defeat, that’s victory and that’s what progressive politics is for.

 So let’s salute this political bravery and seek to emulate it. Political office is pointless, unless it is used to meaningful effect.

 In politics, bravery is a rare commodity and its value is on the rise.

Hail to the Chief.


Hello again…

18Mar10

Sorry about the radio silence gentle readers but real life and rocketing workloads have caused – you will have noticed – an absence of posts for some time. I’ll get back in the regular posting saddle soon, but I hope you can tolerate the infrequent posts for the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned. No flipping.

Jamie


They’ve really turned the farce levels up over at Tory HQ this week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHjI8MfMxqE

I’m told this is real footage of Philip Hammond and Michael Ashcroft trying to escape from the Treasury after being interviewed about tax avoidance. I know that this is not and cannot be true.


…it doesn’t go into the coffee at its Millbank HQ. A cup of coffee was probably deserved after agreeing to appear on such a late show as the Tony Livesey show on 5 Live, getting back to my flat at 1am after taking part in a live phone in. Coffee was rotten though.

Highlights of the evening were listening to two top BBC political journalists arguing about the Ashcroft story, with the one who struggles to conceal his/her leanings practically trotting out the Tory line…nil desperandum. In addition, sitting in the waiting room with Michael Heseltine as the latest breaking news about Ashcroft came through on the television was quite an experience. I can only hope to one day be able to glower like his noble lordship glowered tonight. And the ‘Spitting Image’ puppet was remarkably accurate…

On the subject of Ashcroft, news reports today suggest that the NHS – nationally – is heading for a £130m overspend this year. Almost unbelievably, Chris Huhne estimates that Michael Ashcroft has avoided paying £127m in tax to the Exchequer…

Draw your own conclusions.


Goodbye, then, Michael and thank you for everything.

Listening to the warm tributes being paid to Michael Foot today, I was reminded of two things. Firstly, what a remarkable, super-intelligent, thoroughly committed man he was. Secondly, what a despicable, rotten, nasty campaign the Tory press and most of the rest of the media waged against him during his three years as Labour’s leader.

The way Foot was portrayed in the media brought shame to the entire media establishment and for many people, this marked the beginning of the deep malaise we witness today whereby neither the media or the politicians trust each other and the public trusts very littke it sees, hears or reads.

So to watch the media today reporting on the media coverage Foot received was more than a little sickening – and it was all done with a straight face. 

We will probably never see the likes of Michael Foot in British politics again – he was perhaps the last of his kind.


Remarkable. It’s taken ten years to extract this admission. Every British taxpayer should now be asking “why?”

Moreover, the question should be put to David Cameron every time he steps foot in front of a camera. What did he know? When did he know it? What did he do about it?

The Guardian has – this week – put a series of questions to the Tory Leader which he has so far refused to answer. These questions are:

 Was William Hague aware at the time when Ashcroft was introduced to the Lords that he was a “long-term resident” rather than a “permanent resident”?

When did David Cameron become aware that Ashcroft was not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes?

 What did Cameron do about this?

 Does the Conservative party believe that it is right for a non-dom to sit in the House of Lords?

 Why did Cameron insist that Zac Goldsmith ended his non-dom status immediately it became publicly known, and not make a similar demand of Ashcroft?

 If the Conservative party believes it is correct to change the law to ensure that only those domiciled in the UK for tax purposes should sit in either house, how does it justify Ashcroft’s non-dom status for the last nine years?

 What does the party think the average UK taxpayer will make of Ashcroft’s non-dom status for the nine years he has had a seat in parliament?

 A spokeswoman for Cameron said: “We are not responding. We’ve set out the position and been very transparent and any more questions should be directed to Lord Ashcroft.”

Elsewhere, Chris Huhne has suggested that Ashcroft’s behaviour – either unknown to or ignored by three successive Tory leaders including Cameron – has resulted in him avoiding the payment of approximately  £120m in taxes to the Exchequer. The Exchequer, by the way, is you and me.

This isn’t just a knock-about partisan political issue – this is a genuine scandal. Why? Because tax avoidance costs my constituents jobs. It costs them core public services and this doesn’t just affect their lives, but their entire life chances.

I had to work harder than I have ever worked in order to get £100m from the Exchequer with which to build a new hospital in West Cumbria…and look what it is alleged Ashcroft has avoided paying. At a time when the public spending squeeze is starting to bite council employees, how many could have been kept in work if these alleged sums had been paid to the Exchequer?

It gets worse.

So has Ashcroft deliberately avoided paying approximately £120m in taxes? Has he then used that money to fund Tory campaigns in marginal seats? Is it possible that the current Party leader didn’t know about this? We should be told. The public has a right to know. Only a fraction of the detail has yet emerged.

So stay tuned. In a political environment characterised by hyperbole and half-truths; this has all the potential hallmarks of a British Watergate.

And – get this – in terms of the sums of money being talked about and with regard to the political consequences of these revelations; this could yet make the expenses scandal look like a tea party.

It’s in the interests of   the Tory Leadership to be clear and honest about this immediately. If not, this will haunt them all the way up to polling day… and beyond.


Well…what is happening? The sharp tightening of the polls may or may not be concrete – but both red and blue seem to think that it is.

Colleagues have roundly scoffed at my theory that this reported tightening is a Tory ruse to ensure that their vote turns out at the GE…

And a ComRes poll published tomorrow will put Labour as the largest party following the next election with some, like Charlie Whelan, claiming that this shows the polling trend shoring up.

We’ll see.

Whether it’s a five or two point difference between the parties, not a single vote has been cast yet…

…and the non-dom scandal (for once a time when the term is justified) has yet to be factored into the polling.

As matters stand, anything could happen.

No chance for the LOTO to erase memories of his weekend performance by putting in a shift at PMQs – it’s Harriet and Hague this week – so the chance is gone.

My expectation is that the Tory press will turn it up this week in an attempt to support their man. As I’ve previously written, if the LOTO can’t create a new reality, then they will see it as their duty to do it for him.

By any means necessary.

It is game on; but anything could happen.