Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Politics Decoded: A Boris Banana Skin? A Tory Tester? A Knighthood Now!

Here is this week's Politics Decoded column from the Wardman Wire. You can read it first at The Wardman Wire from about 11:30am every Tuesday.

Some big announcements from the Boris camp expected?

Iain Dale has suggested that Boris’ camp will make one or two major personnel announcements in the coming weeks. He made the comments at a debate on whether Boris can become Mayor last week. While Iain did not go as far as to tell the story as a definite, he did say that he was expecting some announcements with a bit of a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”. In short, in the coming weeks Boris may well be announcing some high profile figures to take over from the GLA group’s current heads. This includes people such as TfL commissioner, Peter Hendy, and London Underground MD, Tim O’Toole. Iain even touted David Davis as TfL’s new commissioner. It is all part of what Iain called “clearing the house” – an Americanism often used by newly elected Mayors in the US, apparently.

A bad move, Boris

I have to say, if this does turn out to be the case Londoners should be worried and so should the Boris camp. Why get rid of Peter Hendy and start again at TfL? The very bottom line is it will cost a small fortune to start again at TfL and the other GLA functional bodies. Even more importantly, however, is getting rid of some real talent solely for political reasons is a mistake. Hendy is very popular at TfL having worked his way up through the ranks all the way from bus conductor. He knows his onions and is, publically at least, non-political. Why would we want a politician running our capital’s transport system? Tim O’Toole is every bit as capable and popular as Hendy and both have done fantastic jobs at TfL. Hendy started as MD at London Buses and ask any Londoner and they will tell you that the buses in London today are a world away from what they were ten years ago. OK, so we have bendy buses and lost the route-master, but this is small fry compared to the overall improvement. Tim O’Toole has overseen a period of massive improvement on the underground and at a time when the Metronet contracts are up in the air the last thing LUL and its passengers need is change at the top.

Boris needs pros not just big names

Most worryingly, however, is talk of David Davis becoming TfL’s commissioner. I should emphasise that Iain did not say this explicitly, but Davis was one of the options he floated. Why would London want a man who has failed to be elected as Mayor then be appointed as the head of the biggest part of the Mayoral Empire? What does Davis know about running the world largest transport authority? Very little compared to Hendy and O’Toole I would imagine.

I understand that Boris wants to put some distance between himself and the Livingstone era, but as a man who lacks the skills and should be aiming to put the best team around him (rather like Reagan and Bush have done in the US when they were aware of their failings) I do not think that sacking the two best jewels in the Livingstone crown is the wisest of moves.

Remember the act treason?

At the end of last year Gordon Brown did the dirty and put his signature to the EU Reform Treaty in a back room in Lisbon. It caused outrage in the blogosphere, in the tabloid press, the grown up press and television media. I even went on BBC World news to talk about! It was as though this was the final act of treachery from Brown and nothing less than sending him to the gallows was good enough for him. So why has it gone so quiet?

Unfortunately, and Gordon realised this after much bumbling and indecision, that as a voting issue Europe is still a big turn off for the electorate and a difficult one for the opposition to keep up the offensive on. In fact, it’s quite the opposite for the Tories. The Treaty is done and dusted for Labour. Now the spot light is on the Tories and we all know where internal debates on Europe end up when the Tories get going…

Tories to tear themselves apart?

The problem for the Tories is at least Labour are united (or showing a united front) when it comes to Europe. Brown wanted to sign the treaty (he saw little other option) and did so. It was farcical and had more spin about it than an evening with Alastair Campbell, but he did it and cries of treason rang out until the Christmas bells drowned them out and all has been forgotten. Cameron tried to get those cries going again with his appearance on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday. But it only served to highlight the Tories problem in this area.

What is the Tory position on Europe?

I was left baffled as to what the Tory position on Europe is. On the one hand he is saying he will hold a referendum. On the other he saying there will be no point because by the time the Tories even get a chance to be in power the treaty will be ratified. In other words, Cameron is towing the line that he is against the treaty but cannot and therefore will not do anything about it. It is clearly an attempt to appease both sides of his party on this most destructive of issues for the Tories. The problem with this approach is that is actually appeases neither side.

The first real, serious tester of the New Conservative Party

The pro-Europeans want Cameron to be more positive about Britain’s role in Europe. The antis want him to promise a referendum even after the treaty has been ratified by the rest of the EU. This would mean that Britain would pretty much be holding a referendum on whether it remained in Europe or not – something Cameron would never commit to. As the months go on I expect Europe, far from being an issue for the government, to actually start to take its toll on the Tories. This will be the first real test as to whether the Tories have changed. Despite the problems over the past decade that Labour has faced, they have always kept it together as a party. If the Tories are going to take that next step to power, they too will have to prove that they are united as a party – especially on issues like Europe.

Arise Sir Ringo!

While we’re on the subject of Iain Dale, he took up a story that does the rounds every year or so – should Ringo be knighted like the rest of the Beatles? Iain believes that the reason Ringo never got the knighthood is because “as a singer he’s a bit rubbish and as a drummer he’s very rubbish”. A bit harsh Iain! Of course I am sure his comments were written with his tongue firmly in his cheek (not sure that metaphor works with the written word…) as he then goes on to say “The only singer from the 1960s to actually deserve his knighthood was, of course… Sir Clifford Richard.” The only singer from the sixties!? Needless to say I am not a Cliff Richard fan!

The best damn drummer in the world!

But surely as one quarter of the biggest band that ever was, Ringo deserves the gong?! If Paul Collingwood can get his gong for playing a bit part in 2005 ashes victory, then surely Ringo deserves his?! All this rubbish about him being a terrible drummer is unfair and all comes from Lennon’s flippant quip that he wasn’t even the best drummer in the band. A comment that he regretted. Paul later claimed he was the best drummer in the world. I’m joining The Fink on this one – you all should too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like Ringo's singing and his drumming. I like Cliff and his singing. Ringo does deserve a knighthood. Cliff got his knighthood on his charity work not his singing. They are both good entertainers. Cassie