Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dave in blokeish mode

Dave Cameron is a smart political tactician and he has got himself some extensive and generally favourable publicity by 'accidentally' using two mild swear words on a radio show. Some wag suggested that he should wear a hoodie next time.

I suppose this is all meant to show that he is the bloke next door. I don't have a problem with him being an Old Etonian. It's a good school and inverted snobbery is no better than snobbery.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Voters back spending cuts

It seems from this poll in The Times that voters are not impressed by Gordon Brown's attempts to make a distinction between Tory spending cuts and Labour investments: Cuts

Most voters are canny enough to realise that whichever party is in office, there are going to have to be big spending cuts, particularly after today's news about big falls in tax revenues. That isn't to say, of course, that there would be no difference in the size or scope of the cuts depending which party formed the government.

There is also a difference between expressing a view in favour of hypothetical cuts in a poll and experiencing those cuts in services that a voter use. But the Conservatives are already taking a perverse pride in being the most unpopular party in history within six months of being elected.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A bonfire of quangos?

It's a popular slogan, although Dave Cameron didn't actually use in its speech yesterday. Let's get rid of these unaccountable bodies that are paying high salaries, wasting our money, are unaccountable and are interfering in our lives.

Problem is that politicians actually like quangos because it means they can shift the responsibility and the blame elsewhere. Indeed, it seems that the Conservatives are actually proposing to create some more.

It's interesting how the term is used when in its original formulation by Tony Barker it meant something else: a quasi non-governmental organisation. In other words, a private body that is used for public purposes, sometimes called a 'chosen instrument'. The in vogue collective term today for these bodies is 'third sector'. The correct term for the bodies is Non Departmental Public Body but that is not as exciting as quango which sounds like some kind of Latin American dance routine, perhaps pioneered by Vince Cable.

The question one has to ask about quangos is this: is the function they performe required? If so, is it better done by them or some other body?

If one wants to save money, this can only be done as part of a comprehensive review of what the state does. This was the Canadian approach which is attracting considerable attention today from Dave and others. It makes more sense than just slicing x per cent off everything. But it has to be done properly: for example, one has to ask, are all the procedures carried out by the NHS necessary?

However, one area that the Canadians did slash was agricultural subsidies and we can't do that because of the CAP.

There is much more talk going around of a 20 per cent cut in public expenditure. I doubt whether this is really going to be needed but it is a good way of softening people up for 10 or 12 per cent cuts as then they think they have escaped with a good deal.