Nigel Fletcher - Dale & Co.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Quite a furore has erupted over a letter published in the Lewisham and Greenwich editions of the News Shopper this week. The author describes gay people as "perverted" and "unnatural" and calls on the paper to "stop advertising lesbian, gay and bisexual clubs".
Offensive stuff, certainly. But everyone is entitled to their view, however bigoted most people will find it. But what has caused astonishment and more offence is the decision of the paper to award this nasty missive the accolade of "Star letter" and give its author a prize.
A lengthy row soon erupted on Twitter, and various websites have followed up the story. The News Shopper has maintained that it does not endorse the views expressed in the letters it prints. Well, obviously not. It also claims the awarding of "star letter" and a prize to the author is not an endorsement either. So what IS the prize for?
The answer, according to the News Shopper is that the author was "Being thanked for sending in a letter that we thought would spark debate, which it has."
A debate certainly has been sparked, but not about the views in the letter - the debate is about the News Shopper's conduct and editorial policy. Is it right to print a letter which will be highly offensive to many readers just because it will provoke a response? Is it right to reward someone for writing in this manner?
You can follow much of the row (and related links) on the local 853 blog, which has been leading much of the online criticism. My own view is that this was clearly a big error of judgement on the part of the News Shopper. Printing such an offensive letter at all was questionable; rewarding its author with a prize was inexcusable. The News Shopper should ask itself the question - would they have printed a similar racist rant and rewarded that with a prize? No. Quite.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I went to an interesting presentation earlier in the week by an archeologist from the Thames Discovery Project, which is working to explore hidden treasures on the foreshore of the river. They mentioned work they've been doing in Woolwich, including the above WW2 pill box. Apparently not a pill box, in fact, but a mine-watching station.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
There has been much talk about a 'graduate tax' in recent weeks, and the independent review of HE funding chaired by Lord Browne is soon to report. But it struck me that a particular form of 'graduate contribution' has not received much attention. Here is my article on the subject at ConservativeHome.
Friday, August 20, 2010
OK. so it's rather later than planned, but here's the next part my list of 100 things that are different since the Coalition took power:
34. ASBOs are being abolished
35. Liberal Democrats actually matter
36. Simon Hughes THINKS he matters
37. Following IDS' appointment as Work & Pensions Secretary, he is no longer the only Conservative Leader not to have served as a minister.
38. "New Labour" has been consigned to history by the current leadership hopefuls
39. Diane Abbott has become the first black MP to stand for the leadership of a main UK party
40. ID cards have been scrapped
41. Regional Spacial Strategies have been scrapped
42. 'Cowboy clampers' are being banned
43. Compulsory English language tests for migrants to the UK have been announced
44. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is being abolished in favour of a new National Crime Agency
45. Gladstone's iconic Budget box has been retired by the National Archives, making George Osborne the last Chancellor to use it.
46. Gordon Brown has vanished from Westminster after 25 years on the front bench
47. The Prime Minister and Chancellor are good friends, and actually work together.
48. There are FAR too many MPs younger than me...
49. When the Prime Minister goes on holiday, he looks like he is actually enjoying himself
50. There is more money for heritage projects, as the Government decides to restore the Heritage Lottery Fund's higher portion of lottery funds
...I could go on (no, really, I could - do you want to hear about the Future Libraries review? The new Task Force on Farming Regulation?) , but I've spent FAR too long on government websites and reading news reports already. I think my original point is made: The coaltion's first 100 days has resulted in some real changes - things that wouldn't have happened under the previous government, or (some of them) under a majority Conservative government. The political landscape has changed significantly already, and the potential for even more far-reaching changes during the rest of the coalition's term of office is substantial.
(And a note to self: Don't promise to write huge long lists without setting aside time to finish them...)
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Is it really 100 days already? It feels like only a short time ago that we saw David Cameron walk into Number 10 and the coalition begin its work. I certainly haven't quite got used to the new regime. After 13 years of opposition I still find myself thinking of our top table as "Shadow Ministers" and the man in charge is still "DC" in my mind rather than "Prime Minister". But no-one can say things haven't begun to change quite significantly since the new Government took office.
Everyone else is doing features and lists, so I thought I'd have a trawl through government websites and reflect on my own impressions. So here, in no particular order, are the first 33 of my top 100 things that have changed since the election (next 33 tomorrow):
- We have the first coalition government for 70 years
- All schools have the chance to become academies- a huge step forward in my book.
- The Treasury is getting a grip on the deficit
- Ministerial cars have been scaled down, and the PM has scrapped his police outriders.
- Council propaganda 'newspapers' are on the way out (hurrah!)
- We have the third female Leader of the Opposition in British history (and the first of the three not to be called Margaret)
- Sayeeda Warsi is the first Muslim to be a full member of Cabinet.
- The Prime Minister lives at Number 10, not Number 11 (for the moment)
- President Obama is getting on well with the British Prime Minister
- The Government has apologised for Bloody Sunday
- The Prime Minister takes regular questions from the public at "PM Direct" events.
- TV election debates are here to stay
- Fixed-term Parliaments have been introduced, and the PM will no longer set the election date.
- The number of MPs is being reduced.
- A change to the voting system is a real possibility.
- The National Citizen Service is being piloted.
- An inquiry into the treatment of terror suspects has been set up.
- Health and safety legislation is being reviewed to reduce the effect of the 'compensation culture'
- Frank Field and Alan Milburn are leading reviews into poverty and social mobility.
- The Government spending database has been published online, and all future items of spending over £25,000 will be published
- The UK National Security Council has been formed
- Ministers have had their pay cut and frozen for the duration of this Parliament
- The Audit Commission has been scrapped, and replaced with scrutiny by local people
- Home Information Packs have been scrapped
- Pensions will rise in line with earnings, prices or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest
- A levy on banks has been announced
- UK overseas aid is to be focussed on fewer countries in future
- The UK Film Council is being abolished (in case you hadn't noticed)
- We have a Department for Education instead of the absurd Department for Children, Schools and Families (aka the Department for Curtains and Soft Furnishings)
- A £50m fund for new cancer drugs has been set up
- Local councils will take a role overseeing local health services
- The first new private university since 1976 has been given the go-ahead
- Prices in Houses of Parliament cafes and bars will be increased (nooooooooo!)
There - quite a few things I'd either missed or forgotten, but certainly no-one can say the government hasn't hit the ground running. The irony is the origin of the political obsession with '100 days' was John F Kennedy's inauguration speech, when he said 'All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor in the first 1,000 days.'
1,000 days? Wonder what things will look like then...
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Tony Blair's announcement yesterday that he will donate the entire proceeds of his book to the Royal British Legion was astonishing. It took the media by surprise, and I can't be the only person who saw the headline on Twitter and said "Blimey!" (or words to that effect). I certainly saw a similar reaction from people picking up the Evening Standard, which splashed on the story.
Many Conservative-leaning commentators and bloggers (myself included) shared the view that, whatever they thought of him, this was unquestionably a decent and impressive decision by the former PM.
Depressing, then, how quickly some people began to speculate cynically about the motives behind the decision and to belittle its significance. Healthy scepticism and questioning are, of course, essential for a free press. But I personally found some of the comment questioning the sincerity of Mr Blair's feelings towards our armed forces to be in poor taste.
There are only four other people alive who have faced the awesome responsibility as Prime Minister of sending British troops into battle and being faced with their deaths and injuries. None of the rest of us can really imagine the profound effect that must have on someone. But when they express their admiration for our armed forces, I rather think they mean it.
So, rather a long time since I last posted. In common with a number of other bloggers I've found my blogging has given way to rather more focus on tweeting in recent months, so visitors to this site (not that there are very many!) will at least have been able to see some of what I've been up to.
I've thought a bit about the future of the blog, given the various things I'm now involved in. Having established the Centre for Opposition Studies, the title of this blog is at least still appropriate, despite my party entering Government nationally. And of course in Greenwich we are still very much in Opposition, despite our best efforts. I'm also now Director of the Conservative History Group, and retain an interest in education policy, on which I was Conservative Special Adviser for several years.
But what should the balance of posts be? Should it be mainly my activity as Deputy Leader of the Opposition here in Greenwich? Observations on politics from the perspective of Opposition Studies? Trivia of everyday life? Education? Conservative History? A mix of all of these?
I can't expect a vast number of suggestions from you my dear readers, given I've already pointed out that there are comparitively few of you. But to attract new readers, I should really define what this blog is about. My feeling is that a mix of local and national politics with an emphasis on opposition is my best bet, and I've changed the info panel to reflect this. But occasional posts on education and Conservative history will also crop up. The main thing is I want to start more regular posting, with more thoughts and musings than I've included in the past. So onwards we go - If you are reading this and have any thoughts about what I should be doing, please let me know.
Right. Introspection over.