Monday, February 22, 2010

Political titbits

It is entirely possible that you were out having a life this week-end and missed the two British political stories that everybody who does not have a life is talking about. I, too, was attempting to have a life which is why there were no postings yesterday. However, as part of that life I mentioned to someone over a glass of wine that somebody might well put up money specifically to help Nigel Farage against John Bercow in Buckingham.

Lo and behold, Stuart Wheeler has come forward. He is giving £100,000 to UKIP specifically to unseat Speaker Bercow and "has also placed a 4-1 bet on Nigel Farage". I don't share the Conservative hatred for Bercow (let's be honest I don't share anything with the party formerly known as Conservative) but it would undoubtedly enliven parliamentary politics if Nigel Farage became an MP. I dare say other MPs do not share my sense of humour but that is just too bad.

Even if people were out having a life it has not been possible to avoid the saga of Brown's supposed bullying of staff; the strange charity helpline, whose Director saw fit to announce that she had received complaints from Number 10 staff; and the Conservatives' glee that once again they can conduct political campaigning entirely on personal issues and need not think of anything remotely resembling politics.

The Times tells us that there is an atmosphere of fear in Number 10, probably resembling that of the Kremlin under Stalin. Well, maybe not quite. The Guardian, on the other hand, tells us that there are all sorts of peculiar stories about the lady who runs the National Bullying Helpline and whose husband runs a consultancy that advises people how to deal with said bullying for a fee. Some of those who phone the helpline seem to have been directed to the consultancy.

Mind you, the most extraordinary part of that article is the number of anti-bullying charities and helplines that seem to exist in this country. Do we really need them all? And who is paying for them, assuming that they do not all have a helpful consultancy to shell out money?

A few questions arise in connection with this story. Firstly, who works in Number 10 these days? Are they experienced civil servants or snivelly youngsters in their first jobs? After all, one cannot imagine Sir Humphrey or Bernard phoning some ridiculous helpline and complain about bullying.

If, on the other hand, people are sent to work for Ministers before they are capable of dealing with those rather weird personalities, why is there no mechanism such as exists in every private enterprise, through which complaints can be channelled? I recall thinking something along those lines when the Prescott story broke.

Most importantly, one has to ask how it is that the Tories manage the impossible and that is make Brown look sympathetic? The Conservative bloggers are whooping with joy that their party's lead has gone up to 12 points as a result of what they refer to as "bullygate", a questionable assumption if the results are already being published but the truth is that if people were really paying so much attention to this preposterous story, that lead ought to be considerably higher.

Just one more story that should put pay to all that Conservative rejoicing (you can't actually win an election by just saying endlessly that Gordon Brown is a bully): according to Bruno Waterfield, Kenneth Clarke, the arch-europhiliac is being sent to reassure Commission President Barroso that he will have no trouble with any Conservative government. Was Mr Barroso worried? I can't imagine why. It's not as if the Conservatives have any serious ideas of what to do about the European Union beyond accepting their laws and regulations; it's not as if they even understood how the system worked. I suspect that Clarke's trip is a message to the Tory activists. No doubt, we shall go on being told about the importance of voting Conservative if we want to advance the eurosceptic agenda.

UPDATE: It would appear that the lead reported by Conservative bloggers yesterday was wrong. The figures have not changed in any significant fashion and the Tory lead remains a single digit one. I rest my case.

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