Friday, 29 May 2009

Questions for Cash

The issue with Bill Cash's allowance claims seem to be as much about his son as his daughter.

On R5 today, he explained that he moved out of his Pimlico property and into his daughter's flat while his son stayed rent-free in Pimlico.

I don't know how big Bill Cash's Pimplico flat is, but it seems it wasn't possible for son and father to stay together. This implies the flat has just one bedroom.

Staying at his daughter's flat and paying what he insists was a market rent, did not abuse the taxpayer in 2004 parliamentary rule terms provided he was genuinely London homeless.

Should he have vacated the Pimlico property he owned in favour of his son, given this resulted in an allowance claim on the taxpayer? It put him in no different a position from most MPs claiming second home allowance in London. So the question is not whether he complied with the rules but whether his actions were morally reasonable.

After his daughter sold her flat — and the profit she made on the property is surely irrelevant — Bill Cash appointed two London clubs as his official second home. He charged the taxpayer for staying there and also for his wife to stay some of the time. Again, the same question as above applies.

Given the extended stay of Bill Cash's son in Pimlico, it is unlikely the affair was a ruse to guarantee his daughter rent. She could easily have rented her flat to anyone. So the greatest favour Bill Cash was providing was, in fact, to his son.

Bill Cash making himself homeless created a burden on the taxpayer. It was no more, and possibly less, a burden than that paid to most MPs with distant constituencies. But was this 'right'?

In reality, a similar question might be asked of an independently wealthy MP claiming second home allowance in London. Is he or she 'right' to claim for a second home when they have the means to pay for two homes themselves?

That's a question only the taxpayer can answer. But for myself, I think means tests dividing MPs between rich and poor is not the way to go.

Bill Cash has been balancing loyalty to his family with loyalty to the taxpayer. His constituents in Stone should know whether he deserves their support. I hope he gets it.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The odd couple

Julie Kirkbride's resignation will be a tragedy for her and a loss for her constituents, her party and for parliament.

I have wanted to write a brief blog of support. But I have had no better idea of her financial affairs, her domestic arrangements or even her political activities than any other outside observer. It's unwise to propose a defence without knowledge of the facts.

Yet, somehow, Julie has seemed a parliamentarian worth preserving. And of all the 'victims' (venally culpable or simply naive) of the MPs expenses scandal she represents to me an example of possible collateral damage that highlights another unsavoury aspect of our society - the harm the media can do to individuals once they taste blood.

Of course, my concern for Ms Kirkbride is more than likely entirely chauvinistic. She is an attractive female with a pleasant personality who chose the honourable path of abandoning broadsheet journalism for the noble cause of active public service. This was surely not to achieve untold wealth or an easy life.

After the 1997 general election, my constituency party invited several of the newly elected young Tory MPs to attend a one-day political conference. The MPs included John Bercow, Julian Lewis and Julie McBride. Charming though Julian is, I was profoundly bowled-over by the glowing Ms McBride. It was not her intellectual powers that struck me, but her emotional capacity. And I remember thinking she might be vulnerable in the hot-bed of political intrigue that is the Westminster parliament. When I later learned of her impending marriage to fellow MP Andrew Mackay, it seemed an odd coupling - a fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast perhaps.

Far be it for me to comment on others' private lives. Love guides in ways beyond our understanding. Yet Julie Kirkbride's fall from grace is in no small way due to the actions of her husband. She says herself that as a new MP she took lots of advice from her husband and understandably did not question it. Her own expenses claims, as an individual, are not entirely unreasonable. Only as a couple do the Mackays expenses rightly disgust the public.

Who knows what the future now holds for that couple? But it is worth noting that this is the third MPs marriage partnership to fall foul of the current furore. Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have been left dangling by the media. Nicholas and Ann Winterton have agreed to stand down. And now the Mackays.

The working and domestic partnership of active married MPs, especially with young children and each with constituencies outside London, must be one of the most complex relationships anyone could devise. It is almost a guarantee there will be pitfalls. Julie Kirkbride has fallen victim to the compromises that beset working mothers, the seediness that exudes from parliament, the relentlessness of her former profession and perhaps conceding too much trust to those who offer advice. But I'm sure she will be a survivor in another profession.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

When they reach the scene of crime …

The atmosphere in which constitutional reform is being proposed is far from ideal. However, without this public excoriation of MPs behaviour no reforms would ever have been proposed.

The problem with creating a more stable and rational environment — in which to decide the fate of MPs, the workings of parliament and the public's relationship with it all — is that there is no-one able to take charge by creating a framework through which these issues can be addressed and resolved.

Logically, the prime minister should step up to this role. He is at the top of the political tree as far as implementing constitutional change is concerned. Furthermore, at a time of public disquiet, regardless of his constitutional obligations, the public looks to a prime minister to allay fears and set an agenda that encompasses public concerns.

Unfortunately, the prime minister is on holiday. Even if he wasn't, it's clear he is inadequate to fulfil this public duty. Either he cannot appreciate that leadership is needed or he knows he is devoid of the talents to provide it. His absence from control and command just as parliament's walls are crumbling speaks volumes. Can anyone imagine Cameron hunkering down in the bunker like Brown if political roles were reversed?

Cameron is acting more prime ministerly than the prime minister. He has the advantage of not yet being granted the Queen's commission. But the longer Macavity is nowhere to be found the greater chance an unsettled public will demand the Queen has the opportunity to rectify her commission PD soon.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Yes, we can

No shortage of ideas from Cameron's quarter today.

I wrote last week of sea changes in political affairs and suggested the public should grab their opportunity to reform parliament today before MPs took the opportunity away.

Well David Cameron has certainly set full sail on this political high tide, but thankfully he seems to be sailing towards us, the people, rather than away.

In fact he is sounding rather more like one of us - ordinary folk - than one of them - MPs.

The scale of reforms he is suggesting go well beyond parliament into the contract between the people and anyone with statutory authority over our lives. A redistribution of power 'from the elite to the man in the street'.

His ideas are ambitious - rather like the revolutionary views of the 1960s aimed at casting out the stultifying authoritarianism and condescension to power that existed in the 1940s—1950s.

As we know, there were a lot of babies thrown out with the bathwater of that social change and the danger of constitutional as well as social change is that, in the end, we are worse off rather than better. But calling for change will always be much easier than implementing it.

For now, Cameron has stolen a march on other parties and is leading a vanguard for change on every political front. And what more can be asked at an election time when the country and its institutions are at their lowest ebb for decades?

I hear a political slogan in my mind 'Yes, we can'. Then again, I'm sure Saatchis can come up with something better than that.

Friday, 22 May 2009

There is a tide in the affairs of men

We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

— Julius Caesar (IV.ii.269–276)

I never thought I'd live in such interesting times. A life long passion is about to be turned inside out and upside down. Perhaps…

Forward thinking MPs have spoken of this time as being a great opportunity for parliament. So it is.

But let us not allow this simply to be a great opportunity for parliament's MPs.

The opportunity at hand is for ‘the people’ to decide what kind of parliament they want.

It is the people's voice - stimulated by the fourth estate - that has raised us to to this disagreeable but expectant state. Let us take our anger and turn it into something constructive.

There are many issues to be addressed — MPs pay, accountability of the executive, the power of the party whips, the role of select committees, the selection and deselection of MPs. Instead of an elite, clubby institution, managed by impenetrable rules that have led to stasis, we have the opportunity to create a parliament that can proudly be called democratic.

Let us consider well the options for radical reform. Then let us tell our parliamentarians what changes they must make to introduce a parliament that truly challenges government and honourably represents the people it serves.

If we the people do not seize the moment now it could pass all too soon.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Richard Shepherd for Speaker

Richard Shepherd MP spoke at a public meeting I attended last night.

He spoke about what had befallen parliament, amongst other subjects. In fact, everything came back to what had befallen England and the United Kingdom.

Mr Shepherd has a long memory. He was born in 1942 and remembers the respect offered to all - even between parliamentarians - that used to be a legacy of the common purpose of war. There was a recognition not merely of the importance of life but of liberty.

Today, his criticism of parliament is that although the omnipotence of the Monarch has long been curtailed, authoritarianism has returned in the form of the Crown. While all proceedings of parliament are defined as matters of the Crown the present government abuses its majority power by simply ignoring the wider concerns of parliament.

Worse still, perhaps, is the resulting idleness of MPs. There is little point in questioning an executive that is deaf to its questioners. A situation enhanced by the fact that so much legislation and regulation is now framed in Brussels.

Without much to do in parliament MPs have sought to confirm their status in other ways. The result is the lurid stories of MPs expenses spread across the media.

The best remedy for parliament's ills was the anger of the public, Mr Shepherd said. A notion I'm pleased to say echoes an earlier post.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Gordon Brown claims high ground

What Douglas Carswell may have overlooked is that Brown always sounds good in the pincer-grasp of a crisis.

Brown has managed to spin the Speaker's removal into a magisterial report on the joint meeting of party leaders the Speaker had originally called.

Brown gave the appearance of single-handedly getting to grips with the trousergate problem and wound proposals on the future modernising of parliamentary procedures into a tale of progressive political reforms he's been introducing for the last 12 years.

But tomorrow is another day for Labour's prime minister. And a day is a long time in revolutionary politics.

Tributes to The Speaker




The blood letting begins

Gordon Brown's remarkable announcement that no Labour MP who has 'defied the rules' can stand at the next general election will start an inevitably bitter process of accusation and defence that may be even more unedifying than the drip-feed revelations of the past few weeks.

David Cameron has already announced his own party Scrutiny Panel to examine MPs excessive claims and arrange for repayments. He has said his MPs should face constituency panels that will determine whether their MPs can continue or should face de-selection.

A long process of parliamentary stable cleaning seems to lie ahead, which is likely to put issues of more importance to the average Briton, such as managing the consequences of recession, into the political shade.

Perhaps we will learn that the normal interference of politicians into our daily lives is not as essential as politicians like to believe.

The Speaker goes, long live the Speaker

This morning, on LBC Radio (London's biggest conversation), presenter James O'Brien is leading London's conversation on the proposition that the Speaker is being expelled by MPs as a smokescreen, hoping the heat over MPs expenses will fall away.

Anyone who follows the career of Douglas Carswell MP will find it hard to believe such motivation on his part. But, LBC's listeners being easily led, many agree thoroughly with Mr O'Brien.

Now that the wish of many in the House is apparently to be fulfilled, we shall see the outcome of a change of Speaker. One of the issues that could immediately raise debate is whether the Speaker should continue to be responsible for MPs financial affairs. A new Speaker may want to retain responsibility in order to introduce the changes needed. Others, especially among the public, may believe such matters should be removed from parliament entirely.

One cutting observation from LBC listeners notes that none of those MPs calling for the Speaker to go have equally called for resignations from other fellow MPs.

Time for independents?

Esther Rantzen has expressed her keenness to stand for parliament against 'three homes' Labour MP, Margaret Moran.

I imagine Esther sees herself delivering barnstorming speeches in the Chamber that shake up parliament and its tired MPs.

If she gets herself elected she may soon find the job is both boring and very hard work. I would love to watch the few occasions she might be granted to deliver such speeches. But I doubt she would think those few opportunities made up for the rest of her tiresome lot.

She would soon become thankful for time out from her duties to be spent in comfortable accommodation surrounded by expensive luxuries. Fortunately, she already has such facilities of her own.

Esther has spoken of meeting a number of successful business people who think this may be the time to consider standing for parliament. Independent voices untainted by parliament or party is what electorates may now vote to see. However, most of those she has spoken to were almost certainly, like Esther, independently financially secure.

Could we be about to witness the return to parliament of the independently wealthy independent MP?

Hardly what the constituents of Luton South, or Glasgow North East, are probably expecting. But, these days, it might be worth giving anyone deaf to the call of the Fees Office a sporting chance.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Speaker can't change Parliament ... but

I've written here before on the responsibility of Speaker Martin and Clerk of the House, Graham Jack, for poor management of parliament's accounting duties.

Views on whether the Speaker should resign have polarised rapidly.

On the one hand, many MPs blame the Speaker for holding back reform. They want to see an appropriately chosen 'new brush' Speaker to clean up the stables and restore parliament's dignity. In support of this they add, rather weakly, that delaying replacing the Speaker until after a General Election will mean new MPs must select from colleagues they do not really know.

On the other hand, other MPs are hesitant to over-rule precedent by voting their Speaker out. These MPs also believe it is the wrong point in the process of reform to remove the present Speaker. To do so would open MPs to the charge of using a scapegoat to absolve them from their own faults.

While a competent and respected new Speaker, especially with skills in management as well as communication, would be a great benefit to the House, MPs calling for Speaker Martin's immediate resignation may be attaching more significance to a Speaker's abilities than the role actually allows.

The Speaker cannot directly affect either the timetable or the agenda for reform. It is up to the government to call for internal or external commissions to review MPs allowances and expenses. And it is up to MPs in parliament to agree to any suggested reforms. The Speaker can only agree to voting debates.

Management of the Fees Office certainly needs reform and a new Speaker is certainly needed to implement such changes. But such changes can't be effectively introduced until MPs have agreed a new structure for their additional pay.

Replacing the Speaker now might seem like bringing the dawn of a new day. But until MPs new pay arrangements are settled and a general election has truly cleared out the stables it won't much improve the public standing of parliament or MPs.

Following Speaker Martin's performance in the House this afternoon, I'm no longer so sanguine about the date of his retirement. His suggestion of talks with party leaders can have no affect on the agenda. His revelation that he relies on waiting on a report from Sir Christopher Kelly not available until the autumn brings little confidence. Even less confidence comes from his inability as Speaker to distinguish between early day and substantive motions. Nothing much has changed except the standing of the Speaker and the House has fallen further. He seems determined to be obstructive and dig in his heels. This is not the right attitude to encourage reform of the House.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Craig Murray's bias

I'm sure Craig Murray has some worthy talents. They appear not to include an ability to accept that political bias exists throughout the world, parties will and should have their supporters and these will and should include publicists and journalists.

Perhaps the reason he is so damning of Michael White, Iain Dale and other commentators for their partiality is that his former career as a diplomat required an impartial obedience to whichever political party was in power. The consequence is a loathing for dedicated supporters of any influential party. Perhaps his ignominious treatment by our political class during his service for this country shapes his view of anyone sticking their colours to a political mast. Or perhaps he contrasts his honesty in exposing undemocratic Uzbeckistan politics with party political commentary here.

Fair enough to point out that White and Dale may be motivated by politically partiality. But this is not a crime. It's the consequence of a free press. The last thing that could be said of the British media at present is that they're engaging in a cover up.

Methinks he protests too much about the messengers. Perhaps this is because he is condemned to be merely a rival member of the message-carrying class himself.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Public anger can cleanse our democracy better than any enquiry

Speaker Michael Martin was quick to authorise a police enquiry into the leak of MPs' expense claims from the Fees Office. This highlights how firmly he has clung to the wrong end of the stick. It would be more appropriate to hold an enquiry into management of the Fees Office itself.

The Fees Office is managed by the House of Commons Commission, chaired by Speaker Martin. According to Kate Hoey MP, although excessive claims by MPs have been a long term problem the widespread scale of excesses has only developed in very recent years.

The limited skills of the present Speaker are well established, which places additional focus on the role of the Commons Chief Executive, Clerk of the House, Dr Graham Jack. The Clerk occupies his post by Royal appointment, a precedent dating back to 1363; his distinguished predecessors include Sir Thomas Erskine May.

Dr Jack's wide ranging responsibilities within the House, including being the Speaker's closest advisor, appear onerous (although he appears to also maintain a rewarding second career as an international novelist). He has overseen a culture fostered by the House Fees Office in which MPs have felt a right, even a compulsion, to maximise their claims.

Mixed messages concerning the Fees Office have appeared in the Press. According to the Evening Standard, over two years ago Dr Jack was warned before the all-party Public Administration Select Committee that MPs were unhappy about junior House staff questioning them over their home expenses. The MPs' message was to warn House staff off. On the other hand, many MPs, particularly the newer entrants, claim the Fees Office was virtually forcing cash into their hands, recommending they make claims to take full advantage of their allowances.

Clearly Fees Office staff and their managers have been fully aware that MPs have abused the spirit and the letter of the regulations set out in the Commons' Green Book. Speaker Martin has been content to support and take advantage of this practice. Dr Jack is also fully implicated in maintaining a system that the public now regards as totally corrupt.

But the problem with calling in the police to investigate the accounting procedures of the House is that the rules are the House's rules, voted for by MPs. There is no law above the House's law and whether or not they obey their own rules remains entirely up to MPs. Tax fraud is a matter for the Inland Revenue. But there is no law to sanction lawmakers' self-sanctioned greed.

Yet, democracy requires that MPs remain in charge of their own affairs. Despite all appearances that they have become an out-of-touch elite, MPs are not only public servants but also the public's own representatives. Listening and responding to their electorate may bring our representatives back to reality. Public anger is the only sanction our democracy has.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Making Government Accountable

Pol-e-tics' own Pseuds' Corner notes that parliamentarians are today invited to an optimistically instructive event:

Making Government Accountable:
Understanding Resource Accounts

A presentation by the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit

Time: 15:00 - 16:00
Date: Tuesday 12 May 2009
Venue: Boothroyd Room, 1st Floor, Portcullis House

Rather a lost cause, I would think.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Sinking feeling

Clearly MPs' have been regarding their extensive allowances as rightful supplements in lieu of pay. But this is not the way the Green Book says they should be treated.

Lord Naseby, who used to sit on the body recommending MPs' pay, says the situation is getting serious. If public reaction continues to get worse Parliament may have to be dissolved and a general election called, he says today.

An early date for an election might get heads together to sort out a solution. But although it would make hustings interesting, there would be small point in each party standing on rival proposals on pay. A new system should appear to be accepted by all.

The committee on standards in public life, chaired by former parliamentary secretary Sir Christopher Kelly, has expelled MPs from its pay enquiry due to 'actual or perceived conflicts of interest'. The remaining members are senior public servants and there is no certainty when they'll deliver their report.

Perhaps an external body including 'people's representatives' is needed for an acceptable solution. But with such an intractable politically-charged problem, anyone from 'the people' willing to add a democratic stamp must also expect their name to end up Mudd.

MPs and their shameful lot

'Shame' seems to be the political word of the moment, closely followed by 'abuse', 'scandal' and 'fraud'.

To be honest, many of the revelations of MPs' expenses leave me unmoved and not even warm under the collar. Others are unwise and certainly regrettable. Others still seem to be outright fraud.

Unfortunately, the media and, most importantly, the wide public are now treating almost any allowance or expenses claim, beyond an MP's salary, as a disgraceful act of theft.

How the mighty are fallen!

It might be remembered (although Tory and LibDem MPs have yet to be fingered) that these 'abuses' seem to have ballooned under a profligate Labour government, in which it is second nature for MPs of that party to regard access to public funds as a 'people's right '.

The touchy point that the taxpayers paying for these MPs' benefits come from all parties and all classes – including the poor – becomes an insignificance when Labour mistakenly still sees itself as a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

With Gordon Brown spraying taxpayers' money around like water for a decade, where has been the incentive for MPs to do other than grab their share?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

'Doing a Lumley'

Has the fragrant Joanna spawned a phrase and a new PR tactic?

'Doing a Lumley' involves holding a media conference at the same time and studios as a representative of the department you are seeking to influence is doing the same.

With good planning and a sprinkling of luck, journalists and camera crew will instinctively encircle both parties, thereby bouncing the ambushed representative into responding directly to campaigners' questions, forcing them to deliver policy on camera in real time.

This might be classified as the latest form of 'flash mob' media event. It certainly appears to work for Joanna.

Is Afghanistan worth the cost?

Nigel Lawson has recommended the British military pull out of Afghanistan. This could save the government perhaps £3 billion this year, based on costs of £2.6 billion for the last financial year.

The MOD presumably would not favour withdrawal. Afghanistan is now Britain's major theatre of war. But Western military objectives in Afghanistan have always been shaky and active deployment without firm objectives has always been thought a no-no in military terms.

The present deployment began as a response to sheltering Al Quaida camps following the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001. It then spawned the zeitgeist of wrongly including Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime as a further source of global terrorism. But now the military focus has returned to Afghanistan, the effectiveness and ultimately the purpose of our forces remaining there has to be seriously questioned.

Al Quaida is a ubiquitous global group. It is uncertain how many international terrorist acts performed under its name are dependent on direction from a few individuals hidden in the Afghan-Pakistan borders. US high-tech intelligence and strike capabilities are the best answer to searching out and removing these individuals and their military camps. But the main focus of British and US troops now has become controlling the Taliban.

In Afghan terms, the 'threat' from the Taliban is the enforcement of a strict Sharia regime, which we in the West happen to find abhorrent. But, while many fighters flow from Pakistan, this is essentially an internal civil war, not unlike the many Afghanistan has suffered, almost continually, for years.

Over the last few months mainly US and British military efforts appear to have displaced the Taliban into northern Pakistan where the threat from their presence is of far greater political as well as military concern than their Afghan activities.

This cannot be countered directly by British or America forces. It requires technical and intelligence aid to Pakistan. Whatever we think of the government of Pakistan at any particular time, protecting this nuclear-capable country from Taliban forces is the real priority, given its own border with economically-important India, the largest democracy in the world.

Continued deployment of British forces in southern Afghanistan, far from the lawless North-West Pakistani border, should deserve a hard cost–benefit analysis, even in less economically strapped times. Today, with the government's coffers bare, there is far more reason for concluding that domestic Afghanistan is someone else's war and we should concentrate on less visible and less costly (in terms of lives as well as cash) support for stability within Pakistan.

We wouldn't gain much favour in Washington where military expenditure will presumably continue, but presented in an intelligent way, withdrawal from Afghanistan could well receive British public support.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The UK's Poet Laureate

I have no literary pretensions. If commenting on another's writing, I am most likely to note spelling, punctuation, clarity or ambiguity of meaning, and the need for subjects to remain in relative contact with appropriate verbs.

These are not the skills needed when trying to appreciate poetry.

Modern poetry especially assumes the right to ignore the conventions of grammatical prose. But I don't object in any way to the stylistic variety this freedom provides.

What I hope to gain from reading poetry is a feeling, an insight, a representation or perhaps, a dilemma, that inwardly I can recognise and agreeably or grudgingly acknowledge with an understanding "Yes".

Carol Ann Duffy, who has just been appointed as the new Poet Laureate, has been a poet of record for some 35 years and, apparently, is one of the best-selling poets in the United Kingdom.

According to The Guardian, Duffy has managed the rare feat in the poetry world of combining popularity with critical acclaim. And if gongs are anything to go by she has achieved a lot: awarded the OBE in 1995, a CBE in 2002, a recipient of the TS Eliot prize, the Dylan Thomas award, the Whitbread poetry prize, the Somerset Maugham and the Forward prize, and her poetry features regularly on school and university syllabuses.

Following her ten-year appointment last week, which was confirmed after public consultation and endorsement by the Queen, Gordon Brown paid tribute to her ability to put "the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly".

Personally, although I sense Ms Duffy puts much effort into reaching deeply into her subjects – and she has a particular fascination for 'words' – on the qualities I hope to receive from poetry she doesn't really cut it, and for me FAILS.

See what you think. This is a poem by Carol Ann Duffy:

In his darkroom he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don't explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger's features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man's wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday's supplement. The reader's eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.

And this is a poem by Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate from 1984 to 1998:

I found this jawbone at the sea's edge:
There, crabs, dogfish, broken by the breakers or tossed
To flap for half an hour and turn to a crust
Continue the beginning. The deeps are cold:
In that darkness camaraderie does not hold.

Nothing touches but, clutching, devours. And the jaws,
Before they are satisfied or their stretched purpose
Slacken, go down jaws; go gnawn bare. Jaws
Eat and are finished and the jawbone comes to the beach:
This is the sea's achievement; with shells,
Verterbrae, claws, carapaces, skulls.

Time in the sea eats its tail, thrives, casts these
Indigestibles, the spars of purposes
That failed far from the surface. None grow rich
In the sea. This curved jawbone did not laugh
But gripped, gripped and is now a cenotaph.

And this is a poem by John Masefield, Poet Laureate from 1930 to 1967:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Sinking ship

I'm surprised (perhaps I shouldn't be) and encouraged by the level of despair and depression that has fallen on our politically active comrades from the Left.

The McBride/Draper saga seems to have been the turning point. Alastair Darling's 'do nothing' budget merely proved the intellectual cupboard was bare. Gordon Brown's absurd shenanigans over MPs' expenses and the Gurkhas simply confirm to all how far he's lost the plot.

David Blunkett says, "Labour has lost its political antenna".

Charles Clarke says, "Labour's good governance is fading away" (not good whatever that means) and "I'm ashamed to be a Labour MP".

And a glance through the subject matter and comments at LabourHome confirms how Labour supporters now recognise the game is up.

Everyone knows this government has to go.

Do we need to adopt Thai tactics and occupy Heathrow to get Brown to understand the message?