January 20, 2009
Barack Obama will be sworn in as America’s 44th president later today. He is the first African-American to become President and expectations of him are monstrously high not just in America but around the world which is reflected in the astonishing fact that 2 million people are expected in Washington and millions more will watch the inauguration ceremony around the world. Not since the release of Nelson Mandela has there been such expectations placed on a politician and managing these will be Obama’s first challenge. And after today’s pomp and pageantry, Obama will have to deal with a bulging domestic and international in tray with the US economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Iran needing urgent attention.
Today also marks the end of the Bush Presidency which to say the least has been tumultuous. He leaves the US economy in a mess and also leaves several outstanding foreign policy issues that have defined his presidency including his ‘war on terror.’ Leaving the merits or otherwise of Bush’s foreign policy to one side, Obama has a great deal of work to do to ensure the US is viewed in a positive light around the world after Bush’s unmitigated PR disaster during his eight years in charge. If Obama succeeds in dealing with this one goal, he’ll have done remarkable well.
January 19, 2009
Ken Clarke’s appointment as Shadow Business Secretary is a genuine big beast return to the Shadow Cabinet and will be welcomed by most Conservative Party supporters as well as many non Tories. As a politician he has the rare gift of being able to appeal to a wider and non partisan audience and comes across as a ‘normal’ person.
Obviously his views on Europe don’t mirror those held by the majority of members within the Conservative Party but it is to David Cameron’s credit that he has allowed someone with such differing views in the Shadow Cabinet.
Details of the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle:
New to the Shadow Cabinet:
The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (replacing Alan Duncan)
Mark Francois MP
Shadow Minister for Europe (same job, but now with shadow cabinet status)
New Shadow Cabinet responsibilities:
Alan Duncan MP
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (replacing Theresa May)
Chris Grayling MP
Shadow Home Secretary (replacing Dominic Grieve)
The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice (replacing Nick Herbert)
Nick Herbert MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (replacing Peter Ainsworth, the one casualty of the changes)
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women (replacing Chris Grayling)
Eric Pickles MP
Chairman of the Conservative Party (replacing Caroline Spelman)
Caroline Spelman MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (replacing Eric Pickles)
January 19, 2009
Another set of measures to get the banks to lend more have been announced this morning. It’s an acceptance that the previous bailout hasn’t worked and more taxpayers money is being exposed to correct the mismanagement at the banks. You get the feeling that the banks are a bottomless pit which the Government will throw money into and cross its fingers praying that the latest money thrown in will somehow get the whole banking system to work. How far off the nationalisation of all banks are we?
January 14, 2009
7000 job losses have been announced this week but Business minister Baroness Vadera can quite incredibly see ‘a few green shoots’ of economic recovery. You have to wonder what planet some of these ministers are living on and whether they have any contact with the real world.
January 14, 2009
Despite billions of pounds having been pumped into the health and education systems during the past 12 years by the Labour Government, the quality of service in both areas remains unsatisfactory. Two stories which show the wastefulness of the Labour era have been highlighted this week. The first is the failure of 340 000 children to attain 5 GCSE grades A-C including English and maths with one in seven schools, a total of 440 failing to ensure that at least 30% of their pupils got five A*-C GCSEs. The education education education mantra has been assigned to the dustbin as far too many children continue to receive an inadequate education.
The second is the news that Britain has fewer hospital beds per head of population than almost any other European country, with half as many as Lithuania and Hungary. This is a terrible indictment on Labour’s wasteful spending. Most people didn’t need to see official statistics to know that hospitals are always short of beds – their personal experience will have confirmed this. But it is a deeply worrying and depressing statistic that shows how reckless this Government has been in dealing with the health service.
Value for money isn’t something this Government has understood. It has spent like an addict without ensuring the appropriate increases in the delivery of services. Bureaucracy has been bloated and we are now left with so much Government debt that it will take this and the next generation to pay it off without having the high quality services that the borrowed money should have delivered.
January 14, 2009
Today’s announcement by the Government of the £20bn loan guarantee to small and medium-sized firms to help them deal with the recession is a watered down rip of Tory Policy announced by David Cameron a few weeks ago. This follows fast on the heels of the Tory policy to subsidise employers to take on people who have been out of work being adopted by the Government a few days ago.
Admittedly the Conservatives are calling for loan guarantees of £50bn but its very odd that the the Government accuses the Conservatives of being the ‘do nothing party’ (repeated again at PMQ’s by Brown today) when facing the most serious economic downturn this country has seen for decades yet is prepared to steal adopt policies put forward by the Conservatives.
If Gordon Brown and his team are unable to come up with ideas and policies of their own and are simply going to adopt everything the Conservatives propose – obviously after criticising them first, why don’t they just ask the Tories to take over and do everything to deal with the recession?
January 13, 2009
The British Chambers of Commerce has today published its Fourth Quarter Economic Survey which it says
‘highlight a frightening deterioration in the UK economic situation – they are the worst on record for both manufacturing and services since the survey was first published in 1989.There are no positive features in the Q4 results…It is clear that the UK economy is facing a very serious recession, and the downturn is deepening at an alarming pace.
David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“These are truly awful results with the scale and speed of the economic decline happening at an unprecedented rate. We have to focus on holding the productive sectors of the economy together. If we are to climb out of this morass we will need a strong business base. A clearly defined National Recovery Plan will need to be rolled out as soon as possible, involving all politicians.’
BCC’s Chief Economist, David Kern, added:
‘The measures taken in recent months have failed so far to alleviate the downturn. The Q4 results signal big increases in unemployment next year. A prolonged recession can still be averted, if the authorities adopt urgent and additional forceful corrective measures.
Two things are obvious from the above statements, (1) Gordon Brown’s claim of the UK economy being better placed than others to withstand the downturn is utter nonsense and (2) the measures he has announced to soften the impact of the recession haven’t worked as a result of which we face a ‘prolonged recession.’