The S Word

This week you couldn’t escape “the c word”, Brown was finally going to say it! We had blog posts, tweets and articles galore all giggling about a 4 letter word, beginning with c, that previously the Prime Minister had tried to avoid saying. All most amusing.

It’s just that the issue at hand was more than Brown just saying a naughty word (“cuts” – see the joke is, you’re supposed to think … oh you got it). By discussing cuts, the PM indicated that he was changing his economic strategy, admitting he was wrong when he previously, consistently, insisted that Labour would continue to spend, and spend, and spend. Given that he’s currently running the country, this is quite a big deal.

That was lost because the “c word” joke didn’t seem to get old in the minds of those who continued to write about it. Journalists and bloggers alike thought that people would appreciate their irritatingly crude and insular humour. Probably not if you’re a public servant wondering whether your job has just been reduced to a snickering aside. Or if you’re in the Armed Forces and already sourcing standard kit from home because there’s not enough to go around.

This was funny the first time, in a terrible kind of way, but jokes get old. I think George Osborne first said it a few months back, which given that it relates to economics, is very rare for Mr Osborne. An obvious Westminster in-joke doesn’t endear people to political coverage, it would have had the opposite effect and put people off the issue altogether. Who wants to hear a stale, six-form level joke repeated over and over in print and online? Thought not.

I have no doubt it provided a much needed moral boost – that’s how it came across. It also detracted completely from the issue at stake. And worse, now the three letter “t word” has reared its head and this utter nonsense shows no sign of ceasing.

So now it’s time to turn to another 4 letter word, beginning with “S”: stop. Seriously.

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Lines to take?

Ed Balls has written a piece in this week’s New Statesman setting out his vision of Labour and the lines they should take coming up to the election.

Oddly, he writes that one of their achievements was “the creation of a single statutory regulator for financial services”. Wasn’t that the FSA, who failed to appropriately regulate the banks and have since become a toothless scapegoat?

GAFFE ALERT: Perhaps Mr Clegg should read his own press releases

The Lib Dems issued a press release today from their Business spokesman, John Thurso. In it, he rails against automated telephone messages … just like those Nick Clegg tried to use last year. Embarrassingly, they were told to stop them by the Information Commissioners Office.

Thurso says in the release:

“Customers should be able to speak to a human, not an automated message.”

“When they have a problem or an enquiry about a service they have paid for, it is reasonable that they should be able to talk to a person and not a machine about it.”

Does Thurso think that includes his own party’s telephone calls – which at the time the Lib Dems justified as being for “genuine market research purposes”?

Perhaps not, given that Thurso’s press release echoes what Deputy Information Commissioner told his party just last year: “Many people find unsolicited automated calls particularly intrusive and annoying so it is important that any organisation making such calls ensures that individuals have given their consent before they are targeted.”

Bearing that in mind, this last quote from Thurso becomes suddenly quite amusing:

“Customers must have the power to make fair and informed choices without the fear of being taken for a ride and bewildered by mindless bureaucracy.” Unless it’s the Liberal Democrats, that is ….

hat-tip: Patrick Casey for pointing it out

New evidence means the Megrahi scandal will also continue in the UK

I thought the scandal would continue in the US but without further evidence, would decline in the UK. New evidence has emerged in the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph. None of the previous pieces of evidence meant much on their own, but when the letters, minutes, interviews, and new revelations have been collated a picture emerges of something sinister. Andrew Neil asked in a blog post the other day whether this was a correlation or indicated causation. In his post he did note that “there is still no clear evidence that it struck an explicit trade-for-terrorism deal with Tripoli whereas it is clear that in its dealings with the Libyan dictatorship it regularly said that the release of the Lockerbie bomber was ultimately a matter for the Scottish executive in Edinburgh.” However, he concluded that “neutral observers might already have come to two initial conclusions: the Scottish government’s decision to return al Megrahi might not have been quite as principled as it has made out; and the British government was not quite as neutral (or disinterested) in the decision as it has made out.”

These new revelations need to be answered for, another statement surely will have to be made. The argument for an independent inquiry also grows stronger.

PS. Practice what you preach and all that, here’s the latest from the Afghan elections: Karzai has extended his poll lead with three quarters of the polls counted. Would a win be enough to make him or democratic government be viewed as legitimate? I doubt it, but the UK and the US need someone to deal with.

Four articles worth a gander (and a video)

This might be the last place you see good ol' Futura

For previous, see here

This week’s trawl starts with articles that don’t sound like they’re interesting but really are worth a read. Trust me, you’ll like them – and besides, this week has been a tough one so I thought I’d aim for supplement style pieces. The other two are not only interesting background info from the US and the UK but are interesting pieces in their own right (and are politics based).

Read the rest of this entry »

Big news story this evening? Afghanistan.

I turned on the television this evening and saw the news that the PPS to the Secretary of State for Defence, Eric Joyce, has resigned on the eve of the Prime Minister’s speech on Afghanistan. This pitches the failed elections back into the spotlight and begs the question, “how do we define success in Afghanistan?”

This also goes to show that you should read JCPR as much as possible. Read over the last few posts, yesterday I said that the Afghanistan elections were the big story of the moment. Also notice, despite the BBC 10 o’clock news saying yesterday that the Lockerbie story had “deepened”, coverage has declined.

UPDATE September 5: Today’s Daily Telegraph has an interview with Jack Straw where he “admits [the] Lockerbie bomber’s release was linked to oil”. So coverage hasn’t disappeared then, this perhaps still does have the potential to embarrass the PM. In the video posted in the post before last, Menzies Campbell questioned Jack Straw’s role in this affair, it appears he was right to do so.

Jacqui Smith speaks out against Megrahi Release

Didn’t see this coming, full story available on PoliticsHome. It’s not a huge development though – I’m on the lookout for anything new in the Libya story but what else can happen?