Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The sun is shining..everywhere but Westminster

PMQs was a drab and somber affair today. Harriet Harman used her questions to tackle home office cuts resulting in pointless ping pong across the dispatch box over whether the number of police will be cut, with Cameron refusing to answer; surely the electorate have the right to know the truth, we aren't interested in smart one liners on issues like this. Cameron is becoming increasingly cocky during PMQ's, perhaps as he gets more comfortable his arrogance will be harder to hide?

Another week has passed, and no one can accuse the coalition of being inactive; we are getting daily updates of cuts, planned legislation changes and policy ideas all of which seem to follow their increasingly concerning pattern of cutting wherever possible and with little regard for the outcome.

We are also starting to see the first PR disasters coming out of the government; this week Sir Alan Budd's hasty resignation from the newly formed OBR caused some discomfort and Michael Gove made an unforgivable error in the Commons on Monday night when he read out the wrong list of schools to be scrapped.
As if the building of 700 new schools being stopped wasn't enough, many projects were thought to be safe until lists printed yesterday by the DofE told them otherwise; a further 25 are affected. The education policy is looking increasingly bizarre - we've now seen the encouragement of academies and free schools everywhere; scrapping of free school meals for the needy, cutting new, needed projects and all the while the government is still protecting the charitable status of private schools. 
Meanwhile in the yellow corner Nick Clegg is busy setting up websites asking us which laws we'd like to change and getting excited about a potential electoral reform that he has previously rejected and that is seemingly an academic system that is not being used for national elections anywhere in the world. The irony being that this little backhander to Clegg will cost the country c£80m; exactly the same amount that the cancelled loan to the Sheffield Forgemasters was projected to be...Despite his position in government and the fact that 25% of LibDem MP's hold ministerial positions on many levels things couldn't be worse for them. Clegg has gone from the man everyone agreed with to the biggest sell out since Iggy Pop did insurance ad's; the latest YouGov poll puts LibDem support at a reduced 15% and Danny Alexander the Treasury man from nowhere still looks like a rabbit in headlights stammering over questions related to the slashing of public services as he tried to defend the Finance Bill on Tuesday. He, and the rest of us are wondering how on earth he got to be on the front benches defending cuts on behalf of George Osborne.

And things are still getting worse for our public servants; not only will many have to contend with a pay freeze at best, and redundancy at worse but they will also have to deal with reduced pensions and more than likely reductions in their redundancy payouts should the government squeeze through legislation. Francis Maude another Tory old timer wheeled out to wield the axe said the measures were 'an inevitable consequence of current economic circumstances'. Of course they are.
Surely we are in for a winter of discontent post October if the coalition persist with these measures; trade unions are already predicting strike action; and who can blame them - many civil servants must be wondering what they will have to lose? And it doesn't stop there; after happily accepting front line troops' cheers as he increased their daily allowances David Cameron used the comfort of Westminster for his altogether less jolly announcement that they too will have their basic pay frozen, for a squaddie this means his salary will remain at £21k for the next 2 years.

So once again a harsh week for all bar the rich, the bankers and big business. Despite the urgency with which these cuts are taking place, it is worth noting that the Treasury will receive exactly £0 from the banking levy this year. The evidence seems to be stacking up that this governments regressive actions are not solely for the purpose of cutting the budget deficit, but to play out a long held belief in a smaller state leaving many without much needed jobs and support.

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