Monday, December 10, 2007

Not Waving but Drowning

Life Belt
Another overused life belt
It has been pretty amusing watching the Labour party's pitiful attempt at a fightback over the last ten days or so. As they sink deeper in to the mire they have fallen back on every trick in the Labour handbook.

The problem does seem to be that so low has their stock fallen now that even once friendly parts of the media now rightly tackle each initiative from a starting point that it is nothing but a publicity stunt. It may be that the hostility provoked among many correspondents by Brown's clumsy handling of his non-election has really come home to roost, or simply the undeniable fact that much of what is being done is unmitigated crap.

It probably started just over a week ago when the very slim Labour play book was opened at the well thumbed 'B' for 'Ban' page. Banning activities that are legal but disapproved of by the more puritanical elements of the government is something that still seems to set the pulse racing among Labour MPs, but there was a problem in that there seems to be much less public clamour for criminalising anything in particular at the moment. Undeterred though, the rather bizarre combination of sun beds and cigarette vending machines were declared joint public enemies number one.

For god's sake, sun beds and cigarette vending machines. Only the most stupid in society don't realise that there is a risk associated with both pieces of technology, but we really can't legislate around this sad tiny minority. There would be many legitimate businesses closed in the case of sun beds, simply because the government thinks that whether to take a chance on a well regulated tanning salon is a decision only their Robin Reliant minds can make. As for the impact of cigarette vending machines on smoking behaviour, I wonder if the government could bring into evidence even a single case of someone whose smoking career started by buying a pack from such machines and, as every serious smoker knows, for us the use of these rip-off machines is simply a sign off piss poor mission planning for a night out.

Flipping further ahead in the play book, we come to 'T' for both 'Terror' and 'Tough'. The government consulted its terrorism riskopportunity assessment index, added on five and divided by the first number they though of and came up with the same assessment as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's 'Deep Thought' computer as to the answer to the ultimate question, forty-two. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, maths has never been a strong suit for the Home Office and it looks as though poor old Jacqui Smith may be just as bad at counting the number of her own side's MPs willing to extend the terror detention limit as she has been at counting the number of former attorneys general willing to support her proposals, the number of jokes that would be made at the expense of Lord West, and for that matter the number of overseas workers in the country.

For the remainder of the week there was far too much flak about other government policies such as a casual attitude to our personal data held by government agencies and the provenance of the governing party's funds to hope for any good headlines. Nor did it help that Brown also opted to make use of his own personal addition to the list of Labour ploys, scribbled in after he took power under 'Macavity' with the news of his preplanned non-appearance for the signing of the EU treaty. We had to wait until Sunday for another used and abused page of the manual to be opened at 'E' for 'Educashun', 'Educashun' and 'Educashun'.

Now, as it happens, I think there is some merit in the proposals on SATs, unfortunately they were delivered by the one person in the government who has been, by fairly common consent the only person on Labour's front bench more over-promoted than the Prime Minister himself. I think that there were quite a few on my own side of the political fence that were quite worried about Ed Balls becoming a powerful player for the government team, but out fears have proved to be groundless, as he mumbled and stumbled through his TV appearances yet again. Government of all the talents or jobs for your mates? Gordon needs to make his mind up; Balls and fair few of others should remind him that he can't have his cake and eat it too. Given that the news was still pretty hot, I'm sure that Balls would have known that he was leaving a wide open goal to bring up our precipitous slide down the international educational league tables, but he really should have had the self-knowledge that he was in no way the man to occupy the last line of defence.

Then finally today, we have the Prime Minister's whirlwind tour of those last refuges of the political scoundrel, Afghanistan and Iraq. Filed under both 'G' for glory, and 'R' for reflected, the plans were followed to the letter as they should be, well rehearsed as they are, down to the flack jacket, probably this time featuring the armour plating that his penny pinching as chancellor shamefully led to being supplied on his preferred 'too little, too late' basis. Surrounded by people who have more courage in their fingernail clippings than Brown has in the whole of his bloated frame he delivered the remarkable news that, erm, nothing had changed since he last created a security headache in these type of blighted areas.

There was also another mini-whirlwind in that other entry under 'E', this time in the form of the 'Environment', with a suitably grandiose plan, coming seemingly out of thin air, to generate a vast proportion of our electricity from wind power. Now wind is something that the government produces in large quantities, mainly of the hot air variety, so perhaps I should defer to their judgement however suspect. It does though sound like a typical headline-grabber-with-no-immediate-need-to-deliver-anything ploy. To be fair, this one has played better with the media, so obsessed have they become with the 'climate change is everything' mantra, but its place in a glut of hastily rolled out announcements has not escaped notice.

At least in this case we can get a measure of the unmitigated joy a visit by our dour Prime Minister brings to our fantastic serving men and women from the various message boards the MOD haven't managed to close down yet:
  • "at least we didn't have to suffer him here at Souter, we just had to put up with a visit from the other Browne"

  • "Any chance of him doing a quick tour of the AOR in a dayglo vest?"

  • "Did you feel dirty, need a wash following such close contact with the slimmy git?"

  • "After 10 years of ignoring the Armed Forces, he now apparently wants to be their best friend."
Source: British Army Rumour Service

On another site there were many references to doing something to Brown called 'slotting', but I wouldn't in my ignorance wish to inadvertently mention anything that may be either obscene or complimentary to the dour one.

There is at least one difference from the Blair era in two of the stories, in that what is being proposed in not even really policy, but actually yet more additions to the lengthy list of 'reviews', which will probably consist more of reviewing newspaper headlines than the real meat of the issues. At least Blair, at times showed conviction, a word that could never now be applied to Brown, other than in a sense that probably keeps him awake at nights.

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