Posts Tagged ‘Government’
So, on the day of the second televised leaders debates what are we to make of the new political landscape? Are we heading for a revolution in the way we see and perceive our political leaders or is it all just smoke and mirrors.
Certainly, there is a real danger that voters could be seen to be concentrating more on the televised debates than the policies of the main parties and we are seeing skewed polling figures as a result.
There is a danger that the polls are simply reflecting people’s reaction to the debates rather than their voting intention, a view reinforced by one poll’s immediate reaction from the debate showing the Lib Dems with a 51% share of the vote - more than enough to confirm Nick Clegg as Prime Minister with a healthy working majority.
These views are not necessarily based on the policies of the Lib Dem Party but how Nick Clegg is perceived by television viewers. The debates only provide time for the briefest of glimpses into the party’s policies - there is no time for any discussion on the the detail behind the policy headlines.
The subsequent reduction in the Lib Dem share of the vote in polls demonstrates that the televised debate certainly had a short term but significant effect in voters’ minds. The impact of the debate and the poll rise for the Lib Dems, even if short lived, has given a boost in momentum for the Lib Dems which may be hard for the other parties to counter.
So, has the televised debate reduced the election campaign to little more than a non-political beauty contest?
It will be up to David Cameron and Gordon Brown to react to the Clegg factor and I am sure that they will be working harder than ever to try to alter the perceptions and work on the lessons learned from the first debate to regain some lost ground.
This may give rise to personalised politics and possibly more negative campaigning, we shall see.
Either way, it is unlikely that the public will be taken in by magic tricks or sleight of hand.
We have also heard from the party leaders that “the people” will decide if there will be a hung Parliament or not.
I’m quite sure that if there was a candidate in every constituency under the name of “hung” or “hung Parliament” then they would have a better than even chance of being elected but let’s be clear, you cannot gerrymander or tactically vote for a hung parliament - it requires an unusual set of circumstances.
The people will certainly decide but they will not go into the polling booths thinking they can vote for a hung Parliament. If we end up with a hung Parliament it would be an associative outcome rather than causality.
Tags: conservative, David Cameron, General Election, Gordon Brown, Government, Hung Parliament, labour, lib-dem, Nick Clegg, Prime Minister, Televised debate
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The Bills that were announced today were as follows:
Personal Care at Home Bill:
This will provide free personal care in their own homes for those with the highest need. Up to 350,000 people with the greatest needs could benefit from free charges and top-up fees for care in their own homes.
Children’s, Schools and Families Bill:
There will be a new duty on local authorities to act when parents are unhappy. Where standards are ‘unacceptably low’, schools will be closed. There will be an entitlement to one-to-one tuition if a pupil is falling behind.
Fiscal Responsibility Bill:
The Bill will enact the Government’s commitment to halve the deficit in four years.
Financial Services Bill:
The Bill will give the Government the power to intervene on bonuses, will create a new consumer financial advice body and enable firms to be less reliant on the taxpayers.
Crime and Security Bill:
The Bill will require parenting assessment to be carried out on parents of children aged 10 to 15 who are being considered for an anti-social care order. The police swill have to hold beat meetings; perpetrators of domestic violence will be banned from their homes; DNA records on adults arrested but not charged will be kept for six years; there will be compulsory licensing for wheel-clampers.
Digital Economy Bill:
New age ratings for computer games will be introduced to protect children; universally available broadband in the UK will be rolled out; tackling on-line copyright infringement; preparing the UK to take advantage of the digital age.
More help for the most vulnerable households with their energy bills; a levy on electricity suppliers to subsidise carbon capture and storage plants; Ofgem will be required to ensure customers get a better, fairer deal.
Flood and Water Management Bill:
Better protection for businesses, communities and homes from the risks of extreme weather.
There will be a new public sector duty to narrow the gap between rich and poor, ban age discrimination outside the workplace and introduce reporting for large employers on gender pay. Agency workers will receive equal treatment with staff members after 12 weeks in a job.
Child Poverty Bill:
The Bill will provide for the Government pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and will set up a commission to monitor progress.
Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill:
The Civil Service will be put on a statutory footing; continued reform of the House of Lords - they will have the power to expel a Member; by-elections to elect hereditary peers will be ended. Peers will be allowed to resign and disclaim their peerages.
The draft House of Lords Reform Bill will set out how the Government will bring about a wholly or substantially selected second chamber of Parliament.
The bill would help to reinforce integrity in the business and public sectors. There will be a comprehensive UK strategy for tackling foreign bribery and of bribing a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain business.
Cluster and Munitions Bill:
This bill will ban the use, development production, stockpiling, retention or transfer of cluster munitions.
House of Lords Reform Bill:
Further reform for the House of Lords including ending the election of hereditary peers.
International Development Bill:
The Government will be committed to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international development by 2013.
The real question is - will this be enough to keep Gordon Brown at No 10?
What do you think?
Tags: General Election, Gordon Brown, Government, Government Bills, Legislation, Parliament, Queen's Speech
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The Government will offer free personal care in their own homes for those with the “highest needs”. This could benefit up to 350,000 people.
Legislation will be brought in to halve the current deficit and increase financial regulation
Commitment to ensure 0.7% of GDP for International Development
The Government will seek to abolish child poverty by 2020.
There will be a bill to continue the reform of the House of Lords
Other issues include:
Measures to deal with anti-Social behaviour
A Bill to enhance digital communications
A Bill to enshrine education guarantees
An Energy Bill to support carbon capture and storage
High Speed Rail Bill
Flood protection measures
Devolving more power to Wales
Legislation to ban cluster munitions
No real surprises contained in the Speech. More details will be provided on the content of the speech and on the Speech debate in the House of Commons later this afternoon.
Tags: Add new tag, Government, House of Commons, House of Lords, Queen's Speech, Social Care
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As the Queen arrives at Westminster it is worth remembering that the Monarch is not permitted to enter the House of Commons and is only allowed into the Palace of Westminster by invitation. It remains the only royal palace to which the Monarch has no automatic right of entry.
Charles I was the last Monarch to enter the Commons in 1642 when he attempted to arrest John Pym and four other Members of Parliament for treason. The Speaker William Lenthall, when asked to point out the conspirators famously replied:
“May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.”
However, the Monarch has been invited today to open Parliament and she has now arrived at the Monarch’s entrance.
Black Rod will approach the House of Commons and the door will be ceremonially slammed in his face. He will ten use his rod to knock the door three times. This is to allow the Commons to confirm that he is not the Monarch and signifies that although the Monarch is on the premises he is merely a messenger delivering her command.
Tags: Government, labour, Majesty, Monarch, Parliament, Queen's Speech, Royal Palace, Speaker
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The Yeoman of the Guard (the queen’s bodyguard) have searched the cellars at the Palace of Westminster. A tradition that dates back to 1605 and the gunpowder plot to blow up the Palace of Westminster.
Although the occasion is primarily remembered for Guy (Guido) Fawkes and commemorated on Guy Fawkes’s night on the 5th November each year, the principal conspirator was Robert Catesby
He died in a shoot out with the King’s supporters some days after the discovery of the plot. Now largely forgotten, Catesby was one of the leaders behind the plot while Guy Fawkes was only a minor figure.
In another nice historical touch, Parliament has to send a “Hostage” to Buckingham Palace and (s)he must be in place before the Queen can leave for the State Opening. This is to ensure the safe return of the Monarch - a little dramatic nowadays perhaps but more essential in Britain’s turbulent past.
Tags: Government, Guy Fawkes, Monarch, Palace of Westminster, Parliament, Queen's Speech
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The Queen's Speech - far from a royal affair.
On Wednesday this week the Queen will stand before the House of Lords and present the Government’s agenda for the coming year. This is an extremely important event; a chance for the Government to highlight its upcoming priorities and for the opposition parties to take them to task over their proposals and suggest how they would do things differently. With a General Election to be called by June 2010, this is to be the last Queen’s Speech before the election. For this reason I’d like to take a look at the importance of the speech and give some predictions of what to look out for:
Why is the Queen’s Speech important?
I think there are three fundamental reasons that this year’s Queen’s Speech is so critical:
- Policy: In a normal year the Queen’s Speech is important because it sets out the Government’s policy agenda for the coming year and outlines the Bills that will be proposed. As this is an election year the speech is essential as it is one of the Government’s last chances to state publicly and formally their agenda for the coming year and stake a claim to hold onto power come the election. It is also a good opportunity to draw the battle lines with the Conservative Party on key policy issues such as finance, education, crime and health ahead of the General Election. For this reason the opposition parties will be looking to discredit the Government and highlight their own policy priorities
- The Polls: 4 of the last 5 UK polls have put the Conservative Party 14 points ahead of the Labour Government with the Lib Dems trailing 4-10 points behind Labour. Taking the average scores for each party over the last five polls the Conservative Party would have a majority of 58 if these trends were reflected at the next General Election. But just a 2 point drop for the Conservatives and a 2 point rise for the Labour Party would deliver a hung parliament. So for Labour the Queen’s Speech is a chance to showcase a range of policies and hopefully reduce the Conservative Party’s poll lead. For both opposition parties it is a chance to analyse Gordon Brown’s proposals; discredit them and promote their own policies. It is important for the Conservative Party and Lib Dems not to give way significantly to Labour in the polls and it gives the opposition parties a chance to look at some of Labour’s headline policies in detail and criticise them publicly
- Time is running out: With only 70 more sitting days of Parliament until the next election Labour only have three big opportunities to state their case before the election is called: The Queen’s Speech; the Pre-Budget Report and the Budget. Of those three opportunities the Queen’s Speech is most focused on policy direction and prospective bills and sets the policy agenda. Also, it does not have to focus so much on important economic figures such as economic growth and unemployment, which have been sources of distress during the economic downturn. The opposition parties will be keen for the Government not to steal a march in the polls on the back of the Queen’s Speech. They will see it as a small victory if the polls do not radically change on the back of the Queen’s speech as it will mean that Labour are running out of high profile opportunities to change public perception.
What is predicted?
The Speech: It is suggested that Gordon Brown will go for a short sharp Queen’s Speech highlighting headline bills on: fiscal responsibility; social care; energy; policing and crime; health and education. Gordon Brown is clearly gearing these bills up to be the basis for his election manifesto and it is being suggested that the Bills to be proposed are specifically targeted at areas that the Conservatives have opposed, such as targets in the NHS and the DNA database. This is clearly throwing the gauntlet down to the Conservatives Party and defining the political battlegrounds between the two main parties before the election. The Government are looking to take the initiative and outmanoeuvre the Conservative Party in key policy areas.
The Conservative response: The Conservatives are likely to oppose the Speech in two different ways. Firstly, David Cameron will almost certainly criticise Gordon Brown for announcing policies late in the day; not having the time to bring them through before the next General Election and that this is blatant headline chasing, which does not change the fact that Gordon Brown has lost the voters’ trust. Secondly, each Shadow Secretary of State will outline both the principles they disagree with in the Speech and the detail. They will be looking to define their position in opposition to the Government’s proposals. The Conservative Party will face a race against time; they will want to wrest control of the electoral battleground from Labour by defusing any popular Labour announcements made in the Speech and highlighting their counter measures. David Cameron will want to try and focus media attention on Gordon Brown’s weakness and the failings in the Speech rather than allowing the media debate to focus on Brown’s new policy announcements.
The Lib Dem approach: As the third largest party the Lib Dems are in a difficult position. The Leader, Nick Clegg, has come out and called for the Queen’s Speech to be scrapped in favour of an emergency announcement on political reform. Clearly this is not a viable option as the speech is a long-standing tradition, but it has given Nick Clegg front-page media attention before the Speech and gives him a platform from which to discredit the Government’s proposals. For Nick Clegg it is a case of chasing any possible headlines lest the Lib Dems be sidelined in favour of the main battle between the Conservative Party and Labour Government.
These are just predictions of course, so follow Ruder Finn on this blog and on Twitter (@Ruderfinnuk) on Wednesday 18th of November from 11am for our build up and live minute-by-minute analysis of the Queen’s Speech.
Please leave your own predictions or any insights as I would love to have a flavour of any important issues people are focusing on or awaiting from the speech.
Tags: Conservatives, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Government, labour, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Queen's Speech
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The Government has published its Template Twitter Strategy for Government Departments (even more impressively, it is available for download on a Scribd page), suggesting to civil servants to begin tweeting and explaining how to do it, with the ultimate aim of improving public engagment.
The document is a really interesting, well put-together twitter template. It sets out pros and cons, twitter stats, a glossary and a reasonably significant list of influential twitter uses including journos, departments, MPs. It also has devised twitter objectives and metrics, which I’m sure will spur plenty of debate amongst bloggers and tweeters.
Written by Neil Williams (a.k.a @neillyneil), a self admitted “Web strategy geek at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,” the document advises civil servants, particularly those from the digital comms teams, to tweet on departmental campaigns, news releases, ministerial announcements, highlighting content on other social media platforms such as YouTube and even asking and answering questions.
Amazingly, this all means that civil servants will be crawling out of the shadows of Whitehall and will have a face, albeit a digital one. By encouraging interaction, there will be a transparency and two-way communication that, possibly, has never existed in Whitehall before.
Tom Watson MP, the first blogging Parliamentarian and avid social media nut, was also on the Today programme on Radio 4, spruiking the benefits of social media and, in particular Twitter, as a method of communication and interaction.
Tom Watson also made the point that many old mandarins still get their secretaries to print out the mandarin’s emails for review.
MPs are similar; we are currently surveying Parliamentarians and politicos about the use of twitter in Westminster. There are indeed MPs like Tom Watson, who was among a number of MPs on the Independent’s list of influential parliamentarian twitter, who are actively involved on the blogosphere and many of those listed have actively participated in our survey. But the truth is many still don’t get it and don’t see the point.
But surely, strategies like this show that social media has been adopted by the main stream and the idea that social media is just for kids, computer geeks and a small sector of society is no longer true. The powers that be have recognised the revolution will be digitalised and they have no choice but to get on board.
If you are interested in this issue and you would like to take our survey on the use of twitter in Westminster and Whitehall, we would more than appreciate your comments. http://bit.ly/10sf8B
Tags: civil servants, Government, MPs, neillyneil, template twitter strategy for government departments, Twitter, westminster, Whitehall
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So Gordon Brown survives to fight on and by all accounts his performance at the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting has strengthened the support of the Party’s MPs for their leader.
This doesn’t mean though that Brown is safe, it doesn’t mean that the threats of a leadership challenge have ended, rather that he has bought time - perhaps until the autumn to demonstrate that he can make the most of his Premiership and attempt to take the fight back to the Conservatives.
Gordon Brown was by all accounts very candid at the meeting and admitted to weaknesses which he said he would work at improving as well as concentrating on his strengths. This seems to have gone down well with the PLP.
Some members of the PLP have made the point following the meeting that Brown is as good a leader as they can hope for in the short term and although they accept that under Brown Labour is unlikely to win the next General Election, changing the leader now would make little, if any, difference.
This does beg the question, has Labour essentially given up hope of winning the next Election? With the results from the local elections and especially from the Euro elections in which Labour were pushed into third place and the latest polling figures, it certainly seems so.
What has Gordon Brown left to pull out of the bag to turn the tide back in Labour’s favour? He has effectively promoted Peter Mandelson to the position of Deputy Prime Minister, he has shuffled his pack for probably the last time before the Election and he has established a number of new Cabinet Committees, designed to input into policy direction.
Is this enough? Time will tell.
In the meantime, against a background of some of the poorest economic indicators for some time against the Government and what appeared to be an increasing opposition to Gordon Brown continuing as PM, this demonstrates that it is not particularly easy, nor straightforward to remove a sitting Prime Minister.
Tags: election, Gordon Brown, Government, Labour Party, PLP, Prime Minister, Reshuffle
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Yesterday morning, the Environmental Audit Select Committee published their report Reducing CO2 and other emissions from shipping. While I grant, it hardly sounds like a page-turner, I was discussing it with a friend who works as a journo at Lloyd’s List, one of, if not the, leading maritime publications in the UK.
He said this report was a wake up call for the government and shipping industry, which have employed, until now, a highly successful strategy of hoping nobody would notice the problem of maritime industry emissions and ignoring what is, evidently, a significant environmental problem.
I admit, my knowledge of the shipping industry is burgeoning on the non-existent, but what interested me about this is, the shipping industry is going to face an identical problem other industries have faced in the past and many more will in the future. Clearly, the sticking your head in the sand tactic doesn’t work and more industries will be found out as the public and regulatory agencies become increasingly environmentally aware and active. Everything we consume has a carbon footprint and as a story in last week’s Independent pointed out, TVs and electronics are huge power vampires, but consumer demand is beginning to force the manufacturers to fix this issue. Sony has been one of the first TV makers to answer this call.
When the Phase III of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) begins in 2013, many industries will be in for a bit of a shock if they aren’t properly prepared, in particular the aviation industry, which, for the first time will be included in the EU ETS. Phase III is expected to be far more rigid and will include an annually decreasing carbon cap. More details will undoubtedly follow before the beginning of Phase III in 2013.
It is also desperately necessary for the Government to pull its head out of the sand and start investing more money in green technologies. The last budget was definitely greener than previous ones, but the fact is, much more money needs to be invested in green renewable technologies including wind, tidal, wave, solar as well as increasing the capabilities of the electricity grid. Indeed, the Government is criticised in some quarters for not doing enough.
Hopefully, industry and government will pay attention to what will befall the maritime industry as they are forced to update due to public and consumer demand and everyone will learn the head in the sand theory doesn’t hold up.
Tags: Environment, environmental audit select committee, Government, green energy, lloyds list, maritime industry, renewable energy
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So, the budget has been announced; what was widely reported as Alistair Darling’s greatest test, his biggest budget, the one he daren’t get wrong.
Or was it?
There was the usual figures on growth (or for this year, the lack of it), the usual predictions of annual growth (from 2011) and the tapering of public sector borrowing but where was the real meat of the budget? What was the Chancellor actually setting out?
Well, one thing was clear, he wasn’t setting out a rescue package for the economy, he wasn’t looking to make an example of the banks either, or any other sector. Rather, this was a very careful, steady, conservative budget.
With the economy in the state it is in, you would have thought the Chancellor would go to great lengths to emphasis the Government’s strategy to re-invigorate the economy and get the country back on track.
Yes, I know he said that but the budget didn’t deliver that and as always, it is what he didn’t say that is just as important as what he did say.
But before second guessing the Chancellor and exploring the dark and Brown recesses of his thinking, let’s reflect on what the budget did say.
Some pretty standard, expected increases in progressive taxes, consumables (alcohol, tobacco etc.) and the new upper tax band were announced. These had been pretty well leaked in advance, so no surprises there.
Some additional projects and money to help the unemployed, the housing market and the environment were unveiled, which should be well received but no big shocks, no big bang.
I did wonder why he was going to such great lengths to not really say very much and I started to think about those things he didn’t say.
The real message from this budget is that there is a general election next year.
By the content of his announcement today, the Chancellor all but confirmed that there will be time for a give-away election budget. This would mean, given the timescales needed for this budget to take effect, that there is unlikely to be an election this year.
Darling’s great gamble in this year’s budget was that the effects of this budget will help him to deliver in the next budget in time for the greatest gamble of all - the timing of the General Election.
Tags: Budget, Chancellor, Darling, General Election, Government, taxes
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