General Election 2019 Page 17

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A Horseradish

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 12:23am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

Late 1990s to 2005 - 34 to 42 (ii)

It is worth recalling too that the Lib Dems at this time were to the left of Blair on many issues, not least in their opposition to our involvement in Iraq. I still believe that Blair was considerably more Thatcherite in many ways than Margaret Thatcher. But sadly, the Kennedy era was to end in tragedy. I didn't especially welcome the brief leadership of Ming Campbell because while he had seemed reasonable enough earlier on, I found the way in which he effectively outed Charles on his alcoholism unpleasant. Behind the scenes, various people who I barely knew then were working on what was called the Orange Book. This mysterious document sought to shift the Lib Dem direction. It also ushered in Nick Clegg and people like David Laws. And just at the moment when most of the public who hardly thought about the party saw Clegg and thought "he sounds good and looks pretty" I decided it sounded extremely right wing and I didn't like it at all.

Not that in the years leading up to these events I had little time to think. On what was less than the average London salary, I was part of a very small team : I would say smaller than 25 people who were coping with a massive study which lasted years and the biggest public consultation exercise this country had ever undertaken. We along with eight temps and a bit of help from an agency were trying to cope with and in many cases respond in writing to 500,000 responses. I was the joint manager of those temps, I was in and out of technical meetings week after week after week. I was in MInisters' offices so frequently at one point briefing MPs, often on my own, face to face that I could have moved there and set up home.

We were often out at airports including on weekends. I was at ten hour long exhibitions there answering questions from a generally angry public on 20 separate occasions while the likes of opposition MPs such as Peter Lilley wandered around to observe critically what was taking place. I was in the Kent marshes at 7am with professional environmentalists being taught about bird habitats. And alongside all these things on £26,000 per annum, it was me who had to decide what to do on who to invite to tender for a crucially important study into the safety risks of birds to aircraft, then do the tender exercise, then set up the meetings, then chair the meetings including with video links to Bristol and then write the reports of the meetings, all of which was more or less simply signed off. Yes. This was New Labour's infamous six year long airports expansion study which was subsequently just ditched. I will say one thing for them. They were thorough in a way that no one has ever been since the financial crash and cut backs. In fact, I doubt few have ever done detail like it. I feel that I was working about three grades above my true grade. Being junior, I was expected to be a jack of all trades but equally when it came to environmental mitigation I was often expected to be the chief spokesman "as that's your area of interest"

Early on, the "names" were fairly unknown. David Jamieson MP. Anyone? No. I thought not. Then it was me and Tony McNulty. Then me, him and the people he wanted to bring in. McDonnell. Yes. We have to him on side. What about the opposition? Tell you what. Would you go over to the Commons and have a word with them. They have got a bit of a gathering. Who? Oh Soames, Letwin, Maude, two or three others. Yeah, right. We're all going down to the village of Cliffe for the day to tell them why we are considering building a four runway airport there. Population? Oh, I dunno. A few hundred. It's a village. Very quiet. You'll have security. Look - you know how much I rate your written notes. I know it all. But last year I was at a function at breakfast time and it was just nibbles. I had to stop off on the way back for a fry up. So could you just get onto them and say it would be appreciated if they could do bacon, egg and something this year.

And this was pretty much how it was constantly. I have to say that while I was frightened of McNulty who was later in disgrace I had no reason to be as he was very nice to me. Most of them were, whether Labour or Tory. I think they realised I was doing my best while also being out of my depth. But sometimes there were challenges not without a moral dimension. Stop what you are doing guys. Geoff Hoon is here. He wants to discuss what you are doing. What? The Geoff Hoon who was so often mentioned in the same sentence as Dr David Kelly? Hi, I'm Geoff. Oh my god. I've got to shake this man's hand. Yes. Hi.....erm, Geoff. When people talk of privileged civil servants they assume that everyone is in the senior civil service. They have absolutely no idea what it can be like as just one of the troops. My situation was very unusual and to be honest often fun but it was manic for year after year and always tough with an anxiety condition.

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Paul Wimsett

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 11:33am
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,312 posts
Quote: A Horseradish @ 15th December 2019, 12:23 AM

Late 1990s to 2010 - 34 to 47 (ii)

So not the General Election 2019 then? Rein it in a bit.

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Rood Eye

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 11:37am
  • England
  • 3,426 posts
Quote: Paul Wimsett @ 15th December 2019, 11:33 AM

So not the General Election 2019 then? Rein it in a bit.

Everyone's a critic! Laughing out loud

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A Horseradish

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 12:22pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts
Quote: Paul Wimsett @ 15th December 2019, 11:33 AM

So not the General Election 2019 then? Rein it in a bit.

Deleted.

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Rood Eye

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 12:47pm
  • England
  • 3,426 posts

You tell him, Horse!

I'm sure Paul was only joking but nevertheless - don't be put off your stroke.

Carry on the good work!

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Paul Wimsett

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 5:28pm
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,312 posts

But is it comedy?

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Rood Eye

  • Sunday 15th December 2019, 5:45pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 3,426 posts
Quote: Paul Wimsett @ 15th December 2019, 5:28 PM

But is it comedy?

Perhaps it is comedy, Paul - but not as we know it?

I'll tell you this: I've read far less-interesting stuff on BCG! Laughing out loud

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 18th December 2019, 6:36am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

I find humour in odd, unexpected occurrences and coincidences and weird contrasts. My life has been so full of them they are almost my identity more than anything else is. Given my issues, I would not have expected to have been in 90% of these situations but stuff happens when you have to go with the flow or take occasional uncharacteristic leaps. What I wrote was mainly with a quiet smile but I don't separate out comedic intention from anything else. All things in life are generally wrapped around each other. And I don't see it as autobiography. I see it as one of many lenses through which anyone if they want to can consider current events beyond the ways in which the papers and the telly present politics.

When I was writing it - and read it back - what struck me was just how much of it said a huge amount about the 2019 election. I can't claim to be a northern voter who has always been Labour - far from it - but I can see how what happened has happened because I was never staunchly anything and had the privilege of being thrown into a very wide bunch of scenarios. So much of Bozo's victory with hindsight was on the cards for decades during which a lot of things that are being said of today applied but in less obvious ways. You can almost link the different bits of the result to different specific eras. I have just one more section to do. The current decade. But not today as it is miserable and today is my birthday.

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A Horseradish

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 1:19am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

2005 to 2016 - 42 to 53 (i)

The 2010 General Election was the first one in which I voted for a party that wasn't a traditional party of the centre. I voted Green, in part by default. As with many people, it was the first national election in which I felt there was no natural home for my vote although on the surface it seemed from the overall voting that little had changed. Of course, by this time more of the disenfranchised had turned to UKIP which gained 13 MEPs in the 2009 election for the European Parliament. While I had noted that phenomenon, it wasn't especially on my radar. Historically, I was so much of a committed European that I had barely questioned how the European project had altered and expanded since the early 1990s or even long before that time and I wasn't inclined to switch my vote to a party which I considered to be to the right of the Conservative right.

Given the dramatic collapse in trust among the public with regard to the political system in the late 2000s, it is ironically worth considering how voters had become used to having to vote more often than was expected of them in the 1980s. Back then, European elections were not in any way as closely followed as they subsequently became with only one third of the UK electorate bothering to vote. And in Greater London, there had been a lengthy period following the abolition of the GLC when there was no noteworthy London wide election but then a new London Assembly was introduced and with it a new elected mayor. Meanwhile, local authority elections continued much as they had always done. On very rare occasions in some of these elections, I had veered from my main allegiance and voted for a Tory or Labour candidate but it had never seemed very likely to me that my vote would go to either of these parties in the main national election.

A modest and even minimal respect for the way in which Thatcher had rescued the country from anarchy was more than outweighed by negative school experience at my middle class school in the 1970s, the subsequent gloating of yuppies to the backdrop of northern scenes of dereliction, and never ending allegations of sleaze and in-fighting during the Major Governments. It has always surprised me and in some ways upset me that when my vote did go to something other than the centre, it was more at a local level to the Conservatives than Labour for my empathy had clearly developed more towards Labour values. Generally when I did vote Tory locally it was to protect the Green Belt and for no other reason.

When it came to Labour at election time, I had never quite got over the experience of extensive strikes and mayhem from the left wing during the 1970s, however much I had got into what might be called the trendier side in the late 1980s and later appreciated Benn as he had mellowed with age. And my doubts from the outset about Blair and the New Labour project were by the late 2000s proven to have been justified. Swathes of voters felt the same. Still, the champions of Thatcherism personally benefited from it. Those who personally benefited from Blairism championed that and in many if not most such things can shape their political outlook for future decades so that anything else is seen as the enemy.

As early as 2005, I was aware that I had not personally benefited from either. Indeed, I can't think of one single thing that was undertaken by any Government between 1979 and 2005 which made a positive difference to my life. Not one - and I regard that as an outrage. Everything that I benefited from - be it the meritocracy of the eleven plus and a university grant or momentary needs for NHS assistance or access to television and car ownership and central heating or enjoyable times in the Green Belt and the National Parks or high broadcasting standards or being in the second generation of my family to get on the mortgage ladder, albeit with greater difficulties than them or having a supposed job for life in the state sector - had been created by politicians in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. People who were at least the age of my parents and more often than not of the age of my grandparents or great grandparents who had experienced true hardship in world wars.

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A Horseradish

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 1:26am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

2005 to 2016 - 42 to 53 (ii)

Those who have not yet turned 40 need to be aware that the 40s can be a decade of the most immense and unpredictably turbulent personal change. It can take the full ten years of that decade for the changes to be fully comprehended with a rueful hindsight. I was only 42 in 2005. I didn't realise then that it would be my last year of gigging in London when it had been a regular part of my routines for 20 years. Nor did I realise I would go to my last ever festivals in 2007-2009 feeling that something huge had been lost from them and that they were at the fag end of what had been so many musical highs with and without a political dimension. It was also when much of my very long term social network just collapsed.

Only when looking back at the period in 2012-2013 was I was able to see that midway through the previous decade I was already suffering from burnout. A combination of six years of working beyond my limits as required and a very difficult home move in which somehow I managed to get out of a prison of a shoebox flat only with some financial help from my parents had led to nothing less than four months taken out of work in that year for counselling and a necessary period on tranquillizers. The atrocities of all that was Iraq had largely passed me by. I wasn't at all happy with having ended up in that position and dropped my usual civility and compliance for making that known. On my return to an office environment where I now felt I was being viewed suspiciously for what was an evident irritation and even opposition to the way things had transpired, I was counter-intuitively placed for a few months in the highly sensitive policy area of national security.

The more paranoid part of me wondered if it was a personal test. But then for four years the entire place had acquired an undercurrent of paranoia which was only obscured by the obsessive work rates. No one seemed to trust anyone anymore. In truth, people like me were staunch on national security. To the extent that we thought about it, we thought that everything undertaken since 9/11 had been wrong while those involved were so sure they were right. Consequently in attitude they made white into black and turned everything upside down. It was as if the very establishment had entirely lost its way and every day one walked through stations which were on security alert and into buildings which were on security alert. It was terribly unsettling for everyone and possibly not unlike what had been experienced earlier in towns and villages with industrial decline. Then Blair went. Brown came in, Shortly afterwards, the world's economy crashed.

My last four years in "the Service" was in a comparatively sedate area. I was put into a small team which dealt with minimising the impacts of aircraft noise on the general public. For the first time ever, I was given no staff and while diversity was talked up with umpteen courses, including a tacit embracing of mental illness, to go with it, it was made pretty obvious to me that with what was now a clear and obvious anxiety condition I could forget all about promotion. I was effectively dead wood. Brown was in theory very slightly to the left of Blair. It was, therefore, not unreasonable to think he might be more favourable to the plebs. But from the beginning he went out of his way to freeze our salaries for years to show that he was "prudent" while also eyeing the pension rights of the thousands of "senior age juniors" in their 40s and contemplating how if they all stayed until 60 they were something the country, in his opinion, couldn't afford.

Not long after the crash occurred, these efforts were redoubled and more so. As early as 2008, there were rumblings about future redundancies and by the start of 2009 it was clear that they were not simply rumour. Worse, Brown was aiming to make junior people like me redundant with a massive reduction in the compensation arrangements which had generously been agreed two decades earlier by none other than Margaret Thatcher. In some cases it was to be cut by two thirds and in the category I was in by five sixths. So almost 20 years after Thatcher ceased to be Prime Minister, she suddenly looked like having been generosity itself to the public sector which given her ongoing reputation is not without huge irony.

And just as this was being mooted, we and the rest of the public were suddenly made aware by the press of what became known as the parliamentary expenses scandal. Most said "oh well, what will be will be". I didn't. Having been a trade union member since 1985, I had never been at all active in it and had never participated in strikes for wage increases. But enough was enough. I headed directly to the union room and said "make me a delegate at your next Conference". They didn't do that exactly. They were a tiny cabal. Frosty. Unfriendly. Used to seeing the same old faces since time began. The people who had started life with a permanent chip on their shoulders. But I did succeed in getting them to agree to me joining the departmental union conference on the eve of the bigger one. Weirdly it was in Brighton where my Mum's cousin Jimmy had managed the print union's retirement home. Many colleagues advised me I was sticking my neck out and would ultimately be a goner. But by this time I had had it up to here with New Labour and frankly I almost didn't care.

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john tregorran

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 1:32am
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
  • 729 posts

So you are 56,I imagined you about 10 years younger for some reason.
I learnt from an early age (16ish) not to get worked about politics.All the parties are basically the same and want to maintain the status quo.The rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

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A Horseradish

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 1:35am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts
Quote: john tregorran @ 20th December 2019, 1:32 AM

So you are 56,I imagined you about 10 years younger for some reason.
I learnt from an early age (16ish) not to get worked about politics.All the parties are basically the same and want to maintain the status quo.The rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

I was 57 the day before yesterday - but in manner/character/dress and facially could pass as ten years younger. Often people don't believe me on my age - although in the last few years it has caught up a bit so the guesses can be within five years. I now get "50 ish?" Life takes its toll. When I was 42, people who had only just met me thought I was about 28.

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A Horseradish

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 2:44am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

2005 to 2016 - 42 to 53 (iii)

It is from today's perspective worth bearing in mind what people were saying about the Conservative Party at around that time, little more than a decade ago. Given demographic changes - a rise in people of ethnicity ostensibly but also a greater politicisation of women who might be more sympathetic to Labour and Liberal causes - many serious observers were of the view that the Tories might never form a Government ever again. They had lost three General Elections in a row. Many felt that they had benefited from New Labour. Cameron and Osborne had been put in charge. Both educated at Eton. The last Eton educated Prime Minister had been Macmillan in 1963 and his whole impulse had been to support One Nation and advance meritocracy. Now the direction seemed to be back towards privileged upbringing, albeit ultra liberal.

The phrase "white man of ordinary origins" does have to be inserted here. Where Blair and Brown had advanced meritocracy, it seemed to be the cohort they had deliberately ignored. I felt part of that cohort. every bit as much as the middle aged son of a miner. Clegg had been educated at Westminster which was in effect the London Eton so all of a sudden there was nothing and no one to believe in anymore. The Brighton experience did not reassure. Those there were not only frosty but full of aggro. The whole atmosphere which involved many firebrands from the north of England was extremely unpleasant and uncompromising. With hindsight, I had talked myself into a room of pre-Corbynistas. Not that they demonstrated any clue about how to oppose what was coming. It was an absolute waste of time my being there.

Ultimately the union took Prime Minister to the law courts on his proposals to tear up our conditions. The law courts found in favour of the union. Their verdict was nothing less serious than he had behaved unlawfully. But the vibe I was getting off these people was that they were focussing mostly on their wealthiest members. The ones just below the Senior Civil Service. I felt the rest of us were to be abandoned as they worked towards a compromise. Save them - most delegates were in that category - if you decide to ditch the rest. Do I think if Labour had been elected in 2019 that the average person would have ended up paying larger amounts of tax? Yes. Absolutely on the basis of this experience.

As things transpired, Brown didn't get a second shot at it. An election was forced and Cameron and Clegg were able to form a coalition. The very first thing they did was to get Maude to follow the Brown strategy on public sector redundancy on turbo-chargers. Greater cuts to compensation. More rapidity on laying people off. They learnt from Brown. So as not to break the law as he had done, they changed the law so that the conditions were totally different. By September 2010, I had spoken to my mortgage company to tell them that I would have to move out of my home, chucked a chair through my bedroom window and dialled 999, been as a consequence carted off in the night by ambulance, put back on tranquillizers and into counselling, and been grilled by the department's so-called psychologist in Harley Street so that he could say my problems were all about me and nothing whatsoever to do with the Coalition Government. It was like being required to meet the Stasi. Applications for over one hundred jobs while regularly at Mind proved fruitless. At 47, too old. And after just six months, I didn't qualify for any state benefits. Had it not been for my parents, I could have been on the streets,

Few were sympathetic. Many had experienced their own financial losses from Brown in terms of private pensions so as far as they were concerned the state sector had to be hit hard. In their laughable opinion, we were all on gold plated arrangements. In other respects, the general public came to experience what I had done already via the new austerity. What happened to us precipitated much else. At the 2015 General Election, I voted Green again. Even then the EU wasn't on my radar but we were all aware of what was now a long political legacy. The Iraq dishonesty in every news bulletin.

The expenses deceits. The effects of a crash based on international political mismanagement including in the UK bullying of the physically and mentally disabled. All could have been placed under the heading "Abuses". And in the middle of it all, two years of revelations about historical sex abuse including in the political sphere which perhaps once facts were separated from fantasy placed the Liberals especially in an unfavourable light. So even what a few us had believed for many years was a better alternative to the main parties was shown as having been largely mistaken. Obviously the wretched nature of it on top of everything else was upsetting. Was it only four years ago? So much has occurred since what with the years of Brexit but yes it was. Four years ago when it really did seem to many people that the political system was a cess pit. With the best will in the world - and his policy position seemed in some ways a turn for the better : Labour pitched at something halfway reasonable - Ed Miliband was never going to be viewed as the nation's rescuer.

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A Horseradish

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 3:40am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,946 posts

2016 to 2019 - 53 to 57 (i)

Sometimes one wonders if walls have ears and in those moments hopes that they do. Of the Labour Party's past leaders, I highlighted the merits of just two on this thread several days ago. One was Attlee who managed to oversee the formation of the NHS when the country was bankrupt in a third of the time that any current party believes it can form a National Social Care Service. The other was John Smith who came after Kinnock and before Blair and died way too young. Two days ago, Andy Burnham who might be described as the better face of Blair-Brownism and is now the Mayor of Greater Manchester, gave his view on what Corbyn's successor would best be like policy wise. He or she would, he said, be in the mould of Attlee or Smith. Maybe this is a coincidence and maybe it is not. I would like to think it wasn't coincidence.

In fairness to the aforementioned Ed, he was pretty much in that general area but he unfortunately suffered from a personal naivety and awkwardness and his moment came too close in the memory of recent Labour Governments. Of one thing I have never been in any doubt. Contrary to popular opinion. the wrong Miliband wasn't chosen. David Miliband would have been Blair 2. Ed's biggest mistake of which there were many was a god almighty one. And as is typical of truly ground breaking moments, when it happened hardly anyone noticed it. He changed Labour membership rules so that anyone could join the party for three quid. A few months later, the hard left world and his wife had arrived there for the price of a jar of coffee, many of whom had been banned by Blair. All it would take for a massive departure was for some mad dame to feel sorry for the left wing of the party having no one in Parliament other than her to endorse a candidate from the far left. One who in her opinion could never get elected as leader. Step in Margaret Beckett. The rest is history.

To pull some of this together, the gospel according to the Radish is as follows. Churchill was outstanding in the war. Attlee was outstanding after the war. The first half of the 1950s with Churchill, tired, and Eden, Suez was pretty poor but Macmillan - maybe I'm a bit biased having met him - was mainly very good news between '57 and '63. Dear old Douglas-Home was gone quicker than Brown or May and suffered from being antiquated. The Wilson years of the 1960s were pretty strong. Heath's tenure and the second round of Wilson, 1970-1976 was frequently troubled. Callaghan was an avuncular disaster. I disliked Thatcher throughout the 1980s but with hindsight I now believe she was golden compared with what followed. Didn't like Major, 1990-1997, at all. Blair-Brown, 1997-2010. No thank you. I have explained why.

By the end of them, it seemed like things could only get better. But then came Cameron and his sidekicks Osborne and Clegg. At the start of this decade, I was of the view that Cameron was the worst Prime Minister in my lifetime and I have never changed my view. I firmly believe that his regimes were founded on and in interests in sadism, notwithstanding that an element of austerity - less than occurred - could only get this country back on its feet. There were many people along the way who some have liked to say were the best Prime Minister we never had. They fall on all parts of the political spectrum. Those I never did believe in include MacLeod (Con right), Crosland (lib Lab), Healey (Lab) and Joseph (Con).

To these one can add Patten (lib Con) and Clarke (lib Con). Some are more debatable. Powell (Con, but only if you took out the racist elements which by definition is impossible), Benn (if he could have been separated from the extreme elements of the unions, again impossible), Jenkins (Lab/SDP, who I used to revere but now I know more I do not) and Shirley Williams (Lab/SDP, who I still like but who was too often Mrs Blunder). And then there are the personal favourites. Barbara Castle (Lab), Pardoe, Penhaligon and Kennedy, (Lib/SDP/Lib Dem), possibly Owen (Lab/SDP) and Hague (Con, who improved with age), among others. Which I guess takes us neatly on to Nigel Farage. As recently as 2016, and following Cameron's small victory, I would not in a month of Sundays have said that I would ever be prepared to vote Conservative in any future General Election in my lifetime. Nor would I have even begun to contemplate whether the UK should leave the EU. It just wasn't where my head was at or had ever been. But then came the lead-up to the referendum. And everything changed,

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john tregorran

  • Friday 20th December 2019, 4:25am
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
  • 729 posts
Quote: A Horseradish @ 20th December 2019, 1:35 AM

I was 57 the day before yesterday - but in manner/character/dress and facially could pass as ten years younger. Often people don't believe me on my age - although in the last few years it has caught up a bit so the guesses can be within five years. I now get "50 ish?" Life takes its toll. When I was 42, people who had only just met me thought I was about 28.

Belated birthday thingamabobs :)