A very bad week for British democracy

Democracy thrives on the clash of ideas. It needs open and public debate of what government is doing well and badly. It needs a choice for the people, with rival parties being able to articulate a different approach. Of course lively politics has lots of other noise in the system, and there will always be personality clashes and those who tackle the man and not the ball.

The Labour style of thuggish and dishonest attacks on their opponents when taken to extremes does the opposite. This week they decided to take the remarks of one backbench MEP and try to erect an entirely false story about the true intentions of David Cameron’s Conservatives on the back of it. Their pulling power with the media remains quite strong. Suddenly Conservatives who had not opined on the subject were invited in for exploratory interviews in the hope that the unwary would say just half a sentence that would allow Labour to brand them Hannanites. Hannanites are to be lumped with climate change deniers and others beyond the pale.

Some in Labour will say this is exactly what they should be doing. It forces the Conservatives to respond to their lies, instead of being able to develop their own agenda. It means that no Conservative this week has felt like talking about public service reform – the topic I wanted to move onto – as we know that just half a sentence identifying a problem in the NHS would immediately be twisted as evidence to wrongly argue we want to abolish the NHS and ensure only the rich can have health care.

My view is they are wrong for them, let alone for the rest of us. It will not help Labour.The sillier they are the lower they stay in the polls. It will reinforce the view that they are the nasty party. Their over the top bombast makes intelligent debate impossible, and makes it difficult to move the UK debate on.I think it will confirm people in their judgement that they are no longer suitable to govern, as all they can do is falsely rubbish their opponents.

Some parts of the media aid and support this approach. They wish to make politics a freak show, entirely about “gaffes” by personalities. Take their treatment this week of Hilary Clinton. This is a politician many in the media are more in tune with than Conservatives. Yet even she had her African adventure entirely taken over by a few remarks about her husband. Her response to that question was understandable if not stateswomanlike. Some of us wanted to know what if anything was different about Obama’s Africa strategy from Bush’s. We wanted to know if they had anything new to say and offer to deal with African poverty and poor governance in some places. That was all drowned out by this relatively unimportant issue of what her husband’s view was on something.

Early this morning I heard Farming Today. A couple of people were given substantial air time to explore the issues surrounding gm food, population growth and the escape from starvation. They were allowed to speak in paragraphs without interruption. They were not asked about their biggest mistake, reminded of their most embarrassing moment, or even asked about how they earned thier money and what their connection was to business interests in gm and farming. Why is there such a different approach to this and to the politicians who have to make decisons about this? Surely we need to know in a level headed way where such contributors are coming from and what their interests are. And surely we do need to know what the politicians think they are doing and what they are trying to achieve, as well as being told about their own foibles and lifestyles?


  1. Stewart Knight
    August 15, 2009

    This is obviously Mandelsons work.

    Get Cameron to call a press conference and explain, IN SIMPLE TERMS, exactly what you have said.

    Until the likes of Cameron stop trying to be clever and appeal to the masses on their own language the likes of Mandelson will get away with this.

    1. Man in a Shed
      August 15, 2009

      Yes this has the POD’s finger prints on it. However the Conservative response lacked tact and played the game of the lies and smears by accepting their premiss.

      I hope that lesson only needs to be learnt once.

  2. JohnOfEnfield
    August 15, 2009

    I totally agree with your post. The New Labour strategy of smearing their opponents “is… responsible for poisoning the atmosphere of British politics..” to quote Michael Howard.

    There is NO communication by a New Labour politician that does not smear the people they view as their opponents be it bankers, MPs, “racists”, Social Workers, “Americans”. The Prime Minister even demeans his office at PMQs in this way.

    I think that this has been the major cause of the breakdown of trust with the political class and made the atmosphere right for the expenses scandal.

    It is fascinating to watch New Labour use this, their favoured communications technique, witness the First secretary of State’s attack on George Osborne yesterday. It is equally fascinating to appreciate the unwillingness (even the inability) of civilised people to stoop to the same level.

    The electorate now instinctively understands what is happening – after 15 years – and I sense it is going to vote accordingly in the general election.

  3. oldrightie
    August 15, 2009

    It’s how socilaism gains and strengthens it’s grip. The MSM are complicit and blogs are the only remaining platform for dissent, so far. Should Labour get an “historic 4th term” to complete their Soviet dream, a lot of people from The BBC and elsewhere have already booked their spot in the Politburo. Scary.

  4. David Belchamber
    August 15, 2009

    I agree entirely with the point you are making. There should be open and honest debate about many things, though I suspect that the ‘Dan Hannan’ syndrome will not go away, at least until the conservatives have published a manifesto.

    I have often argued along the same lines on ConHome and would like to see two things: (i) that we make honesty and transparency the clear blue water between us and Labour and (ii) that we can encourage the media to establish certain things as factual, accepted by both parties, before allowing any debate to take place.

    Brown gets away with murder; his chancellor confirms that Labour will make cuts in essential public services (and many have already been made) but Brown denies that is the case. This must not be allowed (by the speaker? by the media?) when parliament is back in session.

  5. Simon D
    August 15, 2009

    Its all about media culture – personality centred – and the Labour party’s need to spin its way to an election win. Both the current media and the Labour party are anachronisms. Conservatives need to spread the following non-personalised messages:

    1. Labour is not fit to govern.
    2. Labour has ruined the public finances and some comparable countries (e.g. France and Germany) are in better shape. Most of our current problems are not global but connected to mistakes made by Brown and Darling.
    3. Labour has no new ideas.
    4. Many of Labour’s existing policies address out of date agendas not contemporary problems.
    5. Front line public services are safe with the Conservatives and will be improved by them and, at the same time, as a result of efficiency, be run at lower cost.
    6. Only the Conservatives have a modern, radical agenda focussed on the problems of the next five years. The are not fighting the battles of Marx and Engels which so many Labour politicians fought in their student days.
    7. The Conservatives will transform Britain for the better and avert the further looming crises that Labour has set in train.

    The print media is in terminal decline and has not worked out how to manage the unintended consequences of the internet and the public’s changes in reading habits. Fewer papers will be around in five years time and journalists are an endangered species. Perhaps a Conservative government will have to slap preservation order on them.

    The BBC, another British anachronism, believes itself to be untouchable in its role as the broadcasting arm of the Labour Party because its upper echelons think that all politicians are in mortal terror of offending it. However, a huge amount of its output is trash and could easily be provided by independent broadcasters. One of David Cameron’s biggest challenges, if elected, will be how to deal with the BBC. I believe the BBC will lead the pack in trying to destroy any future Conservative government. It is no good banging on about banking bonuses when large numbers of BBC high-ups are paid six figure salaries with index-linked pensions all funded by the poll tax paid by you and me. What sort of example does that set to the rest of public sector? Over £700,000 for the BBC DG – what planet do the BBC governors live on?

  6. Waramess
    August 15, 2009

    Yet again fear of what the government might say stops honest debate in its tracks. You say Hannan has stopped debate on reform, I say that you are doing exactly that.

    I for one agree with what Hannan was saying and that the job of running our health scheme would be better done by the private sector but that opportunity for an open debate has gone.

    The NHS as it is currently configured is a socialist model and to see a Conservative party cowering behind the barricades is not a pretty sight

  7. david
    August 15, 2009

    Whats up John getting worried. Surely you should be protesting at Lansley, NHS a sacred Cow, Osborne telling private companies how much they can pay their staff: prices and incomes policy next?

    Mr Heffer and Warner (good mates of yours) are not so restrained. When are you going to let your true beliefs show?

    1. Mike Stallard
      August 15, 2009

      This is very unfair. Uniquely (??) among politicians, our host tells the truth as he sees it without dressing it up: hence the popularity of the blog. In no sense is it Conservative spin. You don’t get this many readers and intelligent comments if you just repeat propaganda. Aren’t you confusing this with Labour List where spin and propaganda thrive among the brethren?

  8. John Coles
    August 15, 2009

    As this instinctive bias towards the Left is most evident within the BBC, it is reasonable for your supporters, John, to ask: What do you propose should be done to this state-run behemoth to establish objective reporting?

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    August 15, 2009

    You are quite correct in raising this issue. Listening to the interviews with Andrew Lansley and David Cameron and reading the infantile messages from Mr and Mrs Brown on Twitter I realised that the NHS is now a sacrosanct body. You either love it or if you proffer any criticism you are branded as hell bent on destroying it. So much for democratic debate. David Cameron even went as far as to say the NHS was the Conservative party’s no.1 priority. This was not qualified in any way. Surely the economy is your first priority. The trouble is that the Conservative party is now locked into this stupid position because after all this time they have still not found a way of dealing with Labour lies. Many are unsure about what a future Conservative government would do in many areas. We need to know. It is not good enough to deny information to the electorate for fear that Labour will misuse it – we all know they will but you should be clever enough to counteract the distortions.

  10. Graham
    August 15, 2009

    Spot on – thank you for pointing out this central tactic of Labour & their media allies.

    Labour exists entirely as a political organism, which sees policy issues not as issues to be resolved in the national interest but as potential tools of political attack where only party interest counts.

    Labour have tried to paint any criticism of the NHS as an organisation as a personalised attack against the individuals who work in it. You can criticise the NHS (and it so many “challenges” and “areas for improvement” that its almost a civic duty to point these out) whilst still be grateful to the personal efforts of those who work in it and wanting its principle of universal access to be maintained.

  11. Dave t
    August 15, 2009

    The BBC needs to be pulled down for a start. They have lead with anti Tory stories, deliberately keeping them at the top of their website for example even when bigger (often detrimental to Labour) stories have come along. It is frsutrating because they get away with it.

    Mr Cameron needs to crack down. Anyone opening their mouths and allowing the BBC/Labour to close down the debate/help Labour should have the whip withdrawn. Party discipline MUST be sorted. We are being labelled the nasty party yet Labour close down eveyr debate with racism, unpatriotic (this from an anti British anti Army Labour!!!) homophobic etc. Some of the knuckle dragging thugs in the Labour ranks need to be brought into public view for a start despite the best efforts of the BBC to hide them away.

  12. Ray Veysey
    August 15, 2009

    You didn’t say it, but we all know you include the BBC in the general “media” title. I have urged DC to consider this so why not you as well, as soon as you are in power, you must break up this Guardian NuLab home from home that is the BBC news organisation. Privatise it, make these hacks earn their enormous salaries. The immediate reaction would be to see half or more of their bloated staff numbers disappear, and then they can propagandise to their hearts delight at someone elses expense.

  13. Annie B
    August 15, 2009

    I have looked at my newspapers this morning with that same old sinking feeling – Conservative fortunes, in the same old dance –
    two steps forward and then four back. Your piece John has improved my mood considerably and I agree with your sentiments.

    Unfortunately Labour have nowhere to go and they know it, so they will jump on any scrap, be it Alan Duncan or Dan Hannan and rip it to bits from every angle in order to score what they think are Brownie points. I think it’s a vain hope to expect any better of either Labour or the media and would, therefore, implore Conservative politicians to be mindful of this potential wrecking game whenever they speak.

  14. Acorn
    August 15, 2009

    “Britain assumed day-to-day control of the Turks and Caicos Islands last night amid allegations of corruption. Local government in the islands, 500 miles southeast of Florida, will be suspended for up to two years while the overseas territory’s affairs are put back in good order, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.” (Times: 15/08/09)

    Don’t you just wish someone would do that to the UK?

    I believe our form of democracy has passed its sell-by date. That is why I favour Doug Carswell’s “open primaries” initiative. It has the prospect of putting some distance between the party and the politician. It may encourage more MPs to think and act for themselves, rather than being simply party “lobby fodder”.

    If one of them makes a gaff, it will be his gaff and not automatically become a party gaff. Whipping would have far less impact if an MP knows that he is not bought and paid for by a small clique of party apparatchics and enforcers. This, along with electing the PM/ executive/ cabinet separately from the legislature, may just get us out of our current sclerosis.

    1. James
      August 15, 2009

      At £40,000 a time, holding open primaries in 650 constituencies would cost £26 million. Please stop spending our money so stupidly in an effort to appear ‘democratic’. The same goes for the idea of electing Chief Constables at enormous expense. Next, we will be required to elect the heads of our armed forces. The system isn’t broken. Don’t fix it!

      1. Mike Stallard
        August 15, 2009

        Here in (backward) North Cambridgeshire, we had an open Primary for our next MP about a year ago. A school hall was borrowed for a day and anyone from the constituency was allowed to attend.
        Six Conservative candidates had been chosen and they were carefully and fairly presented to the assembled group of some couple of hundred people.
        There was a fair but very complicated voting system, but I reckon we chose the right person.
        Cost: minimal. Nowhere near the cost of postal voting.

      2. ManicBeancounter
        August 15, 2009

        Open Primaries would be by political parties, so the total cost would be nearer £100 million. Let us put that in persepective. If we charitably say that this governement is only wasting £50,000 million a year, and, as a consequence of open primaries, the election is held just one day earlier, it will be a good investment. If MPs has been less tied to party and more to their constituents, then the government would have already fallen, so open primaries might be a good investment.

      3. RobinL
        August 15, 2009

        How broken do you need it to be? The Government sidesteps Parliament at every oppotunity, the Civil Service has become a law unto itself, the electorate is ignored over huge issues, like sovereignty, or war, to name two.

        The EU decides – highly undemocratically, in my view – on a wide range of issues that affect me personally: small business regulations, immigration, food, ‘carbon’ taxes, refuse disposal. One could go on.

        The party system muzzles dissent, without which any debate beyond tribal posturing is impossible. Confidence in politics is at an all-time low among the public, cynical exploitation of the system by the political class has been revealed to be endemic, the state broadcaster has repeatedly shown itself to be partisan to a shocking degree…

        Certainly, forcing elections on the people at every opportunity may not be the way to proceed.

        But the system – I have assumed you meant ‘political’ – not broken?

  15. Chris
    August 15, 2009

    I 100% agree with that, well said. good blog first visit.

    Dan Hannan is a hero for saying what he thinks on the great issues of the day, he is not hidding.

    but he has been smeared.

    1) he is being told he is disrespecting the NHS staff, he thinks they are very hard working people.

    2) he wants universal health care

    3) And he has being saying this for years, not just in America this week.

    1. Mike Stallard
      August 15, 2009

      Has anyone else read his blog? He is on holiday at the moment and has tried to reply to the three accusations.
      But then, so did Trotsky……

  16. Lance Grundy
    August 15, 2009

    “Democracy…needs a choice for the people, with rival parties being able to articulate a different approach.”

    Exactly, and what’s wrong with democracy in Britain is that “rival parties” don’t “articulate a different approach” to the electorate because the modern Labour Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat Party are all, to a greater or lesser degree, left-leaning social democratic parties.

    Witness the Labour Party Rapid Rebuttal Unit scripted response spouted by Cameron, Mandelson and Prescott [or was it Mandelson, Prescott and Cameron?] to Daniel Hannan’s [grossly misrepresented] comments about the NHS.

    After some positive signs from Cameron it seems, after this week’s shenanigans, that we’re headed back to the days of cozy left-wing consensus politics where the only choice for the electorate is left, further left or even further left.

    As you say, it’s been “a very bad week for British democracy.”

  17. Neil Craig
    August 15, 2009

    Tactically one should answer a question with a question (unless of course it is a question one really wants to answer). The question for Labour is “Daniel Hannan has held up Singapore as country with an effective health service with what appear to be better outcomes than here – why is that system not something we can learn from?” I doubt if any of them would know.

    On the general problem of the media & particularly broadcasters I would like to see regular traditionaly structured (usually 3 speaker hour long) debates on subjects the public choose. Such things have a long tradition of working & many politicians of all parties cut their teeth on such at University. I have no doubt that, so long as the BBC didn’t vet the speakers, they would stretch the normal procrustean limits of political discussion in this country. They would also show how irrelevent most TV interviewers, with a prepared list of PC bear baiting questions are. I assume the BBC agree & that is why they don’t do them.

  18. Beacon
    August 15, 2009

    I have found it incredible that Labour has been able to turn non stories about Hannan and Cameron into headlines.

    I am outraged that no-one appeared to challenge the Stalinist tactics being applied by Labour in Brighton.

    It was reported the in Express: Squads of officers will carry out door-to-door interviews to weed out potential threats to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton next month.

    Home owners and workers will have to produce passports, birth certificates, driving licences, proof of employment, and even provide the names of referees to show they are of good character.
    They will also be quizzed on their religion to see if they have connections with Muslim fanatics.

    Senior officers say the exercise, codenamed Operation Otter, is necessary at a time of heightened international security. But it has been met with outrage from local residents.

    During the conference, from September 27 to October 1, police will seal off a secure “island site” around the Brighton Centre, Hilton Metropole, Grand Hotel and Russell Road car park.

    Letters have already been sent to businesses and homes which will be affected.

    Superintendent Grenville Wilson of Sussex Police said: “It’s so we know who’s living within the area.”

    This is an affront to democracy. This was the real story, yet no-one has chosen to comment.

    Has Britain become so used to their rights and freedoms being removed that this is the norm? I hope not.

  19. Ruth
    August 15, 2009

    Very true, and that is why an increasing number of us don’t pay much attention to the broadcast media but spend time on the internet instead. In a democracy we should have real debate about these things, but that doesn’t fit with media soundbites. I haven’t watched TV news in years now, and only have half an ear on radio news as that too is pretty poor these days.

    Anyway I’m with Hannanites – I think it is my responsibility as a citizen to use my brain to analyse, criticise where necessary and not simply accept without question what I’m told.

    If you look at Victorian newspapers, they printed the text of debates and national events in huge detail, without bias and “opinion” – that is exactly what we need but the modern media denies us this.

  20. alan jutson
    August 15, 2009

    Your points are well made John, but you miss the salient fact that good news is no news as far as some of the media is concerned.

    The more sensationalist they can make the headline, the more chance there is of selling more newspapers, and bringing in future advertising revenue, as far as many newspapers are concerned. That is why on occassion we have trail by media.

    At least with the internet you can be assured of people knowing your views first hand, if they are aware of your site of course.

    The next Election Campaign in the media, sadly will be full of truth, half truth, and lies, with the percentage of each as yet unknown.

    One can only hope that responsible journalism and reporting will eventually win the day. But do not hold your breath.

  21. APL
    August 15, 2009

    JR: “Hannanites are to be lumped with climate change deniers and others beyond the pale.”

    Well, there you are then, if Hannan denies anthropogenic climate change it looks like he is right on two topics, where as Cameron AKA New BLAIR is wrong … again.

    The welfare state takes up to 40% of a rapidly shrinking GDP, much of that John Redwood himself admits is wasted through inefficiencies and well, waste.

    There are ways to provide good comprehensive universal health care without a massive state bureaucracy.

    Anywhere else, doing anything else if an organisation had more than 75% of the market the Labourites would be shrieking about producer cartels, price fixing and competition.

    Mention the NHS and what do you know, even supposedly hardened Tories like Redwood roll over and turn into mewling kittens.

    Let’s have some answers about a few of the Welfare state funds.

    Where is the National Insurance fund, Mr Redwood?

    Where are the pension funds for the public sector?

    Why haven’t the UK built a fund similar to the Norwegians where there was a tax levied on oil revenue used to build a Sovereign wealth fund.

    Why isn’t there a comparable fund in the United Kingdom?

  22. Bob Seely
    August 15, 2009


    Thank you for being a voice of sanity. It is quite clear that, if we are going to have the battle for ideas, rather than character assassination, we need to face down the trvialised style of debate which many parts of the media seem to thrive on.

    The personalised abuse heaped on Labour’s opponants by Labour is quite dispicable, and it is very sad that they have got away with it for over a decade: disagree on Labour’s policies on the NHS and you are a heartless capitalist who wants the poor to die in the streets, oppose open door immigration and you are a racist, worry about Labour’s bankrupting of Britain and you’re gutless.

    One can only assume that because the Labour Party is and has been void of ideas for about 20 years now, their only way of solving debate is to abuse opponants – or even rivals within their own party – as we saw when (adjective left out-ed)Alistair Campbell accused Gordon Brown of being psychologically flawed (it is particularly sad that Labour use mental illness as a means of abuse, but it says so much about them).

    Let’s hope that we have the courage to insist on debate about our country’s future.

  23. Josh
    August 15, 2009

    Please sign up and let’s start a counter revolution of patient choice. If people want an NHS, let them keep funding it through taxation.

    To those of us who want to CHOOSE our own healthcare, let us put the case forward for the government returning our taxation to use and letting us choose our own healthcare and leave the NHS forever. This is real democracy and choice.

    Have the Tories got the guts to implement this genuinly radical and democratic idea.

  24. pipesmoker
    August 15, 2009

    I share your concerns about fair and effective journalism and with the exception of the BBC World Service the BBC are sadly lacking.

    Last night I watched Anne Davies on East Midlands Today interviewing about a leaflet being distributed about the alleged abduction on Madeleine McCann. Whatever ones view it was biased beyond belief.

    Then there is John Humphries, I gave up on the Today programme long ago.

    The licence fee is a poll tax and should be abolished and I say that approaching 75 when I get my free one. It is wrong and dates from when the BBC was an experimental broadcaster 2LO?

  25. Tim Almond
    August 15, 2009

    What was David Cameron’s reponse to Daniel Hannan’s ideas? To declare them as “eccentric”.

    I’ve not looked into the Singapore system which Hannan wants us to replicate, but it does seem to have excellent results at low cost, so to call them “eccentric” is absurd. I’d have welcomed David Cameron commenting on the problems of the Singapore system, perhaps explaining why they won’t work here, rather than just falling into line with the quasi-religious lovefest over the NHS.

  26. Jonathan
    August 15, 2009

    What I don’t understand is the idea that the NHS is the One True Way, and that anyone who speaks out against it is an evil sub-human being who wants to deny health care to the poor and to those of average means.

    It is perfectly possible to believe, as I do, that the government should ensure that health care is available to everyone who needs it, and at the same time to believe that the NHS is not doing a particularly good job of achieving that objective.

    It is almost as if the NHS has replaced the Church of England as the state religion in this country.

  27. christian
    August 15, 2009

    Excellent article John – the NHS furore has perfectly well illustrated the BBC’s function as the Labour party’s broadcasting arm. They appear incapable of conducting any discussion with a Conservative politician into anything other than a desperate search for a negative soundbite. There are occasional twitches in the other direction. Evan Davies, for one, usually tries to interject some corrective comments when Labour politicians are in full flow. This is very much the exception rather than the rule, perhaps because he understands economics, the vast majority of the BBC crowd are totally clueless, and just lap up what they are fed. Labour are “good”. Tories are “bad”.

    However, we have to live with it. This makes it extremely difficult for me to know what David Cameron stands for. I know what Labour stand for – the naked pursuit of power at the expense of any intellectual honesty, consistency, decency or responsibility.

    Unfortunately I suspect the Tories are learning to be the same.

  28. Chris H
    August 15, 2009

    It is vital (oh that word again!) that the Conservatives don’t rip themselves into shreds over this NHS lark, or indeed any other issue. Now is not the time, because it won’t be many more months before election preparations will have to start, and they must be ready to do battle. A chink in the blue armour now could be fatal.

    Mainstream media is out of control, they will do exactly what they like and say what they like, to create an atmosphere for a dirty election next year. There isn’t anyone out there in authority to stop them. We need to allow the media and NuLabour to continue making themselves look stupid and manipulative; at the same time, we could do with having the masses waking up to the fact that they themselves are just the rag that is tied in the middle of a tug-o-war rope.

  29. Bazman
    August 15, 2009

    Early riser John? Farming today is indeed an informative and interesting radio programme giving interesting points and opinions and it’s on the BBC, so is Chris Moyles if you want something a 10 year old boy would find puerile. Both far superior than the local commercial radio shows. Could always get the same banality from local BBC Radio station. What a choice. Turning the BBC into Sky would be a great blow for British democracy as would turning the NHS into a private system. Any attempts to do this would make the road tolls look as popular as free petrol and chips.

  30. arthurgreenwood
    August 15, 2009

    The Conservatives should not rely on winning the next election (if there is one) just because they are not New Labour.
    We will need to know:

    WHAT they are going to do

    WHEN they are going to do it

    WHO is going to do it

    and WHY.

  31. Richard
    August 15, 2009

    The furore which Labour have succeeded in whipping up would not have been possible without the active support and connivance of the BBC. The Today programme led on this ‘story’, Thought for the Day was even given over to it, an interview with a doctor, ostensibly on swine flu, hit this topic, and 60% of the World at One was given over to the issue. The BBC is actively searching for ways to assist Labour in distorting and discrediting Conservatives. Its time to recognise this publicly.

  32. A Griffin
    August 15, 2009

    Conservative politicians could try and take charge of the media interviews by a process of only co-operating with the ‘meaningful debate’ part. It would soon become apparent to the public that the opponents were being rude when they are ignored. At the moment whenever Labour starts it’s mud-slinging childish debate, D.C. etc. rush out to try and clean up the mess. I think it would be better if they let the public see the mud go all over them and to calmly and patiently continue in a polite adult fashion, and on their own terms.They would then look heroic!. This would show the public that they were in charge even when not in power. A policy of non-co-operation can be very powerful ( think of Ghandi or striking workers). After all, the best way to deal with bullies or badly behaved children is to ignore them. Health and Education remain potentially toxic subjects but might become cleansed once out in the open as the recent ‘cuts’ issue was.The public might become interested in policy if thinking is evident. If the BBC is biased then all of you schould stop going on it. They would then have to explain to the public or change their ways.

  33. Mike Stallard
    August 15, 2009

    In a true parliamentary democracy, Parliament would be the place to discuss the future of the NHS. A motion could be put down and discussed sensibly, quietly and with enough time by doctors, financiers, lawyers, patients and media people, all of whom were MPs from a background outside Westminster.
    Because we had elected those people, we, the public, would accept their verdict whether or not is was pleasant to us personally.

    We do not live in a true parliamentary democracy, though. The Labour Party under Gordon Brown dictates what the party line is. Anyone who disagrees with the Orders at Cabinet gets shouted at. Or leaves (a lot of women in the Cabinet). It is quite obvious from Newsnight that a lot of the ministers have been given instructions on exactly what to say and they say it without thinking. Angela Eagle is a classic. Parliament consists of obedient MPs who are herded into the lobbies as the Prime Minister dictates, very often without even bothering to turn up to discuss and listen to the arguments.
    The Opposition, of course, is run by a would-be Prime Minister whose word is law and who says what the party must do. One day, he will be in the same position as Gordon Brown.
    Most of the time, as our host remarks very frequently, there is no time for real discussion and a lot of the time, as our host remarked, parliament is not sitting.
    So, for a lot of the time, no discussion is possible anyway.

    More tactful people, like David Davis or Frank Field, abdicate.
    People like Dan Hannan who spend a lot of time being insulted for their views on their own blog and who are brave enough to think for themselves (with Douglas Carswell’s support) and to speak out, are a menace to this system. They are, therefore, violently attacked by Labour, and abandoned by the conservatives.
    But that does not stop them telling a lot of truth, if they can, and being very largely right most of the time.

    This blog is (rightly) very popular. Dan Hannan’s has even more comment, though, by a lot of thoughtful people. And about half of them attack him quite openly.
    His book on freeing Britain in a best seller.

    If you do not discuss things in parliament properly, things get discussed anyway. Then you can either not listen or violently suppress their thought. Fascism is then just round the corner. And, of course, Fascism is inefficient because even geniuses like the EU Commissioners or Mr Marcos cannot be right all the time.

    Alan Duncan? Who he?

  34. MarkJ
    August 15, 2009

    Mr Redwood,

    I urge you to correspond with David cameron and the rest of your fellow MP’s to stop the in-fighting and get on with the job in hand – winning the next election. The in-fighting that has been made public within the last couple of days will further add substance to Gordon Brown’s claims that the Tories are not fit to be in Government. We do not want this, what we want is a party united in moving Britain forward and reversing the awful policies made by a Labour Government.

    The following ponts below are what the electorate are most concerned about and expect a future Tory Government is work toward once in power:

    1) A united Government
    2) A Government committed to giving us value for money in the public services, whilst maintaining or improving upon present service levels.
    3) Stop the bureaucrats in the EU from taking over the running of this country.
    4) Stop unreguated immigration and state benefits that are automatically handed out to immigrants (even going so far to warn potential ilegals in Sanate that they won’t get a penny out of us if they arrive).
    5) Reversing the benefits culture that risen on a dramatic scale under the last 12 years of a Labour Government.
    6) Getting our near 3 million unemployed people back into work.

  35. […] John Redwood thinks this week has been a very bad week for […]

  36. ManicBeancounter
    August 15, 2009

    This is yet another example of where the primary campaign thrust of a sitting government is to undermine the opposition. This can only mean that they are preparing for a long period in opposition.
    You are quite right that democracy needs open and public debate. I would also say that effective service delivary needs to be dynamic and from multiple sources. Monolithic, fixed structures, are incompatible with meeting the complex and diverse needs of millions of people, in an area of rapid advance in knowledge and technology. This is why we have one of the worst records of healthcare amoungst the rich countries. By blocking debate, the Labour party are wasting billions, wasting the talents of the healthcare professionals and costing lives.

  37. Johnny Norfolk
    August 15, 2009

    John ” level headed way ” and BBC do not go together.

  38. Adrian Peirson
    August 16, 2009

    I don’t think you understand, they are not lying, they are deciding what the truth is, there is a difference, especially when you can back up the Truth with a Police state and, if necessary, the civil contingencies bill.

    These Communists are DEADLY serious.

  39. Martin
    August 16, 2009

    I regret to say that democracy in this country is long gone. One only has to walk down most High Streets and take a (hopefully furtive) look at the number of cameras. This country has a degree of surveillance and nasty laws that Stalin and Hitler would be proud of.

    s.44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is used by Kent police when they have nothing to really arrest people for (see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/22/kent_police/ for details).

    Other similar laws come crawling out of Westminster under the pretext of terrorism or something similar. Yes we need laws about these matters but they should be restricted to specialised police units.

  40. Andrew Gately
    August 16, 2009

    I don’t agree with Dan Hannan but find it refreshing that someone will give an alternative view to the status quo. The disappointing thing is that no one is willing to debate the points made and instead it turns into a silly debate about who loves the NHS the most.

  41. Andrew Gately
    August 16, 2009

    Unfortunately when you have someone with an authoritarian style of debate (Brown) v someone with an intellectual style of debate (Hannan) the authoritarian style usually wins.

    Brown will be delighted at getting his revenge on Hannan for his famous speach in the European parliament.

  42. Adrian Peirson
    August 16, 2009

    If the (terrorists-ed) hadn’t blown those tube trains up, the Govt would have had to (have found another excuse-ed) to bring in all these Laws, nothing happens by accident, and I think this comment is way too long.

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