They say you get the politicians you deserve. But that adage originates with Thomas Jefferson who was unaware of the modern-day television interview. Increasingly, political interviewers ask questions in a form designed to put the interviewee in an embarrassing position, rather than to elicit information that might help the audience. Take this example put to Rishi Sunak …
Category: Economics, Politics & Regulation
Can there ever be a National Health Solution?
We have been here before. In 1997, the Blair government took over an NHS widely seen as being in a mess. Their decision to involve the private sector through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) was far from a success. The contracts were, with hindsight, often over-priced, feeding the notion that private healthcare is only ever a rip-off. But state control of hospitals isn’t working either.
It’s that man again – both of them
Pannick in Downing Street as Boris faces contempt charge
Blow me down with a feather. Boris Johnson and Lord Pannick QC have teamed up in a way, and at a time, that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps no one did! It would be more than I could bear not to weigh in on the subject of this unexpected coupling. I don’t think you should blame me for doing so. I hope that some of you might even welcome it.
No way to choose a Prime Minister
An important decision is being made in a very ham-fisted way. It doesn’t have to be like this. Frankly, it shouldn’t be like this.
Pretty much everyone seems to think the Chancellor’s wife got it wrong. But why?
When companies generate income around the world but are found to pay little tax in the UK, there is frequently an outcry that tax should be paid in the countries where the profits are generated, not the country where the company has its home. But when an individual does the same thing – the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Akshata Murty, for example, taking advantage of the so-called “non-domicile” status – there is an outcry for the opposite to happen.
Totally out of proportion
My Twitter feed contains way too many comments about proportional representation (PR). It’s my fault. I follow the wrong people. But a few weeks ago, I received a Christmas card from a treasured friend with a PR message in it. That was too much. (You know who you are. This post is for you. Everyone else can read on or skip past, just as they wish.)
We need more “liars” in Parliament
It is well-known that MPs are not allowed to call each other “liars” in the House of Commons. When Labour MP, Dawn Butler, used the term in July of this year to describe the Prime Minister, she was asked by the chair of the debate to “reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks”. Ms Butler refused. The chair promptly ordered the MP to leave the House for the rest of the day, citing Standing Order 43.
There is nothing wrong with the Standing Order. It deals with “grossly disorderly” conduct. But there is a problem in the notion that MPs shouting and baying at each other, drowning out each other’s words, as happens frequently, is not a gross disorder, but quietly and patiently pointing out a lie is.
Enemies of the Press?
The Daily Mail is at it again. In 2016, they famously labelled three Court of Appeal judges as “Enemies of the People” for ruling that an important decision had to be referred to Parliament. Today, they accuse three (different) Appeal judges of unleashing “a dark day for truth and free expression” by undermining “the right to rigorously test in court the evidence in any given case” – a right which “has, over the centuries, become one of the cornerstones of a civilised society.”
Who’s sovereign now?
Words matter. That’s why we keep misquoting them. When criticising politicians, accuracy is treated as an optional extra. Faultfinders find it so much more fun, it seems, to repeat a misquote if, by doing so, they can make the powerful look silly.
When the public interest is no defence
Owen Paterson was not an innocent man, but he seems to have convinced himself that he was and – for a while, at least – he persuaded the Conservative hierarchy that his case provided ammunition to criticise the Parliamentary Standards process. The principles at issue are straightforward enough for most people to conclude that Paterson had done wrong. And yet the rules are complex enough for him to believe, fervently, that he had not and, worse, that the system had mistreated him. But it is not too difficult to pick one’s way through the conflicting arguments to see what lies within.