CCHQ on the move

CCHQ is on the move this week from it's Victoria Street headquarters. 

The office will shut at close of play this Thursday and re-open on Tuesday 6th March at 30 Millbank.

No more latte's for me at the Starbucks on Victoria Street then!

Post Bush, Where Will the Christian Right Turn For Leadership?

Giuliani and McCain are not names that trip easily off the tongues of those on the American Christian Right.  They are usually accompanied with an uncertain look or even a scornful remark.  Yet these two, Senator John McCain of Arizona and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, are comfortably in front for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Neither of them inspires confidence in the Christian Right, McCain for his acrimonious and often public spats with President Bush and Giuliani for his liberal views on gay marriage and abortion. Another prominent candidate, Mitt Romney, is treated with equal suspicion due to his publicly declaring himself a “pro choice” politician in a former life as Governor of Massachusetts.  With none of these figures being able to claim the backing of the Christian Right, and with time already running out, where will the group that elevated George Bush to the presidency in 2000 and 2004 turn for its standard bearer in 2008?

Several names have been proposed although, with the exception of one, none of them have national name recognition and all draw disapproving glances from various sections of the Republican Right.  One name mentioned is that of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.  Unlike Giuliani and McCain, he has a clear conservative record, although he is barely known outside of his state and does not seem interested in running. Representative Duncan Hunter of California and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee both lack name recognition and draw criticism for their support for protectionist measures and taxation policy respectively.  That leaves Senator Sam Brownback as being the only candidate with some national name recognition.  Though he favours tighter abortion controls, he is roundly booed for his support of the president’s temporary guest worker programme. 

All this leaves the Republicans with “no outstanding conservative” for the 2008 election and has, according to Paul Weyrich, chairman of Free Congress Foundation, contributed to a “great anxiety” amongst Conservatives.  They fear a repeat of the 1996 election, when they were faced with a ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ situation, only marginally favouring the Republican candidate Bob Dole over President Clinton. Getting what Gary Bauer, a former Republican primary candidate himself, calls a “provable conservative” who can also demonstrate that “they can put together the resources necessary to prevail” is proving extremely difficult, and with the early front-runners being picked as the Republican candidate in seven of the last ten elections, catching Giuliani and McCain looks even more unlikely.

What is likely is that, from the Christian Right’s perspective, the Republican nominee for the 2008 race will not be “one of us”, and equally that they will not enjoy the same support from this powerful group that twice pushed George Bush into the White House. 

Anton Muszanskyj

Degradation of higher education

“I am an enthusiastic graduate with a 2.2 in Cultural Studies, offering impressive interpersonal skills thanks to cheerleading socials every Wednesday chatting up the lads from the A-side football Team

This is becoming the CV of a typical graduate. Between lines prompted by careers advisors to conjure impressive reading, there is a barrage of tripe. “Very sociable” means a person who was the highlight of drinking circles, gulping down cheap beer until they attained “liver damage”. Unconventional courses with lower grade requirements has made university a three-year summer camp, four for those wishing to pursue non-native beers.

A graduate was once viewed with high regard. Banks, engineers and law firms recruited those who had dedicated exhausting years to study. Now, a bachelors from an average university is no indication of intellectual ability.

The degradation of the degree stems from Labour’s obsession with raising the number of 18 year olds attending universities. C-grade Charlie need not study for an NVQ- he can do a BA instead. Just offer easier courses: tourism management or fashion studies. Sadly, the deluge of average-ability teenagers has made employers believe that the whole undergraduate experience is no longer an achievement.

“Equality of opportunity” is one motor behind increasing numbers. The economic model Fordism taught the US that mass production gave the working classes the opportunity to buy the commodities of the rich at a cheaper price. But the result: deterioration in American culture.  Disneyland now epitomizes it. British education is undergoing a similar process. Labour has given the masses the opportunity to acquire higher-level education. The outcome: a pool of meagre and unimpressive qualifications. 

Brown has frightened people into believing that more people must study at university to ensure their employability in the services industry. A 40 per cent rise in our highly qualified workforce is needed by 2020. If not, we are doomed. China big. We small. But what he fails to say is that these new courses could be provided at colleges as vocational courses. 

It’s only common sense that we want the reverse of Labour’s creation: a better valued higher education system. One based on the admission of a smaller intellectual elite is the answer. And fewer numbers means less demand for resources, and thus the removal of the need for top-up fees. Employers would be confident they are hiring intelligent young people, as well as those who aren’t up to their eyeballs in debt.

Ryan Shorthouse

Is the Genocode Conventition worth the paper it's written on?

On February 26th 2007 The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest UN court cleared Serbia of any direct responsibility for the genocide in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. However the court ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995 constituted genocide, and that Serbia failed to stop the genocide.

This news was met, perhaps with some relief, by the Serbian President, Boris Tadic, although he recognised that “The very difficult part of the verdict is that Serbia did not do all it could to prevent genocide”. The news was not met favourably by the Bosnian Muslims who were the victims of the atrocities, especially the mothers and wives of the 8,000 victims of Srebrenica.

This was the first time that an entire state had been charged of genocide, and the case was a true landmark in internal law and human rights. Although it is perhaps not surprising however that the ICJ has failed to convict Serbia, it does raise real questions about how this undermines the UN Genocide Convention and whether the impunity shown by those who commit genocide can continue.

In Article III (e) of the Genocide Convention it states that complicity in genocide should be punished. The ICJ has declared that Serbia failed to prevent or stop, i.e. was complicit, yet no punishment has been taken. Events in Bosnia and also in Rwanda in 1994 showed that the international community failing to act and failing to use the Genocide Convention to prevent and effectively punish the “crime of crimes”. This Serbia ruling and the continued impunity of Ratko Mladic, the main perpetrator of Srebrenica, adds more weight to the argument that the genocide convention is not taken seriously anymore.

If the convention is no longer taken seriously, perpetrators are still at large, and complicit states can escape conviction what is actually stopping the Janjaweed in Darfur from killing more and more? The examples of Bosnia and Rwanda show that the international community do not want to intervene and the convention is no longer an enforcing document. Sudan will now see this Serbia ruling by the ICJ as a sign that, if they continue not to prevent the Janjaweed committing atrocities in Darfur, they are unlikely to suffer any conviction.

Peter Coulson

Brown? Miliband? Meacher? – I suppose Bremner it is then

It’s scuffles all around this week with various political faces banging their fists and asserting their claims to power. Across the pond Hilary Clinton is zealously keen to fight dirty with her opponents, whether it be Giuliani or her “fellow” Democrats Obama and Edwards. In France all seemed calm with a relatively dignified contest between the front-runners Sarkozy and Royal. That was until they were rattled by country bumpkin Francois Bayrou, who has managed to tiptoe his way into the spotlight.  Italy’s political seesaw finally worked its magic for Berlusconi (not to mention his wallet), when his rival Romano Prodi was forced to step as prime minister last week after a defeat in parliament.

And it seems that things are also hotting up for Labour as thoughts increasingly turn to the uncertain future of the party’s leadership. But are they really hotting up? To be honest, no. In fact, it seems that Labour is riddled with such a lack of enthusiasm that a political tumbleweed is working its way through the entire party. Following last weeks Guardian/ICM poll the Tories were given a sizeable 13 point lead, when a portion of the prospective electorate were asked which party they would support in the likely contest between Brown, Cameron and Liberal Democrat, Sir Menzies Campbell. Obviously, this threw both the party and its supporters into disarray, but the party has, as the saying goes, made their bed and now they must lie in it.

There has been talk of genuine concern amongst the party, but confusingly, few solutions are emerging and apart from firm negative mumbles here and there, in the face of this disquiet the party is remaining, well, quiet.  With criticism of Brown’s plans for leadership rife, there have been calls for a ‘proper’ leadership election, with a challenger of Cabinet rank. But who? According to former minister Frank Field, Brown is out of the question, not that the Chancellor would feel encouraged after hearing Field’s comparison of him to Mrs Rochester, a violent lunatic bent on escaping from her attic and burning her husband to death. Next to consider is Michael Meacher, the former (sacked) environment minister, who was described by fellow MP Stephen Pound as a ‘faintly ridiculous character’ who would only succeed in suffering humiliation. Finally, there’s Miliband, fresh-faced, yet uninterested in leadership, claiming that he is happy in supporting Brown, and it’s a similar story with Jack Straw.

To me it sounds like a deafening silence. With so much intra-party cynicism, I am surprised at Peter Hain’s recent accusations against Rory Bremner. He could even be quite a commendable politician: an eager listener and talker, open to discussions on party politics and enthusiastic to bond with government ministers. To be honest, with Labour’s current selection, we might be onto a winner.

Eva Krysiak

Government paid £57 million last year in benefits to dead people

What more can I say?

According to Philip Hammond,  "It is obscene that this government can pay out £57m to the deceased when so many vulnerable families and pensioners are experiencing real hardship."

House selling – who would do it?

I come to ask myself why is selling a house such a painful process in this country. Why can't you name your price, let people come round, they make an offer and if acceptable that's an end to it.

The Government considered then reconsidered the issue of Sellers packs in an attempt to protect buyers – but what is there in place to protect the honest seller. My house went on the market around 8 months ago. In fact in the time it has probably only been on the market for about 14 days. I accepted an offer literally 3 days after it first went on the market. A young couple who apparently had no chain (as I didn't) put an offer I accepted. 4 months later I find out they are in the middle of an IVA process (you must have seen the recent TV ads about restructuring debt) and that the wife was selling a house to her husband – thereby in itself creating a chain. So the house went back on the market – and again the second person to see the house put an acceptable offer in.

This time I was told the lady in question had been divorced and the money from that was with her solicitor and she would just need a small mortgage. Again no chain – so I was happy to accept. 2 months later with no survey done I decided to ask a few questions. It appears that in actual fact she hadn't got a mortgage yet as the money from the divorce wasn't sorted and that would be sorted in court in something like 16 weeks time. So yet again my house goes back on the market.

Personal experience now begs me to ask the question why can't there be a system in this country whereby if an offer is accepted, some sort of deposit is paid to stop people wasting time and pulling out of deals. I am usually minded to believe less legislation is usually the way forward however personal experience really does lead me to believe that to make the house buying process easier in this country there really need to be a few changes to our current system which quite frankly doesn't work for either side – buyer or seller.

They say buying and selling a house can be one of the most stressful times of your life. I now have a few more grey hairs than I used to have, and a house that is now back on the market.

Trouble in the ranks for Gordon Brown?

BBC News online are reporting that ex ministers Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn have written an email to all Labour MPs urging for an open debate on the party's future. Apparently such a move has been Ok'd by the Brown team, but given recent polls suggesting that a Brown led party would be further behind in the polls than under Blair does it really matter what the Brown camp thinks.

Is there still the possibility of a Milburn challenge I wonder.

Labour MP has nothing better to do?

ConservativeHome reports that Labour MP Stephen Hepburn has tabled an EDM calling for the removal of the Thatcher statue from Parliament. Clearly the man has nothing better to do. I'm sure it really is going to be the issue which people will vote on come the next election is his constituency. Mind you he has signed other EDMs such as this one which again I'm sure is just what his constituents really care about!

Labour leadership election – all over bar the shouting?

It doesn’t really matter which political philosophy you subscribe to – the contests for the positions of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party have unearthed a wonderful spectrum of views on everyone and everything involved in it.  Several commentators think that a Gordon Brown victory is a foregone conclusion, whereas others believe that the contest is still in its infancy.  Some analysts are enthralled by the fight for the Deputy Leadership, whereas a handful of columnists in the Sunday papers have made a point of stating how completely disinterested they are in that particular squabble.  Some have praised Hazel Blears’ attempt to ‘reach out’ to the world with a YouTube video and a Facebook profile, whereas others simply cannot contain their laughter.  The question of whether the Conservative Party should be even remotely worried about whose leadership bid is ultimately successful is another means of effortlessly dividing political opinion.

So what are we to make of it?  Should the Labour Party appoint a leader who might be able to challenge David Cameron at the next election, or should they elect someone with little short-term potential but with the attributes to spark a Labour revival in the long run?  Many pundits see Gordon Brown as the only candidate who has the experience and profile necessary to make David Cameron work hard for victory in the election.  Nevertheless, Gordon Brown should relish a meaningful leadership contest, as it will provide him with an ideal opportunity to use the media and other MPs as the springboard for his life-long ambition of becoming Prime Minister.  Without a genuine challenge, some might feel that he was chosen due to a dearth of alternatives rather than as the deserved winner of an open debate about which direction the party should now choose.

Having said this, one could also argue that a clear, unanimous victory for Gordon Brown would send out a clear and unequivocal message to the party, and perhaps more importantly to the British public, that the Labour Party fully support him as he strives to take the country forward.  The gaping divisions in the Labour Party are incredibly damaging to the public’s confidence in them and a comprehensive victory for Brown may go some way to repairing old wounds rather than opening new ones, which they would risk through a drawn-out and bitter leadership contest.  How the Conservative Party would react to Gordon Brown’s appointment remains to be seen.

Tom Richmond

Editors comment – Below – Blears Campaign video – what a street urchin.

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