Monday, May 14, 2007

10 years on

Everyone else is busy summing up the last 10 years of Blair. Let's have a go.

Labour's achievements over the past 10 years are extraordinary: Northern Ireland, a national minimum wage, a nationwide ban on smoking indoors, devolved power to Mayors and Scotland/Wales/NI, gay equality and civil parsnips, the EU convention on Human Rights, Bank of England independence with consistent economic stability / growth, record investment in public services, some reform of the House of Lords..

The buts are Iraq, constant attacks on and weakening of civil liberties, a poor record on climate change, countless bungled IT projects, decreased social mobility, the increase in faith schools and other undesirable mixing of religion and state, the allegations of cash-for-honours and the dropping of that Saudi investigation..

Expansive lists for both 'good' and 'bad'. But then a lot changes in 10 years: the domain '' wasn't registered until 10 years this September.

More than all the details: Labour has shifted the political centre of gravity such that never again can the Tories (or anybody else) be the repressive, pessimistic, nationalistic force for evil they once were. Blair was the first post-war Prime Minister not seeming to long for a mythical 1950s sobriety and propriety. He embraced the 21st century, a product of our times. They say his achievements can be summed up in one word: Cameron.

I grew up under this government, a Labour government, a progressive government - I fear it will shape my expectations and imagination for years to come.

As Thatcher before him, Blair is the best statesman of his generation and, unusually, was empowered to reach some of that potential. I won't miss the spin, the doomed international ventures and the unanswered questions but I'll admit it: I'll miss him.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Nazi style

The kind of reaction to anything positive, no matter how carefully caveated, about the Nazis annoys me..

Bryan Ferry apologizes for Nazi comments

Why is it not allowed to admire Nazi iconography, uniforms and speeches - call it their brand if you will - while fully understanding the intense evilness of their endeavour and hating the fact they existed?

There's no contradiction here. From Prince Harry to the GQ Editor mentioned there, I wish people were given the benefit of the doubt and not pounced on by Press/NGO wolves at the slightest wrong move.

If we're not able to talk about it, admire some bits and despise others, how are we to learn about it? Censoring the discussion does nobody any favours.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb

London and political history connections:
  • In the 19th century, one 'Sidney Webb' was educated at Birkbeck College.
  • Birkbeck's motto is 'In nocte consilium', Study by Night.
  • Sidney and his wife Beatrice set up the Fabian Society in 1884.
  • In 1895, they created the London School of Economics (via a donation to the Fabian society).
  • Not content with founding two great intellectual institutions that continue to this day.. in 1913 they started the magazine the New Statesman.
  • They were closely involved with the Co-operative movement.
  • Famous co-ops: Lurpak butter, Best Western hotels, Brittany Ferries, Ocean Spray cranberry juice.
Pretty impressive CV if you ask me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Webcameron coverage of the MMC rally

It really is a horribly cringe-making speech at our rally..

"There must be a way of treating people as if they're humans, not making them apply via a computer" .
I really think the biggest employer in Europe could do with a (decent) computerised job-application system. He alludes to the idea that we'll go back to warm and fuzzy reputation/tradition-based recruiting, but he knows they need a computer system to do it. He doesn't deal with that head-on, he trots out a glib 'HUMANS NOT COMPUTERS' line.

"Spending not on political priorities ahead of clinical priorities"
Pretty much any decision in the NHS, given it involves allocating taxpayers money, is political. Is he advocating lower accountability to voters?

"Spending money on computers rather than patient care."
I mean you can't lose with that one can you? 'I HAVE A PATIENT DYING OVER HERE!' 'Why don't you buy an iPod?' 'BUT HE'S DYING!' 'It plays movies too!'

But what about when you can't access the right records, when paper-based admin takes 4 x longer than its electronic equvalent? IT reform is urgently needed in the NHS and failing to acknowledge that reality to make a fluffy/telling you what you want to hear statement is cowardice.

"After 10 years of Labour .. we're having hospital closures"
Yes, but to specialise departments so that they serve people better. The era of the 'general hospital' is over and the very professionals Cameron is claiming to listen to are saying that too. Spending on the NHS itself is at record-levels and the Conservatives will never support that.