Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I've been feeling like a Judas since writing 13 Labour achievements, so it's now time to look at 13 failings. I'm suspecting this article will be far easier - and more enjoyable - to write. Some people say they're concerned people have short-term memories and have forgotten Thatcherism, but I'm more concerned that people have short-term memories and have forgotten the failures of the past 13 years, so I think we could all do with a reminder of some.

1. 24 hour drinking

Remember back in 2005 when Labour decided we needed to become more French? The government was concerned about the culture of British binge drinking - a valid concern - and decided that if we could all drink throughout the day, we wouldn't guzzle it all down in one go and get blotto. The cynic in me - it's a big cynic - says it was all a pre-election attempt to woo young voters and students by liberalising drink laws, whilst the other bit of me says they just got it wrong. Firstly, it wasn't really given a chance to work, since only 1,000 pubs and clubs were given 24 hour licences, so if the government really believed it would help, they didn't put it into practice very well. Having said that, over 50,000 had their hours extended. In the eyes of those of us less enthusiastic about the nature of the types of people who binge drink, it was doomed to fail from the start; just giving teens and twenties the chance to wolf down poison for longer. Even Labour MPs have occasionally acknowledged that it didn't work, and the government sought to take action to allow councils to ban 24 hour drinking in certain areas, but then apparently changed their mind again. An act of indecisiveness by this government? Unheard of!

2. The Iraq War

Ho-hum, this one has been done to death, but I couldn't possibly leave it out of  an article about failures. My primary qualm with this one is that Tony Blair and his cronies deliberately colluded to present only the case for war, with no against. Even Alastair Campbell was called in to help make sure the dodgy dossier was as dodgy as possible. The second qualm is that the invasion didn't have UN backing, and was perhaps even illegal - lawyers can't seem to agree amongst themselves. Thirdly, by acting as lapdog to the USA and invading Iraq, we set ourselves up to become the target of terrorism, and destabilised the Middle East in the process of doing so, now resulting in everyone getting their knickers in a twist over Iran. I wonder if their WMDs are real or imaginary.

3. Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs)

These seem to have been a complete and utter failure. Those who genuinely deserve to be punished for being scumbags end up getting an ASBO, which at most results in a short spell in prison. This doesn't do any good other than give them a badge of honour to show their equally scummy mates, and helps them to pick up some advice from other criminals before being chucked back on the street with no prospects (no, I'm not doing the wishy-washy 'it's society's fault' thing, but we ought to try to make use out of scumbags). Various other undeserving people have been slapped with ASBOs, such as the Scottish chap banned from public laughing.

4. No referendum

The 2005 Labour manifesto contained a commitment to giving the public a referendum on the European Constitution, but the French and Dutch rejected it in their referendums, so it was forgotten about for a while. However, it later returned with some minor changes and a different name, which meant Labour could wiggle their way out of giving the public the referendum they promised us. There's a good little video on it, by the way - it even features the wonderful Tony Benn. Saying we don't need a referendum on a document that is effectively the same simply because the title changed is one of the most childish, patronising things this government has done, which is certainly saying something.

[caption id="attachment_431" align="alignleft" width="248" caption="After reforming the Lords, Labour sezied the opportunity to make some money."][/caption]

5. Cash for honours

House of LordsNo sooner had they removed most of the hereditary Peers, they began to rub their hands together at the prospect of making money by selling peerages to the wealthy. This, as I saw someone comment on a forum or news story somewhere, adds more credence to trusting empiricism, and not rushing into changing things. Again, the cynic in me comes out and says that the Lords was only reformed at all because the party knew they could make some dosh out of it. To get around having to declare the donations, the sums of money were disguised as loans. They've given me little other reason to suggest that it was a genuine desire to make the UK's political system fairer.

6. Losing our data

I have memories of the past few years of listening to LBC whilst being chauffeured to school by my Dad (not as glamorous as it sounds - he then drove off to spend the day fixing cars) and being shocked seemingly every few weeks at incompetence of the government in keeping our data safe. Since they're so fond of databases, you wouldn't think it would be too much to ask for them to not copy it to memory sticks and leave them lying around. Let's just remind ourselves of how bad it was: 1, 2, 3, 4. Brown said in 2007 "the idea that we are complacent about this is quite ridiculous." Apparently not that ridiculous at all, since you did it again, and again, and again.

7. Giving up our rebate

Some more EU-anger for you. Thatcher in 1984 managed to secure a rebate on Britain's payments to the EU, declaring, in typical Iron Lady style "I want my money back". (It wasn't your money though, dear -it was the taxpayers'.) When Labour came to power, Blair was all to happy to give up a chunk of this rebate to please his European pals, and get nothing in return for doing so. We could always rely on that Blair to stand up for British interests.

8. Selling the gold

I bet you groaned when you read that title, because it's been brought up so often recently, particularly by the Conservatives. However, if you're unfamiliar with this, I'll briefly outline it: the British gold reserves were sold off at a low price by Gordon Brown - then Chancellor. Not only was it a bad decision because it meant less money was made, but it also throws into the water the claim of the Labour party that Gordy B is an economic mastermind. I don't care that's relatively minor in the grand scheme of things - even I, as a mathematically challenged and economically woeful fool, would have gauged that the price of gold had fallen, and I wouldn't have sold it off. Heck, maybe I'd  have been really radical not sold it at all, and instead would have kept it in case things got bad - hence it's called 'gold reserves' and not 'gold ready to be sold off because Labour wants to throw more money at problems'. The former is far more catchy, anyway.

9. Unfair devolution

The English Democrats would be proud of me. I'm not a big fan of devolving power to some parts of the country and not others, but my real qualm with this is that the Scottish Parliament gets more than its fair share of funding, and Scottish MPs are still allowed to vote on legislation that only affects England. I was pleased to see the Conservative manifesto said it was going to tackle the latter of those issues. Nobody talks about this topic better than Gary Bushell, and he's waiting below to talk to you:

10. The Olympics

It seems that everyone and their grandmother and her dog are looking forward to the Olympics, but there are a number of us that just see it as yet more expense and hassle. Yes, it might be nice to go and watch some events, but thanks to the EU, we've got hardly any chance. If the original cost weren't bad enough, it's just kept rising and rising. Besides, Tessa Jowell is the minister responsible for it - need I say more? It's true that the government wasn't that heavily involved in winning the bid, but they have been responsible for allocating funds, etc. to it, so it's no surprise it's over budget.

11. Bureaucracy and NHS failings

Record investment in the NHS. But a large chunk of that investment goes into managers and all their pen-pushing jobs that don't help the hospital or the patients. The money that's been spent on employing thousands of management staff could be far better used on front-line staff and equipment that are actually needed. Whilst the various targets have improved things on paper, a report on the NHS said such things as "Managers crowded in patients in order to meet waiting-time targets and, in the process, lost sight of the fundamental hygiene requirements for infection prevention." We've lost touch with the purpose of the NHS, and ended up with a ballooned and top-heavy service that's become more concerned with meeting targets and ticking boxes than providing a good service to patients. This doctor paints a similar picture.

12. Immigration

Yes, it's useful, yes we need some immigrants, but immigration ballooned under Labour, contributing to our rising population and additional pressure on public services and transport. It's not just the fact that Labour had a very liberal policy towards immigration that annoys me, but it's also their dismissal of criticism and their u-turn.Firstly, recent documents revealed a behind-the-scenes plot to get more immigrants in the country because the government decided they wanted a multicultural society. They've also spent much of their time dismissing as racist or raving right-wingers anyone who tries to raise valid points about the problems mass immigration causes. But, lo and behold, they've done an about turn now in a vain attempt to avoid losing the vote of the working class and anyone else who is concerned about immigration. It's cringeworthy to see Labour MPs pretending to care about the concerns of people about immigration. Especially that awful Ed Balls - I cringe even before he's opened his gob.

I can't help but think the Telegraph article linked above may have hit the nail on the head with its image caption informing us that "Voting trends indicate that migrants and their descendants are much more likely to vote Labour." (I love the Telegraph - if only they'd stop being so pompous and convert to tabloid size like all the others, I'd buy it.)

13. Contempt for democracy and the British people

If nothing else, the recent wash-up of bills was good for something - it showed us that Labour was willing to do something new - it was willing to ram through the contentious Digital Economy Bill in just a few hours, avoiding proper debate and scrutiny. It's not like it ran out of time either; they knew it would get shown up for the mess it was if they let it have proper scrutiny, so they waited until the last few days of this Parliament to put it before the House. All governments push through bills in the wash-up stage, but never ones this contentious and with such far-reaching consequences. A statement commonly echoed by MPs during the brief debates went along the lines of "I can't find a precedent for something like this ever happening before." The government treated both the House of Commons with contempt by preventing MPs having a proper debate, and most importantly, the British people, by stamping on the democratic process on such an important bit of legislation. Another example of this was when they reneged on the promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, as outlined earlier in the article.

They've also done a good job of treating us all like mindless idiots, such as Labour's attempts to look like reformers and gain favour with the Lib Dems by trying to push through a referendum on the Alternative Vote  in the dying days of Parliament.

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