I know very little about British politics, but I spent a lot of time watching the committee hearings yesterday and question time today. As a fairly naive spectator, I thought that David Cameron did a decent job overall. By “decent job”, I mean he outperformed the facts of the case by having a plausible answer for each point raised over the last few days, and he danced around the tricky spots pretty artfully. Labour leader Ed Milliband, in contrast, did an awful job. He tried to make a few key points but couldn’t make them crisply, and he generally had nothing like the presence and confidence that Cameron showed. Again, I’m ignorant, but I don’t see how Labour can make any kind of a recovery with that guy running the show.
Even though Cameron did pretty well, there were two topics Cameron ducked consistently: the vetting of Andy Coulson and his personal role in discussions about the BSkyB acquisition. On Coulson, he maintained that the Tories vetted Coulson thoroughly before hiring him, but he refused to name the firm that did it. He also claimed that Coulson received a standard vetting upon being hired at #10. The Guardian reports that both of these claims were pretty transparently false. Coulson got a less thorough vetting than his predecessors in the Brown and Blair cabinets, and the Tory vetting was laughable:
Coulson was also screened by a private company when he started working for the Conservatives in 2007. Asked in the Commons, Cameron refused to name the firm involved.
Electoral Commission returns show that the party last year used Control Risks Screening to vet several staff at a cost of £145.70 per check. If this is the level of vetting undergone by Coulson it is likely to have involved only the most cursory checks of online records.
It sounds like the Tory vetting was the British equivalent of pulling a credit report, which is probably why Cameron didn’t want to go down that road. And the vetting when Coulson was hired at #10 smells like Cameron and his staff didn’t want to know what Coulson had been up to.
More importantly, if Cameron dissembled to hide Coulson’s low-quality vetting, then he must also be hiding something about BSkyB, because that’s the other thing he was slippery and slimy about today.
Also, too: can someone explain why the Liberal Democrats aren’t taking this opportunity to ditch Cameron and flip to Labour, getting more concessions as they go?
There was a 5 year agreement between the conservatives and the liberal democrats at the start of the coalition to prevent exactly the flipping scenario you describe from what my friends in the UK have told me.
Tangentially related, there was a pic of Rebekah Brooks testifying yesterday which immediately caused me to exclaim “It’s Bellatrix LeGrange!”
It’s worth pointing out that for all of Ed’s supposed failings, Labour are ahead in the polls. They might prefer that Ed takes the Ian Duncan Smith role and bows out in favour of either another Ed or another Milliband, but Labour have been doing fine.
I think the Lib Dems have no choice but to continue to prop up the Tories, hope that the economy recovers, and everybody forgets in 2015 what they did in 2010. They can’t fight a general election in the immediate future, because they’ll be decimated. There’s no real way that they could force a vote of no-confidence and then form a new government with Labour. Cameron would have to call a new election.
No Sounders v Man U open thread?
Labour and the LibDems don’t have a majority, they only have 314 of the 650 seats. So somehow they’d have to get support from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parties. Not impossible, but not trivial either.
That agreement was more to prevent the Tories from dumping the LibDems the moment they would be having a majority in the polls.
cuts both ways though doesn’t it?
yeah, that was the other thing that I wanted to confirm with my friend over there; a labour + lib dem coalition is something like 20 seats behind right?
Davis X. Machina
If the LibDems went to the country now, they’d be down to about 9 seats in the West Country. My English friend calls them the SNP (Somerset Nationalist Party).
It’s hard to find an article about Nick Clegg that doesn’t have the phrase ‘mess of pottage‘ in it.
My understanding is that this would probably force an election which would see the LibDems creamed.
Meanwhile, BJ’s favorite British blogger is fluffing Cameron on his blog.
So basically the LibDems are so far down right now that the election that this would force would kill them – makes sense. Thanks for all of you who actually know something about British politics.
Because if the Lib Dems triggered an election, they’d get slaughtered. They’re running substantially behind their election poll numbers. They know this is their only chance at government for a long time, so they’re going to let it ride.
Cameron comes across smoother and MUCH more human than Milbrand. I don’t know how important the leader is in England as opposed to the party, but labor’s going to need a better speaker as leader.
Did you forget to develop the second lie, or rather the tacit admission that he did talk about the BSkyB stuff with the Murcochy crowd only, he insists, that all talks were ‘appropriate’?
Right now I’m having fun running with the financial / Murdoch threads (although I treated myself to some exploring of the Parliamentary website including the thing explaining select committees). Haven’t a clue on politics although I think I read a poll yesterday that still had everyone holding steady even post brouhaha. There was something about it that made me snort: will go try to find it.
Agree on the basic ranking of Cameron v. Miliband today. As much as I liked the exuberant toddler antics combined with people who seem to have verbal dexterity and enjoy wielding it with vim, panache and elan, I really like Keith Vaz, the MP from the home affairs (police oriented) select committee who’s calm and cheerful which comes across as stunningly unexpected against the Romper Room on Corn Syrup Day backdrop they can apparently get going.
Cameron comes across
smootherslicker and MUCH more humanoilier than Milliband.
Cenk Uygur has left @MSNBC and he explains why in this video. Whether you liked him or not, it says so much about what’s wrong with cable news and the “liberal media.”
Found the Poll I was taking of here, what follows is the snorty bit
and here’s a general polling site: ukpollingreport
I strongly suggest that people download the BBC Friday Night comedy shows (iTunes and elsewhere). You get a sense of how ineffective Ed Millibrand and his brother are. Yes, Ed has a brother David.
Doesn’t quite work that way. The Tories and Lib Dems are stuck with each other. Only Cameron could call a new election, and there is no guarantee that a strong Labour Lib Dem coalition would emerge.
Also, Labour kissed Murdoch’s ass big time when they were in power. And the UK equivalent of the financial meltdown, along with MP (member of Parliament) living expense corruption happened during Labour’s control of the government. Labour has an uphill battle with voters to show that they deserve a second chance.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Clegg has to show that he is more than a cynical opportunist. Good luck with that.
The crazy thing is that the Royal family, which previously seemed perched to fade into oblivion, looks to be one of the few British institutions to be relatively free of the taint of corruption.
I first heard of Ed and David Milliband on “The News Quiz” when a panelist remarked how he really used to love their brother Steve. (Took everyone a beat or two.)
You can get the podcasts right from BBC Friday comedy podcast page too. Just about everything I know about UK politics and current events comes from listening to “The Now Show” and “The News Quiz.” I wish we had political comedians that good over here.
According to a Guardian/ICM Research poll that was released on Monday, the phone-hacking scandal has had little effect thus far on public opinion of Britain’s political leaders and parties. The poll was conducted from July 15-17 with a sample of over 1000 adults.
The Conservatives remain the most popular party at 37%; Labor has actually lost ground to 36%. That slight loss has redounded to the Liberal Democrats whose support now registers at 16%, its highest percentage since March.
Among leading politicians, David Cameron enjoys the highest popularity with an approval/disapproval rate of 43/48; Ed Miliband’s ratio is 31/47, a very modest gain in his approval.
As I wrote a couple days ago, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been a pinata ever since his endorsement of higher university fees, repudiating both a personal campaign promise and a long-standing party position. The Liberal Democrats are widely perceived as craven opportunists, abandoning their proud reputation as the alternative to the major parties. They have become the decidedly junior member of a coalition that has slashed support to health services, education, housing, local governance, etc. to a degree far exceeding the so-called reforms campaigned on last year. The rout of LibDem politicians in recent local elections attests to their miserable prospects in the immediate future.
All that being said, Guardian columnist and London City University professor Roy Greenslade wrote a provocative article yesterday urging Clegg to break decisively from a mortally-wounded Cameron. And today, Clegg conducted his first independent press conference since the Millie Dowling chapter of the phone-hacking scandal exploded last week.
It bears monitoring the degree to which Cameron’s evasions and grudging admissions on Andy Coulson and the BSkyB takeover today in Parliament will be scrutinized. Conservatives are hoping that the start of the eight-week parliamentary recess and the agreement on several public investigations into specific aspects of the scandal will see interest wither on the part of the public and the media. This article by Guardian columnist Seamus Milne astutely diagnoses where the matter now stands:
@MikeJ, please no open thread for Sounders-ManU. I couldn’t stand the embarassment.
Of course, there’s always the Mariners…..
And if only to demonstrate that I can write something without linking to the Guardian, I must say that I do disagree with mistermix’s characterization of the respective “performances” by Cameron (‘decent’) and Miliband (‘awful’).
Cameron’s “plausible” answers have already been dissected, generating headlines as to their evasiveness and defensiveness, which in turn promotes questions about his judgment.
Miliband, once perceived as a mere placeholder as Labor leader, has been transformed into a firebrand by this scandal. Insisting early on for public and wide-ranging investigations, he demonstrated keen leadership by channeling public and parliamentary outrage into concrete proposals. During last week’s “Question Time” in Parliament, he tormented Cameron for his tepid and cautious response. If Miliband was less forceful by comparison in today’s session, he has already established himself as the politician who first denounced Murdoch and the baleful role of NewsInternational.
@Dollared: MLS is basically AAAA level compared to Premiership, and putting in your reserves against Manchester United is like fielding a AA team against the Yankees.
I’d say it’s more like the British version of vetting Sarah Palin.
@ Joel. I know. I was watching. And no, I had never seen the guys on the back line for the Sounders before.
Er, I take that back. I probably played against them in pickup at U of Washington when they were in high school. You know, when your 40-something friends bring their kids over to the pickup game, just to have them run rings around the old guys, and then they tell you where their whiz kid is heading on scholarship afterward.
But man, that was embarassing. Hope Wayne Rooney feels good about himself tonight.
FTW and more true than you might think. If you have the Murdochs on your side, do you really need to worry about the other guy’s oppo research? Remember George Bush’s irrelevant desertion and DWI, and how they got no press coverage?
What is really awesome about all this aside from the obvious Murdoch shaming is watching Sully’s Golden Boy go down as just another slick double-talking “compassionate conservative” grifter. You’d think after W he would’ve learned something about these irrational conservative crushes…
handsmile: let’s give a round of thanks to those maintaining the guardian servers.
The comment/evaluation on Milliband.D I found most illuminating is that he’d finally earned the right to take his L-plate off and we’d have to wait and see how he did in future. I’m not getting the impression that he’s consolidated his gains yet. But, see above, I’m off paddling with the financial stuff and am equally out of my depth there.
the lib dems ran a obama-esque feel good election campaign. their core support was young left leaning people who are generally horrified to see them signing up for the full on tory agenda.
They hold a symbolic position, and the younger (and prettier) royals are glamorous figures; but they wield little if any real power. So I suspect there is nothing to gain from buying them.
I may not write here (at least never before), however, I stop by every now and then due to my mild fascination with US politics. As an English fella I have a couple of recommendations for you to check out that you may not have found yet.
Firstly Tim Ireland has an amazing, and respected, investigative blog right here, that is currently finding more cases, including some that appear to involve US citizens! He also obviously has links to other blogs that are worth a look for British based news and views.
Secondly, and it may not specifically help with this story at this moment but this site is a good place to start if you want to double check things coming out of the UK, just for future referance.
As for my take on the leaders, which seems to be the crux of many peoples comments revolve around, here we go; Essentially they are all entirely useless/untrustworthy, Clegg, for whom I had hope (I have essentially always been a Lib Dem voter bar a few Green party votes, and mostly liked him before the coalition) has proven me to be an idiot as this hope faded drastically! Mostly due to him caving in on almost everything. Cameron hasn’t been able to lead his party or the country anywhere, as he always has to reverse his decision due to public outrage! The glaring exception being the fact that he and Osbourne fucked our economy by pushing through the most ridiculous cuts, boosting student loans and also trying to rip benefits from the frozen fingers of the poor and disabled. Somehow people here think all people receiving benefits, are thieves! I guess you don’t experience that sort of stereotyping over the pond. He may be confident but has the charm of a sociopath and it shines through. As for Ed I don’t even know how he got into the race to become opposition leader, let alone beat his brother to it!
Sorry, that went on for ages.
Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937
For 145 pounds, do you even have to pee in a cup?
@26 You’d think after W he would’ve learned something about these irrational conservative crushes…
If he weren’t irrational, he wouldn’t be conservative.
A very fine example of understated British humor. Or ALeming isn’t following US news.
The key point is that Sullivan doesn’t learn. He’ll make snap judgements, spend months being told why he’s wrong and then slowly walking them back, and then he’ll go ahead and make the exact same snap judgement the next time he can.