Power or the proper exercise of power? #villagate

Dave and the ICF -Millwall away

Dave and the ICF -Millwall away

The Liberals are more likely to be in power after May than Conservative or Labour

The irony of Milliband’s and Cameron’s obsessions with two party politics is that this country is now 1-10 on to have no overall majority in the next political term.

With the opinion polls static, a coalition is the most likely outcome and the country is asking not who but how we will be governed going forward.

According to the bookies, the most likely part to be in power after the next election is the Liberal Democrats (5/4). Because they can work with either Labour of Conservatives, they have only to fear an outright majority of being shut out by a minority government supported (say) by the SNP.

You can get the latest odds here

In their headlong grab for the popular vote, the Conservative and Labour parties are forgetting that the public are more interested in how politicians will use power than what they promise to get it.


By way of an example

Hugh Osmond, Britain’s top publican and erstwhile Tory donor, told the Sunday Times he had “no idea” what a Conservative government led by Mr Cameron would look like and achieve.

The more cynical would argue that a Conservative Government would give power to the Conservative leadership, which considering  the alternative – a Labour Government – is enough.

Since neither the Conservatives pledge to cut the deficit or Labour’s pledge to invest in Britain are based on economic polices that the IFS could properly cost, we simply have the politicians words for it.

Unfortunately the politicians words are not to be trusted.


Example two #Villagate

Yesterday David Cameron made a political and footballing gaffe. Having claimed to be an Aston Villa fan, he urged his audience to support West Ham.

His audience laughed sycophantically, few realised the importance of the mistake not just to Villa and West Ham fans, but to a wider audience for whom supporting something is more than a photo-opportunity

David Cameron Aston Villa

It doesn’t make it any better that Cameron has an uncle who used to be Villa Chairman!

Does #villagate really matter? Only if it loses you the popular vote it would seem,

The Conservatives have been grasping for the popular vote ever since they fired Margaret Thatcher.

This is how the Conservative Party tried to woo our vote after last year’s budget


Buying the popular vote?


It’s tough trying to be a populist when you’ve forgotten what football team you’re supposed to support.




People are not attracted to bullshit

Of course most people are not like that, which is why there is such a gulf between people and politicians. Nigel Farage is attractive to some as you know precisely what he stands for, values that resonate with 14% of voters.

“He may be nasty but at least he’s honest with it”.

The trouble with lying, as Dave’s nanny would have told him, is that you tend to caught out, and that doesn’t make for popularity.



So what about policy?

In the absence of any obvious conviction, we have to turn to the manifestos. Studying the BBC’s excellent manifesto synopsis  has made me better informed but no more knowledgeable.

 Policy statements have become banal platitudes

Let’s take home ground, pensions…

In truth, we cannot make anything of the Conservative statement

“Reward savings by introducing a new single-tier pension”

any more than

“Sinn Féin is working to ensure that everyone receives a fair pension”


Even to pension experts, these promises on pensions from all parties are no more than soundbites, they are not designed to be questioned.


Labour promises are no clearer

Rachel Reeves, is interested in power and she has chosen to establish future pension policy around the work of Professor Blake of Cass Business School. In the work that Blake and Debbie Harrison have been doing in deciding the detail for the next five years, the assumption is that Gregg McClymont won’t be around. If Labour get into Government on their own without Gregg, then the Cass kitchen pension cabinet will be hugely influential.

But there is nothing about this in the manifesto. Indeed the online version of the manifesto asks me to create my own manifesto around what the Labour party thinks I might be interested in. In doing so, I give my personal details so i can be targeted over the next five years with endless emails.

There simply is nowhere to find out the detail, to get behind the bland generalisations and find out what Milliband and Reeves actually stand for.

Given the choice of that pension terrorist George Osborne and his flagrant opportunism and the outsourcing of pension policy to Professor Blake, I feel totally underwhelmed.

My only consolation is that with Liberals 5/4 to be in Government, I will get a pensions minister who knows what he’s doing, even if his party don’t (know what Webb’s done),

 Is power enough – or is this about the exercise of power?

Which brings me back to the question in the title.  The Labour and Conservative parties are now presenting themselves as management teams and we are being  asked to pick not an ideology but a Board. It’s Cameron (CEO) Osborne (CFO) with the rest of the Cabinet doing the odd jobs. For Labour it’s Milliband (CEO) , Balls (CFO) and then the tail.

If we can make our own manifesto, why not make our own Government? If Cameron doesn’t know the difference between Aston Villa and West Ham, does he know the difference between left and right. Does it matter? I’m voting for a management board not an ideology.


An early incarnation of the Conservative Management Board


 Governance of Government

I find myself voting not for Government but for Governance. Governance is the business of tempering power so that it delivers as people expect power to be delivered- fairly and in the general interest.

It strikes me that coalition does this very well, it may not lead to the ideologically driven policies of a Thatcher or a Wilson, but it makes sure that we continue to get fairness.

The SNP, like the Liberal Democrats, seem to see their block vote as a means to temper power and influence the debate in just this way. I think UKIP’s voice, however marginalised in terms of sears, will be properly heard- as will those of Plaed Cymru , the Ulster Unionists and the Greens. There will as a result of the fracturing of British politics be better governance within Government. Some of our Trustees will be Independent.

 We want competent honest management of the country

We are being asked to choose between two styles of Government, my readership understand such binary choices – “active v passive’  “contract v occupational” “open or closed (to future accrual)”. Styles are not ideological , there is no right or wrong, there is simply good or bad execution.

In this context, the only reason we might be worried that Cameron has no conviction about who he supports is because he shows himself to be incompetent. It is surprising, I spend a lot of time in Eton- if you are not rowing (wet bob) you are a footballer (dry bob), Cameron did not row.

What matters is whether Cameron and Osborne & co would make a better management board than Milliband and Balls & Co. It’s very hard to decide and many people won’t vote. Many more will vote for Liberal/UKIP/other – not as a protest vote but as their means to influence the governance of the Board.

The vitriol that is being spat at Sturgeon, Farage, Clegg and others results from the fear from Labour and Conservatives that they will exercise governance and temper their power.

The more Cameron and Milliband argue for binary politics, the less convinced I am that either have a right to form a Government on their own.

Maybe we do need to support two teams at the same time.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to Power or the proper exercise of power? #villagate

  1. If the tories fail to get a majority again Cameron should be sacked as leader. Awful party and an awfully negative campaign.

  2. henry tapper says:

    And a genuinely charismatic leader to replace him.

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