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GuyTheMac
Birmingham, UK
A blue on a number of levels....
Recent Activity
A good article. Predictably, you have a few chipping in above (Phil Keane & Lancs Tory) yelling that the '97 result was proof Major and his political compass were electoral disaster - the '97 defeat was not a defeat for policy or positioning - it was simply about looking at what had become a very sorry looking Tory front bench, general weariness at sleaze, thinking 'time for change' and having a (then)very convincing opposition leader who looked credible and if anything sold himself on the ground that Major was on - only younger, more enthusastic, more charismatic and with a sense of Urgency and zeal that people found attractive. It's difficult to remember that is how it was then because we have since lived through the reality of Blair - but back then that was how he was seen. '92 is a better test of what happens if you get something approaching what folk used to call the 'One Nation' Tory tone across - with a competent team around you. Did the Major government get some things wrong? Categorically yes. Will/Have Cameron's Coalition get/got things wrong? Categorically yes. Was the country in a better state for Major at the end of his tenure than when he found it? Was it set-up to continue an upward journey? Categorically yes. And the same will be true of this Government.
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Possibly our hardcore won't agree with this but people have to realise that for a generation under 40 living north of the Watford Gap the very concept of 'right wing' is as toxic as the word 'Tory'. We should frame the debate not in terms of right v left, but in terms of realism v wishful thinking. It's the same debate, the same policies, just framed in a way that means your not pushing at a locked door.
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I think a real help would be making child-care tax deductable for people in work. The childcare voucher scheme (where you used to get vouchers for child care taken from your pre-tax pay) seems to have been wound down a bit - that's a shame. For those of the 'squeezed middle' who may fantasise about getting more one-on-one help in to juggle returning to work and childcare, like my wife, most of us look at the idea - figure out the maths of paying someone a gross salary from our net pay - and the calculation about going down that route lasts a nano-second. I agree there is a whole heap of complexity with the idea - but I don't see why you couldn't have a register of approved child care people (anyone inspected by OfSted) and have a mechanism to purchase vouchers 'tax free' (i.e. the value of the voucher you purchase is the money you pay plus an increase in value by the normal income tax rate). This would be a boon to both women wishing to return to work and an employment boost for our army of nurseries, childminders and nannies. It's only an embryonic thought at the moment and I can pick holes in the idea already - but there has to be more we can do to help women who want to go back to work feel that they have an active choice. At the moment they get sucked into two contradictory camps - with they feel that either they HAVE to go back to work for ecnomic reality, but then they feel they are 100% working for the childcare costs only and never see their kids - else the flip side of that which is they think because of that there is no point in going back to work as the childcare costs prohibit it, so they feel obliged to stay at home. The choice about how to balance career and family could become less of a Hobson's choice with some help in this direction. With thought through administration (which is the tricky bit) it could provide a nudge to the economy to boot.
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There's a man with his finger on the pulse of the mood of the electorate and their priorities.
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Per other comments above - very good to have an early announcement. It means there is a ton of time to to select a worthy successor (though I assume no selections until after the Boundary changes). It also creates an opportunity for that very rare thing - a planned handover. I also imagine that for him personally, it must be incredibly liberating going for three years with the Whips now impotent in his regard. I'm sure he'll still be a team player but his constituents will be assured he acts with heart and head over ambition - not something most people could say about their MP with certainty.
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Well, I am a Birmingham council tax payer and I am pleased they are concentrating on delivering the services in the most efficient way. The council has enough to do in the realms of children and adult services, refuse collection, etc. etc. without adding 'creating and managing jobs in IT support' to its list. I have no doubt we're not going to see a reduction in our council tax bill - so if the savings are being allocated to either the front line or balancing the books then all power to the people who are making the tough decisions. The only thing I would challenge hard on is to ensure that Capita are passing on the lions share of the savings back to the council and not just some scraps from it.
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Inheritance Tax: We should try and pitch it along the lines of the thinking of Gates and Buffett. Folk should be allowed to leave their kids enough that they can do 'anything',but they really shouldn't leave them so much that they can do 'nothing'. I'm not sure what the level is - but if we could gain agreement on that sentiment first deciding then the level could follow. Also, whatever the tax that has to be levied so that some kids can't do 'nothing' is should be 100% deductible if left in trust for charitable purposes. If you can't leave it all for your kids you should at least be able to choose the social good you want to put it to, and the managers you want to entrust to that task, rather than handing it over to the 2030 carnation of G.Brown.
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"It's PR Gone mad" - that line gave me a chuckle. For what it is worth (not much) I support him on the general gist of 'nudging' by example society to a more sensible dress code. The neck tie is such a stupid garment historians will look back at the 20th Century and wonder 'why'? in the same way we do now with Georgian wigs. I haven't worn a neck tie with my suit for the best part of a decade and note that practically the only people who still do as a matter of course are: Politicians, mobile phone salesmen, mid and upper level civil servants, tax advisors, and estate agents. He's quite right to try and disassociate himself with that lot and join the rest of us. However, it is about picking your battles. I do understand his reasons, but this is perhaps one of the very few occasions where pomp is actually entirely appropriate.
Toggle Commented Apr 20, 2011 on Morning coat or lounge suit? at thetorydiary
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Excellent. I suggested (near enough) exactly those metrics at the 'Meet the Chairmen" event in Coventry and followed up with an email on the same. I received a personal reply from Feldman telling me they were looking at doing something along those lines. And now they have. Now, I'm not claiming for one moment any credit for this - It aint rocket science and I'm quite sure loads of people will have suggested the same thing independently. However, giving normal plebby members like me any kind of sense that "I Spoke" and 'They Listened" (which this does) is exactly the kind of thing which goes someway to making you feel there is actually a point in being a member - which in turn creates a virtuous cycle in relation to the particular problem they are trying to solve here. So then, are the local associations up to the challenge? And can we have league tables to encourage competition?
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There is much to be commended in the report linked above and the first paragraph of the article nails a vision for the educational challenge which I would hope every single member of the party can share. I still feel there is a muddled thinking in some of what is coming out from our benches. A teacher remarked to me recently that when you look at the detail of what forms the GCSE English Baccalaureate it was "as if Michael Gove had just asked his Mum what she had done in school". We seem to hark back to the subjects that served us well in 50s and 60s - I would argue it wasn't so much the subjects that matter as the 'rigour'. Rather than make people gravitate back to a core of subjects that are deemed to have retained 'rigour' - why not raise the level of 'rigour' on those subjects where it is deemed to have slipped? I run a technology company. The report is right that the GCSE equivalent ICT qualification does sell the student short and does not equip them for entry into the ICT industry - it is not a rigorous qualification. So, today, would I want to employ the kid who had good GCSEs such as English, Maths, History, Latin, Geography, Biology, Physics and French - or the kid who had English, Maths, an ICT 'GCSE equivalent' qualification and combined science and PE? It would be the former. But that isn't about the subjects themselves - it is about my perception of their rigour. If I had faith in the strength of an ICT qualification I would actually much rather have a kid who had the second mix. Widen the net of where we apply rigour - don't narrow the curriculum. To avoid a mammoth copy/paste - Reform put out a leaflet making similar points last year and I had a pop at that here: http://guythemac.com/2009/12/11/the-aptitude-myth-why-reform-are-wrong-with-their-gcse-thinking/
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If we do involve the military they will say..... "Complicit in another mad foreign adventure, recklessly spending British lives for a land of oil under the pretense of protecting democracy and to the vanity of a leader who doesn't understand the word 'over-reach', and who commits forces whilst making cuts" If we don't they will say.......... "Complicit in standing idley by as thousands of civilians were masacared. Utter lack of spine. Utter lack of human compassion. Green light to dictators everywhere. A disgrace to all liberty loving peoples in the world" Who'd want to be a world leader, huh? This is simply no-win politics.
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Given the headline I fell into the trap of thinking it would be about 'W' - to which I would have added the headline's punchline - "...like a Fish needs a bicycle"..... What the heck - there it is anyway!
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2011 on The Middle East needs George Bush at thetorydiary
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I think you answer your own questin Matt: "behind the scenes work"- people only get credit for work that isn't behind the scenes!
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Something on the handling of the major middle-east events and how they have done. Perhaps also a more philosophical question on it: To what extent should Britain be trying to influence the outcomes of the current turmoil in the middle east on a scale of 1-10 where '1' means just sitting back and letting history run its course locally, or a 10 would be deployment of military on the ground to ensure the implementation of our preferred outcome.
Toggle Commented Feb 27, 2011 on Questions for you? at thetorydiary
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That Cameron is sticking with the whole thing is both admirable (as it suggests genuine conviction - this would be very easy to flip-flop on and dump) and also 'brave' (in the Yes Minister sense of the word). The media have made the connection between the 'Big Society' and 'Cuts'. We are pushing ahead with both in parallel so they will be hard to decouple. Somehow we have to get accross that we would have pushed on with Big Society regardless of the Labour legacy, we only have to push with extreme cuts because of it. Still - the connection has been made and it is going to be tough sell for the next few years. Good luck to him, because the philosophy behind it ("There is such a thing as society, it just is not the same as the state") is core to my belief system and I'd love to live in a place that lives and breathes it.
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Another thoughtful, well written, well sourced article on Foreign Affairs on ConHome? I may have to ditch my subscription to the Economist if you carry on...
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A very thoughtful, well written, well sourced article. ConHome at its very best. The challenge for the FCO now is not to try and overtly meddle in where this is going (which could be counter-productive) but to watch and adapt quickly to whatever Egypts new reality turns out to be. Interesting times.
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Also thought it a positive step forward... my take on the day in depth here: http://guythemac.com/2011/01/27/conservative-policy-forum-launch/
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Elaine - you're onto something there. Either do something properly or don't do it. If the party propellor heads and tacticians decided it was in our interests not to compete and let the lib dems go for it - then I wish they had the courage of their convictions and had full-on taken that approach. The Lib Dems could have won the seat and therefore the coalition could have had one more MP. If they decided we were going to go for it then we needed to 'go for it' properly - a proper campaign, get behind the candidate, all the big guns in - and we could have come second and been well positioned for next time around. We could have lots of arguments about either of the above approaches but either would have left us with a more rewarding outcome today. This half-way house where we only pretended we were 'going for it' with an open nod and wink we were not helped no-one.
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I'm worried putting effort into 'making it easier to set up a company' may not be the best use of focus. It is not a problem that needs solving. Sure it could be improved but the fact is I 'set-up' my company from start to finish in half a day last year. Registered with company house - registered with VAT (though it then took them four months to confirm) - obtained domain name - got a virtual office space (company address, post redirection & access to physical office as and when needed) and bank account. One Morning. Anyone without the wit to do the google search to find out the steps to follow frankly shouldn't be encouraged to start-up. What I have hit a brick wall with is getting banks to lend. I am very lucky in that I have capital of my own to keep me going. Banks are turning down folk with proven business plans unless they have assets to back the loan - the banks want to take profits from their lending but shoulder zero risk. Perhaps this is understandable in the present climate - but unless we can get banks to lend to people with sound business plans our SME led haul our of recession will die a death. Also in this climate it is a waste of time pretending to folk who have no capital that they can fund a start-up. I suggest ministerial focus is placed on that and not stuff that doesn't urgently really need fixing. Making it any easier to set-up a co will probably just enable more tax fraud.
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It's not a huge leap to go from defining what is 'mainstream conservatism' into what the 'litmus tests' are (as the Republican suicidally do in the States). This is dangerous territory for any party that wishes to have the 'big tent' that it needs be to command an electoral majority. Although not intended the language is actually very devicive. Our challenge remains rewinning the votes of those who left in 97 and didn't come back in 10. The label 'Mainstream Conservative' clearly wont be attractive to them. The loaded language aside, I can't disagree the bulk of the analysis of how to take the party forward.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2010 on What is Mainstream Conservatism? at thetorydiary
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Or - During that time he presided as Chief Exec the Party tuned itself into Britain sufficiently to become electable for the first time in 15 years. (I'm actually completely agnostic about his appointment or otherwise - I just thought your comment for a 'fair' debate was loaded!)
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Never forget that they (Labour) also commissioned the Browne report which led to all this (knowing full well what it would recommend and that whoever won the election including themselves would have had to act on it.
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I think we are in danger of 'pseud cornering' big society. Sometimes rebranding something connects with the electorate... e.g. rebranding inheritance tax as 'death tax' has worked wonders for one side of that argument in the States. For whatever historical reason there are huge numbers of people in the UK who get twitchy when they hear us talking about a 'smaller state'. Given that this is core to our message we need a way to express that vision in a way which gets around that natural resistance. Rebranding smaller state politics as 'big society' politics should have worked. It seems it didn't. Personally, I think it still could work and would stick with it. When it lands with the electorate(when we have more tangible examples in place after our first term) it will land big. I do however completely understand why people want to ditch it after doorstep experience last time around.
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I read comments like all the above and I wonder if I am really the only Tory member who is really delighted with just about everything the Coalition has done?
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