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Must be nice being a politician. You get escorted by three policemen and protective clothing.

The rest of us just have to take our life in our hands, as the likes of her have reduced our criminal justice system to ruins.

David Belchamber

Andrew Marr's "A History of Modern Britain" is illuminating on crime.

He records that "Armed crime in London involving guns fell from a high of forty-six incidents in 1947 to just four cases in 1954".

He goes on to debate the reasons for this low incidence: "Some argue that tougher penalties are the most obvious reason" but adds:

"One obvious factor is that so many young men, the people who commit most crimes, were in the Armed Forces, latterly doing Natonal Service. This did not simply take people off the streets. It provided discipline and the habit of obeying - and issuing - orders".


Phil Whittington

Hague is a master at PMQs.

Harman is going to die on her feet tomorrow...

Can't wait! :)

James Maskell

Harman clearly isnt aware of what happened with Jacqui Smith and a late night takeaway in her constituency. Do these politicians live in isolation from each other?

Tony Makara

David Belchamber, interesting point. I think also if government were to introduce mandatory but 'waged' public works programmes to tackle youth unemployment it would take many young men off the streets and provide them with a disposible income so they wouldn't need to look to crime for access to money. A public works programme would also introduce young people to a structured lifestyle, leading to more self-discipline and a more mature outlook on life. Workfare won't do this because it is unwaged and if anything will drive many young people off the dole and into the black economy and crime. This is why a public works programme must be fully waged. Opening the door to waged work will close the door on crime.

Steve R

Humphrys gave her a right pasting. It was so funny.


I don't envy her tomorrow, Hague is probably the finest PMQs performer in Parliaments history, Cable of course is no slouch either.

Tomorrow will be like watching a novice face a Grandmaster and a FIDE Master at chess simultaneously!

David Belchamber

Tony Makara, if I could talk across the ether to you, you probably did not see two follow-up posts on your comments on an Inquiry on the Iraq war (27 March @ 10.53) and on the collapse of UK manaufacturing (30 March @ 00.43).

As you have pointed out before, it is a pity that we can't keep discussions on such important topics going until we have achieved a consensus among a reasonable number of people to formulate something positive for the conservatives to think about.

Tony Makara

David Belchamber, yes, it is unfortunate that important issues get lost in the speed of the fast moving forums and often are lost because certain people don't stay on-topic or focused on the subject matter.

A problem I face is that when I call for the British economy to produce more and by doing so create jobs, a whole plethora of people come frantically into the forum and start accusing me of wanting to set up some sort of autarchy or command economy. People start quoting me out of context etc to try and score points and do not try discuss the matter in a serious way. Same goes with Iraq, if I have been critical of the Iraq war I get accused of being pro-Saddam, pro-Terrorist, even anti-American, (Two of my cousins happen to be native New Yorkers!) etc.

I feel that we lose many good and serious debates because certain people do not come into debate with anything constructive to add. One has to wonder whether anti-Conservatives deliberately enter these forums to throw a few hand grenades to destroy debate before it has a chance to grow.

It was very refreshing over the weekend to see the question of manufacturing's decline featured in the mainstream press, the debate sparked by David Cameron's speech last week on building a new economic strategy for Britain. We need to see more debate on these heavyweight subjects. As you correctly say the really big issues seem to fade away or just get mocked by people who it seems have no ideas to put forward themselves.

David Belchamber

Tony, I share your frustrations for the same reason that, while it is good to have people like Chad Noble, Comstock and even passing leftie on - because they demand that we put up proper arguments, all too often the spoilers disrupt things without putting any soundly based argument at all. It is like mindless heckling.

I personally think that ConHome could form an excellent sounding board for tory MPs. We are much more use to them than Blair's focus groups were to him, because we don't mince our words. If they talk rubbish, we tell them so but also applaud them when they return to reality and put up an idea that will do good and might well work.

I notice that George Osborne specifically mentioned Iain Dale and ConHome today (which make me feel a bit guilty as I am rarely very polite about GO - as shadow chancellor - not as a very able tory MP).

As you will have noticed, I am trying to get people to help win small battles, to beat Brown incrementally by pointing out as often as possible e.g. what the real rate of inflation is (as far as ordinary voters are concerned), and to nail the "fake facts" that Brown and Yvetter Cooper, Ed Balls etc regularly trot out about inflation and the level of unemployment.

I agree with your crusade for reviving manufacturing but, as someone with a great interest in education, I deplore the lack of basic education and skills in this country. It is now embarrassing and one has to have sympathy with employers who prefer to take on foreign workers instead of our people.

Tony Makara

David Belchamber, yes, I agree that forums like ConHome can be very useful to MPs as a source for new ideas and as a way for MPs to test opinion by submitting their own articles.

We as ordinary members of the public are pretty powerless when it comes to bringing about change, but our MPs can actually do something about the concerns that we voice. As you say the most rudimentary educational skills are lacking in many pupils and adults, and we certainly need a skills revolution, both in terms of academic ability and vocational qualifications. Some radical and innovative thinking is needed in these areas and often hand-picked focus groups are all to ready to tell ministers what they want to hear rather than questioning their approach and making them open up to a new way of doing things.

The great problem Labour have currently is that the deferential attitude shown towards the Blair/Brown axis over the last decade has effectively killed the Labour party as a thinking animal. Now Labour are reduced to stealing Conservative ideas and aping any other idea that is popular currency.

The next Government, be it Labour or Conservative, will determine the way our country is going to be governed for the next generation. Another Labour term will inevitably be a full steam ahead push for statism. A Conservative government will provide an opportunity for a fresh start, but that fresh start has to be built on thinking that is always one generation ahead. I don't want David Cameron to plan for the next five years, I want him to plan for the next twenty-five years. The first five years should be about creating the base we need to move forward as a nation. Then following terms about building on that base, the kids who learn to read under Michael Gove's proposals will become the young people moving into apprenticeship set up by Chris Grayling, then moving into the jobs created by the support for the supply-side of our economy. Then as adults being able to enjoy the security of work and a stable economy that allows them to own a home and raise a familiy. All these things are interrelated, politicans must think one generation ahead all the time.

The ideas produced today will improve the lives of people long after we are all gone.

David Belchamber

I fully agree about governing for the long term and in previous years I had hoped that it might be possible to have more cross party co-operation on long distance planning e.g. pensions, the NHS, education etc but Blair and spin got in the way.
Blair's quest for a legacy used to infuriate me when I saw the short-termism that it engendered.
Then I could see people like Frank Field helping us produce an equitable pensions policy for the country as a whole and I only wish that now we could borrow Vince Cable for economic matters. Indeed anyone who has experience of the real world, commonsense and a sense of humour.
Plese tick which of those attributes Brown possesses.
I don't know if you saw Robert Peston's programme last night on the present global meltdown and how the very wealthy have got even wealthier at our expense.
Very illuminating - but very depressing, because there is nothing that you and I can do about it. It also annoying because all these experts have created these problems - mostly out of greed - while we ordinary people could have told them that would happen a long time ago.
Over a year ago I was derided on ConHome for suggesting that irresponsible lenders should be legislated against. Was I a conservative, I was asked? Yes, is the answer; I believe in conserving that which is good in our society and improving that which is not. Irresponsible lending is not.

Tony Makara

David Belchamber, yes, I agree that more must be done with regard to long-term planning, particularly over the economy. David Cameron's backing for supply-side infrastructure is a definite step in the right direction. We must do more to make sure that business has the means to develop because ultimately they are the people who will provide jobs and the wares that we need. The poor transport infrastructure in some areas is a disincentive to investment.

I certainly support your call for more people of real experience to be involved in government. It seems to defy all logic to have politicians involved in running an area of which they know little or nothing, and to have those ministers moving from post to post at regular intervals in a game of political musical chairs. We particularly need to get people in from branches of the main professions and from the city. Many people scoff at the idea of a corporate style of government but I feel it does have advantages.

On the question of lending, it is to the Labour government's shame that they have actively encouraged people to get into debt. John Redwood has written an interesting peice on the subject this morning. Mr Redwood is a man who must be given a senior position in the next Conservative government. John Redwood has a good analytical approach and always comes up with sensible solutions. Our country needs him.

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