Sunday, 5 July 2009

and finally Cameron at LGA..............

He get good marks for theatre. Cameron moves around the platform -and especially with questions he was good at interacting with the audience. 'But was there any content?' I hear the sceptical reader ask., well not just the sceptical reader it was the anxiously asked question on the lips of Tories. I guess they were concerned because coming after Cable-who was content-rich- there was a danger that he would sound glib and 'lite'.

The answer to that question is not straight forward. He was keen to let the world know that 'he got it'; 'it' being that the world of politics has changed in the era of the internet. He praised transparency. He praised Boris for publishing the detail of all the Mayor's spending. In fact he praised the virtues of transparency so much I began to feel sorry for Caroline Spellman who was sat the the front row and whose Nanny know all about the impact of transparency.

Anyway open-ness is going save the world. It is going to lower public expenditure make politicians honest and stop Council squandering public money on 'white Elephants'.
To be fair this bit of his speech was impressive. He is not one of the politicians who is burying his head in the sand and hoping things will 'die down' and 'go away' He has recognised that the free flow of information is here to stay and that it is in a long term relationship with more exacting standards. Those politicians who think that the most significant impact of this 'transparency' has been the hurt and discomfort it has caused to themselves are going to get no comfort from him (Nadine Norries take note). Equally those who imagine that this is just a 'phase' and the public will get over it are also lost.

Welcome though open-ness is, and I approve, it is not the answer to every political and economic question. Tough questions still exist. As we all know Gordon Brown finds the whole issue of public expenditure tough. A rather clumsy question from a Lib Dem to Cameron about public expenditure cuts was quite revealing.

A little context here will help. The Tories are uptight about Osbourne. The tea rooms at Harrogate Conference Centre are open plan and you can't but help overhear other peoples conversations and indeed not having got a yellow spot on my delegates badge I was engaged in conversations with other delegates who knew nothing of my political allegiances. Osborne is a concern. Philip Hammond the Tory No2 is openly spoken of as having more nouse and actually being the 'brains'. I've no idea if this is true. Hammon's mother is a Council Leader somewhere and she was often sited as confirming this impression. Coupled with the dynamic within the Tory treasury team there is of course the problem that Vince presents to them. They don't know whether to praise him or attack him. It is in this context that Cameron's answer to the cuts in public expenditure was revealing.

Cameron suggested that in this debate there are three stages. Base one (pause for cheap joke about GQ magazine reporting that Clegg has reached base one quite a lot)-is to recognise that some thing has to be done. Cameron says our party is there. Base two is to identify obvious examples of waste-ID cards, NHS computer system etc. Base three is to identify things that you would really want to do but recognise are not possible because of the level of debt. The revealing bit was that completely unnecessarily he credited the Lib Dems with having got to Base three. He didn't even claim that the Tories had got there. Interesting.

There followed lots of predictable stuff about cutting council tax, councils sharing officers and CEO's like his council does etc. You do wonder what he would make of Sefton Tories are their spendthrift notions. Given his rhetoric what possible justification can there be for failing to accept a Chief Officer's recommendation to slim down the cadre of top highly paid staff and save the council tax payer £1m over two years as our Tory Councillors did . Well come to think of it they have never felt the need to embrace the era of open-ness and explain their spendthrift actions. I share Cameron's view that there should be no hiding place for those who waste the public's money. Sadly some of his Sefton members still think that it is the height of bad manners to raise the issue.