A faltering alliance
There is no stronger advocate of a free press than I. I worked in the business for 17 fun-filled years and witnessed first hand the power the press has. At the moment, the press is running amok in the the political world I currently occupy. I am not surprised. I've always felt that the press is at its most penetrative when politicians fail, and thankfully so. Clearly, I am generalizing as I don't agree with everything that's said, or with every publication, but the general thrust of what's being said is what most us are thinking. Personally, I wish we were not in a Coalition and I regret supporting the Fixed Term Parliament Bill. I voiced my concern to colleagues at the time that we were tinkering with our constitution for our own salvation and not that of the electorate, but I foolishly did not listen to my gut instinct, which is strong. I suspect the time is coming, and not before time, that we and the Lib Dems will part company. Maybe the threatened Lords' reform will do it; if not that, then Europe. We will then be stuck in an unholy alliance, while our country screams out for strong leadership, lower taxes, freedom from the EU, tough immigration policies et al.
Posted on 29 April 2012 by Richard Drax
Love the letter
I have a huge amount of respect for my former BBC colleague Justin Webb, but his comments in the Radio Times, reported in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, about our "irrational" love of letters prompts me to put fingers to keyboard. Mr Webb went on to say that our ""desperation" to get mail in the morning was "out of place in the modern world"". I fundamentally disagree. In fact, I find that the more people resort to emails and texts, the more they appreciate the humble letter. Having been an MP now for two years, I have received more than my fair share of correspondence, much of it by email. While, of course, I give all correspondence my full attention, proper letters are a rarity and when they come I, too, appreciate their value, because someone has sat down, thought carefully about what they want to say, and given me time to gather my thoughts and reply. And I think it is sad that this courteous art is dying, although I am confident there are millions of people out there who disagree with me for all kinds of good reasons, not least the saving in paper! But I hope you get the gist of what I am trying to say. I hope that letter writing has a resurgence, despite its cost.
Posted on 26 April 2012 by Richard Drax
For those with eyes to see, the dissolution of the Euro project is gathering speed. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands has just stood down after failing to persuade his government to accept the austerity measures they were so keen to impose upon others. Both Greece and Italy are now governed by ‘national governments’, meaning Brussels’ bureaucrats instead of elected representatives. Meanwhile, Ireland and Portugal are flat-lining under the harshest of austerity regimes. Spain is at risk and now 20 per cent of voters in France support Marine Le Pen’s call to bring back the Franc. Even if Le Pen’s bid for power goes no further, the favourite, Francois Hollande, has promised to dump those EU treaties not in France’s interests. The UK has already contributed £12.5 billion to the Irish, Greek and Portuguese bailouts; now another £9.7 billion is to be sent via the International Monetary Fund. This is madness, considering the demise of the euro is now only a matter of time.
Posted on 25 April 2012 by Richard Drax
George Osborne’s announcement to loan a further £9.7billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was met, rightly, with uproar in the Commons yesterday. Yes, we are founding members of the IMF and, as such, must uphold its work, but the Chancellor is skating on thin ice here. The USA and Canada – both also founding members - have refused to donate any more funds because the IMF would spend them on bailing out the euro. This is expressly not what the IMF is for, as my friend John Redwood rightly pointed out yesterday. The IMF was originally set up by the First World, for the benefit of the Third, the aim being to bring some stability to economies across the world. However, this change in tack is likely to affect the IMF's traditional clients. Rather cunningly, the Chancellor was careful to keep our contribution below £10 billion, which would have triggered a vote in the Commons; a vote he might well have lost in the current financial climate. The Chancellor is right about one thing, though. The loan will be paid back as the IMF always gets its money first. But trying to hide the real use of this loan behind a silken veil really does the Chancellor no credit.
Posted on 24 April 2012 by Richard Drax
The Boris-Ken spat has tempted the Chancellor to raise his knee involuntarily, I suspect to his, and many others' regret. Mr Osborne has suggested that he, too, would be happy to disclose his tax return in a new spirit of transparency. I wonder what politicians will be asked to reveal next in this new world of so-called transparency. This path is neither wise, nor appropriate. Already revelations between Mr Johnson and Mr Livingstone have muddied the electoral waters and will continue to do so. If there is any wrong-doing, that's for HMRC to investigate, not the electorate. There was a day, and I hope it returns, that if public figures were corrupt they'd resign, or not stand at all if their integrity was in doubt. But we live in a democracy and if the voters want to back a politician who has a colourful past, shall we say, then on their heads be it. Meanwhile, politicians in particular should count to ten before they announce what they perceive to be crowd-pleasing initiatives. In the end, they backfire.
Posted on 8 April 2012 by Richard Drax
Commentators, the press, columnists and MPs have all expressed their view on our Party's leadership during these rather fraught few days. Let me add my own. I don't believe for one moment that where you come from is important; it's where you are going that matters. The class card continues to be played, but to little effect, and rightly so. Leading a nation in good times is a monumental challenge, but when she's on her knees, virtually broke and facing one crisis after another, a leader of extraordinary talent is needed. These leaders are exceptional and the likes of Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher are a rare breed. However, both had life experience, incorruptible values and a self respect which meant they were not for turning. Not for them the short term, the career, the vanity or the spin. The latter is very much alive today and this is disappointing. What the nation demands to hear is the truth, plain and simple. I believe there hasn't been a time since the war that the people of this country have so wanted a leader to stand up and deal with the issues that really matter to our great nation: our armed services, the EU, immigration, red tape and bureaucracy, tax, human rights, law and order, education, pensioners, Christianity and many others. The message should be simple, expressed in Sun-style headlines and repeated to the nation, if only to remind those executing them to actually do it, rather than just talk about it. As we used to say in the army: KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid!
Posted on 4 April 2012 by Richard Drax
As we remember the fallen and the injured on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands' War, I note that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond believes we are 'able' to defend the islands were a fresh assault to be launched. I speak as a former soldier and was serving at the time of this conflict. Let me assure Mr Hammond, and anyone else who denudes our armed services in the way we currently are, that we do not have the capability of defending those islands from a determined and well-planned attack, nor do we have the ability to retake them. That is the truth of the matter. And while we go on giving ludicrous amounts of money in overseas aid, the EU and a raft of quangos, rather than re-investing in defence, we only fool ourselves by making claims that anyone with even a modicum of military knowledge knows to be false. We are foolish and short-sighted to reduce our defence capability and we will stand accused in a time of trouble - and rightly so - of repeating the mistakes that politicians have made over the years.
Posted on 3 April 2012 by Richard Drax