Category Archives: UK

Tough road ahead for Cameron

Its one of the most testing time for the British Prime Minister. After Hackgate cut short David Cameron’s Africa visitt, it was the teenage turmoil that has ‘vandalised’ his vacation.

Back in London to restore peace on the streets of United Kingdom, Cameron faces a critical junction that will define his premiership. Barring the lone occasion of him admitting that in the hindsight hiring former News of The World editor Andy Coulson was a mistake; Cameron hasn’t backed out on any of his stand or for that matter policy issues.

Night four was relatively calm in London, but elsewhere in UK riots were on, but coming in on day four of mayhem after many parts of the Capital were vandalised is not going to do a world of good to the PM as he faces the parliament on Thursday.

With Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman on BBC newsnight already giving the crisis a political shade by linking it to the CUTS that are frustrating the youth and being a contributing factor to this outrage it won’t be an easy walk ahead.

Not just that the four letter word will bite as the role of cops the way they acted will go under the lens. The questions, why did this happen, are the cops in their present numbers and infrastructure in a position to handle any such overwhelming chaos in future, can such incidents be averted in future? And most importantly can the police afford to have CUTS.

Research by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary released last month suggests the police will  loose 16,200 personnel by 2015 and a total loss including that of the civilian staff will be close to 34,000. This according to BBC Newsnight will take the police strength back to what it was in 2003.

With the CUTS yet not imposed there have been two major violent protests in nine months is the prime minister going to rethink his strategy.

Apart from the policy matters and the debates in parliament which Cameron so far has defended showing admirable command his big test is will be to reinstall the faith of the man on the street, by securing them, their prospects and in the wake of ongoing crisis securing their businesses.

With his deputy and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg being forced to cut short his walk through the streets of Birmingham after being booed by the public and the shopkeepers in London taking on themselves to guard their businesses it’s not a good sign for Cameron.

Facing all this is not going to be easy, but it’s about time Cameron goes back to the famous ‘Hug the Hoodie’ speech he gave on July 10, 2006.  He then said “there is a connection between circumstances and behaviour,” and merely, “Debating symptoms and not causes will not serve the purpose.”

It’s the latter advice he then gave the Labour government that needs his attention to hold ground in the long run.

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Olympic city torched

What the hell is going on? The Olympic city is being torched at will, police sirens haven’t stop blowing for last 72 hours, it’s been three days that London is on fire and at the dawn of day four the prime minister cutting his vacation half way says everything necessary to restore order will be done.

For second time in less than a year the cosmopolitan capital of the world has been hit by widespread violence.

First it was the students protest during November 2010 and now the there is the widespread loot on the roads. As someone pointed out, “seems London is on sale” and hooligans are on a ball.

Powered by technology and with the humane cops(not to take anything away from the work they have done over the last three days)  trying all civilised ways to stop the thugs, the results are far from desired.

What is striking similar to both these incidents is the involvement of youngsters and use of technology.

During the students protests the venues and strategies were planned using facebook and twitter, this time around it’s the security that BBM( black berry messenger) provides which is giving the hooligans the edge so far.

The images so far show that the rioters are predominantly youngsters not belonging to a particular community. They are targeting shops and looting stuff beyond their reach. It’s an indication of desperation, with CUTS announced, job markets shrinking, studies becoming costly from next year and not much bright prospects in sight the so far comfortable and well taken care of youth is revolting; revolting in anger and violently beyond control.

As a twitter message doing round sums it up: “The Youth of the Middle Eastrise up for basic freedoms. The Youth of London rise up for a HD ready 42″ Plasma TV #londonriots”

Coming from India, where Cops are infamously famous for using force to tackle even a group of handful of people its amazing to see them not use stern force to bring the city to normal. The home secretary Theresa May even refused the use of water cannons and the top cop is saying bringing in military is no option. PM announced that the number of cops on the streets will go up to 16000 today.

But will mere presence of cops install fear in the minds of the hooligans who are being supplied legal advice guidelines as they go on a rampage.

Help and support pamphlets being distributed among the rioters. While
covering the student protests a masked person came and handed me a leaflet giving details of whom to contact in case the cops got hold of me and the basic do’s and don’ts.
Similarly on twitter last night images of similar advice pieces were doing rounds.


It’s about time unprecedented action is taken by the administration. For a while put the human rights and high moral grounds on back burner. Those causing the damage to the city, the people don’t deserve this kind of soft stand.

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Five points that India can learn from Hackgate

Hackgate has been one of the biggest controversies in Britain. The alleged illegal and unethical practices of the mightiest media conglomerate led to the end of a 168 year old weekly.

It saw the media mogul Rupert Murdoch being summoned by the Commons, government officers resigned so did it saw top newspapers executives and so far 10 people have been arrested. Not to mention that the Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to cut short his Africa tour in order to attend Prime Ministers questions.

Looking at the way the system, government and media machinery functions here for almost a year it makes me feel that the we should have had a ‘Raj’ hangover of different kind.

Not denying the fact that it took eight long years and two inquires which led to nothing substantial, this one is turning out to be mother of all investigations so far. As an Indian national watching the developments from ringside I figure out five points that wouldn’t harm if we have a ‘Raj’ hangover.

Transparency

The way events are unfolding it’s all playing to the gallery, with television cameras bringing the parliamentary proceedings and that of the committee into people’s living room. Contrary to our parliamentary committee proceedings about which we the people hear via sources, reports and committee findings. The line of Q&A’s is never known. Those involved chicken out on the mention of being transparent. (the most recent being Lokapal bill meetings and the hearings in Radia tapes).

Accountability:

There is a great notion of being accountable to the people. Leaders and officials when in dock own up to their doings and wrong doings. Former Prime minister Tony Blair was summoned second time early in January before the Iraq enquiry and the proceedings were televised, neither Labour party nor Blair loyalist made a hue and cry like their counterparts in our country. Today Cameron said, if proven that Andy Culson was involved in Hackgate he would issue an apology to the house and said in hindsight the appointment was error of judgement. While our leaders hardly own up to their error of judgements leave aside appearing before a committee and that too in public view. Look at the drama over Radia tapes and formation of Joint Parliamentary committee; it stopped the house from functioning.

Etiquette

It is amazing for an Indian to see a parliament that functions, goes about fulfilling its duties and moreover the MP’s abiding by the word of the speaker. Whatever be the debate questions are raised, answered and speaker is above everyone else in the house. Full house or less attendance the house functions without failing and it has the power to call high and mighty for being questioned. Murdochs could not defy when summoned.

Speed

As mentioned it took long for Hackgate to reach where it has, but this time around the speed of investigations and committee hearings have been done at a lightning speed. That apart in the MPs expenses scandal that was brought to light in May 2009, so far six MP’s have been pleaded guilty and sentenced. Can we ever imagine this to happen in India, our Kalmadi’s still get a VIP treatment even while waiting for the cab in the prison? Common wealth game scam, Adarsh Scam, Cash for votes, Radia Tapes the list goes on without a single outcome.

Democratic

Most importantly the government doesn’t hide behind the coalition dharma disguise. Members in the coalition can voice different opinions, but the government takes appropriate action. In the Hackgate David Cameron is being questioned by both his MP’s and by those of Liberal Democrats and responding in all fairness. We can’t even dream of PM, or UPA chairperson ever being questioned, if someone does they are shown the door.

Is anyone listening?

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Murdochs face the music

Murdochs face the MPs today. The Commons media committee will question the trio – Rupert and James Murdoch along with Rebekah Brooks.

In what is being viewed as one of the most anticipated session at the Parliament all eyes and ears will be turned on to what the three have in store for the committee.

A strong case has been built with media houses setting up the tone and probable question line as published by the guardian.

What remains to be seen is that how the veteran media mogul Murdoc sr. responds to the committee after first rejecting the call to respond to the committees call.

While James and Rebekah have earlier spoken on the hacking scandal and appeared to give their side of story on different occasions, it will be the first time Rupert Murdoch will put his stand after the newspaper issued apologies across in newspapers.

Murdoch sr. told Wall Street Journal(which he owns) that he’s ‘annoyed and tired‘ by the negative headlines from which News corporation will recover.

Will Rupert put what he calls minor mistakes in handling the crisis in place and ride News Corp back on road remains to be seen?

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Cameron talks tough on Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism in Britain evokes strong views by the prime minister.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich, David Cameron took a path many politicians shy from – take the minorities head on.

Cameron in his approach was straight forward and to my understanding right when he said that owing to laxity in the approach by Britain, it was considered to be ‘heaven for terror suspects’.

To his credit he pointed out the reality; the youth in these minority groups are disillusioned- they can’t identify with practises which are preached at the same time they fail to keep in pace with the cosmopolitan set up of Britain.

Minding his words Cameron made his point clear, he said Multiculturalism has failed.

Tactfully he mentioned “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.” (BBC). But in the same vein was prompt to point out how activities of those living in segregated communities can prove to be harmful for the state.

The example he gave of how as society they would condemn a white person if he/she committed a something that could be termed was racial. “But we would not do the same if the person was non-white, we would be fearful,” said Cameron.

He was very true, in a matter of minutes his speech as a head of state who was defending his country and admitting that they have failed to provide a vision for the state where people could identify with their beliefs, he was attacked by communities and politicians alike.

For me he was well within his right to point out the failure and unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t say Multiculturalism is dead.

There is a sea of difference in failing and being dead.

Failure can convert into passing with the due course of time, but it is almost impossible to revive the dead.

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Coalition loses people’s support,MP’s packs punches

Politics and People of UK are yet to come in terms with the coalition government.

Seven months into the Tories and Lib Dem governance and verbal volleys, difference duets, sting stung comments are flying all over the place as people’s perception of coalition plummets.

Despite both the prime minister and deputy prime minister making earnest efforts to put up a united front, the split is evident.

Managing to see the tuition fee vote through with a reduced margin, the coalition was stung with Cablegate of its own kind. Business secretary Vince Cable opened floodgate of emotions against coalition and media czar Rupert Murdoch to undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph and survived his cabinet berth to the surprise of many Tories.

Barely did Clegg covered up the Cablegate fiasco, there was more embarrassment for Lib Dems as four more MP’s showed their displeasure in coalition and voiced  lack of faith in David Cameron, only to reassure it hours after it was aired.

These supposed to be private surgery talks with constituents did a post-mortem of the seven month coalition.

It not only brought forth the Lib Dem’s dislike for the Tories, the few Tories on boxing day packed few punches as former Conservative Cabinet minister, John Redwood, accused Lib Dems of taking credit of the nice  things the government did.

Well aren’t both partners in coalition supposed to work in tandem?

To make matters worse an opinion poll by the guardian showed that people’s faith in coalition has fallen by 16%. From 59% in May 2010 it has come down to 43%.

This is not a healthy sign, by any yardstick.

With VAT rising to 20% in January 2011 and CUTS biting in from 2012, it’s going to be a tough ride for the Cameron, Clegg and Co.

Will the coalition complete a full tenure? Will this lead Britain back to dual party politics? Will Cameron and Clegg fight next elections united against Labour?

Interesting political times for Britain as it witnesses its first coalition in 70 years.

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Tuition fee vote may cost Lib Dems their votes

The coalition won the tuition fees hike vote which allows Universities in England to charge up to £9000 pounds from home students.

In doing so the government’s majority was considerably reduced from notional 84 to mere 21 votes.

Rebellion marked the day both inside and outside the house of parliament in London.

No vote

Both parties in the coalition witnessed MP’s either abstaining or voting against the motion as the agitated students kept demonstrating through the day. They managed to reach Parliament Square where they were not supposed to be.

While it’s certain that the students will have to pay higher fees from 2012, what is not certain is the way politics will shape up in the years ahead.

Future tense

Thursdays vote will go a long way in shaping the political landscape, with fears of Liberal Democrats suffering grave consequences for being party to the decision.

Facing the dilemma of keeping the pledge or going ahead with the government decision of the 57 Lib Dem MP’s 29 either voted against or abstained from the vote.

That is little over half the party votes. The step poses serious concerns for those who formed the 29 include Tim Farron, the party president and Simon Hughes, the deputy leader.

It’s going to be a tough walk back to the next elections for Nick Clegg and his party. As Steve Richards, the chief political correspondent, The Independent wrote in his opinion piece on Tuesday: “There is no easy way through for a party that had one unequivocal policy at the election and another now. So much is obvious. The longer-term political consequences are nowhere near as straightforward.”

The party is facing severe criticism from its voters particularly the students with whom they signed a pledge to oppose the fee hike of any kind.

Looks like Clegg miscalculated the risk when he signed the no fee hike pledge and left no stone unturned to publicise it.

Its payback time now.

Miscalculation

Alex Barker, Political correspondent FT writes in his blog Clegg knew the move was not going to work but he went ahead.

Despite Clegg making an earnest effort to clarify his position and pose a united front as a party. He is losing ground.  As Richards mentioned at the talk at City University on December 2 that Irony is people can change their decision about politicians in the election and convey their message, politicians can’t do the same.

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