Recovery always makes for a great story. Coming back from the dead. Upsetting the odds. Remaking yourself. The lows in this business can be permanent. ‘He never recovered from...’ ‘She became a pastiche of herself…’ But there is also a good reason why the thick skin and selfconfidence, essential qualities in a politician, are not simple expressions of vanity. Those qualities let you cope when you’re written off, dismissed as a no-hoper, a nobody. It can all be worth it because politics allows you to get up off the ground and still reach the top. Look at Lyndon Johnson, miserable and under-used as vice president under JFK. The latest volume of Robert Caro’s epic work on Johnson’s life has reached Britain and is getting the political addicts in a state of delirious excitement. We all know what fate had in store for the big Texan. In fact, less than five years later, after unexpectedly becoming the 36th US president, Johnson had already managed to fit enough into his presidential term to hit another low. But look in awe at his domestic record in power. Ed Miliband is obviously not Lyndon Johnson. But he’s now showing signs of recovery from his own low. It is an incomplete process and his party is taking an uneven approach to opposing the coalition government. Reading Jim Pickard’s essential cover profile of the Labour leader on p56, you pick up the hesitations and consensus-hunting that gets in the way of Miliband becoming a forceful alternative prime minister. However, with the government having had a poor spring, the idea of Ed Miliband in No 10 is being taken more seriously. But you’ll understand his contradictions, and the work he has left to do, from Jim’s superb piece. Talking about recovery, how relaxed does Andrew Lansley look in our interview on p52? Good god, he’s beaming. A chilled-out, confident health secretary is now looking forward to what he really enjoys – putting his reforms into practice. Of course, those reshuffle rumours still swirl around him but it’s quite some change from a couple of months ago.
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4 | June 2012 | Total Politics Inbox
Send your letters by email to email@example.com or by post to: Westminster Tower, 3 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7SP
I f y o u w o ul dli k e y o u r l e t t e r p r i n t e d,
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w o r d s.
T o t al P oliticsreservestheri g h t t o e ditl e t t e r s.
Growth for everyone Britain needs a clear vision as to how government will work closely with business to make our firms strong, globally competitive and socially responsible. Chuka Umunna’s analysis (TP, May) is exactly right: the government is led by the likes of Cameron and Osborne who cling to the tired old orthodoxies of the 1980s, which state that the best thing for government to do is to get out of the way of the market. The world has moved on and successful, forward-looking governments recognise that government has an active and intelligent role to play in making capitalism work for the majority. If Britain is to succeed and thrive, government needs to encourage the productive practices that many of our world class companies are adopting. An active industrial strategy needs to work with business to pursue long-term, socially responsible business strategies. Iain Wright MP Shadow competitiveness and enterprise minister
Directly-elected dictator? I have always found it odd why ‘media profile’ is a high priority for those people who prefer directly-elected mayors. The example of Alex Salmond is cited, but he was elected indirectly. Ken Livingstone had a high profile as the indirectly-elected leader of the GLC. What I am concerned about is that good decisions are taken that take cities and other areas forward. That does not require the election of a dictator. It would be better done through a more democratic system which ensures continual accountability. John Hemming MP Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley
Bin and gone Far from demonstrating innovation, Eric Pickles’ latest ramblings about weekly bin collections (TP, May) show how out of touch the Conservatives are. Councils cannot afford to take seriously the government’s insane £250m fund to bring back weekly collections. The true cost to those that did would be millions. The whole idea is a misplaced attempt to be popular. It fails to stack up financially and is no longer on the agenda for most families. People have adjusted their routines. Recycling rates are higher than anyone could have imagined before Labour came to government in 1997. Any reversal now would be a retrograde step. Which unpopular move from history will Mr Pickles dig up next to score points? Throughout the article, Mr Pickles makes quips and jibes about important issues. Some might find that endearing – I find it alarming but totally unsurprising. Chris Willamson MP Shadow communities and local government minister
The pick of ONLINE comments from TotalPolitics.com u TotalPolitics’ mental health week online had many of you getting in touch. In particular, political researcher Sadie Smith’s account of her own depression, DepressionAnd AnxietyOnTheParliamentaryEstate,
attracted a lot of attention. Sophie said: “Politics is a difficult business, and those who work in it are just as susceptible to mental illness as any of us. I look forward to the day when our MPs are able to be more open about the strain their work puts on their mental health. No matter what the tabloids say, there’s no shame in mental illness.” Continuing on a similar theme, Nixxy commented on the piece TenLittle-KnownFactsAbout MentalHealth, saying: “It’s interesting to see the correlation between some mental disorders and diseases and criminal activity, but again this can help enforce the stigma attached to others suffering the same conditions.”
u Emma Burnell’s piece It’sTime TheUKHadCompulsoryVoting got Samuel Palin going. He wrote that: “I think the level of participation in our democracy isn’t sad, but participation isn’t just about voting. I didn’t vote in the one general election I was eligible to vote in, simply because none of the parties did enough to earn my vote… On the other hand, I regularly write to my MP, sign e-petitions, watch QuestionTime, and so on. In short, I think I’m an active participant in our parliamentary democracy.” David Talbot disagreed with Emma’s point. He said: “Good article, but the fact that it is fundamentally undemocratic to force people to vote. Voting is not a civil duty. It’s a liberty. There’s a difference. We will no longer have ‘free’ elections when we are not free to choose to boycott the elections.”
u Responding to Duncan Brack’s article BeingASpecialAdviserUnder TheCoalition, Richard Darlington (himself a former SpAd in the Labour government) said: “I agree that good government requires more, not fewer SpAds. My father was a SpAd in the Callaghan government and I served under both Blair and Brown. The role has certainly changed over the decades and it is interesting to read about how it has changed in coalition. I’ve always thought the title misleading – assuming that officials are ‘normal’ and SpAds are ‘special’. But Thatcher’s famous quote – ‘advisers advise, ministers decide’ – is most instructive. I am slightly surprised that in such a long article you didn’t reflect on the case of Jeremy Hunt’s SpAd, Adam Smith, though, who resigned just recently. Perhaps next time.”
u Jamie Reed MP’s blog David Cameron’sPetulanceWillCause HimLong-TermProblems divided readers. Alistair North felt the criticisms were borne of nothing but partisanship: “What have we here? Labour MP slags off a Conservative prime minister. How surprising.” By contrast, Charles Turpin said: “Quite so, Jamie, and many of those who agree with you are on the Tory side. When will they get the necessary bottle to plunge in the knife?”
u Matt Andrews took issue with the figures in Ian Kirby’s blog How I IntroducedDavidCameronTo AndyCoulson, saying that comparing a newspaper’s readers to an MP’s Twitter followers is “like comparing apples to oranges”. He went on: “I agree that print newspapers are perhaps waning in their reach, but this doesn’t mean you conveniently ignore the equivalent digital figures – especially when comparing them to other digital ones.”
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