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Written by 21 Dec 2011 on 21 December 2011 in Opinion
The pick of our readers' letters and comments this month

Crocodile tears?
We learn that the shadow chancellor cries at the Antiques Roadshow (TP, December). However, it’s a shame that Ed’s new openness couldn’t quite extend to his economic brief. He apologises for failing to regulate the banks, but where’s his apology for racking up a huge structural deficit in the years before the financial crash? Balls’ latest ‘Plan B for jobs and growth’ would have to be paid for. How?
Balls lacks the most important thing needed by a prospective chancellor: credibility. He is attempting what economists call a ‘fiscal illusion’. His remedy of yet more government spending deliberately ignores the debilitating effects of even higher government debt. The public understand that we’re facing a debt crisis – the solution cannot be more spending, more borrowing and more debt. This isn’t “visionary pragmatism” – it’s just blind ideology.
Michael Fallon MP
Deputy chairman of the Conservative Party

Lobbying with integrity
Andrew Hawkins (TP, December) is right to point out the irony that, like dentists with bad teeth, the lobbying industry “has a poor track record in getting its message across with clarity and potency”. The Independent’s recent exposé of lobbying’s dark arts, as practised by Bell Pottinger, only adds to the momentum towards a statutory register of lobbyists.
Hawkins’ polling data demonstrated widespread support for such a register. What it does not reflect is the strength of feeling on the subject. I am no polling expert, but I think it likely that the public cares little about the behaviour of lobbyists. What the man on the Clapham Omnibus really wants are honest politicians who act with integrity. After all, businesses, charities and interest groups will always want to be close to power. It is the actions of politicians that determine standards in public life.
Will Holmes

The pick of the comments from this month

Commenting on Total Politics’ list of the Top 100 political journalists 2011, Jay expressed some scepticism: “Looking at the list; they are all continuously guests on each other’s’ shows. Cosy...”

Beth commented on George Pascoe-Watson’s article on the Conservatives’ plan to win back the female vote: “While he is ‘reaching out’ to women voters, George Osborne is taking a slash and burn approach to the public sector. It’s all very well talking about childcare but what about jobs, what about growth?”

Ian Kirby’s blog post on the Leveson Inquiry provoked a lively debate. Baz said: “Pot. Kettle. Regardless of what he was putting out there, you guys were lapping it up and reporting it.”

However, truthseeker said that it was a “very dignified and compelling” article. And Room 124 was disenchanted with the whole affair: “Not at all impressed by Lord ‘I understand that’ Leveson. And who are all those people sitting in the background? What are they all doing? How much is this all costing the public purse?”

The revelation that Ed Balls sometimes cries at the Antiques Roadshow did not get a very sympathetic hearing.

“Shouldn’t Ed be crying for our troops in Afghanistan instead of about antiques?” asked Matthew Steeples. Rh thought it was all for show. “Emotional – Antiques Roadshow? Obviously carefully crafted by a PR company to show that this self-important political hard man is really soft and cuddly... But would you be happy with him in power?”

Sadie Smith’s declaration that she was “not the 99 per cent” sparked a debate about the Occupy Movement. Greg Pycroft was direct: “I blame cheap tents,” he said.

However, as Barry Reynolds quickly pointed out, there are many different kinds of tents:

“Quite frankly Millets doesn’t cut it. Now, Gaddafi got it right when he bought his tent. Not only did he get the best tent in the world, his allowed him to have everything he wanted!” Some responses were more reflective. David Landon Cole wrote:  “Almost everyone at those protests is the one per cent; not that they’re Jocastas and Jeremies but that by virtue of being in the first world, they have done exceedingly well in the lottery of life.”

Several joined Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage’s call to honour Britain’s Arctic Convoy veterans. Paul Norton, whose father served in the convoy, pointed out the good value the gesture offered taxpayers: “As Ms Dinenage knows, the previous member for Gosport spent more on a duck house than it would cost to honour these gallant old veterans.”

Jim Green’s father-in-law was also on the Arctic Convoy. His political analysis was unsympathetic: “It’s always the same with governments; too little, too late. All they want to do is sit down and have meetings.”

After the recent industrial action, deputy head teacher Steve Kirkpatrick took to the blog to explain why he took strike action. Tony Newman, another head teacher, agreed with the justification and expressed his concerns: “As a head for 17 years, I will lose money, and that isn’t right. But my anger is more for my wife. After 40 years in the NHS she looks forward to a ‘gold plated’ £4,000 pension.”

Francesca Preece’s take on the strikes inspired anger in Matt: “Unions are there to harness the mass of members towards augmenting the power positions and ideological agenda of the union leadership.”

Tags: Issue 43, Letters, Michael Fallon

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