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23 November 2007

Calamity to disaster via oblivion

Calamity for the Lib Dems, disaster for the government, via oblivion for the national football teams

By Owen Walker

The blogosphere observed a week in Britain which started with calamity for the Lib Dems and ended with disaster for the government, via oblivion for the national football teams.

The plodding Lib Dem leadership race experienced its first jolt in the spotlight at the beginning of the week as it emerged during a debate on the Politics Show that Chris Huhne’s team had circulated a dossier on Nick Clegg entitled ‘Calamity Clegg’. The cringeworthy scene can be viewed here at the BBC website.

Despite many feeling the calamity tag would stick to Clegg, Nich Starling believes Huhne came off the worse: “This sort of rubbish is an absolute gift for our political opposition and sadly shows that some people in Huhne’s team really are not fit for senior positions. If they can produce this rubbish, seemingly without Chris’ knowledge then it says a lot for those who surround Chris and Chris himself.”

Though the document was hastily withdrawn, a copy can be found on the devious-as-ever Guido Fawkes‘s blog. Political Hack UK runs through the document and concludes both candidates are as hypocritical as each other. The post is titled: ‘Bald men still fighting over comb’.

Though many in the blogosphere have summarised the Politics Show tussle in the context of the Lib Dems plight, the best analysis can be found on these very pages, courtesy of Martin Bright: “This has been a peculiarly Lib Dem kind of spat: essentially an argument to establish how much the two candidates agree with each other. It’s a row all right, and it has even become quite spicy at times, but it’s hardly Blair-Brown territory, or even Cameron-Davis. Liberal Democrats just aren’t like that.”

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The Lib Dem hierarchy would have been overjoyed with the week’s later unravellings, in what has been dubbed Labour’s winter of discontent. The announcement of the amount of money which has so far been spent on Northern Rock was soon followed by the HM Revenue & Customs data loss debacle. The email trail which was so embarrassing for HMRC and the Treasury can be downloaded here.

Just as to blame 22-year-old Scott Carson for England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 would be incredibly short sighted, so too would it be to posit the data loss blame on the unnamed 23-year-old official’s shoulders.

There is an interesting dissection of HMRC’s Annual Report at Burning our Money, which states: “The problem goes beyond a simple matter of staff cuts. Just like at the RPA [Rural Payments Agency], there are also new IT systems, and there are new ‘lean production’ work patterns being imposed- less case working, and more specialisation (aka dumbed-down production line jobs). It’s a toxic combination, and staff morale is rock bottom.”

With polls now putting Labour up to nine points behind the Tories, a week is certainly a long time in politics.

This also appears at www.newstatesman.com/blogs/best-of-the-politics-blogs.

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