Monday, September 26, 2005

Hypocrite of the Year

I have just watched The Prime-Minister-Elect make his acceptance speech to Labour Party conference. Gordon Brown’s certainly wasn’t making a chancellor’s speech – there was precious little there about the economy.

Neither was it the speech of a contender in a contested election for the party leadership – he made no attempt whatever to placate those within the Labour party who had hoped that a Brown premiership would mean the end of New Labour. He obviously considers that he has the succession in the bag and was setting out his stall to the country for the next general election. And judging by the sour looks on the faces of some left-wing delegates even as they forced themselves to give Mr Brown a standing ovation, most of the Labour party has reached the same conclusion.

From a technical perspective, ignoring my own opinions about the validity or otherwise of what was said, it was a better speech than any other I have heard him make. But was really stood out about the speech was the truly astonishing hypocrisy. Not since O.J. Simpson promised to bring to justice his wife’s killer have I seen such an amazing display of bare-faced humbug.

Gordon Brown said he learned from his parents ‘to respect others, to tell the truth, to take responsibility’. A pity he wasn’t listening more carefully.

He said that Labour should be proud to have taken one million pensioners out of poverty. This from the man who, with his £5 billion a year raid on pension funds and his over-complicated tax credits which destroyed incentives to save, has done more than any other individual to wreck pension provision in Britain. His Pension Credit is so complicated and unpopular that 1.6 million eligible pensioners fail to receive the money to which they are entitled, because they don’t or cannot complete the forms. And typical pensioners have seen more than a third of the increase in the basic state pension snatched back in higher council tax. As Labour’s own Frank Field pointed out Gordon Brown inherited one of the strongest pensions provisions in Europe, but we now have one of the weakest.

The same Gordon Brown who waxed lyrical today about the need to develop human potential by providing more access to education, was the man who intervened to defeat the rebellion against top-up tuition fees. Usually when Tony Blair has been taking flack for unpopular policies Gordon Brown goes into hiding, but just before the key vote on University fees, Gordon let it be known that he was backing Tony on this one. With that support, top up fees, a policy which is likely to deter many students from poor backgrounds from Higher Education, scraped through by five votes. Without Gordon Brown’s support the policy probably would not have been passed. And he talked about how Conservatives did not want people to go to University – the truth is that the number of University places was expanded far more under the last Conservative government than it has been under this one.

And what a nerve to accuse Conservatives of having believed it was impossible to ban child labour when it was not a socialist but a Tory - Lord Shaftesbury – who introduced the legislation which did exactly that.

Similarly, what a nerve to say that Conservatives believed it was impossible to ban slavery. This country banned slavery first here and in other places within our reach, and then hunted down and destroyed the slave trade on every ocean on earth, many years before the Labour party existed, and there were plenty of Tories and Liberals alike who took part in that campaign. William Wilberforce, the independent MP who campaigned long and hard to ban the slave trade was a close friend of Tory Prime minister William Pitt and was supported by him - Pitt even moved an anti-slavery motion for an investigation on Wilberforce's behalf at one stage when Wilberforce was ill.


But the worst of the lot was that he actually dared to say

“No more ‘The man in Whitehall knows best.’”

That really is in the same league of duplicity as if Tony Blair were to claim to have opposed the war in Iraq. Gordon Brown is one of the biggest exponents of Whitehall meddling in the entire history of British government. He is responsible for a massive increase in the number of inspectors and regulators. There have been 15 new regulations every working day under Labour. The British Chambers of Commerce now estimate that the cost of new regulations on business under Labour has reached nearly £40 billion (BCC, Burden’s Barometer).

Brown has doubled the total spending on auditing local government, expanding certain types of regulation by six thousand percent. Today’s papers report that the number of consultants taken on by this government has added 1p in the pound to income tax. Councils, police, head teachers, doctors and nurses, have all faced dozens of government targets, forms to complete, and controls, and most of these bureaucratic implements have the Treasury’s fingerprints all over them.

For claiming to oppose the idea that “The man in Whitehall knows best”, a philosophy which his entire term of office as chancellor completely exemplifies, I nominate Gordon Brown as Hypocrite of the Year.

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