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New politics? Looks like more of the same to me


When I interviewed David Cameron earlier this year after an event at Thomson Reuters in which he, George Osborne and Ken Clarke delivered their views on the economy under a “Vote For Change” banner, I suggested that watching three white, middle-aged men talking about what was good for Britain didn’t feel much like change to me. Cameron jokingly replied that Clarke, 69, would be flattered to be described as middle-aged.

The Conservative leader then shifted in his seat, sat up straight and talked seriously about all the hard work his party was doing to field more female and ethnic minority candidates. His new Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, talks repeatedly of a “new politics” and how this time politicians will do things differently.

True, we have a coalition for the first time since the Second World War — but, after that, the handful of ministers who will be running government don’t represent much of a change. Of the 16 senior cabinet positions Cameron announced on Wednesday, there are just two women — one of whom is also the only one non-white cabinet member.

And, true, one of the top cabinet jobs — Home Secretary (interior minister) — has gone to a woman but, as someone joked to me yesterday, the fact that’s she’s also minister for women and equality looks like a typing mistake. Her real title, they suggested, should actually have been ‘Home Secretary, and token minister of women and equality.’ Theresa May, the new Home Secretary, will struggle to shake off suggestions that she got the job not on merit but rather because Cameron and Clegg didn’t have a lot of senior female politicians to choose from.

Tories could be making sterling a rod for their own back


BRITAIN-CONSERVATIVES/Talking down the pound could have some pretty bad consequences.

Ever since the debacle of sterling being forced out of the European exchange rate in September 1992, British officials and politicians have maintained a stiff upper lip when talking about the pound.

The Conservative government spent billions of pounds and jacked up interest rates to defend the currency back then, but to no avail. The party’s reputation for economic competence was lost, paving the way for Labour’s big win in 1997.

Hug a politician: the new election strategy


brown_cameronYou know an election campaign is in full swing the world over when pictures start appearing of politicians kissing babies. But with a general election now just two months away, UK politicians seem to be have found new targets for their displays of affection: each other.

It started with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. After stories that the Prime Minister and his Chancellor had fallen out with one another over an interview in which Darling accused Brown aides of having “unleashed the forces of hell” at him, the two popped up at the weekly Prime Minister’s questions almost arm in arm.