In my last article I bemoaned the fact that the media was devoting a massive amount of its output to “Partygate” once more. The more cynical might say it was as good a topic as any to damage the Conservative brand in advance of local elections across much of the country. This vacuous debate has now moved to “Beer and Currygate” on the back of videos and revelations that the Leader of the Opposition may have broken Covid lockdown rules whilst on the campaign trail in Durham last year.
My view is that this is all becoming rather silly now but Sir Keir Starmer has backed himself into a corner because of his pious condemnation and calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation merely for being investigated by the police. It is now obvious that different police forces interpreted the rules differently and the rules themselves were in many instances simply daft, hence my objection at the time to many of them. At no time should the police allow themselves to be dragged into political arguments but we are seeing a new and emerging pattern here across political life: use official agencies via complaint procedures in an attempt to destroy reputations with the sure knowledge that activists on social media will re-spin and do the rest.
There were few local elections in Kent last week; next year will be our turn with all-out elections in many Kent boroughs. My Party had a mixed night but not unexpectedly so in a mid-term ballot. Doubtless perceptions of poor behaviour in and around Parliament played a part, keeping many Conservative voters at home, and additionally concerns about the cost of living, some of which have an entirely global dimension that nobody can do much about.
So, in some London boroughs – Westminster and Wandsworth in particular – voting out Conservative councils who had consistently delivered good services at the lowest price over many years and voting in a Labour one who will always cost more seems a strange choice. We need to concentrate on getting the tax burden down as one of the primary levers we can bring to bear to deliver more into people’s pockets and undertake a proper appraisal of what government spends our money on. Is it all really necessary and essential; are we getting value for money; are we getting a better service because of additional spending; would you spend money on it yourself? These should be the limbs of the decision tree throughout national and local government.
Getting the Civil Service back at their desks would be a good start. The situation regarding passport delays has been particularly bad. Obviously volumes increased dramatically as few would have bothered to get a passport or renew across the Covid period when travel was hugely restricted but service from DVLA for driving licences, HMRC for general tax administration is poor and getting somebody to answer a phone call across the public and private sector is difficult, frustrating and wastes valuable time. Covid excuses no longer cut it I’m afraid. I take pride in getting a written response to constituents within a day or two of each and every query with some exceptions for complexity of request.
A new session of Parliament starts this week, I’ll offer a full report on what is in the Queen’s Speech next time. Enjoy the good weather and let’s hope for a bumper summer for Thanet once more.