Thursday, May 20, 2010

The silver lining round this government

Now the fact is the three largest Parliamentary parties are not identical. There are shades and nuances of difference and, in a small number of certain areas, there are actual, real disagreements. One of the most painful things about this is that actually this government might actually be better in certain areas than the Labour government that preceded it.

That's partly because it's hard to be as obsessed by passing authoritarian legislation as New Labour, nor are the two new coalition parties obliged to save face by defending policies that the public hated simply in order not to U-turn.

Before I get really stuck into how awful this government is going to be, and Vince Cable's Royal Mail privatisation plans are in my sights, I thought I'd take a little look at some of the areas where Labour was so poor that the new government can seem like a welcome breath of air.


ID cards. Gone. Both Tories and Lib Dems were opposed to these and as long as Labour hadn't won they would be abolished. There are still questions to be asked about whether they will be withdrawn for immigrants or not, but we will see the back of the National Identity register which is very welcome.

Bank charges: While I'm skeptical about the noises being made about banking regulation I was pleased to hear that there will be action taken on "unfair" bank charges made against account holders. The banks really do rake it in from over-charging account holders for all sorts of rubbish that costs the banks very little, and it causes real hardship. Any action taken on this would be fine by me.

No third runway: This was always on the cards. Sadly not a commitment to cheap and reliable public transport to provide alternatives to aviation, nor a commitment to restrict the growth of aviation as an industry - however, the battle to prevent Heathrow's third runway has won, and it would be churlish not to smile at that thought.

Asylum: No, really. The jury is still out on how this government treats asylum seekers overall, although we know they'll be terrible on immigration more generally, but they have committed to prevent asylum seekers being deported where they face threats due to their sexual orientation. This will save people's lives. They say they are looking at not locking up kids anymore, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Gay rights: Historical convictions for consensual homosexual sex over 16 are to be treated as spent and removed from the criminal records. There are still people around today who have convictions from the days when homosexuality was illegal altogether (and must declare them in job interviews, etc.) it's a very good thing that the slate is going to wiped clean.


There are some other areas which *might* turn out to be a good thing, and feel free to suggest some I may have missed.

For instance they promise to end the centrally dictated policy of closing A&E units, high speed rail, action on dangerous dogs, ban on alcohol sales below cost, restricting interest rates on credit and store cards and the regulation of CCTV, and intriguing maximum wage proposals in the public sector - I'm reserving judgement on these which may be surprisingly progressive, although my inbuilt cynicism is shaking its head sadly and tutting rather loudly.

I'm braced for the fact that the government will occasionally do things I'm happy with, although, frankly, the defining feature of the next few years is likely to be economic austerity measures so I'm unlikely to be going soft on them any time soon.


David Cox said...
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David Cox said...

Gosh Jim! a very fair analysis.

I don't think there going to be full-on privatisation of RM. I understand the universal letter service will stay state-owned on along the UCW's (as the CWU was)'BBC' status. There seems to be a nod towards some form of employee ownship. Still as a former CWU rep I'm not sure I'm going to be very happy. There is a strong case for a state-owned service-led post office to create a level playing field for business.

Jim Jepps said...

I suspect we'll have to wait and see to discover what the precise plans are, esp. as they may change, although the plan for government produced this morning says "We will seek to ensure an injection of private capital into Royal Mail, including opportunities for employee ownership." and various sources are talking about 49% sell off.