Tag Archives: Eric Pickles

Beyond Piss Ups and Breweries

The Tories may be presenting a unified public face for the election campaign but in private there must be a great deal of teeth-gnashing and wailing and weeping (maybe some self-flagellation, who knows what they get up to behind closed doors?) among backbenchers. What an absolute fucking mess of an election campaign. I honestly can’t recall one like it.

The Tories’ election campaign began in earnest with the hiring of Lynton Crosby back in 2013 and since then, it’s been non-stop stream of slogans. It started with “hard-working families, who want to do the right thing and get ahead in life” and ended with “the chaos of a Labour government”. The latter is more of a psychological projection of their chaotic style of government and economic stewardship (coughs), while the former is simply meaningless PR drivel. And besides, hard work is over-rated. Do you think ‘wealth creators’ like Osborne’s daddy got where he is today by working hard?

Then there’s the attempt to insert into the public consciousness the idea of a “weird” Ed Miliband, who “stabbed his brother in the back”. Before that it was “Red Ed” and “Eds under the bed”. Look, if I were leading a political party, I wouldn’t hire Crosby. The man is a buffoon. “Are you thinking what we’re thinking”? You mean you actually think? That’s news to me. I thought you just throw stuff against the wall and if it sticks, it’s in.

A couple of weeks ago, we got this.

Silly Tory poster

 

 

The Tories don’t seem to have caught up with last November’s news: Nicola Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond as leader of the Scottish National Party. For that reason, it’s also subtly sexist.

There’s also something weirdly Stepfordian about the government ministers who have been doing the tours of the TV studios. When they open their mouths, they’re like Scientologists defending their cult from pointed questions. They’ll look into the camera and say with a blank stare, “Look, I was audited and it didn’t do me any harm”. Alternatively, they’re like Liz Truss on last night’s Question Time, whose tactic was to talk over the other  panellists. This is a trick straight out of the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) training manual: “Shout at your opponents and call them names. It’s better than using reasoned arguments”. That’s how they’re trained in their self-styled ‘madrasahs’.

The Sontaran was in the studios talking about the Big Society. They haven’t mentioned the BigSoc for a while. Remind me, what was it all about? Oh yeah, it was a way of selling public spending cuts. Voters didn’t buy into it then and they’re not going to warm to it now. Save your breath.

Bizarrely and straight out of leftfield came the sudden announcement that the Tories would freeze regulated rail fares. Am I tripping? Next week, they’ll be promising to renationalize the railways. Steady on!

Then there’s the ‘free press’ or, at least, the Tory-supporting section of it, which is pretty much most of it. The stories. Oh, the stories! Yesterday, the Daily Mail ran with “Red Ed’s tangled love life” . Really! Ed Miliband dated before he got married. That’s the story. It’s like a Bizarro World version of an OK! magazine story. Cheap and toothless, it fails to deliver a blow against its intended target. It’s like being savaged by Geoffrey Howe’s legendary dead sheep!

The Tory campaign is a mess of their own (well, Crosby and possibly Gove’s) design. But it’s too late for their ship to change course, because they’re heading towards a huge iceberg that bears their name. The only way is down, baby…

 

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Nightmare On King Street (Part 18)

Eric Pickles referred to it as “propaganda on the rates” and in the two years that have passed since councils were banned from reproducing their lies in print form (remember H&F News?), the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has decided to ignore everyone and produce this glossy magazine.

IMG-20140322-00031

This dropped through my letter box last week. I’ve also noticed that The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle is continuing to publish council propaganda in spite of this new arrival. The Tories’ arrogance seeps through every letter on every page of this magazine.

The big story is that Council is pushing its idea to replace the crumbling Hammersmith Flyover with what it refers to as a “flyunder”, or a tunnel by anyone else’s definition. The front page of the magazine tells us that comedian and local resident, Bill Bailey, supports the council’s plan. Bailey apparently told the select committee, “I’ve lived in Hammersmith for 30 years and the traffic needs to be addressed. A flyunder would have enormous benefits for not just traffic but also for a much-improved town centre environment”. By using a name like Bailey’s to add gravitas to their idea, the Council gives the impression that the comedian is a solid supporter of the Tory administration. The tunnel – for that’s what it is -will be built by contractors who have close links to the Tory Party and Tory councillors will be wined, dined and treated to golfing holidays for helping these companies to gain another massive contract. Building a tunnel will create years of disruption and lead to road closures. None of this has been considered by this gung-ho council that puts its own interests before those of the residents it claims to support.

The magazine’s other big story is the apparent 3% “cut” in Council Tax. This cut is being paid for by stealth taxes and a whole series of charges for such things as training in local parks. For a council that likes to tell all and sundry how fiscally responsible it is, it wastes a lot of money on hare-brained schemes and propaganda. Elsewhere in the magazine is a feature on so-called ‘Brackenbury Village’ where the only Hammersmith residents that matter in the Tories’ eyes tend to live.

The law brought in by The Sontaran was initially enacted in response to Tower Hamlets council’s in-house propaganda sheet but makes no mention of Hammersmith and Fulham. Why? Because Hammersmith and Fulham is Pickles’ favourite council.

Here’s what the government website says:

In the broadcast media, regulator Ofcom recently concluded that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had breached ‘The Communications Act 2003’, the ‘UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’ and the ‘Code on local authority publicity’. However there are no such restrictions which stop political advertising in print.

The consultation, launched today, is seeking views on how best to frame the new legislation to stop politically contentious advertising campaigns, municipal newspapers and the hiring of lobbyists by councils.

Although Tower Hamlets is mentioned by name, by far the worst offender is Hammersmith and Fulham, which until recently, had a cabinet member with responsibility for propaganda resident engagement.

With the local elections just over a month away, it comes as no surprise the Tories want to push their message. The question for me is: how much is this actually costing local residents? I think we should be told.

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The Cat’s Preview of the Tory Party Conference

The Tory Party conference begins on Sunday and the Cat expects to hears the following words:

  • It’s Labour’s fault
  • We’re cleaning up the mess the Labour government left us
  • The Conservative Party stands up for hardworking families/taxpayers who do the right thing and who want to get on in life.

The last one is quite important to the Tories because, in their eyes, this slogan works as a substitute for real ideas and acts as a means to divide people along the usual lines of public/private, young/old, able-bodied/disabled, waged/unwaged and so on.

Patrick Wintour in The Guardian tells us that the Conservatives have produced a “6 point pledge card to win back working class voters”.

The card is due to be launched next Monday in a Manchester pub, and the idea likely to be examined carefully as Tories seek to fend off claims that their party is for the rich, or has become insensitive to the crisis in living standards. The Conservatives do not have a single councillor in Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield or Liverpool.

The pledge card, which mirrors New Labour’s initiative in 1997, will promise free party membership for trade unionists, the building of 1m new homes over the course of a parliament, an increase in the minimum wage funded by a cut in employers’ national insurance, a cost-of-living test for every policy item and a cabinet minister to “take action for the consumer against rip-off companies”.

The sense of desperation is palpable. But it should come as no surprise to readers that Policy Exchange was involved in this ruse. Remember them? They’re the ‘non-partisan’ think-tank that proposed the North of England should be abandoned and its denizens live in leafy Oxfordshire instead.

It has been founded by David Skelton, a former deputy director of the thinktank Policy Exchange. Born in Consett, Co Durham, he is a rare northern voice in the party and stood for North Durham at the last election.

Skelton believes the Conservatives can win in the long term as the new workers’ party. He said there were four overlapping groups to which the Tories have failed to appeal: working class voters, northern urban voters, ethnic minority voters and people outside the Tory heartlands

Excuse me while I split my sides. One of those who supports this idea is Matthew Hancock, who’s on TURC’s parliamentary council. Another supporter is Laura Sandys, daughter of Duncan Sandys, a former defence secretary and member of the Monday Club. Ms Sandys is a member of the Free Enterprise Group, which includes fellow headbangers, Dominic Raabid and Kwasi Kwarteng, whose views on British workers are well known.

Another laughable idea is Eric ‘Pie Man’ Pickles’s wonderfully barking idea of letting people park on double yellow lines. It hasn’t occurred to the Sontaran that double yellow lines are there for safety reasons.

The Tory Party conference, which is being held in the very northern city of Manchester, will be met by a massive protest of health service workers, the Socialist Party, the People’s Assembly, Left Unity, Unite the Union, the TUC and many more besides. If you’re in Manchester this weekend, give the chinless bastards hell from me.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 14)

Yesterday, as I was looking at my Twitter timeline, I saw this tweet from H&F Council’s propaganda department,

H&F propaganda1

So I followed the link to this article on the Council’s website. I will quote the first two paragraphs,

A judge has thrown out a legal challenge that threatened £1billion worth of community benefits to North Fulham and Earls Court, describing it as ‘absurd’.

West Kensington Estate resident Harold Greatwood, applied to court to launch a judicial review of Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s decision to enter into a Conditional Land Sale Agreement with EC Properties to include the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in the wider regeneration of Earls Court.

Gloating? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Finding that the challenge to the Council’s consultation was “not reasonably arguable”, Mr Justice Mitting said: “The analysis of the consultation responses put to cabinet on 23 April 2012 and 3 September 2012 was balanced and fair. The suggestion that the results of the consultation were hidden is unwarranted”. He went on to say that “The time for the consultation – nine weeks – was adequate” and that “The suggestion that because the defendant did not address the consultation documents to tenants by name or to the ‘tenant’, the process was flawed, is absurd.”

Justice? Justice only exists for those who can afford to pay for it. As for justice being “blind”, that’s another myth. Judges are ideological too. I suspect the Council has a dedicated legal team whose job is to deal with this and other property and land deals.

I saw another tweet on H&F Council’s Twitter timeline.

H&F tweet

This isn’t riding roughshod over the majority of the tenant’s wishes, it’s getting into a steamroller, putting a brick onto the accelerator pedal and running over the tenants again and again. I clicked on the link.

There’s a quote from Council Leader, Nicholas Botterill.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of H&F Council, said: “We believe that the residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country. They will only have to move when their new home is ready to be occupied. That new home will be the same area as they are already living in. People will be compensated and we will keep support groups and neighbours together.

Whoa! Hang on! Botterill says, “The residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country”. Which “residents” are these? Not the residents who oppose this development and he can only mean the astroturf group of residents that was set up by the Council to give the impression of a consensus for the redevelopment project. It’s an old PR con trick that Edward Bernays would have admired.

Here’s some more,

“Residents, their current and future children will be living in an even better, safer neighbourhood environment with access to new leisure and community facilities. Most of all local people will benefit from the thousands of new job opportunities that will be created”.

“Local people”, says Botterill. Most of those “local people” will be forced out of their homes to make way for the affluent and those who will take, at face value, the words of the developer and the vendors who will sell shoebox properties that have a luxury price tag on them.

At the end of the article, which was quite possibly written by the Council’s propaganda minister, Harry Phibbs, it asks,

What happens next?

  • Hammersmith & Fulham Council will make an application to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  for consent for the transfer of the estates to EC Properties. This is likely to be considered in March.
  • When the Section 106 agreement with the developer is firmed up, the Planning Authority will refer the planning application to the Mayor of London, while the Secretary of State also has the discretion to call it in.

The Secretary of State, the immensely rotund Eric Pickles, is already on board and so is Emperor Bozza. It looks like a done deal… or is it? The Council, in its arrogance, believes that it can do no wrong. We’ll see.

The former Council Leader, Stephen Greenhalgh, is facing a criminal investigation over the alleged “VIP list” where tenants who signed up to support the redevelopment were promised preferential treatment. If this investigation goes ahead, I expect other councillors and council officials to face charges. For all the Council’s gloating, the VIP list could come back to bite them. The Council and Greenhalgh deny any wrongdoing.

Funnily enough, when I click on any link on the pages I’ve linked to, I get the following message,

http://www.lbhf.gov.uk is unavailable or may not exist.

Amusing. No?

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Pickles plays the Hokey Cokey with the YBF

Eric Pickles talks rubbish

In a Guardian article from March 2010, Eric Pickles, then the Tory Party Chairman, said that he was “distancing the party from the Young Britons Foundation”.

If that’s the case, Nowhere Towers would like to know why he still turns up to address the young and not-so-young shock troops of the rabid right? Presumably, he’d tell us that he’s attending such meetings in a “personal capacity”. Yeah, okay, if you say so.

The Sontaran  also has close contact with the Trade Union Reform Campaign led by Young Turcs (geddit?) Aidan Burley and Mark Clarke, the YBF’s  “Outreach Officer. In fact, as Political Scrapbook tells us he’s attending this evening’s relaunch of TURC.

Burley was involved in an embarrassing Nazi incident just before Christmas that cost him his job as Justine Greening’s bag carrier. Oddly enough, Nazis didn’t like trade unions either.

So is Pickles in or is he out? Will he shake it all about? Ugh. That’s one mental picture  that I don’t want to see again.

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Greenhalgh to quit?

The last few days have been pretty horrendous for Tory High Command. Hot on the heels of the Aidan Burley Nazi story comes the news from Political Scrapbook that Hammersmith & Fulham council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh is to resign.  Nowhere Towers is intrigued by this news. Is he really going to quit so that he can take a seat in the House of Lords or has the party found him a nice safe Commons  seat somewhere?

More news when we get it.

UPDATE: @1239

The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle has the latest. Apparently, Greeno is stepping down in 6 months time. Nowhere Towers asks “Why wait? For the sake of the borough, go NOW”.

UPDATE @ 1301

The Evening Standard tells us that Greenhalgh is to become a “council estates champion”. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. This is the man whose co-authored a report that called for the bulldozing of council estates,

Mr Greenhalgh said he would work with neighbourhood forums, residents’ groups and businesses to decide how the money should be spent. Funding would be pooled and he also wants to appoint a “neighbourhood commissioner” to help tackle crime.

Crucially,

Mr Greenhalgh will step down from the council leadership in May but will carry on as a back-bench councillor.

Nowhere Towers suspects that this new role has been created for him by Eric Pickles, so that he may lean heavily on local authorities and use his experience to find ways to push through large-scale council estate bulldozing plans. Greenhalgh also has had considerable contact with construction firms that donate money to the Tory Party’s coffers.

UPDATE @ 2103

I saw a report on BBC London News earlier where Greeno said he was going to “concentrate on White City”.  I think we know what that means. White City is the developers’  jewel-in-the-crown. Here’s a text report from the BBC on the announcement that H&F council was cutting council tax by nearly 4%. We know what that means too: more savage cuts to public services and sneaky increases in parking charges.

In the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle, Greeno was quoted as saying,

“I do not think the people of White City are getting value for money, nor do I think are wider taxpayers. I want to focus that money on getting much better outcomes for people living there and ensuring that the neighbourhood is fully involved in how that money is spent. I’ve given my heart and soul to this job, and next year I will have been leader for six years. It’s the right time for the next person.”

“The key words and phrases here are “value for money”, “outcomes”… “wider taxpayers”. How do those words relate to a geographical location? Especially the phrase “value for money”? Is someone going to make money from all of this? Why, of course.

 

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H & F Council: information, disinformation and no information

Early last month, I made a couple of information requests to H&F council under the Freedom of Information Act. I submitted the requests about one week apart from each other. The second request, asking which company publishes the soon-to-be-defunct H&F News, was completed quickly. The first one, which asked if any emails regarding the West London Free School had been sent between Cambridge House and the Bryony Centre, was delayed twice (they explained that it would be delayed) and on 6 April, after it was delayed again and I had not heard from them, I sent a polite but short email asking what had happened to the requested information. Within hours, I received an email informing me that “no emails were sent between Cambridge School and the Bryony Centre in July of last year”.

Normally a request should take 20 days to complete. On this occasion it actually took the council 30 odd days to even tell me that there was nothing. I have to tell you, friends, that I am suspicious. So suspicious that I am about to make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office. It seems to me that the council has not fulfilled its statutory obligation and when I asked them what had happened to the information, they failed to provide it on time. Given the fact that this council has maladministered my council tax account, perhaps the delay and the accompanying excuses were only to be expected. That said, there is something fishy going on and I intend to get to the bottom of it.

Recently H&F council has paid the Fulham Chronicle to carry its information propaganda. Shepherds Bush blog broke the story on 14 February. This is an unprecedented move because I know of no other council that has made such an arrangement with an independent local paper. Nowhere Towers believes that the Fulham Chronicle will now go a little easier on H&F Council, since – according to the Cowan Report – the council has paid the paper £75,000 to carry its information. In many respects, this is like the Cabinet Office paying the Daily Mirror to disseminate the government’s ‘happiness’ agenda. Make no mistake, this recent move by the council conforms entirely to the propaganda model – only rather than a compnay paying for advertising space, H&F council will actually pay for its own information to be carried by the paper.

It’s a very worrying development and it appears prima facie to circumvent Eric Pickles’s agenda to clamp down on so-called “Town Hall Pravdas”. H&F council’s Dear Leader was cock-a-hoop about the deal. Here he is quoted on Shepherds Bush blog

“We have been incredibly proud to have published H&F News but this agreement is a positive step forward for the borough’s residents as we have secured an effective way of communicating our news, while delivering real value for money. As a result we will continue to have one of the lowest communication costs of any London borough.

“Additionally, this illustrates our commitment to supporting a vibrant independently produced newspaper in the borough.”

It’s the last paragraph that sticks in the mind. How can Greenhalgh possibly make this claim with a straight face?

Finally, I’ll always remember H&F News‘ “Your Shout” column, which was always written by a member of the paper’s editorial staff. This can be seen as a microcosm of the way in which H&F council works and is a possible indication of how its relationship with Fulham Chronicle might play out over the coming years.

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Localism: a marketing gimmick to sell council cuts?

Who ate all the pies?

I am not impressed with this new word “localism”.  It travels along the same linguistic line as the phrase “Big Society”.  It is an utterly meaningless word in the hands of avowed neoliberals.  The term “localism” has been coined to present a friendlier face to the savage cuts that are about to be made to local government finances. The localism in question is originally derived from Hannan and Carswell’s Randist-inspired treatise, The Plan- Twelve Months to Renew Britain.  Make no mistake, the general thrust of the government’s localist agenda is to remove forever the link between local people and the only bulwark they have between them and the excesses of central government. Thatcher abolished the metropolitan county councils precisely because they stood in opposition to her policies. The current plan carries this idea much further by eliminating the possibilities for town halls to spend money on social projects, since the money that comes from central government is to be dramatically reduced.

Last week, Eric Pickles, the local government minister announced his plans for ‘localism’. Pickles says on his Twitter feed,

Localism Bill will be introduced next Monday. Lots of power to to Councils

The Guardian reports,

Central to the bill, and to the decentralisation, is the general power of confidence (GPC) being given to councils. Through this, authorities are given the freedom to make social, economic and environmental decisions for their local areas, rather than being subject to top-down targets.

But how empowered councils will be in reality is up for debate. Experts warn there is a distinct lack of financial freedom partnering the GPC which could hamper any true reform.

The Guardian asks the same question that I and many others have been thinking: how will this bill “empower” councils? Local authorities will have no more power to control their finances than they do already.  The paper adds,

David Walker, the former managing director of public reporting at theAudit Commission, argues that the localism bill is in fact a con and that underneath its glossy exterior of power to the people, councils will have no more financial control than at present.

The government’s ‘localism’ project is another means by which to shape British society along the lines of Randist individualism. This means that people are disconnected from their peers and the society in which they live and are remoulded as individual consumers of reified products in a localized, but highly artificial, market place. Even the Conservative-run Local Goverment Association is finding Pickle’s localism hard to stomach. The Guardian,

The Local Government Association (LGA) is predicting 140,000 job losses over the next four years and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting predict that 70,000 of those could come in the next year alone.

Pickles has already slammed the Conservative-run LGA for scaremongering on job losses and making up figures “on the back of a fag packet”, but the front-loading of the cuts in particular risks another confrontation between central and local government.

The Public Service website says,

The Localism Bill is nothing more than a smokescreen that will enable thousands of local government jobs to be cut under the name of the Big Society, the Unite union has said.

Precisely. George Orwell must be spinning in his grave. But Pickles is adamant,

“I believe it is possible to cut significant sums out of local authorities by simply improving the way local authorities operate.”

He told the BBC that councils have “simply got to wake up to the fact that it is no longer viable to have their own chief executives, their own legal departments their own education departments, their own planning departments”.

Which begs the question, why have elected local councils in the first place if this is how the government views them? This hasn’t been explained. Some councils like Barnet have cut back so severely on their public services that they may as well not exist as local authorities. Such ‘reforms’ are guaranteed to make councils into nothing more than a rubber stamp for outsourced public service contracts. As such, councillors will arguably be less accountable to their electorate. It seems to me that local authorities will have to outsource even more of their services to private interests. Companies will be invited to tender; the company that claims to be able to provide the service for the lowest cost, wins the contract. The emphasis is not on quality but what can be done for the least cost. This raises a problematic: the service provider that runs say, social services cheaply will not necessarily produce work of quality. We could see more Victoria Climbies and Baby Peters because of these highly experimental policies. But social services is one area of local authority provision where the cuts will impact the poor and the vulnerable the most. The rich will not have to worry about local provision of social services because they have the economic capital to deal with their own affairs.

As I pointed out earlier, the objective of the Localism Bill is reduce the possibility for councils to oppose any government diktats at a local level. This is also a social engineering project that is being sold as a decentralization of power. It is a dishonest attempt to foist unwanted cuts on those who are already vulnerable and those who are about to be made vulnerable.  This is a form of politicized misanthropy that is dressed up as empowerment. Like the Big Society, Localism is another marketing idea that has been dreamt up by people who place their trust in the sign alone. Philosophically empty and devoid of any real meaning, Localism is likely to kill rather than cure.

Resist the cuts!

UPDATE: 20/1/11 @ 1950

Changed “state” to “central government”.

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The Conservative Party Manifesto and the Ayn Rand connection

According to my dear friend, Dan, he and his buddy, Doug, have had an influence on the last Conservative Party Manifesto. The manifesto, published in hardback, was a break with the more traditional way of publishing manifestos which often appear in paperback or pamphlet form. Hardback books cost considerably more than paperbacks and thus remain outside the reach of  readers with shallow pockets.  But a hardback manifesto? That was some kind of statement, it said “We can afford it. We have the money. So f*ck you!”. Yeah, you had Ashcroft’s money and some from that Goldsmith fella…which reminds me, he’s a bit quiet these days…

Hannan and Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, co-authored a book titled The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. The book, according to the pair, is influenced by the work of Ayn Rand, the Russian-American emigré, free-market radical and libertarian ‘philosopher’. Rand called her ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, which is a peculiarly right-wing strain of libertarianism.  Adherents to the Objectivist creed proclaim her idea of ‘rational self interest’ the natural state for humankind. Rational self interest = me first. No prizes for guessing why Dan the Man is a fan.

As an Ayn Rand fan, I was touched to see this tasteful piece of merchandise, brought to you by that master blogger Tory Bear.

He’s referring here to a tee-shirt printed with the question “Who is Dan Han?” Subtle, clever and witty as I’m sure you will all agree.  But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the question’s source, it is a reference to the oft-repeated line, “Who is John Galt”? in Rand’s turgid tome, Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt indeed. But this is a question that means something only to those who have been touched by the spectral hand of Rand, to the rest of us – including those of us who were forced to read the dire Atlas Shrugged at school – it either means absolutely nothing or it is something to mercilessly ridicule.

In short, John Galt is a sort of cipher; a metaphor for unbridled individualism,  it is the sort of individualism that rightwing libertarians like Hannan and Carswell have wet dreams about. Galt is the symbolic embodiment of what Rand referred to as “the Noble Soul”;  a purely selfish being, free from any ‘taint’ of altruism and a servant to no one (not everyone has this luxury, by the way). There it is in a nutshell, now you don’t have to read the book; I’ve saved you from a fate worse than boredom. However Rand is no Camus, her characters are wooden and her attitude to women is often strangely misogynistic. The dullness of her prose style is surpassed only by the genius of utility that is the telephone book. I prefer the telephone book – any telephone book!

Ayn Rand was a cult-leader who was  pathologically self-obsessed; she was also a heavy smoker and had a fondness for dextroamphetamine (which probably goes some way to explaining the rationale behind her ‘philosophy’). Rand insisted that, in order to understand her philosophy, you had to read her fiction. This is the typical behaviour of a cult leader on a par with, say, L. Ron Hubbard. I often get the impression that all she was doing was hawking dodgy stories disguised as serious ‘philosophy’.  She claims philosophical descent from Aristotle and was possibly influenced by the young Nietzsche. Indeed some of her thought on the individual appear to be derived from Nietzsche’s  ‘free spirit’. But Rand is no Nietzsche either: there is no irony, no sarcasm, no spirituality; the human being is reduced to a rational calculating machine that is incapable of warmth, empathy or, indeed, humanity. Altruism is evil. Selfishness is good. A is A. If you like your binaries half-cooked, you’ll love Rand. If you want philosophy, look elsewhere.

Back to the manifesto.  It seems that the Tories were desperate to find some meaningful philosophical anchorage to their policy-making – something that didn’t sound too much like Thatcherism…  Remember, they don’t have Marx to fall back on and they’ve previously filleted some of Adam Smith’s economic ideas to suit their agenda, so they can hardly be considered deep-thinkers – though David Willetts enjoys giving the impression of being a serious philosophical character – so they plumbed for Ayn Rand. And who better to inject a Randian discourse into the Tories’ political bloodstream than those bad boys on the right of the party, The Free-marketeers, MC Mad Dan and DJ Dizzy Doug? You give those lefties hell!

Remember when Cameron told us how he wanted to “hand power back to the individual”? You’ve guessed it, straight out of Rand. You see the way The Quiet Man is attacking those on benefits? Uh huh, Rand again…though Rand wouldn’t have approved of IDS’s Catholicism – she was an atheist and she would have hated his advisor, Philippa Stroud, whose ‘church’ claims to ‘cure’ gays and lesbians. How about when IDS said, “work will set you free”? Er…let’s not go there…

It must be a frustrating time for some Tories; sitting on the government benches with the Lib Dems; the Christians having to keep schtum about the atheism of Rand and the libertarians claiming that the measures ‘don’t go far enough’.

On a lighter note, one of the characters in Atlas Shrugged says that “A lit cigarette symbolises a fire in the mind”.

No, I beg to differ, a lit cigarette symbolises ashtray breath, lung cancer and heart disease!

UPDATE:

Desperate Dan claims another “page from The Plan” has become policy.

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