Originally posted November 21st 2006
AN ARTICLE FOR LIB DEM NEWS
“Litvinenko should think himself lucky”, muttered one Government Whip as he breezed past me dragging behind him the customary gruesome instruments of torture.
Whips are twitchy this week. The traditionally uneventful week long debate which follows The Queen’s Speech is grinding relentlessly to its tedious and inconsequential conclusion. With so little at stake there’s precious little for them to do.
They’re no doubt having to resort to merely being beastly to cuddly animals and the like until they are unleashed on their own back benchers for the new parliamentary session.
This is always the brief autumnal calm before the winter storms.
This year’s programme seems pretty much like those of previous years; a skilfully balanced blend of populism with symbols of political virility (scapegoating some unpopular minority and so on). It also has, of course, just enough “red meat” to satisfy the most narrow and jingoistic Mail readers.
The Government appears to have produced a package which it no doubt believes will please all of it’s target audiences.
On the face of it there is much to feel encouraged by; with bills on Climate Change, local government reform, Mental Health reform, traffic congestion and new proposals on development planning.
Whips may worry that there’s not enough there of sufficient contentiousness to keep them occupied. But they should not worry.
The civil liberties agenda is up for grabs again with jury trials under threat and the true cost of I.D. cards should soon become more apparent.
There are already signs that local government won’t so much be “reformed” as better “controlled” by Central Government and the bizarre and counterproductive dogma driven privatisation of the NHS will be encouraged further.
Fertile ground for debate, another barren landscape for the Tories, but plenty of opportunity for real job satisfaction amongst the Government Whips!