Is there anyone in charge?

Philip Collins

After the significant nothing of the mid-term coalition review, two
points have survived two days of coverage. The first is that Nick
Clegg committed his party again to coalition. For anyone who doubted
that this coalition will last until the next general election,
this week’s press conference surely dealt with the doubt.

But another aspect of the choreography of the day left me astounded.
Why on earth, in a day of activity that has been devised precisely to
dramatize continued co-operation between Conservatives and Liberal
Democrats would you allow a Cabinet Minister (Lord Strathclyde) to
resign, citing his irritation at his coalition partners as his reason?

Surely whoever was in charge (is there anyone?) would have taken a
look at the diary and suggested gently to Tom Strathclyde that Monday
wasn’t an ideal day and could he possibly hang on a week? Don’t come
in for a week, stay in the garden. But don’t undermine the relaunch by
resigning in the middle of it.

The loss of the leader of the Lords is not the end of the world and
not many voters will have noticed. But I cannot help but wonder at the
comical ineptitude at the people running this mess and thank the Lord
Strathclyde that they are not planning a major overhaul of the benefit
system involving an administrative overhaul that has scared off every
government since the Second World War.  Ooops, they are.

Boris Johnson is a clown who happens to run a major world city. We like Mr Johnson as Mayor of London (those of us who do) because his power is limited. If London had its own defence budget we might be more wary. The best way to expose Mr Johnson’s credentials would be to devolve more power. Then the electorate would react the way that most children do when they see a clown. It’s not funny. It’s scary.

Unimpressed with the Mayor’s zip line antics earlier this week, Times columnist Philip Collins throws a bucket of cold water at those who think Boris Johnson is prime minister material

There is more to life than the miserable business of trying to be happy. Some of the best that has been said and done has been incubated by misery. Soon after he painted Starry Night, Van Gogh walked out into a field and fired a revolver at his own chest. Milton wrote Paradise Lost after losing his wife, his daughter and his eyesight. Proust barely ever got out of bed. Toulouse-Lautrec was as depressed as only an inbred syphilitic alcoholic with an absinthe addiction, the torso of a man and the stunted legs of a child could be.

Olympians, artists and writers go through hell in pursuit of perfection. We’re the beneficiaries of their suffering, says Philip Collins. Read more

Lords reform: a mere joke in the Tory manifesto

Jesse Norman MP, who has led the Conservative opposition to reform of the House of Lords, has said more than once that the Tory manifesto commitment was not a pledge that was meant to be taken seriously.

I wonder how we are meant to tell the difference between those manifesto pledges which are in earnest and those which are just whimsical jokes, placed there merely to give us all light relief. It’s an amazingly disreputable argument which makes me wonder what else the opponents of reform are prepared to say.

Philip Collins @PCollinsTimes

Read more: The no-fuss way to elect the House of Lords

Unite plans its coup of the Labour Party | Philip Collins

We became disengaged – spectators while New Labour dominated…Now we are back.

Who said that? David Cameron? William Hague? No, it was Steve Hart, of course. That’s Steve Hart, the political strategy director for the Unite union.

Unite, you will recall, is in the midst of a bizarre attempt to have Progress, the New Labour pressure group, expelled from the Labour Party. A recently leaked document shows what they are really up to.

Unite plans to recruit 5,000 new Labour Party members. How generous, you might think.

Not so fast. The explicit plan is that the 5,000 will all be fed Unite lines. They will control local constituency parties. They will be marshalled as a bloc and governed by the structures of the union. It will all be in place by the end of the year.

Time for the leadership to wake up.

Twitter: @PCollinsTimes

(Document c/o Labour Uncut)

Read more: Unions take on Blairites in fight for Labour’s heart

Times Opinion today | too much money, too little tax, German humour & Bletchley Park

Money money money

Is £40,000 a year enough to live the good life? Not for many of us, Philip Collins finds – even though Keynes thought we’d be earning this and working 25-hour weeks by now

Forty grand certainly isn’t enough for Jimmy Carr. But now he’s been outed and has apologised, other tax avoiders should come clean, The Times says

Could Google or Tesco fix our obsolete tax system? William Rees-Mogg says “yes”


Ahead of tonight’s Germany v Greece Euro 2012 clash, German journalist Clemens Wergin advises Greeks to be more like their football team: German-flavoured

Code breaker

Ben Macintyre on the genius of one of Bletchley Park’s finest, Alan Turing: “He cycled around in a gas mask, possibly on account of hay fever, and chained his mug to a radiator to prevent anyone else using it


Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Jared Genser, on freedom fighting for the prisoners of conscience

The return of O-levels: the Education Secretary’s big exams plan could score him an A…but there’s potential for an F, The Times says

Can you spell “diaphragm”? If not – CUL8R

(Times Opinion, Friday June 22, 2012)

Nobody likes the puerile unions | Philip Collins

The unions are showing just what they think about Ed Miliband. At the weekend, the Labour leader said: “I’m in favour of more people in our party, not excluding people.”

After the puerile suggestion from the GMB that it would bring a motion to ban the New Labour pressure group Progress, Dave Prentis, the General Secretary of Unison, said that his union would back it.

Last month, Unison refused to allow Progress to host an event at its Reading office. What was the controversial topic? “Labour winning in the South”.

On Labour’s Left, Compass is the equivalent to Progress on the Right. Compass’s chief, Neal Lawson, has sensibly emailed his members: “Progress have as much right as the GMB to organise for their politics.”

The unions are being circled. Nobody likes them but they don’t care.

Twitter: @PCollinsTimes

Read more: Mandelson hits out at unions for leading Labour down a blind alley

Columns - Friday June 15, 2012

Sneak peek | Our hatred of Gordon Brown

It is common to describe Mr Brown as a tragic character but it is oddly rare that anyone pauses to think how literally true that is. There is no greater mark of the dislike he inspires than that people feel no compunction (I do not exempt myself) in a display of hostility to a man who lost the sight of an eye at 18, who experienced the primal pain of the death of a child and whose son was born with a serious illness.

Philip Collins in The Times tomorrow.

Philip Collins wrote yesterday about the GMB union’s plan to outlaw Progress, the New Labour pressure group. Progress has responded to the GMB and its statement is up on LabourList.

Outlawing Progress | Philip Collins

On Monday, the GMB union passed a motion to outlaw progress. Oh sorry, that’s a typo. On Monday the GMB union passed a motion to outlaw Progress. A resolution will now proceed to the Labour party conference to that effect.

Progress is a New Labour pressure group. It publishes a magazine and holds seminars and conferences. Lord Adonis is its current chair and Stephen Twigg its Honorary President.

A few weeks ago Progress held its annual conference. The keynote speaker was Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party. So, clearly, this is an organisation infested with hardcore neo-liberals that needs to be rooted out.

Read more

Philip Collins gives his verdict on Gordon Brown’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry

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