Friday, January 25, 2008

A turbulent week in British politics

Peter Hain announces his resignation yesterday

The UK government has been the subject of a number of criticisms this week culminating in the resignation of Peter Hain, the Work & Pensions Secretary [BBC]. The week started with the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith saying she was scared to walk the streets of London at night by herself. The papers made much of her off the cuff comments which appeared to contradict government statements that the streets of Britain were safe. “You don’t walk in areas that you don’t know in any circumstances, and I never have in my life,” she said on Sunday [BBC].

Then came the continuing fiasco over Northern Rock. “The Prime Minister won’t tell us how much tax payers are in for, or how long they’re going to have to wait to get their money back. He’s like a used car salesman who won’t tell you the price, won’t tell you the mileage, won’t give you a warranty, he’s gone from prudence to Del Boy without even touching the ground” said David Cameron in Parliament this week. His joke backfired with some pointing out that Del Boy, a character in the popular BBC comedy Only Fools & Horse, was not a used car salesman [BBC]. The new Lib Dem leader accused the Prime Minister of being “running scared of the Conservative Party” over his decision not to nationalize the beleaguered financial institution [BBC].

Hardly a week goes by without further revelations that more sensitive data has gone missing. And this week was no exception. Defence Secretary Des Brown told Parliament that not one but three laptop computers belonging to the MoD had been stolen. Amongst the information contained were the names of 150,000 applicants who had expressed interest to join Britain’s armed forces [BBC].

Peter Hain had resigned only after police were called in to investigate the matter of undeclared funding of his bid for Deputy Leader. Although welcomed by the opposition many said it should have happened sooner. David Cameron said it was right that Peter Hain had resigned but the Prime Minister should have made an ultimatum much earlier. The opposition leader said, “The Prime Minister should have said to him weeks ago, either give a full explanation of what has happened or you have to leave the cabinet”. But the Prime Minister speaking at Davos has denied he dithered over a decision to sack Peter Hain [BBC].

The continuing problems which are haunting the Labour government have begun to affect Gordon Brown’s credibility as a Prime Minister. Speaking on This Week, the BBC political weekly, Gerry Robinson said what made Mr Brown a good chancellor did not necessarily make him a good Prime Minister and that he lacked leadership qualities. His skills as a Chancellor may not be proving their worth as the markets took a battering this week. Besides some gains since Monday’s £84 billion being wiped off the FTSE 100, it has been a turbulent week at the stock exchange.

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