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No wonder Cameron’s smiling. Broken pledges can be buried beneath Royal news

Posted on 17 November 2010 | 9:11am

With Royal weddings top of the news agenda, it won’t be too long (in historical terms) before Royal babies come along … which brings me neatly to the subject of midwives, which brings me swiftly to the subject of cuts. Oh it will take more than a Royal wedding to knock me off message …

No wonder David Cameron bounced out of Downing Street with a big smile on his face to announce to the world that he had been slipped a piece of paper with the news, told the Cabinet, who immediately started banging the table. (By the way, I fear the Number 10-Palace relations cannot be working too well if this was really the first time the PM knew … perhaps they’ve been cut.)

The smile was partly that which landed on lots of lips yesterday on hearing the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton are to be married, and showed that many people still like a good old Royal wedding. It was the smile too of a Home Counties man who has made it to the top, and sees a Home Counties woman doing likewise. But it was perhaps above all the smile of a politician who knows that between now and the wedding and for some time thereafter, the future King and Queen will operate as a major news sponge which will take a lot of attention away from the doom and gloom of cuts and ideological reforms.

So to midwives, and an article Mr Cameron wrote in The Sun earlier this year (pre-election) saying that a Tory government would deliver, no pun intended, more midwives to help the hard-pressed midwives we already have.

Of course now, he would say (were he pressed on it, which this far he has not been) that when they finally got into office, the books were far worse than they imagined and therefore terribly sorry, old girls, but no more midwives, no can do. Belt-tightening and all that … hey, I’ve even had to lay off my personal photographer.

Yet at the time he was penning the midwives article he was also lambasting the government for economic incompetence and mismanagement, saying how dreadful he expected the books to be. The line that ‘the books were worse than we expected’ will not stand up to examination. He knew when he made the promise on midwives that George Osborne would not let him keep it.

I’m afraid the midwives were just one more group who happened to be good bandwagon material and as they entered DC’s political radar, he leapt aboard.

So while I feel sympathy for the Royal College of Midwives, who have emerged from a meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley with the pledge of 3,000 extra midwives somehow lost in translation from opposition to government, I do not feel surprised.

Lansley’s excuse is seemingly that the birth-rate has slowed since Cameron made his promise. It’s a variation on ‘the books are worse than we expected’ … ‘we’ve looked at the books on birthrate and they’re better than expected … so thanks for believing us at the time, thanks for voting for us, now sod off.’

They’re taking on a fair few groups at the moment. The nurses are already on the warpath re cuts to the frontline. Now the midwives are joinign them … good luck both in their campaign to get the government to deliver what they promised.

  • You reap what you sow, particularly if you are party to a coalition government that simply ignores or assimilates to their own ends your parties beliefs. Are Labour planning a concerted effort to capitalise on the deceit of power hungry Liberal Democrats?

  • MacDuff

    Good article as is Kevin Maguire’s piece in the mirror. I was sure that back in March the civil service or Treasury briefed everybody ( Condems as well) on what the deficit and financial situation was. Why are Labour still letting the line ‘ we didn’t know until we got there’ still be used 6 months on? One mistake might Dave may have made was some of electorate may have missed the fact that his vanity staff have gone back to CCHQ and that they may think the taxpayers are still paying them….

  • Iaintpartis

    harsh. might just be that a royal wedding (however vulgar i personally find it) might just lift the spirits in the country whilst we are being shafted every other which way. @meesta_p

  • Olli Issakainen

    Now that the cuts begin to bite, people will naturally ask whether the austerity is really necessary on this scale. The simple answer is: No.
    What needs to be done is that much of the £109bn structural deficit must be eliminated. But not according to some strict timetable. Growth rate, unemployment rate, house prices and level of private sector investment must also be taken into account.
    The deficit is 12.7% of GDP. The debt will peak under the coalition at 70% of GDP, but only at 75-90% it becomes a problem by slowing growth. As only £8bn a year of debt service is paid to foreigners, interests are not a problem. And the Bank of England owns a quarter of the debt, so the government is paying interest to itself.
    The coailtion has made a misdiagnosis/willful misrepresentation that the deficit is due to excessive welfare spending. But as economist Ha-Joon Chang has stated, the reason for the high deficit is fall in tax revenue plus rise in welfare payment due to economic downturn rather than STRUCTURAL OVERSPENDING. It is time for Mr Osborne to admit this, as IFS has also said so.
    William Keegan wrote in the Observer that Gordon Brown was “not responsible for the banking crisis and the Great Recession”. Richard Koo has said that private sector saving has been increasing faster than public sector deficit. The deficit was a SOLUTION to financial crisis preventing economic meltdown, not a problem.
    George Osborne believes that smaller deficit will lead to private sector boom and 2.5 million new jobs. But spending cuts will shave half a percentage point of GDP for each next four years.
    And 1.6 million jobs will go because of cuts.
    Mr Osborne has left Britain at the mercy of markets. And they do not have national interest foremost in their mind.
    The plan of the coalition is to dismantle the welfare state in a way that will be hard to reverse. The Tories want people to think that they are not getting anything back from the state for their money. So in the future no party can afford to be too supportive of the welfare state.
    The coalition and the rightwing press make much noise of the benefit fraud which costs £1.1bn a year. But tax avoidance amounts to £25bn a year and tax evasion to £70bn. And oustanding debt to the tax service is £28bn.
    If only 20% of this total of £120bn were backtracked, most damaging cuts would be avoided.

  • Elaine

    I think you should have a project to collect all these awesome explanations – expressed in all their ridiculousness (eg Cable on Greece) and produce it as a 2011 Christmas charity book.

  • A howler from Cameron in PMQs 5 minutes ago, answering a question from Harriet Harman about his employment of Tory staffers on the Government payroll:

    “We won’t be employing Alastair Campbell to sex-up dossiers making the case for war”.

    Given that the Hutton Report cleared Alastair Campbell and the Government of this particularly pernicious charge from Andrew Gilligan, doesn’t this place the PM in difficult waters in accusing him of sexing-up dossiers?

    I’m no lawyer, but f it weren’t for Parliamentary Privilege, this would be libellous, wouldn’t it?

  • arnoldo87

    Did you notice that Cameron accused you of “sexing up dossiers” in PMQ today? Disappointing really, because he has generally avoided the temptation to make political capital out of Iraq. This comment was made in reply to a question from Harman about his use of former Tory Party staff as Civil Servants.

    Maybe this shows he is starting to feel some pressure?

  • David Simons

    ‘Royal to marry Commoner’ – sometimes I wonder which century I’m living in! 1981 was ‘The Year of the Disabled’, and I well remember how, on the eve of a former Royal Wedding, a disabled young man was knocked down and killed by a police car in Toxteth, where disturbances were breaking out as a direct consequence of unpopular government policies – notably the reintroduction of ‘the reserve army of the unemployed’. Thirty years on we’ll no doubt get a similar spectacle.
    There must be a lot of us who think that the abolition of the institution of Monarchy in 1649 should never have been reversed, but I have to accept that a referendum on the matter would probably result in a majority vote for the retention of the institution. Next year a lot of people are going to go goggle-eyed in front of the next instalment of the Royal Soap, despite the state of the economy. All I can say is that people like me have a right to be negative about all this without being made to feel like envious dogs in mangers. No reflection on the personalities of any of the current post-holders, but as far as I’m concerned the institution of Monarchy symbolises elitism, class, anti-democracy, privilege, snobbery, protocol, primogeniture and the perpetuation of inherited wealth. Cameron will be like a fish in water!

  • s chapman

    William Keegan,Richard Koo , Ha-Joon Chang – your at it again my Finnish friend.For every economist you quote I’ll quote one back that says your wrong – and in fact why listen to economists at all as none of them predicted a crisis on the scale we have just seen.
    My point to you,as always, is what don’t you get about our ( not Finlands) debt problem being such a massive issue to address.Ireland now borrow at well over 8% for its funding….the UK well below 5% ( its nearly half in fact and nearly a 1/3 of what Greece has to pay).Ireland is a small country absolutely crushed by it’s debt culture.
    GB and new labour had the very same debt and borrowing culture and it MUST stop now.We can’t let the sovereign debt crisis spread to ourselves and thankfully the ratings agencies have quite rightly praised the policy the Coalition have followed.S & P matter not the economists you quote ( boringly as normal ).
    There is no misconception about the debt being down to dishing out welfare to people who just don’t want to work or unsustainable levels of housing benefit etc etc…of course spending under the last Govt initially was very welcome but it ran well out of control and had no accountability to it what so ever.This must change.
    You have no evidence that spending cuts will shave 1/2 % off GDP in the next 4yrs – its all guesswork and no firm idea that 1.6mln jobs will go either.
    And by the way the mercy of the markets as you put it has kept our interest rates VERY low.
    The Coalition msg is a simple one – do more for less…no argument my friend( from Finland)

  • LoudHayley

    The trouble is we all get what we deserve if we fall under the spell of a Royal Wedding fairytale distraction – and we don’t get what we deserve ie. properly trained and enough midwives!
    We have only just started to see the tip of this iceberg which is going to leave society at the mercy of cut-price half-baked services, and communities run by a bunch of unelected ‘volunteers’.
    …Be scared. Be very scared.

  • Nicky

    Cameron still getting mileage out of portraying you as the AntiChrist, then, AC! He’s not one to be encumbered by pesky irritants like inconvenient facts or legal judgements.

    Cameron (and Coulson) certainly took advantage of the Wills/Kate media hysteria. The government buried a veritable dumper truck of bad news (that is, stuff that put them in a thoroughly deserved bad light) yesterday.

    As well as the embarrassing climbdown regarding his vanity team, Andy Parsons and Nicky Woodhouse, there was also the out of court settlement to pay the Guantamano Bay prisoners – a secret amount of compensation running into millions of pounds. Plus the governor of the Bank of England announced inflation was up. Plus Greater Manchester police announced a drastic cut in police numbers. Plus the Redfern Report, which uncovered a nuclear industry scandal. Phew!

    Tom Watson has written a good blog post on this. Not sure about his comparing you (AC) to an old lady in charge of the parish magazine. Well, what he meant was, in comparison to Mr Coulson.

  • Nicky

    Please don’t try patronising OIli, s chapman. Your facts are wrong and you are way out of your depth.

  • Richard

    It is a conspiracy. Those damned Royals should keep their noses out of politics shouldn’t they Al?
    Conspiring to get married to take the heat off the coalition and their cuts! Bounders, rotters, off with their heads.
    But the truth is Al, if they had waited for the next Labour, Moribund Government before announcing their engagement they would have been pensioners!

    PS We still have not heard what your boys would have cut.

  • simon b

    ‘ was the smile too of a Home Counties man who has made it to the top and sees a Home Counties woman doing likewise’.

    What a snide little comment.

  • Tino247

    The books are “worse than expected” scream the tories,Now Dave,remind us again who was chairman of the public accounts commitee Between 2001 and 2010 ? Ah yes,Edward Leigh,Tory MP for Gainsborough

  • Pam

    I’m surprised you haven’t applied for a job in the new coalition government.

    You’d be able to carry on “spinning” and “rallying” your minions til your hearts content.


  • David Kingston

    I know it’s not relevant to this blog, but did anyone else notice Nick Clegg’s concern as a Sheffield MP over the plight of Wednesday? Is this the same man who abandoned Sheffield Forgemasters refering to the difficult decisions that the government had to take?

  • Gilliebc

    You are entitled to your opinion. Personally, I am in agreement with Olli on this matter as are the majority of people who comment on this page. Can’t help but think SC that you would be much happier on some Conservative or LibDem website. Btw sorry to be picky but in the first line of your post you wrote “your” it should be “you are” or “you’re” There, that will give you something to do i.e. looking out for a grammatical error in my posts. You probably won’t have to wait too long to get even and that will make you feel really good about yourself. I do so enjoy spreading a little happiness!

  • Gilliebc

    An interesting and very apposite blog Mr. Campbell. The media are already going into overdrive over the prospect of a royal wedding. The coalition government must be delighted at the opportunity of doing their worst, whilst some people are distracted by the up-coming nuptials of W & C/K. I’m surprised they didn’t dance on the cabinet table!
    But as long as there are bloggers such as yourself and of course the Labour Party, if they can pull themselves together, and preferably get a different and more effective leader,then perhaps the brakes could be applied to some of the CoGov’s more extreme, cruel and completely unnecessary plans for the mostly decent and hard-working people of this country. Labour supporting newspapers and journalists could and should do their bit as well.
    Returning briefly to Ed Miliband. I understand he is taking paternity leave. I question his decision to do that, for the following reasons: He had only just been elected as the new leader, so he shows his commitment by taking time off! If his partner needed help with the new baby I’m sure they could get that help from friends, relatives or paid help. I’m a moderate person by and large, but I feel slightly cross by his behavior. Margaret Thatcher, (sorry to mention that name) gave birth to twins and was working again within a couple of days. I’m so disappointed with EM. A Cooper or a Balls would have been a better choice. After David Miliband I suppose.

  • Chris lancashire

    Quite right Mr Campbell, it’s a bit like using a major terrorist attack to make it a good day for burying bad news.

  • Chris lancashire

    Mr Campbell does snide very well though.