I've concluded that I must be an 'out of touch' Tory MP. Not been in the least bit concerned by all the negative media coverage of the Coalition Gov't over the last two weeks - because I think its mostly b******ks. OK, so I'm a serial contrarian, but I've thought it rather a good two weeks for the Gov't. Was almost ashamed to say so, until Simon Jenkins wrote about the excellent two weeks for the Gov't in the Guardian (of all places). I accept that Simon is feeling rather chippa about the Gov't because of a welcome rethink about planning policy, but still... Lets have a quick run through all these supposed 'Gov't gaffes/failures'.
Firstly there was the appalling donor issue - and it was appalling. That was not the way the Conservative Party does business. The Prime Minister sacked the person responsible in short order. Bad things happen. Whats important is that they are sorted quickly. That's what happened. Rightly, the story was short-lived. I just hope its not used as an excuse to force the taxpayer to fund political parties - which is what would have happened if the PM had not acted quickly.
Secondly there was the 'Granny Tax'. Like many other Conservatives, I was very uneasy at first. But before I made any knee-jerk comment, I thought it through. And you know what. Much as I didn't like it, I concluded that it was the right step to take. Its not just the Lib Dems who want to lift people out of the tax system altogether. Most Conservatives I talk to would like to see the personal tax allowance rising to the same level as the age-related allowance as soon as poss.. My constituents who are suffering most are young people on low wages with families. They should not be paying tax.
Thirdly there's the 50p tax rate. I was not in favour of raising the top rate from 40p. Nor was the previous Labour Gov't until Gordon Brown thought it was a clever political wheeze to undermine the Conservative Gov't he expected to win in 2010. After all the fuss Labour made (feeding the media's insatiable appetite) they did not oppose its reduction to 45p. All the talk is about it being a 'political' error - not an economic error. Spin rules. But not for all of us.
Fourthly there was 'Pasty-gate'. I actually agree with this VAT change. In fact I had raised this issue a year ago myself. Why on earth should we be discriminating against fish and chip shops - in favour of supermarkets for goodness sake. Now I don't know much about Greggs (in fact I'd never heard of them) and I don't like pasties anyway (unless Mrs D cooks them), but I did note that they made over £50 million profit last year. The fish and chip shops in Montgomeryshire make a lot less than that. And I might add that no-one has ever accused this son of the soil of being 'posh'. The sight of Miliband/Balls/Reeves stuffing 8 Greggs sausage rolls down for the benefit of a prepared media circus reduced the body politic to playgroup level. They should hang heads in shame.
Fifthly, there was the utterly ridiculous row about gerry cans. It seems to me that the Gov't was absolutely right to advise motorists to fill their tanks, and while I'm sure the word gerrycans (which is somehow amusing) would have been better not used, the overreaction of the public was just that - an over reaction. Unite were contemplating a tanker driver's strike, and its the responsibility of Gov't to prepare for it. Just imagine the media response if there had been a strike, and Gov't had just sat back like a rabbit in headlights - afraid to move in case...
Perhaps the least accurate reporting amongst this anti-Coaltion extravaganza has been the assertion that the Coalition is in difficulties. I sat through the budget, and left the Chamber thinking that the Coalition has never been stronger. Of course there are Conservatives and Lib Dems who do not much like the Coalition. They never did. Can't get their heads around the fact that we did not win the General election. So many media reports refer to 'anonymous' MPs briefing. In my experience anonymous briefing should be treated as just that. If you can't stand behind your words, you are not worth listening to. Thankfully we have a Prime Minister who seems level headed enough not to be buffeted by all these noises off. We have a Coalition which has come together to repair the damage the last lot did to our public finances - and as far as I can see that is what it's doing. I hope it carries on doing just that.