Comment: Fine start, but could do better

Share
Related Topics
In all the places where senior civil servants choose to holiday this August the collective sighs of relief will be loud and long. Ever since 1 May and the arrival of new Labour masters and mistresses they have been working at breakneck speed, rushing through policy initiatives like there was no tomorrow. They are exhausted.

For ministers, too, the opportunity to slow the cultural revolution and pause for breath is welcome. This will have been a 100-day term like no other in modern British politics. Even Margaret Thatcher at her most energetic and relentless was no match for Tony Blair. Attempting to recall all the changes is akin to that moment on the television show The Generation Game where the winner has to remember all the prizes from the conveyor belt: operational independence for the Bank of England to set interest rates; major overhaul of financial regulation; students to pay part of their tuition fees; new code of conduct for ministers; windfall tax; ban on handguns; welfare to work; negotiation of IRA ceasefire. The list goes on and on and on. Hardly a day has passed without the announcement of a new scheme or a new inquiry or a new "task force". Anything the previous government languidly brushed aside, this one has pursued, including, last week alone, investigations into the death of Stephen Lawrence and Gulf war syndrome.

Everything, it seems, is open to review. Nothing is immune to scrutiny, no one is beyond reproach.

All of which is highly commendable. But, now the 100 days are almost up, it is time, surely, for a rest and not just for civil servants and ministers to recharge their batteries. Instead of patting themselves on the back - compared with the first 100 days of the last Labour administration to enjoy a large majority, that of Harold Wilson in 1964, theirs has been a resounding triumph - they should take stock, and soundings.

The government juggernaut has not run quite as smoothly as Blair's front- line team would have us think. There have been bumps, none of which has caused a write-off, but they have left the bodywork looking dented and scratched. There was the farce over the roads policy, where the press was briefed to expect the go-ahead for all the new schemes, only to find that half were scrapped. There was the unseemly row over Ron Davies, the Welsh Secretary, and what he said or did not say to one of his backbench colleagues. The banning of fox-hunting was at the top of the agenda but is now dropping like a stone. The hasty appointment of Mark McCormack to raise money for the Millennium Exhibition in return for a seven-figure fee does not sit well with the Government's avowed displeasure with the behaviour of "fat cats". The new "ethical" foreign policy sounds good, but in practice is guaranteed to be as difficult for the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence to implement as stopping the sale of Hawk jets to Indonesia has already proved.

The way in which ministers, notably Peter Mandelson, have handled the Tory attack on the offshore trust of Lord Simon, the new minister from BP, has been undignified. Nothing irks more than being preached to, Mr Mandelson. The electorate is not stupid and knows that an offshore trust is used to avoid the payment of tax, so it is insulting to pretend otherwise. This government was elected because the previous one had long failed to answer questions, and it is especially galling to witness ministers so soon into office failing to answer the question over Lord Simon.

The controversy over Lord Simon has caused a feeling of unease, a fear that a party leadership that left nothing to chance in its quest to be elected may cease to be equally rigorous in power. Take Delia Smith and her refusal of the offer of a working Labour peerage. In the same way that Norwich, her local football club, turned to Ms Smith and asked her to be on its board, so the Government asks her to sit in the House of Lords. She is a television cook and nothing more. Glitz and glamour is no substitute for substance. And that was also the message from Uxbridge, where the voters rejected a Labour candidate imposed from outside the area.

At the end of this first term there is much that is encouraging, more, possibly, than anyone imagined on 1 May. The school report would say that this pupil "works hard and has made excellent progress. He needs to improve his communication skills and take more account of others. Marks out of 10: eight. A good start."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'