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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technicians - Prestige Brand

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A passionate and experienced Head Chef i...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 Drivers

£31700 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist wholesaler owned and man...

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: immigration past and present, in Europe and in America

John Rentoul
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones