Big Government In Action

When one enters the website of 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown's new demesne, one sees that Tony Blair is relegated to the lower right-hand corner, ten years boxed in. The Hand of History is now a footnote.

Turning to Gordon Brown, we can weigh his first few actions in the balance. With a stroke of a pen, he dismissed the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Education and Skills and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office. A pity that he replaced all three with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, a Business Council, a Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and a Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The whiff of longwinded corporatism and synergies between chaturbat family policy and education leave us all cold. Is this not further evidence of how buzzwords dog Big Government?

I shall deal with the constitutional reforms tomorrow. They deserve a post unto themselves and they are both stronger than some critics suggest, yet less welcome than reformers propose.

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Labour's Squalid Little War

Two further soldiers died in Basra, bringing the total number of British soldiers killed in Iraq to 157. The base that Britain has withdrawn to, the Basra Palace, comes under repeated attacks from Shi'ite militias, since we no longer control the city.

Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad. Their bases frequently come under mortar fire from Shiite militants in the city. The U.S. currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.

The soldier was killed during an operation to arrest militiamen who had previously been implicated in attacks on British troops. Any incursion of British forces into Basra proper is met with resistance. The patrol that carried out this operation in Tuninah district suffered one dead, and three wounded, out of 1,000 troops participating.

The Iraqi government has confirmed that they would prefer to take control of security in Basra over the next three months. This would complete the transfer of security in the British zone. It is a transfer that Gordon Brown's administration could support, easing financial pressure on the Ministry of Defence and accelerating a withdrawal that is unpopular with the Labour Party. Once the transfer was complete, the armed forces would play a supporting role.

Yet, the Army would not have completed its remit of passing security over to a competent and impartial force. The domestic enthusiasm for withdrawal and the overwhelming control of the militias ensures that Basra is left as a corrupt shell. All armed forces require democratic legitimacy to enforce their role, but we should feel shame that the troops have been tainted by Labour's squalid little war.

There is Bullying and bullying

We will know that identity politics have disappeared when a government minister can stand up in front of Stonewall and discuss attempts in school to combat bullying. This may include homophobia, but all such coercion should be targeted, not just violence against a particular jasminlive group.

In a speech to the gay rights organisation Stonewall, Kevin Brennan, the new Children’s Minister, will say that schools have a clear and urgent obligation to end the widespread use of homophobic language as supposedly “harmless banter”.

His comments follow recent research by the Schools Health Education Unit suggesting that half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it. He will make clear that such language should be viewed in the same way as racist abuse and punished accordingly.

“To ignore this problem is to collude in it. Turning a blind eye to casual name-calling, looking the other way because it is the easy option, is not acceptable – not only because it is disrespectful and hurtful, but because it is often the precursor to more serious bullying. We need to create a culture where homophobic bullying is as unthinkable as racist bullying,” Mr Brennan told The Times.

Through using targets and 'diversity' literature, the government will ensure that homophobic bullying increases, as pupils react to the thought control impressed upon them. We must never forget that there are always two classes of thought and action under this government: there is a universal action, which all adhere to, and a privileged subset, which impacts upon a specific group. The former may be a problem that is forgotten. The latter is a target, for micromanagement and audit.

Under Brown, there is bullying and bullying.

A Weak and Confused Newcomer

Dissatisfaction with the amending treaty is now rising from Left as well as Right. The trade union, UNISON, has called for a live sex cams referendum, as they perceive the proposed treaty as too biased towards employers, or in their corporatist eyes of piggie hatred, "the bosses". This call would have been assuaged if Brown were to incorporate the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The arguments for a referendum have grown stronger now that Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has acknowledged the potential scale of powers flowing to Brussels.

Yesterday the Tories turned up the pressure after David Miliband, the new Foreign Secretary, told MPs that the new treaty involved a larger transfer of power from member states to Brussels than the Maastricht Treaty which set the EU on course towards the single European currency. Mark Francois, the Opposition spokesman on Europe, said: "David Miliband has finally exploded the myth that the revived EU Constitution is only a tidying up exercise.

"The government's case is now unravelling and even the new Foreign Secretary has now conceded the scale of what is really going on."

Jim Murphy, the new Europe minister, denied authoritative reports yesterday that Mr Brown was bound by the agreements reached by Mr Blair and other heads of government in Brussels. He said that he was unaware that Mr Blair had signed any document committing his successor as prime minister to the precise details of what was agreed at last month's summit.

In yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions, normal service has been resumed after the terrorist interlude, including Cameron's disdain for Brown's 'I'm new here' get-out clause. The usual concerns are beginning to re-emerge and Brown's embrace of normal government is a repeat of the past.

Mr Brown is supposed to be the man with the mastery of detail, but he floundered. Soon he was reduced to saying: "I think the Leader of the Opposition forgets I've been in this job for five days."

Everyone knows Mr Brown has only been in the job for seven days, which makes it quite forgiveable that he could not offer an authoritative pronouncement on Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But it was a mistake for the Prime Minister to make this plea of inexperience on his own behalf.

For a moment he sounded like a weak and confused newcomer who felt his opponent was not fighting fair by asking him all these detailed questions: and of course it was thoroughly unscrupulous of Mr Cameron to arrange to be so well-briefed.

US-Style Politicisation

Gordon Brown shows a certain amount of creativity. Like Captain Kirk faced with the Kobayashi Maru test, he is inclined to redefine problems out of existance.

One such example is his approach to the inquiry into the mis-use of the Smith Institute (a charity) to apparently launder funds for his leadership campaign. Guido Fawkes has been running a series of stories driving this forward for almost a year now (the first story dates from 22 July 2006.)

Brown's response appears to be to allow charities to take political positions.

Since previous proposals to reform political funding have included exceptional protection for Trade Unions, it is reasonable to assume that Labour will attempt to tilt the battlefield to their advantage. Clearly, their natural opponents in business have a wealthier base to draw on. The natural response would be to restrict access to charitable status.

Hence, I anticipate that one of the most important Quango posts in the country may soon be the leadership of the Charities Commission. If Brown introduces US-style confirmation hearings for this post, a proposed Chair of the Charities Commission should expect very close examination.