Political class out of tune with the public



22:17 GMT, 30 November 2012

Yesterday the BBC was leading its bulletins with the utterly underwhelming story that the campaign group Hacked Off has launched a petition calling for the implementation of the Leveson report.

Let us put to one side that the moralising sanctimony over the printed press pouring out of the BBC sits uncomfortably with its own appalling conduct over Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine, and return to the real world, where events are taking place which have real impact on its millions of licence-fee payers.

As Britain’s family incomes are squeezed to the bone, the OECD warned this week of slowing growth and rising taxes ahead, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the nation’s finances are so dire that the Chancellor’s austerity programme may have to be extended until 2018.

Delays: The Chancellor's austerity programme may have to be extended until 2018

Delays: The Chancellor's austerity programme may have to be extended until 2018

Meanwhile, unemployment across the euro area yesterday hit a record 11.7 per cent, or nearly 19million people.

Should the eurozone collapse, the impact on British exports and jobs would be devastating – a scenario for which this country is frighteningly under-prepared.

Ask the public what politicians should focus on relentlessly, and the answer is not Leveson (which, incidentally, was only the ninth best-read story on the BBC website on Thursday).

It’s the economy, jobs and curbing energy bills which have doubled since 2004, to 1,300-a-year.

Yet, like the BBC, Westminster (and, for grubby political reasons, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in particular) has talked of nothing but the arcane regulatory details of a printed media that is, by and large, financially dying and is being superceded by an internet which no one, least of all the politicians, can control.

Considering all this, is it any wonder that voters are turning away from the mainstream parties – and politicians in general – in their droves None of the three by-elections on Thursday could muster a turnout above 33 per cent.

In Rotherham, both halves of the Coalition government finished behind UKIP, which, as Professor Anthony King writes in this paper today, has become a ‘shelter for the politically homeless’.

More disturbingly, the Tories and Lib Dems were also beaten by the extremist Respect Party and the BNP – both of which seek to foster division in society, and base their campaigns around being ferociously anti-Westminster.

Is it too much to hope these deeply alarming election results serve as a wake-up call to a political class which urgently needs to rejoin the real world – and a BBC which has become obsessed to the point of hysteria with the goings-on in a Fleet Street which supplies most of its stories

Bring the aid home

The decision by Justine Greening to halt all international aid to Rwanda comes not a moment too soon.

It has long been suspected President Paul Kagame’s regime was sponsoring war crimes – including murder and rape – in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Miss Greening has announced the end of Britain's aid programme to India

Miss Greening has announced the end of Britain's aid programme to India

Yet, in a disgraceful decision taken on his last day in office, ex-International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell ruled in September it was OK to carry on bankrolling the dictator with taxpayers’ money – at a cost of 16million.

Miss Greening – who recently also announced the end of Britain’s ludicrous aid programme to India, a country rich enough to have its own space programme – deserves credit for righting this egregious wrong.

But with tens of thousands of people expected to die from hypothermia in Britain this winter, shouldn’t her next move be persuading the Coalition to drop its wrong-headed commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid altogether