Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cabinet Meetings Outside London: PR Stunt or Good Idea?

Hazel Blears made a speech this morning in which she seriously suggested that the Cabinet should hold Cabinet meetings in town halls around the country. In a speech to the Social Market Foundation, she said...
Just imagine if the Cabinet meeting took place at the British Legion, Swindon, the Town Hall, Grimsby, or the Victoria Community Centre in Crewe. There is no good reason why not.

Imagine if the meeting was preceded by sessions with Cabinet ministers meeting local people, listening to their concerns, engaging in discussion, local schools getting involved. Interviews for local newspapers and community radio. And no doubt it would have a direct impact on the decisions made.

Last summer, I introduced the idea of cabinet ministers getting back to the floor by spending some time in workplaces, away from the media, doing a real job. I ended up at Tesco's for three days, stacking shelves and on the tills. I won't tell you which one of my colleagues got to be a train driver for the day.

This should become the norm.

Should it? In some ways she is just parroting what David Cameron has already done. The Shadow Cabinet regularly meets outside London. Sceptics will ask why she is suggesting this and say that it's just a PR stunt. Alternatively, she may be onto something. Discuss.

63 comments:

Matthew said...

Blair wanted to do it in 2001 but special branch wouldn't allow it.

Simon @ Oxford said...

Stunt, stunt, stunt

Cabinet meetings are not open to the public.

Meeting in another city would just mean an increase in costs for providing security, transporting the necessary staff etc etc et

It is a gimmick and means absolutely nothing. It does nothing to enhance good government.

Madasafish said...

If holding meetings in a different place gives a different result then.
1. Cabinet members are badly briefed.
or
2. Cabinet members have the attention span of a goldfish and go with the latest wheezee.


As it's Hazel, then it's both in my opinion.

bj said...

What would the difference be? We, the public, still couldn't go in.

john fisher said...

Parliament used to meet wherever the King was, not just at Westminster ....

Anonymous said...

Gimmick! (Even if it were in principal a good idea, and it's not, it came from Hazel Blears, therefore it is meaningless)

I think Hazel should be grateful for the experience shelf-stacking at Tescos. She's going to need a new job after the next election and I suspect this is just about the best paid job in the private sector that she's capable of...

Zorro.

steve said...

I think I fancy a change in work location as well.

I might spend a week working from a poolside villa somewhere pleasant for a week or two. As it's simply a way of me ensuring that I stay fresh and get to hear what other people want from my products, then I will obviously have no problem paying out of company funds.

What a load of cobblers. They just want even more jollies at our expense.

Anonymous said...

Totally a gimmick, and it will cost the public much more money in time wasted, travel, security and the rest of it.

iCowboy said...

Aren't Cabinet meetings meant to be confidential? So either that goes by the by (there's no way the public can be forced to keep quiet on what was discussed), or the whole thing is a pointless Big Con(versation) Roadshow

Tony Sharp said...

So we have had the big conversation and the citizen juries among other gimmicks. Despite this the government accepts it still does not listen. Now this.

So are working people now supposed to take time off to attend the pre-meeting sessions and tell Ministers what they think?

Excuse my cynicism but this looks like just another reheated, rehashed PR effort to look in touch with the electorate.

Rog said...

What a desperate move to appear to be in touch with the proles.

NuLab appear stranger and more useless almost by the day.

PS: how the hell could Blears ever stack shelves? Stilts, jet-pack?

Gallimaufry said...

Basra, Kandahar and Port Stanley for starters please.

Anonymous said...

Who cares what this ridiculous women says.

sniper said...

2There is no good reason why not."

Of course there isn't. Only poor schmucks like me and the rest of the public will have to put up with the disruption caused - no to mention the security/policing bills.

Iain, why you profess to like this creature i will never understand.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of these misfits integrating themselves back into society by doing 'real jobs'?
They will still presumably be paid their ministrial wedge. Mind you, Gordon loading a dustcart could have some entertainment value.

Anonymous said...

Classic PR distraction tactics to buy some time for the Gorgon until the summer recess.

Don't even bother wasting time discussing it. If you seriously think the 'cabinet' is going to be influenced by tripping out to Slough or Swindon [!] to listen to what the great unwashed have to say, then you are far too naive for this game..

ASwaS said...

Just as there is nothing stopping the Cabinet having a meeting outside London there is nothing it brings in benefit. As already pointed out in a comment, Cabinet meetings are not open to the public.

However, if it also involves meeting that long-forgotten group - Real People - then it could be a very helpful grounding.

I just wouldn't bet on anyone not stage managed and vetted for political contentiousness to the point of being the governmental equivalent of a choirboy getting within 100m of a cabinet minister at one of these events.

Anonymous said...

Iain I know you like the chipmonk but please don't tell me your you believe what she says,I don't think she believes what she says herself.

Cath said...

Nothing compared to the STUNT with the basic rate tax threshold. Timing just a coincidence of course.

machiavelli said...

It's fine for the shadow cabinet, in what is essentially the campaigning part of their roles. But how would such a change improve decision-making in cabinet meetings?
It would be a stunt, and the only real consequence would be a massive increase in cost, shipping ministers and civil servants up and down the country, maintaining communications, sweeping for bugs, ensuring the location is secure... the time taken out of ministers' and civil servants' days would not be conducive to good government.
When this is the best idea the Government can come up with for re-engaging with the public, you truly know they have run out of steam.

verity said...

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

I've never seen such a stupid idea, even from a self-seeking Labour sleaze, in my life. What is the bloody point?

What Westminster should do is reduce the HoC by around 40%. There are more MPs for 60m Brits than senators for 300m Americans. It's stupid.

Also, consider this: the first parliament in the world was in Iceland. The thingi (I hope I'm spelling it right).

It met around four times a year. And guess what! If they thought there wasn't enough business to discuss on any particular scheduled date, they cancelled it.

Anonymous said...

You have to take your hat off to the little chipmunk.. When the sh!t hits the fan, she knows that she is the one who is called upon to go on the box, or chat to the media, or asked to regurgitate whatever cr@ppy 'line' the Number 10 spin machine dream up to 'move the story on'.

And like a trooper she always says yes and goes out to take the flak on behalf of the weedy blokes who would not do anything so mundane and prosaic as to try and distract the attention of the media to clear up the mess they themselves have created.

And why would they, when they have Hazel 'Pooper-Scooper' Blears to do that job so well for them ??

stuart said...

Is this just to minimise the risk of ministerial briefings being photographed as ministers walk up Downing Street?

walt said...

Cabinet met in Inverness Town Hall in 1921.Lloyd George was at Balmoral and there was urgent Irish business.

Philip W said...

A stunt and a shabby gimmick - nothing more, nothing less. Imagine the scene if the ginger troll had already got this to happen, where would today's cabinet meeting have taken place? Any takers on Crewe town hall?

Chas said...

Whenever a member of this government meets local people, listens to their concerns, and engages in discussion with them, the minister discovers that they don't like what they hear. So they argue with the "local people" and tell them that they need to get the government message across better, or some other platitude. The message from local people is increasingly, "go away".

If the cabinet met out of London it would be an opportunity for local Conservative associations to pack the events and tell the government what it thinks of them. "Bring it on!" as a wee Scots troll once said.

Islington Neil said...

Regulars to the Party Conference may have been to the Disraeli Suite of the Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth, which has a hand painted commemoration on wall marking the fact that his Cabinet met in the room.

If I recall correctly they were escaping the rotten stench in Downing Street...

Gobshyte said...

These wretches are obviously using 'rictus' Blears to peddle their current lies to the media as they assume she is the least detestable of the bunch.
They are wrong naturally

Simon Harley said...

It'll end up like the Assizes of old. And imagine the costs! So many variables involved it just wouldn't be worth it, even for publicity value.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

It's just another stunt.

As an aside, imagine the outrageous gall and hypocrisy of that ginger smirking cow warning _other_ people that they might be out of touch.

Letters From A Tory said...

It wasn't a particularly thrilling speech, speaking as someone who had to sit there and listen to it. Most of her ideas were a bit barking mad, which didn't help.

Goodnight Vienna said...

Haven't the police/security forces got enough to do without following Gordo's Travelling Muppet Circus around the country? Who would pay for the logistics? Why dont they all just clear off to Strasbourg/Brussels if they want to do some sight-seeing and then we can have some respite from their incalculable stupidity.

Sam Tarran said...

What's the point? Does she really think people will get all giddy over Cabinet ministers (oo, I feel faint already) meeting near them? She certainly thinks a lot of herself.

Just ... no. There never was a more pointless idea. What's more, it's yet more cost on the taxpayer to pay for the transport and for Gordon Brown's milky tea.

sockpuppet said...

Meeting in another city would just mean an increase in costs for providing security, transporting the necessary staff etc etc et

not to mention publicising the event to local media, gaining good local coverage, a shake 'n fake with local dignitaries, transport time costs...

it's a ridiculous idea. It amounts to going somewhere, pissing all over the local police and council arrangements to gain some nice column inches in the Worksop Argus and all at taxpayers' expense.

If they must insist on f*****g about can they please f*** about on their own time and at their own expense and not mine.

I live in London anyway, and I don't feel like I somehow have more of a say than anyone else...

Anonymous said...

Iain...After 11 years in office it is purely a stunt...What a bunch of chancers...They really are pathetic...Martin

Anonymous said...

I'm cynical of anything this awful Government does. This has 'stunt' written in big letter all over it. And has Hazel thought this through...the logistical problems of such a, err, stunt. Maybe Hazel and her chums can meet anywhere they want once they've been kicked out of office.

Man in a Shed said...

Stunt. (The idea and the heigh of the originator).

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. Touchy feely meet the people PR followed by a meeting in secret in which party politicians decide how to stay in power.

Isn't democracy wonderful?

Anonymous said...

The more I see of that woman, the more inept she appears. I'm afraid this is only a gimmick for distraction purposes. Naturally, the idea will die very soon.
Blears is a typical example of a nu-lab apparatchik - plenty of talk, but with little sensible to say.

Jilted John said...

I never ever thought I'd write this but

what Verity said.

Anonymous said...

Definitely a PR stunt. But if it were to happen it would certainly give those(e.g. terrorists) with something against the Government an easier target than Downing Street provides.

How better to take down the whole of the British Government?

Special Branch would be apopleptic!

Desperate Dan said...

Good idea when Dave does it, PR stunt when Hazel proposes copying him - again. And if Cabinet meetings became a travelling circus it would also cost a fortune what with the transport costs, catering, 5* hotels, security to protect them from all the people who hate them... It would be another monstrous squandering of tax payers' cash.

Anonymous said...

Yeah why don't they come round my gaffe and hold a cabinet meeting and i'll pay for the pleasure. Except i won't have Gordon Brown picking his nose round where I live. Oh yeah, btw it's bugged up to the hilt as well. Silly tart.

Sandy Jamieson said...

So what this is nothing new,

On September 7th,1921, there was a Cabinet Meeting in Inverness - I think it was in the Town Hall (it may have been in the Castle)

The situation arose because some crises over Ireland hit the Lloyd George or Bonar -Law Government and with a large number of members out on the grouse moors at the beginning of the season, Inverness was the most suitable place.Not a situation nuLab Cabinet Members are likely to be in, I'll admit

"Present were David Lloyd George (Prime Minister), Austen Chamberlain (Lord Privy Seal), Viscount Birkenhead (Lord Chancellor), Sir Robert S. Horne (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Edward Shortt (Home Secretary), Edward S. Montague (Secretary for India), Viscount Derwent (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), Sir Hamar Greenwood (Irish Secretary), Sir Eric Geddes (Minister of Transport), Stanley Baldwin (Secretary of the Board of Trade), Sir Alfred Mond (Health Minister), Sir Laming Worthington-Evans (Secretary for War), Sir Arthur Griffiths-Boscawen (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries), Robert Munro (Scottish Secretary), Dr. T. J. Macnamara (Minister of Labour) and Winston S. Churchill (Colonial Secretary).

The Council Officer, William Bain, passed round a blank sheet of paper which each member signed. This is still in the Council's possession, and a facsimile of it is on display, the original having started to fade"

There's nothing new in politics

Colin said...

I think the comments here are pretty much unanimous - what a load of cobblers the Chipmunk's 'idea' is. If that's the best she can come up with, even on a hot (!!) afternoon in may then I think Tesco may turn her down if she applies again for shelf-stacking.

The idea that we are going to be distracted from the main event (Darling's pathetic stand-up in HoC this afternoon, what an utter weed he is) by such a load of b******s is frankly insulting.

Verity, I have long advocated a substantial reduction in the sheer number of idiotic politicians who leech of the poor bloody taxpayer - from town and district councillor right up to MPs, MSPs, AMs and MEPs (actually, cull the entirety of the three last species please). They cost us all a fortune, achieve precisely didlly squat and should find out what it's like to have a real job in the real world - actually producing something that contributes to economic activity. (Most of them probably think economic activity is some kind of sexual preference ...!)

Wallenstein said...

I hate this notion of what constitutes a "real" job, in the "real" world.

How is a train-driver or shelf-stacker any more "real" than a journalist, or an academic or (like me) an IT professional?

Just 'cos someone wears a uniform and earns less than £xx a year doesn't make their views or opinions any more relevant to public life.

Yet politicians spend their lives desparately worried about connecting with "the working man / woman", as though the rest of us who get up each morning and work for a wage are somehow less authentically British than a Tesco checkout operative.

Why choose British Legions, Working Men's Clubs etc? Why not a wine bar in Solihull, or a departmental common room at Bristol Astrophysics Dept.

It's not even as though there are more votes among the great unwashed... presumably though, it's thought these voters are more easily swayed?

Benjamin said...

A very good idea and should be implemented. It was something we suggested to Tony Blair on a number of occasions during his final term, he could see the merits but it never quite happened. I hope the current PM considers this and introduces it.

Ben WP

Anonymous said...

For political anoraks everywhere -

In 1987 the Bow Group magazine Crossbow advocated exactly this idea, in an editorial titled "Maggie for Manchester"

Anonymous said...

We are but a step away from the "Democrabus".

Yak40 said...

I suggest Traitors' Gate or the Tyburn Tree.

Or revamp the Bloody Assizes in Dorchester.

For those of milder views, too bad they can't be sentenced to "transportation" but who'd want them ?

Tom Hatton said...

I want a goverment which is more concerned with running the country than whether or not to have a meeting in Swindon or Grimsby!

Tom FD said...

It's more of Hazel pursuing a decentralisation agenda, I think (see also the community kitties thing)

This one sounds like it could turn into the X-Factor auditions tour. The cabinet arrives at a different city every week and is faced with a massive queue of people who want to showcase themselves in front of the big wigs...

Anonymous said...

This is the same Hazel Blears who was so keen on participative narrative last week?

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/hazel_blears/2008/05/enough_talking_to_each_other.html

It gets worse

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=566224&in_page_id=1770&ico=Homepage&icl=TabModule&icc=picbox&ct=5

Anonymous said...

a bit OT, but are the runes heralding the start of the biteback?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/may/13/web20.digitalmedia

nick said...

This sounds like the colossal waste of our money by the European Parliament in decamping from Brussels to Strasbourg to keep the French happy.
No doubt cabinet ministers will decide they need us to pay for them to have additional homes near where these meetings take place.
"sessions with Cabinet ministers meeting local people, listening to their concerns, engaging in discussion, local schools getting involved. Interviews for local newspapers and community radio" - Isn't this the sort of thing that a decent MP would be doing in their constituency anyway?

Colin said...

Wallenstein, 6.29, it's really very simple: a real job in the real world is a job that adds value, creates wealth and contributes to the bottom line. that's economic activity.

I'm not very surprised that NuLab trolls like you find the concept challenging.

Croydonian said...

Idiotic beyond belief, frankly. However, those with long memories will recall PragueTory's campaign to get the Labour party to pay the cameraman who filmed her in Tesco, Hewitt somewhere or other and so on. The final product was showed at the Labour conference. I cannot find the amusing edited lowlights video on Youtube, but Hazel looked less than compos mentis in it.

Anonymous said...

Colin said...
"Wallenstein, 6.29, it's really very simple: a real job in the real world is a job that adds value, creates wealth and contributes to the bottom line. that's economic activity."

My local county police force is about to increase the number of police officers on the establishment. According to your definition they are not 'real' jobs.

Anonymous said...

It's not even original.
Nicolas Sarkozy tried this a year ago and quietly dropped it a few months later when TV showed the plane-loads of civil servants arriving in Corsica, being met by a fleet of limos.
Dumb!

Anonymous said...

Was the Train Driver Minister for the Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth? I know he's not in the Cabinet, but he always reminds me of a train driver.

Wallenstein said...

Colin - your insults do you no favours. I've never voted Labour (never will either).

Doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, hospital porters, teachers - none creates wealth asd part of a client state, therefore "not real jobs"?

Journalists create a product to sell in a private market, generating profit and therefore wealth... a "real" job, presumably?

Strange that a Tory would place a journalist over a hospital porter in terms of their contribution to British society.

Anonymous said...

Bollocks it's a gimmicky stunt from the stunted one. For my sins I used to work as an official on the Regional Affairs Standing Committee. When the option was put that the Committee could meet outside London the few members who regularly attended fell uncharacteristically silent...I and the supporting cast of approaching 20 staff were rather looking forward to the first class travel, minimum 4 star hotels and generous travel and subsistance and overtime rates - all being London based.

Emily said...

Is it not the fact that it's always Hazel who's first in line to brand *our* suggestions as opportunistic/gimmicky?! Oh, the irony!