Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Now is the Time for Ed to Make an Impact
1. the ever presentt line over Europe- ok it all kicked off in January but some Tories are so obsessive about ther EU
2. the very poor reception to the recent budget which reduced tax for the richest and taxed pensioners.
3. the awful 'cash for access srory which has ticked every box on the old 'nasty party' chart. Dave must be spitting tacks over that even now.
4. Dissent within about the Lib Dems.So many Tories hate them yet depend upon them. It was a low blow to many Tories when Vince leaked that letter to Cameron criticising his lack of vision for the economy.
5. Ohyes, the economy.Still no growth while other countries like USA forge ahead.
6. labour ahead 6-7 points in the polls but still lagging far behind on economic competence.
7. The rumbling row over the House of lords which Clegg desperately wants to reform into an elected chambder and the Tories in the Lords are determinedtoresist.
Quite a list of woes I think anyone would agree. So now is the time. I think his party is entitled o suggest, that Ed aises his game and makes a breakthough. Prhaps it has already begun? His answer to the Budget speech was good and his confidence in PMQs seems to be growing while dave seems to get rattier and rattled. If the Oposition cannot make progress inthjios dream scenario they'll ndever gdetn equal terms come 2015.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Cash for Access Scandal Would make Karl Marx Smile
"Secret corportate lobbying, like the expenses scandal goes tothe heart of why people are so fed up with politics. It arouses peoples' worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works with money buying power, power fishing for moneyand a cosy clubv at teh top making decisions in theirown interest. We must be the perty whcih sorts all this out." David Cameron on lobbying 2010.
Given this uncannily accurate analysis by the man at the top of an apparently very 'cosy club' in the Number 10 flat, we can understand how angry Cameron must be at the ST's revelations yesterday. Peter Cruddas seems to be the most crass incompetent and, from what we gather, Arthur Daley dodgy Treasurer the Tories have had amidst some pretty tough competition. To offer up access for sale like that more or less proves Marx was right, that democracy is a sham and that all the big decisions are made by big business in private. It is an appalling blow for the coalition and much worse than the cash for coronets scandal which hit an already mired Tony Blair in 2006.
Coming in the wake of a budget which has created headlines for giving a tax cut to the richest 1% and frozen the tax allowances of the elderly this latest scandal, which shows how the Tories run their affairs, this is the worst political news to hit Cameron since he came to power in May 2010. What is also shows is that it is past time some sense was applied to the way our political parties are funded. I wonder too if an irate Murdochis n't having his own back on a politician who has let him swing in the wind of the phone hacking scandal...?
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Cameron -Obama Seem Close because our Political Cultures are so Different
As Bagehot in The Economist observes, Cameron's recent visit to be 'special' with Obama highlighted some interesting contrasts. To begin with something akin to a froideur seemed to apply as both men sought to distance themselves from the unseemly cloyingness of the tainted Blair-Bush era. Then, once they met a chemistry seemed to occur between them: they found they could talk to each other easily.
This should not really be so surprising. Democrats aee supposed to bond with Labour and Tories with Republicans. Yet Cameron, with his support for gay marriage, tax hikes when necessary and, in public pronouncememts at least, total support for the tax funded NHS, would seem like a dangerous socialist to most Americans, so out of kilter are our respective political cultures. It is rather odd he made no effort to meet any Republican candidate during his visit, especially as one of them might be in the White House come November. Fact is Republican candidates, with their upfront religious views and tea party extremism are such a millionmiles away from centrist Tories that such a meeting would resemble a 'Tory Politician meets Alien' scenario.
Much was spoken about a 'special relationship' with the word 'essential' being thrown in too, but I always wonder how special it is. When we fight together as during 1941-45, the adjective is justified, but once the war ended, Lend-lease was terminated with little sentiment. Moreover the subsequent loan negotiated by Keynes involved tough bargaining and few favours were given. Moving into he next decade, Ike and Dulles brutallty left Eden to twist in the wind over Suez- an event which surely exposed the true relationship; one of UK subservience to US dominance.
Moreover, when Blair was playing poodle to Bush, Rumsfeld made clear his troops would go in, UK help notwithstanding. But good relations betwewen Presidents and PMs has always been good for Britain and Cameron's bond with Obama might come in very useful- as Maggie's with reagan did- if trouble arises over British plans to develop oil exploration in the sea around the Falkland Islands.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
How Falklands War Possibly Saved Thatcher from Implosion of Conservative Party
The papers show that, in these early euphoric days for the SDP, not only were there a group of 25 'wets' prepared to vote against 'deflationary measures' in the 1981 autumn budget statement, a group which predicatably perhaps included Julian Critchley and Stephen Dorrel, but another group of 20 including Brian Mawhinney, St John Stevas and, more predictably, Ted heath who were palnning a mass abstention on the vote.
Ian Gow, Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary and political confidant, swiftly organised a counteroffensive with the Treasury ministers Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan, seeing each of the dissidents in turn. But in an indication of the poisoned atmosphere within the highest reaches of the Tory government of the time, Gow went behind Jopling's back to accuse him in a note to Thatcher of both overplaying the potential rebellion, and more seriously, of "not being one of us":
"Michael, though an outstanding chief whip, does not share our conviction. Like the original 25, he, in his heart, favours reflation and foresees the deepest difficulty for our party if the budget is not reflationary. I take the opposite view. In my opinion, the gravest danger for our country is if we follow our predecessors, and lose our nerve," he told her.
Typically loyal sentiments from an ultra loyalist Thatcherite but clear evidence of how parlous was her situation as those crucial months were neghotiated. Would she have survived had these forces continued un assisted by externa;l events? Impossible to say, but who would have thought that the probale saviour of Thatcher and her historic government was a neo-fascist general some 8000 miles away in Argentina?
Monday, March 12, 2012
Can Labour Get Its Message Across About the Economy?
1. The Big Lie that Labour was desponsible for the economic crisis. This was brilliantly attached to Labour, by Cameron and Osborne when Labour was reeling from a poor election performance and engaged in a protracted leadership contest. The fact was Labour saved the banking system in this country in autumn 2008 when the Conservatives had not a clue how to respond. The costs of bailing out the banks, added to the associated recesssion which hugely reduced tax income, caused the accumulation of debt to dangeroius levels. In 2008 debt was only 40% of GDP: evidence of reasonably responsible stewardship of the economy to that point. This is not to say Brown cannot be blamed for not keeping more funding ready to assist in the bad times and for arguing, pathetically, he had 'solved' the problem of 'boom and bust'. Moreover, Brown failed to see the hurricane as it approached, but then aghain,so did the Tories.
2. The Coalition Policy of Cutting Deep and Fast. By taking demand out of the economy so sharply the frail economy was marched right up to the brink of double-dip recession. The fact that public borrowing, bumped up by increased spending, has increased hugely since Osborne has been pulling the levers, only makes things much worse.
3. US Example Shows How it Should Have Been Done Obama poured in a spending boost and, after a slow beginning, this has produced an apparently robust return to economic growth. More borrowing? Well, yes, we probably need to to. But hasn't Osborne contracted to borrow more? Yes, but only to pay the price of failure to boost the economy.
4 Labour's Challenge Seems to me this is a sensible and correct analysis of the economy and the line Labour should take. But so far Miliband, despite his alleged economic expertise, has failed and Ed Balls made little impression. If Labour can mitigate the Big Lie and convince voters the scale of these cuts is too severe and unnnecessary, it can win in 2015. Long way odff I know but at the moment Labour do not seem ready either to rebut Conservative untruths or to return to govdernment.
Friday, March 09, 2012
Afghan War has Been a Waste of Lives and Resources
In The Guardian today Simon Jenkins rips into our Afghanistan policy. He's an unusual columnist- I didn't agree with him when he said we should abolish our defence budget- but I think his analysis spot-on re the Afghan War. He lists the 'lies'government trots out when soldiers are killed; 'they died to keep us safe'; they didn't. 'We're making great progress' say military chiefs; we're not.
In fact,the war began in response to 9-11 when the US cast around wildly to punish someone for the atrocity. Convinced he had to 'hug our ally close', Blair offered unconditional support and so that is why we're still there, desperate to get out. After a decade, can we say we are any safer as a result of the war? Any foiling of terroriast plot has been done domestically, not as a result of fighting the alleged 'source' of it in this faraway country. In any case, 9-11 and most terrorist plots are not directed at eliminating nations, more at specific targets.
Furthermore terrorists could set up home anywhere- Somalia, Yemen, anywhere where the law is slack and the topography difficult. So to occupy a country where terrorists once hid, does not neutralise terrorist 'bolt holes'.
The only conceivable reason for continiuing the war is ther danger that the taliban might get hold of pakistan's nuclear weapons. But surely that evntuality could be guarded against separately and not via a multi-billion murderous occupation? We have to come to accept that the taliban will control the country; we hate them but we didn't like the muxh mofre powerful USSR and survived the Cold War.
In 1842 the British retreated out of the country with some 20,000 troops and their entourages, facing the withering fire on al sides of the valley as they made their way to Jallalabad. The Afghans finally left the wounded Doctor Brydon survive alone out of the 20,000, to tell the tale of the huge imperial disaster. We should have learnt our lesson then but Tony Blair was always very ignorant of history.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Smoking Still a potent Threat say RCP
Today is the 50 years anniversary of the historic report which definitively proved smoking causes cancer, published by the Royal College Physicians. In those days 70% of men smoked and 43% women. You could not enter a cinema, pub or restaurant without encountering a dense fog of tabacco smoke which made the eyes smart and the lungs hurt. I even recall smoking in university seminars, without asking permission: we all thought we had a right to make other people's lives less pleasant.
Since then we've had the ban on smokingin places of work which has transformed going out into a much more pleasant experience. I was astonished at how easily this law was accpeted and applied all over the country. I was sure rebellious groups of aggressive young males would just refuse to recognise the law's vailidity. No doubt making the law enforceable by landlords was the means whereby it gained its success. But what a favour our government did us by that law and what a blow it dealt to those who insist on their right to inflict their habit on the rest of us. Throughout the country we all now recognise that the nation has accepted smoking is really bad for you, and our kids and everyone else.
But still it continues say the RCP with over a fifth of us still enslaved by nictine and is still 'the UK's biggest cause of avoidable early death', according to Dr Mike Knapton of the british heart Foundation. He wants to see more restrictions on advertising with plain packaging and bans on smoking in cars when children are present. People who want to maintain their practice of committing suicide are welcome to doso but they must not be allowed to inflict their unaknoweldged death wish on the rest of us, particularly children who have no say in the matter.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Now James Murdoch Really IS Toast
Interesting piece by Michael Wolf today. I feel more than usually interested in the phone hacking story as I predicted early on it would blow up into a huge story. I recall, back then in autumn 2010 some of my right-wing commenters getting hot under their collective collars about it. All this happened long after Private Eye began to uncover it and Nick Davies in The Guardian did his sterling investigative work.
I predicted Rebekah Brooks would resign on the day she finally did and also that Murdoch would be the next to go in short order. Well I got the timing wrong but my prediction has finally proven right. And rightly so; James Murdoch's trans-Atlantic smoothness invested his testimony to Leveson with, for me a sheen of mendacity. Of course he knew all about it, just as Coulson and Brooks did. I'm almost prepared to believe old man Murdoch didn't as he seemed a bit out of it anyway and maybe they just kept bad stuff from the old fashioned newspaper man.
Wolf gives an insight into Murdoch junior which I kind of suspected but which still surprised me:
,,,since he left the top job at BSkyB at his father's behest and took over News Corp's operations in Europe and Asia, James has become the most disliked man in the company. This is partly because, for all the obvious reasons, Murdoch's entitled children would breed a predictable resentment. But additionally, it is because James is an extraordinarily cold, abrasive know-it-all.
Well, there won't be any tears shed over his departure from the scene for as, Wolf convincingly argues, James Murdoch has been humiliated to the extent he will no longer carry clout in News International. He will carry the can for the appalling mess at The Sun and will probably have to defer to his brother, Lachlan in terms of postions of power.