Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Economy: Now We Know


The GDP figures for Qtr.1 2o11 tell us what we need to know on the vexed and central economic and political dilemma of how to cut the public deficit and grow our way to economic success. No economic growth for six months is bad news. I have commented in previous posts on the optimism of OBR forecasts and that they are consistently behind the curve – and wrong. They were wrong in their belief that the last quarter 2010 figures would be adjusted upwards and that this current quarter would come in at 0.8 percent growth, They are surely wrong in their forecast for 2011.

Does it matter? Yes, it does.  Lower growth means higher unemployment and public debt and  lowers confidence.  If the Coalition intention remains ‘fixed as the Northern star’ another round of expenditure cuts, higher taxes and a spiral downward to economic defeat and long term recession is on the cards.

To echo Lenin, what do we do now? Something revolutionary? To enter into the spirit of things, bring the Coalition to a halt. In eight days time throughout Britain the electorate have an opportunity to inflict  a mortal wound by voting against the Coalition parties, and then there is the time honoured tradition of a motion of no confidence in the Commons (Dream on the Constitution has been fixed. It’s not so simple as you might think). Alas the times may be revolutionary but we are not. ‘No Bolsheviks’ here is the sign outside the House of Commons. We are all Mensheviks now Well we might start by winning the argument. When Ed Balls advanced the proposition that even the Labour objective of halving the deficit in four years might not be achievable without economic depression he was widely derided. What we have seen is that the  squeeze on expenditure started by Labour and intensified by the Coalition has already had a dramatic effect on the British economy. The Coalition tax increases and cuts have only just started. It is asking a lot of business and consumers to reverse that trend when personal incomes are squeezed and small and medium companies denied loan capital.

It may not be in Labour’s power to  change things for the better BUT the much derided and humiliated Lib Dems could do it if they had the will. It is difficult to determine how long the tragedy needs to unroll before they pluck up the courage to say with one (or almost one) voice that enough is enough. I hate to write this but history does help. Look at what happened to the Mensheviks and subsequently to a whole country and a substantial chunk of the European map? If you think that I exagerate you may change your mind as events unfold. I will not write, I told you so.

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Neo Colonialism: Was the British Empire a Good Thing?


Look son. you are very critical. You do agree, don’t you, that the British Empire was a good thing? Well Dad, it all depends on what you mean by a good thing, doesn’t it? There were a great many good intentions. On leaving we did give these teritories democratic institutions, embyonic education,  an independant judicial system, better transport infrastuctue and all  that But much of this glossy democratic superstructure is looking pretty tatty now.

Well, yes son, fair comment but WE are not responsible for the decline, for all these tin pot dictators hanging on to power. Well we do have some responsibility, to be fair. But that is a very big subject in its own right. What you do not seem to have grasped, Dad, that the British were forced out by an irresistible force: the belief that self-government is morally superior to good government.

But look you upstart is that really true? What if self-government is demonstrably bad? Bad for who Dad? Well for the peoples concerned and for those who trade with them and who invest vast sums of our money in helping these colonial territories? Careful, don’t you mean former colonial territiories? Well, you know what I mean. I don’t think I do know what you mean. Do you mean that the former African colonial powers, Britain, France and Italy  have a right or duty to intervene in these countries if things go badly wrong? Or are you saying that the intenational community acting through the UN has a right and duty under interrnational law to intervene and to call on Britain, France and Italy to act on its behalf.

Isn’t this a quibble? If you see your neighbour in a distressed state, isn’t it right to intervene? Look Dad, use your nous. The world is full of nasty and dangerous regimes. Do you really think we should divide it up between the former colonial powers (or the USA acting as a great power) and Russia as a former occupying power: that the world should be divided up into zones of influence? No of course not. We should be pragmatic and intervene when it makes sense. Makes sense to whom Dad? Well us, of course, to us. So we should intervene wherever we can give some petty dictator a good kicking. Well , yes, I suppose I am saying that. Well, Dad, I have news for you. That kind of interventionism is known as neo-colonialism. A question for you. Why not get rid of the regime in Zimbabwe? There would be popular support for this in Britain. Isn’t that taking the argument too far. There are no strategic issues that should concern us in Zimbabwe. Precisely so, Dad. So it isn’t about common humanitarianism and the rule of law, is it. Its about economic and strategic interests, trade and brass. Let me refine your question Dad.  You do agree, don’t you that neo-colonialism is a good thing. Enough said, let’s clear the table for your mother.

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Cameron: Libya, my next move.


Oh, its you Charlie! You do dog my steps. Can’t you find something new to talk about. I’ll help you if you like. A world exclusive, specially for you. Thanks Dave, but no. I think we all need to know what you’re up to in Libya.

That’s a good expression Charlie. What am I up to.That’s a good way of putting it. Well, I’m not sitting around waiting to fail because fail we shall if it goes on like this, locked into a military stalemate  and no worthwhile diplomatic way out. I’m not a loser Charlie, remember that. The playing fields of Eton are a good training ground for life. They  breed winners, Charlie. I’m a winner.

Well from this point, Dave, how do you win? It’s easy Charlie. Step by step you change the rules of engagement. No single move in breach of the UN Resolutions but accumulatively amounting to such pressure on Ghadaffi that he cannot resist us. Remember this Charlie, I loath the man. Years ago I vowed that if ever I was in a position of authority I would get rid of him. Give him a good kicking. Get him off the playing field, so to speak. Yes Dave, I do understand. Assad you could share a room with but not Ghadaffi. Completely, understandable. I wouldn’t fancy an  emergency meeting in a tent with him, myself. Precisely that, Charlie. Blair could kiss him  in the hope of reform but not me. Oh, dear no.

Let’s cut the crap Dave. What are you going to do to get us out of this mess?  Well you would call it mission creep Charlie. We are going to flood Misrata and other places with humanitarian assistance workers. No fighting while they are there. You infiltrate these places with SAS in plain clothes. They tell you where the Ghadaffi lot are positioned. Zapp, zap, zap Charlie from the air. a bit of bang, bang, bang on the ground. You beef up the rebels by advisers and special forces. Down the road with close air support. Bang, bang bang again and you’re on the road to Tripoli. Come to think of it there’s a good song in this. There usually is.

You’re mad Dave. You can’t get away with that. Emergency meeting at UN , heated debates in the Commons where you would lose the vote, to say nothing of the Lib Dems. I’m not a loser Charlie. Remember that. Things were going badly for Margaret Thatcher until the Falklands. Then she became a heroine. Very patriotic the British working classes. Come on board HMS Victory my lads. We all love a winner. If you can pull that off Dave you will deserve to win. I may even vote for you myself. Now I know you are joking Charlie. But I’m not joking. Just you wait and see.

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Lib Dems: They Just Don’t Get It


There is now a Lib Dem mantra designed to show how Government has been materially improved becaus of its involvement in the Coalition. What we have, it might be supposed, is really a Lib Dem administration. The party can come up with a long list of its achievements. One by one Lib Dem policy dreams have been put into place. It is necessary  side for the purpose of this argument to recognise that there are   policies that those of us on the left can support: higher personal tax allowances, improvement of tax credits for the very poor. the triple lock on increases in the state pension, the Pupil Premium to help some disadvantaged poor children. Good on you, say I.

Do these policy changes make people less poor?  Yes, they do in a way. However, alas and alack, the imposition of VAT dwarfs these advantages and the poor will get poorer. I will not dwell on the LiB Dem opposition to any VAT increase in the General Election campaign except to comment the they were against it. We all remember the poster. They were against increases in tuition fees too and then suddenly they were not.

But what is the heart of the matter. Remember, the Lib Dems were against cuts in public expenditure on the scale propsed by the Tories. Now they are not. What they tell us now  is that these cuts are necessary and like Pilgrims Progress to the promised land they bring us all closer to full employment, rising living standards and sunshine. Trust us, you will see how wise we are it is said.

The Lib Dems no longer command trust. But are they right? Certainly the OBR has consistently produced economic forecasts that suggest they might be. We are days away now from a reckoning. The first quarter GDP figures for the for 2011 is soon to be announced. It may be that over the last six months the British economy may not have grown at all, or if it has it will be  at some miserable annualised rate. Unemployment may be rising not falling, inflation will continue to work its way up and not down and real incomes will be squeezed further. I do not know whether the OBR will be asked for a revised forecast but even if they are not asked, it is highly likely that some other respected forecasting institute will make a good fist of doing it.  And what will be observed? I anticipate it: a rising budget deficit and no chance of the Coalition’s economic objective of eliminating the deficit by 2015 being achieved.

Is this not the real charge against the Lib Dems? Not the cavilling  daily objections to their nonsense BUT one overriding error. On the essential and over-reaching issue of how to keep the economy growing and the public deficit falling THEY ARE PLAIN WRONG. The Lib Dems have sold their soul for a mess of potage to find it uneatable. The electorate will not forget it and a day of reckoning is close.

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Libya and the Anglo-French Zone of Influence


Do you remember the European Defence Force (EDF) proposed by the France as an alternative to NATO and rejected by the British? You do, good. I have news for you it is alive and kicking (with a little help from Italy). There is new foreign policy strategy. Britain and France have declared that the Mediterranean area including North Africa be deemed their  sphere of influence. There is no immediate need for Britain to have an aircraft carrier for French one will do and the Italians will provide an air base in Southern Italy. If we act now and together there will be no more influx of unwanted immigrants into Frence and Italy. Like all speres of inluence it would be better for the client country to have a similar political system of our own  Trade and investment prospers best in democracies amd a reliable commercial law. To be fair to ourselves her in Britain this has always been the case. All these jolly colonies were reformed into democratic societies and when all was hunky dory we went home and they had their independence. Of course there many wars to achieve this but achieve it we did. Gradually the atlas studied by English schoochildren turned from the pink of Empire to a cacophany of other hues and anthems. 

It dawned on me as I watched French helicopters fir on the Presidential Palace in the Ivory Coast that nothing much had changed. We do not call it Empire any more, these African states are not colonies but the white man’s mission continues. The emotion felt by the former colonisers remains the same.

But I saw other things in this state of confusion as well as well. On the Palace wer trained the guns of UN helicopters. In Afghanistan it was a UN agency that was being stormed. The Un commitment to nation building was in full flood. While I had looked away for a moment or two the UN had developed a role of its own and it wielded armed forces of its own. It came as quite a shock to me.

Why am I getting so excited about this? Well think a bit. There is work to be done to persuade all those African and Arab countries to come into line and to make the region fit for invest and the export of oil. I cannot come about over night. After Libya there will be many other states waiting for our attention. The USSR did not find it easy to have all those client states in Eastern Europe. And let me tell you what happnened to them. They collapsed. All those years of economic sacrifice and political attention and then,  almost over night, nothing.!

I am conscious that this new regional foreign and defence policy has mnot been debated by the House of Commons. It is stealing up on us. Is this neo-colonialism in the interest of  Britain. What will be the efects on our alliance with the USA, the cohesion of NATO and the unity of Europe. No room for the Huns in all this! Germany can sort out the Eurozone and serve them right.

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Libya: An End to Liberal Interventionism


I bow to no-one in my detestation of the Ghadaffi regime- or the Yemeni, Syrian, Iran or Tibetan regimes – to say nothing at all about the world’s petty tyrannies in such places as the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwi.  I am all for assisting peoples caught up in natural disasters and who are the victims of tyrannical regimes wherever they are are – but not by invading their territories in the name of Western democracy. But I do not wish the armed forces of the UK to involve themselves in the civil disturbances of other countries unless it can be proved without reasonable doubt that the happenings in these countries directly involve our national interest and their regimes are a threat to other countries including our own.   

In determining our national interest I reject the argument of spheres of influence. When the Soviet Union claimed the right to determine the political complexion of Eastern Europe as being essential to their national interest and within their zone of influence I argued against it. I was still against it when the Russian  Federation invaded Georgia. I am against it now when Britain, France and Italy, the former colonial powers,  claim a right to determine the political complextion of Northern Africa as being part of ‘their zone.’ 

It is time to stop all this because the time and geographic  horizon is unlimited. William Hague has stated unwisely that other Middle Eastern tyrants need not think that the killing of their rebellious subjects has  gone unnoticed. He unfolds for us all a road to nowhere and a decade of ceaseless interventions by Western powers.

The naievity of all this is shocking. Iraq is a highly complex society and a bewidering confusion of ethnic and religious differences. To believe that you could replace a dangerous tyrany with a democracy in a few weeks of military destruction was always absurd. Similarly you cannot realistically imagine a stable future in Afghanistan without a deal of some kind with the Taleban. Left to themselves most divided countries will sort lut their own affairs. Take the so called humanitarian disaster that awaited Benghazi were Ghadaffi to occupy it again. What would he actually have done. The most active of the insurgents would have slipped across borders to Tunisia and Egypt and as for the rest they would do all that was required to survive. The citizens of Libya are used to doing this. Ghadaffi is an old man and cannot survive for ever. Left to themselves the civil war in Libya would now be over. The casualties would have been lower than they will be now and the sorting out would be done by Libyans in their own time and in their own way.

It is time to bring the whole gory adventure to a halt.  It is time to stop. Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq has taught us that intervention to change political regimes does not work and what limited success we can achieve has been bought at huge human cost

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