I do not wish to be parochial or small-minded. But the world, at least my world, is behaving in a most peculiar manner. Take Brexit, or don’t take it, from my point of view, very large numbers of British people admitted that they might be worse off if there was a Brexit – but they voted Leave anyway. ‘What do people like us have to lose ‘ they said. Quite a lot actually: your job, higher shop prices, a collapse in annuity values and cancelling the annual holiday to the Costa Brava or some such place. Such warnings were greeted with a shrug. ‘So what’ and ‘they could hardly get worse’. Are you real don’t these things matter any more?
And take Corbyn – I wish you would -and the Labour leadership contest. Owen Smith has made himself as close to an identikit candidate as he could (excepting devising a way to stay in the EU and renewing Trident, that I admit from my point of view are extremely important). He is well educated, presentable. well-informed, has management experience and the confidence of the Parliamentary Party .Shouldn’t we Labourites give him a majority? The reply:’I agree he is very presentable and would make a good Prime Minister.but I intend to stay with Jeremy.’ Why doesn’t he agree with me?
Look at the Corbyn closely, listen to his speech, imagine him representing Britain at an international conference (no placards allowed) or mastering a complex document at No 10?You can imagine him doing these things??? Congratulations for it is quite an achievement.
‘Don’t worry. It will never happen.’ I hear you say. Are you really content with a Conservative Government as far as the eye can see. ‘What will be, will be.’ I hear you say.’I doubt if it will make much difference.’
Wake up, wake up, wake up!
Filed under Alistair Campbell, Boris Johnson, Commons, Europe, Guardian, House of Commons, Jeremy Corbyn, John Martin, Labour leadership, Labour List, Larisa Martin, Liberal Voice, Momentum, New Stateman, Politics, Referendum, Uncategorized, Unemployment
I have been very quiet in 2012. The reason: finishing a book. Now my freedom conincides with the happy beginning of a new year. The old year had a great deal to grip our interest. We were certainly not short of copy or headline. Some of these, frankly speaking were both silly and ephemeral with hysteria on all sides of the political spectrum. However, at this stage of the electoral cycle it has not mattered more than fig or two. This year is different. As I hate right wing rhetoric, and distrust Tory attempts to divide British society, I struggle to be fairminded. You shall be the judge.
I was wrong in believing that the Coaltion would collapse suddenly and violently under the pressure of its own contradictions. When times are bad people prefer to be hung together at the latest possible time. What both the Tories and Lib Dems have succeeded in doing is to speak both ways with one message to the electorate and the other to their own members. Of course members do not like this and engage in a disquieting chorus of their own. However, commonsense suggests that the reckoning be pushed off to the future.
The Lib Dems are better placed than I believed likely. Electoral support has levelled out at about 10 percent and in local elections in the south they have benefitted from Labour votes in areas where Labour is not likely to win. The converse is that in the Midlands and the North the party is steadily being eliminated. I do not believe the party can improve on this poll rating. The Tories would be mad to allow a leaders television debate in 2015 (not least because UKIP might well be able to claim participation). So no bounce there. If the Lib Dems can continue to project a progressive image they are likely to avoid abject humiliation.
The Tories still have a chance of winning (defined as a majority or a Lib Dem coalition). However, the odds are lenghtening. Can the party succeed in squaring the circle? Can a right wing posture and radical sounding speeches carry the right wing with the leadership for two whole years. There are three daunting policy difficulties: the economy, Europe, and reform of the welfare system and none is wholly in their control. I doubt very much whether the deficit will come down, Europe will not oblige a right-wing agenda and it is an open question whether it is possible to reform the welfare system in the midst of the longest recession in modern economic history.
If we were describing a football match we would say that Labour has a comfortable lead at half-time. I doubt whether the pundits are right in thinking Labour must do more than that to stay ahead. They are lucky, lucky, lucky. Events, dear boy, are on their side. No need for handbags at half time. Keep control of the ball, keep pressing, concentrate and pray for continued divine intervention.
Filed under Benefits, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, Europe, General Election 2015, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Labour Party, Lib Dems, Liberal Vision, Politics, Universal benefits
It is said that our prisons are full of people who maintain their innocence: their jury was fixed, their counsel incompetent, not all the evidence was presented,the law is an ass. I daresay for some it is true. However, one is left with the thought that some of these protestors fon’t’t get it. Society as a whole has determined that it will not accept certain behaviour: we, the people (hear it before?) think it wrong. In our lunatic asylums there are people who think that theyare Napoleon or more likely a hatstand. Try me they say put your hat on my raised arm. There you are I told you so. Who is to say they are not? Well, we might respond, almost everyone.
I am reminded of these truisms when I listen to respondents give their evidence in the numerous Parliamentary investigations on phone hacking. It is OK, apparently for a Police Superintendant to take £12,000 of benefit in the form of an extended stay at a health farm from a former employee of News Coporation if he is something of a friend; it is alright to ignore evidence of phone hacking affecting thousands of people because one is busy with other matters; there is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister having talks with senior Murdoch executives about News Corporation’s bid for 100 percent control of B Sky B if the decision is to be taken by a close colleague; and, of course, there is nothing wrong about employing a former editor of the News of the World as your Press Advisor despite repeated warnings that he might be involved in phone hacking; and what is wrong with a little false claiming of expenses, when surely everyone is at it. Goodness, do these characters live in the same world as me or you? Apparently, they do.
Every day people get done for over-claiming on benefits, claiming disability allowance when they can stand upright, speeding at thirty five miles an hour, and parking five minutes over the due time. Naughty, naughty, these are criminals and they get what they deserve.
What is wrong here is that the ruling elites in Parliament, the Press, the Broadcasting Corporations and the top levels of Police Forces have become seriously out of kilter with the rest of us. We don’t understand. If you are one of these elites you can do anything you like – within reasons. Of course, now and again people are caught out with their noses in the trough. Well, why not, really: they are them and we are, apparently, something else. One set of rules for them and another for us.
The kind answer to a gentleman who thinks he is a hatstand is that you think not and you can demonstrate it by reference to a real hatstand. The answer to a policeman taking benefits and rewards not permitted in the appropriate police manual is, ‘Get on your bike’ Speak up you at the back. I can’t hear you.
Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Disability Allownce, Labour leadership, Liberal Voice, Metropolital Police, Murdoch, Nrws Coporation, Politics, Sir Paul Stephenson
I want to tell you about my mission to dominate North Africa and the Middle East. Well, not exactly mine but ‘This Coalition Government’s’ – (its what I call it now) – although to be accurate I should say we – the old colonial powers, Italy, France and Britain. Or is it NATO – I suppose it is. Well whatever it is, it is mine and I stand and fall by it. Look Charlie, stop laughing, I’m tired of this. Your precious Labour Party supports us, the House of Commons approves, together with 40 percent of the electorate. What more can you ask for? Don’t answer that, rhetorical you know. When I was a young Yorkshire lad two thirds of my Atlas was colured pink. It made you very proud to see it. And now, virtually nothing. Can any kid be proud of that? The answer is , no, Charlie. Of course not. Now we have another chance. These African Johnnies, it seems to us at the Foreign Office, wish to live in a democratic country like our own. Democracies are good for trade and commerce. We wish to trade and invest, of course we do. Ipso facto as they say at Oxford, supporting these revolutionary Johnnies is in the national interest. It was always in our interest whether the map is coloured pink or green. Of course, if you intervene like we are doing in Libya in other places you cannot guarantee an outcome. But we three countries can see off Ghadaffi. It won’t take long – at least we hope not. What kind of chaps would we look like in the Middle East if we had done nothing, stood by on the other side of the road, while citizens were slaughtered. In my view Charlie – and please stop laughing – there is the domino effect to consider. If one country goes pink – that is pink for democracy now of course – other countries follow suit and the black and grey parts diminish. It makes you glad to know it. Glad to be British/Italian/ or French. I am glad. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be embarking on a mission to free so much of the world’s population from tyranny and poverty. Not single handed , of course. I spring out of bed these days with joy in my heart. If you snigger again, I’ll punch you. What did you say, consider the slogan, ‘In your heart, you know I’m right.’ and look what happened to him. Too abstruse Charlie. You can do better.
In many ways these are dark and difficult days for ‘The Coalition Government.’ We may fail overall to rescue Britain from the financial mess bequeathed by Labour. I admit it to you Charlie as we are off the record. But I – the Foreign Secretary – will look back on my experience at the Foreign Office with pride. We did our best to change the political colour of millions of people. What more can you ask of a British Foreign Secretary (sound of laughter and the crash of over-turned furniture off stage).
Filed under Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Egypt, France, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, House of Commons, Italy, Labour leadership, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Middle East, Oxford, Politics, Sarkozy, Syria, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
President Obama is an eloquent exponent of the American Dream and gave we European’s a version of this on his visit to Europe last week. Dreams are important to us all but they rarely survive long in the harsh glare of light and to seek to fulfill them can lead to disaster. In the current version the extension of universal rights to democracy, representative government , equality, and the rule of law should become a foreign policy objective for the West. Its immediate focus is on extending democracy to Africa and the Middle East. In the pursuit of this objective all means, economic, financial and the use of force as a last resort are in order. It has become unanswerable in this docrine that democracy is best not only for human happiness but for the trade and economic development on which the economic stability of Western countries is so dependant.
The Obama doctrine finds an enthusiastic audience in Britain and the European Union. Scarce resources are being provided for the funding of aid and active assistance in nation building and the UN itself is enthusiastic about nation building wherever its sway can be achieved. No one is more enthusiastic than David Cameron and, judging from his recent public appearances and pronouncements, Ed Milliband.
I hear raised voices at this point. What is wrong about that then? Hold on, my revolutionary friends, say I. Rember the Mensheviks. Do you have a monopoly of vision and prophecy? Can you at this moment of history tell us what will be the outcome of the Arab Spring? Do you expect reason to prevail in Israeli- Palestinian relations? Can you predict the political develpment of Iran? What will be the nature of successor regimes in the Arab world? Is there more to this world than is dreamt of in your philosophy? Much derided as it is it is now, there is logic in the foreign policy objective of seeking stability in the world and not adding to political turbulence. Perhaps we should be a friend in need to emerging nations and not a friend in your face.
Can I point out to you dear British reader that you live in a country constantly at war in ‘far-away countries’ for the ideals that we share with President Obama. More so than any European country we have been alongside our American friends in worthy (but impractible?) causes around the world. Let’s have more of that then, I hear you say. We Brits have an appetite for it. Does not the call to arms and economic and financial sanctions on recalcitrant states weary you a little? Are we to have a further two decades of armed struggle with all the division among ourselves this brings?
Well, yes, if need be may be your reply BUT I doubt it. I suggest to you that it is wholly absurd to commit ourselves to the Obama docrine at a time of great austerity, economic stagnation and public expenditure cuts, not least to the armed forces; that to be ‘playing soldiers in Libya’ and perhaps elsewhere is an unsupportable nonsense. For the cost of an intervention in Libya, soon to run beyond a billion pounds and ever upwards we could, for example, ensure the financial viability of care services fior the elderly, boost low cost housing or extend aid to the unemployed. No one would receive a tin medal for it but it could do good. The best way to build respect in the world is to earn it ourselves for our love and attention to our nearest and dearest.
Filed under Afghanistan, Bahrein, Cabinet, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Economics, Ed Milliband, Egypt, Europe, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Iraq, Labour leadership, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Obama, Politics, RAF, Revolution, Russia, Syria, Treasury, Unemployment, United Nations, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
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
Filed under Afghanistan, Arab League, Army, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Egypt, France, Iraq, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Middle East, Nick Clegg, Politics, RAF, Revolution, Sarkozy, Syria, Uncategorized, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
The British, French and America mission to unseat Ghadaffi by armed intervention and, belatedly, diplomatic opposition is failing. It was always doomed to fail. Libya as with Iraq is a complex society. Any outside interference in its affairs is bound to be simplistic. Ghadaffi and his nasty regime has much greater popular support than has been supposed and suspicions of the motives of the insurrectionists are well grounded. TV audiences have had an opportunity to look at some of the Members of the Opposition Council. I cannot speak for anyone else but I found them distinctively dodgy. We are looking at the failed members of Ghadaffi’s regime seeking a way back to power. I suspect that we are not looking at the grey men who will replace them when the time arises.
Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama cannot let the mission fail: they have Elections to win. For the moment they cannot admit that they were wrong in the diagnosis and chosen solution -armed intervention. Enter mission creep. As we must win at almost any price what do we NEED to do. Let us now destroy every tank, armoured vehicle and artillery piece we can spot, turn a blind eye to rebel intrusions into Ghadaffi supported population centres such as Sirtes, and enlarge the number of participants in the Alliance (less blame per participant). We must tighten the economic and diplomatic noose around the Ghadaffi regime, encourage deserters from his doomed Aministration and from the Army. Will that do the job? No. Perhaps not. Remember Iraq? Must we?
I’ll tell you what would do the job. Put in 20,000 professional soldiers to occupy Misrata and secure the oil terminals along the East coast. Would that do the job? Alas no. What about the oil fields themselves? Well another 10,000 soldiers or so could secure them. What about Tripoli itself? Well once we have secured the other places we could move against Tripoli. Shouldn’t be a problem about that.
If I understand Hague and Cameron correctly, they would not stop there. What should we do about other Middle eastern autocratic rulers. The Syrian regime is busy killing protestors,. Surely we should do something to assist the protestors get rid of the Syrian regime? If you are at heart a Liberal Capitalist wih a colonial mentality, surely it must be in the interest of France and Britain, in paerticular, to get rid of these regimes for as we all know democracies are good for trade and are places where you can do business. The British love trade and doing business. It is the object of British foreign policy to do more of that. Why then stop at Libya?
Filed under Arab League, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Conservative Home, Ed Milliband, France, Ghadaffi, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, Parliament, Politics, Sarkozy, Syria, United Nations
A word about forecasting now that the OBR has had its third attempt to plot the economic progress of the British Economy. Like accountants before them the OBR is useful in recording the past but well-nigh useless in forecasting the future. We live in a time of extreme economic turbulence and uncertainty when at any time wars, earthquakes, worldwide pressure on resources and the stupidities of the human race can turn nice judgements into inanities. Yet still we persist. It will be better in the future: the economy will grow, employment will rise, inflation will come down and real incomes will rise again. The OBR at least has the common sense to admit that all its forecasts are subject to great uncertainty. Well yes, they say, it may not turn out like this but we hope it will.
I commit myself to several judgements, First, the attempt to eliminate the budget deficit in a five year Parliament is doomed to failure. At best the Coalition may complete the Parliament having achieved what Labour continues to promise: the deficit could be halved. We have in the Coalition a group of supply side fanatics who have always maintained that growth must come through a smaller state and greater productivity, who are antagonistic to public administration and welfare and suspicious of the state as pump priming anything. Come back Milton Friedman, all is forgiven. Economists have an adage that you can lead a horse to a trough but you cannot make it drink. The IFS has remarked that the numerous supply side intiatives announced in the Budget do not amount to a row of beans. They will add nothing to aggregate demand. What is needed is the pump priming of capital investment in rail, roads and building construction and a real (rather than imaginary) attempt to raise skill levels. Of course the Government is aware of these needs. It is doing something – but too little.
The central issue of George Osborne’s budget is a judgement of whether this Government at this time is right in believing that it is possible to eliminate the budget deficit in five years. If it is right in its belief it will go on to the glory dreamt of by our Dave and Nick. The objectives of financial probity and economic sucess will be achuieved and electoral success will be the reward. If it is imposible for Britain (and I suspect Greece, Ireland and Portugal) to do anything of the kind when will the game be up? I suggest the Budget of 2012 will be the time of reckoning. The Parliamentary rules now make it difficult to get rid of a Government – but not impossible. And at this time who might be leading the Labour Party. Might events work in favour of Ed Balls? The electorate love a winner. Watch this spot!
Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cameron, CBI, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, IFS, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Vision, Nick Clegg, OBR, Treasury
For all the talk of International Alliances to save lives in Libya it does become clear that the intervention is transatlantic: the USA and Canada and the old African colonisers Britain, France and Italy. As in all foregn adventures domestic electorates are told it is in the national interest and their citizens have a moral duty to save lives. Britain has been almost continuously involved in foreign interventions in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan with forays into Kossovo, Serbia and Sierra Leone for the past 20 years. It is apparently always in our interest to do so and there is always a moral imperative. A war-weary British electorate has become sceptical: not another one, could not someone else do this and why this constant cranking up of fears might be their questions?.
Why is it in the national interest of Italy, France and Germany to intervene in Libya? Ghaddafi is no longer a threat to his neighbours. A brave Labour administration did a deal with him which seems to have tamed him. He does not threaten his neighbours in the Middle East and Africa. They do not like or trust him but that falls short of a reason for removing him. David Cameron tells us the Libya is a Pariah State, a social outsider, on the southern fringe of Europe and therefore undesirable. Well , lets not invite Ghaddafi for tea. There is the argument that demcoratic states do not threaten anybody and are beter for trade and business. Maybe, but do we not have to live in the world as it is? So there is nothing to the argument of national interest.
What about our moral responsibility for saving lives? Yes, we should help if we can but Britain does not have a unique moral responsibility. Cannot someone else pick up the baton for a change? If they do not wish to do so does this make them immoral? What about Arab states, Libya’s immediate neighbours? Does not moral reponsibilty start here? The bewildered British elector might think, these Libyan people should sort out their own affairs. If they wish to be nasty and brutish to each other they can’t be worth much in the final analysis. We have problems of our own. Here the propaganda hots up. We are it seems our brother’s keeper.
The fear factor hits in. Ghaddafi is about to commit genocide. I doubt it. There would be a terrible retaliation in Benghazi no doubt but the Libyan’s are very mobile. Those at greatest risk might beat it into Egypt where they would lead a better life.
Unfortunately the world is full of dictators and autocracies. Steadfastly the West refuses to step in. Anyone can prepare a list but how about Ruanda, Zimbabwe, Bahrein. Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few. I detect a streak of vindictiveness in Cameron. He has it in for Gadaafi and is determined to see him punished.
Putin descibed the intervention by the West as a medaeval crusade. He has a point. Isn’t it time we learnt a few lessons from recent history? Of course if it were Michael Gove’s version of British history. it wouldn’t deter Cameron in the least.
Filed under Afghanistan, Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Ed Milliband, Egypt, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Iraq, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Michael Gove, Middle East, New Stateman, Obama, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Sarkozy, United Nations, Wlliam Hague, Yemen