Elections are won on economics: its the economy stupid. Our numbers are bad but they will become worse. If the Eurozone collapsess they will be disastrous. But party alleigances are static. Hello, out there is any one listening. The reasons for static polls are well-known: mcu blame is attached to Labour’s inheritance of deby and the, seconly, the electorate are dogmatically fair-minded – they give credit for trying. The Coalition is trying – but in more than one meaning of the word. So it is a long and hard road for Labour toi convince the electorate that they could do better.
What will change things are events. Anyone looking back in 2011 knows how difficult it is to predict them. If they are external events there is a breathless pause while the country rallies round. What woul be the public reaction to a forced opening of the Straits of Hormouz if petrol prices doubled. How would the public react to yet another war? Would it really come to that? It might. Would things look bad for the Coalition if unemployment topped three million. Mrs Thatcher recovered from that but then she needed a successful invasion of the Falklands.
Sometimes Government’s implode. What would make the Coalition implode. European policy might if Cameron was foolhardy. Surely he won’t be tempted but you never know. Perhaps not. The Coalition might split. Not much chance of that. It is in the Lib Dem interest to soldier on rather than than be decimated by the electorate.
Once I would have been bold and would make a prediction. Should we settle for a quiet life with more of what we have got. I hope not. Perhaps if I predict it we shall get something more exhilarating. OK nothing will happen in 2012.
Filed under BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Europe, George Osborne, IFS, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Treasury, Unemployment
The constant ctiticism of the Government’s budget deficit figures is that the cuts are too great and too fast. The effect, or merely the impression, that this is so affects consumers, output and employment. The prognosis of the Coalition is that such a policy will lead to a stagnant low-growth economy and the deficit would not come down very much, if at all.
It is disappointing to the critics that so little publicity was given to public borrowing in the first two months of this financial year which shows just that: borrowing in the first two months of 2011/12 is up from £25.9 billion to £27.4 billion – up not down!
Of course one swallow – or is it two- does not a summer make. Or does it? Well, this argument should be settl;ed in July when we have three months figures for GNP, empliyment and public borrowing. It will be a relief to pass from conjecture to fact. There are enough straws in the wind to suggest that growth will be either exceedingly modest or none at all. If then public sector borrowing has not fallen when compared with last year, the Coalition target of eliminating the deficit in four years will be lost.
Politicians will busily spin. It will be argued that there are special factors: currency uncertainty in Europe, a stalling US economy and slow downs in the BRIC countries who are expected to fuel a global economy. All very true and plausible. However, these pleas should go on deaf ears. There are always special factors and Governments are supposed to make allowance for them. The game will be up – and it should be called.
The absence of what is called a Plan B, or Plan C for that matter, places the Coalition with a conundrum. What is to be done? – as Lenin would utter. Is such a dilemma not worth a vote of no- confidence. I can hear the objections. There is no prospect of unseating the Government and you look silly and weak if you move these motions without a chance of a majority. Is not this what the leadership of the Labour Party is really about? The baring of breasts and the gnashing of teeth which passes for Opposition now does not meet the challenge of the times. What about a reasoned motion putting forward a number of believable proposals for kick starting the economy followed by a no confidence motion? Anything less than this will fail. Those who urge an alternative economic policy should have the courage to enunciate it now. Well in July, actually. Any sign of heads being knocked together or is it time for hols? Time enough said slow.
Filed under BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, George Osborne, House of Commons, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Lib Dem blogs, Nick Clegg, OBR, Treasury
Blair tells us, that is the British public, that we need a better plan for North Africa and the Middle East. What does he mean? If he means what I think he means a better plan is the last thing Britain needs. A little clarification will help. Who are ‘WE’. It appears that NATO, the European Union and the USA are ‘WE’. or to be brief the Western World. And what do we need a plan for? What is it to do for us? The purpose of the Plan is to assist Arab states become more like us. Particularly those who possess oil and mineral resources but to be fair all states within that geographic area. In our view all democracies will repect universal rights fair representation, equality and freedom under the law and all of them wish to attract more investment, grow and attract investment and develop commerce to and from the West. What should we do? We should intervene to help these changes take place and use diplomatic and financial means and armed force to help bring these changes about.
President Obama approves these objectives but despairs of a lack of willingness of NATO countries to pay the price for the extra spending on defence such a policy requires – including both France and the United Kingdom. There is, apparently, no political will. Friends Cameron and Hague have the will but not the money and each day that passes limits our armed capabilty. Imagine a conversation at the Foreign Office.
Secretary of State can we have you direction, please. Here is a list of countries we are determined to assist to democratic status. They all require a UN resolution. What do we do? What do we do, you say. We act, this Goverment acts. Give me the Calendar. Not that one, 2011 you ass. Let’s see. We need to allow a week between resolutions. Let’s do it aphabeticallyby week. 1.Bahrein 2. Gulf states(?) (need to be more precise here) Israel/Palestine (a tall order this) 3. Lebanon (good thinking), 4. Saudi Arabia, (you’re joking(? ) , 5. Syria (a brutal race, we need armed force here, get the Turkish Premier on the phone. What’s that! A deal on Cyprus needed? Have we not done one of those? Get Greece on skype. 6. Yemen ? (Good God 500,000 men could get lost in the desert. I exagerate. But you know what I mean.) What does Obama think? More defence expenditure and quickly. Something about lendlease, if it would be helpful. So we have reached a decision point. I’m strong on decisions you know. Look I can’t think clearly now. Get Liam in the office on Monday. Hold on. Here is one of my inspired thoughts. National Service! Get the unemployed youth off the streets, lower the unemployment rates at a stroke, re-issue some of those Lee Enfield’s -and off we go. Hey, ho the boys. Let Liam know ahead of the meeting, there’s a good chap.
Filed under Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Economics, Ed Balls, France, George Osborne, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Israel, Italy, Labour Blogs, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, National Service, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, OBR, Politics, Sarkozy, Syria, Turkey, Wlliam Hague, Yemen
Labour supporters will be non-plussed by the performance of its leader. Any objective appraisal will come to some daunting conclusions. There are several policy and leadership issues where he has been found sadly wanting.
1. Libya. Labour’s policy support for the Libyan adventure is driven by emotion: the ‘we can’t stand aside while thousands are slaughtered’ argument. Maybe there would have been many deaths in Benghazi and maybe not. We shall never know. One thing is certain: by supporting the weaker side in a civil war the conflict has been drawn out and will lead to many more deaths than not intervening. But the bigger objection is that Labour is buying into an Anglo-French strategy to use NATO to extend their influence in Africa and the Middle East. This is essentially a neo-colonial strategy that will lead to other interventions and a complex of economic and financial sanctions that will be injurious to everyone involved. The alternative is to patiently relate to the various situations as a friend and to allow the various civilian revolutions to work themselves out. The Anglo-French ambitions will divide NATO and lead to splits betwee northern and ‘Mediterranean’ states. The Libyan mis-adventure will work out badly for Britain and not to Labour’s advantage.
2. The AV Referendum and Constitutional Changes. The electorate have rarely had any appetite for electoral and constitutional reform. Of course, the electorate distrust their MPs and Parliament itself. This is a healthy distrust and people have no wish to be deprived of it. Here Milliband had a judgement call. He got it wrong and labelled himself a loser. In practice he would have had no difficulty in finding a good reason not to seek to commit Labour to the preservation of Nick Clegg. And now Labour must be ruthless and sink Clegg’s constitutional proposals in the Lords. The time ‘to do’ constitutional reform is when you control the agenda.
Labour got the issues badly wrong. Scots electors turned to the SNP as the best option to protect them from Coalition cuts. They were right in their judgement. This time the issue was not the menace of self rule as Labour supposed but which party can best be trusted most at this time to defend their interests. As with England, Labour has no convincing alternative narrative.
4 The NHS Reform Bill
Labour is getting this wrong. Today they should divide the House to defeat the NHS Bill. I believe that Cameron is willing to ditch the Bill in order to maintain the Coalition. There is no need for a Bill. The worthwhile reforms can be accomplished without one. If it is ditched the Lib Dems will be given the credit for it. Again this is a judgement call. Can Ed Milliband deliver on the NHS? I doubt it now.
5 And lastly a more basic point. Where is the evidence that Labour is working as a team and is the ‘team’ up to it. Precious ittle and ‘No’ are my answers and more to the ppint it may be the judgement of the country as a whole.
Filed under BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Ed Milliband, Labour Blogs, Lansley, Lib Dem blogs, Libya, Middle East, NATO, NHS, Nick Clegg, Politics, Referendum, Sarkozy, United Nations, Voting reform
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.
Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, George Osborne, IFS, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Vince Cable
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.
Filed under Arab League, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Commons, Eton, Ghadaffi, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Sarkozy, SAS, Syria, Tony Blair, United Nations, Yemen
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.
Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Financial Times, George Osborne, IFS, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem Conference, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Public Services, Rising prices, Spending Review, Treasury, University fees
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