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
The news has got about that Boris, Liam and David are despondent about the prospects for exciting new trade agreements made possible by Brexit. Disentanglement from Europe is far more complex than they thought and – to be frank- the whole process could take up to ten years. On their journeys around the world other governments have appeared pained and confused. ‘What is it that you Brits want?’ is their complaint and answers there are none.
I want to be helpful. Indeed we should all enter into this task of becoming a world power again in a helpful frame of mind. There is much to be done. Have our negotiators thought about the Pacific Islands? I guess not.
I have a suggestion. Don’t laugh I want you to take the suggestion seriously. I suggest that the Foreign Office has not prioritised the Pacific Islands. Did you know that their are some 25,000 islands in the Pacific with a total population of 40 million people? Impressive isn’t it. Of course since the days of the British Empire other countries have muscled in: Australia , Indonesia and the United States, in particular, and the EU and the Commonwealth have been active. We used to play a big role in the Pacific . People would joke about our gunboat diplomacy. (They can’t do that now of course. I was distressed to learn that all Britain’s modern warships are in dockyards awaiting repairs. Shameful!).
I appeal in particular to Boris. The Pacific is a wonderful area to take holidays with an abundance of fine beaches and welcoming hotels. What better than to spend several months in the Pacific Islands each year with friendly people. Exercising due diligence you could invite family and friends to join you. It could be very, very pleasant. Wonderful!
On a more serious note the Pacific Islands are getting their act together and the timing might be good. They have combined to form the Pacific Islands Forum which aims to help the islands develop their economies. We can help, Boris, and they can help us.
Why not look at this way, Boris. If you are going to fail in your mission why not enjoy yourself? Their is no point in spending fruitless time and energy in Canada, shivering in the hotel entrance while waiting for a cab when you could be on the beach of an exotic island. If you are going to fail do it on the veranda of a wonderful hotel on a Pacific island.It is a no brainer.
Filed under BBC, Boris Johnson, Cabinet, Economics, Imperialism, John Martin, Labour Home, Labour List, Labour Party, Larisa Martin, Liam Fox, Liberal Voice, Politics, Sky Sport
David Cameron would deny that his recent foreign policy statements in Africa, and Franco-British intervention in Libya and Mali, amount to a philosphy of neo-colonialism. However, it does and I shall seek to explain. It is sometimes said that British colonial policy was never intended to create colonies. All we Btish really wanted to do was to trade and found new businesses (and to take a few slaves on the waY), to develop (exploit) African resources, mainly minerals but also a variety of natural resources. However, to protect and expand our trading activities we needed secure government, a system of commercial law to regualate commercial transactions, the creation of a prosperous local economy and a well-educated indiginous population. Once established, and with a democratic liberal economy secured, we could withdraw. The White Man’s mission would then be complete. What could be more reasonabl than that?
Is not that policy the driving force for disturbance in Algeria, Nigeria, and Libya? Of curse we cannot colonise in the same way. But their is a way, oh boy is there not? Cameron goes to various African countries and tells them what they must do – and glory, glory that Britain will help. Of course numerous African countries do need help but there are numerous agencies public and private who can give this help. The natural sourcs of help are United Nations agencies, voluntary organisations and philanthropic interest. It might reasonabley be demanded: no military activities without UN backing and initiatives. I do see the case for French intervention to help Mali but then, help delived, out the troops shoul go, and in should come a UNforce with the right mandate and training. Into the political vaccuum must come the African Union and the leadership of those African countries able to help out. The very last thing Africa needs is David Cameron’s rhetoric of long term military intervention by the old colonial powers.
Of course, I recognise that there are geo-political considerations. It is not unreasonable for a power to seek the protection of its interests elsewhere. There are security threats but what are they and how can they be protected. Step forward the invention of evil outside forces. Today, it is said it is the threat of terrorism. The main deterrent to terrorist groups is political opposition that renders them redundant. An opposition led by Africans. And it must be said that the right leader in Africa is South Africa with its racial mix and strong economy. How helpful it would be if South Africa came up to the mark. Any prospect David of you visiting South Africa? Foreign military intervention does not mimimise the risk of terrorism , it streghthens it by stirring up tribal and national forces of resistance to outsiders. I pose an important question. How real, when properly examined, is a terroris attach on Europe from the jungles of Africa. Dare I mention Iraq?
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
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
It is surprising that the Coalition has found it so easy to define a British foreign policy so blatantly neo -colonialist. Not surprising that is that they have attempted it for it is no more that we might expect from a Tory government, but that opposition to it has been so feeble. Of course, most people understand the need for a foreign policy that defends British trading and investment policies around the world. But defence, in this expression of it, is, as the word implies, non-aggressive. A willingness to remove dictators and authoriarian governments by armed force with or without the USA our major ally is quite another. The Middle East and Africa has been categorised in this policy as a zone of Nato, and in particular Anglo-French, zone of influence. Almost anything goes and the number of autoritarian regimes objected too is numerous. The argument goes like this: authoritarianism is bad for people and for trade; democracy and a developed system of commercial law is essential and an open-door policy for attracting inward investment highly deirable. Ipso facto, it must follow, that all military and diplomatic methods should be used to upset and overthrow regimes not coming up to scrap.
Let me clear. I do believe that democracy is a more desirable form of government than autocracy from every point of view. What is wrong is using British influence around the world to declare war on autocracies. I can hear tut tuts from the establishment. What is your answer then to the need to avoid man-made humanitatian disasters? Here is the starting point for the neo-colonialists. There are some situations so appalling that action is highly desirable. Kossovo, for example with hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes. Iraq is not. The evidence of nuclear or biological threats to Iraqui and other citizens and states was too weak. Libya is a no,no, and the case relying on the usual Ghadaffi diatribes. Would there have been a massacre in Benghazi? I doubt it but now it slips easily off the lips. We are now involved in Libya in helping one side of a civil war, the weaker side, against another. It may turn out that we are supporting one nasty side against another as deplorable. As the months tick by the human toll in deaths and injuries mounts. Are we causing more human misery by intervention in Libya than avoiding it? Arguably, it is what we did in Iraq.
Every morning bright and early William Hague awakes and thinks, Perhaps, it is today. The fall of the tyrant is going to happen today. The months tick by and the enthusiasm dims. When will William reach the point when enough is enough and he calls it off. Well we are at it for as long as it takes – or so he tells us. Evil cannot hold out for ever. Well yes but neither should we endure it for ever. It would have been much, much better not to have started it at all. So tell us William, what shall we do?
Filed under Arab League, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Libya, NATO, Politics, United Nations, Wlliam Hague
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
According to the well-repected bog Conservative Home, the Government is in a state of confusion. Cameron is determined to push through a major reform programmed fueled by Conservative ideology; small government, tax cuts (eventually); constitutional reform (reluctantly), educational reform (expensively), benefit reform (work if you can or else); self-help (Queen Victoria’s self help maunual has been lost), and neo-colonial glory (no one has told Assad and Ghadaffi). What is very clear, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has enunciated, no one voted for Coalition policiues. In the jargon there is no electoral mandate. For the moment the government is cemented together by the fear of electoral wrath: it is better to be hung together than singly.
Every shrewd observor knows that these issues taken separately will not sink the Coalition. The only issue that will do that is the state of the economy. We must wait for July for the GDP figures for the second quarter. If these are bad the game may be up. What would be bad? Zero growth would be bad because it would signal that there has been no growth for the nine months in which the effect of the Coalition’s economic policies has been experienced. Slightly higher growth with a projection for the year as a whole of 1 percent to end 31 March, 2012 would be bad because the public sector deficit would be at unacceptable levels. If either of these economic prognostications becomes true there the very real consequential result that the Governmen’t legislative programme would have ground to a halt and the Coalition itself in its present form will collapse.
It may be that it is not only Arab countries and Greece that will have become ungovernable. I sense a gathering storm. Populations in many countries will arrive at the conclusion that politicians are not to be trusted and our political systems may colla[se. If citizens do not trust the system to safeguard ther basic interests they will seek people-power alternatives: they are already doing so in Libya and Syria. There is something intoxicating about nightly tv screens full of demonstrasing crowds with banners and music. Why not us and why not now?
I suspect that our own governemnt is frightened. If the streets fill up with pensioners and trade unionists, if it goes on through the summer, if one policy initiative after another grounds to a halt, what is there to do? What is certain is that the disease of protest and rejection of authority knows no country boundaries. I have made fun of the Big Society but I do recognise that it has some virtues. If you can state, and if it is true, that we are responsible now and not the government, might the dilemma of electoral madate be solved. The Coalition could say, ‘You (we) are the masters now. Don’t blame us blame yourself (or is it me that needs saving)?
Filed under BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Conservative Home, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Europe, Greece, House of Lords, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Middle East, OBR, Politics, Spending Review, Syria, Universal benefits, Yemen