Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Johann Hari should resign...

Lot of damning stuff on Twitter over Johann Hari's admission that he includes choice historical quotes when interviewing. We all know its misleading. We all know its wrong. And in any other walk of life he would have lost his job. When you're paid to elicit quotes from people, and you use historical quotes without crediting where they came from, you're not doing your job. You're simply dishonest. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Retail bloodbath continues...

Yesterday Jane Norman, today TJ Hughes, and Thornton's shutting 120 stores...retail bloodbath continues... tweets Allister Heath of City AM. We should now be very worried at the lack of demand management in the economy by the Coalition. Retailers provide an advanced warning of problems coming down the line and this blog has consistently called for more demand and greater growth in the economy, preferably through raising the tax threashold to £10,000 - something which should have been done at the time of the last Budget in April - with the ultimate aim of achieving parity, through legally syncing the two in statute, with the level of the minimum wage - aroung £11,400. 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Grip, Clout & Bottom...

Michael Cockerill talking about Cameron on The Week in Westminster, quotes a number 10 mandarin - well he's got the three things that a Prime Minister has to have: grip, clout and bottom...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Capital punishment is just wrong

I felt physically sick at reading this article arguing for Levi Bellfield - convicted of murdering Milly Dowler - to be hanged. The picture above, showing young men in Iran being hanged for being gay, gives me that same feeling of revulsion and shame. Shame because these people do these things in the belief that they enhance humanity. Life is so much more precious. I apologise for showing a picture which I had always vowed not to post.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

What Nick can do next...

I contributed recently to a forum on LibDem Voice on what the party should be doing to secure its future. Depressingly - after arguing the success of achieving 70% of Lib Dem manifesto commitments - I was told that my views were unrealistic. Indeed, all the threads from activists were for dropping any hint of supporting a Tory policy and grabbing the nearest thing to a Labour one that could be found in order to bolster a hemorrhaging voting base - currently plumbing the depths at around 10%.

Now I can perfectly understand that Lib Dems should be worried about such figures. What I cannot understand is a party that wants to go in exactly the direction that is hell bent on destroying it. The Lib Dems are being crucified by the Left, not the Right. There is never so much anger as those who think they have been 'betrayed'. But we need to remember that to betray you must first belong, and Lib Dems need to ask themselves - whether its academy's, welfare reform, free schools, elected police commissioners, the NHS or constitutional reforms - Labour now fights on the side of producer interests and against the interests of the people with every major reform being proposed. Despite the fact that most provide an evolutionary fit with New Labour's Blairite agenda, as the man himself has recently pointed out.

Why would the left have such a pull for Lib Dem's? Partly because it's ideology is based on the principles of equality and social justice - concepts so powerful that all parties now subscribe to them - although welfare dependence, poor educational achievement, the lack of opportunity and deeply problematic social structures are now firmly the province of the Liberal centre of British politics and not the old left.  And partly because, for more than a century of great political struggle throughout the world, it offers the promise of a radical alternative to the dominant capitalist model in which we live.

The problem for the left is that when those principles are based not on people, but on building the state and its bureaucratic institutions as the solution to each social problem, then Lib Dems should be leading the criticism - not endorsing it. As Blair says in an interview with Prospect magazine today; caution against the ‘natural inclination of the party to say "we created the state ... we created its institutions, we should be ... defending the way public services are". This position may be a comfortable one, but it is also a losing one'. He should know. He won three consecutive elections. And he is hated by the left for 'betraying' them.

The truth is that the left continue, under Ed Miliband, to offer only a bigger, more centrist and bureaucratic state - where the essentially personal has been lost. We need to start exactly where we have always been - firmly rooted on the centre ground of British politics, putting people and their aspirations first. Start with the brilliant piece by Julian Astle, a director of CentreForum an independent, liberal thinktank, in Monday's Guardian. He points out that the left has always owned the values of equality and social justice, and the right of liberty and aspiration, the modernisers have sought to blend the two - taking base metals from left and right and turning them into political gold. The first point in the discussion 'what Nick can do next' is to stay firmly rooted on the centre ground giving nothing to both the far left and right in the battle for ideas and policy.

Second - and more importantly because this centre ground is also inhabited by a relatively small but intensely bright coterie of both Blairite and Cameron supporters, each some way from the mainstream of their party - Lib Dems must continue to be at the radical edge of this Liberal centrist Coalition. Not the dour, road block which Gordon Brown represented to Blair's swift foil. As Tim Montgomerie - among the most succinct Conservative commentators - noted in a recent article, over the past year, Clegg had appeared to reject the politics of the lowest common denominator, and backed bold reforms. Iain Duncan Smith regarded the Deputy Prime Minister as a decisive ally in his battle with the Treasury in overhauling welfare. The Lib Dems were also radical in switching the balance of educational funding from university to a child's first few years, when investment can make the biggest difference. On other issues, too – such as pensions, local government or lifting the poorest out of the income tax system – there was something exciting about the Coalition, and their contribution to it.

This is exactly the ground that the Lib Dems should be occupying. Indeed it should go a lot further. Come 2015, the electorate need to understand that the Lib Dems not only delivered the Coalition Agreement including more than 70% of their manifesto, but that they drove the Coalition on some of the most important and radical issues of the day, but which enhanced the lives of the British people - a comprehensive package of penal reform turning prisons into adult education centres and giving re-habilitated prisoners a stake in society, a new deal on the two largest areas of criminal activity which blight our society - drugs and prostitution - bringing them into society, re-writing our privacy laws in answer to outdated super-injunctions, the first comprehensive bill of rights setting out responsibilities of the state and its citizens and incorporating a new UK human rights act, Parliamentary reform including obligatory open primaries for the one third of seats that have a safe majority, expulsion for any members convicted of a serious crime, openly elected parliamentary committee's with the power to set and scrutinise the annual budgets for every quango. Lords reform and, yes, the committment to hold a referendum on PR if a further Liberal centrist Coalition were necessary after the next election.

The answer to the question 'what Nick can do next' is stay radical, stay Liberal and stay at the centre. I really don't think it unrealistic to believe this Coalition is capable of a great deal more. As Julian Astle points out, a majority of the British people are moderate voters unconvinced by the partial solutions traditionally on offer.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Won't get fooled again...

I'm really enjoying BBC2's new series on The Kennedy's rise to power in the early 1960's. We all know the fairy tale - Camelot, Jackie O, '...ask not what your country...' - and the series tells that same compelling narrative that has propelled the myth of the Kennedy's to its current fiftieth anniversary. Gordon Brown even had Ted Kennedy knighted - largely because he was on his deathbed - but then our former Prime Minister did many strange things.

And as I watched, I felt a nagging familiarity taking hold. A young virile new pretender challenges the old order, offering the hope of a better future. His team cleverly harnesses the media, whipping up the kind of optimism, enthusiasm and devotion usually reserved for a rock star. The momentum is stoked to a tremendous crescendo as everyone wants to be part of, and vote-in, the winning team. And once the office has been achieved and the hype dismantled, we experience the deep and profound disappointment at how little is actually achieved.

I see a vision of Tony and Cherie grasping the hands of well wishers as they walk up Downing Street for the first time to the depressing beat of Things Can Only Get Better. I hear the words 'Yes We Can' - emphatically repeated across the lips of a hundred thousand emotionally-drained devotees at a Chicago rally - and realise we have all been here before. And not just once. Three times that I can recall in that last half century of western liberal democracy. Perhaps this is the End of History. Or perhaps history is not repeating itself, just rhyming with its past. But I doubt it. Apart from a rather good spin doctor, on each of those occasions, a young, next-generation, left-leaning candidate has been the phenomena. In each case his greatest attributes have been his looks, his optimism and the lyricism of his oratory - not the content of his manifesto.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Janet Daly on Coalition reforms...

...the only way the Opposition can re-enter the arena as a serious contender is to accept the basic premises of the Right-of-centre prospectus – even if the official Right is busy backing away from them. Among these axioms are: welfare systems which reward people for choosing not to work are socially destructive and morally pernicious; market mechanisms which encourage competition increase the quality and variety of services available to the public; and, arguably most important, tax cuts are the most effective way to stimulate economic growth. Janet Daly on Coalition reforms...

Delingpole on Global Warming...

The Man Made Global Warming industry is a crock, a scam on an epic scale, fed by the world’s biggest outbreak of mass hysteria, stoked by politicians dying for an excuse to impose more tax and regulation on us while being seen to “care” about an issue of pressing urgency, fuelled by the shrill lies and tear-jerking propaganda of activists possessed of no understanding of the real world other than a chippy instinctive hatred of capitalism, given a veneer of scientific respectability by post-normal scientists who believe their job is to behave like politicians rather than dispassionate seekers-after-truth, cheered on by rent-seeking businesses, financed by the EU, the UN and the charitable foundations of the guilt-ridden rich, and promoted at every turn by schoolteachers, college lecturers, organic muesli packets, Walkers crisps, the BBC, CNBC, Al Gore, the Prince Of Wales, David Suzuki, the British Antarctic Survey, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Knut – the late, dyslexic-challenging, baby polar bear, formerly of Berlin Zoo. James Delingpole in characteristically full, passionate roar on the global warming industry...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Radiohead at Glasto 97

Thom Yorke's brilliant vocals being shown on BBC4 tonight from their Glasto 1997 performance - Fake Plastic Trees, Creep, Karma Police, No Surprises... and the wonderful Street Spirit. A long and impressive playlist delivered with passion and conviction - great pleasure to watch.

Liberal moment?

Given the lengths LibDems have gone to since the local election meltdown - mostly in saving the country from those nasty Tories - isn't it about time their polling numbers started to rise? #JustThinking

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Via iPhone

Blog via iPhone

@BBCstephanie tweets - Firms supposedly started with bags of spare capacity, yet a mere 2% rise in GDP has needed a 2.5% - 562,000 - rise in private sector jobs.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Philip Stevens on Labour...

Behind the personal clashes and score-settling lies a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the mistakes Labour made during 13 years in government and to accept the scale of its rejection writes Philip Stevens in the Financial Times.