Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Politicians have an terrible record..

Almost ubiquitously with any commentary on politicians or politics is the suggestion that our political class are widely distrusted and held in contempt by those they govern. In the context of Westminster, this is often related back to the MPs expenses scandal under the last Labour government - not to mention honours for cash, former ministers posing as 'cabs for hire' or Lords offering to amend legislation to the highest bidder. Each of course took their toll, and certainly provided us with one of the worst parliament's & Speaker - now Baron Martin of Springburn - in our history.

 But it goes a lot deeper than that. It seems to me that our political class - with a few honourable exceptions - have been wrong on almost all of the major economic and social issues of the last decade. Moreover, in every case, and presumably because it would not have been given, they failed to either consult or gain the consent of the British people. Here are just five.

1. Multi-culturalism, the widely discredited notion that lead directly to the 7/7 bombings by domestically radicalised terrorists..

2. An open-door immigration policy - designed to 'rub the right's nose in it' - which has irrevocably changed British society whilst denying some of the most vulnerable of our citizens a working future..

3. Welfare dependency, whose numbingly anti-aspirational lifestyle-choice has destroyed the future of hundreds of thousands across vast swaths of British cities..

4. The 2007 banking crash, which no politician forecast, have yet to provide an apology for or indeed a solution to..

5. The disastrous euro which, despite claims to the contrary, Labour continued to support throughout its 13 years in government. The question was only when we would join, not if. Right up until May 2010, Labour continued to fund a specialist treasury department whose purpose was to prepare the country for entry. It was finally disbanded in George Osborne's first budget..

 Is it any wonder people do not trust politicians?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Global leadership needed..

As well as brushing aside the economic objections (to European Monetary Union), he simply ignored or dismissed without argument the political consequences of joining a single currency, and would not admit that a currency union would require a political union as well, to control tax and expenditure. Whether this was from intellectual laziness or political prejudice, I could not tell writes  David Heathcoat-Amory in his memoirs. The date was May 16, 1996. He was speaking to his boss, an arch-euro supporter and at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ken Clarke, to tell him why he was quitting.

In an excellent piece, Dominic Lawson explains how our political class - New Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the pre-Thatcher Conservatives and others of like opinions - knew the critics were right that EMU would inevitably demand the creation of a European government, but that because the people of Europe would not allow their politicians to discard their national sovereignty, they needed to impose it on the people by a process of stealth and denial - until it was so deeply embedded as to be unstoppable in its momentum and could be admitted and finally implemented.

As Amory explains, Thus, the countries which voted no to the treaties of Maastricht (1992), Nice (2001), the European constitution (2005) and Lisbon (2008) were ignored or told to try again. This contempt for public opinion comes at a price. It has created an EU which is all-powerful in legal terms but politically stunted, lacking authority or respect. When the EU has to do something difficult or controversial, such as rescue its currency, it can call on no loyalty or allegiance.

Now the people of Europe can clearly see that democratic deficit. In Greece, anger has spilled onto the streets. The road has run out. Yet still the European political class continues driving full-tilt, foot on the pedal, into a brick wall says Boris Johnson in a recent piece. Europe now has the lowest growth of any region in the world. We have already wasted years in trying to control this sickness in the euro, and we are saving the cancer and killing the patient. We have blighted countless lives and lost countless jobs by kidding ourselves that the answer to the crisis might be “more Europe”. And all for what? To salvage the prestige of the European Project, and to spare the egos of those who were wrong and muddle-headed enough to campaign for the euro.

It becomes more apparent by the day that Europe cannot - or simply will not - see the wood for the trees. At some point a more global perspective that understands the terrible destruction to wealth, nationhood and social cohesion which the European Project has wrought, will need to be put forward. Someone will have to hold a mirror up for European politicians to recognise just how disastrous the European Project has become. Someone must tell truth to power, and that time is not long away.

Cameron, who claims to have formed a Coalition in the national interest, should now be looking to initiate a global plan with the help of President Obama and other similarly minded world leaders outside the euro zone, to start telling Europe that the euro is no longer viable.

At the very least, if the individual countries of southern Europe are not to reintroduce drachma, escudo, paseta and lira, we need a southern European euro-currency to split from a harder, northern European euro-mark currency valued at a level that is appropriate for those economies. But that is just the first stage.

The problem that has never been properly addressed since the financial crisis first struck in 2007, has been debt. Massive corporate debt that has destroyed the balance sheets of global banks throughout the US, Britain and Europe. Sovereign debts in Europe are but a further symptom of this mess. In conjunction with the re-alignment of European currencies, we also need the greatest global write-down of corporate debt in our history.

Like a latter-day Marshall plan, we need a vision whereby the western nations write-down the destructive debts of their bankers - which will also involve the write-off of a substantial proportion of our national wealth - in return for clean balance sheets and a viable economic future that can be financed by credit worthy and properly functioning banks. And this time, conditions will be attached.

This will likely involve the destruction of both shareholders and bond holders who currently own our banks and with them a good part of our investment, pensions and insurance industry. Their plight, will need to be addressed at a later date, lest poverty become a prevailing condition of our ageing population. But in the short-term, the western economy relies on the ability of capital to finance economic activity. A pre-condition of that is the availability of capital and that is what we need to secure.

So far in this economic crisis, no government of whatever political persuasion - left, right or centre - has managed to get re-elected, despite many of them being the victims and not the architects of the financial crisis. A point of which Obama and Cameron must be acutely aware. The reason is that since Gordon Brown bailed out the banks by socialising the debt (and without any conditions being attached), all governments have followed suit and dealt only with the symptoms. Effectively, we have kicked the can down the road and not addressed the underlying cause. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that a politician who at least attempted to lead the world towards a comprehensive and lasting solution to this economic crisis, just might get the credit.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Middle class medals..

It's all about the money, says Fraser Nelson in this week's Spectator about winning Olympic gold medals. And all countries use public funds to increase their medal tally.

Here in the UK a staggering £27 million has been spent on rowing and £23 million on sailing over the past four years to try and retain the medals won in these events at the last games in Beijing.

Naturally you might think, the DCMS should targeted specialist sports we've been successful at in the past. But the end result of course, is that the bulk of funding is going to those sports that are disproportionately enjoyed by the already priviledged and wealthy middle class.

And I thought it was all about social mobility..

Fracking produces dramatic drop in CO2 emissions..

In a blog via Bishop Hill, the FT is reporting a dramatic drop in US carbon dioxide emissions, apparently because of the increasing use of natural gas in its economy.
The shale gas boom in the US has led to a big drop in its carbon emissions, as power generators switch from coal to cheap gas.
According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, fell by 450m tonnes over the past five years – the largest drop among all countries surveyed.
The evidence that shale gas will help ease the worries of those who fret about global warming now seems overwhelming. I think this is where we find out how many of them are serious about global warming and how many of them are just anti-capitalists.. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Women deserve better..

As last week's Rochdale child abuse scandal begins to fade, how desperately sad to see on our TV screens each night, a muslim man - trailed 'respectfully' by his wife in full traditional dress - being accused of murdering his own daughter in what has become known as an 'honour killing'. The name implying that such an act is in some way acceptable. I cannot pre-judge the outcome of this trial, but it seems to me that both these offences directly reflect a deeply held cultural view of women that is both denigrating and dangerous. It says that women's lives are inferior, unimportant and worth less. Like forced marriages and female genital mutilation, it has to stop. 

Muttering idiot..

Jonathan Jones blogs that Ed Balls has got Obama's spending plans completely wrong. The shadow Chancellor says that George Osborne should look to the US President for inspiration, but it seems he already is. UK government spending has fallen by an almost identical 0.9 per cent in real terms from 2010/11 to 2011/12. And it’s projected to fall a further 0.5 per cent in 2012/13, compared to Obama’s 2.6 per cent. So if Balls thinks Osborne should be more like Obama, he’s really advocating faster spending cuts. But I'm sure someone's been warning against going too far, too fast... probably some muttering idiot.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Senior moment..

Sir, last weekend the drive up to London was improved by listening to a Sherlock Holmes audiobook on the car's CD player. I was amused by my inability to follow the plot as closely as I would have liked, and put this down to middle age. It was only when I arrived at my destination that I realised the CD player was on 'shuffle' mode..

Letter in today's Telegraph

Its about people, not money..

Two great pieces on the euro: Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph and Janet Daley in the Sunday version are well worth reading, as the fate of Greek membership is now in the hands of the Greek people, who go to the polls on 17th June. Meanwhile, the EU will continue to bully and cajole them into giving the answer they want..

But one inescapable truth will continue throughout the coming disaster - and as Iain Martin writes, we should be under no illusions that whatever transpires will be a disaster - no matter what is imposed upon or rejected by the Greek people, it is only money. The Greek people and their country will survive. And the sun will continue to shine upon the beautiful Mediterranean nation that gave us the greatest civilisation of the ancient world. Only after writing off all its international debts - most of which are owed to northern European banks which Merkel and Sarkozy so desperately tried to protect - and becoming a pariah state in financial terms, whilst reverting to a devalued drachma, will the people of Greece begin the long process of rebuilding an economy destroyed by the euro.

Almost immediately those shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes will become the cheapest destinations - and some of the most beautiful - in Europe. Albeit at a lower level of revenue than under the euro, the people of Greece will once again find tourists returning and with them a demand not seen in the last five years of recession and austerity. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes, it is possible – perhaps likely – that Greece would be growing briskly again within 18 months, led by a tourist boom and by import substitution as local manufacturing rebounds. Then employment, national pride and a viable economic future will return.

Same old Labour..

The debate has been too narrowly focussed. We should reject the snobbery that assumes the only route to social mobility runs through university - as if there is only one pathway to success writes Ed Miliband in a speech on social mobility at the Royal Society today.

Then why did Labour spend thirteen years dumbing down exams through grade inflation and opening up thousands of less academic courses from hairdressing to golf course management, in an effort to make sure that 40% of young people went to universities?

No wonder decent people mis-trust our political class. A simple apology would have been appropriate.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The euro will be the Germans' downfall..

The Greeks are against austerity but wish to remain in the euro - a logical impossibility. The Germans fail to comprehend that the euro is, and always was, a stillborn currency that will turn the eurozone into a financial wasteland. An economic dynamic is a function of competition - not only between enterprises but also between countries - that can be achieved only if states have national currencies and financial sovereignty that leave them free to set their own interest and exchange rates.

For countries that are already in trouble this is the only path to recovery - there is no alternative. As Dominic Lawson says, the burdens of propping up the euro will have to be borne by Germany, and this - along with the economically paralysing effects of the euro - will ultimately bring that nation to its knees..

Werner Keller in the Sunday Times

Austerity? What austerity?

I have never understood Labour's economic criticism of the Coalition. They apparently cut 'too far, too fast' causing the economy to fall into double-dip recession. But they are also now committed to borrow an additional £150bn more than their original forecasts because - apparently - they didn't borrow enough in the first place. Shouldn't Labour be pleased the government is now borrowing more than they were intending under Alastair Darling's original plan? Indeed, given that borrowing now exceeds Labour's plan, it is they and not the Coalition who should be criticised for cutting too far too fast.. this dis-ingenuous argument will go on and on.

The truth is that after two years of so-called austerity and what the left have disgustingly described as  'the Tories final solution' (Polly Toynbee), state spending has been cut by just £8bn - around 1% of GDP according to budget figures. You could not have had a more compassionate and understanding government correcting the monstrous levels of public spending than that.

Champions of Europe..

Congratulations to Chelsea on becoming European champions last night. A magical performance full of grit and determination. They didn't look the better team on the night, and the statistics speak for themselves - 16 corners to Bayern against just one for Chelsea. What made them champions was the unbelievable defence they put up against the might of Munich. Wave after wave of attacks tackled, stopped, blocked and repulsed in one of the most plucky performances of the year. And when it finally came to penalties, Drogba delivered. Wonderful.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The economic future of a generation is being sacrificed by the Euro..

A rigid system that locks down each state's monetary flexibility yet limits fiscal transfers between them can only resolve its internal imbalances through painful adjustment says Cameron in today's speech about the Euro. Labour then criticise him for being patronising and arrogant.

No doubt Labour continue to believe we should be a part of this disastrous economic experiment.

The truth is that on the very night that Coalition talks were taking place in May 2010, the then out-going Chancellor Alistair Darling, phoned George Osborne from a European Finance Minister's meeting to ask if the incoming government would support a bailout for Greece, whose credit had come to an end.

Nothing since has changed. Fully two years on, the same questions are being asked, the same inappropriate solutions being offered. Cameron has been remarkably restrained over that time in commenting on the Eurozone's congenital problems. Nor did we hear from Labour any warnings as to its inherent and flawed contradictions.

Meanwhile the jobs, savings and economic future of a generation of Europeans right across the continent is being sacrificed in the name of a failed economic experiment called the Euro.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Well done Manchester City on a brilliant performance today to become Premiership champions. It was well deserved. I'm just so pleased my gorgeous super hoops stayed up..

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Alternative Queen's speech..

There is a simple technical term for why the Tory party is in its current mess. It’s called.. the 50p tax cut. Look at any graph of the opinion polls and they tell the true story. Up until March the red and blue lines indicating Labour and Tory support bump along broadly in parallel. And after March the blue line falls off a cliff.

It has nothing to do with gay pasties, marriage in a jerry can or Jeremy Hunt sending dodgy emails to Rebekah Brooks's horse. It’s because at a time when the nation was being told – and broadly accepting – that we all had to be in this together, the Chancellor suddenly leaped up and said “Actually forget all that, we’re looking after the toffs; you serfs can go hang.” writes Dan Hodges.

He is of course quite right, and the Conservatives, having lost that trust which took so long to build, will now spend the next three years trying to regain it. How careless. How stupid. How depressingly easy.

So today's queen's speech becomes an important test, not just of the government's competence, but their ability to rebuild that trust with the British electorate. Here then is the alternative program - not from what the Prime Minister has described as the 'noisy ideology' of Conservative Home and the party's right - but from the people who continue to support a Coalition of the willing - a program building upon this government's radical reforms in education, welfare and health, as well as the unfinished strategy to tackle the monstrous economic problems left by Labour.

These measures are aimed fairly at the people, whether in government through Lords reform, or as part of a continuing social revolution aimed at achieving a nation which John Major once described as being 'at ease with itself'.

Firstly a bill which decriminalises, through licensing, the supply of prostitution throughout the UK. No more pimps. No more black economy. No more exploitation. No more abuse. No more murders. Just clean, professionally run brothels, properly licensed by local authorities and contributing to the British economy - a win for the treasury, sex workers and their customers.

Secondly, a bill which decriminalises, through licensing, the supply of heroin throughout the UK. Any heroin addict may register through a GP to be a licensed user and receive clean, clinically measured and unadulterated free supplies daily. No more deaths from overdose, impurities or neglect. A health service that knows each and every addict and is able to offer support, rehabilitation and hope. And most importantly, an end to the desperate daily crimes of burglary, mugging and other theft to line the pockets of illegal and exploitative suppliers.

Thirdly, a bill which transforms prisons into adult educational facilities. We need to ensure that all prisoners are given the opportunity of learning a trade before returning to society, as well as the gift of basic literacy and numeracy guaranteed to any able prisoner with a sentence of two or more years. It is absolutely essential that every prisoner is able to become part of, and contribute towards being a worthwhile member of society.

Fourthly - and right at the heart of an alternative Queen's speech - a bill to reform the House of Lords. But not by extending a further tier of government to our already failing political class. This bill will put ordinary people at the heart of government. We propose to supply 600 citizens to serve in two week periods as members of the House of Lords. There they will vote on proposed legislation from the House of Commons. They will be chosen from the electoral register - in the same way that jurors are selected - one from each constituency, directly reflecting by gender, age, ethnicity and geography every part of our diverse national character.

David Cameron needs to put people first. Not politicians, higher rate taxpayers or special interests. He should be improving the lives of ordinary people.


Thursday, 3 May 2012

David Aaronovich on the left's hatred for Murdoch..

Those of us who work for The Times know that such exaggeration comes close to outright falsehood. I understand perfectly how this sounds, but I’ll say it anyway: this newspaper is the best run and most collegiate of any media organisation that I’ve worked for, and I’ve worked for a few. Mr Murdoch, therefore, is eminently fit enough to run us. As for TV, Uncle Rupert, as none of us call him, bought a loss-making satellite operation in the 1980s and, against the background of derision and opposition, turned it into BSkyB. He believed in it, invested in it, made the losses and came through. Is he fit to run it? The question is almost ludicrous.

Rupert Murdoch didn’t and doesn’t actually change big policies. Tony Blair — a convinced European — was not swayed by News International’s Europhobe inclinations. And credit, if any is due, for not joining the euro more properly lies with Gordon Brown than with any Sun editor.

Despite that, I myself have no quarrel with the long march of accountability through the various corridors of power, however uncomfortable. I welcome it. But I would prefer it to be led by people who are not associated, as Tom Watson is, with attempting the “rehabilitation of old-style trade union fixing and activist stitch-ups”, as Tony Blair said in his memoirs. Such politics was all, said Mr Blair, “great fun for those who like that of thing”. But the thing is, most of us don’t.

David Aaronovich in the Times. Spot on..