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Showing posts from 2007

Are you local?

Since our beloved Prime Minister chose to avoid going to the country in Autumn 2007, it does not seem hugely likely that he would call a general election in 2008. So, it seems likely that 2008 in British politics will be more interested in local elections than anything else. We have the interesting challenge of the London mayoral elections. This may yet prove to be a more open and interesting contest than it appears.

To be honest, the Conservatives, by choosing Boris Johnson, have essentially admitted that the game is up. Although the gaffe-prone and disorganised Henley MP- we are told- is also possessed of finely tuned media antennae, the same could be said of Charlie Caroli. In fact, as at the Ealing Southall by election, it is the weak judgement of David Cameron that fixed on Boris as pretty much the only figure prepared to take on Ken Livingstone. Boris Johnson can not win the London election.

Ken Livingstone, however, is increasingly embroiled in his own problems. The disgraceful …

Doom and other financial hiccups

I notice that, as Sterling hits a new low against the Euro, that Ambrose Evans Pritchard is now predicting 1929 is the benchmark to measure the likely fallout of the credit crunch.

Now, I am starting to think that Ambrose is beginning to sound like the boy who cried wolf a bit. I do not underestimate the scale of the emerging problems- as I have said before, the scale is truly enormous. However Evans Pritchard continues to add in his view that the Euro will collapse and much of the European Union with it. In fact, I think that the fall of the British Pound is a good thing- it helps make British products more competitive in selling into the European market. As for the US- the fall in the Dollar is already helping to correct the dramatic financial imbalances that have emerged over the past decade. This does not mean that either the US or the UK will escape recession, but neither does it mean that the problems are of the same order of the Japanese deflation of the past decade and a half …

Bubbling Under...

I am not quite sure what I have done to deserve such support from Iain Dale, but yet again I seem to have come surprisingly high in one of his blog lists. Admittedly it is like being nominated for one of the lesser species of Oscar- best sound mixing, for example- when a Conservative blogger nominates a blog from a different party.

The only thing is that this time it was a rather broader selection of his readers- apparently over 2,300 made the choices in a very large number of categories. So, in the circumstances to get 6% of the vote and sixth position as Liberal Democrat blogger of the year is faintly remarkable, especially since the actual winner of the Liberal Democrat blogger of the Year- awarded at the conference in Brighton- James Graham, only comes out one position ahead. All it really shows, I suppose, is the names of the blogs that the largely Conservative readership of Iain's blog actually recognise- in other words the blogs that he mentions or links to.

In any event, I …

The Weakness of Giants

2008 is the year of the Beijing Olympics, so it seems quite likely that there will be much discussion of China over the coming year.

Doubtless, there will be much portentous commentary, especially from US commentators, who have always had a fascination with the only country likely to challenge American hegemony at least in the short run. In the end, I think a new sense of balance will emerge.

The supposed threats or challenges of China to the West are also matched by some dramatic weakness. Although the country has become the workshop of the world, the financial system remains astonishingly primitive, and most of all the country's political system dramatically limits its ability to innovate. small and corrupt elites around the intellectually bankrupt Communist party continue to stifle much progress. Increasingly the quality and the cost of Chinese goods are less attractive in the world market. Indeed the United States, after falling back, could be poised to rediscover its own compe…

Strange lookalike

An intensely driven, rather solitary and gloomy man from a strictly religious background achieves the heights of politics. This comes after a long struggle against more popular figures in his own party at a point when many have previously written off his chances completely. The Leader continues to prosecute an Asian war inherited from his predecessor, though ultimately the leader hopes to withdraw his forces. Intensely driven, the leader feels a sense of inferiority towards the more socially polished figures around him and resentful of their thinly disguised patronising of his education and background. There are rumours of questionable practices amidst a self selected elite close to the leader. His intensity repels as much as it compels. A firm believer in big government solutions to people's problems, nevertheless the leader does not enjoy the full ideological support of his party, where he is often considered as betraying its fundamental principles in an attempt to appeal to the…

One for Private Eye

This story of a failed burgler certainly brightened my day.

I think it is the last lines that make the story:

"As prosecutor Peter Bardsley outlined the case, one probation officer had to leave the courtroom because she was laughing so much.
Defending, John Lee said: "This has all been the cause of great embarrassment for him. He is remorseful, ashamed and has moderated his drinking.

"He does not want to end up as the Grim Reaper again."

The Curse of Cicero...

An absolute joy to see the vile Tommy Sheridan being charged with perjury. I commented at the time on what- even then- seemed his dubious acquittal, that we had not heard the last of the case. I for one look forward to justice being done to one of the most negative influences on Scottish politics in recent years.

Then again, only a few days after commenting that the role of the First Minister in the Balmedie Golf fiasco seemed pretty questionable, it seems that indeed Wee Eck now has to face questions over precisely what and when he did things.

I certainly hope that the Curse of Cicero will fall on their heads and on that of Mr. Livingstone, who has also been a little closer to certain allegations than we might have expected.

Protocols of the Elders of Brussels

Amidst the various comments on Politicalbetting.com concerning the election of Nick Clegg as leader, there came this rather priceless contribution:

"Clegg is a fully-paid up member of the new European elite who want to replace democratic government by a kind of bureaucratic authoritarianism, in which all important decisions will be taken by unelected committees of technocrats.

This will of course be disguised by window dressing such as the fatuous ‘Town Hall Meetings’ you describe, as well as ‘regional assemblies’ and other such nonsense.
It’s surprising he made his position so obvious though - a serious gaffe.

Runnymede December 19th, 2007 at 1:08 pm"

As I commented later in the thread, this is why it is really hard to take the Conservatives seriously on the subject of Europe. It is this kind of dribbling, barking-mad Europhobia is like dealing with “Mother” out of Psycho- always this twitchy, defensive weirdness keeps coming out.

As Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can…

Brown and Out

Nick Clegg takes his place as leader of the Liberal Democrats facing the usual chorus of contempt from his political enemies. It is not a question of making the best of any honeymoon, because there is not going to be one. He will be hectored, booed and ambushed at every turn. His first PMQs on January 9th will be a baptism of fire- with Conservatives especially keen to show him in a weak or ineffectual light. The usual script against the Liberal Democrats is to try to paint them as "pointless" or "irrelevant", since research proves again and again that the biggest problem the party has is establishing its credibility- this is why so much effort in Lib Dem's campaigning: bar charts, "winning here" and the rest of it, is to simply persuade the electorate to take the prospect of a Lib Dem victory seriously.

All of this is just part of the knock about fun that is British political debate.

The reality- as the intelligent strategists of our political oppone…

Clegg as leader

Well- Congratulations to Nick Clegg. As regular readers know, I voted for Huhne, but am happy to accept the skills claimed for Clegg as a solid and charismatic leader.

In some senses I think the closeness of the result reflects not so much a verdict on Nick Clegg, but a lack of confidence in the party grandees who made him their candidate- as they did with Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell. I think that Clegg now has a free hand to ignore the grandees, reach out to the former Huhne-ites and continue the recovery that began under Vince Cable.

Now we shall rally round and try to get better traction for our ideas.

Why David Cameron will end in failure

One of the more commonly used political quotes is from Enoch Powell:
"All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs."

At a time when David Cameron's Conservative Party appears to have broken out above the level in the polls where the party can achieve a comfortable working majority, it may seem a little perverse to think about the failure of David Cameron. "Surely", many of my Conservative friends will say, "He is poised to lead the Conservatives to a dramatic electoral victory". Well, perhaps he may indeed cross the threshold of 10 Downing Street as a victorious party leader. However, even if he does, that is no guarantee of a successful leadership. The Greeks often said "Call no man happy until he is dead", and as with any good Greek tragedy, the makings of disaster lie in the tragic flaws of Mr. Cameron's own personality.

The Cons…

Another day...

...Another Airport... off to Munich.

A day trip- I shudder at the carbon dioxide, but needs must.

Hopefully the crisp winter air of the Bavarian capital will provide inspiration for some Christmas shopping.

The Last Trump for Salmond

Donald Trump does not make money from Golf Courses; He makes money from buildings.

The plan for a new "World Class" Golf Resort at Balmedie, north of Aberdeen, is not about the new golf course, although in fact golf courses do have an environmental impact, it is about the fact that the new luxury hotels, house and apartments are essentially building a new small town on an extremely sensitive site.

Aberdeenshire Council Planning committee were right to consider the implications of the project very carefully. The fact is that with oil at $100/bbl, there is not a problem for jobs in the north east. The question comes down to the environment and the infrastructure: the environment is sensitive and the infrastructure is inadequate. In the event the planning committee decided that the project should not go ahead. So far, this is just another planning decision.

What happened next is disgraceful.

After meeting with representatives of "The Donald", the First Minister decided to…

Brown is Yellow

Oh Purr-lease! Gordon Brown was "too busy" to co-ordinate times with all the other 26 heads of government in the European Union, so could not sign the Reform treaty with them, but had to do it in the shed, while all the other leaders went to have a boozy lunch.

What a totally pathetic way to behave! Poor old Gordon "No Mates", has not got the balls to either so "no, I won't sign" or "Yes I will sign with everyone else... and then get pissed".

I don't know why he did not just create a "review' to decide whether he should sign or not- then he could put the decision off forever- just like he does with everything else.

Russia: No Comment

Today's News from Russia:

The Russian Federation has suspended its participation in the CFE treaty, thus removing it from the obligation to report significant troop movements to NATO.

The Russian Government has ordered the closure of British Council offices in the country, arguing that the cultural organisation was operating illegally.

Having hand picked Dimitri Medvedev to be his successor as President, Medvedev has indicated that he will pick Putin to be Prime Minister.

An influential Finnish foreign affairs council has suggested that Russia would respond with active displays of military force, were Finland to join NATO, as the majority of the Finnish population appear to want.

Russia confirms that it will veto any United Nations attempt to recognise a declaration of independence of Kosovo.

Andrei Lugovoi, wanted for the murder of Aleksander Litvinenko in the United Kingdom makes quips about his status as an indicted suspect, given the immunity his election to the Russian Duma confers…

The triumph of expedience over hope

As the great get together of European and African leaders gradually winds down in Lisbon, it is hard not to be cynical. The presence of such figures as Robert Mugabe President of the country that used to be Zimbabwe and is now a collection of ruins or Omar Hassan al-Bashir of the benighted tyranny of Sudan makes it hard not to emit a hollow laugh as certain European leaders make protests of brotherhood and equality.



Europe has much to do when it engages in Africa: opening up its market for African goods would do far more to alleviate African poverty than all of the assistance programmes of all the European States combined. However the EU remains in thrall to powerful interest groups and no such change seems to be in prospect. European consumers pay for expensive food while those who could supply it cheaper are unable to trade and often left to starve.



Meanwhile by inviting the murderous tyrants amongst the African leaders it shows the hand of friendship to those who should in fact be sh…

American Tragedy

So George W. Bush has not had his opinion changed by his own intelligence reports?

So those reports indicate that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and indeed has dramatically slowed such programmes that might lead to the development of such weapons.

Now, I am all in favour of being a little cautious, given the implications that would arise were Iran indeed to gain a nuclear capability.

Unfortunately the United States is saddled with a President who can not admit even a scintilla of doubt- no matter what. Having isolated his country and presided over a catastrophic economic weakening, the worst President in American history seems to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing.

I can't decide whether his arrogance is rooted in malignity or stupidity, but he has no political capital left. The tragedy is that we still have to wait for just over one more year for this catastrophically limited man to leave office.

It may yet be that still further disasters lurk for this man so that he can…

Putin makes his move

I still expect Vladimir Putin's exit to be vertical and not horizontal.

The election has been stolen, as expected, but the battle lines amongst the Siloviki are already being drawn up, and even if he *is* able to transfer some powers and then become PM, it is inevitable that his position will be lessened. The strains within the regime will become more obvious, so I suspect today will be seen as something of a high water mark for Putinism. Sooner or later a law based system needs to emerge, and with oil down $10 this week, it may not even be too long before Russian inefficiency and the cupidity of the Russian State begin to show up in further weakness, rather than the boom/strength that most are forecasting on the basis of the oil wealth transfer.

In short, Although the timing is highly problematic, I think that there are political threats that will add to the demographic crisis to undermine progress, even while in the short term those who think that Putin represents stability and th…

Barbaric Sudan

For those who might be interested, the address of the Embassy of Sudan in London is:

Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan
3 Cleveland Row
St. James’s
London
SW1A 1DD

Should you feel that the violent and unpleasant regime might need reminding that civilised states do not jail teachers on trumped up charges under a kangeroo court for allowing their class to name a teddy bear, my suggestion is that you let them know that the people of the United Kingdom hold them in the most abject contempt.

After all it is merely the latest crime from a regime that is racist, fanatical, despotic and evil.

I think that the man who represents this disgusting regime in London, Omer Siddig, can leave as soon as he likes, and I do not think that our woman in Khartoum, Dr Rosalind Marsden, need detain herself further in attendance to these vermin.

The Liberal Democrat Leader

The role of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats is one of the most difficult in British politics.

Unlike the Leader of HM Opposition, there is no specific financial support for the leader of the party, neither, except at election time, does the Liberal Democrat Leader have Police security protection.

Yet despite the reduced official support, the role of the leader is, if anything, even more difficult than that of the Leader of the official Opposition. In a system explicitly designed to divide only two ways, the Leader of the party must overcome the structure of the constitution as well as the efforts of the other parties. Defining the position of the party in the face of the indifference or hostility of most of the media is equally difficult. The position of most journalists is that whatever the Liberal Democrats say or do, they are irrelevant: and as a result the party rarely receives the coverage that its ideas and support deserve. Although gaining the support of around one in five vo…

Cultural Relativism

I know that in today's world we can not generally sit in judgement over the matter of cultural differences. However there is currently a very clear example of where we are entitled to make a comment. The arrest of a British school teacher who allowed her class to name a teddy bear after the name of one of the kids in her class- Mohammad- is extremely simple.

Those who accuse her of a crime are evil.

Were they to succeed in inflicting punishment upon her, particularly the whipping that is suggested, then they would be barbarians.

I see that the Sudanese Ambassador has been summoned for the dubious pleasure of a dressing down by our boyish Foreign Secretary. I sincerely hope that this wrist slapping is backed up with a concrete message: No free citizen should endure arrest and charges for such an absurd offence, and that if the Government of Sudan proceeds with this case it will be labeled "evil" "barbaric" and will be severely punished.

Browning on Brown

One task more declined, one more foot-path untrod,
One more devils'-triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part--the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!


The last lines of Robert Browning's poem, The Lost Leader have been widely quoted against politicians, especially since they were used so effectively against the declining Harold Macmillan during the Profumo scandal.

It does not look good- the government seems accident prone and whereas Tony Blair was a lucky leader, Brown, with his volcanic intensity seems too brooding and driven to be likable. He clearly is a bright and thoughtful man, but his angry motivation is alienating and difficult. His secretive and mistrustful nature has isolated him in his party and in Parliament; and all of this has become apparent in only six weeks.

In hindsight, the decision to …

Checking In (again)

Just back from a couple of days in rather foggy Ljubljana.

The car crash of the Brown government seems now to be spininng down the cliff with the flames about to burst from the petrol tank... what fun!

The challenges that the next Liberal Democrat leader must address

I believe that there are several key challenges that Britain now faces and which the Liberal Democrats must address.

The role and power of the State has grown substantially over the course of the past two decades at a time when those who control the state apparatus are coming from an ever smaller pool of career politicians who lack the management skills required to administer the increasingly complex mechanisms that are supposed to deliver the promises that they make.

The result has been increasing disillusionment from an electorate that has learned that politicians can not deliver what they say. Furthermore, despite their manifest failures, the political class has largely escaped from personal responsibility for the mistakes that they make. A cosy consensus between the civil servants and successive governments has created a powerful, secretive and unaccountable State. Local government, dependent on Whitehall for its finances, has been eviscerated, and yet the legal responsibilities of …

The Lesson of HMRC and UK Treasury incompetence

This is the central problem of modern British politics: too many kid politicians who have never had any experience outside of politics. Both Brown and Cameron and most of their respective front benches are people who have no understanding of even the first principles of management. They literally know nothing about it. The professionalisation of politics has created machine pols with limited life experience and poor administration skills.

Meanwhile the machinery of government is being required to do more and more difficult and complex things. The result is a recipe for disaster. Without major simplification of administration and the constitution it is hard to avoid the idea that government will grow more alienated from the people it purports to represent and that administration will deliver more and more foul ups on this scale.

This is a disaster for Labour, but the implications are as much constitutional as they are party political, in my view. The fact is that a Minister, from whateve…

Continuing qualms about Clegg

I don't have much to say about the Politics Show battle, but the "outrage" amongst the Lib Dem bloggers for Clegg feels a bit manufactured to me, and I am not sure that Nick was well advised to formally complain.

I did think that Huhne coped well with the obvious ambush though.

I have still not decided on this one, but I do not see that Nick Clegg is the great communicator that is backers have suggested. I do see that Chris Huhne has put forward some interesting and challenging ideas.

I like the idea of a leader with real life experience, (unlike Cameron or Brown), but also see that Nick Clegg does have considerable talent.

Mind you, I think one man who has come out from all of this looking like a complete star is Vince Cable- I am tempted to start a write in campaign to get him to stay on as leader!

UK Media now a provincial backwater

I have been wondering about the British media recently.

The constant coverage of "Slebs" and "infotainment" has got to have a price.

I finally see that it it does.

Did you know that a large demonstration took place yesterday in Brussels protesting the delay in forming a government and supporting Belgian unity?

One might have thought that such a significant event might warrant a story on the BBC. In fact I got the story from Al Jazeera. On the British media, neither press nor the BBC seems to have reported this at all- not even as a five line story.

Now some will find the very idea of Belgium faintly comical. The Economist has recently called for the country to be dissolved. However the fact that the majority of Belgians still rather like their country and thousands are prepared to demonstrate this support will presumably come as a surprise to British commentators.

If we are so ignorant of the affairs of a country which is practically our closest neighbour, it can hardly …

Galina Starovoitova RIP

It is now nine years to the day since Galina Starovoitovawas shot dead in cold blood.
Hers was just one of the more brutal murders of political figures in Russia over the past few years. Before her death she established a prize for the promotion of Human Rights in Russia. One of the recipients was AntolySobczak, the former mayor of St. Petersburg.
He too died in suspicious circumstances- of a heart attack.
Why suspicious? Because two other people in the room also had heart attacks at the same time.

Is this the shape of the Universe?

This is the E8 pattern, the most intricate shape known to mathematics. It is an eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in small print, would cover an area "the size of Manhattan".
E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Garrett Lisi, a scientist who rather splendidly seems to spend most of his time surfing or snowboarding, reckons that the mathematics of particle physics conforms to the same pattern, and he predicts that a further twenty particles will be discovered when the Large Hadron Collider comes online next year. Exciting times to be a physicist!

Happy Birthday PJ!

Today is the sixtieth birthday of the great American satirist and Libertarian, PJ O'Rourke.

One could hardly let the day go by without quoting my current top ten all time great PJ quotes:

10. I'm a registered Republican and consider socialism a violation of the American principle that you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's business except to make a buck.

9. The larger the German body, the smaller the German bathing suit and the louder the German voice issuing German demands and German orders to everybody who doesn't speak German. For this, and several other reasons, Germany is known as 'the land where Israelis learned their manners'.

8. The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it.

7. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

The Tories are the Enemy of the UK

I see the corpulent Simon Heffer has outdone himself in ranting this morning.

He essentially demands that the Union that links England and Scotland should be dissolved because England and Scotland are different nations and that the Scots have too much power over England even though the whinging Jocks are just a bunch of subsidy junkies (I paraphrase lightly).

I have warned about the Conservatives' attitude to the Union in the past, and it is now quite clear what the agenda of much of the right wing press has become: to "big up" Alex Salmond and drive Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

I think that it will fail.

I think those who play fast and loose with the Union should be treated with utter contempt.

(and incidentally at $100 bbl oil prices, the idea that Scotland is dependent on the Union is simply barking)

"Archer, Aitken, Ashcroft..."

It was a real blast from the past this morning, hearing Jonathan Aitken, the ex-con Conservative, who is apparently being considered as an advisor on prisoner conditions. I know we are supposed to be a bit forgiving he has, after all, "paid his debt to society", but there was still just a whisper of the old arrogance in his interview on Radio 4. It was hard to avoid the contrast with another disgraced ex-minister John Profumo, who genuinely did serve a penance for his behaviour. Of course the political opponents of the Conservatives will make hay- it is a misjudgement by Iain Duncan Smith that only serves to remind us of the sleaze of the last Conservative administration. As Lord Ashcroft struggles to answer questions about the assurances that he is alleged to have given concerning his tax status upon being ennobled, the old taint fills the air once more.

I have three questions about the behaviour of other previous members of the cabinet.

As regular readers here will know, I h…

Nick Clegg will need to do better

I have refrained from commenting on the Lib Dem leadership election, partly because I am genuinely undecided and have been examining both candidates ideas. My initial reaction was to favour Nick Clegg. I had listened to his speech at Brighton and felt that he had put forward a genuinely modern, intellectually coherent and above all Liberal policy on Home affairs. Indeed on 18 Doughty St, I more or less said I would be supporting Nick Clegg. Nevertheless, I have also seen Chris Huhne put forward some genuinely radical policies- including taking the idea of Land tax seriously- which I think is a positive.

http://www.politicalbetting.com/, in something of a coup for its host Mike Smithson, has had both of the contenders on to answer questions from the large number of people who comment (not to mention the even larger number of people who read the site).

To my surprise, I must admit that Chris Huhne gave more coherent and more fully thought out answers- possibly because he was invited on a…

Georgia in the Russian cross hairs

The last few days have been difficult, even in the context of the tumultuous recent history of Georgia. Riots, and government demonstrations in Tbilisi, the declaration of a state of emergency. A familiar tale of instability in the Caucasus, would be most observers diagnosis.

Except it is not.

Georgia is a country of absolutely critical geo-strategic significance. Put simply the Baku-Tbilisi corridor is the only way that oil can get to the global markets from the vast fields of Kazakhstan and the Caspian without passing through Russia.

For the West Georgia is a vital part of global energy security: for Russia Georgia poses a defiant challenge to Russian hegemony over the central Asian energy reserves.

Constantly Russia has harried and harassed the Western oriented government of Mikheil Saakashvili- it illegally expelled thousands of Georgian traders and business people in 2006- a policy condemned by Human Rights Watch . In August of this year the repeated illegal over flights of Georgi…

A Third Mellenium Great Depression ?

Last night I attended a seminar over dinner with a group of Traders and Hedge Fund Managers.

Over the course of the evening, various theories were discussed as to "what is happening in the global economy".

The answers put forward were complicated but more or less uniformly bleak. The overnight gyrations of the dollar and the price of oil as the result of the Chinese openly talking about "diversifying" their currency holdings seems to reinforce the sense that we are not looking a a simple turn in the cycle.

Put simply, the scale of the credit losses is now so large that the United States can not avoid a prolonged period of painful adjustment. As Hans-Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas, puts it "Our view is that these losses are so substantial that it puts current business models at risk."

The US is now caught is a deadly trap. The price of oil and other commodities is in Dollars, so the effect of the dramatic appreciation of the Oil price is felt directly …

Grand Designs face down the NIMBYs

I must admit to being a secret fan of Grand Designs.

It puts forward an idea that is a very attractive pipe dream: the creation of a dream home, and as the subject of each programme meets the challenge of creating a home that expresses something of themselves, it allows the rest of us the fantasy that maybe, just maybe, we could do the same.

Last night I watched the programme that showed the presenter, Kevin McLeod's favourite design. It was, as is often the way with the designs selected by the programme to be filmed, highly eco-friendly. It was, unusually, built in a patch of woodland in southern England. How unusual that was was then made clear: no permissions are ever normally given in the UK to allow such construction. It was only because the builder was a Woodman who needed to be in the wood, for the sake of his livelihood, that any permission was allowed, but that he could not sell the house on, once built, and should he sell the woodland, from which he derived his living, he …

Playing with fire

There has been a lot of hot air wafted about recently on the subject of the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Despite the fact that oil is now on the brink of $100 a bbl, support for independence in Scotland is falling rapidly.

Nevertheless a certain section of the English press is stirring things up. We see resentful headlines in the London Paper about supposed extra payments being made to the Scottish government merely because the long overdue investment in London's crossrail is finally taking place. The idea that Scotland is a whining subsidy junkie - indeed little more than a parasite on England- is gaining ground in England based on these wilfully misleading headlines.

Not surprisingly, support for English independence has risen, even last year reaching 30%.

Therefore the latest proposals from the Conservatives for addressing the supposed anomaly of Scottish MPs voting on English affairs is treading on very tricky ground.

This is not to say that no action is n…

Tyrant lectures Democrats

As the bloated entourage of the Saudi King decamps to London for a full State visit it is hard to suppress the gag reflex.

The Saudi regime corrupts all who engage with it. The disgraceful way that the UK has attempted to brush under the carpet the allegations of bribery against British Aerospace can not disguise the fact that the perfumed princelings of the House of Saud will always demand their cut.

Meanwhile the austere version of Islam- Wa'habi - that the House of Saud proclaims has created the murderous perversion of Osama Bin laden and his deranged acolytes. The oppression of women, and the barbaric punishments that a twisted and corrupt system of justice inflicts upon Arabian citizens are merely the most egregious examples of a backward and tyrannical state.

This vile regime, greeted with open palms by the British state already manages to lecture the British about terrorism. Of course the British know about terrorism because we have been victims of it. The House of Saud knows …

How (not) to win friends

I see DC managed to infuriate the Lithuanians through a rather crass remark over the weekend.

On the one hand it seems a bit petty to get cross, but on the other there are 100,000 Lithuanians who Cameron clearly thinks are a bunch of layabout dole scroungers.

In fact they are mostly hard working, church going types.

Judging by this letter, they may have a sense of humour too:

"Dear Editor,

I see that David Cameron has suggested that one legged Lithuanian lesbians should not receive lottery or Arts Council grants.

I am pretty surprised that such bias can be openly expressed by a British Political leader in this day and age.

Admittedly, no one in the 100,000 strong Lithuanian community currently resident in the UK is aware of any one legged lesbians amongst us.

However, we are sure that should such a person exist and they had the relevant artistic talent then they would receive their grant based on the same criteria that a one legged lesbian Conservative would, namely through the quality o…

The Political Class

I don't usually connect to Iain Dale, but I did find his interview with Peter Oborne extremely interesting.

The emergence of a political class is something that has left me profoundly uneasy.

Thomas Sowell's book, The Vision of the Anointed also, albeit from an explicitly right wing American point of view, evaluates the political effect of the clannishness of "liberal" politics- with the subsequent advent of American neo-conservatism, it seems appropriate to apply his strictures across the political spectrum.

I will write further on this, but watching Peter Oborne was a breath of fresh air.

Constitutional reform is an urgent issue, not a theoretical one.

Serious Money

Senior Officials from the Fed are now saying that the losses in the US sub-prime market are already over $ 200 billion. There is the expectation that the losses will grow to the half a trillion dollar mark. The write-offs at individual Wall St firms are gigantic: Merrill Lynch announced losses of $7.9 billion yesterday. Bank of America saw a 93% fall in Investment Banking earnings, as they were forced to take over $2 billion in charges. What should really scare people is that as far as the US policymakers are concerned, the biggest losses are probably not in the United States. Nothing is clear, but European baanks may be sitting on losses that are even larger.

Meanwhile, the costs to the United States of the Iraq and Afghan wars are becoming a little clearer. The latest estimate is that by the time the hapless George Bush leaves office, in January 2009, the direct costs alone will have exceeded $ 1 trillion. The indirect costs remain opaque.

After the pasting in the credit market, Ameri…