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Showing posts from December, 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…