Monday, December 31, 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 "friendship" he struck up with the odious Hugo Chavez - the authoritarian ruler of benighted Venezuela- has asked questions about Mr. Livingstone's judgement, and quite frankly his probity. It is by no means certain that Mr. Livingstone, despite being able to shake off other recent criticism, has clear answers to what, prima facie, looks like foreign funding of his office, through the "Venezuela Information Office", funded by Chavez. If Mayor Ken proves unable to provide satisfactory explanations for the various movements of money, then he will face unrelenting pressure. Being a political "cheeky chappie" does not give license for corruption.

So, the media, this time, will certainly give more notice to the Lib Dem candidate, former police Chief, Brian Paddick. I have only met Mr.Paddick once, but was exceptionally impressed. He is not a politician, but he has presence and ideas. Doubtless the hostile press will emphasise what they see as his negatives: "gay cop" or "soft on drugs", but most people in London accept that the current drugs policies have not worked well, and that new and practical ideas are needed. As far as sexuality is concerned, in one of the most tolerant cities in the world, it is probably a plus. Brian Paddick is an informed and interesting candidate. In the face of the comedy act between Boris and Ken, I think Brian Paddick will do extremely well- London could certainly do with more of his can-do spirit.

As far as the broader local elections are concerned, the outlook is by no means clear. The Conservatives will be looking to make further gains, but they have gained so much in the last decade, that it may prove difficult to maintain forward momentum, which would prove pretty inconvenient from the point of view of the national electoral cycle. It may be hard to feel that the party is poised to take power were they to make minimal progress in real elections (whatever happens in the opinion polls). Of course the same applies to the Lib Dems, but in this case expectations are fairly low, so in the battle of exceeded expectations, there could be a slight advantage for them.

The Prime Minister argues that 2008 will be the key year for British politics. he may be right, but he may not even have that much time. If the perceptions on the locals are bad, the sense of inevitable doom may gather around his administration. yet if labour did unexpectedly well, the pressure could return to the Conservatives. The race remains tight. The Liberal democrats will then come under very strong scrutiny: in a hung Parliament, what would Nick Clegg do?

He had better have a very clear answer. For the Liberal Democrats, a hung parliament is as much a challenge is it is an opportunity. The political weather that decides the Lib Dem strategy is being formed now and over the next six months: the 2008 locals will be hugely important.

Friday, December 28, 2007

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 (and even if they did, the Japanese are not exactly starving on the streets).

Yet again it is the mono-mania of the anti-Europeans that is removing all sense of perspective. There are problems, but these are not black and white issues- and the shades of grey can still leave plenty of room for very positive outcomes too.

Many will greet 2008 with pessimism, I do not- I am realistic about the positives and the negatives. I am not blind to the faults of the Eurozone, but neither do I ignore the advantages. As the Euro continues to climb against Sterling, we are hearing precisely the same predictions of doom as we heard when it was falling- and the ups and downs of currency markets are very poor indicators of fundamental prosperity.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

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 might suggest that Iain is a lot more successful in bringing people into his blogging big tent that Mr. Brown has been with his increasingly faded aspirations for his Cabinet.

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 competitive advantage as the devaluation of the US Dollar boosts American exports substantially.

Meanwhile another concern for the West, Russia, also appears to be riding high, as it enters the New Year. Buoyed by high commodity prices, the country has created thousands of millionaires and even billionaires. Increasingly assertive on the world stage, Russia has become an object of great concern as it seems ready to renew the challenge of the first cold war. However, the veneer of wealth masks a much grimmer story. Although Vladimir Putin appears to want to stay in power, by putting his own man- Dimitri Medvedev- into the Presidency, while he himself returns to the Prime Minister's post, in fact a power struggle laps around the Kremlin. More to the point Putin is set to swap another job with Mr. Medvedev- Chairman of Gazprom, and this may be of greater economic significance.

No matter what he does, Putin faces challenges. The fact that a reputed personal fortune of $ 40 billion has been publicised reflects a growing impatience in certain quarters with the division of the cake amongst the siloviki- Putin's own circle of secret policemen. If commodity prices now fall, the economy is dangerously exposed, since the high rouble has crippled the country's ability to compete in manufactured goods. 2008 could be a turbulent time for Russia.

The challenge for the West, as it deals with its own problems in a dramatically less liquid credit market, will be not so much how to handle an assertive Russia or China, but possibly more difficult, how to handle two countries facing significant economic problems and quite likely, political instability.

Friday, December 21, 2007

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 other side.
Jowly and stubbly, the leader finds it difficult to smile.

James Gordon Brown or Richard Milhous Nixon ?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

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."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

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 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’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”.

There is a lot wrong with the way the EU works, but attacking those who support the basic idea of a pan-European organisation in these almost demented terms is just not going to do anything but make you look strange.

What bothers me even more is that Gordon Brown, through his rather pathetic antics to avoid being seen together with the other signatories of the reform treaty, even gives their barking-mad ramblings some peculiar resonance.

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 opponents know all too well- is that when credibility is a given for the Liberal Democrats, when they win in a constituency for example, then they become very formidable opponents indeed, and devilishly difficult to shift. When credibility is established, then the electorate takes the party seriously. This is why both Conservatives and Labour try to mock the Liberal Democrats and rubbish their credibility as often as they do.

However, the Brown funk that caused Labour to abandon their plans for an election in the Autumn of 2007 now opens up some interesting and potentially exciting times for Liberalism in the United Kingdom. The Blair-Brown government, authoritarian but afraid, is looking increasingly shop-soiled. Carelessness is leading to allegations of sleaze and- far more damaging- the impression of incompetence. Although Labour may yet turn it around, the brooding and vengeful personality of the new Prime Minister is not one that inspires the benefit of the doubt.

The Conservatives are meanwhile cautiously rediscovering their appetite for power. Slowly, despite continuing problems of cohesion, based on the lack of trust that a significant minority amongst the Conservatives still feel about the Cameroons, the party is establishing a brittle kind of credibility. Interestingly, David Cameron has taken up some long-standing Liberal themes: breaking the centralisation of decision making and reestablishing a more local state. Of course David Cameron is no Liberal, simply because he cherry picks a few Liberal Democrat ideas, but it is a backhanded compliment to Liberalism nonetheless. However, without a real commitment to the core change- to the voting system for Westminster- it is pretty much impossible for Liberal Democrats to take the Cameroons offer of a "progressive alliance" against Labour too seriously.

The challenge for Nick Clegg will be initially simply to survive the firestorm that will be launched against him over his first two or three months. He will need iron focus, considerable discipline but, above all- as Vince Cable has shown- a quickfire sense of humour in order to avoid the fierce criticism that he will undoubtedly get from both our formal opponents in other parties and our more dangerous opponents in the media.

However Clegg also has an opportunity. The front bench that he inherits is arguably the most talented in the House of Commons. He can rely on a flow of distinctive and well thought out policy ideas. In particular he is facing a government that is being increasingly challenged by events and by its own limitations of personnel and ideology. The balance of the 2005 election brought many Labour seats within range, in Newcastle and Liverpool, for example, where despite controlling the City councils, the Lib Dems have yet to break through at Parliamentary level.

Yet there is a potential trap: the party must not seek to appeal to ex-Labour voters at the expense of its' commitments to the Liberal ideas of individual freedom. This is where the new leader will need to be exceptionally thoughtful about presenting Liberal ideas in a way that can appeal, rather than by being driven by a PR agenda which ultimately blunts the ideology of the party- why, for example I have often been quite sharp in my responses to the Conservative poster "Lepidus". After all this time, I for one am not prepared to reduce my commitment to Liberalism- even were that to be seen as more appealing in the short term.

Labour may be becoming demoralised, but the opportunity for the Liberal Democrats is not just to be the recipient of ex-Labour votes. We should go toe-to-toe with the Cameroons and demonstrate why our commitment to Liberalism is deeper and better than the skin-deep "Liberal-Conservatism" of David Cameron's party. That will be what makes us a party that is genuinely national, genuinely radical and able to appeal to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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 Conservatives have been putting out "signals" to the Liberal Democrats- suggesting that since both parties now agree on the need to transfer power back to local communities from Whitehall, then surely this could be the makings of a "Progressive Consensus" between the two parties in order to oppose the Labour Government more strongly. Of course, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. However, it is still hard to forget that it was the Conservatives, at least as much as Labour who presided over the centralising process in the first place.

David Cameron, like any politician with no experience of administration or management confuses an aspiration with an achievement. The current Labour government have this deficiency in full measure. They set targets with no idea how to achieve them. The result is that the system responds by attempting to achieve the target and nothing else. A good example is my local Doctors surgery. The target is that no patient should wait more than 48 hours for a Doctors appointment. However there is no excess capacity. What happens is that I, for example, can only book an exact time to see a specific individual doctor on a non-emergency basis, and wait up to two weeks. Otherwise I may phone early in the morning to get a doctor allocated randomly to see me at any time over the next 48 hours. Unfortunately I work very long hours and can not randomly leave the office. As a result the service I get from my NHS GP is actually much poorer than I would have got if the 48 hour target was not there.

This shows the difference between the aspiration that no-one should wait more than 48 hours to see a GP and the effective implementation of that aspiration. Another aspiration- masquerading under the name of policy- is that "Matrons" have the right to close a ward that is deemed to be inefficiently clean. However the backlog that an unscheduled ward closure creates renders it all but impossible to take that decision, there is simply not enough slack in the system, and the result is that MRSA and Clostridium difficile and other difficult to treat infections can flourish in our hospitals.

Cameron too has many aspirations. However, "fine words butter no parsnips". The PR presentation of his ideas show, all too clearly, that he does not have sufficient understanding of the administrative process nor of simple management to be able to achieve any but the most simple of his policy goals. One reason why the Liberal Democrats are often accused of being political anoraks is because much of our policy ideas understand that the aspiration hides the real difficulties of implementation- the devil is in the detail.

As Alan Clark once observed Yes Minister was as true to life as any documentary. David Cameron, like Tony Blair before him has not even been a junior minister, he has not been involved in any executive management. The fact is that his inexperience will not allow him to even understand the basic tools of administration for several years. By which time he will have already have made irreversible mistakes.

As with most politicians, David Cameron is an extrovert- perhaps not as extroverted as Lembit Opik, who really does seem to have the hide of a Rhinoceros- but there are certainly risk taking elements in his personality. He is not, I guess, too interested in the details of administration. He has, reputedly, a short temper. Already one can see the confusion and isolation that the office of Prime Minister will lay upon him. He has built his career seeming to be a cheerful Pollyanna, but confusion, frustration, and failure are likely to be his personal rewards for the achievements of high office. The limits of power can not be overcome unless one has a single overarching vision: a Churchill at war, perhaps or some aspects of Margaret Thatcher's second government in the 1980s- but they of course had a far broader experience, including long periods as senior ministers long before they assumed the top job. Neither Tony Blair, nor David Cameron ever served in cabinet before they became leaders of their respective parties, neither had either been a manager at any level in either the public or the private sector.

The fatal lack of experience, combined with the failure of understanding and a lack of introspection could lead to the same outcome for Mr. Cameron as for Mr. Blair.

For all of these reasons and many others, Liberal Democrats argue that changing the party of government will not alter things. Only a change to the system of government can do that.

That is a far bigger question than Mr. Cameron's PR driven mischief on the "progressive consensus" and it is the centre of Liberal Democrat ideology and its detailed policies.

Friday, December 14, 2007

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 call in the decision for review- ignoring the fact that the full council of Aberdeenshire had decided to do just that in any event. In the meantime, those local councillors who had voted against this grandiose project were attacked- physically. As usual, the SNP have ignored local authorities- they simply want a centralised- separatist- government in Edinburgh. rather than genuinely local decision making.

Mr. Salmond has been hob-nobbing with big business a lot recently- and the transformation from "Scottish Social Democrat"- or even radical Socialist- as Jim Sillars or Margot Macdonald might have termed themselves- into Tartan Tory is almost complete. Several Tories have already privately said to me that they already function in an informal alliance with the SNP.

Doubtless, Mr. Salmond's cosy little meetings with the Trump Organisation have fostered a good understanding. "The Donald's" Resort will doubtless get built- and Aberdeen will extend north as far as Newburgh bar on the Ythan estuary. The site of special scientific interest will be destroyed in the name of greed- and Alec Salmond can open the resort in the name of the pork barrel politics that his porcine features are becoming increasingly familiar with.

It is not right that the wishes of local residents can be railroaded without even a sensible debate- the resort is not an unalloyed good for the north east, neither is it free of cost, but all of that is being ignored in the name of the quick buck and the short term- and we will rue the day that this ever happened.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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 within Russia.

Another Judge has been murdered in the North Caucasus.

Meanwhile a detailed analysis of the results suggests that the results of the elections to the State Duma, apart from being rigged, were actually quite poor for the Putin clique: with more than seven million people who voted for Putin last time not doing so this time.

Meanwhile, Freedom House in their report on the elections points out that, far from the affirmation of stability that Putin would wish, in fact the ballot rigging is a serious threat to the long-term stability of the country.

Just another day in the World's most powerful rogue state.

Monday, December 10, 2007

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 shunned utterly.

If that is the European leaders idea of "brotherhood", it is fairly contemptible.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

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 leave a truly uniquely disastrous legacy. However, unfortunately for Mr. Bush, politics is not like a game of Hearts- you can not still win if you "shoot for the moon"- all you leave are even bigger screw ups.

Monday, December 03, 2007

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 that the commodity/oil money will not slacken off soon (Russia bulls) will clearly be in the driving seat as far as sentiment is concerned.

Some may say that the "result" of the poll creates greater stability- in my view it weakens the long term security of the political system. Ultimately the drive for stability will end up undermining it.