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Showing posts from November, 2009

I fear the Greeks...

As the markets scratch their heads about the impact of the suspension of debt payments by Dubai, several other markets are coming into question.

One of these is Greece.

The fact that the Greeks are members of the Eurozone has certainly provided protection in the eyes of global investors. Other markets, such as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were said to be more vulnerable, yet now that Latvia has been refinanced by a syndicate including the ECB, IMF and several other states, led by Sweden, attention is turning to other countries. Whereas Hungary and Poland have devalued, Greece has not been able to, and now questions are being asked about the national debt capacity of the country.

The problem is now not just the perennial political instability of the country and how that has led to a failure to tackle the structural deficit, but also the exposure of the domestic banking market to the problems of the country's northern neighbours. The puncturing of the Bulgarian pr…

Getting Real about Climate Change

In 2001 the English version of The Skeptical Environmentalist by the Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, was published. It marked the beginning of an increasingly vehement debate about the impact of Human activity upon the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere and the potential that this has for changing the climate of the Planet. Lomborg himself was skeptical about some of the findings of others, and he was able to highlight some weaknesses in some of the work that had been conducted up until then. In turn, however, the response to The Skeptical Environmentalist, was extremely hostile. Lomborg's scientific skills, indeed his very integrity were bitterly attacked. Yet, in fact much of Lomborg's work underlined the very high likelihood that CO2 emissions were the result of the activity of man, and that they could in turn lead to significant alterations in climate.

The scientific work in studying the climate contains some of the most difficult mathematical questions that hum…

When it comes to supervising the Police, many heads are better than one

Sir Hugh Orde, the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), has had a pretty successful career in the Police, handling difficult jobs like the inquiry into the the circumstances of the murder of Stephen Lawrence and ultimately becoming second head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He is not a man with a political axe to grind.

Therefore, his forceful criticism of Conservative proposals to place local Police forces under the control of new directly elected commissioners should be taken seriously. In recent years, there has been much discussion of the problems of modern policing. The challenges of international terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime are said to require a wholesale reform to the smaller county-based forces that are the backbone of British crime fighting. Leaving aside the fact that the largest crime investigation of recent years- the search for the Lockerbie bombers- was led by the smallest force, that of Dumfries and Galloway, there …

But we really mean it...

The Queens speech is set to be one that Her Majesty will have to read through clenched teeth. Leaving aside the fact that there are only seventy days left in the Parliamentary session before it is prorogued, the fact is that the "gracious speech" is set to contain yet more evidence of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of New Labour.

We are told that the government will introduce legislation to guarantee the right to a good education and to guarantee- with legal force behind it- that the deficit will be reduced.

Could it be that ,like some kind of wavering alcoholic, the government doubts its own commitment to existing policies? In any event how can any government leaving binding commitments to its successors? The Parliament is sovereign and may change laws at any time as it sees fit.

The fact is that the government knows that the public no longer- if it ever did- believes that it can fulfil its promises, and by trying to back its promises with the force of law it rather giv…

Low Expectations

The latest poll apparently show that voters believe that David Cameron is thought to be a better leader than Gordon Brown, and much is being made of the idea that Mr. Cameron has "sealed the deal" with the British people.

The reality is of course rather different. As someone said to me the other day: "If Cameron or Brown are the answer, then Goodness knows what the question was!". The fact is that the voters have not forgotten the chaotic and sleazy end to the last Conservative administration, and the fact that Labour has got itself into something like the same kind of trouble is creating a certain resigned despair amongst the electorate.

The failure of the constitution and the creation of an isolated political class is leading to exceptionally low expectations of our political leaders, and even these vanishingly small hopes are usually crushed.

As Nick Clegg noted the other day, the state of our Constitution amounts to an emergency, and yet the cosy cabal of LabCon w…

"Because the stakes are so low.."

Although the attribution is contested, the aphorism "Academic politics is the most bitter and vicious form of politics, because the stakes are so low" is nowadays usually credited to Wallace Sayre, a political scientist at Columbia in the mid sixties.

British politics is increasingly shrill, and as we enter the long run into the general election in 2010, it is already clear that we can expect the battle between Mr. Brown and Mr. Cameron to be one of the dirtiest campaigns on record. Yet in fact, although the struggle may be noisy, in the end it may ultimately change very little. The problem is now not so much the party of government, but the system of government that offers up such limited political choices. The current government has governed by ignoring the will of Parliament and the Conservatives, with their cosmetic commitment to local devolution will inflict further damage on Parliamentary authority. Of course, many will say that the expenses scandal means that Parliamen…

Rights and Freedoms

The continued determination of the British state to hold on to the DNA of innocent people in the face of huge opposition reflects the tenacity of a certain mindset. This same mindset insists that the intrusive and expensive positive vetting of anyone who comes into the slightest contact with children is the only way to protect kids from potential abusers. The fact that it patently does no such thing and effectively brands everyone as a criminal unless they can prove they are not, thus breaking the fundamental rule of justice: innocent until proven guilty, is answered with a shrug. Even so fundamental a rule should surely be ignored because "the kids" must be protected at all costs.

This is the way to total subservience to the state. Instead of society being based on a fundamental contract amongst free citizens, there are now large new areas of law which demand complete obedience. Whether the insulting anti-paedophile laws or the draconian anti terrorism laws, the last few yea…

Castrating Parliament

In the 19th century MPs were not paid at all, but Parliament was at the centre of national life.

Over time as the Parliament of landowners and lawyers also began to include simple employees, a small stipend was granted- and it remained small. Even now, back bench MPs only earn £64,766 a year. Meanwhile, even with allowances, they usually have to fund two places to live and two offices- in London and in their constituencies. They have to employ staff in both places too. By contrast all of the senior civil service grades earn a lot more than this, and of course do not have to fund their own office costs.

As the journalists of the Daily Telegraph relish the power that their scoop on MPs expenses has brought them they should reflect that most of them too are better paid than MPs are. Now the Kelly report proposes to cut back MPs compensation still further. For example, it is suggested that Parliament will only pay for a rented one bedroom flat in London. This, together with the ban on emplo…

The Treaty of Lisbon ratified

"Gentlemen, you are trying to negotiate something you will never be able to negotiate. If negotiated, it will not be ratified. and if ratified, it will not work"

Thus spoke the British civil servant, Russell Bretherton, who had been sent to represent Britain at the Messina conference in 1955. The other six countries represented at that conference: Belgium, France, (West) Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had sent their foreign ministers. The UK sent this relatively minor civil servant who essentially boycotted the discussions. It was the beginning of a continuously fraught relationship between Britain and the rest of the European Union.

In the same way that the UK tried to ignore the reality of the early moves for European co-operation, so it has tried to ignore the reality of the treaty of Lisbon. At the signing ceremony, 26 European leaders celebrated with a formal signing ceremony followed by a formal dinner. One- Gordon Brown- arrived deliberately late and did…

David Cameron faces a challenge

Oh dear! the deselection of Liz Truss by Norfolk Conservatives is something of a challenge for the so-called modernisers around David Cameron. To most people these days, the deselection of someone because they had an extra-marital affair several years ago looks pretty absurd. These days the majority of the population are understanding about the pressures that can cause marriages to fail, and know that the idea of blaming someone is often wide of the mark.

Nevertheless it is only to be expected that Conservatives would be more concerned about the issue of marriage and morality. Social Conservatives pay a great deal of attention to institutions, and are naturally conservative about maintaining them. There is indeed a real cost to society from the failure of such institutions, but while Conservatives try to defend the institutions themselves, a Liberal will focus of the role of individual rights and responsibilities, rather than an imposed sense of -often hypocritical- social morality.

Giv…