Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FIFA foe, fum... I smell the blood of a Swiss man.

Nursing a sprained ankle, I am finding it a little tedious to get about- hobbling across the cobbles of the Old Town of Tallinn, I wonder if the large number of Finnish tourists drinking beer for breakfast in the the Town Hall Square are simply used to Quasimodo impressions. Although it is said that swearing releases the pain, I think that this is a frankly rather debatable point. Mind you each time I jar my ankle I certainly test the theory. One thing is for sure, I am in a rather irritated mood.

I suppose this is why instead of finding the spectacle of Sepp Blatter lying and cheating his way to re-election as leader of FIFA amusing, I find myself cursing at the television as well as at my ankle. It certainly takes a large dollop of delusion for Blatter to think that the inevitable corruption scandal that has exploded under his watch is not any kind of crisis, just "some difficulties". I noted at the time that Mr. Blatter's humiliation of the English FA over the right to stage the World Cup in 2018, combined with the frankly bizarre decision to stage it in Qatar in 2022 would eventually come back to haunt him. In fact, Mr. Blatter's absurd pretence that FIFA faces no crisis- and even if it does, and although he is its leader, he is nonetheless not to blame- is now leading to a meltdown as scandal after scandal destroys the institution. It is a fantastic example of hubris facing nemesis, and while I find it bleakly satisfying to see such humiliation piled on the old crook, I can not feel more than irritation that he is still in his job. As with Gadaffi who too lingers on in his increasingly crumbling capital, one can not help wishing that he would just go, and the news cycle could pass on to something else.

Although it has been the British press that- for what they probably feel are justified reasons of revenge- has lead the attacks, it is now quite clear that Blatter has a case to answer, and the clamour has now gone way beyond the feral British tabloids. If Blatter cared about more than his own flabby hide, he would have led a compromise, but his untrammelled power within FIFA has allowed him to think that he can get away with anything. Perhaps he can for a while: but he will destroy FIFA with it, and maybe that would be no bad thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The German € crisis

As it becomes clearer every day that Greece can not repay its debts, many obervers are missing the point about what this means for the rest of the Eurozone.

Far from Germany being the virtuous party in the Eurozone, they have committed some serious mistakes and may, in time end up becoming the largest victim of a Eurozone pile-up.

The fact is that while German industry has grown in efficiency and regained its position as an export power house, German banking remains weak, overprotected and distorted. Most people will know of the large German banks that operate internationally: Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank, these are after all large and generally successful institutions. However a significant proportion of bank assets are taken up by Federal or Land controlled banks such as KfW or Helaba, and within this sector (and indeed in the larger banks as well), there is significant pan-Euro exposure. Indeed outsiders estimate that the largest holder of Greek government debt is probably Germany.

Chancellor Merkel thus faces a deeply unpalatable choice: either to rescue and re-capitalize Greece, or rescue and re-capitalize the German banking system. It is here, more than any other, that we see that the banking crisis did not go away when the debts became the responsibility of the state. In fact the failure of Ms. Merkel to agree a single European market in finance has allowed German banks to avoid admitting the serious problems that they face. The result is that as in Spain, where similar semi-state institutions the Cajas exist, the para-state banks have fallen into a risk concentration trap that threatens their very survival.

As it becomes clear that the Greek government must insist on a significant haircut on their bond holders, there will be plenty of sleepless nights in Berlin in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The UK: the spendthrift of Europe

The latest government borrowing numbers for the UK are spectacularly bad. To increase borrowing by 25% compared to the same month last year (excluding bank bailout costs) is a major failure for a government that must stand or fall by the way it tackles the deficit. Borrowing £10 billion in a month is not tackling the deficit, it is widening it.

Meanwhile the Bank of England has failed, yet again, to address the acceleration in inflation. They continue to pretend that a 4.5% inflation rate can be ignored because it is only a function of "temporary conditions". This is false- there is now a clear structural problem and the failure of the MPC to recognize this, still less to tackle it, is continuing to penalize savers. It also distorts the housing market in a way that is set to exclude an ever growing proportion of people from ever owning their own property. The fact is that, far from encouraging an orderly reduction of debt, the continued artificially low interest rates permits the UK, especially its government, to continue to live well beyond its means -if only for a few more months, .

UK debt, whether government or private sector, must be expanded no further!

Without a serious reduction in the total level of UK debt, the country faces a further lurch downwards. The continued expansion of public debt coupled with dangerously low interest rates will ultimately undermine the value of Sterling internationally - and lead to a crushing fall in the standards of living of those living in the UK.

The fact is that the right wing nutters who constantly predict the fall of the Euro should be paying a lot more attention to the disaster happening on their own doorstep. It is not just that the UK government is overspending, it is that the returns on what it is spending are pitiful. There is little infrastructure improvement, there is simply a giant job creation scheme: the kind of scheme that suggests that tax simplification should not happen because this would lead to tax inspectors being made redundant. The kind of waste exemplified by politicians who do not think a Police inquiry of Chris Huhne is enough: they want to spend millions on an independent inquiry, which would have no legal force and therefore be utterly pointless. People who want to waste public money on that scale are the ones that should be forced from office.

On an increasing number of measures, the UK now has a significantly worse fiscal and monetary position that the Eurozone. It can not go on like this. On current trends the British Treasury can expect the markets to have a heart attack within a matter of a few months.

Fine words butter no parsnips: without significant, radical action the Labour legacy of-out-of-control debt will destroy the prosperity of the nation. Indeed given the surge of the SNP in Scotland, it may even lead to the destruction of the nation itself.

The coalition must get a grip on debt now- failure can not be an option.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The End Times... don't exist

So as yet another doomsday nutter finds their "predictions" end up just a bit wide of the mark, I wonder if we, the rest of humanity, might just face the fact of an existence that speaks way beyond the nonsense of the self appointed loons in the US who reject evolution, but demand absurd respect for absurd ideas of destruction.

Science can essentially prove evolution, but as we see today, religion makes up ideas of "end times".

In a Universe of essentially infinite extent, where we find an evolution of time and space, the magic that we may choose to escape from our limited lives may well exist- yet we simply do not know how or whereof such magic may proceed. One thing we do know: fools like Harold Camping would not even begin to understand the truth that may, or may not, exist. Religion and stupidity are clearly too close bedfellows.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Judgement Day

An 89 year old American man, Mr. Harold Camping, has spent quite a large amount of money trying to persuade people, largely in the US, that the "according to Biblical prophecy" the world will enter the "End Times" with a huge Earthquake the day after tomorrow.

According to Science it won't.

Mr. Camping, who seems a perfectly pleasant but perhaps rather confused figure, is probably no different from many other people who begin to believe impossible things- and by no means all of them are senile.

What IS different is the media attention- after all from the media perspective, the end of the world is a pretty big story, although Mr. Camping is probably receiving rather less attention than the sale of Princess Beatrice of York's wedding hat. So I guess that means that Mr. Camping is not widely believed.

What I feel a sad about is that the large amount of money being spent promoting this fairy story is not only essentially wasted money, it is also going to discredit still further organised religion in general. Yet there are some great moral truths which can be found amongst the Hebrew myths and the general smiting of the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the great moral manifestos ever conceived, the Decalogue of Moses is as clear a set of rules to live by as may be found anywhere.

However this most profound morality is being held up to ridicule by an old man with something of a screw loose. Instead of a sophisticated morality, religion is turned into a laughing stock because Mr. Camping, like so many, sees only the sensationalist myths of the Book of Revelation, which in any event is a highly symbolic chapter, and one that has been subject to wildly different interpretation and dispute over the centuries.

Science, provable and exact in boundary if not in all details, has increasingly addressed issues that the Bible purports to explain, and in many issues it is giving us a far greater insight into our Universe and ourselves. Yet Science and Religion are not equivalent protagonists, as many divines and media commentators might have you think. Religion seeks for a core of truth, but at its heart it makes a leap of faith- that there are things we must take on trust, but if we do so, then we arrive a profound truth and a great certainty. Science does not do this- it proceeds with scepticism and thus seeks to improve knowledge by understanding uncertainty. Religion therefore is certain but Science is uncertain.

This certainty has been the cause of much human suffering- but it is not my place here to condemn such crimes as the Inquisition or the Crusades. It is simply to note that Mr. Camping comes from a long line of millenarian nonsense. I suppose we should just be grateful that he is only wasting money in promoting his certainty- after all many times in the past it has been a price of lives that has been paid.

Of course Science may admit the theoretical possibility that they could be wrong and Mr. Camping, in defiance of all we currently understand about the Universe, is right. However, I do not think that Mr. Camping will return the compliment, at least not until after Sunday. So in the overwhelmingly likely event that we awake on just another normal Sunday the day after Mr. Camping's non-apocalypse, I guess it will be another victory for Science.

Though Mr. Camping may then deserve much ridicule, Science will be able to explain the breakdown in his faculties that enabled him to spout such silliness in the first place. Indeed perhaps we should then probably simply show sympathy for a baffled and confused old man.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rebuilding Scottish Liberalism

The past week has been a very painful one for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The loss of excellent, long standing and hard working MSPs is a sobering experience. The Scottish electorate may have finally broken with Labour, but they appear to have chosen as their vehicle of protest a party that is based on a marriage of shrewd political populism with dishonest economics: the SNP.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats were punished for a coalition with a party that continues to drift into oblivion north of the border, the Conservatives. While tuition fees do not generally apply in Scotland, there is little doubt that the education debacle helped to undermine the credibility of the party at Holyrood.

Many Scottish Liberal hearts have been broken over the last few days.

The question for now is how to restore the credibility of the party in the eyes of the Scottish people as a legitimate political force.

Even as we relive the agony of this election result we should take heart from three things. The first is that we retain the power of our beliefs and the intellectual rigour of Liberalism- this is a coherent set of values that should inform our policy making at the very root. The second is that the political map has changed, and that while the SNP is currently triumphant, it is unlikely that the Scottish people would simply swap a Labour hegemony for a Nationalist one. Scottish politics is now likely to grow more volatile as a result, and this will give us in time a new opportunity. The third is that the Scottish people are not voting SNP because they want to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK, and the economic storms ahead are going to undermine the already flimsy case for independence still further.

It is perhaps one of the more bitter ironies of this post-election environment that the SNP government, knowing the increasing price of independence, is already seeking to water down their definition of what Scottish independence actually means. Quite clearly many Nats believe in "independence- nothing less", but is also true to say that a significant number, if not a majority, are arguing for a Home Rule position not far beyond what the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been putting forward for decades.

At the last general election, I lost count of the number of times that I was dismissed in Gordon with "I don't vote for Unionist (or "London based") parties". Although I could have told them that Clifton Terrace was quite firmly in Edinburgh, there is no doubt that the Scottish Liberal Democrats have not been able to make their Federalist ideology distinct in the eyes of the Scottish people. In my opinion the party must move to boost this element of our ideas soon.

Salmond is likely to offer a multi choice referendum, because it will confuse the issue and may allow an independence victory by default. The Scottish Liberal Democrats should make it clear- even before the SNP publishes the wording on the ballot- what it believes. In my view we should bring the word "Federalist" very much to the fore. Though a name change to the Scottish Federal Party may be too radical a step, I do think something like "The Scottish Liberal Democrats- the Federalists" might be considered. I think we should explicitly reject the "Unionist" tag, and yet make it clear to the Scottish people that Independence carries costs to our society and to our purse which are unacceptable. This, after all, puts one of the major planks of Liberalism- Home Rule- firmly to the fore. It represents a core belief of our party, and as we may well see at a referendum, it is likely to prove popular. The political argument of the SNP is dishonest if they can preach Independence but actually fight for Home Rule. While we might welcome their conversion, we should not let them face both ways. A fightback can begin if we can seize the political initiative on this critical issue.

We need to move beyond the curve in other ways too.

Salmond says he seeks an antidote to an overmighty Whitehall, but his devolution stops in Edinburgh. Local authorities remain just as powerless in Scotland as they are in England and Wales. The Liberal Democrat tradition of pavement politics is well suited to begin an insurgency at the local level. Although our defeat has been shattering, there is now the opportunity to rebuild a new cadre of local activists who, since we have fair votes, may be able to make a rapid difference in their local areas quite quickly. We should now speak up for local communities against an overmighty Holyrood. As with Home Rule, it runs with the ideology of the party and is also likely to prove popular.

In the face of what has happened, we must accept that we have allowed our political opponents to define us to the voters. In a way, the scale of the defeat gives us a breathing space, and that is where we should take some hope. The political pendulum does swing, and instead of becoming wreathed in gloom we should face the future with some optimism. The personality of our likely new leader, Willie Rennie, is a significant asset in this regard. He will be able to shake off the inevitable "Lib Dems in a taxi" jibes with his customary good humour. I remember a very bad night in Aberdeen, where after a brief coalition with the Tories we were punished with the loss of our leaders: Roy Thompson and Forbes McCallum not least. In the end, though, we were able to recover in Aberdeen, and eventually I am confident that we can do so in Scotland.

However, before we do this we need to plan for the general election. On the face of it, the SNP are right to regard their prospects against us with more than a little enthusiasm, yet in fact it is already clear that many SNP voters for Holyrood will cast their votes elsewhere for Westminster: it is a pattern we see in many other places, from Catalonia to Quebec. The challenge for the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be to make sure that instead of opting for Labour, the Scottish voters at least consider us and where we can win, they actually do vote for us. To be sure, it will not be easy, yet we do have some advantages. In the shape of Mike Moore, Al Carmichael and Danny Alexander we do have political leaders that can carry as much authority as Salmond does. We must make sure that such figures as Iain Smith are not lost to us, and as some of our older MPs consider standing down, we should make sure that they are replaced with figures of sufficient authority and credibility. Frankly, callow researchers won't cut it, we need MPs that add more than the cultish atmosphere of professional politics. It will not be enough to rely on tactical voting, which we can no longer rely on anyway; we must make a proactive case for voting for our party and our candidates, positively.

I think we should be far more grown up in the way we communicate with the voters. This is in no way a criticism of Tavish who proved in many ways a better leader than his predecessor. However we have been drowned out in our campaigning. Yet if our message has to be clear, it should not be simplified to the point of dumbing down. Our Westminster leadership made a huge mistake by not admitting the difficult choices that we had to face if we entered coalition. We have always known that trusting the Tories is a risky business, so we really should have been more upfront at the beginning about what we would have to sacrifice. In future we must be more ready to accept the complications of a question- and in my view such honesty has significant long term benefits.

We do not know what the political landscape will look like in 2015, so we should stick with our convictions and see this through. It is certainly not obvious to me that Labour under their rather shallow and shifty looking leader can escape the blame for their disgraceful actions in government. The voters may yet accept our contention that the pain was necessary and that the Liberal Democrats served their country well by taking on the risk of the coalition in the first place.

We are a Radical party and I think we must revisit our commitment to Radical traditions. Now is the time to revisit our core issues. There will be some who argue that we could now accept the "inevitability" of independence. It is a debate we might have, although in my view it would only prove the strength of our commitment to Home Rule and Federalism, but I am happy to meet the debate inside as well as outside the party. There will be some who argue we should move in a far more radical direction in public service reform. I agree, but the extent of restructuring of public services in Scotland is very much a matter of debate- I think we should face the facts of Scottish over reliance on the State head on, and it is time for us to consider radical solutions. More and more people in Scotland accept the need to reduce the public sector, but Salmond is growing used to his power of patronage: he should be harried at every turn. Every cent of the "new fiscal powers"- and the old ones for that matter- should be checked, and if appropriate criticized.

The one thing that the Scottish Liberal Democrats are not is stupid. We should bring our intellectual fire power to bear on the key issues of what the state should be doing (and just as importantly, not doing) as well as the short term debate of what kind of form our relations with England and Wales should take. I know we have the intellect and the ideology to create innovative and effective policies. I think we can relearn our skills in conveying those ideas to the Scottish people, and I am confident that the change in political attitudes in Scotland against Labour can ultimately work to our benefit.

We have a cadre of excellent activists, from Alex Cole Hamilton to Siobhan Mathers to Craig Harrow and many many others, so we can rebuild more rapidly than seems remotely possible today.

Though it has been a nasty few days, but we know our party is resilient and that Liberalism is a proud and highly successful tradition in Scottish politics. Though we must accept the lessons that the voters have taught us with all humility, we must not lose sight of the opportunities that now present themselves.

We are in politics because we believe that our ideas are a benefit to our society and our country. There will be much talk of patriotism over the next few years before Salmond finally faces the moment of truth in his referendum. His brand of cheap populism is not the same as the genuine patriotism of seeking the right solution to our social, economic and political ills. I, for one, resent the idea that those who oppose the SNP are unpatriotic. It is our major challenge now to explain to the Scottish people and to the wider world why the Liberal agenda is not only practical and fair, but right minded and patriotic too.

I already see our activists have the fire in their belly to carry the battle back to our opponents and it would be a very foolish commentator indeed who underestimated our ideas, our members and our party.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Believing the polls

If we believe the final polls before today's votes, then the UK may look rather different tomorrow.

If we believe the polls, the Liberal Democrats will receive a pasting: set to lose up to half their seats on Scotland and several hundred council seats across the country, the party may also be facing a major setback in its quest for British political reform, with the rejection of the AV voting system. Many journalists are forecasting a party in meltdown, with early leadership challenges coming to Nick Clegg.

If we believe the polls. the the SNP is set to win close to an outright majority at Holyrood, which will finally give them the opportunity to stage their own referendum on whether of not Scottish separatism should break up the UK.

I am not sure how much we should believe the polls, or in any event I am not sure about the message that they convey. I think that the Liberal Democrats will take some heavy punishment, and I am braced for some sad results, yet in fact the party has actually recovered a little from the nadir of 11%, if we believe the polls. In fact I hear reports from across the country that the campaign has gone well, and that far from being disheartened and divided, there is a mood of grim determination. Far from May 5th being the beginning of the end of the Liberal Democrats, I think the story may become that in the face of extremely adverse circumstances, the party turns out to be more resilient than was predicted, and more resilient than our political enemies- both inside and outside the coalition- hope.

The fly in the ointment though would be the failure to get a change to our absurd electoral system. The conservatives- both Labour and Tory- will say that the rejection of AV would mean that the British people do not support any change to the electoral system. This is a position that the Liberal Democrats will- and must- reject. While the process of electoral change will now move to the reform of the House of Lords, which the coalition agreement frames as a largely or wholly elected body, selected by a proportional voting system. No referendum is mandated for this change, and it will be more vital than ever that it is completed before the end of this Parliament. In the end though, despite the fact that the commentariat will insist that the project for electoral reform is dead, the party must redouble its efforts to put the case for a more open political system, including comprehensive electoral reform. In my view the various electoral systems we currently use- including AV at Scottish local by-elections incidentally- should be rationalised into the best system, and that system is a single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. The cynicism of Gordon Brown led to the side track of AV: we must not get fooled again.

So as we vote today, I am braced for a poor showing for my party, but I am also hopeful that we will also pull off one or two surprises on an otherwise gloomy night. I think we will do a lot better than our national poll rating shows at present, I do not think that the party will go into meltdown, or anything like it. We are a party that has grown inured to adversity and we will be able to cope.

For those of us who joined the Liberal Party- in my case over thirty years ago- well, we have seen many ups and downs. We have even seen a time, just after the merger, when the party support could barely be measured statistically at all. So, we really have stared a meltdown in the face and we know what it looks like.

Even if we do believe the polls, the Liberal Democrats will still be fighting for our Liberal beliefs on Friday.

Even if we do believe the polls, the Liberal Democrats will still be in government on Friday.

Even if we do believe the polls, the Liberal Democrats can most definitely recover and rebuild.

Of course the shock of the evening may not be the Liberal Democrats at all, after all the expectations of the media for them could hardly be lower. On the other hand, a poor result for Labour is not in the media script, and that could leave the Lib Dems very well placed indeed for a recovery that seems beyond all hope today.

Beyond all hope that is, if we believe the polls.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Media Overkill

OK, so Osama is now officially a stiff, although it turns out that his influence was waning anyway. It should not take away from the skills of the Americans who raided the Bin Laden compound and finally laid the ghost that has haunted the United States for over a decade. It should also not take away from the steely-eyed way that President Obama faced his country's national nightmare.

One more thing we now know: it is probably a very bad idea to play the President at poker.

Yet I can not be the only one who finds the descent of the media onto the smoking ruins in Abbottabad to be pretty disgusting. The place is now a sea of OB trucks, helicopters and well coiffured but mostly ignorant journalists glibly informing us that a few days ago something dramatic happened in the background behind them. The slightest detail is not too small to be turned into a story before said coiffured journo returns to his or her five star hotel in Islamabad and thence via a premium ticket to the first world capitals where they generally make their homes.

Everything must be questioned: that is everything NOW must be questioned. The big picture is forgotten in the search for immediate relevance, and good taste and basic decency come a distant second to a scoop- a scoop such as the gruesome picture of the late and highly unlamented.

Meanwhile a demonstration of Pakistani lawyers does seek to lament the death of the terrorist. Not, I would submit either tactful or wise, but at least it does show us who our enemies are. Now, I for one will know that "Pakistani lawyer" may well mean actually mean "radical nutjob with potentially murderous tendencies".

So in the face of yet another media circus, good taste, discretion and thought take a back seat to shrill and loudly expressed ignorance and journalistic ethics are eroded just a little further. We already know that the media was not listening when the first briefing was given, we already know that a large number of the details they were given- and hastily published- were inaccurate. Yet they continue to churn out the same witless regurgitation of press releases and half baked rumour.

There is a word for what the global media has done with this story, and appropriately enough it is...

Overkill.

It is also contemptible.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden Binned

The death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of the fanatical death cult of Al Qaida, has sparked celebrations across the United States, and well it might. I do not usually feel elation at the death of a human being, but today is different.

Sure Al Qaida continues in various guises in various places: a hydra headed conspiracy that only a couple of days ago sent a 12 year old boy to blow himself up. What did that kid need virgins for? He was one himself. I felt a powerful surge of loathing for the villains who put him up to such a crime and hoped that they would shortly face an unpleasant fate themselves.

Ultimately it was Osama bin Laden who was the author of such wickedness. The charge sheet for such a monster is long indeed- and it does not stop with the murder of thousands of innocents on September 11th 2001.

So although, of course, the war continues, and may even be redoubled; yet the death of bin Laden is of more than symbolic significance. Eventually the Al Qaida conspiracy will be only as significant as the murderousness of the assassins in previous centuries- and the removal of the talismanic leader of the death cult is a hope for the West and a setback for our enemies.

It is a day to reflect, take stock, but acknowledge that the battle that seemed so hopeless in the sands of Iraq five years ago, or over the last decade in Afghanistan, has taken a decided turn for the better.

A good day.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bad Language

In the world of advertising there is a whole vocabulary that is rarely, if ever, used outside advertising: "fragrance" means chemical perfume, "indulgent" means fattening, "sensual" means sweet, "enter a new world" means buy, and so on.

So in the rather saccharin coverage of the Royal Wedding, it was easy to spot the journalistic bullshit too. "curves" means body, "crafted" means expensive, "fairy tale" means has carriages, "magical" means expensive, "informal" means very formal indeed, and "our future King/Queen" means we are prepared to tempt fate.

I did watch it, although it did not impress me in quite the same way as I remember the ill-fated first wedding of the Prince of Wales. Is it uncharitable to say that it all seemed a little formulaic? Even the music- "I was glad" and "Guide me O thou Great Redeemer" was such that we have quite literally heard it all before.

The journalistic cliche was that this marked "a new beginning", even a "relaunch" of the Monarchy, as though it needed such a thing. In fact it seemed the same script with a slightly younger cast of characters. I wish no ill to the Happy Couple, yet it was hard to watch without a slightly cynical "Oh Yeah?" intruding at certain points.

It was also all too noticeable that the highlights of the fly past were planes that date from the Second World War. Some might see this as the Monarchy tying itself ever closer to the national myth of the Second World War. Yet it would not do to mention that our overstretched and underfunded Armed Forces simply do not have planes to spare.

So after wading through the wall-to-wall coverage what have we learned? The Monarchy retains its popularity, but it as with much of the rest of the fabric of the UK is fraying slightly. While I can feel a certain schadenfreude that the Royal Family can deliver a fairly obvious snub to Blair, whom they clearly loathed, and Brown, who -perhaps- they only pitied; it injected an unwonted spite into the occasion- and was unworthy. A previous Royal generation might have gritted their teeth, but by inviting Douglas Hurd, but not Tony Blair, the Royal Family strayed away from their supposed political neutrality. If it becomes a trend, it may quickly be the case that the position of the Royal House becomes controversial, which could make their position quite tricky, quite quickly.

So after the rather emetic coverage of the "magical day" [sic], I guess we can return to the usual cliches of advertising bullshit, not too mention the cliches of politics where "brave" means foolish, where blaming "Europe" means failing to explain or take responsibility, where "investment" means spending and where "cuts" are evil and must never ever happen.