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Showing posts from June, 2006

Biting Back

OK- my take on Bromley. The Tories tactics were naive and the had a very poor candidate who committed a series of blunders throughout the campaign (and afterwards- his acceptance speech was very ill judged). If the question is only one of tactics, then the Tories should not be too worried. But it is not just tactics. It is strategy they should be worried about. Cameron is just not convincing as a cuddly greenie Consider the only policies that he as actually put forward: "leave the EPP and become even more Eurosceptic" "support the Iraq Occupation and support for the war" "maybe more nuclear power is a good thing" "more Trident is definitely a good thing" The fact is that Cameron is now quite vulnerable to the charge that he is putting forward an image that is all hype, and the reality is that he is just an old fashioned Tory. He is vulnerable to this charge because it is probably true. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have actually started a proce

Cost/Benefit Analysis

I notice that a great deal of work is being done to make the London Underground accessible to wheelchair users. All very laudable, you might think. The only problem is that the design of most of the Underground makes it essentially impossible to provide step free access from Street to Platform at almost all of the deep line stations. The cost of providing such access is essentially the same cost as building a complete a complete new Underground system. This is a sum of money that is about equal to the total annual GDP of the UK- One Trillion Pounds, probably not counting the economic dislocation that such a massive job would cause. There are people who think that this money should be spent regardless. Certainly new stations should be built with wheelchair access in mind- as has been the case with the Jubilee line. Where possible, older stations could also be modified. However those who want immediate and complete wheelchair access are demanding a benefit that is out of all proportion t

"Scotland... and whoever plays England"

Some nasty incidents across Scotland. A child punched for wearing an England shirt . A disabled man in Aberdeen attacked for flying a Cross of St. George from his car. The print journalists have a great story- the "Scots *all* hate the English". Don't you just love the way these scribblers can create a storm of moral outrage? I don't defend the violent morons for a minute, but it is time we looked at ourselves with a clearer eye, and listened a lot less to the ignorant and the simplistic views that comprise the bulk of our media commentary. However, the UK does face some serious challenges, and unless these can be addressed rationally and coolly, the four centuries of political union may well fall apart. Of course the SNP- Scotland's separatist party- would like this to happen. Increasingly too, there is a body of rather facile, Conservative commentators in England who want to break up the Union too- for their own narrow and short term reasons. The time has come

Top 10 Reasons for being Balkan

Top Ten Reasons for being Serb : 1. You are not a Croat. 2. Basketball team. 3. You can choose between several war criminals in Presidential elections. 4. You can enjoy the positive media coverage of your country when abroad. 5. You can fight 600 year-old battles against the Turks and their domestic collaborators, be convinced that it's happening right now, and not be entirely wrong. 6. You can always go to Greece and Cyprus and fear nothing. 7. Grilled meat and slivovitz. 8. You get to drink slivovitz and eat grilled meat even when under economic sanctions. 9. You are the only European country which was bombed by NATO. 10.Every now and then you get to fly to the Hague at someone else's expense. Top ten reasons for being Croat : 1. You're not a Serb 2. Soccer team. 3. You get to pretend that your language is different from Serbian, although it's really not. 4. Dubrovnik. 5. You get to dream about independent Croatia. 6. Every now and then you get to sing "Danke,

100 not out

This, I notice, is my 100th posting on this blog. Reviewing previous postings I am slightly surprised by the variety of themes that have been covered. However, I am still trying to convey a sense of what I believe are the core truths about the Liberal ideology and why I think that they are important. For the Liberal Democrats the last few months have been a generally difficult time. There has been the concern that a reviving Conservative party will damage the Liberal Democrats next time. Indeed the local election results demonstrated that the Conservatives remain a force. Nevertheless the flat result for the Liberal Democrats masks some quite wide differences: success in Richmond, failure in Islington, considerable success in the north of England, a drift in the south. However aside from the Conservatives mild revival, there have been many internal problems for the Liberal Democrats too. Some of this has come from the obvious sense of disappointment that more progress was not made in w

Land of the Eagle

Albania. The very word conjures up sinister connotations. The murderous regime of Enver Hoxha. The fact that under this vile regime almost everything was illegal. Religion was outlawed. Beards or jeans were illegal. The regime isolated the country almost completely. Firstly Hoxha quarreled, first with Tito, then the USSR- for being insufficiently Stalinist!- then China, for "bourgoise revisionism" (whatever that was). Dirt poor and desperate, internally, Albania's brutality was legendary. It is not surprising that the West filled much of their lack of knowledge of this mountainous country with fantasy- the Albanian Sigurimi torturers of the Ipcress File , for example. If anything the reality was worse. Tormented and brutalized. Isolated from any contact with the outside world, the Albanians nevertheless at least partly believed the propaganda of the regime- that Albania was the strongest and richest country in the world. When the fall of the regime finally came- sadly to

Simple Sums

The Liberal Democrat proposals on tax announced today are a substantial shift in the right direction. Taxes should be simplified and the burden of taxation must be capped, and preferably reduced from the current high level. The logic of our business policies- deregulation and the wholesale abolition of the DTi can help us achieve this. The decision to create penalty taxes to encourage green behaviour should not be seen in the context of the general taxation pool- the whole idea of penalties is to change behaviour, and therefore ultimately the tax yield form these penalties will fall. The key change in the proposals is the decision to shift tax away from income and on to wealth. This is a radical shift- and a necessary one. Indeed I would go further and advocate a shift towards land tax- which can be the greenest tax of all. The implicit commitment that the overall level of taxation should be capped is the right approach- and I hope that several other policies can now be recast with thi

Od Warszawy

A sunny day in the Polish capital. As always, I marvel at the indomitable will that rebuilt this city from the utter ruin that the Nazis left. However, it is fair to say that the current political climate is less certain. The provincial and insular politicians who currently form the bulk of the ruling PiS have now been joined by the Catholic Jihad faction ot the LPR-League of Polish families- although League of the Adams family might actually be more accurate. Meanwhile the cynical and aggressive Andrzej Lepper's "Self Defence" is in the unusual position of actually looking sophisticated- at least compared to the larger PiS. When you consider that Self Defence is trawling in the same waters as the BNP, this may give you a sense of how bad the current government looks. Naturally, I am delighted that David Cameron regards these potato heads as his natural allies- he is trying to form a new alliance in the European Parliament to embrace the prickly Czech ODS and the naive a

Poisoned Polls

Within the course of a day we have seen some very different opinion polls released. Some seem to show the Tories are moving ahead, others show a recovery in Labour. I am slightly surprised to see the government not being hurt more by the recent rash of bad publicity. The unmasking of John Prescott's secret Croq (uet) habit may not have any major impact, despite the shrill and rather snide comments in the press. As for Larry Lightweight- the current Tory leader- his rather pitiful choice of Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West as one of his Desert Island Discs was perhaps one of his more genuine political decisions over the past six months - the remaining choices were trite and formulaic. When a squity, playground kid just wants you to like him, he comes across in much the same way as David Cameron does now- unctuous. I am afraid my gorge just rises and I have the feeling of wanting to give him a good duffing up. The fact is that even on the right, anyone with intellect has some