Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2006

Fair Votes

A little back of the envelope calculation reveals the value of a vote for each party. Labour 356 MPs 9,562,122 total votes cast. 6,637,024 for winning candidates- 69% success rate for a Labour vote. Conservative 198 MPs 8,772,598 total votes cast 4,471,171 for winning candidates- 50.96% success rate for a Conservative vote Liberal Democrats 62 MPs 5,981,874 total votes cast, 1,284,238 for winning candidates- 21.4% success rate for a Lib Dem vote Scottish National Party 6 MPs 412,267 total votes cast, 82,470 for winning candidates- 20% success rate for an SNP vote Plaid Cymru 3 MPs 174,838 total votes cast, 40,905 for winning candidates- 23% success rate for a PC vote. The fact is that 53% of the voters do not get the MP that they voted for. No wonder that voting is out of style, when you see how much a simple choice can be distorted. It is time for fair votes!

Political Skills

Watching "Yo Blair" speaking from Murdoch's jam feast did make me slightly nauseous. Why should an Australian naturalized American presume to dictate to British politicians? Murdoch only has power is as much as British politicians let him have such power. However, for their own reasons, British politicians have been prepared to make deals with the devil. Personally, it underlines one of the major problems of the party political system in this country. All parties, but especially Labour and the Conservatives, are coalitions of different groups. Labour, as a broad church, has encompassed Christian Democrats (e.g. Frank Field), Social Democrats (e.g. Robin Cook), traditional socialists (Tony Benn) and sometimes Communists (e.g. Scargill). The Conservatives have included Political Liberals (Malcolm Rifkind), Christian Democrats (Chris Patten), Economic Liberals (Michael Gove), Traditional Conservatives (Patrick Cormack), and Le Pen-style nationalists (Norman Tebbit) too. In o


Amidst the continuing noise in the Middle East, economic news has been a lower priority. However, the collapse of the Doha round of negotiations on tariff cuts is a potentially very serious development. The failure to tackle the need for free trade is creating more unstable conditions in the global economy. This is a political issue, but is also a moral issue. Poverty in Africa could be ameliorated far more rapidly if there was freer trade allowed for African goods. The large tariff barriers of the US and the EU have distorted the global markets for most agricultural goods. Whole markets in cotton, for example are rigged by large subsidy payments in the USA, while Europe insists on subsidies for sugar beet production that undermine the far more efficient cane sugar producers of the West Indies. Since it is uneconomic to invest in production, the West Indian producers have grown more open to other sources of money- like narcotics transportation. Thus, our failure to take free trade seri

The case FOR an immigration amnesty

When politicians start to talk about immigration, they never seem to get further than the op-ed page of the Daily Mail - this is a mildly xenophobic world where millions of criminals are, apparently, poised to enter the UK and destroy its way of life. This is obviously wrong, and the kind of simplistic thinking that it represents confuses the real issues. There are two aspects to immigration to the UK. Although the dim-witted tabloid press tends to group the two groups: refugees and market migrants under one pejorative label, "asylum seekers". Actually genuine asylum seekers may not be refused entry to the UK at all. These are people who have fled persecution, war or famine. The United Nations Charter, of which Britain is not merely a signatory but a co-author, sets out a duty for receiving countries to protect refugees. Neither is Britain a particularly popular destination for refugees, who are more interested in getting away from persecution. Many other states take much la

"Speak for England Arthur"

In 1940, as the confidence debate on Chamberlain's government reached a climax, Arthur Greenwood rose to speak. Afraid that he would not condemn the failures of the government and deliver the coup de grace , from across the floor of the House a cry rang out: "Speak for England, Arthur!" Though the Middle East crisis is a less immediate crisis than the fall of France, the way that the British government has reacted is no less a failure. Our failure to condemn the actions of Israel makes us moral cowards. The craven response of the Blair government to American pressure to stay silent is not good enough. As for David Cameron, his shallow, callow politics are revealed more clearly every day. Only Ming Campbell emerged from this with any credit. His support of international law was shining. He truly represented the best of our country. A point that I think the electorate is now noticing.

We are Europe

The UK has always has a very detached view of its position in Europe. We say we are going "to Europe" instead of going to the continent. For much of our history our foreign policy was based on a splendid isolation where we were content to play off the various continental powers against each other. Meanwhile we busied ourselves with creating a global empire everywhere except in Europe. With this history, it is not surprising that we view any attempt by European powers to ally amongst themselves in order to grow stronger with something very close to fear. The threats to Britain came from Europe, while our English speaking allies against such threats were even more than comrades, they were blood relatives. However, Britain, in the words of Dean Acheson, "Lost an Empire and did not find a role". Now it is time for us to put forward a vision of our country's place in the world. Our alliance with the USA is not making our country any safer. Indeed our craven vision of

Yo Blair!

Although watching Galloway and the Hizbollah fascists that he supports does significantly raise my blood pressure, am I alone in thinking that the British government have been "a bit crap" on the Middle East? The utterly craven relationship between Blair and Bush that was revealed in their open mic session last week makes my blood boil too. Yo Bush - the worst President since Warren G Harding and Yo Blair- an unprincipled failure. It is simply not good enough- Israel are in the wrong: punishing the innocent as vengeance against the guilty can not work. The UK, as a critical friend of Israel, has a duty to speak out. However as the "Yo Blair stuff" showed- the UK is regarded by everyone, the USA included, as a poodle. The totally spineless way that this government has reacted to the Middle East crisis is not acceptable. For sure, with the history that Britain has in the region, we should be slow to make any comment. However the only reason that we do not criticise I

July 20th

As the sun sets on a beautiful day in Tallinn and the crowds begin to leave the Raekoja Plats, I reflect on another trip to the Estonian capital. I shall be spending the weekend at the Viljandi Folk festival in the South of the country, so I will get a good blast of fresh Baltic air on the shores of Lake Viljandi. July 20th- the anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969. I still retain a fascination with the Apollo Programme- so many extraordinary things were achieved and yet at the end the enormous sunk costs were ignored and nearly 40 years later we have still not returned, even to lunar orbit. The pristine Moon, with the footprints of the Astronauts in the dust of the Sea of Tranquility, remains an enigma. The reaction of each of the astronauts to their extraordinary voyage has been dealt with in several books, which I never tire of reading. Today is also the anniversary of the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg- a noble man who met a

Perma-tanned hypocrites

OK- so Tommy Sheridan is now legally toast. He has effectively admitted that he DID visit swingers clubs, so his libel action will fold. Why take such legal action, when you know you are on such a difficult wicket? How arrogant do you have to be? Galloway is much the same, and we all know about the allegations against him. Pretty sure that most of them are true. These perma-tanned lefties, reeking of hypocrisy, still believe that they can get away with it. Glad to see that Sheridan won't. Look forward to Galloway getting nailed... One day.

Peace, Retrenchment, Reform

Much discussion in the blogosphere about political identities. In particular much discussion about party political identities. In a world where politicians become followers of opinion, rather than opinion formers, it becomes inevitable that there is much pressure to conform and thus create identikit policies. The problem with this Uberpragmatism is that it effectively undermines ideological coherence. As for the origins of this huge social change- we can point to the increasingly individual way that people are choosing to live their lives. The group ethos of the industrial society has been undermined by our increasing ability to use technology to create tailored solutions for individual choices. As we create ever greater choice in television, diet or leisure, then we should expect to see ever greater individuality in politics too. Certainly the first casualty of the end of the industrial society was the intellectual death of Socialism. The fall of the Soviet system- that non plus ultra

Its broke, but don't fix it.... that way

You might have though that the Conservative transport spokesman, Chris Grayling might not have wanted to "mention the rope in the house of the hanged man"; but no, he is determined to create a Conservative policy about railways. However, even he now accepts- apparently- that the Tories made a massive blunder in the way that they privatized the railway system of the UK. A dignified silence on their biggest balls-up might have been considered polite, but no, the Conservatives are determined to make good their error and should they ever return to power, then they will "fix the problem". My God, you can tell that these guys have NEVER run a business. Part of the problem was the enormous disruption and misallocation of management time that was devoted to adjusting to the private sector. So there had really better be a much better solution if we are going to have to go through all the disruption of installing another totally new system. The Tories are not really offering

Fanning the Flames

Despair in Lebanon, anger in Israel, violence everywhere. I hold no brief for the anti-Israel lobby, but it is hard to believe that the destruction of roads, power stations and airport terminals in Lebanon is anything other than wanton violence designed to inflict the maximum damage to the lives of the civilian population of that country. It is also hard to believe that it is anything other than self defeating. An impoverished fearful Lebanon has a lot less to lose than a prosperous and stable country would. Israel is sowing the wind and will reap the whirlwind. The dreadful missile attacks on Haifa will be matched again and again. "Those that have the perception must make the allowances" Israel must now show restraint- or take the consequences.

The eighties coming back?

Serious trouble in the Middle East as Israel gets bogged down in Lebanon. A lame duck President in Washington is unable to assert his will following allegations of unconstitutional activity. In Britain an unpopular government faces a string of by-election losses. And Sir Clive Sinclair brings out a dangerous and unlikely form of transport. How much 2006 seems to have in common with 1985!

Sky news drivel

Just came back to my (very comfortable) hotel and switched on the news. SKY News. Oh my GOD it is "The Day Today"! For those that don't remember, "The Day Today" was a parody news programme hosted by Chris Morris. It launched the demented sports reporter Alan Partridge onto an unwilling world. However, although extremely funny, it had a dark side- the smarmy reporters, the hectoring interviews with a clearly amoral agenda. That is what I have just seen on Sky. A reporter with an agenda. The issue was the sentencing of the peadophile. Whether it is "too lenient" is not something an unbiased reporter can necessarily have an opinion on. The hectoring of the Attorney General was outrageous. Television media- or at least Murdoch's Sky- can not be regarded as a reliable source of news when you see reporters approaching the story with a such a clear bias. Also, is it me? But the pompous music and cliched presenters set my teeth on edge. Instead of a parod


I am traveling again, hence sparse blogging. In fact I am in a blazing hot Tallinn, with the jollity of high summer and the white nights adding a certain positive spin on an otherwise fairly heavy round of meetings. I keep in touch with the British news and see that the increasingly erratic David Cameron has now embarked on a "hug a hoodie" campaign. As he gets hip with the kids: "they're just misunderstood" I reflect on the contrast with the leaders of Estonia that I have been meeting with this trip. Here I have been debating first principles of policy with political and business leadership. The tinsel of British politics is missing, but my goodness what substance. The politicians here are happy to think about complex and detailed policy areas. No Estonian politician, not even the most populist, would come up with such a disconnected political narrative as Cameron. Dominated by the agenda of PR and the media, Cameron has lost sight of what politics is for. Mean

Those two impostors

There does seem to have been a lot of loose emotion flying around this week. The sports arenas, particularly, seem to have become cry fests: the anguish of Andy Murray in his straight sets defeat, the tears of David Beckham as be bade farewell to the captaincy of the England football team and the less forgivable defiant truculence of Rooney, whose immaturity does not allow him to take responsibility for his own actions. We seem to have become much more "in touch" with our feelings- anger, pride, rage and sadness. Psychologists might say that this is a good thing. I wonder. Unbridled enthusiasm seems to lead to limitless grief when great hopes are not fulfilled. I find myself think more and more of Kipling- "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;" Strangely enough these words are rather prominent at Wimbledon- pity that they are so generally ignored.

The Tories abandon the Union

The evidence grows that the Conservatives have never met a principle that they could not abandon. After the simple weirdness of Cameron's "Bill of Rights" -which even Ken Clarke thought was pretty much contrary to every principle in our legal system- we now have the brilliant idea of making Scottish MPs second class members of the the House of Commons. After years of unyielding support for "The Union", which nearly drove Scots into the arms of the SNP, the Tories now have the idea that the only constitutional reform that is needed is to stop Scottish MP's voting on "English" matters. Dangerous nonsense! Liberals and Liberal Democrats always supported home rule for Scotland and Wales on the basis that the result would be a Federal Britain. Only Federalism answers the so-called West Lothian question. What is now needed is a full constitutional settlement- which means restoring the lost powers of local government and making the current Scottish and We

No tears

No, I am not that upset by the defeat in Gelsenkirchen. Three sports matches took place in white today. Andy Murray played his socks off and won in straight sets. France, in white, against all the odds, beat Brazil. (Allez France!!!). Ah yes, then there was England. Rooney - a totally deserved red card- what he should get is an equally deserved tarring and feathering for bringing the game into disrepute. So all the stuff about English heroics comes into context- none would have been necessary if Rooney was not such a third rate embarrassment to the game. Which makes me observe a few home truths: through the whole tournament, England never rose above the mediocre. All that money, all that hype- still, they could not beat Portugal. You know why? Greed! Those guys are the best paid guys in Britain. Surrounded by adulation and money, they lost the plot years ago. The vile spectacle of all their hangers-on drinking themselves to oblivion at vast expense was the epitome of ignorant decadence