Wednesday, 28 September 2011
The more you look at that speech yesterday and Forrest and his party's increasingly desperate attempts to explain and defend themselves, the more ridiculous it looks. Perhaps it is appropriate that the speech was given on the day that the king of 60s and 70s comedy passed away. As David Croft's most famous and enduring character would have said: 'you stupid boy.'
We know that Forrest is a man who doesn't so much aspire to lead as aspire to do what the focus groups tell him, but even when he does that, even when he tries to jump on a bandwagon, he does it in nebulous language and refuses to be pinned down on detail. If this is the next generation of the Labour Party why does this look suspiciously like education, education, education again? Long on rhetoric, short on detail or any clue of how to achieve what he may, for all I know, genuinely believe is necessary.
Good or bad business? What does that mean? Who is to decide what is a good or bad business? Will there be star chambers manned by rabid class warriors or hundreds of new quangos to decide? And what makes a good or bad business? Rolls Royce was given as an example of a good business. Many would agree that this is the very kind of modern high tech business with high skill levels and top quality training that is the best of British industry. But the environmentalists almost certainly wouldn't. They would probably be quite adamant on the point.
It's being branded as a shift to the left. But it's more than that. Forrest tried to brand Cameron as the last gasp of an old set of rules, yet his new ideas (if they qualify as such) sound very much like the kind of Labour government we endured in the 1960s and 70s under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan with their attempts to impose price and wage controls and plan the economy. That ended well didn't it. Back in those days David Croft's tales of wartime Britain seemed like a golden period. Forrest would have liked it then too. Back then the state legitimately planned everyone's lives.
It seems that Forrest and his chums have persuaded themselves, rather like EU bureaucrats who never let a good crisis go to waste, that our present difficulties - which of course are the consequence of failed capitalism and have nothing to do with Labour's debt legacy - are their chance to impose more state control on us all because political technocrats like Forrest (the wealthy son of a north London Marxist who has never worked outside politics) always know best and have the kind of omniscience needed to control a trillion pound economy and sort out the wheat from the chaff. If a Tory suggested such a thing they would be accused of appalling arrogance. But somehow, if you propose such solutions within the public sector, which of course is always benign and altruistic and never prey to vested interests like the unions for instance, then this is progressive, apparently.
But even if we allow that the 60s and 70s, when Labour last tried this sort of thing, is an era we cannot really blame on the new generation, we don't have to look back that far. We only have to look at their management of what is left in the public sector which was generally disastrous. Look at the targets culture with its perverse consequences for the schools and hospitals they like to talk about with a pious, sentimental lump in their throats. Look at the billions wasted on IT projects that have never been delivered.
And is the party that lied and spun for 13 years, even fiddling the figures at Budget time to make them look better, really in a position to tell business what is good and bad? Is the party that built those famous schools and hospitals with fabulously expensive PFI projects so as to get the spending off the books really in a position to take the moral high ground towards the private sector?
And for all that that talk about the greedy energy companies will have enamoured Forrest to many in his party and indeed a large part of the public, perhaps we ought to point out that he was the Energy (and Climate Change) Secretary under Gordon Brown. Not only was it within his remit to make the market work better within recent memory, he himself implemented policies to 'tackle climate change' which have added to those bills and forced tens of thousands into fuel poverty. If, thanks to climate change, we suffer another cold winter, the blame will lie with Forrest, Chris Huhne and their like who enjoy bashing the greedy energy companies in their speeches and yet are at the same time committed to increasing all of their bills to combat something which we cannot control so as to be able to grandstand about it to their organic pals in north London.
Forrest is just showing himself for what he is, an other worldly lefty who has never really grown out of the blinkered idealism most leave behind after they graduate. For them the world is terribly unfair and something must be done. They hate the fact that people are getting rich and demand that they be punished. For them the sight of venture capitalists making money by turning around companies is something to be resented and punished not admired and encouraged. They are not asset strippers, they are resourceful and creative. Britain needs such people to create jobs and wealth. If only the workers of Rover had embraced Jon Moulton, some might still have been in jobs making British MGs instead of Chinese ones.
Labour is retreating into its comfort zone, the place it inhabited in the decades when Britain was the sick man of Europe. In so doing it is ignoring history and precedent and falling back on its old prejudices and wishful thinking. Yesterday they booed Tony Blair, the man who led them to three election victories by forcing them out of that comfort zone and embracing some uncomfortable truths about the way the world really is. Perhaps they hate him for that, or for the fact that he is now stinking rich. Say what you like about the man however, and I am no fan, he was a leader who did what was necessary and suffered the slings and arrows that came from his own party and the unions, stealing the party from the likes of Neil Kinnock and Tony Benn. Now they have it back and want to take us all back into the past with them. Is this bold and radical leadership, or is it dogma dressed up as principle? If they get their way it's odds on that they, as another Croft character would have said, are doomed.
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
There was much comment this morning about the news that Labour has fallen behind the Tories in one poll and the gap has narrowed significantly in another. Labour spinners are blaming this on Forrest's failure to get across his message since he became leader a year ago. This is the standard response of politicians unwilling to admit more uncomfortable truths.
Here then is a more likely set of explanations for this state of affairs:
- Forrest is not failing to get across his message, he doesn't really have one or any real policies other than opposing cuts and not quite promising (in classic Labour double speak) to reverse some of the more unpopular policies of the government. In short, people don't think he really stands for anything other than power for power's sake and political posturing and opportunism.
- Labour, for all of their talk about learning the lessons of their time in government, are only really going through the motions of regrets and mea culpa and the public can see that. This was exemplified by John Prescott last week who half admitted that his policy of bringing in new emergency control centres and wasting hundreds of millions in the process was a scandalous mess but then sought to pass the blame on to the civil service. Presumably this was the same for the mess that was PFI, various computerisation projects, the defence spending black hole (note the crocodile tears of Labour about the BAE job cuts - whose fault again?) tax credits and the overall atmosphere of throwing money at anything and everything as a panacea for the nation's ills.
- Today, in his speech Forrest talked about how things have gone wrong, with people getting something for nothing while the 'hard working majority' (what a hard working phrase that is) are punished. Well duh! say the public. That was what we were saying during your tenure only to be branded as racist or whatever other insult Alistair Campbell could think of that week for challenging the Labour line. We only have to look at the farcical events at Dale Farm to see what happens when an entitlements culture without responsibility gains ground. That is Labour's only real legacy.
- But most of all, the reason that Forrest is regarded with such disdain by the public is that they can see him for what he is: a student politician and political dweeb who is a chip off the Brownite block - a man who yearns for power and is prepared to knife his own flesh and blood to get it but has no new ideas for what to do with it. All that he is trying to accomplish is a rebranding of the party. It's a coat of paint on an old and tired edifice.
- By now people can see through the spin and the poverty of ideas. Spin and soundbites were all that Labour ever really did well. Once the money ran out and the public saw through the PR what had they got? These are people who say all the right things in terms of soundbites about equality, eradicating poverty, fairness and the like but who have no real solutions to these perennial problems save for spending money. That is why their default response to the grave economic crisis we are currently in is to spend more to create growth. That is why Ed Balls cannot bring himself to admit that they spent too much money. What else would he be able to say otherwise?
We have become accustomed by now to the fact that Forrest jumps on every bandwagon and is scathing - or at least as scathing as his nasal tones allow - about government failings. But it is at times like these that public opinion of him is vindicated. This is an empty vessel, a politician who has never had a real job and is as disconnected from the people whom he purports to represent as the well heeled Tories opposite him. This is the modern day Labour Party, a metropolitan elite who believe they know what is best for the working classes despite the fact they have never done a proper day's work in their lives and live in leafy north London surrounded by people who claim to have a social conscience. It's beyond parody. Perhaps that's why the Labour Party elected a man who is so easy to parody and who looks and sounds as clueless and other worldly as he is proving he is in his speech. On balance we were all done a massive favour by whoever pulled the plug and denied the nation a chance to hear the speech.
Monday, 26 September 2011
If you want to know how the western world got into the mess from which we are currently trying not very successfully to extricate ourselves, you need only look at the Labour Party conference and indeed last week's Lib Dem affair.
This is the kind of politics that lives in a dream world of ever higher spending funded by taxes which are of course only levied on the rich and evil bankers and which believes that jobs and economic growth can be assured by this ever higher spending and that the higher taxes have no consequence. This is why, when allied to counterproductive welfare policies and endless entitlements handed out as election bribes, we in the west have become so hopelessly uncompetitive at providing the kinds of goods and services we used to export to the world. It is why unemployment remains high and poverty increases as does the wealth gap. It is why any attempts to spend our way out of this mess are doomed to failure (as has already been demonstrated in America where they have gone Keynes crazy and unemployment remains sky high with the economy flat lining). Government in the long term cannot create jobs which generate wealth. What it can do is create the conditions which discourage new investment and encourage existing employers to look elsewhere or can take a more enlightened approach to debt and thrift. Today we saw that Labour, like Barack Obama, has its head stuck in the sand. Interestingly, over in Ireland, they have not adopted Greek style whingeing about their predicament. They have got on with trying to work their way out of the problems. The Irish economy is growing, despite all of that debt and the austerity. How do the Keynesians explain that one?
The only way to extricate ourselves from our current predicament is not by waving magic wands as politicians like Ed Balls would have us believe. It is by doing what the Irish are doing rather than trying to take illusory easy options. That means hard work at reducing costs, raising productivity and making products better that the world wants to buy. It is how Germany, Japan and South Korea have prospered, albeit with their own specific problems. But how would we love to have their problems right now.
The boom that Balls and Brown presided over and used to boast about was one generated with borrowed money. They used to talk about fiscal rules then too before abandoning them when the going got tough. The only time during their tenure when they did run the economy responsibly and did not have to bend their own rules and bully Treasury officials into fiddling the figures to create a smokescreen, was at the start of their first term when they stuck to Tory spending plans. After that they let rip. Now we are all paying the consequences and Labour has the brass neck to pretend that it would be different if they were still in charge. Or was their plan all along to run up debts and ask those nice Germans to pay them back for us?
European politicians are at last admitting what we have all known for months, that Greece is going to have to default on its debts. Yet here in Britain Labour still has not learned, they still deliberately confuse the deficit and the debt, they still conjure up fiddled figures and promise growth that they simply cannot deliver to pay back the nation's worn out credit card and keep talking about cuts which they will not define and promise ever higher spending that they cannot fund. They tell us they want to win back their economic credibility. Yet the only time they had it was before we realised the scale of their deception and delusion at the end of the last century.
Friday, 23 September 2011
What do all of the Green Meanies, those people who call we sceptics climate change deniers with such scorn, think about the news that CERN may have discovered that the speed of light may not, after all, be the cosmos's speed limit? Talk about consensus. There actually isn't one for man made climate change, despite what we are often told, but if this astonishing discovery turns out to be vindicated it will rather hole below the water line any arguments about scientific consensus being the be all and end all, the proof of the pudding, QED. There really is a bona fide, 100% consensus where Einstein's Special Theory is concerned. The speed of light is (at least for the moment) regarded as top speed by more or less everyone. The 100 year consensus, unchallenged since the theory was first published, could after all have been wrong.
There have been many such stories throughout scientific history, pioneers have been laughed at, ridiculed, ruined and only vindicated on their death beds or long after. It's true of all of the sciences from geology to medicine, from chemistry to physics. The BBC (especially the excellent BBC4) on average shows at least one programme a week telling the tale of scientific geniuses who were ignored only to be proven right. Yet the BBC is one of the worst offenders for telling us that scientific consensus means that the rest of us should shut up. If you add to this troubling state of affairs those of us who were sceptical of European monetary union who are being spectacularly vindicated by this week's events, you can even add the dismal science of economics to the list above. Consensus means nothing. Expertise is often wrong. We are only as good as the evidence and that, not opinion, is what science is all about.
And this is the big one. If it turns out that this consensus is wrong then all bets are off. This one is the golden rule, the fact we thought we could teach without ever needing to update that part of the text books. It will be yet another mystery about the universe and the weird world of quantum mechanics which will leave physicists scratching their heads and having to dream up silly concepts like dark energy and dark matter to explain away what ought not to be happening. If we are wrong about this then the universe is an even stranger and exciting place than we thought. Causality is called into question. We might as well all become philosophers.
Now I, as a layman, could never really understand why light had to be the universe's top speed. But I would not claim to have had great vision or foresight. If I'm honest I only want this new inconvenient discovery to be true because it would suddenly make the universe a whole lot more interesting and great deal less lonely. Suddenly being visited by ET would be more likely and we could go on a Star Trek to a galaxy far far away. We could even go back in time and tell our younger selves not to be so stupid or to ask out that girl rather than just lusting after her in her gym pants.
But the best part of this, if it turns out to be true, is that it gives science a reality check. Now, when people say that the science is settled, we will no longer have to talk about the consensus over the flatness of the earth, stomach ulcers or Newtonian Physics, now we may be able to talk about Einstein himself and all who followed him as being wrong for more than a century. Stick that up your consensus.
Friday, 16 September 2011
The reason, we keep being told, why Greece cannot possibly be allowed to default on its debts or reschedule them so that they become a little more affordable and manageable, is that the effect of this on the banks which hold much of this debt (often because they were told to, as sovereign debt is supposed to be a secure and conservative form of investment) around Europe and the wider world would be devastating - a Lehman Brothers multiplied by 1000.
Consequently, conventional wisdom has it, we must keep lending Greece ever more money they cannot possibly afford to pay back in order to save the world from another devastating banking implosion. It's the kind of logic unique to economists and politicians. Pile ever more debt on debt in order to save a nation drowning in debt. It's rather like the 'solutions' offered by left wing politicians and union leaders such as the hilariously sad looking and out of touch TUC congress this week. It's an article of faith that spending money begets jobs and kick starts economies. The fact that it has demonstrably failed to do this, not least in America, is conveniently ignored. The alternative after all is that politicians have to admit that they are powerless to create the jobs end benign economic environment they promise with such abandon. Ultimately all they can do is ameliorate the situation or of course make it a lot worse. We are in that phase now in Europe and in America; bad policy and wilful ignorance leading to chaos and the very problems they claim to be curing.
The problems of the Euro are another example of this kind of wilful blindness, of politicians being unwilling or unable to see what everyone else can see, even economists. The Euro is broken and in exactly the way that so many of us unswayed by this peculiar European vision of ever closer union said that it would be. Saying that it isn't and blaming the markets is not working and cannot work. Real solutions must be offered and these will involve admitting mistakes, and, to misquote Churchill, offering only blood on the carpet, years of austerity, tears and sweat. What is not an option is to keep shovelling money to Greece in the hope that the problem - chronic debt - will somehow disappear under a mountain of money and wishful thinking.
So why not cut out the middle men? Why not simply recapitalise the banks that are holding this debt which so imperils them and us and then, once market panic has subsided, start working on a more long term plan to solve Greece's problems, up to and including kicking them out of the Euro or, if our alleged leaders are brave enough, continuing the path of ever closer union that they seem so unwilling to admit to their reluctant electorates by centralising all of that debt along with fiscal controls?
The problem with the Euro has always been that it was a political project in defiance of economic logic, running ahead of popular consent and political honesty. The same is true even while we all hover on the precipice of a double dip into recession/depression. The German people, not unnaturally, are resistant to sending ever more money in the direction of the feckless and other worldly Greeks. If only their leaders had the same sense. But perhaps German politicians will have more success convincing their people that a functioning banking system might be useful, especially if that will mean playing hardball with those in southern Europe who are holding the north to ransom.
There is a way out of this debacle. It's not an easy one and will require a great deal of political mea culpa and maybe even some partial dismantling of the great Euro dream. But since it has become, entirely predictably, a nightmare endangering us all and promising the real prospect of a return to the 1930s, both economically and politically, that is the very least we should expect from those who created this mess through wishful thinking.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Today, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is a day of commemoration and reflection, of remembering what happened, of its profound effect on all of our lives and on the world we live in. I'm here covering the event which, like most people, I remember all too well, albeit at the time only from a distance.
It's probably too early to say whether the events of that appalling day will have long lasting consequences. I would suspect not. They resonate because they were so shocking and appalling, an outrageous act of nihilistic violence by people who claimed to have profound and pious intent but were actually just very immature, pathetic nobodies whose only hope of making a mark on the world was in an act of destruction.
But long term I suspect that 9/11, now that this anniversary has come and gone, will come to be seen as an aberration. It shocked us out of our complacency and woke us up to what our fellow man is capable of when they imagine they have a grievance. It also woke us up to how delicate civilisation can be, of how close we all are to anarchy if only a few of us step out of line. In a similar way the riots of last month in the UK revealed the same thing. It doesn't take many people to create chaos and misery for the majority. It is, however, incumbent upon that majority to speak out and, on occasion, to act to defend our lives and livelihoods. That is why it is and remains so dangerous when certain people try to excuse aberrant behaviour, telling the rest of us it is partially our own fault.
And that is why we should also start speaking out about the idiotic conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11, an event that we all saw with our own eyes before then, just as with all such events, trying to rewrite history through the prism of our own prejudices. At first it was the Left telling us that it was all because of Western foreign policy. It wasn't long before oil was mentioned. Then the internet got to work, and told us that actually a plane had not flown into the Pentagon or crashed in a field after an act of great bravery and heroism on the part of passengers who knew their likely fate, that those towers and other buildings did not collapse on their own, that it was all a huge conspiracy to achieve who knew what.
And do you know what? A surprising, stunning number of people buy this crap. Without any expertise whatsoever, they claim to know that those buildings were demolished, they take news reports and single words and claim it as definitive proof of their ludicrous claims. A plane hit the Pentagon and created only a small exit hole and this is suspicious apparently, especially as the CCTV is of low quality - ignoring the fact that most CCTV is like that - and that many people saw the plane hit with their own eyes. But it also ignores the fact that two planes hit the Twin Towers, in full view of the world, and neither came out the other side having disintegrated just like the Pentagon plane. Nobody questions that because they can't. The pictures were too good.
Similarly the buildings collapsed in a way that looked, to people who have only the television to guide them, like a controlled demolition. But that has been explained ad nauseum as the product of a high intensity fire that fire fighters were prevented from reaching and which weakened the structure of the steel which held up those buildings. Engineers and scientists have confirmed this. What about the explosions or the puffs of smoke and air seen escaping? Duh! A 100 storey building was collapsing, expelling air and anything else as it did so. And things exploded. Of course they did. What do you expect?
But still the wackos on the internet won't have it, and still people type into Google and take their word rather than those who were there or who know what they are talking about. If ever you question the state of education in this country, just take a look at these theories, at the people who advance them without recourse to logic or evidence. Schools these days are supposed to encourage critical thinking. It seems they forgot to mention the need for evidence rather than blind prejudice based on a 'gut instinct.'
I'm sure I'm not alone in finding all of this infuriating and offensive. I have got into some very angry arguments with people this week, all of whom believe what they want to believe in much the same way that the religious do, using similar specious, reductio ad absurdum arguments, inexpert experts, cherry picked quotes and circumstantial evidence. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, of our increasing unwillingness to accept the word of the authorities, to always assume that everyone but ourselves is on the take, corrupt and out for themselves. As we remember the events of that horrendous day 10 years ago and proof of man's ever greater capacity for evil commensurate with better and better technology, let's hope that the conspiracy theorists take a good long look at themselves too. The events of that day were bad enough. Your behaviour and credulous stupidity just makes matters worse. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
We on this side of the Atlantic could perhaps be forgiven for feeling a little smug today after seeing the latest debate between leading Republicans. It would seem that it is now de rigeur if standing for that party to express doubts or downright hostility about evolution. Perhaps the people of America should ask themselves if they really want as their president someone who wilfully ignores 150 years of overwhelming evidence so as to tell people what they want to hear rather than showing some bravery and leadership by telling them to grow up and get real and accept the world the way it is rather than the comforting version they would like it to be.
Then again we in the UK at least cannot afford to be too smug. We have the unelected Prince of Wales expressing more of his ill informed opinions and gaining headlines for no obvious reason. Charles seems to think that the human race is about to become extinct - well it's a new approach, albeit one that might surprise those of us struggling to find a decent home in a world with a burgeoning population.
Yes that renowned expert on all things environmental and living frugally is opining again about the disastrous path we are currently set upon and which we must draw back from before disaster strikes. Even the Green Meanies wish he would shut up. He's not helping their cause and none of them are above gross exaggeration, name calling or even telling outrageous lies to try and bully us all into seeing things their way.
The dopey prince has form in this respect. The last time he spoke out was around the time of yet another climate conference for which he prepared by flying around South America in a private jet so that he could see things for himself. He really does have that high an opinion of his own insights. He then warned that we had about 18 months to save the Earth from run away global warming. That was about 18 months ago.
Perhaps Clarence House has its own micro climate, but those of us who have to worry about the cost of gas and electricity could have sworn that last winter we suffered bad snowfalls again when we were once told that such pleasures were a thing of the past. We have also just endured yet another lousy British summer with more wind and rain to come in the coming days. Yes I know that weather is not climate but, given that the runaway climate change keeps refusing to happen and given the stubborn insistence of our weather to be cold and miserable year after year, perhaps we might start to wonder if something is awry with the theory our politicians and idiot royals are so reliant upon.
Some on the Left are trying to connect the Republican tendency to be sceptical about evolution with their scepticism about climate change. The difference of course is that there is evidence aplenty for evolution which some prefer not to enquire about. The evidence for man-made climate change and the disasters we keep being promised is more or less non existent. Instead they are forced to talk about scientific consensus. Yet, just like the creationists, they conveniently ignore the fact that science has a long and ignominious history of consensus, only for the consensus to be proven wrong. That's why it's best to rely on evidence.
So when you see smug lefties, Green Meanies and ridiculous royals lecturing us about our environmental sins and talking patronisingly about those who are anti science, they are actually as bad as those they seek to be so dismissive of. Religion has created a culture of cognitive dissonance in large parts of the Republican Party. But how is that different from those who stick so rigidly to their belief in man made global warming and ignore the wealth of evidence which at least casts doubt upon the great god who had to change his name to climate change? Prince Charles at least has the excuse that he's not terribly bright and eschews the company of people who might disagree with him. What about those who resort to name calling and appeals to authority rather than proper scientific debate?
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Given the gap since the last session, there was a sadly lengthy list of servicemen to be remembered at the start of today's session. Both Dave and Forrest adopted their gravest tones, Forrest in particular rattled his recently re-engineered adenoids, lowered his voice by a semitone or two Margaret Thatcher style and tried to sound statesmanlike. Unfortunately it tends to contrast with his voice when he starts asking questions and sounds like a sixth former again.
Forrest started his questions on the subject of police elections. Quite why Labour are so opposed to this idea is a mystery, especially given the events of last month and the ongoing debate about the state of our police and whether they are sufficiently accountable and flexible. Surely, when the recent riots were sparked by police not talking to aggrieved communities, it is a good idea to make them more accountable. But as usual Labour are trying to be opportunistic and simply talk about cuts and spending priorities. Is democracy not a spending priority?
Forrest tried his usual trick of summing up for us what he wished Dave had said before then changing subject. It was all rather clunky and clumsy however and made him look shifty and desperate
He then moved on to the NHS, no devil in the detail question this week which comes as a surprise given it's success in the last session. We then got an exchange of statistics and not much else. Dave pointed out, not unreasonably that Forrest, in the wake of Alistair Darling's book publication, preferred not to mention the economy. It was a fair point. But by and large this was a low key opener with neither Dave or Forrest on top form. Dave just about shaded it because he swatted away Forrest's ill judged and ineffective attacks with such ease.
The highlight of the day was in fact the above moment, when the House for just a few moments became a Carry On film, commenting wryly on Nadine Dorries' alleged frustration. Since she used to be a nurse, they seemed to be imagining her in a Hattie Jacques type role. In fact she was saying, as are many Tory backbenchers, that, like Hattie, they want to be wooed for once rather than the Lib Dems. Dave took the opportunity of the ribaldry not to answer, rather than tell Ms Dorries that she can be as wude as she likes with him, as per the classic line.
But worse than that it is self defeating. As has been demonstrated time and time again, raising taxes to these kind of punitive levels cuts our tax income because people resent it and take measures to avoid them, either by offshoring their money, using other ruses, or of course ultimately offshoring themselves and their money to more enlightened tax regimes. That affects us all, because the richest 1% pay more than a quarter of our taxes.
Cutting taxes for the richest will never be popular, even if it is demonstrably fair and sensible economically. The government should have got it out of the way at the outset, without relying on a Brown like study to justify themselves. Now, as recommended by a letter from 50 economists in today's FT, they should get on with it as part of a wider package of tax cuts to try to boost the economy. By all means include in such a package measures that take more of the low paid out of the tax paying bracket altogether, but the 50p bracket was always just political gesture politics, a bear trap laid by Labour which the Conservatives have not had the guts to consign to the bin where it belongs.
Monday, 5 September 2011
When the riots took place last month, there were various theories put forward to explain them and in some cases exuse them. My theory, in common with many, was that this was criminality, opportunistic mayhem and thieving capitalising on a stretched and confused police force or forces who couldn't win however they chose to react. Others of course, mostly on the left, have sought to blame the usual suspects: poverty, deprivation, lack of resources, lack of employment, racism and the like. By and large though, public opinion seems to be with those of us on the right who were shocked and appalled and a little embarrassed at this outbreak of nihilistic lawlessness and then by those who chose to excuse it.
But now here is another possible reason. Perhaps this outbreak of lawlessness dressed up as protest was in part thanks to the tendency of those on the left to only respect the rule of law when they happen to agree with it. The same people who are rightly disgusted by the revelations that our security services may have colluded in torture in various parts of the world in the alleged fight against terrorism see no contradiction when they agree with those doing the law breaking. That was how the UK Uncut protests won their applause as they invaded businesses, caused criminal damage and all because those businesses were, perfectly legally, avoiding tax.
Now we are seeing the same or similar people demanding that the travellers who no longer travel and wish to stay permanently on Dale Farm in Essex despite having ignored the planning laws should be indulged by the rest of us. Why? Oh it's because of poverty, deprivation, racism and the like. It's not just because they saw their opportunity and broke the law knowing that there was every chance that they would get away with it and that lawyers and lefties would find some way to excuse and condone them.
Dale Farm will be cleared on 19th September in a huge operation that will cost us all millions. There will almost certainly be violence and piteous pleading by those who only respect certain laws and pay lip service to democracy as and when it suits. Is it any wonder that young rioters may have gained the impression that law and order and the forces of law and order are in fact just the starting point for discussion, that the law is something flexible which can cheerfully be ignored if one's rights or sensibilities are offended?
Let's hope that the next time Vanessa Redgrave goes on holiday or perhaps travels to defend some no longer itinerant travellers some of those squatters invade her house. I'm sure she'll be delighted to hear that this is a civil matter and that there is nothing the police can do about it.
Sunday, 4 September 2011
It's hard to see, on one level, why the memoirs of Alistair Darling are featuring so prominently in the news today. Surely they just tell us what we already knew, that Gordon Brown was a vile and unpleasant man, given a job he was tragically unsuited to do and for which he had no clear ideas. The stories about his temper, interference, disastrous indecisiveness and borderline psychosis were entirely true. Indeed, as the vow of omerta is progressively broken, the more we can only look on in wonder at how this man became our prime minister without even having to face a challenge.
Brown's behaviour made government chaotic and, to choose a phrase, unfit for purpose. Brown couldn't make decisions, didn't trust most of his senior ministers, was tragically reliant on Ed Balls for economic advice (yet recently felt himself the ideal candidate to be IMF chief) and his insistence on control and his own special version of government statistics meant that even annual Budgets were thrown together at the last minute, rather like in the U.S recently, except this was infighting within the same party.
Yet, crisis after crisis, Labour balked at removing him from power. Met by an immovable object they chose to not even try. Where once men in grey suits would have visited Brown and advised him to fall on his sword for the good of the country, they chose to form a circle around him and pretend that all was well and that rumours to the contrary were just tittle tattle.
So why does this all matter? Well it's entertaining for a start and is the very least that the delusional Brown deserves as he tries sulkily to repair his reputation, occasionally (very occasionally) making speeches in Parliament as he attempts to rewrite history. But it also speaks to the judgement, behaviour and morality of people who even now aspire to be in government once again and refuse to accept that they got things wrong, particularly economically. That Ed Balls is that party's choice as Shadow Chancellor tells us all we need to know about their state of denial about their own culpability and a complete failure to acknowledge the damage they have done with 13 years of failed policies of tax and spend.
Friday, 2 September 2011
Television producers, as we all know, are a peculiar species. Ever wondered why television presenters are so spectacularly irritating, stupid or banale? It's because some television producer thinks that their various idiosyncrasies are manna from televisual heaven. This is why our screens are full of pretty but vacant totty (both male and female) who couldn't deliver a funny line if given a lifetime of coaching by Eric Morecambe. It's why our screens are full of the likes of David Dickinson, Tim Wonnacott, Chris Hollins, and Jenny Bond, not to mention the entire on air presentation team for T4. It's why BBC weather forecasts, complete with their ridiculous and spectacularly uninformative graphics, are now presented by the likes of the bland Liam Dutton rather than the entertaining and interesting Rob McElwee.
Every once in a while however producers do get it right. It's probably a bit like playing the lottery - if you play long enough, and often enough, and keep chancing your luck, you're bound to win something in the end. This has been proven by the discovery of the wonderful Dr Lucy Worsley, whose programmes on BBC4 about the Regency period are a rare gem.
Lucy is one of those historians who exudes enthusiasm for her subject but manages to do it on screen without appearing insincere or hammy. Not for Lucy the bizarre histrionics and mannerisms of the Starkeys or the Schamas, not for Lucy the purposeful striding across battlefields. Lucy is more understated. For her a wry smile suffices, or perhaps a raised eyebrow or two. It's strangely appealing.
Part of the reason for this is that she is in many ways an old fashioned presenter, the sort that would once have presented mainstream, highbrow programmes for the BBC in the 60s and 70s. She has the accent, the speech defect, and the slightly other worldly air for which academics were once renowned before they started getting all left wing, and angry. I for one could watch her all night. Thankfully, since this is on BBC4 and they show their programmes half a dozen times a week, this is actually possible.
I don't think I'm alone in finding myself a little in love with the wonderful Lucy and her jolly hockey sticks demeanour. I know this because, when searching for the photo of her above, Google offered me various other options as a search. High amongst them was Lucy Worsley husband/partner. It seems she has captured the attention of a large part of the BBC4 audience. Well, 50 per cent of it anyway.
For those of you who have been asking, Lucy is not married. She does however have a long term partner.