Monthly Archives: August 2010

My summary of Tony Blair’s memoirs

I don’t expect any shocks or revelations from Blair’s memoirs. His book is likely to full of the usual guff,

1. Je ne regrette rien

2. Why neo-liberalism is good

3. Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace (repeated ad nauseum)

4. I am a god

5. I admire Thatcher

6. Dubya and I were equals

7. Britain is a much better place because of me

8. Me me me!

There I’ve saved you the trouble of reading it and giving him money that he clearly doesn’t deserve. Besides, the best thing that one can do when faced with a narcissist is to ignore them.

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There’s a bad smell around here. Oh…it’s Peter Mandelson!

Peter Mandelson is like Banquo’s ghost: he’s always hanging around making trouble and stirring things up.  Today, he fired a warning shot over Ed Miliband’s bows by telling the Murdoch media that Labour risked heading down an “electoral cul-de-sac” if the party turned its back on its recent Nu Labour past. He also gave his blessing (or Mafioso kiss of death) to David Miliband.

He said Ed, the younger of the Miliband brothers, would take Labour back to the past by appealing to only the party’s “core” supporters.

“If you shut the door on New Labour you’re effectively slamming the door in the faces of millions of voters who voted for our party because we were New Labour,” he told the Times.

To be honest, Mandelson is deluded: the party turned its back on its core support the moment it abandoned Clause 4 and began to woo so-called Middle England. When it did this, those people who voted Labour felt alienated and betrayed; the party was continuing the policies of the Thatcher government by refusing to build new council homes and refusing to repeal the anti-union legislation that was enacted in the 1980’s.

Of all those associated with the Nu Labour neo-liberal project, Mandelson was seen as one of its chief architects. Alongside Tony Blair, it was Mandelson’s job to schmooze the wizards and alchemists of the Cittie of London, the captains of industry and  the Murdoch press (he still has quite a fondness for Murdoch). Indeed, the Nu Labour project has Mandelson’s fingerprints all over it.

What is richly ironic is this from Sky News,

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, criticised former leader Neil Kinnock and former deputy leader Roy Hattersley for attempting to “hark back to a previous age” by supporting the more left-wing of the brothers.

It was Kinnock who welcomed Mandelson into the party as a spin doctor in the 1980’s. This marked the very beginning of Nu Labour. It is ironic that Mandelson should attack Kinnock and then have a swipe at Hattersley, who was never seen as a left winger by anyone. Though, in fairness, Hattersley for all his sensibilities,  was pretty much to the left of Blair. Of course that isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do; even the very dead Ramsay MacDonald was to the left of Blair!

Finally,

Asked if he would want Lord Mandelson in a future shadow cabinet, Ed said he believed in the “dignity of retirement”.

Yep, I agree, it’s time for Mandelson to climb back into his coffin and leave us all alone.

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Hypocrisy, AV and the illusion of proportional representation

The Lib Dems and their allies in the Take Back Parliament movement are a deluded bunch.  They continue to delude themselves that AV is a stage on the road to real proportional representation.  Of course we know that this isn’t true at all; it’s another illusion that has been designed to give the appearance of the possibility of a fair voting system. This Lib Dem blogger whines that Labour are now “hypocrites” because they no longer support the Yes camp on the forthcoming referendum on the Alternative Vote system (AV).

At the 2010 general election they supported immediate legislation to change the electoral system to AV. A few weeks later they now oppose it- on the grounds that the Lib Dems and the coalition are for it.

Actually, the coalition doesn’t support it;  the biggest support comes from the Lib Dems. This BBC article says,

The Lib Dems insisted on electoral reform as the price of forming a coalition with the Conservatives, even though most Tories, including party leader David Cameron, oppose it.

These naive folk believe that referendum will be “fun”.

The campaign to ditch Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of the Alternative Vote will be “fun,” its organisers have promised.

Of course the Yes to AV camp has been linked to the Lib Dems

He said the Yes to AV campaign was also keen to counter the impression that it will be a Liberal Democrat “front” organisation – stressing it will be a cross-party, non-partisan organisation and not run out of the Lib Dems’ Cowley Street headquarters as some bloggers have claimed.

Too late, the campaign is dominated by the Lib Dems because who else would be so hopelessly naive to support such a bad compromise? It was the Lib Dems who decided, somewhat naively to go into coalition with the Conservatives when they could have propped up the Tories with a confidence and supply arrangement instead.

In spite of what the Lib Dem blogger said, Ed Miliband is in favour of AV but offers a proviso,

EM: Yes. I am in favour of AV and will campaign for it if there is a referendum. But the Coalition is giving political reform a bad name by spatchcocking together with the AV referendum a naked attempt to gerrymander the parliamentary boundaries.

Miliband the Elder sings from the same hymn sheet,

DM: I strongly support political reform and I would support a system of AV but I do not support the Bill in its current form. I think it makes little sense to introduce reform for the Commons without introducing PR for the House of Lords. The Lib Dems are giving parliamentary reform a bad name.

The coalition have complained bitterly that Labour’s accusation of gerrymandering is a smear but as this Conservative blogger indicates, the fear of gerrymandering existed before the General Election,

Labour and the Lib Dems have completely lost touch with what the public want. They want a general election now to clean up Parliament by electing a new set of MPs. They do not want the existing lot to vote for a referendum on gerrymandering the voting system. Let us not forget that Labour and the Lib Dems were the parties who promised a refendum on the EU Constitution and reneged on that as they thought they might lose. These parties cannot be trusted.

Hypocrites, eh? You don’t know the meaning of the word.

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David Miliband: forget our history, we’re middle class warriors now!

I was reading in The Independent that E. Miliband has been criticized by his brother for “preaching to Labour’s traditional supporters rather than reaching out to middle-class voters”. More proof if proof were needed that D. Miliband is happy to continue as Blair Mk II should he become leader.

As the brothers’ battle for the Labour leadership becomes increasingly bitter, the Shadow Climate Change Secretary will reject David Miliband’s suggestion that he would shift the party back towards Old Labour if he wins the contest.

So what is so bad about reaching out to traditional Labour supporters?  Is it because they find the working class embarrassing? Is it because Labour really has become a sort of Tory-lite and are more interested in appeasing middle class anxieties than those of the working class? Perhaps it’s too many summers spent in Tuscany and living in Islington that’s affected D. Miliband’s thinking. No wonder parties like the BNP are appealing to working class voters: Labour doesn’t care about them and nor does the Tory Party (Hon Gid made that clear with his budget).

It looks as though Miliband Junior has changed his tack because of his brother’s harsh words.

“We must have the courage to change, the confidence to know that our values, when applied to the challenges of Britain in the modern world, can reconnect with those who have turned their backs on New Labour.”

Ah, it’s all about ‘change’….anyone would think the word carried any real meaning these days. If Blair II is bad, just have a think about Ed Balls for a moment; he looks like a man possessed. Seriously, there is something wrong with the man. I wonder if he’s collegiate?

The Daily Mirror has an altogether different take. Apparently the two bothers haven’t seen each other for weeks.

Banging the desk, he all but accused David of being trapped by the right-wing press into thinking only a move to the right would see Labour back in power.

“I don’t think that will work,” he said. “I don’t think the Blair formula will work for the future. Of course we have to appeal to the middle class and the working class but if we think reheating the formulas of the 90s will get us back in power then we are completely wrong.

“Trapped by the right wing press” is very telling, since most of the country’s newspapers are in the hands of Tory-supporting proprietors and Blair II wants to follow his mentor by sucking up to them. As for Miliband the Elder, The Honorable Tobes thinks he’s great,

In his speech on Wednesday, David Miliband put clear blue water between him and the other candidates, tacitly admitting that the state grew too large under his New Labour predecessors and acknowledging the need to cut the deficit. He invoked the spirit of Rab Butler, the Conservative politician who was instrumental in persuading his party to embrace the reforms of the Attlee government, suggesting that Labour should not oppose the Coalition’s radical overhaul of public services. He even hinted that he wouldn’t try and reverse Michael Gove’s education reforms, saying he was in favour of “a diversity of schools that drives innovation and improvements”.

He’s practically wetting himself here. He continues,

That’s clinched it for me, obviously. Free Schools will only survive in the long term if they’re embraced by the Labour Party. But even if I wasn’t trying to set up a parent-sponsored Academy, this speech would still have won me round. The quality I admire most in politics is courage and it took guts for David Miliband to reject the sentimental attachment to the state that is still such a core characteristic of his party.

It’s all  me, me, me with Hon Tobes.  If Labour members vote Blair II as their leader, they can kiss their core support goodbye. In fact, I would urge core Labour voters to abandon Labour and vote for a proper left wing party. The only problem with that idea is that under the current electoral system there is no choice:  the electorate has a limited menu to choose from and none of the parties on the menu are worth voting for – especially if you happen to be working class.

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The Tory response to the IFS report: shoot the messenger and then kill his extended family

There’s an old saying, “if you don’t like the message then shoot the messenger”. And so it is with this coalition. When the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)  report on the Honorable Gid’s emergency budget was presented, it didn’t take long for the usual suspects to start complaining of some sort of ‘left wing conspiracy’. One commenter on this blog described it as “Daily Mail headline-grabbing”.  This is ironic, given that the Daily Mail is a Tory-supporting paper.

Clegg was the first to slam it, complaining that it was “partial”. The usual suspects have  entered the fray to both praisesong Osborne and complain how ‘fairness is ruining Britain’. The first is this article from Policy Exchange bod, Neil O’Brien who also writes for the Daily Telegraph (quelle surprise!). He presents a series of bar graphs (yeah, bar graphs) which he then uses to justify how the poorest in Britain will be ‘better off’. Then he says,

I don’t really want to get into the ins and outs of who is right in these arguments here, which are pretty complicated. Even the IFS admit their claim is fair less clear cut if you look at expenditure rather than income. And everyone knows that the statistics at the bottom end are dodgy and hard to measure. If you believed the stats, lots of households in Britain would appear to be surviving on no income of any kind, benefits or otherwise.

So you admit that you haven’t got a clue then? What makes the statistics at the bottom ‘dodgy’? Is it because those stats undo your argument?

Then he says,

The third problem is even more profound. Free societies like ours are complicated, and difficult to understand or steer. It’s often difficult to predict the effects of any given policy change. Brilliant government wheezes can have disastrous effects, and ideas which were seen as hopeless can end up saving the day.

So there is a possiblity that these changes could have disastrous effects?Policy Exchange man in two-face shocker! But Hannan leaps on this and makes the bold claim,

Neil O’Brien has already done a superb job of demolishing the claim that the last Budget was unfair to the poor. (The BBC, like The Guardian, told us that these claims came from a report by the “respected” Institute for Fiscal Studies, neglecting to mention that the report had been commissioned by a Left-wing pressure group).

Oh yeah? Which “left wing pressure group” is this? The left wing pressure group in question  is  End Child Poverty.  What’s the matter Dan, don’t you want an end to child poverty or do you see child poverty as a ‘price worth paying’? It shouldn’t surprise any of us  that Hannan is against such things. He is a self-confessed fan of Ayn Rand, after all. Yet if this report had been commissioned by say, The Freedom Association (of which Mad Dan is a member), there would be no issue? Not that the Freedom Association would be interested in such an issue. Their raison d’être is, er, something rather vaguely called ‘freedom’.

The ‘rationally self-interested’ Hannan ends his blog by saying,

Wouldn’t a truly “fair” society be one in which welfare budgetsfell, as former recipients were lifted out of dependency?

And how do you propose to “lift people” out of what you call “dependency” when there are no jobs and the gap between rich and poor is getting wider? Are you going to employ them on your estate or maybe your parents will give them job on the family chicken ranch? Hannan’s solution is, in common with so many of his colleagues, to create as Thatcher once said a “nation of entrepreneurs”. Though how everyone in the country could be an ‘entrepreneur’ was never elucidated by Thatcher or any of her acolytes. Of course the other option is to rely on ‘trickle down economics’ to produce non-results. Even Capitalism Magazine says that,

[…] there has never been any school of economists who believed in a trickle down theory. No such theory can be found in even the most voluminous and learned books on the history of economics. It is a straw man.

While that may be the case, it hasn’t stopped the likes of the Tories from claiming that it will produce ‘wealth’ further down the income scale.

This part of the IFS’s report is pretty crucial

The report also questioned the government’s decision to use the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) when calculating certain benefits.

It’s like using GDP to measure a country’s economic performance. GDP does not take into account factors such as unemployment, the black economy and waste. Yet both Tory and Labour governments use it.

This blog from Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home is laughable only for its suggestion that the Tories take a leaf out of Orwell’s 1984. First of all he says, “We should say that we want to help people overcome poverty and not make it more comfortable”. Since when has poverty ever been “comfortable”? Friends, this is the warped mindset that we are dealing with. The whole idea here is to redefine the word ‘fairness’ in the same way that Hannan and his zombie army have attempted to redefine ‘left wing’.

Meanwhile The Independent says that the Budget may have breached equality laws. The mere mention of a word like ‘equality’ will have Dan and his pals foaming at the mouth.

It is looking into complaints that a Treasury website asking the public to suggest where cuts should be made has attracted racist comments. It is also considering the wider impact on women of the proposed cuts. Under the Act, the Commission has power to take “enforcement action”, which could range from encouraging a change of practice to starting a formal inquiry – a move which could delay some of the proposed cuts.

This is the most revealing part of the article,

Justin Webb, the presenter, asked Mr Hoban whether the Treasury had conducted an assessment of how the Budget would affect specific groups, as required under the Act.

The Treasury minister appeared not to know the answer. Mr Hoban stuck rigidly to his brief, insisting: “We went through a very detailed distributional analysis at the time of the Budget, it was the most extensive piece of work anyone has done.

Oops! It looks like someone has messed up.  Have a look at the rest of the ambush interview and decide for yourselves.

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That ‘progressive’ budget and coalition denial

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a report that claims that the coaltion’s  (Tory in actual fact) emergency budget is set to hit the poorest. Of course this has been denied by the government who believe that poor people are a figment of our imaginations or are simply defrauding the less-than-generous benefit system.

The Tories were quite happy to cite (well, cherry-pick) the IFS findings on the public finances before the General Election and used them as a stick to beat up Labour. Now that the IFS has come out with a report that criticizes their cherished plan to kill the poor, they don’t want to know. In fact, they are in denial.  Contrary to their deluded beliefs, child poverty is set to rise.

James Browne, senior research economist with the IFS and co-author of the report, said: “It seems likely that, once changes to other benefits are taken into account, child poverty will go up.”

In his budget, the Honorable Gid said

“the policies in this Budget, taken together, will not increase measured child poverty over the next two years” and that “overall, everyone will pay something, but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionately less than the people at the top. It is a progressive Budget.”

The word “progressive” is being used ironically.  With VAT set to rise in January, the cost of living will rise accordingly. And while there is no VAT on food, the knock-on effect from higher fuel duties will impact on the price of food and other essentials. The only people who will be able to absorb the higher costs are the wealthy.

Here’s what Nick Clegg said about the Budget.

“This time, the richest are paying the most … as a proportion of their income.”

A comedian as well as a liar.

The Guardian’s leader column paints a  stark picture

No minister can read this report and attempt to describe their measures as fair. They are anything but. Nor is it the case that these regressive measures are a one-off. Far from it: the biggest reason the chancellor’s emergency budget is so unfair is because he has permanently pegged benefits to the lower consumer price index (CPI) rather than the old retail prices index (RPI). That may sound technical, but consider this: CPI is currently just above 3%, while RPI is nearly 5%. Now imagine your disability benefits inching up by 3% a year every year rather than 5%: within just a few years that leaves you with a big shortfall. This one fact puts in perspective the recent speculation about how Iain Duncan Smith is fighting for more generous welfare provision – a couple of billion extra does not offset the many billions being taken from society’s support for the poorest. With full access to all the Treasury models, Mr Osborne will have known how much poorer he was about to make some of the most vulnerable members of society – yet he went ahead and did it anyway.

The Lib Dems have acted as the Tories handmaidens. But there are many who are deeply troubled by this. They know they could lose their seats in the next General Election (which could be as early as next year).

Mike Hancock, a former member of the SDP and MP for Portsmouth South said,

“We didn’t sign up for a coalition that was going to hurt the poorest people in society, and I certainly didn’t get elected to do that ever.”

He adds,

“If that fairness is not there, there are some serious questions for the leadership to answer.”

Clegg and the rest of the leadership can expect a rough ride at conference next month. But MPs like Hancock will not cross the floor or split from the party. These are not men of principle rather, they are careerists and opportunists like the rest of them.

Conference season is going to be very lively indeed…but for all the wrong reasons!

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Daniel Hannan: left winger?

Don’t you wish some people would just grow up? There are some people in this world who are old enough to know better but Daniel Hannan isn’t one of those people.

Today he repeats his canard that the BNP is “left wing”. His ‘rationale’ for this is simply because, he says, the horrible BBC is beastly towards the right. Aw, diddums… is poor lickle Danny Boy upset then? Let me tell you something: just because you repeat a lie often enough that doesn’t make it true. Here is his opening line,

There was a snotty, sneering, superior piece about elected sheriffs on Radio 4’s PM programme this evening.

“Snotty”, eh? “Sneering”, huh? He goes on to pour fulsome praise on Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa County Jail in Arizona (hardly the most enlightened state in the union). Arpaio is one of those hardnosed, no nonsense types that reactionaries love; he forces inmates to live in tents; has reintroduced the chain gangand he hates immigrants. The prison has been featured on America’s Toughest Prisons and is often shown on Channel 5 and Sky 3. Dan wants to see Arpaios in this country, so why don’t you? Is it because you’re a soft socialist?

Like many in his party he wants to see elected police commissioners but PM asks serious questions about whether the role should be politicized. Hannan is not amused. Damn and blast the BBC!

You get the idea. Allow people to choose who directs their local police force and you are likely to get racists, half-wits or crooks – often with hilarious redneck names. Just in case we missed the message, the correspondent spelt it out with his closing words: “While popular elections may increase direct accountability, it [sic] doesn’t necessarily lead to better policing”.

Unfortunately the US has more than its fair share of racists and other cranks running sheriff’s departments. This is something that Mad Dan appears to have glossed over (racism doesn’t exist because we’re all white now thanks to the democratizing force of consumerism). He isn’t bothered that this idea hasn’t been thought through properly, he is just convinced that it is a good idea.  He adds,

Some areas might opt for men like Arpaio, though the sheriffs in, say, Vermont, are a very different breed. That’s the beauty of the system: law enforcement reflects the local temper.

Have you ever been to Heanor, Dan? I’d hate to meet a locally elected sheriff of Heanor.  He/she might be a little like PC Savage in this Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch,

As I mentioned above, Mad Dan is upset because the BBC has been ‘beastly’ to the right. Of course, I want to see examples of this ‘beastliness’. Let me ask you this, Dan, if the BNP are ‘left wing’ then does that mean you’re left wing too? Maybe you’re a closet socialist…who’s so far inside the closet that you don’t know day from night and vice versa.

Dan Hannan, a left winger…who’d have thought it?

Finally, here’s an interesting article on Dan’s new hero. It seems Arpaio has used his position to engage in vendettas against his political rivals.

Over the past year, 5 Investigates examined more than two dozen complaints against the sheriff from business owners, government workers, mayors and law-enforcement officials.They claim they spoke out against Arpaio, and shortly after, deputies paid them unwelcome visits.

3 days ago, it was reported that the US Department of Justice was looking to sue Arpaio for his abuse of Latinos.

Is this what we want here? No way!

UPDATE: Two more judges are to sue Joseph Arpaio. This time it’s for defamation and abuse of power. More from this article published 3 December 2010. Here’s a snippet,

PHOENIX (CN) – Two more Superior Court judges have sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio for defamation, and a deputy county manager and a county administrator added complaints of their own, all alleging that Arpaio targeted them for baseless criminal investigations to retaliate for the judges’ court rulings and the county employees work on budget cuts. Four Superior Court judges or retired judges have sued Arpaio this week; the new plaintiffs claim that Arpaio’s actions “constitute the rankest misuse of power against those innocent and powerless citizens that our system of government is supposed to protect.”

The story continues…

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