Monday, May 31, 2010

A few quotes about David Laws

Amusing though I found the David Laws story I did not see any need to write about it. There has been plenty of coverage. In particular, I have been entertained by the sudden outrage expressed by Conservative and Lib-Dim supporters of the Coalition when their blue-eyed boy was shown to have behaved as shabbily as all the people he had castigated in the past. The outrage was not with him but with the journalists who uncovered the story and the people who demanded Mr Laws's resignation. As for the pretence that the whole rather shabby episode was done because the man wanted to keep his same-sex partnership "private", that cannot possibly be taken seriously. Are these people saying that the Lib-Dims are so narrow-minded and intolerant that the unfortunate homosexual members of the party have to hide in corners and fear exposure? I find that hard to believe.

However, I should like to quote from a couple of journalists from newspapers at different points of the political spectrum. First up, is Gerald Warner, a man I find moderately interesting most of the time. He is, however, quite right in the conclusions he draws, most importantly the fact that new politics is awfully like old politics with the establishment, as before, leaping to the rescue of a beleaguered member.
In his reply to Laws’ letter of resignation, David Cameron told him: “You are a good and honourable man.” That is good to know. So, why is he leaving the Government?

The little local difficulty was that Laws, over an eight-year period, had claimed more than £40,000 in expenses, against the parliamentary rules. It seems that further expenses remain to be scrutinised. According to The Daily Telegraph: “He also regularly claimed up to £150 a month for utilities and £200 a month for service and maintenance until parliamentary authorities began demanding receipts. Claims then dropped to only £37 a month for utility bills and £74 a month for his share of the council tax. Claims for service, maintenance and repairs dropped dramatically to less than £25 a month.”

It is fortunate that we are dealing here with a good and honourable man, otherwise some people might put an uncharitable construction on those facts. Cameron went on to say in his reply to Laws: “I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else.” Reading that and the similar drivel that has cascaded out of the establishment over the past 24 hours, one would think that Laws was under some compelling duress to take £40,000 of taxpayers’ money in order to protect his privacy. On the contrary, his privacy was only invaded because he had taken public money.
During one discussion I had about l'affaire Laws with a stalwart member of the Conservative Party and fervent supporter of them being in government the coalition, I was assured that an honourable and, above all, rich man like Mr Laws was most certainly not acting from motives of personal enrichment. Ahem, I asked, what were his motives? Chivalry? Altruism? Love of his country? Belief in small government? Protection of his privacy, I was told. I am afraid that if Mr Laws, for whatever reason, wanted to protect his privacy he need not have claimed any of that money at all, particularly if he is a man of honour and integrity. He is rich and can afford to live in London with or without his partner. Ah, but he was entitled to expenses and he should be praised for not claiming all that he could. Undoubtedly, as a supposed believer in small government and the free economy, Mr Laws has had many severe things to say about the entitlement culture.

The other journalist is media analyst, Roy Greenslade, who makes an obvious point about the outrage expressed by some journalists about the Daily Telegraph's unseemly behaviour.
Journalists, of all people, should beware of blaming the messenger. It's true that I regularly criticise papers for what I perceive to be their failings and for overstepping the mark. But the Telegraph, in possession of documents that showed Laws guilty of a substantial breach of parliamentary rules and standards, was obliged to publish.
Mr Greenslade is a little out of date. He still thinks of journalists as being outside the establishment. Sadly, no. They are part and parcel of what we need to bring to heel.

Happy Tax Freedom Day

Actually, it was yesterday but I did not bother to do much on the computer. So, one day too late: Happy Tax Freedom Day to all in the UK.

The Adam Smith Institute explains it all here, adding that this year TFD came three days later than last year and the huge deficit (not included in the TFD calculations) probably means that the day will be deferred even more next year.

A slightly different show

Here is a short film from Al-Jazeera, as transmitted through MEMRI of those "peaceful" activists on board of the flotilla that was trying to reach Gaza.

Well did you evah?

Yesterday I watched "High Society" again and I still don't like it despite some great numbers, the presence of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm (one of my all-time favourite actresses). To quote a rather silly joke from the film: the plot and its much-trumpeted message stink.

However, here is an absolutely wonderful number. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra abandon all pretence of being other characters and are just themselves in a number that, astonishingly enough, was not written for them but was recycled from a much older Cole Porter show, "DuBarry was a Lady". Well, did you evah?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who could be so heartless as not to laugh?

Just two days after the Boy-King backed down from an unnecessary confrontation with his loyal subjects the 1922 Committee, exactly what he was afraid of happened: the wrong person was elected to be the Chairman. Sigh! They were so much better at ensuring the right results in the dear old unlamented Soviet Union.

The new chairman is Graham Brady, winning far more comprehensively than anyone else has won anything in this Parliament: 126 votes to 85. He is supposed to be more critical of the leadership than his opponent, Richard Ottaway, and first came to everyone's notice when he expressed an opinion over the desirability of grammar schools back in 2007. Also, he appears to think that the coalition, far from being a thing of joy for ever, has created "difficult circumstances". Hmm. No wonder, the Boy-King tried to prevent his election.

The role of the 1922 Committee and its Chairman is to encourage Caesar to remember that he is mortal. Never a popular role but, as we have seen time and again, it never does to underestimate the 1922 Committee. The Boy-King was wise to back down; he would have been wiser not to create enmity in the first place.

Being reasonable

Open Europe is nothing if not reasonable. For the span of its existence it has provided the rest of us with excellent research - they have the staff dedicated to it - and with plaintive calls for the need to reform the European Union. If only everyone was as reasonable as they are, they imply, there would be none of this mess.

Their hour has come, one might say. After all, we now have a coalition government, led by Tweeedledum and Tweedledee with Dum assuring us that his party wanted to be in Europe but not ruled by Europe.

The actual plan the DumDee coalition produced for their policies on Europe is also in line with a great deal of Open Europe's thinking - sound tough but avoid all difficult problems and never go too far. For instance they do not intend to join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament, which is quite sensible of them, as Britain is no longer eligible for the Euro.

The coalition will also
ensure that there is no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.
Not quite repatriating powers but that promise was in another political era before the new politics of Britain had begun by the new coalition government that will build a new country.

Nothing daunted, Open Europe has produced a number of ... ahem ... "broken promises" from the EU elite on the euro. Actually, most of us would call them lies and, indeed, that is what we called them all at the time. So, we are not altogether surprised by the fact that all those promises were "broken" or, to be quite precise, unfulfillable.

Still, it is nice to have at least some (not very many) of those quotations in one place, so we can refer back to them and quote them in future when the DumDee coalition decides that, well, perhaps, we ought to have a look at the advantages of joining a stable single currency in order not to pay transaction charges (the biggest red herring in that entire debate).

However, Open Europe, bless its good-hearted attitude, is ready to give good advice. If only was as reasonable ... oh I do beg your pardon, I am repeating myself. Anyway, here is the advice:
While it is a reminder that the experts and our elected representatives do get it wrong, more importantly, it is a call for greater honesty about the future of European cooperation and a reminder of the urgent need to find a new model that is both politically and economically sustainable; one that is more in tune with the interests and preferences of European citizens.
Well, here is my advice to Open Europe: why not collect all those suggestions that you made to the EU, its politicians and bureaucrats in one place and call it Tales of Porcine Aviation?

President Barroso pronounces

Let's face it: we have all been waiting to hear it from the head of the real government, Commission President Barroso. As it happens, he has said nothing about my joining the government (a subject on which the Boy-King has also been strangely silent but then he may not be in a position to decide). Probably he is waiting to see how the coalition pans out so I am in with a good chance.

However, he has been making comments about the vague proposals to have another treaty, the one the Boy-King has been threatening with the usual red lines. As the Boss has pointed out, the suggestion that there is going to be a new treaty was always rather vague and unconvincing. This has now been confirmed by President Barroso.

According to Der Spiegel, he has called Chancellor Merkel's suggestions for a new treaty (half-hearted at best) "naive". Fighting words.
Meanwhile, in a further sign of divisions in Europe over how to deal with the euro crisis, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, called Chancellor Angela Merkel's demands for modifications to the EU treaty to enhance control of member states' budgets "naive."

"We will not propose treaty modifications even though we are open to good ideas," Barroso told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published on Tuesday. "It would also be naive to think one can reform the treaty only in areas Germany considers important."

If the treaty were amended to boost economic governance, other member states would want to see modifications in other areas too, said Barroso.

Barroso also questioned Merkel's calls for persistent debt offenders in the euro zone to have their voting rights withdrawn. "When it comes to procedures against countries with excessive deficits, it is already the case under current rules that the member state affected is not allowed to vote. Under constitutional law it would be nearly impossible to do more, in my view," he said.
All very well to have beneficial crises but you do have to work out how to benefit from them and there seems to be a certain lack of ability to work out anything across the European Union, I am glad to say.

A couple of points need to be mentioned. One is that the myriad of organizations, analysts and advisers might like to take note of paragraph 3 in the quote. If one country wants to change the treaty to suit itself, other countries will want changes to suit themselves. That is why the promised repatriation of powers was never going to happen.

Secondly, lack of any treaty is something the Boy-King was fervently hoping for. Consider some other promises he and his mate Nicky have been making.

In the Queen's Speech today there is this sentence:
My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government will introduce legislation to ensure that in future this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union.
Hard to tell what "any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union" means. What of the financial directives? Or the proposed common immigration policy?

Fortunately, we get a clue in that egregious document: The Coalition: our programme for government, subtitled Freedom Fairness Responsibility. How they love those grandiose slogans, to be sure.

In the section on Europe, we read this:
We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that treaty – a ‘referendum lock’. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any /passerelle/ would require primary
The bit about primary legislation is tosh. A good many EU laws are implemented through primary legislation (though even more do not require that). The point is that primary or secondary, it has to be implemented. The British Parliament has no right to reject any EU legislation or regulation.

But, of course, none of this means anything. The promise (not a cast-iron guarantee, I am glad to say) is clear: there will be a referendum on a treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences. Presumably, these will be defined by the government and, after all, there might be a treaty that did no such thing. However, President Barroso seems to think there will be no treaties in the foreseeable future. So the coalition government is safe. There will be no need for a referendum.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The UN should complain

Mind you, it is hard to know to whom exactly the UN, which sees itself as the leading power and force for good in the world, can complain. Maybe at the bar of public opinion. But I definitely think it should complain. Or rather UNRWA should complain.

According to this story:
Gaza terrorists raided a United Nations beachside children’s summer camp Sunday and left death threat warnings for John Ging, the head of U.N. Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) Gaza operations. The attack was reported by the Associated Press but was ignored by most major local and foreign newspapers and web sites. No children were at the camp, which is to open in three weeks.
Given that the purpose of UNRWA is to keep Palestinians in victim mode and hand over large amounts of international aid to their leaders, this seems rather an odd thing to do and Hamas has condemned the raid.
The Ahrar Islamic terrorist group took responsibility for the raid. That group and several other organizations even more extreme than Hamas have charged that the United Nations ruins Muslim values by teaching secular subjects and allowing boys and girls to mingle together. Hamas and other terrorist groups also have attacked Internet cafes, Christian institutions and music stores since the Hamas coup four years ago that resulted in the group's total control over Gaza.
Definitely organizations to whom we should be handing more money.

A detailed report on Al-Jazeera and the BBC.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Looks like the 1922 Committee is fighting back

Tim Montgomerie reports on ToryBoy Blog that the 1922 Committee (whom Conservative Party leaders have underestimated at their peril in the past) are now asking for "clarification" of the rules as, apparently, voted through by the Conservative Party on the Boy-King's demands. The Boy-King, incidentally, cannot be member of the 1922 Committee by definition, so one wonders how he could demand that its rules be changed.

It would appear that the motion that had been voted through was curiously vague (there's a surprise) and, as the Sunday Telegraph wrote yesterday, the constitutionality of the vote is questionable, not to mention the new government's commitment to the promise of returning power to Parliament.

It is at times like this, with a small majority of a hung parliament that backbenchers can have any power, which is, presumably, why there has been a concerted effort to block that before it is too late and the government might find itself being made accountable to their own MPs.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Apologies for the silence

I think I have now sorted out the technology in the sense that there is broadband and wireless in my home. That should make blogging a good deal easier, faster and equally angry.

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful clip from one of the best musicals ever made, Silk Stockings, the Red Blues.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Conflicted attitudes

For some time I have refused to spend money on newspapers, preferring to read my news on the internet. I have not changed my mind but today I bought the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal Europe in order to understand fully the horrors of the EU regulation of hedge funds and the feebleness of the ConLib government while I sat on the tube.

Imagine my surprise when on page 2 of the WSJE I found an article by Simon Nixon, the European editor of the Heard on the Street column, entitled Five reasons to love the coalition. My surmise was correct, the misguided Mr Nixon is telling us to love the ConLib coalition. Hmm, I thought, the curse of Murdoch strikes again. After all, it is rather difficult to love this ramshackle coalition with its hotch-potch of policies from any independent perspective.

So what are those five reasons?

Reason number one is that "the coalition can claim an overwhelming mandate". Excuse me? I don't recall the coalition campaigning let alone being elected. What do I understand?
... the new government has a majority of 80 seats and a 60% share of the popular vote – almost unprecedented levels of support for a democratic
This, Mr Nixon thinks, is so much better than a Conservative government with a small majority, whose instability the City had feared, would have been. What with the crisis in the eurozone and the EU's determination to destroy the hedge funds in Britain, the City has other things to worry about but it may be worth pointing out that the new government has no majority and not electoral support at all. In fact, unlike the last Labour government, it is unelected. The people who voted for the Conservative party did not vote for the electoral reform they are getting, which will put the Lib-Dims, who managed to get fewer votes and seats than the other two main parties, into pole position. What they did vote for was the Conservative promise to repatriate powers, now being reneged on. More fools they, you might say, but that's the way it is. Come to think of it, the Lib-Dims did not vote for the coalition either and are seriously unhappy about it.

Reason number two is that
the coalition's commitment to fiscal consolidation is clearly genuine. Chancellor George Osborne is to set out £6 billion ($9 billion) of spending cuts next week, a down payment on a much more comprehensive spending review later in the year.
Political promises, Mr Nixon, cost nothing and we have yet to see what those (not very extensive) cuts will consist of, in theory and practice. It may be a reason one day for loving this coalition but not yet.

Reason number three is "Mr. Osborne's decision to create a new Office for Budget Responsibility to audit government growth forecasts and fiscal projections", which is "a truly radical step that will boost the credibility of the U.K.'s fiscal framework, so badly undermined by Labour's optimistic forecasts and off-balance sheet chicanery". Do I not recall a promise to reduce drastically the number of quangos that have sucked power away from Parliament? Is the creation of a new quango as one of the first acts of the new parliament quite the way to go about it?
Fourth, the Tories were able to use the coalition deal to dump many poorly-conceived commitments while adopting many sensible Lib Dem policies, including on tax reform, political reform and civil liberties, that will help reinforce the coalition's legitimacy.
Will it really help the coalition's legitimacy to drop the promises for which far more people voted for in favour of the Lib-Dim ideas, which increased their vote by barely one per cent and lost them five seats? I am all in favour of tax reform and civil liberties. In fact, one of the reasons I did not support the Conservative Party was their weakness in those two areas but I hardly think reneging on promises is the right way to legitimate a ramshackle government or to restore faith in politicians.

Mr Nixon elaborates:
The Tory election campaign was so fixated on the voters' desire for "change" that it failed to recognize or respond to the electorate's anger at the way certain groups have been able to manipulate successive governments to cut special deals at the expense of ordinary working people. This was what linked anger over banker bonuses, special tax deals for private equity tycoons and non-doms, parliamentary expenses, the injustices of the benefit system and uncontrolled immigration. The Lib Dems understood this anger far better than the Conservatives and reflecting these aspects of their manifesto in the coalition agenda will be vital to reduce social tensions.
Indeed, the Tory election campaign was rubbish. Sadly, the Lib-Dim one was even worse. The idea that this or any other government can deal with the injustices of the benefit system and uncontrolled immigration (the latter being EU competence and the former often interfered with by the EU and the ECHR) without tackling the biggest of all problems, curiously not mentioned by Simon Nixon, is moonshine.

The fifth reason is that there is likely to be a weak opposition and that will help Tweedledum and Tweedledee to distance themselves from various unpalatable members of their own parties and save the country. I kid you not.

Luckily, the editorial page in the same newspaper is considerably more intelligent. In particular, I recommend this attack on the notion of greenie job creation, so dear to leaders of both parties, that relies entirely on huge state subsidies and/or a large raft of regulation.
Instead of U.N.-grade accounting, Mr. Cameron & Co. might instead look to Spain, where the government did indeed create thousands of "green jobs" with subsidies to the solar industry that totaled €1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2008. But most of those jobs vanished just as quickly after crisis-hit Madrid slashed the handouts. Spanish taxpayers will never see a return on their

With all due respect to Chris Huhne, the Government's Energy and Climate Change Secretary, it's not hard to predict a similar fate for many of the British Government's "investments." If Mr. Cameron really wants to improve the government's energy efficiency, it might be easier to start by killing the cabinet department devoted to climate change altogether.
The trouble is that this government's understanding of the difference between investment and subsidy does not differ a jot from its predecessor's. And that is another reason for not loving the coalition.

Same old, same old

It appears that the colleagues in Brussels are all breathing a collective sigh of relief because the new Conservative (well, ConLib) Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer have turned out to be not so eurosceptic after all. In fact, they are all bending over backwards engaging constructively with the European project (of which this country is part).

Take the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Georgy-Porgy Osborne (well, OK, I'll take him). He has been engaging constructively with the Ecofin by obsequiously going early to the meeting and launching a charm offensive. Those of us with slightly longer than average memories (i.e. beyond last week's media coverage) can recall the charm offensive launched by John Major after the eurosceptic horrors of the Thatcher government and the even bigger charm offensive launched by Tony Blair after the eurosceptic horrors of the Major government. I shall be grateful to any reader who can furnish me with examples of achievements by those charm offensives.

The immediate outcome of Mr Osborne's charm offensive, apart from all those sighs of relief from the colleagues, has been Ecofin's agreement, in the teeth of British opposition to new rules for hedge funds.
Instead the chancellor was praised by EU colleagues for taking a constructive approach, which ended up with finance ministers agreeing to "note the concerns expressed" by the UK, which hosts 80 per cent of Europe's hedge funds.
Well, as long as they noted the concern shown by the country that hosts 80 per cent of Europe's hedge funds, everything is all right. Apparently, the FT sees nothing wrong with the fact that the country with 80 per cent of those hedge funds not only cannot control the regulatory structure but cannot even make its views heard properly among all the other countries, who are all contributing to the control though not to the hosting of the funds. As this blog said over and over again: the real government is in Brussels, regardless of who might win the election.

So, what have we got in return for the charm offensive: ah yes, those concerns have been taken note of and Mr Osborne tells us that there is still much to play for. This, if memory serves (and it does), was the constant refrain of various governments in the past as they surrendered one power after another.

Mr Osborne is clearly going to be spending a great deal of time in Brussels, which is right and proper in the circumstances.
He may be back in Brussels on Friday fighting on another front, this time opposing a suggestion by the European Commission that national budgets be submitted for prior scrutiny by other EU member states. "National parliaments must be paramount," he said. "I'm perfectly happy to discuss details of the Budget with the Commission but only after it has been discussed in parliament."
National parliaments are hardly paramount now. If they were rules passed in Brussels about hedge funds would not matter. Still, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Osborne's charm offensive continues with the same success.

Then there will be other occasions for that constructive engagement:
Rather than fighting a last-ditch battle over hedge funds, Mr Osborne wants to keep his powder dry for a much bigger debate next month over plans to create an EU-wide regulatory system for financial services.

A review of the next seven-year EU budget will begin later in the year, putting Britain and France on course for their regular battles over farm subsidies and the UK's budget rebate.
Oddly enough I do not recall any mention of these battles and opportunities for the charm offensive mentioned during the election campaign or those much-touted TV debates. UKIP, whose leader did talk about the creeping control of the City, was sidelined during the last two weeks of the campaign by the media as it concentrated on the three main parties.

There is, however, one group of people on whom Mr Osborne's charm offensive was wasted: the hedge fund managers. Well, what do they matter? Only the people who bring business and income to this country.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Palestinian homes demolished in Rafah

Yes, it is happening again - Palestinian homes are being bulldozed and we are going to have a new Rachel Corrie as martyr with new plays about her as well as lots of protests and demonstrations in the West. Uh, wait a minute. Israel is not occupying Gaza any more.

Well, no. In fact, the Palestinian homes in Rafah were demolished with some brutality displayed towards the people in those homes by - Hamas. Why? Well, apparently, they were on government land and .... oh, whatever.

I am guessing there will be no demonstrations, no plays, no Western martyrs. Nobody cares about the Palestinians that much. Phyllis Chesler has the story and a few tart comments.

A good idea but ...

My two-day absence from the blogosphere was caused by the need to concentrate on a talk about the lady known as the Russian Mrs Beeton, Елена Молоховец (Yelena Molokhovets), author of a wide-ranging cookery book and domestic manual, published first in Kursk in 1861 and republished till it reached the 29th edition in 1914, which was reprinted in 1917. Thereafter, the story of the book and, indeed, of food in Russia or the Soviet Union, became a little more complicated.

The talk has been delivered to the GB-Russia Society and the article is in progress. I can turn my attention to other matters. In particular, it was good to find out that the promised organization Direct Democracy has now materialized, led by Dominique Lazanski. Inspired by the Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell's book that has been successfully ignored by the Conservative leadership, despite Mr Hannan's repeated assuraces that David Cameron had gone further towards accepting the ideas than any political leader had done since before Hector was a pup, the aim is to "shift power to the citizen".

Can't argue with that, although I tend not to be greatly in favour of more power to local authorities as the possibilities for corruption there are more extensive than at the centre. However, one or two problems remain.

The most recent entry, for instance is about Big Society (the Boy-King's frightening vision) and localism.
Earlier today the coalition government launched their 'Big Society' programme. Based on the idea of 'radical localism' discussed during the coalition talks earlier last week, the Big Society programme aims to to empower citizens and local communities by shifting power from central government to local authorities.

"The Big Society is about decentralising power and empowering communities," said the Prime Minister earlier today.

Direct Democracy thinks that that this is a great start to devolving power to local communities, but does the 'Big Society' programme go far enough? We look forward to seeing exactly how Nick Hurd, the responsible minister, executes the delivery of the programme.
Well, I happen to disagree with Direct Democracy. This sounds to me the usual kind of waffle that entails the creation of "civil society" or "local communities" according to a pattern created by the government. Above all, I dislike that word "empowering". I do not need some jumped-up politician, who gets his power from me (and others, of course) to empower me. What I would like to see is for all those jumped up politicians to butt out and leave already existing communities and organizations to carry on.

Is that what Nick Hurd, the responsible minister will be delivering? Or will he be calling endless conferences with carefully selectged "stakeholders"?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - 1

The concept of international law, which has become so popular in the last few years lacks somewhat in definition. What exactly is international law that Britain is supposed to have broken when it joined the coalition forces that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq? Who defines it, on what basis and who enforces it?

Ask those wide-eyed supporters of international law and they will tell you solemnly that it ought ot be the UN. Do they know anything about the UN, its structure, its various committees? Well, errm, no. But they think it is a lovely idea. All those people getting together in an international or supranational (not too clear on that one) organization to promote peace and happiness. When confronted with the dual problem of the UN - its members and its structure, these people prefer to hide behind emotional platitudes. International must be good, right? Well, no. International and transnational means run by unaccountable international bureaucrats and lawyers. On what basis are these people, who have never managed to sort out the various corruption scandals in the UN and its sub-organizations, are going to create an international legal system that can make judgements about the actions of democratically elected governments (the only ones who are likely to obey)? And who is going to enforce those legal judgements?

There is also the problem of the members. Of the 192 full members of the United Nations rather less than half can be said to be free and democratic with at least a nodding acquaintance with human rights.

Which brings me to the latest news from that wonderful organization: Libya has been elected unopposed to the UN Human Rights Council. UN Watch reports:
Despite the determined efforts of UN Watch and its supporters, Libya won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council today in uncontested elections held at the General Assembly in New York, as did other rights abusing countries including Angola, Malaysia, and Qatar. UN Watch headed a global coalition of 37 human rights groups that fought to defeat the Qaddafi regime's candidacy, with appeals urging the US and the EU to lead an opposition campaign.

In the end, not a single country was willing to speak out against the oil-rich dictatorship. Libya's 155 votes were far more than the required 97, but also the least received of today's 14 candidates, all of whom ran unopposed for the 14 available seats.
As indicated here, Libya is not going to be the lone voice for human rights violations (for the right reasons, naturellement) on that Council. In fact, one could rejoice that Libya got only 155 votes while such wonderful examples of countries that believe in freedom and human rights as Angola got 170 and Thailand (that one really made me laugh) got 180.

UN Watch reckons that 40 per cent of the Council's members actually have anything resembling human rights within their borders. I wonder where they place Moldova.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wrong in one prediction

It seems that I underestimated David Cameron, the Boy-King of the Conservative Party. I did not underestimate his inability to win popular support for his party nor his hunger for office (as power he most certainly will not have) but I did underestimate his and, if it comes to that, Nick Clegg's, fear of their separate backbenchers and of the electorate. Forming a minority government would have been the honourable thing to do but also the riskier one and the outcome might have been a speedy election and a possible exit from Number 10. Up with this the Boy-King could not put. Hence this rather sordid little charade and the sight of the two best buddies, until recently worst enemies, smiling and waving to each other, pumping each other's hands and looking frighteningly similar.

For a couple of days we had the media drooling over the new coalition of losers for that is what they are. Let us recap: David Cameron led his party into an election that they could not lose: end of a third term of a highly unpopular government; a severe economic crisis caused to some extent by said government and its long-standing past Chancellor of the Exchequer, later Prime Minister; a dysfunctional set of Ministers many of whom had been caught out in financial shenanigans. What more could the Conservatives want? Yet they lost. Not getting that majority was a defeat.

Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dims received more hype and publicity in this election campaign than they had ever done in their relatively short existence (nobody is going to tell me that this bunch of statists are the descendants of the great Liberal Party of the nineteenth and early twentieth century). They were going to change the face of British politics, they were going to beat Labour into third place if not complete oblivion, they were going to form the government. Well, the last of those turned out to be true but in a very different way from what had been predicted.

For, sadly, the Lib-Dims increased their share of the vote by a measly 1 per cent, lost five seats, did not take several seats they were confidently expected to do and did very badly in the local elections (not that it makes any difference). Their reward: places in the Cabinet and the Deputy Premiership for their incompetent leader.

While Gordon Brown was legitimately the Prime Minister - the chosen leader of the party that had won three elections - precisely who elected Nick Clegg to be the Deputy Prime Minister?

Reading some of the newspaper reports one would think that the coalition, which emerged from a week's sordid negotiations was the greatest thing that happened in British politics since the sitting of the first reformed Parliament or William Pitt's announcement in the House that there had been a British naval victory at Trafalgar.

All is changing, though. The serpent has appeared in the Garden of the ConLib Eden - the backbenchers are unhappy. It seems that far from thinking of the country's welfare or returning power to Parliament, as promised, or restoring trust in politics the new government's first proposal has to do with the preservation of its own position.

Naturally, Labour politicians are protesting but, apparently, so are some Conservative MPs. The constitutional expert, Professor Peter Hennessy
told the BBC the new rules “created a very poor impression for the new politics”. He added: “This is not the new politics, it looks as if it is very, very iffy politics indeed ... It looks all wrong.”
I am shocked, I tell you, shocked.

This is all about the proposal that a vote of no confidence in the government should in future require 55 per cent of MPs voting for it instead of the traditional 50 per cent plus 1. This was proposed as a rule almost immediately but, it seems, the government has now more or less accepted that there will have to be legislation about it. At least, I think they accepted it.

This issue is a little more serious than it sounds. Votes of no confidence is one of the few remaining powers the House of Commons has over the government. Hard to use when there is a large majority it could be utilized to great effect in a hung parliament. So the first thing this government did after being cobbled together is to announce its intention to weaken that power even further. What we have here, in other words, is our old friend an executive power grab.

Do I hear the words "coup" or "unelected"? No, I do not, at least not from all those activists and self-appointed analysts who screeched about Gordon Brown being unelected (which was not true) or him planning some grant constitutional coup (which he apparently was not).

(Dear me, this is really disturbing. I seem to be defending Gordon Brown. That is what this blog has been reduced to by the ConLib shenanigans.)

William Hague's response to the criticism shows that whatever knowledge of politics he ever possessed was used up in the two biographies he published, of the younger Pitt and Wilberforce.
William Hague defended the move. He said: “Once you agree that there should be a fixed-term parliament, it is only fixed-term if there is some provision to really give it credibility to make it hard to dissolve parliament.”
Has anyone agreed that there should be a fixed-term parliament? One cannot even argue that the electorate voted for it as it was not part of the main parties' manifesto or electoral campaign. Even if one did argue it, something of this kind cannot just be announced by a government - legislation is needed and it needs to be passed by both Houses of Parliament. It seems that in this session we shall once again have to rely on the House of Lords to protect our constitution and the few remaining parliamentary liberties.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Swedish artist attacked during lecture on free speech

Time to return to reality. No doubt I shall blog again about the new government as its membership becomes clearer. In the meantime we can all indulge in unholy glee as we watch the Conservatives repeating: Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better as people they denounced in vicious terms but a week ago are appointed to important positions and they have to rejoice.

For the moment, however, I shall turn to other matters, for instance an appalling episode in Sweden, though one must admit the Swedish police reacted well. I found the story on Instapundit and followed his links.

Zombie describes the scene.
Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist, sketched some caricatures of Mohammed as a dog back in 2007, and for his efforts earned himself a fatwa — a death sentence issued by the good clerics of Al Qaeda in Iraq for the capital crime of depicting Islam’s prophet. Today that death sentence was nearly carried out as Vilks was assaulted (by a Muslim screaming “Allahu Ackbar!”) while giving a lecture in Uppsala, Sweden about his experiences with censorship. Luckily, Vilks survived; unluckily, he was headbutted directly in his face by the attacker; Vilks’ glasses were smashed, but police were on hand to prevent the follow-up beheading which the fatwa-givers had called for.
I wrote about Lars Vilks over on EUReferendum (here and here) and admitted that I did not think the cartoon in question to be particularly funny. And so? I don't think Garland's cartoons are particularly funny. Should I be calling for his beheading?

Zombie sounds outraged that this should have happened in modern Sweden, the land of enlightenment but I am not sure that is quite as terrible as the blog implies. The fact that the police grabbed the man in question says good things and lunatics chanting hate chants from the Dark Ages is just something we have to accept. As long as they do no damage to anyone or anything except their own larynxes.

Zombie also lists the English-language media that picked up on the story. It would appear that only the BBC ran it of the main-stream media and no British blogs either. (No, I am not impressed by the need the BBC seems to have to refer to Mohammed as the Propher Mohammed every time. And no, they do not speak of Our Lord Saviour Jesus Christ.) At least they ran the story.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oceania and Eastasia are friends again

Forget all those insults; forget the fact that the Conservatives are still referring to the Lib-Dims as Fib-Dems; forget the notion that keeping Nick Clegg out is the primary purpose of the election. It seems more or less official that the Boy-King and the "evil" leader of the Lib-Dims are best buddies for ever or, at least, until one of them stabs the other in the back. The Conservatives are now repeating a new mantra: agreeing to the Lib-Dim demands, nasty and dishonest though they were, showed real statesmanship on the Cameron's part and a desire to do his best for the country.

Anyway, it looks like Cameron will be in Number 10 with Nick Clegg as Deputy and six places for the Lib-Dims. This must have been what the haggling was about. One wonders what they managed to snag for themselves.

In the meantime, here is one of my favourite socialist songs of all times, sung to the tune of Clementine:

In old Moscow, in the Kremlin,
In the fall of '39,
Sat a Russian and a Prussian
Writing out the party line.

Oh, my darling, oh, my darling,
Oh, my darling party line;
Oh, I never will desert you,
For I love this life of mine.

Leon Trotsky was a Nazi;
Oh, we knew it for a fact.
Pravda said it; we all read It,
BEFORE the Stalin-Hitler Pact.


Once a Nazi would be shot, see,
That was then the Party Line;
Now a Nazi's hotsy-totsy,
Trotsky's laying British mines.


Now the Nazis and the Fuerher
Stand within the Party Line,
All the Russians love the Prussians,
Volga boatmen sail the Rhine.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Post-election blues

Well, blues and oranges actually. As we watch from a safe distance the behind-the-scenes negotiations between all and sundry (Conservatives with Lib-Dims, Lib-Dims with Labour, Oceania with Eastasia or is it Eurasia) many of us can draw some satisfaction from saying: well, what did you expect?

Allister Heath in City AM says that if this is the new politics he is heartily sick of it already. Jonathan Isaby, rightly, points out that this farce (as I cheerfully called it on Friday and on Saturday when taking part in discussions on the BBC Russian Service) is the best argument for changing the electoral system. If we had proportional representation we would have this sort of thing going on after every election not just once in a while with the party that got fewer votes than the others calling the shots. The counter-argument that other European countries go through this leaves me cold. I have no desire to go through many other things that other European countries accept as routine.

The Lib-Dims are unhappy and the Conservatives drown their sorrow in that constant refrain: isn't it appalling that Labour is negotiating with the Lib-Dims in order to stay in power. Of course, no British government is in power while the real government is in Brussels but the idea that the Conservatives consider themselves to be in a position from which they can accuse Labour of being dishonest and unprincipled in order to stay in office makes one think of pots and kettles as well as stones and glass houses.

Meanwhile ConHome hits a new low by Nigel Jones reminding his readers that today is the anniversary of the creation of the 1940 coalition government. History must be repeating itself with Cameron the new Churchill. Indeed. Apart from the fact that the country was in an all-out war and the new government had to make decisions that would allow Britain to survive (even though the German's ability to invade was vastly exaggerated) everything is just the same. I suppose, when it comes down to it, Churchill was a largely incompetent politician who managed to make some catastrophically bad decisions in his previous career, during his second government (though mostly he was not in any sort of state to make decisions) and, even, during the war. He was still a greater and more fascinating personality that Cameron will be if he lives to a hundred.

Meanwhile, I had another e-mail from the Boy-King. He thanks me for my vote and all my efforts (if only he knew) but makes no reference to that offer to join his government. It would seem that the people who were supposed to be part of the Conservative government come second to the Lib-Dims who were the enemy not so long ago. Did someone say Oceania and Eurasia or Eastasia?

The Boy-King chortles on with great excitement about his and his party's achievements:
Second, we should be proud of the results we achieved. We gained more seats than at any election since 1931. We became the largest party in the House of Commons by a considerable margin. And we got two million more votes than Labour - and indeed, more votes than Labour did when they won in 2005. The swing we achieved was massive by historic standards.
Most of that is tosh. Numbers of seats, swings and other suchlike matters cannot really be compared withoug pointing out how many constituencies there were at the time, how many parties, what sort of turn-out and so on. But the man had to say something. After all, under his leadership his party lost what looked like an unlosable election and now they are facing the need to form a coalition with the despised Lib-Dims or a minority government that will have to take some very unpopular decisions.

At this stage it might be worth reminding everyone that the only part that achieved its stated electoral intention was UKIP. We have a hung parliament, largely through UKIP's actions though, in the end, it was the voters who decided that they really do not like the three main parties all that much.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heh! I told you so

Actually, I am feeling rather chuffed. Almost all my predictions that I held tenaciously (some would say pig-headedly) against friend and foe as well as all the pundits have come true. Let's just have a look. I maintained the following:

There will be a hung Parliament with Conservatives getting the most seats but no majority. Admittedly, quite a few people said this but there was a great rush among some pundits to predict a last-minute Conservative majority. No, I said, it will not happen,

The Lib-Dim effect will evaporate. The Nick Clegg bubble would be just that - a bubble. In fact, the Lib-Dims lost votes and seats and by all rights Nick Clegg should resign as he did not fulfil his promises. Indeed, he worsened the situation and that despite the fact that in an election where a hung parliament was expected it would have made sense to vote Lib-Dim if that is what people had wanted to do.

[ERRATUM: It has been pointed out to me with complete accuracy that the Lib-Dims did not lose votes. In fact, they increased their share by just under 1 per cent, which is still somewhat lower than the great hype would have led one to expect. They did, however, lose five seats and there are various constituencies around the country, such as Islington South and Finsbury, which was confidently expected to go Lib-Dim but did not. Indeed, in that particular case, the tiny Labour majority of around 500 votes went up to around 3,000 votes.]

The TV debates would not make the slightest difference to the vote. That one I had to defend strenuously against my closest friends and allies. Can anyone seriously say that those debates had any effect at all?

Attacking Gordon Brown would backfire. It did spectacularly. His own vote went up; Labour held Rochdale, place of "bigot-gate"; a number of candidates, both Tory and Lib-Dim who campaigned against Brown rather than their own sitting MPs did very poorly. Astonishingly enough, the Conservatives are continuing with their personal attacks, demanding that he vacate Number 10 immediately, which is not necessary constitutionally, and behaving as if he and his party had not done considerably better than the Boy-King and his party.

The UKIP effect will be important. I have not done my own calculations yet but shall do so as soon as there is a full list of all constituencies but, according to the Boss over on EUReferendum, Tories could have had another 20 seats if it had not been for UKIP. The question of who is to govern Britain would then have been decided fairly swiftly. Will the Conservatives learn anything from that? I suspect not.

The turn-out will not be high. And nor was it, despite sudden hysterical outbursts just before and during the election. It seems to have been 65.1 per cent, which is low by historic British standards. Admittedly, that is higher than the 2001 and 2005 turn-out but that was pathetically low. It is, as I thought last night, lower than the 1997 turn-out, which was considered to be particularly low at the time.

Now for the things I got wrong:

At about 12.30 am I predicted 297 seats for the Conservatives. It looks like someone else who predicted 310 will be closer to the result.

I assumed that Nigel Farage would not win Buckingham but would come a close second. The fact that John Stephens, a europhiliac ex-Conservative and something of a joke as a candidate beat him by about 2,000 votes was the only result that truly surprised me.

I thought my own Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey would do better than he did. He did seem to have all the right qualifications and, in a way, it is a great shame that he did not get in, particularly as Andy Slaughter is a nauseating specimen even by Labour standards. It is good to know that the Lib-Dims and the Greens did particularly badly. My own suspicion is that Mr Bailey was not helped by the fact that a succession of Tory grandees came to campaign for him, making him look like the Boy-King's particular pet rather than a local chap with useful experience from outside politics. If Mr Bailey would like my advice, I am ready to offer it: hang on in there because there will be another election soon and next time keep the Tory grandees away from the constituency.

Here are some more predictions:

The Lib-Dims will overreach and it will not be possible for either of the other parties to form a government with them. The Conservatives will have to form a minority government and bear the brunt of the problems that are facing us all.

There will be no difference on most issues because the real government remains in Brussels.

There will be another election in 12 - 18 months' time.

There! I have put my head on the block.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Some thoughts

First of all, let me say that my enquiries have confirmed that as far as is known Nigel Farage is doing well. He is in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and is not only conscious but talking and, indeed, swearing fit to bust. He will be missing the count and that is enough to make anyone swear. The pilot of the plane seems to have been more seriously injured but is also comfortable and conscious. Things could have been worse.

As readers of this blog and of EUReferendum know, I do not share the Boss's vitriolic attitude to Mr Farage, despite the fact that I have known him for a lot longer. Indeed, I am responsible for recruiting him in what was then the Anti-Federalist League and he, in turn, is partially responsible for my speedy exit from the organization it then became: the UK Independence Party or UKIP. Anyway, this is just a preliminary to saying that I imagine we all wish Nigel and the pilot of the plane a speedy recovery.

Moving on to other events or non-events, I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand the hyperbole that surrounds this election. The media tells us in various ways that this is the most important election for Britain in its entire history; that the world will collapse into complete anarchy if we have a hung parliament; that the votes cast today will decide what the country will be like for generations to come.

Ahem, no. It is an election. This country has had many of them in its history and quite a few were more important than this one. Given the economic situation and the many lies the three main leaders have told us about what they will do when elected (spend more money and that will miraculously reduce the deficit) the likelihood is that the government elected today will be out on its ear very soon and possibly out for a very long time. That being so, it seems quite extraordinary to me that anybody wants to be a Prime Minister at this point. In fact, the explanation for the appalling campaigns we have been watching, particularly the Conservative one, may well be that, belatedly, all three leaders realized that they do not actually want to be in Number 10, having to take those inevitably painful decisions.

In any case, the real government stays in Brussels and we are not voting on it. It would appear that the less important the choice we are presented with the more hyperbole we are likely to hear.

As it happens I had another missive from my friend Dave the Boy-King. He is no longer offering me anything - no place in the government, no contract, nothing. I wonder what Mr Barroso has to say on the matter. Instead, the Boy-King is demanding that I vote for his party.

He tells me that if I vote Conservative today I shall get change tomorrow. Hmm, I didn't realize my Conservative candidate can wave a magic wand. Maybe the Boy-King is really the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
This one day will decide Britain's future at a crucial time for our economy, our society, and our politics.

We all know that it's time for change, after thirteen years of this Labour government. But there's only one way to bring change - and that is to vote Conservative.

Any other vote could mean we are left with another five years of Gordon Brown - and the uncertainty of a hung Parliament could kill the recovery.
Still no reference, I see, to the amount of politics that comes out of the EU and cannot be changed by the next government.

Nor am I too impressed by the bogeymen I am being threatened with. Either we get another five years of "Gordon Brown", actually a Labour government but it seems that the Conservatives still have not managed to learn the lesson that personal attacks on Brown do not work, or we have a hung parliament, which is unlikely to go on for five years.

Incidentally, the idea that a hung parliament will slow down recovery is tosh. Recovery will not come from parliament or politicians. What will have to come from them is essential and far-reaching cuts in the public services and it might be difficult to achieve them in a hung parliament where every vote needs endless negotiatons between parties (something that will become a permanent feature if we go over to any form or proportional representation). But then, the Conservatives are not talking about cuts, anyway. Far from it. They are promising to spend more of the money they will not have. So why not a hung parliament?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More on Karim the blogger

I wrote about Abdek Kareem Nabil the Egyptian blogger arrested, imprisoned and generally maltreated by the Egyptian authorities over on EUReferendum (here, here, here, here and here). Stories like this should put a lie to all those self-indulgent pronouncements by people about Britain being a totalitarian state. There are many things wrong here and we need to try to put them right. But bloggers are not imprisoned or tortured for their opinions.

Tom Palmer has a posting about Karim (sometime called Kareem) in which he calls on people to try to help the man who is having a bad time in Egyptian prison.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Elections? How very dare they?

EUObserver reports that
Britain's civil service has decided to delay the publication of farm subsidy payments until after this Thursday's (6 May) general election. The deadline for publishing the data outlining who received what under the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP) was midnight last Friday.

A message on the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website simply says: "Due to the general election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election."

UK officials said the practice is standard procedure. "It is not appropriate for us to publish this information at this point on the basis that some of the details may refer to people standing for election," Defra spokesman Paul Leat told this website.

"It could be seen to be favouring the ruling party of specific individuals," he added.
It is, indeed, standard procedure to hold back with the publication of any controversial material that might affect voting. At least in theory, the British civil service cannot be seen to take part in party politicking.

Understandably, the European Commission does not see matters that way. Election? What has that to do with the EU?
The European Commission said it was unhappy, however. "The commission is disappointed and is going to write to the British authorities underlining that this is not in line with the directive," said EU agriculture spokesman Roger Waite.
Quite right, too. Can't have all this democracy interfering with our management.

Business as usual at the UN

Tom Gross reports on National Review Online that the UN has elected Iran to the Commission on the Status of Women. Yes, that Iran. The one where stoning is enshrined in law and women are lashed if they are "dressed immodestly".

The official press release from the UN buries the news a long way down but the relevant paragraph says:
Next, the Council elected 11 new members to fill an equal number of vacancies on the Commission on the Status of Women for four-year terms beginning at the first meeting of the Commission’s fifty-sixth session in 2011 and expiring at the close of its fifty-ninth session in 2015. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe were elected from the Group of African States; Iran and Thailand were elected from the Group of Asian States; Estonia and Georgia were elected from the Group of Eastern European States; Jamaica was elected from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; and Belgium, Netherlands and Spain were elected from the Group of Western European and Other States.
Not onlhy Iran but DR Congo as well, where women are systematically raped by various militias in ways that I cannot bring myself to write about on this blog and are then hounded from their communities for being "spoilt". Remind me, what is the point of the United Nations?

A prophet who should be honoured

If I thought it would be of any use at all, I would send a copy of a slim volume, published by the Academic Foundation in New Delhi with the support of the Liberty Institute, also in New Delhi and the Cato Institute in Washington DC to the Boy-King of the Conservative Party and a few others at the head of it. (It is, as it happens, available in the UK from the Institute of Economic Affairs.)

The book's title is Peter Bauer and the Economics of Prosperity and it was edited by two eminent economists and followers of the great Lord Bauer, James A. Dorn and Barun S. Mitra. It is an interesting compilation of excerpts from Lord Bauer's books, some of his essays and numerous comments on his work by his colleagues, students and admirers.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of political development in many parts of the world is the lack of attention Peter Bauer's perfectly sensible ideas have received for various reasons, vested interests on the part of recipient governments and organizations being the most important. Other reasons are the dismal sense of guilt that has overwhelmed so much of the West since World War II, the rise of transnational organizations whose interest lies in keeping poor countries dependent on hand-outs and rich countries in a permanent sense of guilt, and a general reluctance to use logic rather than emotion when confronted with poverty.

Hand-outs do not help developing economies. That is a very simple idea, which is entirely logical as well as proven by recent and more distant history. If poor countries were stuck in a "vicious circle of poverty" and could not get out of it without charity, how is it that poor countries managed to become in the past? Why would taking money from the poor of rich countries and giving it to the rich of poor countries help anyone except the corruptocracy in power in the latter and the organizations who batten on to that process?

The best piece in the first part (economists on Bauer) is a conversation between Milton Freedman and Thomas Sowell that was recorded at the Hoover Institution to be used at a conference in honour of Peter Bauer at Princeton University in May 2004.

Here are a few excerpts that I thought might interest the readers of this blog (and, by the way, I cannot recommend the book highly enough).
MF: The thing is, you have to distinguish between what people say and what they do. almost everybody now agrees in principle with theproposition that there are defects in aid. If you gao back, the initial dictum that Peter fought against was teh vicious cycle fo poverty - the idea that was widespread and essentially conventional wisdom in the study of lesser developed countries: that they were poor, and because they were poor they couldn't generate capital, and because they couldn't generate capital they couldn't develope, and that kept them poor. And that the only way they could get out of it was if capital was brought in from outside.

TS: I mean, I must say it sounds plausible even now. It's only the fact that you have to ask the question: if that's true, how did any other rich countries every becfom rich, because they all started out poor?

MF: And once you say that, the view becomes silly. It's hard to see how anyone could ever have set it forth. And yet there is no doubt that it was the dominant view within the profession of development economists for many years.

TS: Well, it's ne of many silly ideas that become conventional wisdom. there are so many things that people simply don't think about. And I often think, it really doesn't matter how smart they are. If you don't really stop and think about things, it doesn't matter whether you're a genius or a moron.

MF: People get into patterns of thinking and it's very hard to get out of those patterns. I think very few people today in the profession would maintain the vicious cycle of poverty argument, because there have been so many

TS: One of the things that he mentioned in one of his later books was that people were saying things like: "We took all the rubber from Malaysia"; "We took all the tea from India". And he pointed out that this was the direct opposte of the truth. The British brought the rubber tree to Malaysia; they brought the thea to India - and the Indians and Malaysians benefited. There's also the example from his later work in West Africa where he points out that most of the cocoa in West Africa was grown by Africans and that cocoa was not native to Africa - it was brought in and the local people took it from there.

One of the things that contrasts with Peter Bauer's notion is that of Gunnar Myrdal, who argued that you had to have westernized intellectuals taking charge of the country and directing the masses, who wouldn't otherwise be able to do anything. And it's ironic because people like Myrdal and others on the Left are regarded as great friends of the masses, but really you see in them the utter contempt for what ordinary people can do.
There is much more, including the wish expressed by an Indian economist that India had followed Peter Bauer's ideas when it became indpendent instead of Harold Laski's, as was the case. But what is not there, because that is not the subject of the conversation is the simple truth that whatever may have changed among economists, politicians, that is the people who shell out our money, remain wedded to the outdated ideas, so masterfully demolished by Peter Bauer over and over again.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Only six five more days to go - Part 2

The count-down has well and truly begun. Only five more days of this appalling election campaign to go. I am not going to say that we have reached rock-bottom in silliness, lack of ideas and media hype this time round. Whenever one assumes that rock bottom has been reached one finds another, completely new chasm before one’s feet. However, there is some hope that the actual results will be unusual enough for a political realignment of the kind this country has seen on numerous occasions in the past (and not just in the last thirty years) to begin. By this I do not mean that the Lib-Dims might overtake the Labour Party in votes and seats. They might but the difference between the two is not big enough for anything remotely resembling real political change, no matter what Nick Clegg and the various hacks have been saying.

The Boss on EURef has written about that final debate (no, I did not watch it) and the fact that next to nothing can be read from it or from the opinion polls that followed it. On average 8½ million people watched it but we do not know how many of them watched it from beginning to end or even long enough to make any kind of a decision. In any case, the majority of the electorate did not bother to watch this or the previous debates. So, what conclusion can we draw from that? None at all.

One thing has been clear, though. Those opinion polls have not moved all that much. The Conservative vote has remained reasonably steady at just under 40 per cent, give or take a few points. Unless there is a sudden rush of support for the Boy-King and his merry men and women, this is not enough to give them a majority though it will probably give them more seats and more votes than any other party.

Which leaves another consistent phenomenon: in every opinion poll there is a group of between 10 and 15 per cent who do not support any of the three parties. This may be an understatement, since most of these polls seem to concentrate on those three main parties, carefully not mentioning any other that people might say they will vote for.

A friend called my attention to an opinion poll published in the Economist (which has now, apparently, come out on the side of the Conservatives for reasons one cannot quite discern). This one did actually ask about the smaller parties and the results are quite interesting.

While Conservatives poll 33 per cent, Lib-Dims 30 and Labour 23, of the smaller parties, UKIP is at 5 per cent, BNP and Greens at 2 each, the nationalist parties at 2 and others at 3. If UKIP can take that up to 6 or 7 per cent (a big if), the Conservatives might find themselves in serious difficulties and the face of British politics might well change even more. Incidentally, one wonders, given these figures, why so much of the media persists in regarding the Greens as the fourth party in this election.

Of all the many things I have hated about this election campaign the emphasis on the leaders of parties has been among the worst. Not only that meant that we had far too much about three people, none of whom is particularly likeable or attractive; that one could bear, just about. What is particularly appalling is that it displays a complete ignorance of and disregard for the British constitutional structure on the part of the media and the politicians – those in the Westminster bubble, to be precise.

I have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to explain to numerous political illiterates who all fancied themselves as experts that there is no such thing as an elected or unelected Prime Minister in this country. We elect MPs and the party that has the largest number of them decides which one of them will be in the position to be sent for by the Queen and asked to form the government. Gordon Brown was most certainly elected to be an MP and his party most certainly was in the position to form the government, having one three handsome victories.

Since then matters have become worse. Not only has the Boy-King made fatuous and meaningless promises about “unelected prime ministers” but a good deal of the electoral campaign on various sides was conducted on the assumption that we have a presidential system.

Surely, someone said to me, you do not like Nick Clegg’s policies. They are not Nick Clegg’s I explained patiently (well, fairly patiently) but the Lib-Dims’ policies and, as it happens, some of the ideas about tax reform are quite sensible whereas the Conservatives have no sensible ideas at all on the subject.

Nor have I been terribly impressed by Conservative and some Lib-Dim candidates in Labour held seats campaigning against Gordon Brown rather than their immediate opponents. If you do not elect me, says my Conservative candidate, you will get another 5 years of Gordon Brown. Stuff and nonsense. The chances of the next government lasting five years are, at present, rather slim and, in any case, Labour might end up forming the government even if Shaun Bailey is an MP. And vice versa.

In one particular North London constituency, all three main parties (and even UKIP, oddly enough) have fielded women candidates. There is nothing special about the three – all party creatures in their late thirties or early forties, they even look similar. The constituency was won by Labour last time but only just. The Lib-Dim version of the Stepford politicos has a very high chance of getting in. At no time has the wretched woman mentioned her opponent who was the sitting MP until a couple of weeks ago; all her literature has nice pictures of her and ugly pictures of Gordon Brown. But she is not standing against Gordon Brown.

And so it goes. The hysteria around “bigot-gate” like earlier hysterias around “bully-gate” and “letter-gate”, all whipped up by Tory spin-meisters and all unsuccessful (well the first two were as they brought sympathy to one of the most unsympathetic politicians in this country’s history) has been a substitute for any reasonable political argument as one cannot call the nonsense these people come up with that.

Meanwhile, I am still chuckling over an exchange I had with a friend. He has explained that he no longer cares who wins, an attitude I fully agree with, but then added that he would like to see Nick Clegg in Number 10. Hmm, I replied, while I don’t mind if the Lib-Dims win (after all, they are all flakey when it comes to the EU), I would prefer someone like Vince Cable. But Helen, said the friend, you talk as if I was offering Nick Clegg a bed of roses. It will be a bed of nails for anyone who gets in there. Indeed, it will, which makes one wonder, what kind of an idiot wants to win this election and be faced with all the problems, some only half-understood, possibly with a minority government.