"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?'
Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword."
Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999
In Boris's article for today's Telegraph, our Man for the Mayoralty seems to get a little bit confused about just what increases in the tax allowance for certain individuals means.
As a libertarian Conservative, I believe that beyond a certain amount (perhaps 15%-20% of GDP), tax is effectively legalised theft. The basic position from the secular, political point of view is that our own money, income and property is own own, not the government's.
The state is jusitified in taxing the citizens to some extent to pay for functions of the state that are legitimate and necessary. And I take the view that the legitimate and necessary functions of the state are limited - much less than what the state currently does. Beyond fulfilling a certain relatively small number of legitimate functions, all money taken from us by coercion is bascially theft: the taking with the intention permanently to deprive us of our own money. There's no way that the Government needs to take what it does.
So, I think that Boris has got things slightly the wrong way round. Bascially, he's adopted the Labour approach wholesale.
How does he view people's own private money? He talks about "the taxpayer [coughing] up for a married couple" and married couples potentially getting "£20 from the government."
Actually, what IDS in the Tories' so-called "Social Justice Commission" report is proposing is not to take so much of the married couple's money in the first place. It's not someone else coughing up for me. It's me being stolen from slightly less by the government for the benefit of the re-election of the government's ministers and backbench MPs.
It's my £20 a week that is currently being taken from me without my consent and all that is being proposed is that they no longer take this from me on condition of my being married. Well, frankly, they shouldn't take it from me in the first place, married or not.
So no, I do not accept differential treatment for married and single people. We should all be allowed to keep more, much more, of our own cash. Discriminating between marital status is not really a vote winner - it leaves certain people feeling unfairly treated, and ignores the core philosophical and moral injustice in the amount of taxation we all suffer.
...was, according to her biography on Wikipedia, the General Secretary of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants from 1982-87.
Good job then, since over a hundred have just landed on her constituency doorstep in Slough.
Even Channel 4 news this evening had an "interview" with one of them who was being put on at council tax payers' expense in a local B&B. When asked where the money was coming from she replied, "Social"!
Mactaggart polled over 17,000 votes at the 2005 General Election, with the second-placed Conservative candidate falling well short with under 10,000.
"this wheelie bin revolt helped to boost Tory numbers. It does, nonetheless, raise the question as to whether the theme of “vote blue, go green” will be a winner for David Cameron in the longer term."
An even bigger problem is that, as Richard North on the EU Referendum blog repeatedly points out, the moves towards fortnightly collections are in direct response to the ever-increasing cost of such collections, thanks to the EU's Waste Framework Directive. This is estimated to cost the UK around £10-£12 billion extra in terms of landfill taxes, the building of recycling facilities, and EU fines for failing to comply in time with the EU's recycling targets.
The Conservatives now taking control of more and more councils will be virtually powerless to negate the effects of these bigger systemic problems. The only hope is that they will be able to find effeciency gains elsewhere that can offset the costs of the effects of the Waste Framework Directive. In some places, they may be able to. But in many they probably won't. Which means that the more the Conservatives win now, the bigger the likely future loss will be when "local Conservative goverment" is unable to deal with this problem effectively.
Since this Directive was inspired by waste management solutions in countries very different from the UK, it is a clear example of how local government has now been all but emasculated not only by Westminster but by Brussels, itself beyond the control of Westminster and the British electorate of any description or configuration.
That is why for the moment, whilst the local election results may be a harbinger of forthcoming Conservative victory in the next General Election, the practical consequences that will flow from a change of administration at the local level will be much less than any main political party will care to admit.
...would appear, from Richard Brunstrom's blog, to be a bit slow...
Brunstrom, Chief Police Officer of the North Wales force, writes:-
"Back up north on the 1549hrs train from Euston. Got to Crewe but had a thirty minute wait for a connection, during which time a foul-mouthed argument broke out amongst a family group (including a young baby) waiting for a Liverpool train on the same platform. The group split up, but one (drunken) youth in particular continued to hurl abuse from a distance of thirty metres or so, across the heads of the passengers waiting for the train. An intervention was needed, with me in my business suit and carry a briefcase.
Luckily I had spotted that the British Transport police were nearby so I went and fetched them, much to the surprise of everyone, including them, and the youth. He was temporarily arrested and led away to be dealt with by fixed penalty ticket; and was I think quite properly prevented from travelling."
Covered on his blog yesterday, the Islington Tribune today reports N's joke at the expense of Chris S and myself and the fiasco over the council election voting forms last year.
Basically, without a local campaign agent in Islington North, all the work of verifying nominators' signatures in a number of wards was left to our overworked Chairman, Chris S, now redeeming himself as the extremely hard working, intelligent and no doubt underpaid researcher to Conservative shadow education secretary, David Willetts.
As for the story of the candidacy that was not to be, the situation (rather prosaicly) was that a number of nominators who swore that they were on the electoral register in Mildmay turned out on closer examination not to be. That closer examination took place only about one hour before the close of nominations. Although there was a last-ditch attempt to replace the vital invalid signatures, we still fell one short. Incredibly, Islington Council had managed to put one crucial nominator on the electoral register of an adjacent ward, despite her having resided in Mildmay for years before the date in question.
Anyway, the Lib Dems turned out to be the principal beneficiaries of the signature collection cock-up, retaining crucial votes that otherwise may have gone to the Conservatives and which may have meant Labour narrowly taking the ward, and thus the Council.
Whereas Galloway later protested that his tribute to the Butcher of Baghdad ("Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, and your indefatigability") was in fact addressed to the Iraqi people as a whole, Newmania protests that his words ("the denizens of Mildmay are almost bestially stupid") were in fact meant about me alone.
Still, after this Boris-like escapade it will sadden readers to learn that Newmania will shortly be pursuing alternative career options in another local Conservative association, hoping that the burning building he's fleeing will have engulfed in flames all of its residents (denizens), preventing news about this petite affaire from ever escaping!
I think I know what Jim Royle from the Royle Family would probably say about that.
In a recent speech, the Boy Dave has lauded a project by a guy called Tim Campbell to get 4000 businesses to donate collectively £1m to enable 365 businesses to be started up over the next year.
Apparently, this is something that companies should be doing to help teenagers and people in their twenties to become entrepreneurs.
DC said "There is a new spirit of creativity in our country. We politicians need to match this with a new spirit of our own - tearing down the barriers which stop people founding businesses of their own. But only when people themselves - as businesses and neighbours - take responsibility for their own communities, will we build the Britain we all want to see: prosperous, safe and socially just."
There's quite a bit to pick apart here.
First, if there's a new spirit of creativity around, why doesn't this extend to creativity about getting money for a new business?
And aren't you a little bit suspicious of politicians claiming to know what the spirit of the age is up to in a way that conveniently fits with their own interests: remember Gordon Brown saying people are moving away from the cult of celebrity (towards appreciating the merits of boring old gits) just as the Sun was splashing news of the Will 'n Kate split across its front page?
And why would a business want to give cash to a potential new competitor?
And how does the creation of new businesses in and of itself help Britain to be more "safe"?
And talk of it being "socially just" seems ripe for the Royle raspberry, "My arse!"
Well, now that the hostages are on their way home, perhaps this idea from a Samizdata contributor can be put into cold storage.
"Blair should offer an apology through the UN to secure their release.
As soon as the servicemen are free he should issue another statement revoking his apology.
The Royal Navy should then mine all Iranian ports and destroy Iran's major cities through the use of the Royal Navy's cruise missiles. The British government should order the immediate construction of 5 Nimitz aircraft carriers and make all Royal Air Force Typhoons flight-deck compatible.
The Typhoons should then systematically reduce the rest of Iran to rubble."
The Independent today carries an interview that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger gave to Piers Morgan.
This quote is bound to get one or two people riled:
"The Guardian is a liberal, progressive, intelligent, internationalist paper which operates to certain ethical standards. And that's what I have to do. So if you betray that edict by backing UKIP in an election, for example, you would have to leave."
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb, takes Danny Kruger to task in this article here.
Kruger is a one-time leader writer in the Telegraph, a fellow old Etonian of David Cameron and now one of Cameron's two leading speechwriters.
Kruger has, though the think tank Civitas, published a short book which seeks to provide the intellectual underpinning of the Cameron project. As I pretty much worked out one and a half years ago, there is not much of an intellectual underpinning to the project.
Gabb's article is well worth reading, not least because he (as a secondary school-educated lad like me) picked up on several errors of attribution Kruger makes concerning quotations from the ancients. I also sympathise a lot with Gabb's exasperation of much of the long-windedness and obtuseness in Kruger's book, since I had to wade through massives of similar verbiage when studying theology and philosophy at Nottingham.
There is much to commend Gabb's dissection of Kruger, although I do take exception to the way in which Gabb expresses a couple of points.
Kruger talks about "a return to market liberty under Margaret Thatcher". However, Gabb on the other hand simply refers to those same economic policies as "big business privilege".
Well, there may have been some privilege accorded to big business, but what about the liberalisation of the telecom market? In the late 1970s, phone lines were installed by the post office 3-6 months after being ordered. In the early 21st century it can take simply a matter of days, with 20-30 competing providers of the service (and 2-3 competitors on the infrastructure side, depending on where you live).
And many other areas of the economy, such as credit and City trading, were also opened up.
Gabb also says: "Government under Tony Blair became more politically correct than it would have been under the Conservatives. But this was balanced by a greater caution in matters of European harmonisation."
Excuse me? Blair has been just as eager to indulge in Euro harmonisation. Defence acquistion with Chirac at St. Malo in 1998? Surrender of the social chapter provisions? Surrender of part of the UK rebate? Come off it, Blair and his crew have been far more eager about EU-harmonisation than most of the Tories were in the 1990s.
Finally, I would highlight this sentence of Gabb's:
"The project common to both Labour and Conservative Parties is the transformation of this country into a place where the upper reaches of the ruling class can enjoy a status and relative wealth not known since early Stuart times - and in which there can be no challenge from below." Well, I seem to recall recently that the head of the largest UK private equity company was revealed to be a black guy from South East London who grew up on a council estate; a former constituent of Diane Abbott, if I recall correctly. Worth more financially now than the entire Blair cabinet combined, I should imagine.
Still, I shall end with one enjoyable flick of Gabb's devilish tail:
"German philosophy is notoriously a learned gibberish. For nearly two centuries, it has been used to justify every imaginable lapse from humanity and common sense."
"If you're dealing with the French, you have to realise they are devious: that's how they are."
Former Conservative Government Defence Secretary Sir John Nott gives two splendid interviews to Iain Dale on the re-capture of the Falkland Islands, the British in Afghanistan in the ninetheenth and twenty-first centuries, his wife's charity to help the Slovenians, and other things, here and here.
Update: Under the heading "EU refuses to back Britain over call to threaten exports freeze", The Times reports, "France, Iran’s second-largest EU trading partner, cautioned that further confrontation should be avoided."
Melanie Philips writes about the unfolding story here.
"We just don’t seem able to grasp the true nature and scale of the Iranian threat. Indeed, there is a distinct air of irrationality about a Britain which tells opinion pollsters that it believes President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What terrible moral confusion.
We have consistently shown we are not prepared to defend ourselves. In 2004, the British servicemen who were kidnapped by Iran were spirited to Tehran and paraded blindfold on television, which broadcast their apprehensive apologies for a ‘big mistake’.
It was an act of war against us. We let them get away with it."
On one level, Britain's membership of the EU is not related to this story, but at another I wonder whether it has helped to bring the political class in this country to a position where it seems so weak and devoid of resolve.
"We have consistently shown we are not prepared to defend ourselves", Philips writes in relation to the kidnapping issue.
But in the councils of the EU our economic and political interests have been given a pretty remorseless kicking for the past 35 years. Indeed, whilst we brought it on ourselves, others learnt from our early weakeness and have exploited it for all it's worth.
Have we acted as such a doormat at home that when challenged abroad we also roll over and let the stronger side walk all over us?
As 15 Royal Marines and British sailors are taken hostage by Iran, this afternoon BBC2 showed the original production of The 300 Spartans, recalling the Battle of Thermopyle and the brave Spartans who died in battle there against the Persians.
The film produced this line from an ancient hill dweller (vaguely resembling Richard Gere in 20 years' time):
"Who can understand the gods? They create lovely girls, and turn them into wives."
"when you see it (if you see it...) you will understand why I turned down an invitation from the production company to advise them on it. It was meant to be a hatchet job from beginning to end - and that's what it will be."
So it was interesting to note that someone closer to Cameron than Dale has agreed to participate. The show will feature:
"Michael Gove's defence of his leader ( Michael, an old friend, generously agreed to put the Cameron case when he didn't have to)."
Meanwhile, Charles Moore makes this comparison between law and practice in the EU and Islam:
"The elites' most sacred doctrine is what they call the acquis communautaire. This is like the Muslim notion of sacred space - the belief that land, once occupied for the faith, belongs to it forever. It says that what has become common European property can never be given up."
Iain Dale draws attention here to one "story" resulting from a recent interview given by the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Francis Maude, to Jonathan Sheppard of Tory Radio.
Arthurian Legend has another story from the same interview.
Let me make this clear. I've never met Francis Maude, but I've listened to what he has to say on a number of matters relating to the internal organisation of the party, and as far as I can judge, he's doing a difficult job well. On a personal level, I have nothing against him. He seems like an OK guy. And I appreciate that he doesn't set policy, and has to defend the "party line". But his defence of certain issues just doesn't hold water at all.
Every month or so, the Editor of Tory Radio, Jonathan Sheppard, puts a number of questions to Francis Maude in a podcast entitled "Challenge the Chairman".
Arthurian Legend challenged Francis Maude, with the following question:
David Cameron has repeatedly stated that taking back the "Social Chapter" powers transferred by the UK parliament to Brussels will be a top priority concerning our relationship with the EU.
Since those powers are now enshrined in Art. 136-145 of the EU Treaty, which can only be given back by unanimous agreement, how will he do it?
This is the answer that Francis Maude gave in the interview that can be downloaded here.
FM: Well, it has to be done by negotiation. Um, these, but as a newly elected government we will have a lot of negotiating leverage".
Hmmm indeed. What negotiating leverage?
David Cameron to the Council of Ministers: We want to take back these powers.
President of France, Chancellor of Germany, Prime Ministers of Belgium and Italy: No. The UK will gain a competitive advantage if it does that. It will mean businesses are more likely to locate in your country than in ours. It will damage European solidarity. You are being awkward. You English, You Conservatives always want the same thing. Wanting to go back to the past. Not wanting to be a full part of the European dream, always dragging your feet, not wanting to be part of a single Europe.
David Cameron: Oh. Well, that's not fair. I told people I would get these powers back.
Rest of European Council: Tough.
David Cameron: Hmmm....
Francis, we ain't got any leverage without playing HARDBALL. Any I mean playing dirty. Like threatening to withold our £9 billion annual contribution. Or leaving altogether.
But what if they said, "OK, leave". Would DC agree? Would he be prepared for that? Would he have put in the groundwork to prepare the country for it? Would he have got all the plans in place for such an eventuality? I don't think so.
So what is the point of making this promise if you aren't going to do what is necessary to fulfill it? To try to keep the "euro-sceptic right" on-side? To get elected? OK, but if 84% of laws in Germany stem from the Council of Ministers in which Germany only has a formal 8% say (and a similar situation pertains in the UK), what is the point of getting elected? All that hassle, and you can't even run your own country?
Helen Szamuely mentions the launch of the new Global Vision campaigning group here.
Global Vision is aiming for a wholesale renegotiation of our relationship. Much more than what Francis Maude envisages. But the major sticking point is how we are going to achieve it - whether it be the restoration of UK sovereignty in one area, like the "social chapter", or in every area? Helen comments:
"But can their own plan be put into action? The launch had its share of Tory MPs, all of whom congratulated Global Vision on its brilliant new approach and, sadly, its share of friendly skeptics. “Devil’s Kitchen” asked how they were going to persuade the political elite of this country. Lord Pearson pointed out that there was not going to be another major constitutional treaty negotiation, as a good deal is coming in through the back door and the remaining treaty will be too small to make an impact. Anyway, he added, what can we do with our veto while the "enhanced co-operation" is in place?
Representing the Bruges Group and EUReferendum I decided to take part in the discussion as well, asking Lord Blackwell how they were going to persuade 26 other member states to agree to Britain acquiring that different relationship. It seems from his lordship’s reply (supported, I am sad to say, by Martin Howe QC) that this would not present too many difficulties as they would understand that a new relationship was in everybody’s interest."
I think it not unreasonable to suggest that nothing short of the "nuclear" option will achieve anything that Eurosceptics wish for. So far, there is no hint in the Cameron camp that they have appreciated this, even for their limited ambitions.
I wonder, when will they?
N.B. It's a shame that Jonathan Sheppard doesn't use the oppotunity he has to press for some more detail when given less-than-convincing answers...Or perhaps he takes the Andy Marr to Gordon Brown approach of not wanting to scupper the chances of getting the next interview by declining to remove the pin from the hand grenade that Arthurian Legend or some other awkward character lobs in to the trenches...
"I along with I think something like five million other people do insure, to enable me to go into hospital on the day I want at the time I want and with the doctor I want. And for me, that is absolutely vital."
Mrs Thatcher, circa 1989.
The clip can be viewed via Nick Robinson's BBC blog here.
"South African-born Mr Druian said that Mr Brown had been a regular patient at his practice on the edge of London's fashionable Hampstead district since he left the NHS to go private nearly 20 years ago.
The Chancellor has had routine dental treatment and also used Mr Druian's hygienist.
He told The Mail on Sunday: "Mr Brown is like many of my patients who opt for private treatment because they can phone me up in the morning and get an appointment the same day if they need one.
"We are not jam-packed with other patients so we can fit people in when they want.
"We have been looking after Mr Brown for such a long time and people don't usually like to change their dentist."
Maggie had the honesty to say it like it is.
With Gordo, it's a different story:
"Using a private dentist is not the same as using a private doctor," said one friend of the Chancellor."
UPDATE: Of course, when Tony had to undergo medical treatment for his irregular heartbeat, he got pretty sharp treatment on the NHS simply because he could use his position as Prime Minister to get it. That is the same type of treatment that is denied to other people on the NHS. No need for private insurance for Tony when we can all pay for him instead (even with his £200,000 per annum salary) and help to maintain his credentials as a supporter of the taxpayer-funded NHS to boot.
This is the BBC's electoral map of the UK following the 2005 general election. It shows which political party's candidate won in which part of the country.
As you can see, the constituences forming the south-west tip of England, a good part of Scotland, and some other coastal regions, are held by Liberal Democrats.
The Conservative party needs to be challenging the Lib Dems in these parts of the country. To do this, it would help to have some policies that would be attractive to local voters.
One "industry" that still has some presence in these parts of the country is the fishing industry. However, since the United Kingdom entered the European Community on 1st January 1973, we have had to cede access to all of British fishing waters to the European Community - including France, that has its own fishing grounds, and land-locked Austria and Luxembourg, which have none.
The shameful way in which this came about, and the ensuing destruction of Britain's fishing industry, has been charted admirably by Richard North and Christopher Booker in The Great Deception. Before the last General Election, the fishing situation in the waters around Britain had got so bad that Conservative Party leaders had formally endorsed the Fishing Green paper produced Conservative MP Owen Paterson.
But when Cameron became party leader, he shelved this committment.
"Brussels has allocated 73 per cent of the cod quota in the English Channel to France, only 8 per cent to Britain."
What electoral sense does shelving the admirable and right-thinking and appealing fishing policy make in those coastal regions of the UK where the Conservative party doesn't currently have any elected MPs?
Other great quotes include the famous "No, No, No" to the Delors proposals for the European Community to become a European super-state, and Thatcher calling Kinnock "little Sir Echo".
Steve Norris, Norman Tebbit and Nicholas Ridley also showed themseves to be on good form.
However, Mrs. Thatcher's speech did bear out the analysis of Booker and North that the Conservative Party has always failed to appreciate what the Project is and has always been about, where it is heading, and their mistaken belief that they can somehow stop it.
Mrs T.'s heart was in the right place, but she still hadn't full grasped the forward momentum of the EC beast, and the fundamental inability of Britain to stop or divert it from its course.
Kinnock had one or two good points, but let himself down with blatantly opportunistic attacks which exposed his own muddled thinking. Pantsdsown was just awful, and got rightly handbagged.
I wonder whether Cameron or his advisers will bother to read the comments posted beneath Cameron's article on the Telegraph website...
One article that is worth reading in today's Telegraph is this from Frank Field.
Although I understand how Field joined the Labour Party, and Dave joined the Conservatives, it is really hard to explain why each continues to occupy his respective position in light of today's revealing juxtposition of execreable mumbo jumbo from DC and the highly insightful piece from Field.
Can it really be that spin and nonsense is so much more valued and succesful than wisdom and straight talking?
UPDATE: The Devil has also put his boot in. Eloquently.
UPDATE II: Dan Hannan has also read what Cameron has had to say, and draws a rather optimisitc interpretation from it. But, Hannan asks, "Am I reading too much into one speech?"
His answer: "I don’t think so."
My answer: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
UPDATE III: I have just read Dave's speech. My verdict: incredibly naive.
This is Kelly. And the chair that he sculpted for my father in law from the root of a 30-year old palm tree, imported from Myanmar.
More on him in a moment.
The other day, Helen Szamuely, one half of the EU Referendum team, drew attention in this article to one person's ecological house.
"It has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling. “By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.” Furthermore for thermal mass the walls are clad in "discards of a local stone called Leuders limestone, which is quarried in the area. The 12-to-18-inch-thick stone has a mix of colors on the top and bottom, with a cream- colored center that most people want. “They cut the top and bottom of it off because nobody really wants it,” Heymann says. “So we bought all this throwaway stone. It’s fabulous. It’s got great color and it is relatively inexpensive.”
Whose house is it? Not Al Gore's. No sirree.
George W. Bush's. The house in question is his Crawford Winter White House.
Back to Kelly. Kelly has been building his own eco house. It will shortly be featuring on the Channel 4 show, Grand Designs. At Christmas, I was privleged to take a look around. I won't show you the insides - that's embargoed until the show airs, but here's a sneak preview from the outside.
It's octagonal. The central column consists of an eight hundred-year oak, possibly planted by a member of the Royal family in the middle ages.
The insulation is straw, with lime rendering as the cement. It has several large water tanks inside which will collect rainwater for washing.
Electricity will be generated from solar panels and a wind turbine. David Cameron, eat your heart out.
It is absolutely stunning. The work of a creative mastermind. Make sure you watch the show.
"Just as the Greens propose a universal 50mph limit to reduce emissions of green-house gases, we learn that another villain is the domestic cow. The average cow emits 400 litres of deadly methane gas every day, we are told. Cows and other ruminants account for between 12 and 15 per cent of all methane emissions, or so the US Environmental Protection Agency claims."
"There are 1.3 billion cows on this planet, and every year each cow produces about 90kg of methane, and as greenhouse gases go, methane is about 24 times worse than CO2 in sealing the heat in the air. According to a recent report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture produces 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent"
Arthurian Legend has noted before David Cameron's assinine approach to EU-related matters, including his "committment" to reassert the supremacy of the British Parliament concerning the "social chapter" provisions (over which Blair surrendered control to Brussels when he came to power).
One of Legend's contacts even attended a swanky do in the City where DC was schmoozing the money and boasting that he would take back control of this area.
From the mouth of the President of the European Commission himself, we now have confirmation that Cameron can't do what he says he will do:
"The Commission assumes that when the Honourable Member refers to the Social Chapter in the Treaties, he is referring to the social provisions contained in the articles 136 to 145 of the EC Treaty. These provisions are part of the whole Treaty and cannot be isolated. All Member States are bound by the Treaties they have signed and ratified and which have entered into force, including the social provisions they contain. Consequently, a withdrawal from these provisions by a Member State would require an amendment of the EC Treaty in accordance with Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union."
There were two particularly silly things about making this committment:
1. It appeared to be in exchange for dropping the fishing policy - a fishing policy that was hailed by those who studied it as a good plan and one that was likely to command wide support in the areas of Britain most directly affected
2. I suspect that people will be more concerned about the Conservatives "taking away their rights" in this area (even if the EU should not have been involved in the first place) than the previous policy of repatriating the powers ceded under the "Common Fisheries Policy".
Anyway, it's another naive Cameron promise on the European Union which he looks likely to drop when he finds it too awkward to stand up for British democracy.
Some while back, ConservativeHome ran a breathless editorial hailing the fact that according to a recent poll (I think it was an ICM one), the Conservatives had edged ahead of Labour by a couple of points in the confidence that the public had in the Party to manage the NHS. I think that the relative results were 29-27 in favour of the Conservatives.
Big deal, I thought. OK, so it's not bad news, but with the margins of error that exist, hardly a ringing endorsement. I decided to dig a little deeper and look at the full poll results. What I was shocked to see - what the big story should have been - was that around 41% of the people surveyed trusted NO POLITICAL PARTY to run the NHS.
Now, as a libertarian Conservative, I can fully understand that. I don't trust politicians to "run" the NHS - whether Labour or Conservative - in the same way that I wouldn't trust them to run the supermarkets, make my clothes, produce the music I listen to or write and publish the books I read.
Now, I know that it is not as simple as saying:
"The largest group among you trust no politician to run healthcare, and quite rightly so. We can't. Therefore, we will return most of your NHS tax money to you to help you to buy personal health insurance or enable you to join another healthcare scheme that will provide you with healthcare when you need it. That scheme or insurance will be able to buy services from whichever GP, hospital, clinic or consultant they wish, and there will be free entry into the market to provide those services, subject to minimum government-specified standards, to oblige all providers to compete to provide value for money and high quality services, therefore driving up standards for everyone."
Those who are reading this who are Conservatives know (or ought to know) that in the vast majority of cases that would improve standards, reduce waiting times, and cut the unnecessary waste from a system where "everything is free"). It would also encourage charity on the part of healthcare providers to treat the poorest for free. It would also eliminate the huge costs of 'health tourism'.
Now, there is hardly anyone who disputes the need to then provide specific assistance to some people who would genuinely be unable to afford to buy insurance or other protection, and would need some subsidy. But it would be far more effective to give direct cash subsidy to those people than have a masssive NHS centralised bureaucracy to run healthcare instead without any open market competition.
But apart from some in the DirectDemocracy group in the Conservative party, and perhaps David Laws in the Lib Dumbs, no major political figure seems to be edging in that direction and making that argument - despite the clear evidence that people do not trust politicians to run healthcare.
After reading The Hitch's blog for the first time last night (it's very funny), I went on to catch up with the original Peter Hitchens (of the Mail on Sunday).
Following a very extensive and interesting post in which replies to a number of readers' comments, I saw this further comment from a reader, which stood out:
"During the late 80s/early 90s I used to be one of the poor drudges calling innocent people at home on behalf of Mori. There was one Greenpeace did on peoples' view of Trident submarines (topical now, no?) where the questions were deliberately phrased to make the respondent feel guilty if they didn't take the anti-Trident line it was appalling the double bind they put people in, and of course they got the result they wanted. And if there was a political poll, the Tory Voters were always the ones who said they didn't want to reveal who they voted for which made me feel quite sick, because I was a Tory voter in those days and the fact that every foul mouthed Rock Journalist, 'Artist', British Filmmaker etc at the time were using vicious, obscene and hate filled exaggeration to denounce the Conservatives all the time was evidence of their Evil, not Conservative me. No point being a Hidden Conservative, being Hidden is what Communists do.
So yes, polls represent nothing, but will always be held in biblical reverence by the Highbrow media, as much as the Tabloids so the rest of us can all laugh at Paxman, Humphries, Wark etc as they try to convince us how serious and clever they all are."
This piece may be refined, amended or added to after posting...
I have admitted in a previous post that up to and during the Iraq invasion I had supported Blair's decision to send British troops to depose Saddam and to try to impose better governance of that country.
But Cockrell's film helped to crystalise a number of thoughts that had been gradually developing and taking shape over the past 12 months or so.
In brief, these are some of the conclusions that I have tentatively formed:
1. Britian's earlier operational successes in deposing in fairly short order the hostile military regimes in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan were successful precisely because British military might was so much greater in comparison to the opposition that it faced.
2. Blair's successes in these conflicts emboldened him in a way that weakened (I think perceptibly) his critical faculties, and made him less hard-headed in his calculations not only of Britain's best interests, but whether what was planned was likely to succeed in the time frame that was open to him as Prime Minister. He was almost like a gambler on a winning streak who thought the cards were always going to turn up for him.
3. I never believed before the invasion that British forces in Cyprus or elsewhere were at any significant risk from Saddam. If Saddam had pre-emptively sent rockets to attack Britain or British forces then he should and probably would have known that we had the capacity to bomb his country back to the twelfth century. And quite possibly would have.
4. Before the invasion I had believed, from reading Con Coughlin's biography of Saddam, that Iraq had WMD, before I had read the published document from the Government on the issue. But the presence or absence of WMD was not to my mind the crucial justification for armed intervention: the fact that Saddam himself was a one-man WMD was good enough, I thought.
5. Blair had at least implicity committed Britain to intervene in Iraq from as early as the "Colgate summit" in early 2002; I think that he had also made up his own mind then in a way that, given what I can deduce from his psyche, would have made it extraordinarily difficult for him to change.
6. If it had all worked out well, order had been imposed quickly, and democracy and a peaceful society had begun to flourish within a year of the invasion, then the "Not in My Name" crowd would have looked even more ridiculous than I thought they did at the time.
7. However, Iraq was crucially different not only from the countries to which Blair had previouly sent forces, but also from how it was in the 1920s when Britain was last there in force as a colonial power. Oil money, telecommunications and the instruments of war had distinctivly improved the trouble or resistance that people on home soil (including those from Iran and Syria) could deploy against British and Amercian troops.
8. The geographical size of Iraq, and the relatively small number of British forces available exposed again the fact that Britain is no longer an imperial power which impose itself almost at will on an Arab state - if it ever could.
9. Just because some particular outcome is desirable and even "right" (as Blair might put it) (for example, toppling a bloody and brutal dictator), this doesn't mean that the operation to do so is wise and therefore "right". There are some times when it is better to take a hard-nosed approach to British interests and err on the side of caution, rather than gambling massively that what you do will work out.
I think it is this point perhaps above all others that I refused to accept before and during the invasion. Or rather, that I thought that the risks were worth it. Perhaps I didn't think it was actually much of a risk at all - that success in toppling Saddam was certain. And on that I was right.
But I didn't fully consider all the ramifications of the action, and understand what else needed to be done after the invasion to maximise the chances of success. And that resulted, I think, simply from a lack of knowledge of military history, of the culture of the region, and of the practical logistics. Something that as Prime Minister you absolutely have to know before making any decisions.
10. The massive size of the task, and the vastly greater US contingent, meant that Britain would not be on equal terms this time around, or even realistically think that it could critically influence the way in which the US forces operatated and the decisions that were taken.
The supposed justification for British intervention that we would somehow improve matters to a sufficient extent if we didn't allow America to 'go it alone' seems quite thin, given the relative weight of the respective armed contributions.
11. The argument about failed states, rogue regimes, proliferation and an inter-dependent world requiring greater amounts of intervention is only neat if the intervention works. Somethimes, it may just be necessary to live with that threat where the resources and will to deal with it properly are not there.
12. By contrast, there is some evidence that Blair's determination to send ground troops into Kosovo swayed Clinton, and that as a result of the snowballing pressure started by Blair, France and Russia joined in and persuaded Milosovic to back down.
13. Aspects of the way that the US fight are deeply uncomfortable to British sensibilities. This meant that the Prime Minister and the British participation in the war in general was going to take a lot of flak. Without a VERY good justification for our presence there, it was going to be very significantly tougher to live with those negative aspects. These include:
a) the repeated complaint that not every US soldier or airman will double- and triple-check before firing on supposedly hostile forces (which turn out to be British)
b) the distasteful gung-ho rhetoric in at least some of the pre-action pep talks
c) the openly disrespectful attitude of some the immature US forces towards the Iraqis (I think of that scence where the soldiers in the US tank drove around Baghdad listed to loud music with lyrics that screamed "burn mutha f****r, burn"
14. On the subject of "international law": I don't have any significant problems in principle with Britain and the US and other democratic countries in the Anglosphere conducting military operations without explicit UN backing, particularly if it is the old suspects France, Russia and China that are holding things back purely for their own self-interest. But if you are going to do something without formal UN backing, for goodness' sake make sure that the 'intelligence' you are presenting is watertight, and that you make all the preparations and provide all the resouces necessary to execute the policy competently and successfully.
15. On the pre-war 'intelligence': "sporadic and patchy" was not "detailed, extensive and authoratative". Blair might have felt that telling the whole truth about the intelligence would have meant that a mission which was in his eyes right and justified would not get the necessary backing, and that therefore it was permisible to be less than candid about the full picture.
This was both a moral and a strategic mistake: the truth will find you out on an issue of such importance and on which there was such public scrutiny.
16. It may be that some people would not have supported Blair that otherwise did so on the basis of the evidence available. But others may have respected his honesty, and been more willing to trust his judgement if there was not the issue about his truthfulness.
17. But if Blair couldn't have got the support required by telling the whole truth then it would have been noble to resign: and history may well have judged him better than it is currently doing.
Out with Mrs. Legend on Sunday afternoon for lunch and a stroll round part of the borough.
There are some very attractive streets - constructed long before the socialist/Nazi/Lib Dumb menace blighted this part of London.
Then there are some lovely squares:
And some highly elegant houses
...and then we have THIS monstrosity:
Commissioned and designed by someone with an aesthetic lobotomy.
Anything, surely anything, could be better than this.
OK, if the Conservatives were ever to get in, perhaps it wouldn't be the FIRST priority to raze. But replacing this hideous eyesore with somthing other than what David Blunkett splashed down on paper after a tab of E could perhaps feature somewhere on the list..?