Archive for February, 2010

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Zimbabwe Sanctions.

South Africa has called for sanctions to end. I agree. Sanctions prop up the tyrannies they are designed to hurt. They deprive the ordinary people and create the opportunity for the despot in charge to bribe cronies with luxuries. The way to get rid of such regimes is to empower the people through greater prosperity to have time and energy to change their government. To cut off medicine, food and light causes so much initiative to be required for survival that politics takes a back seat. If we had opened up to Iraq after the first war to expel them from Kuwait, the Iraqi people themselves would have had the resources to change their government if they wanted to, or Saddam would have mellowed like Gadafi.

Now that there is a power sharing government, creaky and unstable but trying and already showing huge improvements in the quality of daily life, we need to set the country free of foreign shackles. It will then have the strength to free itself of its own. 

I have an interest in this. My grandfather was an early settler in what later became Southern Rhodesia, and my mother was born there. A cousin was a senior banker and diplomat who emigrated to America when Smith declared unilateral independence. Zimbabwe is a great country with room for everyone to live in harmony. White extremists have surely learned their lesson. The time is now for black extremists to show they have done so too. Starting with the President himself. The rest of the world needs to stop setting conditions based upon their own standards, arrived at only after many centuries of bloodshed and the slaughter of millions, and give these people a chance. That would shut down the patronage of ZANU(PF). Then things would really get moving.

Listen to the South Africans. They talk good sense.

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Chilean Earthquake

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out once again to the victims of natural disaster, this time Chile. A much more advanced country than the last victim, Haiti, with vastly better infrastructure and a rehearsed emergency plan. I fear we may not yet know the full extent of the damage and loss of life. We can only imagine the trauma of those caught up in such an event and the grief of the survivors for family and friends who are gone. The collective sympathy and aid of the rest of the world is on its way.

This hemisphere is having troubling seismic disturbance. We must hope San Andreas remains quiet down below.

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Opinion Polls

Well, well! The Tory lead is down to 2%. The bullying allegations have played in Brown’s favour. If this happened on polling day Cameron would be defeated. Parliament would be hung, but the Tories would not be the largest party. This blog thinks this is a good moment to take stock of the parties. The election is going to be much more exciting than we thought.

First let us look at the numbers in the coming battle. Brown occupies the high ground. He can lose around 30 seats to keep a majority of one. Cameron has to win 117 seats to get that magic one. The scale of the Tory defeat under Major in 1997 requires not just a Tory victory. They have to inflict a massacre. Until recently they were on course to do so. Now it may already be out of reach.

What has happened? Basically the Tories screwed up. The first part of thier campaign has been a muddle of mixed messages and daft ideas. This has caused people to lose confidence at two levels. If they are going to do those sorts of things, do we want them in power? Far more damaging is the astonishment that given such a winning position at the outset they have manged to play bad cards in the wrong order. This causes the fatal doubt; if they are too shallow and inexperienced to run a campaign, how can they possibly be trusted to run the country? Who are their advisers? What about this Coulson person? Who is Lord Ashcroft?

Labour have had a lot of problems, but they appear to be overcoming them one by one. Brown, the underdog in adversity assailed by events and people on all sides, driven to titanic rages, has taken hit after hit, but like a blitzed city whose people refuse to give in, he has tottered on in defiance promising victory is possible. First the British love the hero underdog. They love Churchill not for the triumph of D-Day but for the calamity of Dunkirk. Here is Brown, near blinded as a lad playing rugby, betrayed by Blair, losing his first born, the world financial system crashing about his ears (never mind if it was his fault, everybody was at it, mostly the bankers and most of them are Tories), but he is always there. He says he is there for us. Well perhaps he is?

So as we move into the critical phase, things are getting worse for the Tories and getting better for Labour. Even if the economic recovery falters in the first quarter after improved figures for the last quarter, it can be explained by the transport chaos of the weather and the return of vat to its normal rate. Overall things seem to be improving. All that could change. A more profound economic event or some even more dramatic eruption in Labour’s hyperventilated ranks could blow everything. But at the moment the campaign is moving Labour’s way. Just like Gordon said it would.

Today Cameron has to make the speech of his life. More than that the speech of his party’s life. He has done it twice before. The first to gain the leadership and the second to break Brown’s confidence in the election that never was. The speech alone will not now be enough. There has to be a clear, radical and comprehensible  programme presented today certainly, but organised into a winning campaign critically. This time the campaign mangers have no room for screw ups.

The Lib dems know this is not their hour. At this point, as the third party, they must hone their local campaigns to put themselves as the primary challenge in as many seats as possible, while securing those they already hold. They can win from both Labour and Tory, but can lose to both also. In the final phase they can proclaim their programme. Properly done this will play well as they have some of the best ideas, especially constitutional reform. Their goal is different to either of the two big parties. In a hung parliament they must go for the balance, because in a hung parliament, balance is power.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Tory Health

An eminent consultant, once Tony Blair’s adviser on health reforms, has joined the Tory health team as an adviser to be if they come to power.

I have three observations. The first is the doctors should have nothing to do with sorting out the problems in the health service, because they are the biggest problem. Second the internal market and fund holding surgeries of the last Tory government were a failure, so watch out. The third is everything is explained in the Health chapters of my book 2010 A Blueprint for Change.

Sorry about the plug. I do not do it often.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Economic Recovery

The result for economic growth for the final quarter of 2009 has been eased up from 0.1 to 0.3. This is better than expected. It is, nevertheless, not good. Economists and commentators expect recovery to be slow and bumpy and quite a long road. I am sure they are right.

Unfortunately, as this blog loses no opportunity to proclaim, there has been no fundamental re-modeling of the economy and we are coming out of the recession by the same road as we went in. This will mean that the recovery will be like the one which lasted from 1945 to 1984. Bursts of boom but slipping all the time behind the countries whom once we had led. We need to think about that.

Friday, February 26th, 2010


In modern civilised culture torture has no place. Neither does wrapping oneself in explosives as a fast track to heaven, killing and maiming innocent civilians in the process, including women and children. To discover who is plotting and planning, intelligence services step over the line. To gain recognition or some other political ambition frustrated by vast obstacles, young idealists do the same. Torture by security services comes off the same shelf as suicide bombing. Neither is justified. Each will create more of the other.

M15 is probaly one of the most successful and certinly most experienced of the world’s security services. The values that it protects on behalf of our country are certainly the best. Unfortunately neither it, nor our country, always live up to the standards we ourselves set and proclaim. When found out we deny, lie and confuse. It is time to bring about some improvement to regain the moral authority to appeal to reason from the suicide bombers. It will be difficult to be heard but without improvement it will be impossible.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Brown and Blair

According to the Guardian further tit bits from that book are to tell of a blazing row between Blair and Brown with the F word flying over Blair’s refusal to stand down early in 2006. This led to the failed coup attempt later in the year. Apparently Brown accused Blair of ruining his life.

Several points arise. First there is in my mind no doubt  that whatever deal the two reached after John Smith’s death was not stuck to by Tony in the terms understood by Gordon. We know now that Blair is a very slippery customer with messianic delusions whose word cannot be relied upon. Any man with a spark of honour would have resigned once it became apparent, with the absence of weapons of mass distraction, that he had led the country into war on a false prospectus. That he believed he was right is irrelevant. The fact is that he was wrong.

There is no doubt Brown has a temper. There is also no doubt that he had grounds to feel let down. But in the end it is water under the bridge and we have moved on. What is not in any doubt whatever is the appalling and ramshackle structure under which we are governed with our unwritten Constitution. The Prime Minister when appointed assumes all the powers of a King (or Queen – remember Thatcher’s ‘we have a grandson’) with all the Royal Perogatives in their pocket or handbag. All that is need to stay ‘on and on’ is a House of Commons controlled by the whips. The abuse of power which ensues is one from which none have been immune. The whole set-up is a cynical two fingers at the basic principles of democracy.

It has led to very bad government over a very long time. We struggle in messes entirely of our own making. There are all sorts of aspirations for the future and prim lectures to countries whom we consider fall short, but until we set our own Constitutional house on a modern democratic footing, we are not going anywhere fast and our admonisions to others will be brushed disdainfully aside.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Bank Bonuses

This morning state ownwd RBS announced a handsome muti- billion pound loss, yet plans to pay £1.5 billion in bonusses to people it ‘cannot afford to lose.’  This ammounts to commercial blackmail. The government, which is boss on our behalf, should say no. This is an outstanding opportunity for Cameron and Osborne to get their campaign back on the road. If they play this well and articulte the universal public outrage at this gross injustice, they will put the recent unhappy slippage in the polls behind them.

They need to be savvy. The  origins of the credit crunch can be traced back to Big Bang and the relaxing of rules about what was a bank or a building sociecty or a merchant bank. The flawed strucure of the economy can be traced back to the decimation of our industrial base in the Thatcher era. The high enrgy bills and insecurity of supply can be traced to the aftermath of privatisation and the covert setting up of an expense chest for MPs began when the Tories were in power. They have ben out of office now for thirteen years so they can argue that they would have managed the post Thatcher era better, but it is weak ground for them to defend.

Such is the dismay about this whole business of the arrogance of these busted banks, able to gamble on the so called markets because they were rescued by taxpayers money, the Tories can sieze the moral, ethical and practical high ground and continue to enfilade the government form all sides up to polling day. In the end however they have to rethink their plan for the City.

What is needed is to retain public ownership of the retail arm of RBS and cast aside, without guarantees and taxpayers money, the gambling arm to anybody fool enough to buy it and to reconstitute the Halifax as a mutual building society outside LLoyds Bank. Then they need do set up a system so that  house prices have to be included in the inflation measure and give savers a decent rate of interest necessary to rebuild the vital base of retail deposits. There is a lot more to do but that simple programme would be worth fifty marginal seats.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Forces of Hell

Alistair Darling recalls how everyone, both in government and in opposition,  briefed against him after he warned the country that we were entering the worst recession in modern times. I thought he had a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he recalled the experience in a T.V interview, but in the election frenzy the media has taken  him seriously.

He was certainly right in his predictions and the dark forces were proved wrong. Does this mean the Chancellor has the angels on his side?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

President Karzai

Reports are coming in to the effect that President Karzai has ‘issued a decree’ giving himself the power to appoint all the members of the election watchdog which will monitor the integrity of the coming elections in Afghanistan. This does not sound good. It is very bad for the credibility of this government and for the rickety notion of democracy in that country. It is to re-establish the writ of this government in areas where it has lost control with good reason, that our young people are almost daily giving their lives.

We are not happy about this. The President needs to be told. Public opinion, already fed up with the mess of this war, the killing of innocent civilians including women and children by mistake and all the other problems, is close to the end of its tether both here and in the U.S. The President needs to take care or he will find the money shut off, the troops gone home and the prospect of be hanged from a lamppost, like one of his predecessors, very real.