Archive for August, 2010

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

BT Fails Again.

Having moved to the perfect cottage with a promise in writing and other confirmations from the shambolic muddle calling itself BT, that my phone and broadband would be connected by midnight on August 20th, I am now told that due to arguments among providers I cannot be connected unless I have a new line at extra cost. I have agreed and the earliest the work can be done by something called Open Reach is September 15th, so this Blog will remain off line until about September 16th.

I am very sorry to disappoint but I am not the type of person who can do this stuff in cafes and hotels. I shall be writing to Ofcom or whatever quango is in charge. It never descended to this level of customer abuse, even when it was a state owned monopoly.

Monday, August 16th, 2010


This Blog will be without new posts until Monday August 23. This is due to holiday and house move. Time to look at the archives perhaps? Thanks for all your support.

Monday, August 16th, 2010

General Petraeus

There is no doubt that Gen Petraeus is a practical and competent commander, with the ability to see the big picture. It is therefore inevitable that he should start to hint, as he has, that in terms of achieving the mission, American combat troops may have to stay in Afghanistan longer. This will cause dismay in parts of Washington and in all of London and Nato.

As each day passes it becomes ever clearer to see a truth that was there at the very beginning. The problems of Afghanistan do not admit of a military solution. That lies in tribal politics, local war lords and elements of Pakistan not convinced by the war on terror. The General also thinks that negotiations with the Taliban are a necessary way forward. These need to be stepped up. Public opinion across the West has lost faith in this war and will no longer back it. The Obama Presidency depends on an end being in sight by November 2012.

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Rural Housing

In another element of what I suppose is the Big Society, there is a proposal for local communities to hold referenda to determine whether to build affordable housing. If 80% vote yes, the plan goes ahead irrespective of what the planning authority thinks. Critics point out that this is another blocking measure, not an enabling one as the likelihood of getting 80% of the community to vote is very small and moreover they would all have to vote yes.

There is a thread appearing in a lot of these ideas. Others include parents setting up schools against the wishes of the LEA and all schools being encouraged to become Academies, whatever the position of the authorities locally, out of whose supervision Academies pass. The thread is gesture policies which satisfy an ideological tenet, but in fact will not work, or will not work well, or will achieve an outcome opposite to the aim. Gesture politics is fine in opposition, but gesture government is another thing altogether. Cameron and Clegg need to be careful. There is the potential for much to go wrong.

If localism is the aim and it should be, the best way forward is to unravel much of the local government act of the Heath government in the seventies and restore the power of Town and Rural District Councils and enhance the power of Parish Councils on issues affecting their communities. This would empower localism through local democracy, the best way to achieve balance with purpose, based on local need and preference.

The Heath act destroyed the fabric of communities built up over centuries on the grounds that bigger would be more efficient and better value. Experience has shown that it has delivered neither of these things. Communities feel detached from the power that governs them. Policy enforced locally does not accord with local wishes. The solution is not to bybass local government, rather to restore its authority. From Heath through Thatcher the Tory party has shown a disdain for local government. The Lib Dem members of the coalition need to keep an eye on this. The Tories say they are now in favour and this may indeed be the case, but the government needs to come forward with proposals less half baked.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

David Beckham

Many people are offended by the off hand way Fabio Capello called time  on the nation’s favourite footballer as a member of the England team. Beckham is not just a footballer. He is a sports ambassador and international celebrity. He is a popular hero. He has millions and millions of fans. All are affronted by this rather shabby treatment.

Nobody should worry, least of all our David. He is much bigger than Capello. If you Google the manager you are offered 2.5 million results. If you Google the player you get 42 million.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Victory in the Far East

There are today commemorations to mark the day sixty-five years ago when the Second World War finally ended. We had already finished the war in Europe and celebrated VE day. Now it was VJ day. There were huge celebrations. At last we had real peace. Tyranny, military dictatorship, Fascists, all had fallen. This was indeed the war to end wars. It had not been a war of conquest. It had been a war of survival. We had survived, millions had not. We could not then know of the Cold War, Korea, Suez, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I remember that in the small south coast town in which we lived after WWII, my mother used to take me to a stationery shop, full of pads, pencils and crayons ; an Aladdin’s cave in the age of austerity. It was run by a quiet man, a touch stooped, older looking than his years, with kindly eyes softened by a troubled shadow. It was explained to me that he was a very great hero. He had been a prisoner who was forced to work building the notorious Burma Railway (Bridge On The River Kwai) and had survived.

I remember  at school one day in 1946 a new teacher arrived. We called him a master in those days. He was in his late twenties. I had never seen anyone so pale and thin. He had been a POW in the Far East, captured at the fall of Singapore. He too was a hero. He was also a wonderful teacher. He taught my own children thirty years later.

Today there are few veterans left, but there are some. Heroes every one. It is their day.

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Tony Blair, Dr. Kelly, the Dossier and Hutton.

I have read the comments and listened to the arguments advanced by all sides since the issue of the death of the scientist was raised again in the Times. There are powerful and informed voices raised in favour of an inquest. There are equally strong arguments advanced to leave sleeping dogs lie. Nothing that I have heard, read or seen, changes my view that an inquest is essential. It may not change the notion of what happened to Dr. Kelly, but it will explain it and close the matter. It could, of course, if the Coroner is not convinced, leave the question unresolved, with an open verdict. That would be a telling repudiation of Hutton.

I know some suspect murder, others a conspiracy at the top of government. It may very well be that this unfortunate man, driven by conscience and anxiety to share his fears with a journalist, cracked under the relentless spotlight of the media and the shabby treatment by the authorities and took his life.

To me there are oddities unexplained. Why was Tony Blair, a seasoned political leader,  negotiator with former terrorists and the man who had ordered three wars, so ashen faced and distracted when the news broke? Nobody had ever seen him so uptight. This was, after all, on the face of it, the suicide of an official who had bitten off more than he could chew. Why should the government feel threatened? Why were the police and coroner not able to investigate normally through an inquest and come to a conclusion? What was the big deal?

Why was a public enquiry set up in the form that it was to halt the normal process of the law? Why did it come to   conclusions which, on the published evidence, seemed perverse? Was it to get at the truth or cover it up? Was this New Labour spin for the sake of control, because they were control freaks, or because there was something to hide. Did that something matter or just matter to them?

There may be nothing in it. Yet if you put the names Blair, Kelly and Hutton together, add a sofa, a dossier and various Downing Street personalities, most people get an uncomfortable feeling. We need to know why. An inquest into David Kelly’s death according to the law, together with the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, may together tell us the answer.

Through my life I have been absorbed by mysteries. Who killed  President Kennedy? Did the Titanic break in two? Was Hess murdered, or was it even Hess? There is a list. I could go on. Only the Titanic has yielded up her secrets. I have my theories about the others. But then so has everyone.

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Economic Growth

As the fissure between Keynesians and Monetarists opens, while recovery stutters uncertainly across the West, it becomes clear that they talk of two economies. One is based on borrowing driving consumption and asset inflation. The other is based on saving and enterprise driving the creation of tangible wealth. The former is in trouble, the latter is doing rather well.

This blog has recently been proclaiming that bad news is good. Falling house prices, negative lending or, as I prefer, net saving, tougher requirements demanded of borrowers, narrowing of the trade gap, improved industrial performance, all point to the re-balancing of the economy to provide a more certain route to future prosperity.

Against this a worried population braces itself for major job losses in the public sector, restricted income for those who remain, cuts in public services, reforms in welfare meaning fewer will be entitled and then perhaps to less, against a refrain from the left about a double dip recession. 

There is, in fact, no such thing as a double dip recession. What there is, and we do not want it, is an illusion of recovery bought with borrowed money, which is not sustainable without constant stoking, leading to crippling sovereign and personal debt. In the end the cost of the debt absorbs the majority of the output of both personal and national effort.

There may, however, be a compromise. I am not at all sure we should aim to sell the national stake in RBS, Lloyds and Northern Rock. We already have retained the bad bits of Bradford and Bingley and Northern Rock. Because these funds are closed and running off, they are now showing a profit. There is a powerful case for suggesting that the taxpayer should retain a competitive presence in retail banking to sponsor new enterprise loans, said to be so scarce, by allowing these banks to operate at lower capital ratios than independent competitors. In the last resort they are protected because of the Government’s shareholding.

The so called investment arms would have to be cut adrift to sink or swim and the independents would be told that if they required rescue in future their invest arms would be allowed to go bust, their shareholders would be wiped out and their retail networks would be absorbed into the state owned banks to secure ordinary depositors. This form of regulation, which is light on rules but heavy on consequences, would allow a little extra flexibility to nurture recovery, without damaging the re-balancing of the economy.

I commend it for consideration.

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero

It is understandable that many bereaved families have some misgivings about this plan. President Obama has reminded everyone of the true nature of America as a country, based on values which in combination give it a purpose enshrined in the very highest ideals. Not always does this work out and there are times when it leaves the track, but not over this.

President Obama is to be applauded for standing up for the very freedoms which apply to friend and for alike, which America’s enemies envy and seek to destroy. A great President is one who gives a clear lead in the dynamic adventure which is the United States, made up not of an indigenous tribe or race, but of the coming together under one flag of people of every race and creed. He reminds that evil comes with every faith and all Muslims are no more tainted with the blood of terror than all Christians are tainted by the perversions and atrocoties of the Nazis. 

The President already shows many of the qualties of the greatest of those who served before him. Not everything is going his way. The economy remains a problem, he inherited wars that cannot be won and he faces tough mid term elections in November. But America is already a warmer, fairer place projecting a much less abrasive image to the rest of the world. The Mosque will be a symbol of this renewal.

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Dr David Kelly

In my book I was highly critical of the astonishing Hutton enquiry which did not resolve the curious circumstances surrounding the death of this dedicated and courageous man, who has been proved so right by the course of events since his death. The decision by Hutton to seal the papers directly relating to Kelly’s alleged suicide for 70 years confirms something is being covered up. We owe it to him and his family to get to the truth. An inquest  now, called for by a distinguished group of doctors in a letter to the Times today, is imperative.

There is a changed public perception now. No longer is there trust that the authorities are either honest or well intentioned. The days when a distinguished judge can use his persona to blame everything on the BBC are well and truly gone.