Archive for September, 2010

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Defence Cuts

It is impossible to organise a defence policy independent of a foreign policy. Therefore, although the Treasury holds the purse strings, the Foreign Office has the plan. Next week we can expect to hear from William Hague a difinitive explanation of what the plan is. If it involves the global projection of military power, rather than creating an impregnable defence of our homeland and its vital lines of communication and supply, it is the wrong plan and we cannot afford it.

There is also the fact the the Ministry of Defence itself  is dysfunctional and financially out of control. A good example of this is these ridiculous aircraft carriers. We cannot afford to equip them to their potential and we cannot even afford to build them properly. Such vast capital ships have to be able to roam the seas for months or years without refuelling or carrying explosive oil. There must be, and all others in the world are, nuclear powered. But no. Not these two. The have steam turbines because it is cheaper. This means that each has to refuel at sea and carry nearly 8000  tons of oil. They would be dependent on their fuel supply and very easy to sink.

They will be useless in modern war. Like the much feted HMS Hood, regarded throughout the period between the world wars as the most powerful warship in the world, it was sunk within minutes by the Bismark on its first engagement in battle. This was beacuse it had not been thought necessary to equip it with worthwhile armour on its decks.

There can be plenty of cutting at the Ministry of Defence, but first it is necessary to work out with what objective for the outcome.

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Iraq War

Ed Milliband was right to declare the Iraq war wrong. Politicians are deaf to the universal clamour against this adventure, which will be made even shriller when Chilcot is published. It will not be possible for any political leader to win an election in the future without first repudiating this ill fated, ill starred and to most, illegal war.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Had it not been for continuing to line up behind, what was after all, Tony Blair’s war, Labour might have won enough seats to be the party to go into coalition with the Lib Dems. Moreover, had David followed a more independent foreign policy and come out against the war, as the effect of the disaster became clear and the truth began to unravel, he would have been Labour Leader probably before the general election in May, but certainly now. 

Ed now joins Nick as  two main party leaders against the war. As Chilcot emerges Cameron will notice his isolation. It will shift the political ground. If Labour under Ed becomes negative about cuts, woolly about its own proposals and supportive of pointless strikes, the Conservatives will have nothing to fear. But if Ed has a good plan which is accepted by independent commentators as a runner, the Lib Dem benches in the Commons could become restive. That will make the coalition’s majority unstable. Things may not be set in quite so clear cut a mould for the next five years, as last week we supposed.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

David Milliband

David has behaved with grace a dignity in defeat. He joins a long line of political heirs who failed to inherit. Halifax, Butler, Maudling, Healey, Heseltine, Clarke, Portillo. Sometimes history tells us party members or earlier kingmakers were right, sometimes not. We shall have to wait a while for the verdict between Ed and David.

For the moment this blog believes Ed was the right choice for Labour, which politically must shift left and come up with a new deal. The centrists and the New Labour survivors, together with a good many commentators will beg for the retention of the centre. This is pointless, because the centre is lost to a combination of left Tories and right Lib Dems, who together with reluctant followers in coalition have taken that ground. That is no longer where the opportunity for electoral breakthrough lies. It is notable that the Sun has a poll putting labour on 40% today. This is based on a perception the Ed is to the left.

David now has to choose to stay or go. He must go. If he stays we will be back to a Blair/ Brown soap. Maybe the brothers will be as one by their acolytes will not be and a whole media industry will be established to prize them apart, with the less scrupulous making up issues of discord. That will stop any prospect of a Labour government. The choice was for the one or the other. It was never for both.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

IMF Approval

The Coalition will feel chuffed with this endorsement from the IMF. It is certainly the case that the IMF is interested in financial outcomes, rather than social ones, so that it may underplay the human consequence of a financil plan. Nevertheless this is good for the Conservatives and their Lib Dem partners and will make life trickier for Labour.

Next week the spotlight falls on the Tory Conference, their first since 1997 in Government. Whatever Ministers say will have more impact that the aspirations expressed this week in Manchester. Much will depend on George Osborne and what he has to say about cuts. The Treasury is in the eye of the coming storm. All else is consequential upon what the Treasury decides. The consequences will even be global, such is the position of the City of London in the financial firmament. For the moment the Chancellor is one of the most powerful men in the world.

Generally the delegates should feel buoyant, but they will not feel as bouyant as when they meet again a year or two down the line, the cuts over, the economy sorted and things once again on the up. They may never get there. But if they do they will have a lot to celebrate. They will need then to be careful, for it is when the economic battle is won and the sacrifices have been made, that the electorate will be in the mood for change and posessed of the confidence to give it a go.

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Core Voters

The Labour Party is now busy rallying behind its new leader and will spend a good deal of thought and energy working out the best way forward, not just to challenging opposition, but to power at the earliest opportunity. It is too soon to tell whether that could be months, years or decades away.

What is critical, as the blog has said more than once, is for Labour to re-connect to its core voters, the working people and the under priveleged. They are Labour’s raison d’etre and without them it cannot win. The problem is that they alone are not enough. The balance can be made up from the centre or it can be made up from those who see an opportunity for radical change. Not reform, change. It is important to realise that the voters who gave Attlee his landslide in 1945 were the same cast of voter, in many cases the same people, who put Thatcher into power in 1979 and Blair into power in 1997.

Attlee and Thatcher delivered in full. Blair did not. He brought peace in Northern Ireland and he introduced devolution and City mayors. The rest was general housekeeping overshadowed by a misguided foreign policy leading to disastrous wars.

Blair was re-elected in 2001 and 2005 not because people thought he was the best choice. He was the only choice. The Tories had crashed  into unelectability, for they had disconnected from their core vote on a binge of anti- European-ism and right wing excess. Cameron went out to the Shires and the suburbs and brought their shrunken numbers back to the fold, but needed those who had wandered over to the Lib Dems, to form a government. Those Lib Dems who had joined the party because  New Labour had moved too far to the centre were uncomfortable with the coalition and remain so. We now have a government of Liberal Conservatives occupying the centre ground. It is split on constitutional reform but united on the need to cut the deficit and to shrink the state.

New Labour overdid the building of the nanny state, controlling every nook and cranny of peoples lives. Not only was it very expensive but it got in everybody’s way. It employed a lot of people but too many in pointless jobs and too few where it really mattered. If the coalition sorts this out it will gain popularity. Labour needs to see the mess it got into and move on. Its opportunity lies in coming forward with a new economic model which does not suck resources from the poorest in society to pass them to the richest. Every time people borrow to make ends meet they grow poorer while the banks grow richer. This is why bankers are hated. If Ed comes up with a plan to deal with that he will get his landslide and he will get it within the next decade.  He may even get it in 2015.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Sunday Politics

Hardly has the man been elected or the news filtered beyond the Westminster political spectrum and the media is full of analysis of whether Ed Milliband is red or pink or this or that. We are in the age of instant politics and very bad politics they are. They are fun to watch if you find it interesting, but they do not produce good governance.

Ed will take time to settle into his new role and to swing his party behind his vision. It will be left of centre, because that is where his heart is. He will explore alternative left leaning policies to provide solutions and will rely less on spin to articulate them. He will make kind noises to the so called middle class, but it is in Labour’s roots and heartland that he will seek the base upon which to build his party’s return to power. He knows that Labour is, as its name implies, the party of the majority working population who keep the wheels of civilised life oiled and turning and the people warm, fed and clothed.

He knows that Labour is both radical and progressive and must, to be relevant, to be the engine of change. He knows  that when the public mood is for radical change, if Labour’s agenda matches the national mood, it will be given power. He knows too that when it becomes the Establishment, spinning, arrogant and complacent, it will lose it once more.

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Ed Wins

This result is good for Labour. This Blog, once again, anticipated the political tide (post Sept 17). For far too long the Left has been represented by the Centre, gullible, bureaucratic and hijacked by spin. Ordinary people have been without a voice or a champion. Above all they have been without a progressive ideology to challenge the ever more gluttonous thirst for power and wealth from the finance industry, which sucks money from the lowest to the highest.

The coalition government, well founded and with much talent has a plan. It is a good plan. It will not be a good enough plan unless a new challenge emerges from the Left of a credible alternative, which puts social justice and community reconstruction in partnership with sound finance to deliver a more equal and sustainable society. This will raise the game across the political spectrum.

For the troubles we face from these doleful and pointless wars to the financial crash and the cuts to come are founded in government of very poor quality made possible by the fact that for most of the time the quality of opposition was even worse.

Ed Milliband has to change all that. I think he might and I hope he will.

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Gay Bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that gay bishops are acceptable to him as long as they are celibate. This is like saying vegetarians are fine as long as they do not eat vegetables. Celibacy has all but brought the Catholic Church to its knees and certainly damaged its image. It is unhealthy, unnatural and likely cause all kinds of probelms if not voluntary and by choice.

The Church of England was founded because the people of England wanted to be free of domination by an autocratic church of Rome and its rigid interpretation of christian teaching. The church of England was enshrined in our Constitution to guarantee freedom of thought and interpretation according to conscience rather than edict. It established a tradition of re-interpretation of meaning as understanding of meaning, purpose and origins evolved. Rather than confront science, as Rome was doing with such disastrous effect, the C of E absorbed it. Likewise on social issues. The law of the land and the law of the church tried to keep in step. Thus abortion, divorce, re-marrige, contraception, equality of women, the rights to equality of gays and ethnic minorities became the law of the land and by and large were adopted by the Church.

Unfortunately the evangelical movement began to gain a hold which diverted the old Church of England from both its mission and its constitutional function, to the point where disgaceful quarrels about discriminations which would be illegal outside its walls have been allowed to dominate. If the Church of England is to survive as a coherent element of our national fabric it has to mend its ways fast. Otherwise it will become a non-established minority gradually slipping back into the clutches of Rome, driving out of its congregations all those who believe the greatest gift that God has given them is the power to think for themselves.

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Cutting the Quangos

Leaks that these peculiar public bodies are being lined up for the chop is very good news. However it is not just a matter of reducing and amalgamating. This whole structure provides very bad and expensive government and is fundamentally undemocratic.

Whenever interviewed, the head boy or girl of each puts up a cogent argument as to why, in their precious quango’s case, an exception should be made, how they do much valuable work and how the needy depend upon them and their wisdoms. Sorry no sale. This argument is invalid, because the whole concept is flawed.

Democratic government must be by elected government, assisted by an appropriate department of the civil service and must be responsible to the electorate for every outcome of public administration and management at national or local levels, where and only where the government has an appropriate function to perform. What has happened is that numerous quangos have been created either to carry out functions which under a proper constitution should be the responsibility of the electorally accountable, or which are meddling activities which are nothing whatever to do with government and neither it nor its agencies should be anywhere near.

It is this fashion for  non-government agencies, regulators and authorities which has created a crippling burden upon the economy, not only in terms of actual cost, but in terms of gigantic hidden costs of putting a millstone round the neck of almost every function and activity of everyday commercial, business, academic and private life. Getting rid of the whole apparatus, hook line and sinker, would save money yes, but more to the point, it would set the economy free.

Then we would see the recovery really get up steam.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The Police

The latest report from the CIC highlights public disquiet on police performance in regard to anti-social behavior. He suggests police in many areas have withdrawn from the streets. Senior police officers have been quick to defend their record, pointing out the many and diverse nature of their duties ranging from terrism and organised crime to arguments between neighbours. The words resource and bureaucracy fly across the airwaves, mostly hand in hand with cuts.

The solution is relatively simple, yet beyond the imagination of most politicians. The deterioration in the relationship between the police and the public on the ground, which has been mirrored by a deterioration in public order, began in the eraly sixties when the police were taken off their bikes and their feet and put into Panda cars, as the little blue and white vehicles were known. From that day the police ceased to be of the community. They became strangers out of the loop, reacting and enforcing but not preventing and certainly not maintaining a high standard of public order so as to give life everywhere a civilised quality.

They had done this hitherto. This was what Sir Robert Peel, who invented them, wanted them to do and they did it well. He saw that law was one thing but order was another. Crime was sporadic whereas order was universal. Detectives, aided in serious cases by Scotland Yard, solved crime. The function of the police was to prevent it. Life has moved on, crime has grown into a mega commercial enterprise, terrorists plot unseen in the shadows, Parliament, binging on ever more legislation creating ever more crimes, ratchets up the complexity and volume of the demands placed upon the police.

The time has come to call a halt. A simple but revolutionary reform is required.  We need three distinct police forces; a national police force for solving crime, a national traffic police, and a community police service for keeping oder in every street and location throughout the length and breadth of the land. This latter force would be organised by county as at present, but would be foot and bike bound and resident in the community in which it worked. When I was young I knew by sight every policeman in the town in which I worked and my own village policeman by name. There was no such thing as anti-social behaviour.

There has been too  much science and too much reform. This is needed to solve crime and combat the crime syndicates and the terrorists. It is not needed to keep communities socially cohesive. That is a different skill needing a different style and approach. It has to be of not at.

Finally traffic. We all know how frustrating it is to have one’s shed broken into and one’s mower taken or ones car vandalised or graffiti squirted over the bus stand. The police award us a crime number, offer victim counselling and ignore us thereafter. Then comes a traffic accident. Not a slaughter but a bump.  They come in minutes from all directions with sirens blaring to deafening levels. The road is shut, a ‘crime scene’ is declared and motorists are left to pick their way through unfamiliar routes. Well that must stop. The equivalent of the U.S Highway Patrol is needed as a quite separate force with different skills to keep our roads and motorways safe and to apprehend motoring offenders.

Nothing less will work. Moreover the present replication of a unique, complete, force infrastructure in every county for every element of policing is the most expensive way to deal with this. If cuts are in the offing, and they are, this is where to begin.