Archive for October, 2017

Death In Denial: A Page Turner From £3.99

Monday, October 30th, 2017

At the heart of the British State lies a secret to keep which a cabal of shadowy establishment figures is authorised to kill. At the centre of the drama is a family with baggage from the past which has access to the truth and determines to expose it. That provokes a battle of wits among security services on both sides of the Atlantic, with links into Russia, Germany, France and Africa. A gripping narrative taking place in the modern day with a cast of ruthless characters determined to kill their way to victory. Male and female, old and young, engaging yet sinister, none quite what they seem. A sophisticated thriller of unusual pace and power written in an edgy modern style. Over 400 pages.

  Death In Denial by [Raven, Tor]

Parliament Needs an Upgrade: Not Just The Buildings.

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Once again sleaze is the driver of reform. Why does it always have to get to this? Why do our national institutions like Church and State find it so difficult to keep up with modern life, in any age, but especially now in the age of mass connectivity?

Of course there needs to be an end to groping, innuendo, abuse and worse. Of course people of all ages and sexes, especially women who are the primary victims, need to have a structure to protect them and a means of complaint without personal or career damage. But it has to go much further.

Parliament was built on the lines of a gentleman’s club. Right for mid-Victorian times but no longer. Self-employed MPs, employing their own staff in a structure awash with bars, with insufficient space in the Chambers of either House to accommodate all the members, is not fit for the modern purpose of national leadership and governance.

MPs are not really self employed, they are paid by taxpayers and employed by Parliament, their staff should be employed and managed by Parliament with full modern HR facilities and pastoral care. Every MP should have a marked seat in the Commons Chamber, which would have to be subject to significant remodeling.There should be few if any bars and they should be subject to realistic licencing hours. Members are there to work, not for a piss up. The House of Lords should have only one hundred Peers allowed into the legislative process and facilities. That number should be elected by universal suffrage on a regional basis. I could go on and on, but you get the gist.

The present set up is way past its sell by date, moral code et al and an upgrade is long overdue. Tradition is good but it is not an excuse to live in the past. Otherwise we would still be living in caves.

Catalonia Crisis: Keep Calm and Carry On

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

As usual when some crisis bursts in Europe, political has-beens tour the media declaring the biggest crisis since WWII and in this case ‘a new Spanish Civil War’. Unfortunately these folk of yesteryear, often rather tarnished by mishaps of their own, cannot earn appearance fees by being sensible, because they are past their sell by date and worthless without the bloodthirsty angle.

Catalonia is indeed a problem but it is not by any means out of control. The Spanish government’s declaration that the ringleader of the independence theatricals can stand in the new elections in December shows confidence in democracy and a lack of vindictiveness. There may be a complication if the Madrid courts have locked him up for sedition meanwhile, but the spirit looks positive. It also reflects the fact that the vast majority of Spaniards and all the main political parties want Spain to remain whole. As does the rest of the world. But, and this is critical, so do most Catalans.

Catalonia is prosperous because it is part of Spain, part of the EU and a good place to do business on a global scale. If it became independent on a unilateral declaration it would be none of these things. It would be out of Europe, out of Spain, unrecognised by any other country, its economy crippled and the last place any meaningful corporation would put its headquarters. So it is clear than none of the separatists have thought the consequences of their dream through. The reason for that is their attachment to independence is an emotional experience rather than a practical state of being.

There may be some violence between now and the general election for a new Catalan parliament on Dec.21st or on that day, but everybody hopes not. Because this is not the 1930s. Then Europe was still mired in the aftermath of the great depression, backward socially and economically, with two powerful ideologies, armed to the teeth and competing for power. Fascism championed first by Italy and then by a resurgent Germany, and Communism championed by Stalin’s Soviet Russia. As war broke out between the rickety Republican government and an insurgency backed by most of the regular army and led by one of its Generals, Franco, the Nazis and the Soviets piled in with volunteers and weapons on an industrial scale. Hitler backed Franco and sent the Condor Legion, Stalin sent his best General with volunteers and the latest Soviet weapons to bolster the left wing Republic.

In the 1930s Europe was without unity or common purpose. America had its back turned. Britain was gorging on appeasement pie. But today Europe, of which Spain is a part, stands as one in the greatest political union since the fall of Rome, it enjoys a level of general prosperity previously unknown, there is no world power willing to arm a rebellion, Spain is a member of NATO and America has several military bases in the country.

So unless everybody loses their reason, this political crisis, brought on by hot headed idealism rather than ideological or ethnic conflict, will resolve itself by democratic means in due course. Meanwhile the message must be Keep Calm and Carry on.

Kennedy Papers: Unlikely To Answer Key Questions

Friday, October 27th, 2017

The most telling thing about the release of the latest batch of Kennedy papers is that President Trump was forced by the US security agencies, in the interests of national security, to hold some back. Originally he had announced he would release them all.

Over fifty years after the event there cannot be any live security issues ongoing, so that excuse is invalid. There could very well be serious national embarrassment, accompanied by public outrage, if it is the case that the assassination of the iconic President was the work of some home grown conspiracy with connections to high places, which has been covered up for half a century. The American people are surprisingly tolerant of their many headed system of governance. Except when it lies to them.

At the moment they are not sure who is at fault and what lies have been told by whom. What is for certain is the belief, held by a substantial majority of patriotic Americans, that they have not yet been told the truth. They deserve now to be brought from the darkness of this historic murder into the light of finally knowing who actually organised it and why.

Kenya: Risk To Stability

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Kenya was once a beacon of calm good governance in post empire Africa. But no longer. The rules of democracy are not being obeyed. These are that elections must be free fair and accepted as final; the government must govern for all; the losers must be willing to be governed by the winners who must govern fairly; the turnout must be sufficient to validate the mandate of the party or coalition which forms a government and everybody must accept the result and move forward.

None of these conditions are now being met in Kenya. The Opposition candidate refuses to take part in the presidential re-run, the Electoral Commission cannot guarantee that the election will be free and fair and the Supreme Court could not muster enough judges to hear a legal challenge. This is a very dangerous road for a democracy to wander down. It leads eventually to the status of a failed state. The world has more than enough of those already.

Interest Rates: Put them Up Now

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Let us hope that this time the MPC will at last do what it should have done years, literally, ago, and move interest rates upwards. It has got nothing to do with slightly better growth, 0.4 is little more than flat lining in the big scheme of things, it has to do with the exploding debt levels in households which are now becoming a real and present danger to economic stability. Throw in uncertainty about Brexit and a politically volatile climate, and you have all you need for a great big crash.

Edging up interest rates will restore them to their proper function of an active tool in economic management and act as a warning. It will at last deliver some prospect of people getting a return on their savings, which will begin to reshape the economy away from its addiction to borrowing funding asset inflation and back to saving funding wealth creation.

There is one cardinal rule of low interest rates. They do not make mortgages cheaper. They just make them bigger.

Killing Jihadists: Are We Sure About This?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Rory Stewart, perhaps one of the best political historians around and an expert on the origins of conflict in the Middle East, has said that British IS fighters are so full of hate that they should be killed, rather than be allowed back into the UK. Unfortunately Stewart is also a government minister, so his pronouncement is a declaration of government policy.

There is no doubt that public support for this ruthless analysis will be widespread. The important question is will it make our homeland safer? The important issues are that such a policy rather flies in the face of who we think we are and what sort of civilisation it is we wish to promote. It is also unclear how this policy is to be implemented. Drone strikes and battle casualties will be the main stay, but suppose they re-enter the UK what then? Shoot them as they arrive? Try them for Treason, which still carries the death penalty? Is this really what we want?

The profile of these radicalised young people is almost all one of exclusion and deprivation. Many who have thus far survived regret their involvement with IS and want to return home. They aspire to moving on from their participation in this savage ideology. Killing them would do no good. Rather it would do much harm because it would transform them from perpetrators to victims and act as a powerful recruiting tool for new converts. Because they will have friends and family who will be dismayed and from among them new fanatics will emerge.

So we need to think about this rather carefully. The Middle East is a beacon for drastic action by the West which has exacerbated problems and made things worse. Summary killings of misguided young people undermines our own humanity, becoming in itself a perverted terrorist victory. We surely do not want that. We must have a programme of rehabilitation. It is the companion of any initiative to halt radicalisation.

Sajid Javid Wants To Build More Houses: So He Should.

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

But will he? This country needs up to 2 million new homes built over the next four of five years. Not to buy, but to rent. At affordable prices so that a nurse can rent a decent home, have money over to save and live without resorting to food banks. With proper long term tenancies which give full security. Just like Harold Macmillan provided in the 1950s. He managed, in spite of post war shortages, to build 300,000 houses a year, council houses as they were then called. He was not a socialist firebrand but a millionaire Tory Housing Minister. He was so successful that he later became Prime Minister.

Now Javid hopes to borrow billions to equal Macmillan’s achievement. Whether this has to do with wanting to build more homes, or perhaps something else, is for you to work out.

Brexit Again: A Watershed Moment

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

The Brussels drama ended better for May than might have been the case, as EU leaders made a serious attempt to appear more sympathetic and accommodating. However their position remains unchanged on all the key issues. They have conceded that they will work out how to conduct trade negotiations in the future, which, because they like planning ahead, they have already been doing unofficially anyway. But it gave hope to May. In turn she has got the message that the UK has to come up with chapter, verse, and outline figures on all the financial commitments it is willing to honour, in order move the negotiations forward. She was boxed in and she had to give. Parts of her party, including some of her cabinet, will be aghast. Yet it will not matter. There has been a sea change.

It is hidden from view and unremarked. But if you delve deep into the psyche of mood both here in the UK and in the EU, you find that something has happened. The hard Brexiteers have lost. Their failure to invest the time and energy over the years of their campaign to have ready a properly costed, legally analysed, practically workable and economically and socially advantageous plan to give life to their Brexit dream, has cost them all. For it is now clear there are only two possible outcomes moving forward.

The first is that a deal is negotiated for a soft and sensible Brexit which will leave in place the main aspects of the economic structure, as well as most of the rights for free movement, residence and EU citizenship. This will mean more or less open borders and some form of contributions to associate membership of both the customs union and the single market. Co-operative joint initiatives over all sorts of things from space explorations to drugs licencing will remain in place. Almost all the EU regulations now in force will continue to apply and there will be an acknowledged role for the ECJ, perhaps some sort of joint panel with the UK Supreme Court.

If that cannot be agreed and the only thing left is the hard Brexit, the people who got us into this mess crave, then the whole project will implode, because nowhere, either in the UK, the EU or the rest of the world, is there a majority for such a reckless leap into the unknown. It would take twenty years to sort everything out and set Britain back on an upward path, causing a whole generation to miss out. Even if the final outcome is indeed better, the price to get there in one nobody is willing to pay and the risk of disaster is one nobody is willing to take.

And for the hard Brexiteers? Sorry my friends. You had your chance and you blew it.

Tor Raven: Political Drama for Troubled Times

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Power Corruption and Lies by [Raven, Tor]Set in the mid nineteen nineties, this fast moving thriller lifts the curtain on sex, sleaze and corruption in high places as the long reign of the government totters to an end, following the ousting of the iconic Margaret Thatcher. Tor Raven’s novel captures the mood of those times with a host of fictional characters who engage in political intrigue, money laundering and murder, pursued by an Irish investigative journalist and his girlfriend, the daughter of a cabinet minister found dead in a hotel room after bondage sex.