Archive for February, 2020

Sunday Blog 3: February 23 2020

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Dredge the Rivers

Experts from the Environment Agency continue to exhibit a reluctance to put at the top of their agenda dredging those rivers which pass through towns and villages, on their way to the sea. Some urban floods are caused by the sewers becoming overwhelmed by water volume and the remedy here is to enhance the underground network, much of which is Victorian. But all too often it is rising rivers or incoming tides which do the damage, and will go on doing so.  Flood defences help, and preventive eco management upstream will help even more, but in the longer term.

Meanwhile a crisis exists now in the lives of far too many and some current action with the power to have immediate preventive effect is urgent. Every time a farmer from a family which has managed the same land for generations comes on the media, the response always gets round to river maintenance and a failure to dredge. Over recent decades there has been a focused and successful effort to improve water quality, but because most rivers are no longer transport arteries with extensive traffic of both people and cargo, little has been done to maintain their depth. River dredging is now a priority for which the people’s government will have to come up with the cash. Not token sums spread over forever, but real money for work now.

A Double Squeeze on Business

We begin to get a better feel for the way our new people’s government thinks. It thinks the private sector is inefficient and relies too much on cheap migrant labour and cheap imports. It trades in easy bespoke markets and fails to invest in skills training, because it can hire off the EU shelf whatever staff it needs. Meanwhile well qualified Brits are doing unskilled jobs, more than one in many cases, in order to pay their bills. Employment is at record levels of high while productivity  plumbs record levels of low.

So making immigration difficult and having the flimsiest trade deal with the EU, which is barely worth having, is a good way to force business to mend its ways and power up. When Boris said ‘f….. business’ it was not, after all, a slip of the tongue.

This blog is not sure all the traditional Tory voters expected this. But the people’s government, now safely elected, does not care about that either.

Beating Trump

This is possible, but difficult. If the Democrats become obsessed by beating Trump, they will likely fail. But if they concentrate on winning the presidency because they have a Federal programme which chimes with the urgent needs of American voters, they stand a good chance of succeeding. They need someone who can capture the hearts of young America, secure the wallets of the doing okay and give real hope to the left behind. If they can do that they will likely win. Beating Trump in the process would be the bonus.

Ministers Under Fire

There has been a lot of comment about ministers in the new government this week, or rather about their absence from the scene. Especially the prime minister hidden in the Kent countryside at Chevening and Priti Patel who is having a bust up with the Home Office Permanent Secretary. There is a lot of briefing and counter briefing from opposing sides, but little of any of it is official. Commentators and reporters are finding themselves in a kind of desert of political stories. This requires gossip to become news.

The truth is that for good or bad, the government sees ministers as action people to get things done. For too long, the spin goes, ministerial rank has acquired celebrity status, distracting attention from weak and procrastinated outcomes. This has contributed to the State in a process of decay. The government knows it has to reverse it or become electoral toast. Public services across the piece have to start working as they are supposed to and infrastructures failures, to which we can now add rivers, ditches and sewers, have to be remedied. The cost of all this is not a billion here and there over x years. It is more immediate and mind blowingly big. Very soon the new Chancellor will have to start telling us how much and where it will come from. No wonder in the meantime ministers are more than willing to accede to the gagging demands of Gang Master Cummings.


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Saturday, February 22nd, 2020



Labour’s Road Map: The Missed Way: Read Free or Buy Now

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

When this dissertation, it is too short to class as a book, was published in 2016,  there was an expectation that Labour would have a  chance of winning in 2020. The unexpected snap election in 2017 was far better for Labour than anyone expected but then came disaster in 2019. One of the major problems for Labour on the doorstep was a lack of credibility in its lavish economic programme. Compared to the detailed specification set down in Turn Left To Power, Labour’s election offering was unconvincing. Although voters liked the economic programme in principle, they and commentators were sceptical of plans for funding it.  Read about the ideas which may have lead to a happier outcome. If you are an activist they will give you confidence to contribute to the debate about Labour’s future.

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Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Sunday Blog: February 16 2020

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

New Cabinet

There is much more to this than a shift of places and faces. For the first time for decades we have a government led by a prime minister, not chaired by one. The cabinet is now made up of people who are signed up to Boris’s vision and understand that their careers depend on the success of that vision, not on jockeying around for advantage or in competitive briefing. And that vision is like no other seen in the Tory party in modern times. For Boris is not just the person who delivered Brexit. Part of the package was Texit. It was kept a big secret, hidden by bluff and fumble with the attention span of a goldfish. All of this was necessary because had anybody realised what he was actually about, the full Tory and Establishment machine would have been organised to stop him.

This blog was fooled for sure, but now accepts that Boris is the most formidable politician in Britain by a country mile. The only other to get even close is Nicola Sturgeon. He has shifted the Tory party so far to the left economically that it will not be able to recognise itself. He has mobilised natural Tory patriotism and given it a nationalist edge. He built a stunning election victory not in the Shires, but in Labour’s English bedrock heartland. He outflanked Labour and Farage. He told his new cabinet yesterday and filmed it to rub home the point, his is the people’s government and will prioritise the people’s business.

That will include the biggest programme of public investment probably since the end of WWII. The hegemony of the Treasury is over. For far too long it has run the economy like a single parent shopping for bargains in a budget supermarket. Everything is underfunded and insufficient.  Our productivity is among the lowest in the industrialised world and our household debt is the highest. Because all attention has been on balancing the budget, there has been a complete failure to recognise the importance of expanding the economy. GDP is now just too small to meet  modern demands at reasonable taxation levels.

The priority is to invest to grow the economy.  That is the legitimate role of the state. To facilitate and drive growth, big growth, as well as to maintain sound money. It is not one or the other, it is both. It can be done. Boris is determined that it will be. Because if not, Brexit will fail, the economy will tank, the Labour heartland will return to the fold and the reign of the World King will be over.

So expect more Huawei style decisions. Incidentally their phones are brilliant. We need the best for our country now. Global Britain means tapping into that world. All of it. So China building the full HS2, all branches, in five years for a good deal less than the current budget is not just idle chatter. It is the people’s future. Blue blooded Tories will just have to get used to it. They have nowhere else to go.

But What of Labour?

Labour has very big problems of which finding a leader is the least of them. The biggest is Scotland. Here it has but one MP. One. Founded as a Scottish party, of its six prime ministers, three have been Scots, although Blair sat for an English constituency. Labour has been the vehicle through which the Scottish people felt themselves to be fully engaged in running the UK. Only three Labour prime ministers have managed to win their own majority, Atlee, Wilson and Blair, for which Scottish seats were the critical bedrock which pushed English gains into winning numbers in the Commons. Corbyn actually did quite well in votes in 2020, and better than Milliband 2015, Brown 2010,  Blair 2001 and 2005,  but crashed to the lowest number of seats since 1935. So it is not just votes, but seats they need.

Proportional representation would help, but first past the post suits Boris so well it is most unlikely they will get it. Labour must regain traction in Scotland and shore up Wales to stand any kind of chance. But the SNP is on a roll and the Union looks threatened, so that will not be easy. So electing a new leader is the easy bit. Whoever wins, there is no room for new splits. The page must be turned and turned for keeps on anti-Semitism. And the half of the parliamentary party whose candidate loses, cannot muck about with the sulks.

The Union.

This is Boris’s biggest challenge, although like a gathering storm, it is not yet upon him. If the economy takes off and Britain becomes the must country with which to do business and all the properly funded public services begin to whizz and hum, he is in with a chance. Why unhook from a  Union just when, after years of stagnation, it suddenly comes alive and takes off?

But if this Tory government relapses into the old ways of lavishing upon the few at the expense of the many, then the people will feel conned and the Union will, among much else, be over.



Trailer for Sunday Blog

Friday, February 14th, 2020

This blog, as regulars know, is neither pro Tory, nor pro Brexit. But it is pragmatic. So Boris’s reshuffle is good news and Javid’s sacking/resignation is the best news of all. Because it shows that at last this nation will return to government by Number Ten and not by the Treasury, through its poodle of the moment in Number Eleven. This is a colossal sea change and long overdue. For years we have suffered from monumental economic mismanagement leading to inequalities and inefficiencies not seen for generations.

More on Sunday.

As for Boris, he is on a roll. If he stumbles it will be more to do with the sound of smashing plates in the night, than run ins with the Treasury.

SUNDAY BLOG: February 9 2020

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Trump: Have the Democrats Failed?

That depends on which side you are on in a very polarised country.  From this side of the Atlantic it seems to me that there have always been two issues which  American voters need to think about. One is about Trump and whether he acted unconstitutionally in his dealings with Ukraine. The other is about the Bidens. Why was the son paid a million dollars a year to sit on the board of a known to be corrupt company, when he had no qualifications or experience relevant to the role? And is it true that the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating corruption in that company was fired after the then Vice-President, Biden Snr., told the Ukrainian government that US aid would be withheld if they did not remove them?

Trump is now acquitted by the Senate. But questions about Biden remain. He is faltering in the primaries and running short of money. He would be a calamitous choice for  the Democrats to run against Trump. The whole impeachment saga has killed his credibility, if not in America, certainly in the rest of the world. So even though the Democrats failed, and failed badly, in their impeachment campaign, which I thought doomed from the start, the removal of Biden from the prospect of running for president, in a perverse way, does them a favour.

Cabinet Reshuffle UK

It is reported that the Boris cabinet will get a substantial makeover in the latter part of the coming week. This has been trailed since his election triumph. It is obvious to everyone that the general tone and performance of post coalition Tory cabinets has not been up to snuff, with too many ministers either below par or out of their depth or fighting each other. In some cases all three.

Government is not just about Brexit, it is about running the country so that people can go about their business and get on with their lives, supported by public services which run smoothly and deliver. Clearly this is not happening now, nor has it been since 2015. So Boris and Cummings have to wield the axe without fear or favour and come up with real talent. Of course one hopes, very much, that women and ethnic minorities will be well represented in the new line up. In their ranks talent abounds, not least because to get there they have had to try a good deal harder to override a system which for centuries has been organised to favour white straight men.

Neighbourhood Crime

Latest statistics reveal that while the police across the country are good at the big stuff the kind of crime, burglaries, car crime, knives, robberies, which affects ordinary people every day, is now all but ignored. A crime number is just about all you can expect to get. Lots of reasons are given, not least Osborne era cuts.

But the main reason is that the Peel model of neighbourhood policing which was designed to prevent crime as much as to solve it, has completely disappeared. We need a nationwide Neighbourhood Police Service to restore the principle of community security, which concentrates on the whole range of small but upsetting threats and fears which spoil the days and nights of far too many.

Post Brexit: A Weekly Blog

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

Now that we are formally out of the EU and a new political dynamic will develop, this blog, which has been a bit intermittent of late, will become a weekly commentary. This is partly because it will better reflect a considered view of developing post Brexit political issues, but also to allow me time to concentrate on Zara Vine Two, a project far behind schedule.

For the moment one thing has struck me. There will be a sea change, not just because of Brexit itself, but because for nearly 50 years the nationalist wing of the Tory party has been rampant. Its message was continuous and unending. All our problems were the fault of the EU, which we should never have joined. But now they have won their argument, they and they alone will be responsible for whatever happens next.

As regular readers know I think the European Union is the greatest political achievement since the fall of the Roman Empire. So I am an ardent Remainer.  The thought of the Brexiteers carrying the can for the  multiple outcomes of their folly is rather uplifting.



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Saturday, February 1st, 2020

Brexit Over? The Way Ahead.

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

So now it is done. We are formally out of the EU. But we are still in it for the transition. So it is not over yet. We are in the departure lounge waiting for take off. But we are not sure where our flight will take us. We hope it will be somewhere nice. Actually nicer. But more than half the passengers do not want to go at all. So those that do now have to show that their promises can be met, their ideas work, we will be better off than staying put and what is about to happen is a great leap forward and historically uplifting.

This first day of freedom. One which will be forever celebrated as the future unfolds.

Or one which will live in infamy?