Friday, October 28, 2005

How to judge the Lib Dems

Writing in The Times today Stephen Pollard asks what kind of government would the holier than thou Liberal Democrats make?

Good question. If this week's performance is anything to go by, the party led by wee Charles ("mine's a double") Kennedy, the answer is Pollard concludes probably exactly the same as they are out of government and in third place: a glaringly opportunist bunch of hypocrites, which of course whinging from the sidelines they do so well in classic oppositionist mode - opposing everything/proposing the preposterous knowing full well that they will never have to implement a word of it.

Pollard is writing about the party's resounding silence over the brown envelope cash (£2.4m of it) that the party has accepted from Michael Brown. The money represents two third's of the party's income.

Brown was of course this week unveiled as a fraudster who has been arrested three times and accused of bouncing a dozen cheques and is regarded as an absconder in Florida, having skipped probation.

Lib Dems response to this? Nothing. Read the piece in full here.

Riots? What riots?

I don't know, Too Early To Tell is just so bleeding plural, innit. One moment we've got Neil Clark, the next Nick Cohen and now gorgeous, pouting Melanie Phillips and her take on the Birmingham race riots... or little local difficulty, as it has been largely portrayed in the press.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Iran should be "wiped off the face of the earth"

Israel's new president created a sense of outrage in the east yesterday by describing Iran as a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the face of the earth". Ariel Sharon, who is more hardline than his predecessor, told students in Tel Aviv that a new wave of terrorist attacks would be enough to finish off Iran.

He said: "Anybody who recognises Iran will burn in the fire of the Israeli nation's fury, [while] any [western leader] who recognises the Islamicist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the free world." He was addressing a conference titled The World Without Islamicism.

Surely some mistake? - Ed

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Cameron in the hand, is worth two in the...

So that nice David Cameron's far from a moderate, "compassionate conservative". Instead he's a war-mongering neo-con with a nice smile, gilded youth and, whisper it, a hell-raising past... now where have we heard that before?

Sadly couldn't find the one with him and the prossie

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No one expects....

I spotted this in Metro, but couldn't find trace of it on This Is London so had to go to the local paper, which is rather less forthcoming on the detail of the prosecution, more on the poor lad who was nicked by the would-be religious police.

However, according to the original Metro story...

A teenager has been handed an 80-hour community service order for wearing an offensive t-shirt.

Adam Shepherd... was convicted under new anti-hate laws which ban people from displaying religiously insulting signs...

Which seems a bit strange given that the laws aren't in force yet? On the other hand, given the natural zealotry of the police/ magistrates, this kind of thing shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise...

Little Britain? Here's Saudi!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Liberalism for the liberals, cannibalism for the cannibals

Nick Cohen nails it, though of course he is as much at fault as those dreadful post-modern relativists - his brand of muscular liberalism existing in an ahistorical vacuum, as it were.

It seems to me that while the people who can see more than one side of an argument generally decline to have it and seek only to get on with their lives, those who get to the top, who run countries or get their opinions splashed across comment pages, are invariably the single minded - people who, because they are only really capable of holding one opinion, taking one side, having one dream, can run with it so much faster than the rest of us, burdened as we are with inconvenient truths, uncomfortable facts, a surfeit of ideological purity or spiritual certainty.

Little wonder then, this results in so much woe.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Waking up... and rolling over

Another plot thwarted as death threats are renewed against Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Meanwhile, as the Dutch appear to be considering following the Flemish burkha ban (well, I certainly ain't seen many in Ostend) it gradually appears to be dawning on our government that their grand plans for faith schools could possibly cause one or two tiny problems.

Not that this is the inspiration behind Magaret Hodge's speech, mind.

In a strongly worded speech to the Labour thinktank Progress, which Tony Blair will also attend, she will warn that overt racism is on the rise among Britain's white working class. As a result, she argues, tough measures must be taken to prevent race relations deteriorating.

"Uncomfortable as it might seem, we do need to respond to the frustrations felt by the white working class communities in which new immigrant communities tend to settle."

Never mind that many of the communities the new immigrants tend to settle in are actually mixed or afro-caribbean or whatever, champagne-quaffing New Labour-types prefer to cling to their myths about the recidivist racism of the white working class (and the contempt new Labour has always had for the poor, period) rather than accept that their immigration policies have alienated established communities of whatever colour, creed or religion.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Taking the True Blue Mickeys in a Blizzard of Golden Brown Hypocrisy - Will Cameron Have the Last Laugh, or are the Tories playing Dealer's Choice?

For what seems like ages everybody has been asking David Cameron if he has ever inhaled. Basically this was a case of press reflexes and bad research. Some lovely young woman in the Guuadian was even defending his right to smoke and not tell us earlier this week and very amusingly too, there was a nice quip about Blunkett at Annabels in fact - which made me wonder if she also had a ghost-writing job on that odd pastiche Norman Johnson column of theirs.

Things inevitably got nastier of course, because this wasn't just about the press going after public figures in a post-Kate Moss universe. Had that been the case, after all, things would have certainly got colder faster, if you get my icy allusion.

No, what was happening was that Cameron had given a surprisingly well-recieved speech to the Tory faithful. Expected to fall flat on his face at conference like an over-inflated Wiliam Hague in a Portillo wig, Cameron had instead left the podium to rapturous applause and by all accounts spent the following evening being metaphorically cluster-fucked by the snowy-haired Sussex massive. In short the boy done good. And the bookies shortened their odds.

David Davis on the other hand, the street-fighter from the backstreets who had expected to enter by the big front steps, suddenly found himself pointed toward the tradesmen's entrance by the high tory glitterati. He was roundly condemned for being too serious, too well-rehearsed and talking over the greying heads of conference to the electorate. Who the HELL did he think he was - anyone would think the electorate decided who was going to be the next Tory Prime Minister. Sussex did not concur. The Davis campaign was in crisis. Liam the Fox even looked like he might slip it through the middle, (every little helps, right Liam?) and Davis' lethargy, bombast and ignorance of the ways of the Tory gerontocracy (not to mention of gerontophilia) was rapidly making him look like a fourth-placed also ran.

This was of course also widely regraded as a fillip for Clarke -the race coalesced around two front-runners. Davis was down and out, Rifkind was readying himself to stand aside.

So no surprise that the candidate who needed a good dusting of drug innuendos was Mr Cameron and by this week everyone had stopped blowing smoke and started talked the crystal clear language of class A's.

Where does Cameron go, he's just said no (comment). He knows there's no danger of Pete Docherty's manager ever appearing at his parties - and that even if he did there would of course be nothing to see (hey, get me, I care about legal action!). But still the inuendo continues, what to do eh?

Leaving aside the facts, because we really don't know them, Cameron has a problem - admitting some minor pecadillo in the past would be an option - in terms of ending the 'why not answer the question' phase - but lets face it the guy lives in Michael Portillo's old constituency and he knows exactly what happened to Mikey P when he decided to answer the gay 'lily' rumours by saying 'I tried it once but I didn 't really like it and I'm better now'. There was no way Davey C was going to end up in media purgatory with Andrew Neil pulling his strings as he danced the sofa shuffle with whomever the appropriate analogy for Diane Abbott would be in his case (Cat Stevens maybe?).

Luckily for Mr Cameron fate has handed him a sword, or at any rate a syringe and a bottle of methadone. So now just try and besmirch his reputation you scumbags, for the man is a saint, or at least an angel, as he valiantly helps his relative overcome addiction; presumably by the sheer force of his moral rectitude and the ability to buy flights to South Africa - the rehabilitation place of choice for the modern British upper classes.

It has to be said this is a good development for Campaign Cameron - especialy after that slight wobble yesterday when he started going on about people's right to make mistakes and learn from it - I mean, crikey, most Associated Newspapers' journalists could smell the blood THERE a mile off, even through blocked noses!

So will Cameron now ride to victory in his Golden Brown ambulance? Or will the high tories find this all a bit hard to bear, a bit too close to home? Think Diana, guys and buy his stock? Maybe - of course they can always play safe and stick with the guy who quite openly admits to being in the pay of international drug dealers responsible for millions of deaths .

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thatcher the Terrorist, Brown the Bliar?

I went to catch the tube this morning and it was shut down - no, obviously not permanently - but the gates were shut on the rear entrance I usually use. Through them I could see a silent empty station. I went round to the front of the station, not so much to find out more information as to catch the bus, which left from that side and could take me to an alternative station - a train station in fact, for the north london overland line from Gospel Oak to Kensal Rise - which is my usual preferred journey to work.

This morning however I had rejected the overland train after it let me down yesterday through an unholy concoction of lateness and screwed up connections with bus services which were circumscribed by water main work. The result was lateness on my part, for a meeting for which I wished to be on time (not least because the last time I had endeavoured to attend it the previous week a similar concoction of transport woes had intervened; though on that occasion water mains weren't involved, just full buses driving past without stopping, ...for half an hour).

My first reaction on seeing the closed tube gate was irritation and as I walked past the front of the station and saw a little crowd of tube workers outside the also closed main entrance, I briefly thought of terrorism and chuckled grimly to myself that this was now one of my first reactions. A few years back I might have assumed the little orange jacketed gaggle with a sign were a picket line and that industrial action had closed the station... - yes, hold on, I am going somewhere with this...

Today is Margaret Thatcher's birthday , on the Today programme John 'I'm not a Tory at work' Humphreys was lining up tories to analyse her legacy; I had to content myself with not travelling to work on it.

While Tories who had exited stage left (was that Shaun 'seen which way the wind is blowing' Woodward) lamented the fact that Thatch's rhetoric had left the unwarranted impression that they gave not a sh*t about those who are always with us (the poor), I pondered that the real legacy was a bizarre constitutional settlement between government and business in which serious investment in public services was only ever viewed as truly legitimate if a fair proportion of it ended up in the back pockets of shareholders who had made no contribution whatsoever to producing the capital being invested and furthermore were shouldering very little risk - yeah, I know, tell that to Balfour Beatty over Hatfield or indeed Jarvis - I'm afraid I feel as much sympathy for them as I do for Railtrack shareholders.

Maybe the shareholders of these businesses would also have had something to say about Mrs Thatcher's legacy.

The Today programme's other 'big event' was an interview with Gordon Brown and one of the Tory hagiographers (Parkinson) chose to relate the two. He wasn't far off beam either, the comparison he drew was over the Labour Chancellor's style and comments on fiscal prudence and growth - and how this reflected the true legacy of Thatcherism - a Labour government that understood economics and that was fiscally prudent with respect to public investment (though oddly of course the Thatcher and Major governments invested heavily in some areas - like the Docklands Light Railway to Canary Wharf - just rather selectively, so that some parts of the country socially and geographically had longer recessions and rather different business cycles to others). Oh yes and furthermore he mentioned that Labour was currently reintroducing market mechanisms to the health service a la Thatch.

Gordon Brown was however talking about Europe, to be exact he was lecturing Europe on how the European economic model was inferior to the Anglo-American one and would be given it up the arse by the surging growth of the Asians and Chinese in an era of 'globalisation' - arguably the most stupid linguistic term ever invented - but let us not get onto that JUST NOW...

So perhaps Parkinson was right and here was the true legacy of Thatcherism. A Labour Chancellor lecturing European economies, which as Evan Davis had pointed out in an intro package were in most cases more efficient than ours (notably the French), about why the key indicator they should look to was neither the productive efficiency of their labour force nor indicators of social good but labour market flexibility and the degree of 'reform' implemented in their horribly well-resourced public services.

It was Gordon Brown of course who insisted that the only option for the tube was PFI, which is why the Northern line which I travel on - or rather don't - is now run by a company from inefficient old Spain - and don't get me wrong I am not blaming them particularly for my delayed journey this morning. The legacy of long-term lack of investment is far more to blame, as is the bizarre structure for current investment set up by Gordon's PFI deal, which makes it easier and more attractive to invest in new newspaper kiosks in stations than anything to do with the actual tube line or trains.

The interesting thing was that Brown simply refused point blank to address Evan Davis inefficiency point, that was clearly NOT the reason he had turned up for the programme, oh no, he was here to tell everyone how tough he was being on the Europeans, perhaps to distract attention from declining growth in the UK and general economic jitters - no probably not, surely?

Humphreys got lost and started going on about just how much industrial product the German economy exports - yes, you got it right, the sick mensch of Europe is still the world's biggest exporter. This is understandable - he's a bit traditional like that, and Brown refused to say anything apart from 'nah nah nah Europe is inefficient and Britain is great and I'm the best economic manager ever'. [Then he thumbed his nose, waggled his ears and blew water down his trunk and all the seals in the studio clapped their flippers together - and next it was Melvyn Bragg being clever with other clever people about mammals. Anyway...]

It was all rather familiar it reminded me of Blair being interviewed about the threat from Iraq you know the sort of feeling that he just wasn't listening - like he really knew he was right - and in fact knew something we just didn't over terror threats and such like, something which he couldn't tell us, as he took on the burden of leadership and worried on our behalf about an Iraqi-linked terror 'nightmare' - you remember, around the time of all that certainty in January 2003 when Blair was questioned about his belief in the threat from Iraq in the Commons, you know, before the war?

But enough of that eh? - anyone would think we were still 'at war' with them! Still, Brown's Today interview was, also, a remarkable performance in missing the point being raised by the questioner and just talking about whatever the hell you wanted to. The worry is that, like Blair, our Atlanticist Chancellor REALLY isn't hearing what people are saying - poor Europeans eh - fancy having a summit like that where someone just lectures you without listening to your point of view ?

After the PFI experience with the tube, from which we are all still suffering in London town, that sense of someone who isn't listening should sound a warning note for Brown's first term.

And here, gentle reader, I close, having brought us full circle to that Tory hagiographer's comments about Thatcher's legacy being New Labour's use of the market mechanism to reform the NHS, as some of us wonder exactly how Mr Brown intends to fund whatever has replaced it by the time he is PM ...