31 December 2011

Best of 2011

Very briefly, before I head off to an extended New Years Eve party which will be a valediction to alcohol for at least 2 months, some bests of the year:

Best blog post - Chris Brooke with Nick Clegg - Liar. Simple and to the point.

Best political blog: Richard Murphy

Best economics blogger: Duncan Weldon

Best political satire site: Nick Clegg looking sad

Best political columnist (Left): George Monbiot

Best political columnist (Right): Peter Oborne

Special award for ConDem apologism: Martin Kettle

Special award for 'false flag' assistance to Ed Miliband by offering a 'straw man' critique which Ed gains strength every day by knocking down: Dan Hodges

The worst of everything (at least in this country) award goes to 'Slasher' Osborne.

Have a great remaining 12 and a half hours of 2011, and see you in the next cycle.

30 December 2011

A tablet for (just after) Christmas

Over the last few months I've found myself strangely attracted to the idea of a tablet - not ibuprofen (although that has its pleasures), but the dinky little oversized phones with large touchscreens that are the biggest growth area in the computer market ever since Apple brought out the iPad almost 2 years ago. It's interesting, and largely unpredictable, what takes off and what doesn't in the computing world. Most of the pundits shared my initial opinion that the iPad would be a flop because at the end of the day, what was it? An oversized phone that doesn't make phone calls. But in fact, it was a huge success, on the back of very slick marketing, the excitement of the app store, and the integration with iPhones and Apple computers.

I haven't bought an iPad for several reasons, the main one being that I consider Apple kit somewhat overpriced for what you get - they are to computing what BMW is to cars, although I am pleased to report that Apple owners don't try to run you over in the same way BMW owners do. The iPad 2 is undoubtedly better value than the iPad 1 but there was still something about the £500 price point that didn't say "value" to me. £200 says value to me - I don't know why, but if there's a piece of kit that's less than £200 I am so there... if it's more than £200 I have to think carefully. This number is arbitrary and takes no account of inflation, but still... that's the way it is for me.

The other thing that pisses me off about Apple is the Stalinist approach to software and media management. I do have an iPod nano (2009 edition) because I got it free with an Android phone (hilarious irony!) One day I decided I'd like some MP3s on the iPod. It appears on my Windows PC as a USB hard drive, but can I copy across MP3s by drag and drop in Explorer the same way I can with any other MP3 player on the market? No, sir... I have to use iTunes which is the crappiest piece of software (at least on a PC) imaginable... Charlie Brooker called it a "binary turd" and that was being kind IMHO. Apple doesn't trust you to be able to get music on your device the way you want... you have to do it their way, or not at all. Similarly, Apps have to be approved by Apple before being placed on the App Store. This takes the free-for-all open approach which was the foundation of success for the internet and replaces it with a digital North Korea (I'm borrowing terminology from Van Patten here, but in this case the analogy is a good one). Contrast this with Google's Android platform where you can use any damn music player (and file format) you want and there is no central oversight to the application repository - anyone can get out there on the Android market. This probably means a higher percentage of shit applications but hey, I'm an intelligent consumer and I'll take my chances.

So why haven't I bought an Android tablet yet? Two reasons. One is that Android wasn't really tablet-ready until version 3.0 (Honeycomb) and Google reckon that it won't really be fully optimised for tablets until version 4. The other reason was the price of a good tablet. Any fool can sell you an el cheapo tablet held together with string for £150 or so, but the good stuff starts at about £330 with the Asus TF101 Transformer - and at that price point ol' tight wad comes into play again. It feels expensive and not at all an impulse buy. So again, at this point Android didn't feel quite ready for me - nor I for it.

What about other options? Until about 48 hours ago my response to that question would have been "ho ho ho", in the seasonal spirit. The main competition is RIM's Blackberry Playbook. At this point the tech-savvy among you will have fallen about laughing, so [in-joke alert] if your name is Foley let me return you to the floor by reminding you about the biology lab microscope.... :-) But Blackberry. Are you serious? The platform that gives you 72 hour outages because they didn't spend any money on infrastructure? An App Store less well populated than the Outer Hebrides? Hello?

Well, yes. Why? Two reasons, both the converse of why I rejected Apple and Android. One, cost. At its launch price of £400, the 16GB Playbook was really no better value than Apple, considering it is a 7-inch tablet rather than 10-inch. But PC World have now discounted it to £170 and at that price, in hardware terms, it's a steal. God bless underselling products.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, this is a "stealth" Android tablet. The Blackberry App Store remains woefully underpopulated (although RIM have released a utility for easy conversion of Android apps to Playbook apps which has helped a bit), but with version 2.0 of the Playbook OS (due in February 2012), there will be a built in launcher application allowing users to run Android apps on the Playbook! Furthermore, the tech-savvy among us can install the beta version of the 2.0 OS, root the Playbook, and - with some hacking about - install the Android Market on the Playbook, thus gaining access to (slmost) the full range of Android apps (subject to some library compatibility issues which will no doubt be sorted out down the line in any case).

An Android tablet with high build quality for £169? It's a reality. OK, if you believe the hype from the late great Steve Jobs that 7 inch tablets are crap then this won't be for you. But I don't - in fact, for me the iPad always looked a bit unwieldy. So rock on with the Playbook into 2012, kids.

Ed Miliband: 2012 HAS to be better than 2011

The last few days of the year seem to have passed extraordinarily fast and I'm now conscious of the fact that 2012 is almost upon us.

For followers of the left the year could best be described as frustrating. About the best I can say for UK politics is that Ed Miliband is still in the job... and likely to remain so, despite ongoing mutterings about the quality of his leadership. He is vastly helped by the fact that most of his critics are unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery, as the "vote Labour - get Tory" LINO pressure group Progress proved with their completely inept contribution to the Yes To AV Campaign. Other maverick anti-Ed LINO forces like Dan Hodges do Ed a favour on balance by catalysing support for him more than they damage him - leading to my continuing belief that Dan is secretly in the pay of Ed's office. The classic "useful idiot".

However, just because Ed is still in the job doesn't mean he's doing a particularly good job in it. The hope with Ed was that we would see finally someone getting the Labour leadership job who combines the drive and single-mindedness (if not quite the charisma) of Tony Blair with the ideological backbone of previous Labour greats like Attlee and Wilson. What we have had so far, instead, with some honourable exceptions, is a slightly more approachable rehash of the Gordon Brown leadership style - i.e. not leadership at all; more just sitting in the middle of events waiting for something good-ish to happen. There is a memorable sequence from James MacIntyre and Mehdi Hasan's autobiography Ed where Ed goes on a radio phone in (maybe Radio 5 Live?) sometime in the new year of 2011, and the only thing callers are really interested in talking about is how he "knifed his brother in the back" to become Labour party leader. Twelve months on, if Ed were to go on the same phone in show, I'm sure much the same would happen. And after 12 months of these insane ConDem austerity measures and economic failure, that's simply not good enough. Labour ends 2011 in no better a polling position than it began - indeed, in the wake of the "veto" farce, Cameron's personal ratings have actually improved substantially. This is, to put it mildly, bad news.

To turn things around, Ed needs to observe one very simple maxim of politics; it's hard for a leader to be successful unless he/she is prepared to get out there and bloody LEAD. I have heard a story - which could be apocryphal, but it rings true, so I'll tell it anyway - that when Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor Ed locked himself in his office for 2 hours not talking to anyone because he was so depressed that he'd have to give Ed Balls the job. Apparently because Ed Miliband is scared of Ed Balls. What does that tell us, if true? It tells us that Ed Miliband needs a kick up the backside and to grow back the spine that was so in evidence during the summer 2010 leadership contest. Listen son, Ed Balls is a washed-up also-ran in leadership terms. Tony Blair was scared of Gordon Brown because the two of them chose a stitch-up deal over a leadership contest in 1994 - enabling Brown to argue, however implausibly, that he had been denied the crown that was rightfully his. By contrast, Ed Balls fought as a candidate in the Labour leadership election - and was absolutely f***ing WALLOPED, finishing a very poor third. This guy, in Labour leadership terms, is HISTORY. I can understand Ed M being worried about a possible leadership challenge from his brother David, still sullen and watchful on the sidelines. But Ed Balls? No bloody way.

So Ed (M) is the leader... and so he needs to lead. That means not being scared of Ed Balls and it means refusing to bow down to the inflated paper tiger that is Progress. In practical terms, what does this mean Ed should do in the new year?

Firstly, he should make a number of keynote speeches fleshing out his very promising but underdeveloped ideas from the 2011 conference speech for a (much) better capitalism - squashing predatory businesses to open up space for the real producers. That has to mean a much smaller financial sector and much more for manufacturing, green jobs, the creative industries, and hugely underfunded sectors like social care. Together with a tax and corporate governance system system focused strongly on redistribution of income, wealth and power in favour of working people - the "squeezed bottom and middle", ambitious moves to increase gender equalities, and subsidies for education and innovation. Basic, obvious, centre-left stuff, articulated well by the left pressure group Compass, the Green Party, and academics like Martin O'Neill of York University. If Labour can't support a moderate social democratic programme along these lines there really is no point whatsoever in the party.

At the same time, he needs to accuse Progress of being a right-wing analogue to the extreme-left infiltrators of the 1980s - Militant et al - whose main objective is to destroy the Labour party. If this results in a handful - or even a few thousand - of the most ardent right-wing LINOs jumping ship to the Coalition, oh happy day! Labour's hard right is a huge albatross around its neck and probably the biggest internal hurdle to its return to power.

Thirdly, Big Guns need to be fired at the Coalition on a pretty much daily basis. This is happening a bit at the moment but in a far too reserved manner. Tony Blair had some good lines of attack in the mid-1990s which can be dusted off here - the weird thing is that although New Labour was largely a failure in policy terms, the rhetoric 1994-97 was actually pretty good. For example, "tacking the bills of social and economic failure" is a phrase that resonates completely with Ed Balls's critique of the Osborne austerity measures - which are fatally damaging Britain's economic capacity.

Lastly, there desperately need to be some big policies which the Labour Party can hang its message on. Again, New Labour had some totemic policies despite being weak on detail - windfall tax on privatised utilities, minimum wage, smaller class sizes, etc. The Labour Party policy review seems to have produced nothing of value so far and with Liam Byrne at the helm that was always the risk - indeed I now believe that the whole operation was a ruse by Ed to divert the energy of the Labour right into the minutiae of policies that would never see the light of day while he ran a parallel operation in his own office. But if that is what has happened, the parallel operation needs to produce concrete results very soon. As far as I can see there are two reasons that few people trust Labour on the economy; firstly because they presided over the worst recession since the 1930s (in fact recent data show that in the UK it's actually worse than the 1930s), and secondly because Labour has given no indication of how things would be any different in future if they were returned to power. Giving a clear indication of how Labour would do it differently this time round is an absolute prerequisite for standing any chance of winning the next election; and the greatest failure of Ed Miliband is that, over a year into his leadership, almost nobody has any idea how a Labour government would make life better for people in the UK or elsewhere. That is something he has to address in 2012. If he doesn't, I think he'll still survive in the job until 2015; but he'll be out on his ear after an election defeat.

(note: reading this back I'm very conscious that there are no links etc., mainly because it was stream of consciousness stuff and I had to motivate myself to write fast, or not at all. I'll try to put some links in tomorrow... if I get time. Otherwise, you know where Google is.)

19 December 2011

That which survives.....(Part 1)

Family being in New York City prior to Xmas means I've been off the airwaves so it looks unlikely my co-author and I will make the requisite 100 posts by year end - however, in another Star Trek entitled post, on a day when the world pondered the end of one of its worst tyrants whilst still in mourning for one of the greatest statesemen of the last three decades , it's worth contemplating their respective legacies.

Friends credit me with a near obsession with the small South East Asian country North of the 38th parallel, so the messages have been flooding in regarding the death of Kim Jong-il. A spat with Guardian journalist Owen Jones will be raised in a latter post, but I'm compelled to write by an extraordinary article by Neil Clark in The Guardian which has provoked a mixture of anger and utter bewilderment across my Twitter colleagues.

The Left is at some pains, (and I include the co-author of this blog)to distance movements such as the soon to be defunct Occupy, UK Uncut, and even Ed Miliband's Renewed Labour Party from the USSR. I am confident thus, we'll see people disavowing Clark and hoping that his truly mindbending article can be attributed to shaaring the same grief we see on the brainwashed citizens of the Korea DPR. Based on my co-author's comment to Telegraph writer Ed West:

'Can Imagine the uproar if a Telegraph comment piece contained the words, fascism, for all it's faults'

which drew:

'I thought that was pretty much what the Telegraph does say day after day'

I'm not that hopefulful. For anyone, thinking I'm exaggerating, please feel free to head to Tallinn, Vilnius, Riga, Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava, Podgorica, Ljubljana and the rest and translate this piece which you have to reread multiple times to quite take in:

'Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.'

And who said Kim Jong- il was the last communist on Earth? - it would appear we have one right here in our midst - 'That which survives'.....

13 December 2011

Tories hoovering up UKIP and in the lead

Following my previous post today, YouGov has come out showing the Tories with a 2 point lead (41%, their highest polling since 2009 I think) while UKIP sinks to 3%. Labour, on 39%, is marginally down on where it has been polling recently, but the real story here is the transfer of voting intention from UKIP to the Tories. The question is: could a very Eurosceptic Tory party manage to hoover up most of that UKIP vote while hanging on to more pro-European voters in an election campaign, and thus building the kind of 40%+ coalition that could perhaps win a general election majority? Are there in fact any pro-European Tories left, or have they all died or signed with Nick Clegg? And what the f*** is Nigel Farage gonna do now the Tories are parking tanks on his lawn?

I remain of the feeling that this is a short-term bounce... but on the other hand, the long term is in many ways a series of short terms, so further convulsions in the Eurozone could allow Dave to run and run with this. Are we having fun yet?

12 December 2011

Labour post-"veto": the Kool-Aid drinkers return

Jeez Mick, if you want a bunch of professional doom-mongers, go to any Labour party blog and hang out there awhile. 72 hours after an initial euphoria at the stupidity of David Cameron's "veto" on the EU treaty, bloggers on the left are now doing their usual Kool-Aid act. Of course we'd expect to find ultra-LINO Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges doing his normal anti-Ed wail ("Miliband stranded in the middle of the English channel" indeed), but we've also got relatively sane people on Twitter - e.g. Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy - saying that Labour's been outmanoeuvred by Cameron.

Is this correct? I identified this possibility pretty early on, and I wasn't sure. I'm still not sure, but overall I think probably Ed Miliband is actually in a much stronger position than his critics, although Cameron certainly could get lucky out of this.

The truth is, the veto has achieved nothing in concrete terms at all for Britain as long as we remain in the EU. Some kind of deal will proceed with Britain excluded from the negotiations. The terms of the treaty on issues like financial regulation will cover Britain as an EU member. There will be some more legal shenanigans but the EU will be able to negotiate these. Cameron achieved no concessions or quid pro quos whatsoever. In short, as a negotiator Dave was a disastrous flop. Ed pointed all this out - very effectively - in the Commons today.

But as political theatre, Thursday's "veto" was a brilliant stroke. It gives Cameron, not a very popular PM to start off with, a big political boost based on the rabid anti-EU print media reporting that he's fighting for Britain's interests - the old "bulldog" line. Dave's doing no such thing of course: he's fighting for the rogue state which is the City of London, and none too effectively at that. But a poll for ComRes apparently shows that 57% support the PM's "veto" decision (I'd like to link to that but it was an unlinked source from Twitter). John Harris quotes similar statistics in an excellent Guardian article.

That backs up what I said in my last post - anti-EU jingoism is popular. At least, initially. John Harris's line is that Europhobia is now the mainstream majority position. On headline polling, yes: but I'm not sure people really give a shit enough about it one way or the other to turn out in droves and vote the Tories in with a majority based on this one issue. If that is the case why isn't UKIP way out in front in the polls rather than on about 7% max? The post-"veto" polling shows a small swing to the Tories but based on a transfer of support from UKIP rather than any wider movement of support - which is what I'd expect. And given that most of the business community appears to think the "veto" was crazy, in an election campaign I'd expect centrist support to fall away from the Tories - leaving them with William Hague's rump vote of 2001 once again.

There is one situation where Dave might see long term benefit from "the veto": if the Eurozone falls apart, and maybe the EU with it, Dave can say "I told you so" and become a kind of visionary. That would be a powerful argument. But I think it's still a long shot, although possible; more likely is that treaty change will force the ECB into becoming a proper central bank prepared to do QE to save the Eurozone, combined with fiscal union further down the line.

In the meantime, Ed Miliband can strengthen his position by coming off the fence and openly saying he would have signed the treaty - and then worked within the treaty framework for Britain's interest. That's what all previous PMs including Thatcher and Major would have done and it's a strong line which effectively exposes Cameron as a seat-of-the-pants amateur. Ed could also add that getting on board with the treaty is the UK's best chance of helping avoid a Eurozone breakup, which gives him the opportunity to say to Dave, "it's your fault" if the Euro does fail.

But yeah, I'm beginning to wonder whether I should send leading Labour bloggers boxes of anti-depressants - and I'm not even a Labour party member or supporter. Cheer up guys, for f***'s sake.

09 December 2011

Europe: has Cameron played a blinder by accident?

The general consensus reaction to the EU treaty negotiations last night is that they were a disaster for Dave Cameron and for Britain. Having vetoed changes to the Lisbon Treaty which would have started to move the Eurozone toward fiscal union, Cameron was then sidelined as the Eurozone states - plus 6 other countries - opened negotiations for a new deal outside the treaty framework which would create a "two-tier" EU with the UK on the outside track. According to the FT,

Several diplomats said Mr Cameron emerged from Friday morning’s negotiations deeply wounded, angering fellow EU leaders and getting no trade-offs for British interests.

But was it really a disaster for Cameron? Or could it in fact be the start of his biggest triumph? It seems to me that - although he didn't go into the negotiations wanting this outcome, and Europe has been a constant headache for him this year - Cameron may have accidentally come out of this summit in a strong position. With Britain isolated at the negotiating table, Dave now has the viable option of calling a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU - which he could well (if current opinion polling is any guide) win. We know that the majority of grassroots Tories, and many of the MPs, want to leave the EU. This would be Cameron's opportunity to shore up his position and delight the right of the party, who have been in the ascendancy since the 1980s at least.

The Lib Dems would probably leave the coalition if Cameron decided to go for a referendum on Europe (although who knows? They've swallowed much more bullshit than that without complaining in the last 18 months) but if so, Cameron would be tempted to call a general election on the EU issue. As far as I know the fixed term parliament bill is not on the statute book yet so he remains free to ask for a dissolution should he so wish... CORRECTION: Chris Brooke points out in the comments that it IS on the statute book so he can't ask for a dissolution immediately (but see comment thread below). Maybe 2012 will turn out to be an election year? Stranger things have happened.

07 December 2011

The Deadly Years

Having been recommended two links by my erstwhile Co-editor, Hal Berstram, time for another Star Trek entitled post. The first was a superb BBC Documentary detailing the denouements of events at the Royal Bank of Scotland: RBS: Inside the Bank that ran out of money was a quite staggering tale of hubris, arrogance and a group of people who believed their own hype, not realising that their strategy was effectively a giant house of cards. Notorious former chief executive Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin is arguably the biggest bastard revealed in the course of the documentary but effectively the entire board failed utterly in its duty of car to the customer and the investor. That they have all been rewarded quite handsomely for the failure speaks volumes about the state of UK finance today. The second link was another acerbic, and very timely piece by Larry Elliott, Economic editor (and arguably the best columnist) in the Guardian, describing the current economy as like something out of a George A.Romero Production

What lessons can we learn about the Best way forward? Arguably the closest historical parallel in recent times (as opposed to the 1930s) is offered by the Japanese experience. Since the collapse of a massive commodity boom at the tailend of the late 1980's, Japan has experienced at least one, and some commentators would say two 'Lost decades' with anaemic growth rates, ongoing price deflation and general economic stagnation. The reason why the Japanese example is, for me, so relevant today, is I, and I'm assuming a ,lot of other 'normal' Newspaper/online news junkies have lost count of the number of 'stimulus packages' or 'deficit reduction programmes' which have been produced or mooted to bail out the Eurozone. It is eerily reminiscent of Japan during the 1990's where a succession of governments whose initially lukewarm reception sank to usually single digit poll ratings put stimulus package after stimulus package forward, and nothing seemed to have any impact. Elliott's 'zombie banks' phrase originated in the land of the Rising sun, although it was applied to any enterprise (not just bank) which was considered 'Too Big to fail'. A small recovery was only possible (in the latter part of the 1990s and early in this century) when a reforming Finance minister basically forced his country's banks to confess up the scale of their losses. Given the globalisation of the economy in the last decade, increased external pressure has meant, like every other G30 economy Japan has been buffeted by the ongoing global economic crisis, and the March tsunami has also caused major structural damage, both literally and in an economic sense for a manufacturing economy highly sensitive to production delays, but nevertheless, they are well ahead of the West on this particular curve.

The worry for Western policymakers is that having visited Japan, and seen their country's infrastructure, organisation and efficiency as immeasurably superior to almost any European country I have visited (Aside from maybe Germany, Norway and Denmark), one wonders how long it will take the UK and the rest of Europe to recover from a similar toxic scenario of wildly inflated asset prices (UK housing anyone?), massive debts and economic sclerosis. Lest we forget the Japanese savings ratio is significantly higher than the UK, their populace is amongst the world's most educated. They are culturally somewhat 'old school' and work hard, with minimal expectation of the state providing for them in the event of an emergency. Their 'Deadly Years' have already lasted for almost two decades. Given the damage wrought by 5 decades of Socialist education policies, the level of dependency created by Labour in the period 1997 to 2010 and the collapsing state of UK infrastructure, how long will our own 'Deadly Years' endure for?

01 December 2011

The importance of watching whole interviews: a salutary lesson

I'm glad now that I didn't go with my kneejerk reaction to contact the Met Police regarding Jeremy Clarkson, as the release of the full transcript of his One Show appearance shows that basically he was trying to be funny. Reproduced below:

Matt Baker: Now, at the end of a day where Britain has seen some of its biggest strikes, what we need is someone calm and level-headed.

Alex Jones: Yep, a guest with balanced, uncontroversial opinions, who makes great effort not to offend.

Matt Baker: And we've got Jeremy Clarkson!

[studio laughs]

Jeremy Clarkson: Thank you very much.

Matt Baker: So Jeremy, schools, hospitals, airports, even driving tests have been affected. Do you the strikes are a good idea?

Jeremy Clarkson: It's been fantastic. Seriously, never had … London today has just been empty. Everybody stayed at home, you could whizz about, your restaurants were empty.

Alex Jones: The traffic actually has been very good today.

Jeremy Clarkson: Very light. Now airports, you know, people streaming through with no problems at all and it's also like being back in the 70s, it makes me feel at home somehow.

Alex Jones: Do you know anybody who …

Matt Baker: [interrupts – inaduiable] – being on strike today?

Jeremy Clarkson: What, in public service? Of course I don't. No, absolutely. We have to balance it though, don't we because this is the BBC.

Alex Jones and Matt Baker: Exactly.

Jeremy Clarkson: Frankly, I'd have them all shot!

[studio laughs]

Jeremy Clarkson: I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean how dare they go on strike when they've got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?

Matt Baker: Well, on that note of balancing an opinion of course those are Jeremy's views.

Jeremy Clarkson: I just … ! I was just giving two views for you!

Alex Jones: Well, we will be talking to Jeremy more later.

This is a textbook example of what is called "attitudinising" - adopting a particular position as a posture. Jeremy Clarkson doesn't strikers, I'm fairly sure. And he has a fairly duff line in comedy. But he's not seriously calling for the adoption of Chile's Pinochet regime in the US.

And next time I'll do my homework better before posting stuff off Twitter. I'm trying to up the number of posts but it's no excuse for writing complete cack. Sorry, people.

The High Ground

Which was the title of Star Trek: The Next Generation's 60th episode, but an appropriate one for the response to prize clown Jeremy Clarkson's highly contentious comments on an early evening chat show yesterday, where he called for the Striking workers to be 'taken out and shot' in front of their families. This has caused the customary furore, no better illustrated than my co-blogger pressing for Clarkson's prosecution for 'Hate Crimes', amongst a variety of 'Twitterati, New Statesman bloggers and Guardian journalists, as well as the Unions behind yesterday's industrial action. In fairness to him, he confesses to 'severe misgivings' over hate crime legislation, and in the wake of UNISON deciding to use its membership fees to press for police action against the presenter, he has ceased the action.

There are, however, strange Double standards at work for the Left here. One of the most prominent Leftist 'Twitterati' member is the New Statesman blogger Sunny Hundal, who in this entry bemoans the fact that the remarks 'weren't comedy' and parrots the line that the BBC 'is overwhelmingly right wing'. Given Star Trek's Liberal use of alternative dimensions and parallel universes you could be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into one here. Possibly in comparison with the
KCNA website, their output might be characterised as right of centre but otherwise it's certainly well to the Left of any political spectrum bar, perhaps an ILEA one of the mid 1980's wherein Trotskyites were defined as 'the Right'. Perhaps, most telling, is his comment that 'Let's not have Tories complain about 'PC gawn mad' and 'have a sense of humour' when they get so uppity at 'small jokes' themselves'.

This echoed my reaction on this blog to the interview given by mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone to Total Politics magazine where he equated the coming mayoral election with World War Two: (and implicitly, if not directly, Opponent Boris Johnson to Hitler) Strangely Hundal was noticeably silent on that issue. But why stop there? Prior to that point, Livingstone had also compared his rival's chief of staff to Serbian War Criminal Ratko Mladic , and subsequently, he remarked to Hammersmith and Fulham councillors proposing the redevelopment of a Council Estate, that they should be 'burned in hell with their flesh flayed by demons for all eternity', and called for the execution of Chancellor George Osborne. That's the trouble with this kind of thinking, it invariably escalates, and for the Left, the trouble as I tried to point out in my post on the Johnson/Hitler comparison, is that if you take vicarious offence on behalf of every 'minority' and try to censure the terms of the debate, then you'd better be pretty secure on the moral high ground or you'll come tumbling down. As it stands, all they've done, really is to make themselves look both priggish, petty, small-minded , and probably increase sales of 'Top Gear' DVDs by about 100,000 heading into the Xmas period.

It is worth quoting arguably one of the greatest politicians of the last 30 years, Lord Tebbit, who gives a sense of how both sides of the political fence today come across as Latter-day Neros - the fact that Mr.Ed sought to force Cameron to 'disown' the ludicrous Clarkson remarks, is on a par with Hague and Blair in 1998 debating the fate of Soap character Deirdre Rachid.:

'There are plenty of other matters crying out for attention. Despite all the promises and protestations, immigration is unchecked. While the Left wrings its hands at the appalling unemployment figures, it hides its face from the truth. Last year the number of UK nationals in work fell by 280,000. The number of foreigners rose by 147,000.

Perhaps it is time we asked why our own people are not finding work when people from overseas do. Is it our schools that are failing to produce young men and women with the skills, aptitudes and self-discipline needed to find work? Is it that the benefits culture has become so deep-rooted that idleness is the preferred option?

Whatever it is, the cost is appalling and stretches out into the future. Not just the economic and social costs of those unwilling or unsuitable to work, but the huge cost of providing infrastructure to support an ever increasing army of immigrants and their dependents. Schools, hospitals, roads, water and sewage works, power stations – none of which we would need if our own people took the jobs that are there for the taking.

The papers, but not the BBC, report on a daily basis the bizarre decisions of judges who fail to punish criminals with long records of crime, and others who think it is their duty to ignore the interest of we taxpayers who pay them. They’d rather allow foreign criminals to stay here to pursue their lives of crime.

Wherever one looks, be it Parliament, the Civil Service, the judiciary, local government or indeed the top management of public companies, the hired help behaves as though it were the owners, not the servants of the true owners, of the institution that pays their wages.'

In the context of the litany of woe above, a man known as someone 'whom the Hard Left feared'(and I would say, still fear) spells out the real issues facing us. Is it any wonder people like Sunny Hundal would have us worry about trivial, ridiculous comments?

Jeremy Clarkson: hate criminal?

After a severe lack of postings in November, I'm going to start as I mean to go on in December - with at least one post a day. To kick us off here's something truly horrible - Jeremy Clarkson calling for striking public sector workers to be shot in front of their families.

I've contacted the Metropolitan Police hate crimes unit to ask them to investigate Clarkson for hate crimes.

It's worth noting at this point that I have severe misgivings about "hate crime" legislation as it can easily be used to clamp down on free speech. But as the Tories are fond of pointing out, if a crime has been committed then arguably it's my duty to ask for an investigation - my personal feelings on the matter are irrelevant.

(Plus there is the fact that Clarkson is a fascist bastard and it'd be nice to see him banged up. But I didn't let that interfere with my judgement on this matter. Oh no...)

Update, 5pm 1 December: As UNISON have announced they're taking legal advice on the Clarkson issue I've decided not to bother with the Met complaint - I'm sure UNISON has more resources than I have.

Another update, 9pm 1 December: the BBC has now released this transcript of the conversation which, to be fair to Clarkson, makes it clear that he was joking. (He was trying to give two extreme opinions to wind the audience up). Case closed as far as I'm concerned.

23 November 2011

Is there in Truth no Beauty?

Continuing the theme of Posts with Star Trek episode titles, my attention was brought by blog progenitor Hal Berstram to an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian this week. Normally based on 'the Great Moonbat' (as he is known in Climate Change Sceptic circles) and his previous outpourings I would have readily dismissed it as the usual half-baked Socialist waffle, most likely being funded from one of two South East Asian countries. However, proving the old adage 'even a blind squirrel stumbles across the odd acorn' true, it's an impressive argument, one of the best I've ever seen from a Guardian journalist.

The central point, and it's pretty hard to argue, is that what the financial sector, especially has become bears only the most passing resemblance to 'Free market capitalism'. Taking aim in his first few paragraphs at one of the easiest targets amongst the so-called '1 percent', Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, Monbiot lays bare the level of subsidy given to Formula One, both globally and in the UK. Avid readers of this blog may have seen mention of my passion for Formula one racing, but whilst admiring the spectacle of such advanced technology and the drivers' skill, Formula One has been a political football since really the Early 1970's, and the scandalous decision by Blair to campaign for an exemption for Formula One from an EU ban on tobacco sponsorship, laid bare the links between Ecclestone and senior politicians of both Parties. For anyone thinking the Conservatives were any better, the funding of the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire was the subject of some very murky 'offshore tax planning' which it used to effectively run at a loss and gain sole proprietorship of the British Grand Prix amid rising safety concerns which eliminated rival Brands Hatch from the picture from 1987 onwards.

Monbiot then hits out at another sitting duck, James Purnell's Private Finance Initiative or 'PFI', a device whereby Private Sector companies would invest in much-needed infrastructure projects. First touted at the fag end of the Thatcher administration (I think the idea was a Keith Joseph brainchild in the 1970's but it took until 1992 for its first implementation), the idea was that the 'more efficient' Private Sector would be able to deliver services and infrastructure more efficiently than if they remained in the Public Sector. Despite opposing it under Smith, Labour under Blair became an enthusiastic user of PFI in the next thirteen years, most pointedly because PFI liabilities could be disguised 'off balance sheet'. I admit that my source for much of the PFI information is satricial magazine Private Eye, whose continued exposure of this scandal remains one of the greatest journalistic public services of our age. Suffice it to say, to be 'enticed' into these deals, all the risk had to be transferred from the Private Sector provider to ultimately, in the last resort, the taxpayer. Current PFI liabilities, according to Government figures released in November LAST YEAR stand at £267 billion with that figure likely to rise.

Continuing his them of shooting fish in a barrel, Monbiot then exposes Free market advocate Matt Ridley, a former Telegraph journalist whose admirable 'Acid Test' columns sit proudly in my cuttings file. One in particular 'Dihydrogen monoxide - there's a real killer' exposed how just by changing a substances name, single issue campaigners can create a storm in a teacup. Turns out he's less then keen on the rigours of the Free market when they apply to him, as Northern Rock, of which he was the nominal chairman had to be baled out by the taxpayer, his risky strategy of going after NINJA homeowners provoking the first run on a UK bank in over 120 years. I have often maintained this was a political decision by Brown (to shore up Labour support in the North East) and that had the bank been called 'Southern Rock' and based in say, Guildford, it would have been thrown to the wolves. Nevertheless, the fact that such rank hypocrisy has been exposed by Monbiot is wholly admirable.

Arguably not such much a sitting duck, as a tranquilised flock of geese, the EU's CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is a scandal of such long standing it often escapes attention. Suffice it to say, I don't know anyone, of any political persuasion, who supports its continuance in its current form. The level of fraud is so great as to almost defy calculation, and the truth is the last estimate were that its cost to the taxpayer equated to around £2400 per head per year. Furthermore, a looming deadline of 2013 for Poland's full admission to the CAP on the same terms as the French, which due to the Polish agricultural sector's surprising resilience is estimated to increase that figure by nearly £1700, will also lead the EU to face imminent bankruptcy. (assuming the Euro crisis doesn't finish it off)

It's a truly searing critique. What we have is nothing I, or any advocate of a free market capitalism would recognise as a capitalist democracy. Call it what you like, kleptocracy(government for the benefit of the ruling class), plutocracy (government of the wealthy) or Oligarchy (government by a ruling class) - one thing it for sure as hell isn't is a democracy. The problem with his diagnosis, is what is the overarching issue for the British Left, because the one group omitted from the analysis is highly paid Council Officials, European Commission servants (for example) and other bureaucrats who also need to be exposed as basically a parasitic 'rentier' class above and beyond the ordinary people of the UK. Perhaps, what's needed is a coming together of the dispossessed from both sides of the political spectrum to unite and smash the cosy alliance of both Private Sector plutocrats and their Union Baron and Senior bureaucrat counterparts from the Left. I look forward to it....

20 November 2011

In the Shadow of Zuccotti...

Echoing my erstwhile co-author's comments regarding a lack of posts - Acting as a 'de facto' Tour guide for vistors to New York City seems to be taking up an inordinate amount of my time, so have been off the radar, even with a number of issues that really do cry out for attention. Arguably one of my all-time favourite Television Series of any genre is the Science Fiction Saga, Babylon 5 , a multi-layered self -contained Universe which ran, despite not really having anything like the financial backing of it's Paramount financed Rivals in the Star Trek franchise, for five years in the 1990's. The chief antagonists of the series first three years are a race known as the Shadows, whose basic philosophy appears to be that strength and progress come through conflict. Without doubt my favourite character from the entire run of the series was arguably the main villain, the Shadows' human emissary Mr. Morden , whose Wikipedia description bears repeating:

'Although outwardly polite and courteous, he represents a dangerous hidden agenda'

His first question to anyone he meets is the simply phrased: 'What do you want?'

This came back to me in my consideration of the ongoing protests at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LSX, as well as, it has to be said the around 70 other protests ongoing across the globe. I am particularly admiring of the doughty group of protestors who have chosen to occupy a square in that famous centre of off shore finance, Newport, Isle of Wight, but I digress. I have to ask the protestors 'what do you want?' because one of the issues facing the movement is that it's demands seem so desperately unclear and unfocused. Whilst some see this as a source of strength, for me, if they are to move beyond first base (using American parlance) in offering what my colleague Hal Berstram calls 'a new paradigm' it's imperative that they get a coherent list of goals. On Twitter, where arguably much of the energy that should be put into this blog is now dissipated, the much disparaged 'astroturfing right-wing trolls' pointed me out this link which lists the latest minutes of Occupy LSX's loftily entitled General assembly. When I stopped laughing, I took the time to examine more closely this document, to gain some greater insight into what motivates these protestors. In spite of their failure to remove the Soviet banners from their encampment, I am continually informed that recreation of the defunct USSR is not the true agenda, so let's see if we can find out what it actually is.

'Well established. Working Groups can have a room each down there. National Occupy conference will take place at OLSX on Saturday and BoI on Saturday. Want books to start library, food, paint, tools, people, lamps / lighting equipment.
Most probably know building is owned by UBS. They were subject ot $60bn bail-out from Swiss government. Evidence of corruption. They gambled millions of pension money. It’s appropriate that we open this bank'

So the invasion of Private property goes on - a repudiation of one of the fundamental building blocks of human freedom. Quite what business the policies of the Swiss government is of these people is anyone's guess, but nevertheless, I am assuming they object to UK firms using UBS as a Pension fund manager? The lack of understanding of basic finance again shows through. There is no such thing as a 'risk free investment' I'd argue any Pension fund manager who invested in low risk deposit accounts with interest rates at 0.5% and even instruments like Guaranteed Equity bonds paying post-tax returns below inflation was being negligent but that's again a moot point.

'People’s assemblies are good because the the government has centralised everything. Everything on a local level would not have need for centralised government – we can achieve everything locally, through face to face contact with people – you’ll know people, they’ll be easy to contact and talk to – that’s where I will be hopefully'

This actually did intrigue me somewhat as ideally I'd be in favour of much greater 'localism' - one of the problems we see, though, is the inevitable ill-informed articles about 'postcode lotteries' in provision of such staples as old-age care and Health provision. these are stoked by the press on both sides of the political divide. Much centralisation under every government since Thatcher (and possibly arguably even prior to that there were tendencies) has been in response to such criticisms. By allowing real Local democracy, the risk is run that provision of services will be very unequal. Also, is there anything to stop say, Far-right or Islamic extremists implementing policies which to the Left would be distasteful in the extreme(banning on Eating pork or preferential housing for Whites) The proposal also shows a distinct lack of historical awareness. A number of Local authorities (most famously the GLC under Livingstone, but also Liverpool under , say Hatton) took it upon themselves to deliberately stoke up taxation and set themselves up in opposition to the then elected government. Much centralisation in fields such as education was a response to provocation from people whose extreme left wing ideology was signifcantly more important than their concerns for local ratepayers. Hence the eventual abolition of the GLC and widespread use of 'rate capping' during the 80's and into the 90's. How would such tendencies (And regardless of what Occupy believe I assume some Conservative councils would still exist? If not that's another matter entirely) be curbed under the dispensation proferred here?

'One way to spread the occupy movement is to bring in the trade unions, to appeal to as many as possible. On 20th November, 3 million public sector workers are on strike in support of their pensions. It’s an important day, you can really appeal to them. People should occupy workspaces so they can decide for themselves their conditions, working hours, benefits, and pay'

So, what I can glean from this is that workers should come in and 'Occupy their workplace' - fine. What happens then? As workers have 'decided for themselves their pay and conditions and their working hours' what will happen. I know a number of my former colleagues who would vote themselves a salary of 250K and working hours of zero, as well as a pension linked to the 2008 inflation rate in Zimbabwe. Whether any business that ran in that fashion would be able to stave off bankruptcy for even one hour would be questionable. As for enlisting the Trade unions, it seems astonishingly myopic not to recognise their agenda. UNISON and especially the RMT exist to promote the interests of their membership, not the wider society at large. Do you think Union poster boy Bob Crow gives two hoots about the commuters into all manner of industries (not just the LSX) when he calls his latest stoppage by his outrageously well-renumerated drivers over the flimsiest pretext? I'd argue not.

In fairness, a number of 'Occupy' supporters have pointed out these are 'minutes' - and I recognise that. But again we return back to the question I posed earlier in the post - 'What do you want'? The minutes read like a Student Union meeting, and if the Occupy movement want to be taken seriously, thney need to move beyond this initial stage and quickly. As New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica points out the naysayers dismissing these people as 'dope fiends and sex fiends' were lying from the start and that generalisation remains a lie. Nevertheless, he makes the point that their moving to blockade Subway (underground!- going native!) stations and block traffic for Commuter buses is unlikely to have any impact on Senior personnel at Citibank or JP Morgan, as I can vouch from a degree of personal knowledge, these guys don't take the bus or subway. On the other hand literally thousands of chefs and kitchen workers (for example) do and any sympathy they had for the movement will have been diminished by an already possibly 2 hour journey to the Outer boroughs being made an hour longer!

In short, 'What does the Occupy movement want?' remains the question, and rest assured, despite the protestations of my erstwhile colleague Hal Berstram, I remain 'outwardly polite and courteous' and there is no hidden agenda, just a willingness to perhaps find out what the 'real agenda' actually is!

17 November 2011

Lifted from CiF

In desperation over the last few days I've taken to reading the comments on the Guardian's Comment is Free again. Free is the operative word; few people would pay for the kind of rubbish you see below the line on CiF every day... particularly from the astroturfing right wing trolls.

However, this comment on the usual €zone panic story "Eurozone bond markets in turmoil" was a classic, courtesy of one 'boydungood':

So here we have it....

The radio this morning tells me how I can make a 9p sandwich with toast in the middle, with salt and pepper - the cheapest meal

I million kids between 16 and 24 out of work or training

An unelected government imposed in Italy (used to be called a coup)

And this papers poster boy Clegg silent on everything, and this paper silent on the Clegg

An all time classic there - and managing to work in Nick Clegg as well... sums up where this country has got to.

16 November 2011

Dropping off the radar

Sorry for lack of posts over the last few weeks. Just been far too busy... normal service should be resumed around next week.

In the meantime keep watching the Euro crisis for "entertainment."

24 October 2011

The Conscience of the King

Which is the title of the 13th episode of the TV series Star Trek's first season, but also could refer to the behaviour of all three Party Leaders in reference to the forthcoming vote in the House of Commons on whether to hold a referendum on EU membership (in whatever format)As already stated by Hal Berstram when I took over co-editorship of this blog, 'readers could look forward to discussion of the intelligent case for leaving the EU' - with Europe once again pushed into the forefront of the political landscape, at least as far as the political class are concerned.

Arguably the finest journalist in print today of any newspaper is Christopher Booker of the Sunday Telegraph. The original editor of the satirical publication, Private Eye, he is still contributing material both to its investigative section 'In the back' as well as the innumerable small jokes, often in cartoon format that litter its pages. Better known on the Left nowadays for his scepticism over Climate Change (or Anthropogenic Global Warming), he first came to my attention as one of the only (if not the only) journalists to focus on the EU's forays into the public sphere in the 1990s and early 2000s. He has been consistently vindicated on every aspect of his European observations, not the least of which was criticism of the common cross party consensus that the EU was a 'good thing'. I'd hazard this is one of the main reason why, he , like I smells a rat, when Climate Change proponents say 'the science is settled' and 'there is general consensus' , telltale phrases that imply a vested interest in something which is in many cases quite lucrative. I feel confident that, as global temperatures continue to fluctuate and fall in many cases, Booker's stance will be vindicated again. However, this is not the main thrust of the post.

In one searing work, the Castle of Lies , he and co-author Richard North (an admittedly single-minded campaigner who destroyed his photocard EU license because it had the EU's 'ring of stars' emblem on it and who went to prison for a day for withholding the 'policing' element of his Council Tax for his local force's failure to deal with a burglary epidemic in his part of West Yorkshire) laid bare the EU's true nature for anyone who was willing to see it. In the sequel, The Great Deception, they looked at the EU's roots and exposed its deliberately anti-democratic nature, as well as the fiction that British War Leader Churchill ever intended the UK to be part of such an organisation. In all honesty, I'd find it hard to nominate a journalist who has done more to influence my political beliefs in a positive, as opposed to a negative way.

Thus, I can only echo the sentiments of my co-author here on the blog in his call for a referendum. Very interesting to see the attitude of the man who he believes will be PM in 2015, who has described people calling for a referendum as 'barking' and a 'reckless distraction' thus destrying the ground his conference speech had gained him in the eyes of many Eurosceptics. whilst it's true that to agitate for a referendum at a time of global crisis might seem something of an unwanted diversion, such a diagnosis fails to recognise that the issue goes to the core of what type of governmental system we want.

What I fear is two things:

A/ The phraseology of the referendum question - will it be a loaded question to try and appease the 'Fib Dems' (who on this issue I agree with Hal are 'spineless collaborators') or will it be the question which the UKIP want:

'Do you wish Britain to remain in the EU, a deeply corrupt, utterly undemocratic institution whose cost outweigh is benefits by about 100 to 1 and which is widely believed to be run covertly from Beijing and Pyongyang?

B/ The possibility of a 'third option' on renegotiation, which as former Icelandic PM , David Oddsson (who kept Iceland out of the EU) pointed out wouldn't be offered to the UK. Indeed, I'm not even sure the preferential treatment afforded to Norway and Switzerland would be offered. that's the greatest fear for the otherwise dominant UKIP, that the 'fear factor' will drive either a 'Yes' or a vote for option three.

Thus whilst I disagree with Hal's vision, which given the lack of linguistic or cultural commonality would simply not work in countries as diverse as the EU membership, I'll stand happliy on the plaform with him and other anti-globalisation protesters and Greens who normally I would be looking to expose as in the pay of certain hostile powers to say that this issue cannot be ignored. If you truly care at all about our democracy - you need to be writing to your MP, regardless of his politics, and ask him or her why they aren't supporting democracy by defying party whips to vote in favour of it. I'd be especially pleased if any readers who might live in Doncaster North especially could ask.....

22 October 2011

Europe: the case for a referendum

Some considerable excitement going on (in relative terms) in the House of Commons on Monday, where several dozen Tories (mainly from the right of the party) and some maverick Labour MPs, plus Caroline Lucas, will be voting in favour of a referendum on staying in the EU.

All three main party leaders will be whipping their MPs against the motion. (I note in passing that the Lib Dem manifesto contained a pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Europe. We can safely assume that that pledge went the way of all their other pledges, then? Well done, Fib Dems.)

My view is that there is a very clear case for a referendum. Opinion polls show very strong support - often a majority - for leaving the EU. At the last Euro election, the UK Independence Party came second in terms of vote share, and many Tory party and Green party members are also in favour of leaving. Circumstances have changed hugely since the last referendum in 1975. So for me, the case is difficult to argue.

As for what the result of a referendum would be... it's very hard to say. The case of the AV referendum shows that the initial opinion polling may bear very little relation to the final result. The "Yes" campaign would be hugely well funded and would be able to use the three main party leaders and front benches in its campaigning (actually, looking at them again, maybe that's a handicap rather than an asset). As in the AV referendum and the 1975 campaign the "No" campaign would suffer from being a mix of left and right wingers with few affinities with each other; the combination of Enoch Powell and Tony Benn on the "No" platform in '75 probably created a negative crossover effect whereby each turned off the other's supporters, and you can imagine the same thing happening with (for example) Nigel Farage and Caroline Lucas this time round.

But part of the reason for holding a referendum would be to find all this out. Therefore, I will be emailing my MP (the extreme Tory right winger Priti Patel) to recommend that she vote in favour of a referendum.

The obvious next question is: If there were a referendum, how would I vote? Probably I'd vote "no" although not for the same reasons as most of the "no" group. I'm basically a Eurofederalist who wants legislative matters decided by an elected European Parliament with Westminster relegated to the kind of role that a county council has in England at the moment. I'd abolish the European Commission and run the whole system through parliament with a European Prime Minister and a figurehead president. The various national heads of state would be kept on for ceremonial purposes.

But the current EU isn't anything to do with this vision. The European Parliament has very limited powers and most decisions are taken by unelected commissioners. To be frank (and there is a danger of sounding like Van Patten here but I'm going to say it anyway) the current EU governance structure is closer to China than any parliamentary democracy. And that's very dangerous.

So, I'd vote to come out of Europe for the moment, but if a true federalist Europe could be constructed either by renegotiation of existing treaties or by reconstruction from the ground up, I'd be an enthusiastic supporter of British re-entry.

One other point: There is the possibility of a 3-option referendum with "renegotiation" as the 3rd option. if this were the question, I'd be wary of voting for renegotiation because it's too fuzzy and allows too many opportunities to sell the voters out. In the 1975 referendum, Harold Wilson made it clear that a yes vote was a vote for renegotiation of the terms of the UK's membership - but in the end almost nothing was changed. One can imagine Cam/Clegg or Miliband doing much the same thing.

So, any MPs reading this: please do the right thing by your constituents and vote yes to a referendum on the EU on Monday 24th.

10 October 2011

The demise (?) of Dan Hodges

Once I had stopped throwing my Blackberry around the train for not working properly today and remembered that I had a perfectly functioning Samsung Galaxy S as backup, Tweetdeck dealt me the sad news that Dan Hodges had left the New Statesman.

For those who have never read his stuff (and there can't be many of you on the left, nor apparently among the Tories), Dan is a maverick blogger with strong Blairite tendencies. He is no great fan of Ed Miliband most of the time, and according to the (usually less than reliable) Guido Fawkes, Ed's office was instrumental in securing Dan's dismissal from the Statesman after such classic anti-Ed fodder as "Ed Miliband has a strategy - it's called Ralph Nader", "No one likes Ed Miliband - but he doesn't care" and "Ed's hit himself with a hammer. Why is he surprised it hurts?"

The Statesman itself issued a tweet saying that Dan had resigned rather than being fired, and there has been no word - yet - from the man himself, so it's not at all clear what happened yet. The Guido Fawkes view is that Dan was forced out because of his anti-Ed Miliband views. However, there are a lot of anti-Ed views expressed on the site and only some of them have come from Dan. Until recently the Statesman had Lib Dem Olly Grender on the books, and they also have the dreadful Tory Graeme Archer, the small 'l' liberal legal specialist David Allen Green, the hard left (ish) activist Laurie Penny, and economist David Blanchflower (the British Paul Krugman); none of these are sycophantic Milibandites. The only real hardcore pro-Ed voice on the Statesman's main writing team is Mehdi Hasan.

It also seems unlikely that Dan's persistent attacks on Ed are well crafted enough to prompt a nasty phone call from the Ed team saying "get rid of this geezer". Basically, Dan writes two kinds of articles; the Ed is Crap Article and the Article About Something Else. Sometimes the Article About Something Else is worth reading (e.g. his recent post on the Tories' problems over whether to abolish the 50p rate or not was excellent.) The Ed Is Crap Article is, and always has been, desperate Blairite trolling replete with all the tricks of the trade - asides from unnamed "cabinet ministers", the "concerned insider" saying "we really don't know what Ed's doing anymore", Tony Blair lurking in the background tutting disapproval, and some guy Dan meets up for a pint with every fortnight who doesn't know the names of any contemporary politicians at all but thinks Enoch Powell had the right idea in sending 'em all back home. Or something like that. I do computer programming sometimes and I'm thinking of producing a piece of software that will automatically write a generic Dan Hodges "Ed Is Crap" Article at the press of a button, using randomisation to generate slightly different copy each time (along the lines of the early web classic the Post Modernist Essay Generator). Maybe I could sell it to the Statesman and they could carry on as if all was well.

Actually I'm being slightly unfair on Dan here - recently he did discover a third type of article - it was the Ed Balls Is Crap article. File under "slight variation of the formula."

Despite the fact that I rarely agree with Dan (although occasionally I have enthusiastically endorsed his writing), and that I think his anti-Ed stance is tired and one-dimensional, I'm nonetheless sad to see him leaving the Statesman, partly because I enjoyed commenting on his articles (usually either to accuse him of being a Tory plant or a plant from Ed Miliband's office designed to offer only token and thin criticism to make Ed look good), partly because - as evidenced by his Twitter feed - he does have a great wit at times, and partly because even though he's mostly wrong, he's often interestingly wrong - unlike someone like John Rentoul for example, who is just annoying. And also because it probably means he'll be doing more on Labour Uncut - the right-wing Labour blog started by Mr Webcameron himself, Sion Simon - which is full of people with views similar to Dan, but who express them much less articulately. To the extent that I can't be bothered to visit the site: Labour List is as far right as I go, and even then rarely.

04 October 2011

€-zone - the end of the beginning...

Well it's now around 18 months since the Eurozone crisis first erupted with the initial Greek bailout, and the can has been kicked down the road so many times that I've lost count. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy have all been dragged into the widening vortex, the politicians and central bankers wrangle interminably, and now the private banking sector begins to unravel with the news that the Belgian/French bank Dexia needs recapitalisation.

It is difficult to avoid the feeling that this whole slow-motion car crash is coming to a close. In the words of the late William Burroughs, we may now be reaching "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork."

It is hard to predict exactly when total economic collapse will occur. There were 14 months between the freezing of the interbank credit market in July 2007 (the first hard evidence that something was dreadfully, terribly wrong in the financial system) and the collapse of Lehmans in September 2008. The European sovereign debt crisis has been going on for longer than that now.

Things are a little scary. In the initial wave of the collapse the initiative was taken by Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling. Although Mr Brown's reputation has suffered a bit under a wave of Tory propaganda, and he failed in any way to capitalise or build on the momentum from the initial banking bailout, that you are reading this at all, rather than scrabbling for food in a looted shopping centre in a real life version of Mad Max, is probably down to him, and if there were any justice, he would be remembered as perhaps the greatest prime minister of the last fifty years, despite all his (many and deep) failings.

Do not expect any salvation from the UK this time round - the morons have taken over the pitch. Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Clegg have not an iota of economic capacity between them. More worryingly, there appear to be no other world leaders with much of a clue either.

It is impossible to predict where we will end up if the global economic system does collapse (and I still sincerely hope a way through can be found) - my only advice is as follows:

  1. stockpile tinned food.
  2. get down the allotment.
  3. If you join a militia group make sure it is the left wingers, not the EDL, and use violence only as a last-ditch self-defence measure.
  4. It will not be wise to identify yourself as a Liberal Democrat even after the political system has collapsed. Folks have long memories
  5. 12-string guitar may have added poser value for buskers.
That is all for today. Good luck.

The new men in the High Castle....

Further greetings to those diehard followers of the blog, once more from inside 'the Bunker' in NYC, this time due to some literal teething problems that have exposed me to the much maligned US healthcare system - which as I expected, was excellent, if a little pricey. Anyhow, it will not have escaped people's notice that arguably the greatest symbol of Capitalism, New York's Wall Street has currently been 'occupied' by protesters for about 3 weeks. This has excited significant media attention across the world. Some ill advised forays against the NYPD, whose admitted partial over-reaction has instead of dousing the fire, roused it, has intensified the spotlight. With the protest showing no sign of being over, despite the Police actions, perhaps it's best to look at the protestors somewhat myriad demands in a little more detail. Helpfully, veteran Leftist Richard D Wolff, a supporter of similar popular protest movements in countries such as Cuba ( at least until 1959) and Vietnam (at least until 1975) has outlined what he hopes will be the end result in today's Guardian

'Let me urge the occupiers to ignore the usual carping that besets powerful social movements in their earliest phases. Yes, you could be better organised, your demands more focused, your priorities clearer. All true, but in this moment, mostly irrelevant. Here is the key: if we want a mass and deep-rooted social movement of the left to re-emerge and transform the United States, we must welcome the many different streams, needs, desires, goals, energies and enthusiasms that inspire and sustain social movements. Now is the time to invite, welcome and gather them, in all their profusion and confusion.'

Leave aside the fact that approximately 5000 protestors is dwarfed by the population of one Manhattan street, but the message is not that objectionable. However much I disagree with denizens of the Hard Left in any form, they are free to express their opinion (although like some other right wingers I notice this tolerance does not extend from some on the left to anyone deemed 'right wing' especially in regards to race) - Thus we see, thus far a gathering of a whole raft of single issue pressure groups and Left wing activists, which is all well and good.

However, with the ensuing paragraphs, the true agenda becomes clear:

'So permit me, in the spirit of honoring and contributing something to this historic movement, to propose yet another dimension, another item to add to your agenda for social change. To achieve the goals of this renewed movement, we must finally change the organisation of production that sustains and reproduces inequality and injustice. We need to replace the failed structure of our corporate enterprises that now deliver profits to so few, pollute the environment we all depend on, and corrupt our political system'

So the red fist within the Green glove becomes clear - we are to replace the existing 'economic system' and replace it with what precisely, Richard?

'We need to end stock markets and boards of directors. The capacity to produce the goods and services we need should belong to everyone – just like the air, water, healthcare, education and security on which we likewise depend. We need to bring democracy to our enterprises. The workers within and the communities around enterprises can and should collectively shape how work is organised, what gets produced, and how we make use of the fruits of our collective efforts'

A classic paragraph - and seemingly ignorant of the history of the past century. Richard, Newsflash for you, my old son - There was a country that did exactly what you suggested. Perhaps you've heard of it - comprising much of the landmass of Europe and Asia, and stretching across 11 time zones, it lasted from bloody beginnings in 1917 for 74 years and was so vast, even it's dismemberment into 15 separate 'official' states left it's largest statelet as the world's biggest country - it was called the USSR. As I say, I'm assuming with your academic background, you've encountered it? Ah, but anticipating that objection, what's this we see?

'We all know that moving in this direction will elicit the screams of "socialism" from the usual predictable corners. The tired rhetoric lives on long after the cold war that orchestrated it fades out of memory. The audience for that rhetoric is fast fading, too. It is long overdue in the US for us to have a genuine conversation and struggle over our current economic system. Capitalism has gotten a free pass for far too long.'

So the rhetoric is 'tired and faded' is it Richard? I'd suggest you visit Russia, or more enlighteningly for you, The former COMECON states of Eastern Europe to see just what their memories (and I agree they are fading all too quickly) of genuine socialism are - I'm not sure you offering to recreate it will win you many friends in Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga or indeed even Tirana or Skopje.

However, let us assume, for a moment, that like some political alchemist, you can manufacture a system that doesn't go down the lines of every other collectivist regime I've ever seen, and grant that what happened in Eastern Europe was a long and disastrous anomaly, - what then?

'Humanity learned to do without kings and emperors and slave masters. We found our way to a democratic alternative, however partial and unfinished the democratic project remains. We can now take the next step to realise that democratic project. We can bring democracy to our enterprises – by transforming them into cooperatives owned, operated and governed by democratic assemblies composed of all who work in them and all the residents of the communities who are interdependent with them.'

I'd argue this paragraph betrays such a misunderstanding of human nature, it's hard to know where to begin. Ask the people of another socialist icon (although unlike Cuba and Vietnam this seems to be 'persona non grata' for the Left over here and in the UK - perhaps it's too close to genuine socialism for comfort - the truth can be very painful), the Korea DPR, whether humanity 'has learned to do without Kings and Slave masters', as a third generation of hereditary tyrant is groomed for power, with a network of gulags at his disposal. Indeed, in fairness, you could look to autocratic regimes across Central Asia of an ultr-nationalist bent in Uzbekistan, Tajikstan and Turkmenistan and see much the same. As for your demand that the economy be transformed into 'cooperatives owned, operated and governed by democratic assemblies composed of all who work in them' it's been tried before, and the results weren't pretty.

However, despite it's blatant flaws, I'm grateful to this article for revealing who the intellectual influences behind the 'Occupy wall Street' protesters really are - vicious, retread socialists who were thwarted in their desire for Global Socialism two decades ago, but have seized on the admittedly dire economic situation, and taken advantage of many Americans profound ignorance of the world outside the USA, to reiterate the old rhetoric 'of democracy and economic freedom' , knowing what the actual reality was and, in places like Cuba and North Korea, still is. One of my favourite works of 'alternate history' is the Philip K. Dick novel, The Man in the High Castle, a dystopian novel posited in the alternate future wherein the Axis WON World War Two and a new 'Cold War' had developed between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. If we follow Wolff's prescriptions, I think some future writer might posit a future whereby the USSR Won the Cold War and the World lived under primarily Communist rule. My greatest fear is that the naive 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters are doing their utmost to make that less of a dream, more a reality......

30 September 2011

Ed Miliband - pissing off the right people (most of the time)

As was the case last year, Ed Miliband's Labour Party conference speech just keeps getting better the more I look at the reactions to it.

One outcome of the speech (and in particular the very warm reaction that Ed's line "I'm not Tony Blair" received) has been that the Blairite hard right of the Labour party is utterly demoralised. After the disappointment of their assumed shoo-in candidate, David Miliband, losing to Ed last year, the hard right had hoped that Ed's poor personal approval ratings would somehow contrive an Iain Duncan Smith 2003 situation where Ed would be persuaded to fall on his sword to be replaced by David, or another Blairite (if they could find anyone suitable). The phone hacking scandal, and now Ed's gutsy speech, has made his replacement a very remote prospect this side of an election. You could still - just about - argue that Ed might be vulnerable if Labour does badly in the 2012 local elections, and in particular if Ken Livingstone fails to beat Boris Johnson in the London mayorality rematch; but this is clutching at straws for the Blairite hard right, who seemed to spend most of the conference crying into their beer as they realised the game is up for them.

Typifying this resignation among the hard right was an interview I saw on Channel 4 News last night with the preposterous right wing New Statesman and Labour Uncut maverick blogger Dan Hodges, and the shadow transport minister John Woodcock - who appears to be a cross between Andrew Adonis and a mannered automaton. Hodges was desperate - "Ed's embarked on a suicidal strategy", he wailed. This is very good news. The downbeat mood (reportedly) at the hard-right Progress rally at the conference was very good news. The fact that pain-in-the-ass uber-Blairite journalists like John Rentoul don't like Ed is also very good news. Demoralisation, ceasing and desisting, and - hopefully - leaving the Labour party altogether, would be the best things that could happen to the handful of Blairite ultras who have been trying to orchestrate a coup to take back the Labour leadership for the last 12 months. Note that most of the people who backed David Miliband for the leadership last year are not uber-Blairites and are happy to fall into line behind Ed's strategy. We're talking about a handful of people - just as damaging in their own way as the Trotskyite Militant tendency were in the 1980s. They are demoralised and they are on the way out. All Very Good.

That said, Ed doesn't always piss the right people off - sometimes he pisses off people he needs in the tent with him. This was most evident in the ludicrous part of his speech which attacked disabled benefit claimants as if they were all scroungers - a simple piece of Blairite triangulation totally at odds with the rest of his speech. Tim Nichols of the Child Poverty Action Group has a brilliant post on Left Foot Forward totally demolishing this part of Ed's speech - he badly needs to develop a new progressive narrative on social security (NOT, for F***'s sake, this godawful US word "welfare"), or risk alienating millions of benefit and tax credit claimants whose votes he needs to win next time.

But in general, with some severe reservations, I'm a lot more optimistic about the future of the Labour party now than I was a week ago. Hey, if Ed dropped the bullshit about demonising benefit claimants I might even rejoin, having not been a Labour member since 1992 when I resigned claiming that John Smith(!) was "selling us out". I'm in the Green party at the moment - ideally I'd like to be in both the Green party and the Labour Party, and perhaps it would be useful if such a facility could be introduced. F*** tribalism, yes to pluralism.

28 September 2011

Some quick reflections on Ed's speech

Van Patten has actually done a remarkably good and fair minded job on Ed Miliband's speech already, and I'm pushed for time, so I will just offer up a few "thunks" in the manner of BHappy:

1) delivery started well but fell off rapidly. I tweeted in the first 5 minutes of the speech that Ed was far more assured than last year, but that was only true for those first few minutes. After that, his pacing was glacial, and too often he sounded like he was reading the phone directory. I've seen Ed give some barnstorming speeches at places like the Fabians and Compass where he's spoken without notes, walking around the platform, and I think he should do that next time. As Cameron has shown, it's just a far more relaxed style of delivery.

2) there needs to be a proper investigation into what went wrong with the live TV feed. Apparently someone plugged a kettle in where they shouldn't have, it fused the electrics, and the whole thing went down. Why was no back-up available? And was it Blairite sabotage? Questions need to be answered.

3) the basic idea - that the current economic system was unacceptable - was sound, although it needs a lot of fleshing out.

4) nonetheless, too many concessions to the Tories. there needs to be an end to demonisation of benefit claimants, more commitment to reverse most of the ConDem cuts, and the commitment to sell off the banks is dangerous IMHO - it will just get us back to exactly the same problems we had in 2008. The problem at the moment is that Ed is reaching for a new broad vision - but on specifics he's still very timid. This will result in huge inconsistencies as we get nearer the election unless it's addressed.

5) The speech pissed the right people off. For example, if John Rentoul doesn't like what Ed's saying, he's definitely saying the right thing. Likewise Dan Hodges in the New Statesman.

6) Nice to see some attacks on Nick Clegg. Some commentators have said that Labour is focusing too much on hitting the Lib Dems and not enough on the Tories. I think it needs to hit both hard, but the Lib Dem vote is softer, and so hitting them gets more "bang for the buck". Remember that if Labour gets (say) 12% of the electorate transferring from the Lib Dems to Labour next time, while the Tory vote is unchanged, Labour wins the election by 5 percentage points. It's as simple as that. The Glib Dems are fair game, and emphasising that the only way to get a left-of-centre government is to vote Labour is exactly the right political strategy.

So: 7/10 for content, 4/10 for delivery. Not great, but a better average than your average Tony Blair speech (0/10, 9/10) or Gordon Brown (4/10, 2/10). Ed was also helped by the fact that the delivery of most of the other platform speakers this week has been even worse (Ed Balls and autocue: never the twain shall meet.) But yes, better delivery next time, please.

27 September 2011

The horse that talks the talk - but can he walk the walk?

For those diehards watching the Party conference season back in the UK (and a slight dose of a winter virus has left me tied to my NYC abode - no sympathy expected), today it was the turn of Ed Miliband to step up and deliver his keynote address. Reaction has been somewhat muted, ranging from predictable responses from right wing commentators in the blogosphere , and the usual suspects in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph . Further criticism has been forthcoming from what my host, Hal Berstram tells me are equally habitual moaners in The Guardian and the New Statesman.

By common consent, the weakest Political Leaders in the last three decades, (at least excluding the Liberal Democrats) have been Michael Foot, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith (IDS). For many on the Right, Ed Miliband was the heir to that tradition, and indeed his public persona has been one that has struggled, for me to look Prime Ministerial. I am reminded, by a most unlikely source, that a number of previous Prime Ministers have struggled to gain credibility with the media. Indeed arguably the two 'greatest' post war Prime Ministers (and for Leftists I'll sub the word 'influential' for the latter) would in one instance as Toynbee points out, have been a non -starter (Clement Attlee) and in the other instance the Lady concerned struggled to the extent that she had her own party calling for her head as late as 1977. So the pundits calling this Ed's 'Quiet man' moment can safely I think either be accused of playing to the gallery, at least for the Mail and Telegraph contributors, or in the case of Glover and Hodges, as my man Hal Berstram posits, having an ulterior motive.

Nevertheless, it's worth looking more closely at what Ed's speech contained. For me, he is not a natural orator, and often looks ill at ease, at least in comparison with Blair, or indeed Cameron. As Hal points out, it's possible that Cameron is much more about style than substance, and indeed Ed has done rather better in the set piece exchanges at Prime Minister's Question time than I thought he might have. the worry for Labour Party supporters is that Hague, in particular, regularly trounced Blair across the Dispatch box only to come out with one of the worst electoral performances in history

So to the speech itself, and it started with a couple of somewhat flat jokes. However, for me, more worrying was the lack of content. In comparative terms, the Conservatives first term in opposition was defined by Ken Clarke's comment on Hague's obsession with how he was perceived: 'Where's the beef?' in terms of looking for clear policies with which voters could connect. Reading through the speech, we can come up with the following:

1/ Education - a priority of the Blair years, and it seems Miliband wants to cap the tuition fees at £6K rather than £9K. Furthermore we will see a concerted effort to ensure that people from the lowest achieving and most difficult schools are guaranteed a place at one of the UK's 'Top 30 universities'

2/ Social policy - it seems that Social housing will be allocated in the first instance to people who are working, rather than on the basis of need. How in line with the Human Rights Act this is, I'm not sure, and it seems to sit ill with contending to care for the poorest and most vulnerable.

3/ Health - it seems that Labour will reverse the NHS reforms, because the 'Tories can't be trusted' - in terms of the details, er.... that's it?, unless by the credit card reference he means the nationalisation of the Private Sector - that would be genuinely radical!

4/ The economy - an introduction of employee representatives to decide boardroom renumeration. In fairness, works councils involving employees are a staple of several continental economies - but it's not a tradition the UK has. Also, the differentiation between producers and 'predators' with the former being supported and the latter penalised. Quite who decides what is what is not made clear but it's true this might strike a chord with people who have been the victims of some of the more unscrupulous Private equity forms operating in the murkier sector of the Financial Services industry.

Beyond that, much generalisation about certain values he wishes to embody, but on Europe, an issue for me of the utmost importance, only one sentence, which given how much of our legislation comes from it, is deeply concerning.

So, a train wreck? - not really, indeed for a conference speech, which of late have tended to shy away from concrete commitments precisely for fear of offering hostages to fortune, I thought it wasn't a bad effort. However, as the old saying goes, the Devil is very much in the detail, and I think when he delivers his speech next year, assuming his poll numbers remain steady, I'll expect much more detail of just how a reversion to almost a pre 1979 vision is going to extricate us from the very real issues facing us. Nevertheless, 'the worst speech in 20 years?' - do me a favour!

The same old story... and the same old mistakes

It's part conference season over in the UK, and following the so-called 'Fib Dems' last week, it's the turn of Her Majesty's official opposition, whom following a successful campaign from the last conference to get their stalking horse candidate in, now find themselves fronted by a talking horse.

A post on Miliband has been 'in the works' for several months now, and to Conservatives he remains the coalition's greatest asset, although the redrawing of the electoral landscape under the previous government, due to a huge increase in the Public Sector workforce, unlimited immigration and a significant increase in the number of welfare claimants, means he actually stands with a healthy lead in the polls, as Hal Berstram takes great pleasure in reminding me. More on him later, for sure, but pending the arrival of Compass latest offerings, it's time to examine another blog from the Democratic Left, Left Futures

It's an interesting name, given that for many the Left has no future, but the latest post in response to the Shadow Chancellor's remarks made yesterday, is worth looking at, if only to point out to people opposed to the anticipated 'cuts' in Public expenditure, some of the logistical issues with their preferred solution. The speech by Balls was, it has to be said, something of a tour de force, quite brilliantly summed up by one of the men who is under no illusion about the dangers posed by the Hard Left, Norman Tebbit here. I've never been overly enamoured by Balls ever since he was memorably skewered by then Deputy PM Michael Heseltine, with the memorable line, 'It's not Brown, it's Balls', and even in a political age where Chutzpah is a stock in trade, the speech took some beating. Arguably the most outrageous claim was made when he blames the many issues caused by immigration, which was deliberately encouraged by his government for political purposes (to 'Rub the right's faces in diversity') on one country in particular, Poland.

Now, at this point , I must declare an interest, my previous employer's workforce profile was very much geared to take advantage of the previous government's decision to 'open the borders' in 2004 to the 8 former Warsaw Pact countries which joined the EU in May of that year. I would hazard that around a third of the workforce, even 7 years on, remains Polish, with healthy minorities from the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania. I'd probably now number around 40 of those former colleagues as people I would consider reasonably close friends, all from Poland. Having some contact (usually in the form of insults) with the extreme right, I'd hazard Eastern European immigration is somewhat less objectionable than many other types, due to the ethnicity, religion and background of those immigrants. They are primarily White and Christian, but Balls, deeply conscious of previous statements from Conservative Leaders that were described by members of his own Party as 'the road to Auschwitz' and 'having the whiff of the gas chambers about them' chose instead to demonise people from Poland, rather than the somewhat more concerning, from an integration perspective, immigration from the Islamic world. As I said, shameless courting of the lowest common denominator.

Nevertheless, taking that consideration aside, the Left futures blog post posits the issue with Balls' prescription is that it doesn't go far enough! The core 'solution' provided in the blog is not new, but once more the details are wanting. Let's examine the core text.

'The key problem is not indebtedness, it is lack of demand. The Tory government policy of massive cuts in public expenditure and benefits, plus the VAT increase, is drastically worsening the problem of lack of demand without hardly reducing the deficit at all because of falling tax revenues and rising unemployment. The alternative – the only way to get out of slump when the private sector contracts – is a public sector-driven jobs and growth strategy, getting people off the dole and thus hugely reducing the cost of benefits, and into work so that regain their independence as well as then being able to contribute to tax revenues.

Keeping a million people on the dole costs £7bn a year. For the same amount of money 400,000 jobs could be created. And the country gets a double whammy: jobs are created in areas where they’re urgently needed in housebuilding, in improving transport and energy supply, and in creating the new green, digital economy. And the deficit is cut faster as growth slowly but steadily begins to take off again.'

This prescription, as already mentioned is reminiscent of the film Groundhog Day. there's the uncanny feeling we've been here before. Let me just state for the reader's benefit, that my background is in Logistics, which, simply put is the 'art' of ensuring resources are in the correct places. So what logistical difficulties does this plan present?

I agree a demand stimulus would certainly help the economy. As Tebbit posited when commenting on Balls' original speech, had the previous government not created a coterie of 'Non - jobs' for its own placemen, it's arguable that the necessity to cut wouldn't be there. The problem for Balls, and by extension the Labour Party, is that such people are almost to a person Labour voters, so to jeopardise that constituency would almost certainly mean losing the next several general elections. That would be suicidal, so the bloated payrolls of Local authorities (of all hues, incidentally) and his power base in the non-productive Public Sector remain untouched.

Let's now examine the proposal to create 400,000 jobs , which the blogger suggest will be in housebuilding, transport, infrastructure, and creating the new 'green,digital economy'. Let's deal with the last of these first, shall we? The one thing adepts of the Green economy fail to tell me is what this new 'Green,digital' economy will comprise. It's adherents, men like Chris Huhne , and people like Caroline Lucas, specialise in the production of prodigous quantities of hot air so my first thought was that, but in all seriousness, what are these 'creators' doing - if it's simple IT related tasks, then Ok, there might be sufficient unemployed with those skills to simply get them into a job, but I haved some reservations. Being charitable, let's assume its in the role of facilitation, and thus creating perhaps new cabling and broadband infrastructure, a key 'enabler' if britain is to gain widely based prosperity geographically.

The issue I find fault with, and it's not the first time I've pointed it out is that the writer seems to have zero understanding of either the construction industry or the logistical difficulties faced in facilitating this work. A cursory tour of the few remaining building sites in the South East will quickly reveal:

A/ That the job is skilled not unskilled - you can't just shoehorn 400,000 people into jobs as carpenters and bricklayers. The training even to get to a basic standard is at least six months and for more skilled workers like electricians or engineers a good deal longer than that! I believe this wider ignorance about almost any aspect of either Public Sector 'frontline' or Private Sector Production, Distribution and Construction industries is partly a function of the increasingly narrrow field from which many potential political figures come. That's as much true of the Coalition, as it is Labour.

B/ That, in a great irony, it is Poland that provides a huge number of these workers. This is due to a strong traditional work ethic, and also, as many of my colleagues have said, the need to engage upon massive reconstruction after the devastation of the Second World War. Ironically, the legacy of a command economy is that there were significant numbers of skilled workers, a tradition which due to an almost Stakhanovite work ethic seems to have been passed to a younger generation. These workers manage to undercut indigenous Labour and, as many will testify, manage to do the work to a much higher standard. So unless the Labour Party is willing to echo it's former Leaders call for 'British jobs for British workers' , which would be illegal under EU law, the expenditure welcome though it may be, is likely to be dissipated by some of the money being sent in the form of remittances to Szeczin, Rzesow, Wroclaw, etc

Leave aside the merits of the funding in the penultimate paragraph, with the discredited Tobin Tax again posited , and a move to the Dennis Healey levels of taxation circa 1979, we're not left with much of substance. Sadly, reality hurts and I think the road ahead will be long and somewhat painful!