Peter Kellner, President of YouGov polling and spouse of Baroness Ashton, calls on Clegg to demand an in/out referendum on our EU membership in an open letter today. His logic? That with all major parties behind the Yes campaign - Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Greens, Plaid & even the SNP - it couldn't fail.
Given how wrong our political class has been at almost every stage of our Euro-nightmare, it sounds pretty stupid to me.
To read some of the Thatcher hating twitter and blog posts about at the moment and you’d think that Labour had spent all of the 1980’s and early 90’s winning the argument. You’d think that Margaret Thatcher was hated by everyone when she kept winning. You’d think that she was despised by people now – when polls say that is far from being the case. If we are to win again anytime soon then we must not rewrite history. We need to remember that from 1979 – 1997 we were in opposition because we kept losing. And we kept losing because more people voted for Margaret Thatcher (and John Major) than voted Labour... Peter Watts, former General Secretary of the Labour Party, writing on Margaret Thatcher.
I recommend five simple reforms (in boardroom pay).
1 Annual, binding shareholder votes on board pay. 2 Pay would be radically simplified, with a single figure used for total compensation. 3 Pay would be linked very closely to shareholder value and would go down as well as up; fixed base pay would be kept to a minimum. 4 We need simple contracts that allow CEOs to be fired for breaching performance targets without a pay-off. 5 Remuneration committees should have to explain to shareholders once a year how they are getting value for money from executives – their incentive should be to try and reduce pay to save shareholders’ money, not the other way around.
Rewards for failure must be rooted out, owners of companies empowered and boards made to represent shareholder interests. It’s radical stuff – but not to be confused with waging war on genuine success.
Women make up the majority of public sector workers. They are also the largest recipients of welfare and represent the main users of public services in this country. And yes, there is certainly a glass ceiling evident in the upper echelons of big business. But Labour supporters suggesting that Coalition cuts are aimed specifically at women is not only disingenuous, but actually offensive.
Because more than 50% of public sector workers are women - where government spending cuts occur - we are told that the Coalition is specifically targeting women. What rubbish. Everyone knows that whoever was in power, the government would be making savings in the public sector. It can hardly cut the private sector. Womens jobs will therefore be hit disproportionately as a result.
This whole narrative about how the government is being anti-women is a Labour-led theme that is deeply dishonest. Child benefit for instance should be a gender non-specific issue. The truth is that family's are suffering with the cuts forced on us by Labour's overspending, and will continue to do so until public spending once again returns to a manageable 41% of GDP in three years time. A level at which it was maintained by governments of all political persuasions throughout the 80's, 90's and naughties. Sure Start - another 'female issue' according to Labour, as if children and their fathers do not belong together - are also being cut by the Coalition we are told. This is not true. It depends on local authorities as to how they spend their money. Conservative Nottingham county council for instance, have actually increased the number of Sure Start centres in their area.
It's about time the debate over how the public spending cuts forced on us by Labour's overspending took place at an honest level.
We are using fiscal bullying to try to turn the Greeks and Italians into Germans writes Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph. The whole European enterprise is now devoted to keeping the euro alive on the utterly specious grounds that the currency is synonymous with “Europe”. We are nailing shut the exits of William Hague’s famous burning building. British taxpayers going to be shelling out ever more in bail-out dosh, much of which will ultimately go to banks and bankers’ bonuses. And all the while the southern EU members will be put on ever tougher austerity regimes that frankly don’t suit their needs. No matter how hard I diet, I won’t look like a championship athlete. The Greeks can’t become Germans, and it is brutal to force them to try.
I find it incredible that Europeans appear to shrug their shoulders without care as the Euro continues relentlessly to consign millions to the waste of mass-unemployment, trash billions of hard-earned retirement savings and remorselessly replace democratically elected leaders with EU-approved, unelected technocrats. And so far, what has been the EU's answer to the greatest financial crisis of the modern era? More EU, deeper integration, and no democracy.
None of us can believe that Merkel, Sarkosy or the EU technocracy are in any way inspired by the rise of National Socialism that so consumed Europe in the 1930's - destroying participatory democracy and ending in the deaths of millions of ordinary Europeans who did not submit to the will of a small unelected, ideologically-driven elite, who believed they knew better than the people they ruled.
Perhaps a revision (of Gordon Brown's time as Prime Minister) is in order, writes Jonathan Freedland in today's Comment is Free. He concludes with the words, Labour, whose future prospects partly depend on knowing what to say about its recent past, should do it sooner... And therein lies the point. Gordon Brown was the worst Prime Minister in British history - Freedland's piece makes that quite clear if you read between the lines. The real agenda here is not about putting right the catastrophic mistakes which we are still desperately trying to overcome, but the fact that Labour is unelectable until either the popular conscience has forgotten about Labour's disasterous economic mismanagement or the history of that dark period is re-written. With the chilling words Labour... should do it sooner, Freedland begins the process.
You would think that including a democratically legitimate basis on which the Greek bailout terms could be ratified, would be a smart move for any politician pushing through not just difficult, but unpalatable reforms that will effect ordinary Greek citizens for the next generation.
Prime Minister Papandreou's decision to put the bailout terms to a popular referendum looked not just brave, but absolutely essential, given the nature and extent of cuts now being imposed upon Greek public spending. At a stroke, the Greek people would be bound tightly into the process, giving it the ultimate legitimacy, and the weight that only democratic participation can incur. Remember, we're talking about the cradle of democracy here. Greece invented a political process that millions throughout modern history have fought and died for - as more than 4000 Syrians in the last few months add testimony to.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It now seems that Papandreou will be forced to resign for involving democracy in the political process. There is talk of a nationalist Coalition being formed after his departure in order that the question will not require a referendum - on the pretext that a Coalition will involve all major parties, so there's no need to ask the people for a democratic mandate.
It certainly looks like the EU will do almost anything to avoid democratic accountability...
When we last voted on European membership, 35 years ago, it was called the Common Market. In Parliament today, a debate has been scheduled on whether we should hold another referendum on that membership. It has been granted because 100,000 voters signed a petition on a government web site designed to promote democratic debate.
We are told by every government spokes-person that this is not the time for such a debate. That a referendum in 2013 or 2014, would be a damaging and irrelevant action. That despite 38 years of membership of this European venture, now is not the right time to come to a decision as to whether we want to remain members; that the economic crisis caused by sovereign debt across Europe - deeply exacerbated by the failing Euro - and which is now causing mass unemployment across not just the Eurozone, but throughout Europe, means that this is not the right time to have such a debate.
Mr Cameron, 100,000 people demanded this debate precisely because the European Union and its Euro currency has been such a truly terrible disaster for our people. They believe that the hubris and incompetence of the political class in allowing this to happen should now be stopped - that a line should be drawn, and a referendum take place in which the people can give their politicians an answer on European membership.
This is democracy in its purest and most simple form which will allow you and your colleagues to make the argument for or against the proposal. Saying that now is not the time is the excuse of despots and dictators throughout history - their deceitful calls for 'stability' are always used to stifle change...
To act as Labour urges and abandon the cornerstone of the Coalition’s economic strategy, namely getting the public finances back under control, would be to risk another catastrophe in the banking system – and, by raising interest rates, a similarly destructive meltdown in household and corporate finances. That is no kind of alternative strategy. Writes Jeremy Warner.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is abundantly clear how the mess we are in came about. For many years now, a number of advanced economies – including Britain’s – have been living in a kind of fool’s paradise. The balance of economic and productive advantage moved decisively from West to East, yet apparently limitless credit allowed living standards to continue rising, even as competitiveness was being eroded. There’s now been a rude awakening – and the adjustment, which is responsible for most of the stresses in the world economy today, is proving long and painful. Debtors are still not properly reconciled to having to live within their means, while creditors won’t accept the inevitability of writedowns. The result is a stand-off that is causing economic activity to seize up.
Repeated bail-outs are as repugnant to the eurozone’s surplus nations – such as Slovakia or Germany – as externally imposed austerity is to its debtors. The Slovak government has already fallen; on the other side of the fence, endless rounds of austerity look as if they might bring the Italian government down as well. In attempting to make the euro work, politicians are riding roughshod over their own electorates. It is as unsustainable as it is insulting to the principle of democracy.
With public sector demand shrinking almost everywhere, governments need the private sector to step up to the plate and provide the jobs and growth they can no longer deliver. For that to happen, a strong financial sector is required, one ready and willing to meet the economy’s credit needs. Yet instead, the reverse is happening. Ever more stringent capital and liquidity requirements, designed to make banks safer, are causing further balance sheet contraction and adding to the atmosphere of extreme risk aversion. As long as banks and businesses remain stuck in this mindset, there will be no sustainable return to growth.
The UK has been requested by the EU Commission to pay welfare to all EU nationals, which could cost us up to £2.5bn. So much for the Coalition’s welfare reforms: as our elected government squeezes British nationals and forces the indolent into work, our unelected government obliges us to fork out for ‘benefit tourists’, who will readily find British benefits to be vastly more beneficial than those of Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary... writes Cranmer over an extraordinary directive from the EU.
He points out that the Coalition's record on Europe is not encouraging... So, before you get caught up in revived hopes of the rise of Conservative Euroscepticism, please remember that we’re in a coalition with the most rabidly Europhile party in Britain, and that it has to last until 2015. Please remember that last year, a European Court judgement forced David Cameron to agree to allow prisoners to vote. Please remember that there has been no promised examination of the Working Time Directive, despite its disruptive effects on the NHS. Please remember that despite promises to decimate (at least) red tape, EU regulations keep pouring in, strangling British businesses. Please remember that the Prime Minister agreed to a 2.9 per cent increase in our EU contributions, despite promising to Parliament and the Country that there would be none. Please remember that one of his first acts was to opt in to the ‘European Investigation Order’ which obliges British police forces to act on the orders of other EU police forces, with or without primary evidence, and even for actions which are not a criminal act in the UK. Ouch.
I listened to Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, on QuestionTime last night being asked why we should remain part of the EU. He answered that next week, 26 delegates from all the different EU countries will sit round a table to discuss sheep-tagging. 30 years ago, those same people would be pointing nuclear weapons at each other.
Mr Farron should read Fukuyama. It is Liberal Democracy that has ended not just wars, but the ideological pre-cursors - fascism, communism and dictatorships - that first divided, then murdered and finally enslaved countless millions of Europeans in the twentieth century.
The EU meanwhile, pays 26 men more than £100,000 a year each to sit around a table, in a glass palace in Brussels, to decide what an entire continent should do on sheep-tagging. Important work? Democratic? No Mr Farron. It is not even necessary.
Unbelievable performance from Peter Oborne on Newsnight last night. Despite the biggest financial crisis of our lifetime engulfing an ill-conceived single currency causing millions of jobs and billions of Euro's in savings to be destroyed throughout Europe, this is the first time I can remember someone articulating the anger and frustration felt by ordinary people being asked to pay for the mess created by a deluded and deeply wrong political class. Well done Peter Oborne.
After yesterday's mauling of Andy Burnham trying to explain Labour's new policy on moral capitalism, a germ of enlightenment today from John Denham talking to Andrew Neil. Apparently it's not about 'predators' or 'producers' - despite the explicit wording of yesterday's speech - its about reinforcing the 'right' process in business activities onto a more moral plane - whatever that may be.
This is increasingly looking like an ill thought-through initiative fast unravelling under intelligent analysis... But underneath the stupidity of politicians picking 'good' and 'bad' company's according to how much they like their business practices (isn't that how Fred Goodwin got his knighthood?) I'm increasingly reminded of David Cameron's early speeches on corporate responsibility. At the time he was talking at a smaller scale - products aimed at sexualising young girls, inappropriate placing of sweets around the till - but increasingly Cameron broadened that line to encompass the whole panoply of what has become known as The Big Society. And as Cameron deepened the debate - though few took him up - the more radical 'localism' agenda became deeply entwined.
Today at the labour party conference Yvette Cooper - ever on the Fabian side of democratic accountability - argued against elected police commissioners. Many disagree. I'm very pro-Big Society writes Labour MP Tristram Hunt, and I think it's the Labour tradition, the co-operative, mutualist tradition and I think we need to be doing more of that. And he is not wrong. Perhaps the sub-text of what Ed Miliband awkwardly spoke of yesterday, contains the germ of an idea with which both Cameron and his Coalition allies can run. After all, who could object to company's getting tax breaks for apprenticeship schemes?
What Europe faces, then, is a disaster that was predictable – and predicted – and is now unavoidable. In the process, millions will lose their jobs, an entire generation will miss the opportunities which their parents enjoyed, and blood will probably be shed. The rulers of Europe have never been so wrong since the late 1930s.Charles Moore writes on the Euro crisis...
Labour came to office in 1997 and Poland did not join the EU until 2004. Yet whereas in 1996 (the last year of John Major's Conservative government) net immigration to the UK was 40,000, by 2003 it was 150,000. It is now about 250,000. As even a cursory glance at immigration graphs will show, the beginnings of this rapid rise long predated the accession to the EU of the former Soviet bloc countries of eastern Europe. Philip Johnston shows how the left is re-writing Britain's immigration history for its own purposes...
Centre Forum, having run the slide rule over Ed Miliband's new student fee proposals which cap them at £6000, now reckon that over half of the gain to former students goes to the richest 20% of graduates: those with lifetime earnings of over £2m in today’s money. The winners are also disproportionately old. Less than 1% of graduates will gain from this proposal within 10 years of graduation. The typical winner will have graduated 28 years earlier, and will earn £72,500 at the point at which they benefit from this proposal.
In addition, there is a significant gain to students with well-off parents who pay their fees upfront, rather than borrowing from the government. European students also benefit, as they must make repayments under the loan system but would not be liable for UK tax.
The proposal is therefore clearly regressive, being aimed to benefit the richest 20%, those with the wealthiest parents or foreign students paying no tax at all.
The electorate are not only not listening – they have their fingers in their ears. Labour, after suffering its second worst election defeat in history, is still being treated like a reviled ex-boyfriend. He may well protest that he did his share of the washing-up (or built some SureStart centres, schools and hospitals); what you remember is that he treated you badly. And he was also in charge of the joint finances and left you with a stonking overdraft, then he's got a hell of a lot more explaining to do.Mary Ann Sieghart writes in today's Independent.
This morning Ed Balls did the round of media breakfast shows to publicise his Liverpool conference speech. He is looking for the mantle of 'economic competence' after presiding over the greatest financial disaster this country has seen, followed by the deepest and longest recession since the 1930's. Result? An increase in public borrowing from £350 billion to £1.3 trillion that future generations will be paying back.
Mea Culpa? The banking crisis was a disaster. All over the world, banks behaved irresponsibly and regulation wasn’t tough enough. We were part of that. I’m sorry for that mistake, I deeply, deeply regret it. What we failed to see, around the world, was the scale of those risks. I’m sorry about that. So thats all right then. It wasn't Labour's incompetence - every government made the same mistakes.
Except that they didn't. Labour actually planned that future generations would pay off today's debts. It's called Private Finance Initiative or PFI. Over the 13 years of Labour's rule it was used to rack up more than £180 billion of building work whose interest costs and repayment would be paid not by today's taxpayers, but by committing future generations to taxes that repay these schemes over 30 or 50 years. Furthermore, these repayments would be at prices that the commercial banks - who took on these PFI contracts - found deeply attractive. Newspaper headlines just last week included NHS hospitals 'crippled' by PFI scheme.
There are few more things that perhaps Mr Miliband might like to apologise for before we award his party the accolade of 'competence' - or indeed moral decency. The longest sustained period of youth unemployment for decades which started to grow dramatically after EMA was introduced in 2004. I point out the introduction of EMA because that year also marked the twelfth year of consistent economic growth begun under John Major in 1992. So it couldn't have been the economy. But six years later, when Labour left office in 2010, over one million 18-25 year olds (called NEETS - not in employment, education or training) were still a devasting indictment of Labour's record.
Despite the daily spin of tabloid-chasing headlines, trumpeting the opening of each new glamorous PFI-financed school, the devastating truth was record numbers of children leaving school unable to read. Their future blighted as they became effectively excluded from better paid jobs. Indeed they would be lucky to be able to find a job at all. Over 90% of all new jobs created under thirteen years of Labour government went not to British, but foreign-born workers as more than a million East Europeans took advantage of Labour's open door immigration policy. This, despite Gordon Brown announcing 'British jobs for British workers' at his first conference as Labour Prime Minister in 2007.
As the PFI record now shows, the building spree so celebrated by Labour apologists was often used to mask the reality of devastating political decisions. To say the taxpayers money that it spent was not always done wisely would be very charitable. Tens of billions were wasted in defence procurement and on IT systems - a £12 billion NHS computer system unable to recall a patient's medical record was scrapped in the last few days. The terrible truth is that much of the extra cash ploughed into public services failed to show up in better outcomes as productivity in the public sector shrank and the pay of public sector employees oustripped the private sector whose taxes financed it.
Also in the Health service, a record level of complaints from the elderly emerged about their treatment in the NHS. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 700 elderly people died of dehydration in our hospitals. Not old age or a terminal illness, but de-hydration. That is, multiple organ failure caused by lack of water. An unbelievable indictment of clinical practice despite massive investment in hospitals, equipment and training.
Under Labour, there emerged the widest gap between rich and poor in our history – currently the left’s favourite cause - and seemingly officially encouraged. It was Peter Mandelson who described New Labour as intensely relaxed about the filthy rich... whilst spending a lot of time lunching on their yachts. Record personal debt emerged as a widespread and serious issue as Labour set up not only the most deregulated banking system on earth, but a seemingly useless tripartite financial regulatory regime that allowed the banks to nearly destroy our economy.
There is of course a great deal more - the doubling of council tax, the scrapping of the 10p tax rate which hit only the poorest, a doubling of alcohol-related deaths after the introduction of 24-hour drinking, 8 million people totally dependent upon state handouts despite a burgeoning black economy, the most regressive ‘flat tax’ in history paid equally by people earning £10 or £10 million - euphemistically called ‘the congestion charge’ and a war so controversial that the former party leader can’t even attend his own book signings.
An apology Mr Miliband, would be a start. But your party is still a long way from being described as either competent or morally decent.
A real opportunity exists for the centre-left to develop and implement across large swathes of the country a progressive policy on crime, policing and disorder - and to make Police Commissioners a showcase for a better politics of crime and policing. Done well, this reform could do a great deal to build public trust in politics and might even become a much needed instance of the 'new politics' that the Coalition is otherwise failing to deliver writes Ian Loader and Rick Muir in todays Newstatesman.
The people who are responsible for promoting the Eurozone venture in the first place should be ashamed of themselves. They are the architects of the most irresponsible political initiative that I can recall... Lord Lawson talking on Radio 4 Today program.
I once attended a charity function at Portcullis House and found myself enmeshed with Labour MPs - who were all really nice and caring people for whom I have the greatest respect. The subject of Ed Balls came up. They all turned green and I think would have used the term "toxic" had it been in the conversational lexicon in the moment.
Ed Balls is like Gordon Brown. Unlikeable, aggressive and toxic - but suited to climb within a political party filled with luuvies.
In a strange way Ed Balls is Ed Milliband's secret weapon. When he fails to make an impact on the economy - and he will fail because there will be a huge shock to the EU and US economy that is upon us as a result of his policies of high debt - then Ed can very publicly sack him knowing full well Ed Balls has absolutely NO support on the back benches. Ed Milliband will be cheered privately when he publicly sticks the knife into Ed Balls. It will mark the end of an era of toxic spinning started by Blair and Campbell. It will be a cathartic moment and a new start. Once out of power Ed Balls is nothing. His political climbing skills will make him an outcast with all the nice Labour back bench MPs. Ed Milliband really is the alter ego that Gordon tried to portray but never was. Ed Balls is Gordons toxic heart that we all need anaesthetic to deal with.
Robin Sharp commenting on Jerry Hayes' piece for Dale & Co.
A truly revealing piece from Beneath The Wig showing the terrifying cycle between street homelessness and re-offending:
Reoffending gets them a warm, safe, comfortable prison. It gets them a bed and a roof over their heads, three meals a day and more often than not, to see their old buddies. The friendly faces of prison officers they have seen a hundred times before, the routine and the absolute surrender of their own fate for a few weeks or months at a time until they are reluctantly turfed back out onto the streets and into the cycle of drug abuse and fighting for somewhere to sleep and food to eat all over again.
The following letter was written to the Edinburgh University Student Association following their vote to boycott Israel and all Israeli goods because it is an 'apartheid regime'. Dr Denis MacEoin (a non-Jew) is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. He is senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, and runs his own blog 'A Liberal Defence of Israel'. With thanks to Archbishop Cranmer.
May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain’s great Middle East experts in their day. I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field.
I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote. I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves.
Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby. Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a ‘Nazi’ state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nüremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for. It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.
Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled things in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is. That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world centre; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Baha’is (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran?
Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks could do in South Africa. Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.
In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home. It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief. Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?
University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak. I do not object to well documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens. Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Baha’is... Need I go on? The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott.
I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument. They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it? Of course he would, and he would not have stopped there. Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense to you. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.
It is simply pointless to suppose that lectures by MPs, schoolteachers or the Archbishop of Canterbury on the importance of fathers, of family discipline, of personal responsibility, or whatever, will have an impact on (or even be heard by) brutalised juvenile gangsters. The Left is wrong to think that state handouts will do the trick, the Right is wrong to think that punishment can do more than contain the problem; and all of us are wrong to think we can achieve much by "addressing the issues" or "starting a debate" - ie talking about it.
I've come to believe that Iain Duncan Smith's interest in the social policy equivalent of keyhole surgery - estate by estate, family by family, gang by gang, street by street, problem by problem, task force by task force, church by church and charity by charity - may bear more fruit; but it will be slow, expensive, messy and deeply unsensational. So will the concentration of resources on educational wastelands that Michael Gove's "pupil premium" implies.
He finishes by imploring Cameron not to knee-jerk to the right as a result of the riots -
There exists today a nascent Tea Party tendency in the Tory party. Its nostrils sniff the smoke in the wind. It senses it's moment may have come. I doubt this. The cheers of the Right are heady stuff, and can become addictive; but, like all addictions, they lure a statesman towards his destruction. Mr Cameron knows that he won by getting away from all that. His new friends hope he is now turning his back on huskies, hoodies and hoodlums. He mustn't. In today's applause lies tomorrow's danger.
The one obvious lesson to draw is that there was a very serious initial failure of policing. Only when the police stopped treating the riots like a community relations role-playing exercise at Bramshill did the hoodies’ cost-benefit analysis change.
I’m not being wise after the event. The monumental incompetence of the Met has been one of this blog’s longest-running themes. While individual officers behave bravely – in some cases heroically – under very difficult circumstances, their leadership is often woeful.
Fortunately, a solution is on its way; the requisite legislation is even now clanking through the tubes and chambers of our government machine. Yup: it’s time for elected sheriffs.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.
The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation - Peter Oborne.
Excellent piece from Toby Young in today's Telegraph entitled 'Moral relativism is to blame, not gang culture...'
Towards the beginning of Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s masterpiece about a group of teenage boys marooned on a desert island, a scene takes place in which the most vicious of the boys, Roger, throws stones at a younger boy whose sandcastle he’s just knocked down:
Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.
The problem with multiculturalism is not that different ethnic and religious groups can never peacefully co-exist, or that certain immigrant groups can never be persuaded to embrace our way of life. Rather, it’s the taboo it introduces against the teaching of substantive moral values to anyone, not just members of particular “communities”. It creates a general reluctance to promote any values other than procedural ones. The result is far too many people cast adrift, black and white alike, imagining they believe in something only to discover, when social order breaks down, that they believe in nothing.
Perhaps the root of the problem is the progressive Left’s conviction that mankind is essentially good. After all, if you think human beings are fundamentally benign and altruistic, then failing to teach them about right and wrong isn’t going to pose any major problems. They’ll just get along regardless. But the lesson of Lord of the Flies is that this is sentimental and naive. Released from the bonds of civilisation, human beings will quickly descend into cruel, atavistic creatures who pursue their own selfish interests at the expense of everyone else’s. Sigmund Freud got it right when he pointed out that men are not gentle creatures who just want to be loved. On the contrary, they are fundamentally territorial and aggressive:
As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus. Who, in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?
That’s what we witnessed during the four days of rioting – Homo homini lupus. It’s a mistake to see the rioters as belonging to a particular ethnic group or as being “outsiders”, as some local MPs claimed. They were just ordinary people who’ve been insufficiently socialised, members of all communities and none. What they lack isn’t material wealth or meaningful employment, but a moral framework that enables them to see that smashing shop windows and setting fire to cars – and stealing – is wrong.
For four nights, those precious six yards that protected the boy in Lord of the Flies were breached. Unless we reject the moral relativism that has led to this sickness, they’ll be breached again.
Near apocryphal warnings from two of the wisest seers in this mornings papers - both Janey Daley and Peter Oborne suggest the changes witnessed over the last three years are nothing compared to what is now before us...
Anthony Horowitz writes a great column on the moral bankruptcy of Labour's politics that led directly to phone hacking...
With Blair it was the political process that was the first casualty. moral ambiguity became the order of the day – and if our political leaders could get away with it, so could everyone else. The rich and the powerful were not only immune from the law. They were, via super-injunctions, protected by it. Public inquiries into perceived wrongdoing came to conclusions that seemed to bear little relation to the evidence.
Politics is not about hope, but expectation. Economics is not about dreams, but plans. For most of the people, most of the time, the geography of the future is not about broad sunlit uplands; it's about the puddles before their feet and the gradient of the next hill. The false prophets of modern marketing have warped more than the language of politics through their obsession with the "vision thing": they have skewed the polls by asking the wrong question. Ask what they expect you can do. It is on that latter request you will be judged says Matthew Parris. Call me complacent, but I don't think that the Coalition has to do much to win again, beyond maintaining a unified front and appearing strong. The worst things get, the less it needs to do. None of this is good news for the rest of us, of course - but happy summer holidays, Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.
If we are to move decisively out of stagnation, create jobs and pay down the deficit - then we need growth. And not just any growth, 0.2% over the second quarter is just not good enough. Anything less than 0.8% to make up for previously disappointing figures is too small to be of any use whatsoever according to the shadow chancellor. Or is it?
It is now widely accepted that although spending cuts have yet to bite, it is the fear of future cuts that is affecting consumer spending - or the lack of it - directly suppressing demand and leading to low, anaemic growth.
Or is it? You see, those earnings must be going somewhere. I grant you that inflation is currently running at over 4% - which will eat into weekly shopping budgets - and unemployment has risen - even if only marginally, which will devastate a small minority of consumers, but where's the rest going? If the vast majority of employed consumers are not spending, where is that money going?
The answer of course is savings. People are making sure that they live within their means. They are paying down their debts, re-paying mortgages, credit cards and loans. The banking figures - a net re-payment of over £2.5 billion over the last quarter - bear this out.
Now I understand that growth is essential to an expanding and thriving economy trying to attract investment. What I am suggesting here is that as well as re-balancing the economy both structurally - through greater reliance on manufacturing rather than financial services - and geographically - to address the north/south divide - we should also be seeing these figures in human terms. These are not just cold figures. These are people voting with their wallets, telling us that they want and are pursuing, sustainable long-term growth. That is, a lower level of overall consumer spending in order to ensure it is both sustainable for the long term, as well as being backed up with a level of individual wealth (or savings) that is both substantial and therefore induces confidence in the future.
Once consumers have built up that blanket of savings security, we will again see a further rise in consumer spending. But I think it is not unreasonable to expect - and indeed the government should be encouraging through active promotion - long term sustainable growth that consumers - always ahead of governments - appear to want.
Interesting piece from James Purnell, following on from his #Newsnight presentation, where he argued for welfare protection being built into unemployment provision. A new national salary insurance could offer working people who become unemployed up to 70% of their earnings in non-means tested support for up to six months (capped at £200 a week). This would incorporate their existing entitlement to contributory jobseeker's allowance (£67.50 a week), trebling the amount of support available to people when they lose their job. What a great idea, paid for from increased National insurance contributions when in work.
In an excellent piece, Julian Astle writes of Cameron's Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn - Far from providing evidence of Llewellyn’s inadequacies then, this episode highlights his strengths – his judgment and his probity. And in the new post-Coulson, post-Murdoch, post-Malcolm Tucker era we are entering, it is these qualities, rather than an ability to induce fear, that Cameron will need in a Chief of Staff.
Sixteen months is a shocking sentence writes Daisy Goodwin in today's Times. Charlie Gilmour has been made an example of and has been victimised because of his family's fame and his privilege. Nobody condones what those students got up to during those protests in London, but he was not somebody who'd spent his life agitating or engaged in violence. It may well fit the sentencing guidelines, but sending him to prison is out of all proportion.
This man should be made to face up to having behaved in a way that's not acceptable by working for sixteen months in community service projects, not behind bars.
With around three quarters of it's main news bulletins currently devoted to every detail of the 'evil empire' that is apparently destroying our freedoms and everyday life, the BBC relentlessly attacks an eighty year old Australian businessman as if he is responsible for every sin committed by staff on one of his many papers between 2000 and 2007.
The News of the World may well have been involved in phone hacking along with many other British tabloids - and who knows, maybe a few broadsheets as well - and no doubt the CPS will in time prosecute those responsible. And quite rightly many will end up in prison. But the BBC coverage has gone much further than that. This is plainly an attempt by one broadcaster to destroy a rival. The BBC has clearly shown tribal jealousy and partisan hatred for Murdoch and his businesses without widening its coverage when it has clearly been shown that such appalling behaviour has been widely practiced across the British tabloid press.
The BBC has by some margin, neglected it's responsibilities as the dominant national broadcaster in covering important news stories that effect ordinary people over the last two weeks - Obama and US deficit default, the potentially disastrous consequences of Euro problems spreading to Italy, the deepest and most severe drought affecting millions in East Africa... I could go on. Any one of these stories could have consequences for Britain which illegal phone hacking at a tabloid newspaper in order to gain titillating stories over three years ago, is unlikely to have.
This is not how a national broadcaster - funded entirely from a compulsory licence fee - should operate. At best the BBC could be said to have been misguided in pursuing a narrow and partisan political agenda being set by a left-wing newspaper and the Labour party - the parties who have felt most hurt by the views expressed in the News of the World.
At worst, the BBC has malignly used its enormous and highly monopolistic power, to destroy a rival broadcaster without being held to account for the consequences for freedom of expression, pluralism of provision or indeed basic fairness. Murdoch has rightly been criticised for the way in which its papers have allegedly conducted themselves in persuit of bigger and better scoops - using power without responsibility. The BBC is now doing exactly the same. The difference, is that we can choose not to buy Murdoch's offerings. The BBC uses its power in our name.
And still he (Gordon Brown) cannot see his complicity. "This is an issue about the abuse of political power..." he said of Murdoch's news-gathering tactics. Well, duh!, you might say. But oddly enough it isn't, or not as he meant it. At its core, it is an issue of the abuse of political power not by Murdoch, but by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, David Cameron and every other elected quisling who supped with the devil not with a long spoon but from the devil's own satanic hands. "I came to the conclusion," Mr Brown went on of his urge for a judicial inquiry, "that the evidence was becoming so overwhelming about the underhand tactics of News International to trawl through people's lives, particularly the lives of people who were completely defenceless." Sweet Lord Jesus, isn't the point of a Labour prime minister to defend the defenceless? "I'm genuinely shocked to find that this happened," added the Captain Renault of Kirkcaldy. "If I – with all the protection and defences that a chancellor or prime minister has – can be so vulnerable to unscrupulous and unlawful tactics, what about the ordinary citizen?"
Brilliant piece by Matthew Norman on Gordon Brown's intervention into the phone hacking scandal. It concludes with a call for a Bill of Rights designed to forever formalise the relationship between the electors, commercial interests and the elected.
Lot of damning stuff on Twitter over Johann Hari's admission that he includes choice historical quotes when interviewing. We all know its misleading. We all know its wrong. And in any other walk of life he would have lost his job. When you're paid to elicit quotes from people, and you use historical quotes without crediting where they came from, you're not doing your job. You're simply dishonest.
Yesterday Jane Norman, today TJ Hughes, and Thornton's shutting 120 stores...retail bloodbath continues... tweets Allister Heath of City AM. We should now be very worried at the lack of demand management in the economy by the Coalition. Retailers provide an advanced warning of problems coming down the line and this blog has consistently called for more demand and greater growth in the economy, preferably through raising the tax threashold to £10,000 - something which should have been done at the time of the last Budget in April - with the ultimate aim of achieving parity, through legally syncing the two in statute, with the level of the minimum wage - aroung £11,400.
I felt physically sick at reading this article arguing for Levi Bellfield - convicted of murdering Milly Dowler - to be hanged. The picture above, showing young men in Iran being hanged for being gay, gives me that same feeling of revulsion and shame. Shame because these people do these things in the belief that they enhance humanity. Life is so much more precious. I apologise for showing a picture which I had always vowed not to post. Http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-hanged-man/
I contributed recently to a forum on LibDem Voice on what the party should be doing to secure its future. Depressingly - after arguing the success of achieving 70% of Lib Dem manifesto commitments - I was told that my views were unrealistic. Indeed, all the threads from activists were for dropping any hint of supporting a Tory policy and grabbing the nearest thing to a Labour one that could be found in order to bolster a hemorrhaging voting base - currently plumbing the depths at around 10%.
Now I can perfectly understand that Lib Dems should be worried about such figures. What I cannot understand is a party that wants to go in exactly the direction that is hell bent on destroying it. The Lib Dems are being crucified by the Left, not the Right. There is never so much anger as those who think they have been 'betrayed'. But we need to remember that to betray you must first belong, and Lib Dems need to ask themselves - whether its academy's, welfare reform, free schools, elected police commissioners, the NHS or constitutional reforms - Labour now fights on the side of producer interests and against the interests of the people with every major reform being proposed. Despite the fact that most provide an evolutionary fit with New Labour's Blairite agenda, as the man himself has recently pointed out.
Why would the left have such a pull for Lib Dem's? Partly because it's ideology is based on the principles of equality and social justice - concepts so powerful that all parties now subscribe to them - although welfare dependence, poor educational achievement, the lack of opportunity and deeply problematic social structures are now firmly the province of the Liberal centre of British politics and not the old left. And partly because, for more than a century of great political struggle throughout the world, it offers the promise of a radical alternative to the dominant capitalist model in which we live.
The problem for the left is that when those principles are based not on people, but on building the state and its bureaucratic institutions as the solution to each social problem, then Lib Dems should be leading the criticism - not endorsing it. As Blair says in an interview with Prospect magazine today; caution against the ‘natural inclination of the party to say "we created the state ... we created its institutions, we should be ... defending the way public services are". This position may be a comfortable one, but it is also a losing one'. He should know. He won three consecutive elections. And he is hated by the left for 'betraying' them.
The truth is that the left continue, under Ed Miliband, to offer only a bigger, more centrist and bureaucratic state - where the essentially personal has been lost. We need to start exactly where we have always been - firmly rooted on the centre ground of British politics, putting people and their aspirations first. Start with the brilliant piece by Julian Astle, a director of CentreForum an independent, liberal thinktank, in Monday's Guardian. He points out that the left has always owned the values of equality and social justice, and the right of liberty and aspiration, the modernisers have sought to blend the two - taking base metals from left and right and turning them into political gold. The first point in the discussion 'what Nick can do next' is to stay firmly rooted on the centre ground giving nothing to both the far left and right in the battle for ideas and policy.
Second - and more importantly because this centre ground is also inhabited by a relatively small but intensely bright coterie of both Blairite and Cameron supporters, each some way from the mainstream of their party - Lib Dems must continue to be at the radical edge of this Liberal centrist Coalition. Not the dour, road block which Gordon Brown represented to Blair's swift foil. As Tim Montgomerie - among the most succinct Conservative commentators - noted in a recent article, over the past year, Clegg had appeared to reject the politics of the lowest common denominator, and backed bold reforms. Iain Duncan Smith regarded the Deputy Prime Minister as a decisive ally in his battle with the Treasury in overhauling welfare. The Lib Dems were also radical in switching the balance of educational funding from university to a child's first few years, when investment can make the biggest difference. On other issues, too – such as pensions, local government or lifting the poorest out of the income tax system – there was something exciting about the Coalition, and their contribution to it.
This is exactly the ground that the Lib Dems should be occupying. Indeed it should go a lot further. Come 2015, the electorate need to understand that the Lib Dems not only delivered the Coalition Agreement including more than 70% of their manifesto, but that they drove the Coalition on some of the most important and radical issues of the day, but which enhanced the lives of the British people - a comprehensive package of penal reform turning prisons into adult education centres and giving re-habilitated prisoners a stake in society, a new deal on the two largest areas of criminal activity which blight our society - drugs and prostitution - bringing them into society, re-writing our privacy laws in answer to outdated super-injunctions, the first comprehensive bill of rights setting out responsibilities of the state and its citizens and incorporating a new UK human rights act, Parliamentary reform including obligatory open primaries for the one third of seats that have a safe majority, expulsion for any members convicted of a serious crime, openly elected parliamentary committee's with the power to set and scrutinise the annual budgets for every quango. Lords reform and, yes, the committment to hold a referendum on PR if a further Liberal centrist Coalition were necessary after the next election.
The answer to the question 'what Nick can do next' is stay radical, stay Liberal and stay at the centre. I really don't think it unrealistic to believe this Coalition is capable of a great deal more. As Julian Astle points out, a majority of the British people are moderate voters unconvinced by the partial solutions traditionally on offer.
I'm really enjoying BBC2's new series on The Kennedy's rise to power in the early 1960's. We all know the fairy tale - Camelot, Jackie O, '...ask not what your country...' - and the series tells that same compelling narrative that has propelled the myth of the Kennedy's to its current fiftieth anniversary. Gordon Brown even had Ted Kennedy knighted - largely because he was on his deathbed - but then our former Prime Minister did many strange things.
And as I watched, I felt a nagging familiarity taking hold. A young virile new pretender challenges the old order, offering the hope of a better future. His team cleverly harnesses the media, whipping up the kind of optimism, enthusiasm and devotion usually reserved for a rock star. The momentum is stoked to a tremendous crescendo as everyone wants to be part of, and vote-in, the winning team. And once the office has been achieved and the hype dismantled, we experience the deep and profound disappointment at how little is actually achieved.
I see a vision of Tony and Cherie grasping the hands of well wishers as they walk up Downing Street for the first time to the depressing beat of Things Can Only Get Better. I hear the words 'Yes We Can' - emphatically repeated across the lips of a hundred thousand emotionally-drained devotees at a Chicago rally - and realise we have all been here before. And not just once. Three times that I can recall in that last half century of western liberal democracy. Perhaps this is the End of History. Or perhaps history is not repeating itself, just rhyming with its past. But I doubt it. Apart from a rather good spin doctor, on each of those occasions, a young, next-generation, left-leaning candidate has been the phenomena. In each case his greatest attributes have been his looks, his optimism and the lyricism of his oratory - not the content of his manifesto.
...the only way the Opposition can re-enter the arena as a serious contender is to accept the basic premises of the Right-of-centre prospectus – even if the official Right is busy backing away from them. Among these axioms are: welfare systems which reward people for choosing not to work are socially destructive and morally pernicious; market mechanisms which encourage competition increase the quality and variety of services available to the public; and, arguably most important, tax cuts are the most effective way to stimulate economic growth.Janet Daly on Coalition reforms...
The Man Made Global Warming industry is a crock, a scam on an epic scale, fed by the world’s biggest outbreak of mass hysteria, stoked by politicians dying for an excuse to impose more tax and regulation on us while being seen to “care” about an issue of pressing urgency, fuelled by the shrill lies and tear-jerking propaganda of activists possessed of no understanding of the real world other than a chippy instinctive hatred of capitalism, given a veneer of scientific respectability by post-normal scientists who believe their job is to behave like politicians rather than dispassionate seekers-after-truth, cheered on by rent-seeking businesses, financed by the EU, the UN and the charitable foundations of the guilt-ridden rich, and promoted at every turn by schoolteachers, college lecturers, organic muesli packets, Walkers crisps, the BBC, CNBC, Al Gore, the Prince Of Wales, David Suzuki, the British Antarctic Survey, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Knut – the late, dyslexic-challenging, baby polar bear, formerly of Berlin Zoo.James Delingpole in characteristically full, passionate roar on the global warming industry...
Thom Yorke's brilliant vocals being shown on BBC4 tonight from their Glasto 1997 performance - Fake Plastic Trees, Creep, Karma Police, No Surprises... and the wonderful Street Spirit. A long and impressive playlist delivered with passion and conviction - great pleasure to watch.
Given the lengths LibDems have gone to since the local election meltdown - mostly in saving the country from those nasty Tories - isn't it about time their polling numbers started to rise? #JustThinking
Behind the personal clashes and score-settling lies a deep-seated reluctance to face up to the mistakes Labour made during 13 years in government and to accept the scale of its rejection writes Philip Stevens in the Financial Times.