Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Red Lines

The Lisbon Treaty takes one step forward and two back as the German Constitutional Court accepts that the Treaty is accordable with the German constitution but requires that the German Parliament has strengthened powers and initiatives. These changes in the relationship of the German nation state with the federalised European state that the Lisbon Treaty seeks to establish are required before the Treaty can be ratified and deposited in Rome.

The WSJ reports that in its ruling, the court found that:

"the substance of German state authority is protected" in the treaty. It said any decisions on transferring powers to the EU will be made "in a controlled and responsible manner."

The judges did, however, find fault with an accompanying law drawn up by the German government on the rights of the Parliament in Berlin. Those rights:

"have not been elaborated to the constitutionally required extent" and that needs to be cleared up before ratification is completed, they ruled.

So the Irish are to retain control over taxation, neutrality and abortion, if they accept the Treaty at all at the second time of asking. While the Germans retain the control of the German Parliament over any aspect of the Lisbon Treaty that falls under their Constitution and its competence and guarantees.

What has the United Kingdom retained?

Monday, 29 June 2009

No Redress As Living Standards Fall for Those Drawing the Social Wage

The increasing levels of inequality flowing from New Labour policies and actions are pinpointed by area in announcements today from the New Labour regime.

 'Brown will shift evaluation of public services away from Whitehall to the public, saying that people should have entitlements to personal tuition in schools, minimum GP waiting times and access to police working in neighbourhoods.'  (Guardian).  The intention to change the focus of council and other social housing allocation from points-based need to community-based waiting lists has been announced also.

In an astonishingly authoritarian statement we learn that:

' the prime minister plans to hand to the public the power to evaluate whether they have been adequately cared for'.  

New Labour seems to believe that the ability to judge the awfulness of the social wage provision delivered during its time in power has not been judged (and found inadequate and destructive of advances in socioeconomic equality) and that only now will such a power be conferred on those who are experiencing, and will experience much more severely in the coming years, a much degraded quality of life .

And just in case we thought that they intended to listen more than they have up to now:

'details of what redress people will get will follow in another paper, due to be published in the next few months'  (Guardian)

The only redress we want is an immediate general election.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Degrees of Deprivation

Failing to gain a university place used to be a common disappointment among those who applied. But those who applied were a very small percentage of those leaving school. Then the Robbins report and its recommendations embodied the policies and pressures for more university places and almost anyone who chose could enter a degree course somewhere in the United Kingdom, either in a new university or in an upgraded institution. Disappointment centred on which university, even on which faculty had not been achieved.

The collapsing living standards that are being experienced now in the United Kingdom are delivering one of their most cruel lessons this year. School leavers qualified for university entrance are being refused any university place at all. This is a devastation of moves towards social equality that have been in place and nurtured by all administrations for the last half century. Do not be misled by the disregard into which a university education has fallen from its very ubiquity; the voices that argue going to university is not worth the debts incurred; that a degree is now just part of an all shall have prizes educational culture.

Our children, the children of the wage-earning classes, are being pushed out of life-essential provision. Excluded from even the opportunity to illuminate the rest of their days. Unlike the working people of the pre-university mass provision times who had networks of learning systems through out the country - often funded by the unions or linked with the co-operative movements or local providence and mutual funding organisations - a culture of formalised discussion groupings led and lectured to by distinguished academics committed to continuous adult learning and general education, and the whole resting on the provisions of interlinked free libraries, this exclusion goes hand in hand with steep decline in local provision of public libraries and museums. Our people now face cultural silence.

That silence in part was engendered by the role of educational self-help being taken over by mass university education. Now the universities are moving beyond reach, grossly underfunded, and further impoverished by the closures of crucial departments that yet do not conform to New Labour's resource allocation criteria. And for which the feeder education from the schools has been steadily withdrawn. Should you be too poor to pay for your schooling you won't even know what has been taken from you; and if by some miracle of determination you obtain the necessary preparation, qualifications, you will find the faculties gone and the enormous loan needed now quite possibly unavailable to you.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Starving English Children

From the Telegraph today:

'This delicious recipe is ready in five minutes and, served with cheesy toast, makes it a perfect meal for all the family.

Serves 2

1tbsp butter
1 clove garlic
400g tin of tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
Shake of chilli sauce (sweet chilli sauce works well)
2tbsp cream (single, double or whipping, or even crème fraîche)
Nutmeg to grate
Melt the butter in a small pan and add the garlic. Allow to cook while you find the tin opener, and open the tin of tomatoes. Tip them into the pan, along with the tomato puree, a mugful of water (around 8floz/225ml if you’re measuring, but accuracy is not really the point here), and shake in some chilli sauce.
As it heats, whiz it with a hand blender until smooth. Don’t let the mixture boil if you can avoid it. Stir in 1tbsp cream, season with salt and pepper, and grate in a good bit of nutmeg.
Serve with the rest of the cream dribbled on top.'

What audience is being addressed here? It says 'all the family'. It says 'meal'.

So I started counting calories for double the quantities - two adults two youngish children, say 8 and 6 years old.

This is not a meal. 41 calories for 800 g. of tinned tomatoes (I have looked in the larder to read the contents labels of the reserve tinned tomatoes). What century are people living in that this is considered, eaten with bread (here referred to as 'cheesy toast' as if somehow that makes a different thing altogether from bread) enough to stave off hunger, never mind malnutrition? Two tablespoons of cream, and a dusting of grated Cheddar in no way redeem this starvation diet.

41 calories, plus bread with grated cheese, plus two spoons of cream, and a touch of butter, divided by 4 = hunger. No wonder children are distressed in school.

How about 50 g of pasta per head with ragu and grated parmesan, followed by a slice of meat or vegetable dipped in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs, then fried in olive oil, drained and served with salad of considerably more than 400 g of tomatoes and not from a tin either, with a serving of rice or plain boiled potato, or steamed courgette.... Followed by fruit, a slice of cake and a spoon of ice cream?

PS And the whole meal takes no longer to prepare and serve than the time taken for the pasta water to boil. Well, if you have cake and ice ceam, but who doesn't?

We'd Better Do Something, Quick.

There has been a steady dismantling of constitutional and state control over (as well as the possibilities for political opposition to), the Executive since the post democratic Party of permanent administrative Progressive Governance was democratically elected. At the time the electorate believed, and were led to believe, that the election was in the normal vein of pluralist democratic politics (marred by the democratic centralism of the Labour party, but the nature of the beast was understood, we thought). Since then, so effective has been the removal of constraints on the Executive we have had not one but two effective changes of administration without consultation with the electorate.

The rules of the game have been broken, disregarded, dismantled yet still there is some constraint on the force with which we insist on voting on the New Labour Manifesto unfurling before our horrified eyes. It is difficult to imagine what catastrophe could engulf the country that would be too much for their brazen faces.

The Prime Minister is a public liar and, worse, subject to those who love him but can destroy him. What kind of language is that for political discourse - it belongs within the discourse of private and highly personal relationship.

There is mass unemployment. The numbers of working age economically inactive in any sense that confers independence and life choices is approaching 10 million. More if make-work tax-funded 'jobs' are included.

We have committed, through the folly of the New Labour Executive, £2.2 trillion to the support of not just national but international financial systems. And are told that it is not enough.

Soon the meaning of 'cuts' which sounds so distant and unpleasant, is used to typify an alternative system of governance that seeks to contain and then set right this disaster, will be brought home. It is here all ready.

Queues, long queues, are forming in every welfare service. House? Don't make me laugh. Universal pension sufficient to live on? Take a form, the queue is over there; when it has been filled, in all its humiliating detail - if you can cope with it at all - join the queue elsewhere, give you something to do all day won't it. Not coping very well? Hand over your savings and queue there for viciously unkind and inappropriate 'assistance'. Education, take what you're allocated or you could end with nothing at all even at primary level - oh yes this is occurring, right now. Managed to get 3 Grade A A-levels? Don't you all, but that doesn't mean you can go into tertiary sector education of any kind. And have you any money? Because if not there's the queue to obtain the form to obtain the debt that you can make a start in adult independent life with. About to give birth? No, there's a queue so go home and come back in a few hours. And if you have your child on the motorway or on the floor, complaints will raise queries about anger management and capacity to parent. Lots of people waiting to adopt you know, and more adoptions means prizes, for Us.

Redress? We are to be grateful for the air that we breathe.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Delusionist

...If the British government had to pay out on all emergency guarantees and insurance facilities offered to banks, the total liability would be $2.1 trillion, or 88 percent of gross domestic product, the Bank of England said. That compares with 73 percent in the U.S. [not an appropriate comparison economy with the United Kingdom, ed.] and 18 percent in the euro area. (Bloomberg)

“This is the basis for strong growth in the future. On the basis of jobs and growth, you reduce debt and deficit over a period to meet our five-year plan for halving the fiscal deficit”. Brown in this morning's Times

Gone

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, April 1922 - June 2009

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Signing On

There being a lot of inflation about these days, Angels borrowed piles of money. The loan isn't attached to anything - it's just a pile of money that won't be as much when it gets paid back. By the time the formalities in the Manager's office in the bank at the bottom of the hill had been completed it felt as if it had been earned. There were three copies each of two documents that seemed to be over a dozen pages long.

"Sign here," said the Manager, pointing a manicured finger and offering a biro. So I did, rose to my feet, smiled nicely and noticed everyone else was still sitting down. Mr HG was signing valiantly on.

"Every page?'

Right.

The first page had my usual signature, which looks like my name written out in my ordinary hand. The second page looked more or less the same but then the thought that perhaps best writing might be more appropriate occurred. Page three was bigger and neater. Then it became clear I was falling behind in the signing stakes and the Manager began to turn the pages for me. Page four developed elisions that were not on the other pages. Five started to look dashing, six was slipshod. Seven started to be turned before I was ready so I held it down. A small tear appeared - in the paper not from my eye but it was getting quite emotional in there. Mr HG was sitting back like those examination candidates who have finished and checked their work, worse, he was beginning to read the signed pages. Flustered, my signature now looking like something from a joined up writing exercise, the Manager engaged in discreetly forcing the pages, me and the Manager got to the last page.

The documents were swapped and I had the demoralising task of signing under Mr HG's beautiful signature, exactly the same on every page. My hand hurt. My writing had reverted to its infanthood, my name looked funny and I began to doubt the spelling. At the end the Manager looked at the bottom of every page and after that only answered Mr HG's queries on whatever strangenesses he had found while waiting for me to put my mark.

For any one who can interpret hand writing my entire life in all its layers and accretions is laid out there.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Cost of Carrying Labour's Luggage

The chief executive of Ryanair comments on a £10 impost which disproportionately affected low-fare airlines when Ryanair's average fares are barely above £30:

"Only Labour could invent a tax that penalises the poor and favours the rich. The UK needs a new Government because they are a group of witless, hopeless Scots whose solution to the recession is to tax your way out. If that was the answer Ted Heath would have been elected for six successive terms."

Brown's Axis

Brown is insulting the President of Poland, his political party, the political party of the President of the Czech Republic, and having a go at the Baltic states' political parties. He recommends strongly to the UK Conservative party that they should be associating with Germany, Italy and with right wing France.

Good thing Brown and New Labour weren't in power in 1939-1945.

Pensions'r'Not Us

Angels asked for a an expert view on the pensions crisis. You may like to read what I received.

The responsibilities of the World Bank in the current Pension Crisis need to be stressed. Over the last twenty years the Bank continuously, persistently and relentlessly advocated and promoted the transition from a dominant Pay As You Go to a dominant “funded” pension system, in its countries of operation and – through its general influence on government policies – worldwide. Such a move – wrapped up nicely, sealed and delivered as a “multi-pillar” package – transformed part or all of a virtual public debt, implicit in pension rights matured under the old PAYG system but sustainable in a continuing system, into an explicit real public debt that put a heavy strain on the fiscal resources of reforming countries. The move to a funded system also exposed old age pensioners to the risks of fluctuations and trends in the price of pension funds assets.

The World Bank now says little about its own performance in pension reform, apart from the bland criticisms, mostly on the ground of “overselling” funded systems, voiced in its own “independent” assessment.

The official World Bank position is summarized in a “Note” issued by its Human Development Network and published on 10 October 2008 [prepared by Mark Dorfman, Richard Hinz and David Robalino under the direction of Robert Holzmann]: The Financial Crisis and Mandatory Pension Systems in Developing Countries.

“The note discusses the potential impacts of the financial crisis on fully funded and pay-as-you-go retirement-income systems in World Bank client countries, and identifies key short- and medium-term policy responses. The note does not go into depth on the issued [sic] identified. Stand-alone technical notes will be prepared subsequently. This note itself will be updated and refined as new issues emerge”.

But repeated searches on Internet cannot find any such stand-alone technical notes, or updating, or refinements. Non-quotable papers originated in the Bank circulate informally but do not seem to add much. The valiant officials that drafted that Note did the best of a bad job, but the end result is a feeble, defensive, obfuscating collection of half-truths.

Seven Half Truths: 1. “No pension system is immune”

Half Truth n.1: Both funded and PAYG pension systems are in a crisis: “The international financial crisis has severely affected the value of pension fund assets worldwide. The unfolding global recession will also impose pressures on public pension schemes financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, while limiting the capacity of governments to mitigate both of these effects” (p.1).

The missing, other half, of the truth is that, as a result of the crisis, the additional pressure on funded systems is about ten times larger than on PAYG systems. The pension contributions of a PAYG system fall roughly at the same rate as GDP (a bit more or a bit less according to whether the wage share and/or the pension contribution rate fall or rise, or retirement age rises or falls), i.e. a few percentage points. Whereas the fall in the value of pension funds assets in 2008-2009 has been of the order of magnitude of 30-50 per cent or more. In a presentation to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) International Section, on 16 December 2008, Robert Holzmann acknowledged that:

“Over the last 12 months, retirement accounts have lost $2 to $3 trillion in value. Between the 2nd quarters of 2007 and 2008, private pension fund assets declined by over half a billion dollars while state and local pension funds declined at rate of nearly $350 billion”... “rates of return for client countries with funded systems have decreased in value from a low of 8 percent to a high of more than 50 percent.”

This was at end-2008; the situation has much worsened in the first half of 2009 and will not improve until 2010.

2. Small Numbers

Half-Truth n.2: “… only a small number of retiring individuals are affected by the crisis”.

How could it be otherwise? “The other, missing, half of the truth is that this is not thanks to World Bank promoted reforms, but because of lateness, slowness or incompleteness in their implementation.

Many countries still have a dominant PAYG system, which is unaffected by asset values. In the EU, for instance:

“In the majority of member-states PAYG provides almost all the pension income for those retiring today and there are only five member-states where funded provision is above 10% (these are Denmark on 16%, Slovenia and UK both on 22%, Ireland on 54%, and the Netherlands on 60%). A further three member-states are at, or slightly below, the 10% level (Germany, Cyprus, Belgium)” (Jerome Vignon [unsigned] “Non Paper – Pensions and the Financial Crisis – Informal Background Briefing Note”, European Commission, Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs, December 2008).

Moreover, most of the countries that have implemented the transition to a funded system have done it too recently, and gradually enough, to have a significant impact – also due to exempting older workers or even leaving the change voluntary instead of mandatory. See the Table below (Vignon, cited). Even Mexico, that made the change twenty years ago, excluded the over thirty.


3. Multi-pillar diversification

Half-Truth n.3. “The current crisis strengthens the need for a diversified multi-pillar system” (from the World Bank “Note” cited above). Next to a first pillar of PAYG or anyway a defined benefits system, a second “fully funded” pillar of defined contributions, a third pillar of voluntary savings, in that “Note” the World Bank now advocates as well even a “zero pillar” (sic), of non-contributory public pensions to take care of poverty amongst the aged. Which is fine, there is nothing to prevent individuals from saving or governments from making transfers to the poor. Except that diversification of pension systems is only needed to reduce the riskiness of the second and the third “fully funded” pillars, for both the first and the zero pillar do not depend on the price of financial assets.

If anything diversification is needed within the second pillar (and the third, but that is a matter for the individual saver not for public policy other than for tax incentives). So much so that the Bank advocates a “life-cycle” approach reducing the share of equities and raising that of government bonds in individual portfolios with the nearing of retirement age, and “the development of phased transitions to the payout of benefits that limit the impact of short term financial volatility” (Holzman, quoted above). Which is also fine, except that one wonders what has become of the presumed advantages of funded systems in terms of “choice”, reliance on stock markets rather than the state, and the enhancement of financial markets. What difference do pension funds make if they just intermediate between pensioners and the state?

4. Smoothing

Half-Truth n. 4. Governments should reconsider “the valuation rules applicable to pension fund assets in the context of the extreme current volatility in financial markets”, namely relaxing mark-to-market rules and allowing some “smoothing” valuation in order to:

“more accurately reflect the true underlying values and avoid the possible adverse reactions to large changes that prove to be very short run” (the “Note” cited).

This of course would be beneficial to pension funds valuation but at the cost of the associated loss of transparency and disclosure. We know that banks have often abused of the relaxation of accounting rules in the valuation of their toxic assets; why tempt pension funds? It would be a high price to pay for a mostly cosmetic improvement.

5. Black Swans

Half-Truth n.5. “The current financial crisis is a rare “extreme” event” (from the World Bank “Note” cited above). Robert Holzman (in the presentation cited above) sticks his neck out further:

“the current financial crisis is an extremely rare event, similar to those that have taken place every 50, 80, or 100 years in the past”.

Well, 1929 was eighty years ago; even a single major crisis every eighty years means that everybody will be affected, either directly or through their parents or children. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s bestseller, The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable, (Random House, 2007) should be mandatory reading for the World Bank “Human Development Network” officials.

6. No Shocks

Half-Truth n.6. “Abrupt policy changes in response to the immediate circumstances should be avoided”. Compared with World Bank advocacy of shock therapy in post-socialist economies in the 1990s, this call for gradualism, experimentation and reflection is only to be welcomed. As long as this does not involve a state of denial – which is what the Note suggests – and a failure to learn from current events.

7. No Reversals

Half-Truth n.7. “Governments should avoid short-term reform reversals that have not been properly assessed and that may come at a high price for future retirees” (from the “Note” cited). In the unlikely event that current contributions, instead of accumulating in individual accounts, were simply diverted towards the payment of current pensions, this would be highway robbery, of course. But let us suppose a 100%, 180 degree reversal of the pension reforms implemented in the last twenty years, from fully-funded back to PAYG.

During this reversal, or re-transition, current employees would keep their entitlement to the pension they have already matured corresponding to their cumulative investments up to the time of reversal. Their ailing, undervalued if not toxic investments would be transferred to the state, and for the rest of their working life they would mature an entitlement to a full PAYG pension minus what they would have matured in the years before reversal. The reversal would raise over time the virtual, implicit pension debt of the state (negligible in the literal sense that it can be neglected in a continuously operating system, as long as the system is balanced or its possible imbalance is affordable) but would decrease the explicit state debt by the value of pension funds transferred to the state. It would also eliminate completely pensioners’ exposure to financial markets risk.

State bankruptcy and Armageddon would remain uncovered, but the first presumably would affect also financial markets and funded pensions, and its impact would be temporary (see Russia in the 1990s); while the second would not be a problem but a solution.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Twinset and Pearls

The concept 'twinset' seems to be beyond the Lisbon faction's understanding. Switzerland and Norway formally, and most of the United Kingdom (should it ever get the chance to say so), are happy to wear a European Union cardigan at times, and even, to some degree, to style and colour- co-ordinate their national jumper underneath. Like all sensible women, their pearls are not for removal.

At times of economic chill the European Union cardigan is so useful (hence Iceland is trying to buy one), but when times are good and the world is working, what you wear is governed by that weather, and not by uniform imposed requirements. And your pearls are still yours, of course, and not for removal.

Englishwomen are quite clear on the whole matter: EU cardigan for chilly moments, short-sleeved jumper with cardy cast aside - or at most lightly draped over the shoulders - in good times; pearls worn always, for pearls are not for removal.

Oh yes, and all twinsets of cashmere - none of that scratchy wool, or Lord help us, hair shirt - in order to enhance global redistribution stuff.

Berlusconi and the Women

A blow was struck against Progressive Governance at the weekend in Italy. Attempts to force a bi-lateral party system on to the glorious diversity of party and faction was defeated by two means: some of us voted steadily No in the referendums, others refused to vote at all, causing the referendums to fail to reach the 50% of the electorate that validation required.

Progressive Governance media are presenting this as a signal of lack of interest in politics, failure to understand the referendums by the electorate and all the other usual patronising political elite refusal to take No for an answer. They'll be back, they always are. The proposal now is to change the electoral procedure in the Parliament, but fortunately Progressive Governance which is centred mainly in the Democratic Party, is not in power. And even in the Democratic Party, Progressive Governance is only a faction within the coalition. That's what they don't like, that's why they were trying to create advantage for their grouping, in the name of modern political behaviour and post democratic 21st century politics.

They're everywhere aren't they? At their jamboree in Chile earlier in the year Progressive Governance's Dario Franceschini networked away with the usual suspects - New Labour was there in force. Franceschini is easily recognised by his inability to dress himself, tie a tie, shave properly, and an unfortunate, hectoring manner about what is right. He became Leader of his Party after selection by a limited group rather than elections across the whole Party. A familiar syndrome.

The steady diet of outright lies, misrepresentation of claims to past socioeconomic achievement, and the gathering up of moribund parties and groupings and institutions, together with their often not inconsiderable resources, is familiar too. As is the eager talking-up of global solutions to global problems, entitled sectors of society, social and moral capitalism....the utter unworthiness, both personal and ideological of any other political movement or figure holding any other view. (Not for nothing is Berlusconi the centre of a media storm about requiring to be surrounded by pretty women which is neither here nor there in political realities; he should be the object of a storm about his political, economic and constitutional activities).

Does all this matter in the United Kingdom? Certainly. Apart from the repulsive irritation of quite so much falsity and self-righteousness, both countries are member-states of a European Union at a crunch point in its development. Progressive Governance exists to instal permanent administrative rule from a controlled recruitment of a political elite which crowds out any other governing model and does so by proclaiming It Is Right. Any other form of rule, most particularly mass, pluralist democracy must be first marginalised by being typified as failing and producing inequality, and then criminalised as the powers of the state fall under Progressive Governance control, and its client citizens are infantilised in the work, social interaction and educational aspects of their lives.

You don't need a conspiracy theory mind set to understand this. Progressive Governance is as much a modern political movement as hyper liberalism. It has deep roots that can be traced through the last century and even further back. It might be regarded as humanised and technically improved realised socialism. And it has great appeal to its beneficiaries who are legion, not just the new elites.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Short Term Speaker is No Use for a Functional Parliament

The Speaker has to be confirmed in office by the House after a general election . Should there be a general election we might expect reasonably that an informally whipped Speaker election, now, will be put right next year if partisan Labour troughers, Labour's Scottish class warriors motivated by envy, spite and revenge for ousted Scottish sheet metal workers, and silly behaviour (as ever) from brownites pushes an ageing Labour party warhorse, who should be pulling a holiday caravan in peaceful retirement by now, onto a long suffering and irritated electorate.

It really would be best to choose a Speaker with some hope of lasting less than a year. Unless Parliament has less than a year in which it has any powers to act at all.

UPDATE

Not Scottish, not Labour, not Beckett. More could have been hoped for but not with an irresponsible, unparliamentary, partisan Labour majority and a secret ballot. Mr Bercow has to hold his seat if there is a general election - the convention that the Speaker is returned unopposed is accompanied by the convention that the Speaker leaves his Party, so the chances of Buckingham being left to Mr Bercow without challenge, even from a Conservative, are very low - and be confirmed by vote in the House in any new Parliament. Steps will have to be watched, Speakerhood displayed for these months guaranteed to him by the Lisbon Treaty ratification timetable.

New Labour might be surprised, too, how much the rewards of office in the hand will be hard to match by promises of reward in a post democratic nirvana. Beckett would have been moved and movable by loyalty to Party, Scottish was simply out of the question given vulnerability to the restoration of the English Parliament; Mr Bercow's master is his own interest, and then the Leader of the Conservative administration that will follow any general election. He cannot afford to be New Labour's man.

The Red and the Black

They've all gone down to the school to vote. So Angels has seized the moment for a glass of cold white and a post. They are voting on the run-off between the two candidates left standing for president of the Provincia - an important position when the subsidiarity genuinely practiced in EU countries is remembered - and have to choose between an old Communist remodelled as Partito democratico, and an old Fascist remodelled as Berlusconi's PDL. Angels votes in Florence not in the country (residency confers parking rights and tax advantages, don't ask) but the rest are resident in the village which is just outside the provincia di Firenze. The countryside in their province tends to be Red, but the cities, particularly the capoluogo are pitch Black; so my money (well not really, political betting is forbidden here as is the taking of mobile phones and digital cameras into the polling booths) is on the old Fascist.

The other vote is on a binding referendum - goodness do we need this democratic device in the United Kingdom - on the allocation of the 'winner's prize'. He who wins an election is allocated a premium to obviate some of the more destructive aspects of proportional representation. Every party is a coalition but the biggest factions in each coalition want the winner's premium allocated to their faction, whereas the faction smaller partners want it distributed per capita across the entire party grouping. Well, you can say of both sides 'They would, wouldn't they.'

There has been loud discussion of voting choices, but floating up from the party going down the stairs I heard:

"So we are clear: No, No, No, Vasari."

Vasari? Are they aware he's been dead for rather a long time? Must be me substituting familiar names in 'sounds like' mode. Anyway, the family is voting compactly, en masse, under the capo di famiglia, which is the way things are done here. How else can the village know the results long before the votes are counted?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Ireland Needs the Protocols and the Commitments Spelled-out Publicly Before Voting Again on the Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty faces the Irish people again in the Autumn. This time the Irish are to be assured that it does not abrogate or alter their sovereign, constitutional powers in matters of neutrality, nor interfere with abortion lawmaking, or taxation. That's quite a list. What is more, guarantees of the Brown 'red line' variety that were negotiated by Blair were rejected as not worth the paper etc., (ouch) and protocols added to the Treaty were insisted on. Protocols form part of the body of the Treaty and re-ratification by member-states that have completed the process might be in order.

At this point Brown entered private discussions with the Prime Minister of Ireland. What has he done now that enabled the final communique to state that Ireland would accept the protocols being joined to 'a' Treaty? If the plan is to add them to the Croatian Accession Treaty there are problems with that from current member-states who have no love for Croatia. And if not that Treaty, which treaty? The Irish people might insist on being told and looking at the wording, and who could blame them? We all need to hear what an Irish prime minister might have obtained from a UK prime minister, a notorious liar and a Scottish Protestant liar at that. What is the bribe? Or was it threats? Probably both. And why should the Irish people believe a word? Still it will be interesting to hear what they are promised.

In any case, President Klaus of the Czech Republic is correct. Any protocols modifying the Lisbon Treaty so profoundly with respect to a signatory need the other signatories' assent. The people of the United Kingdom may not have a means of constitutional redress, but other member-states' people most certainly do, not least Germany's which currently has two challenges to the Lisbon Treaty under consideration.

And Brown will learn to regret the reputation he has earned for not being able to tell the truth or keep his word.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Who Is In Charge?

'MPs may now face a legal challenge, as Parliament stands accused of subverting a High Court judgment which ordered the full disclosure of the taxpayer-funded expense claims last year.' (Telegraph).

Members of Parliament are arguing that they were discouraged from censoring their own expenses (presumably minimally) because they might breach data protection laws. These laws were passed by a New Labour Parliament, of course. How can laws forbid information freely given - or in conformity with a High Court judgment - pertaining to the individuals publishing the information?

And how can a High Court judgment bind Parliament acting as Parliament - which it clearly is, and not as a set of individual Members of Parliament when censorship is being centrally determined and imposed - when Parliament is in its constitutional and traditional relationship with the judiciary?

Brown Can Take His Ball and Go Home

Government by threat seems to be the only operating system remaining for New Labour. If Brown is ousted then there will be a general election and general loss of Labour seats, not to mention office. So the Parliamentary Labour Party caves in and keeps the man who will cause their Party's annihilation, elections or no elections.

If the European Union forces Brown's open veto on financial and bank regulatory changes then there will be a considerably less friendly Conservative government in the United Kingdom to deal with before the Lisbon Treaty has been fully accepted by all member-states. So Brown is given his bit of paper to wave in his hand.

It's a pathetic ploy to have to use, stripping away all negotiating power.

'Do as I want because otherwise I can precipitate disaster', may be a pleasing feeling for a control freak, but what might seem a disaster to Brown is increasingly offset by the size of the disaster of his remaining in office. The objectives of the Lisbon Treaty can be reached by other means. The interests of the Labour party are best served by Brown's immediate departure.

Lisbon rests in the hands of the four member-states still considering it. The Labour party rests in the hands of its supporting Movement.

Looking Like 20th Century Italy

It is all so much worse than imagined. There has been a complete collapse of our political culture. It was like this in Italy during the days of the P2, the endless changes in administration from 'Socialist' to 'Christian Democrat', the penetration of government and the political classes by criminality and mafia to the highest levels, the mulcting of taxes and their diversion to private consumption and the maintenance of faction. It was blamed on the manipulation of Italian politics by a United States that wanted the bases and was determined to keep the Communists from power: the prevention of the compromesso storico where power would be shared. Moro was murdered and Berlinguer was struck down.

A more convincing or at least a full explanation requires recognition of the abandonment of any acquiescence to constitutional form, the collapse of the rule of law, the power elite deals between union bosses and corrupted political office holders, the greying, often blackening of the economy, the removal of contact between citizens and state as every individual and family hid their lives in all sociopolitical aspects from government. The dead littered the streets morning after morning in frightening drug and tax-farming wars so that it was an achievement simply to live in any enclave of social peace, protected by arrangements between local power brokers that complete civil breakdown would be confined mostly to the South and major urban centres.

In the end the terrible murder of the Prime Minister and his escort, the hunting down and murder of the Prefect of Palermo and his wife through the streets of a deserted city, the blowing up of Bologna's railway station, the uncovering of Gladio - and other, though less infamous, uncoverings of evil by courageous investigative magistrates who were gunned down in their dozens, literally dozens, backed by a media that died for its efforts too, brought the country to its senses. Sandro Pertini's Presidency with his determined championing of the institutions of the democratic state re-established political decency and state independence.

Italy is no democratic paradise but it is most certainly back on the democratic rails. The permanent and uncomfortable sensation of hidden agendas and secret decision taking in private and factional interest no longer blights its citizens. It is in England that such a world is being recreated.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Damage is Often Unexpected and Extensive from Brown's Debacle

Downing Street and its media coverage teams will be briefing for a serial liar tomorrow and at the week end, so we can expect a series of lies. The United Kingdom will be painted as vetoing any controls upon the City or its practices, fiscal policy, or the institutional nature of banks. It is unlikely this veto will be formal, of course, not least because the use of a formal veto is not available under the majority voting that governs the creation of a a European risk-monitoring board and a system of financial supervisors to oversee banking, insurance and securities markets with much more than the current purely supervisory powers.

No doubt the draft communiqué has been so worded as to leave room for the alteration our Prime Minister will want to have - his 'I have here a piece of paper' waving requirement. Explicitly it will state that:

'no EU-level authority can force a government to burden its taxpayers with the cost of a bank bail-out' (as the FT puts it). No, but if banks that cross international borders are required by regulatory measure to separate retail and more hazardous forms of banking, such bailouts will not be required. Whether the newly-empowered risk monitoring agency should be headed by the European Central Bank will be a sore point for a country not in the Euro but subject to its regulations too. But the solution is straight forward, if not easy: join the Euro. Or the Eurozone countries can say ' Let's say we will, and then not'. And what can Brown do about it later? The first head of the monitoring agency will most certainly be in the ECB.

Led in such important negotiations by an undemocratic, discredited prisoner of his undemocratic ministers and situation, is not ideal for the country. The goings-on since the failure to hold an election after Blair's ousting, reaching a crescendo in the last few months, have been noted to the detriment of our being taken seriously, until a general election has been held to determine who rules Britain.

More interestingly, the institutional and political solutions offered by the Lisbon Treaty to problems of single member-state veto powers, the short termism of political decision-taking with a rotating Presidency, and the democratic deficit of an overpowerful Executive - not to mention the anti-federalismo spear-headed by the United Kingdom - seem to be lessening in importance as other routes, fiscal and regulatory, to strengthening federal action, arise from the last 12 months' events. The economic substructure is generating the superstructure, just like some believe it is supposed to. And Brown's distasteful regime is progressively weakening any argument for the benefits of a less binding Union.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

False Dawns and New Labour

There are two images, two instant visualisations being used in the UK media at the moment to reassure and stabilise. 'Green shoots of the economic recovery', and 'the economy has hit the bottom'. Both draw their force from the habits of the human mind in using metaphor models for generalised understanding which are modified more and more extensively as the object of thought and investigation is narrowed, and the skills and inputs of the thinker increase. But when we are in unfamiliar territory we grab ourselves a paradigm.

Green shoots is appealing for its Spring-like qualities of rebirth, the long winter ending, the results of wise husbandry available from the sunlit uplands within so short a time - green shoots become golden harvests within a year. Green shoots looks backwards with approval to clearing and tilling, seed corn at the ready followed by watering and fertilising, hard work yes, short term restraint embodied in the gestation period, but then forward to earned reward and the return to plenty - the natural (conveniently short) cycle, in this case economic cycle, of events.

The economy hitting the bottom gives encouraging notions of rebound, cannot get any worsiness, and while it's been tough, will be tough for a while, we have not suffered all that badly and now things are on the way back up. Yes, there may be a V shape or even a W shape - how sophisticated to think in those terms - but the bottom is not so bad. No, we would not like to be bumping along it like Japan - gosh you do know your stuff don't you? - but that outcome we understand and can avoid under the guidance of our knowledgeable and powerful economic operators, most particularly as the United Kingdom is blessed with the brightest and the best of these.

Such powerful imagery, such a relief not to have to think in devilish detail.

How does it feel when we imagine deforestation's arid deadland and plains stripped bare for destructive cultivations. Higher ground marred by torrential winter downfalls followed by mudslides stripping ever more earth from the rock. Plains plagued by howling dust storms harrying retreating groups of beaten creatures, humans among them, without fuel, without water resources, eating and burning what is needed to re-establish any ecology or even immediate food supply. And after the landscape is hosed briefly with flood and downpour, green shoots for as long as it takes for the aridity to reassert itself.

Or imagine the bottom as the continental shelf with the edge of the shelf dropping off into the continental slope and beyond this slope to the abyssal plain with even deeper trenches cutting through it. When the bottom isn't there to bounce off, even visualising the recovery as a W is to assume that we get back to the surface and can breathe.

Better economists than Angels repeatedly state that they do not understand what is happening, nor can they project any reliable future scenario. So if you do not want to be taken in and find yourselves starring in the Grapes of Wrath or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, make your own arrangements, and make sure you have some measure of real control over your life.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Who Could It Be?

Any Iraq war inquiry must be focused on two objectives: the causes; and the conduct. Blair is the centre of attention for the causes. Brown is the centre of attention for the conduct (and the ignominious withdrawal).

It doesn't matter that it is held in secret. Secrets are made to become known. What matters is getting the pair of them pinned down hard with as much information as can be elicited under 'secrecy' assurances as possible - which is certainly more than would come out in any 'public' inquiry without quite savage powers of interrogation and capacity to require witnesses. Something on the lines of the French or Italian or Spanish interrogating magistrates powers would be needed for an effective public inquiry.

So Brown sets up an inquiry, that inter alia maximises the elicitation of information under conditions of 'secrecy', which he sees as pinning down his problem and adult life spoiler. And the inquiry blithely covers too the conduct of a war in which our troops had their capacity and efficiency blighted by denial of equipment and premature reduction in numbers, which he doesn't see fingers him as even worse than Blair in responsibility for long term damage to our country and its institutions. Meanwhile he is busy elsewhere facilitating UK entry into the Euro, Blair downed by the inquiry and the Saviour of the World stepping up to the European presidential plate.

Two down. Who is left as candidate for the European Presidency from the UK? It has to be a politician of prime ministerial status, communautaire, extensively known within the Union, able in diplomatic and subtle negotiation, committed wholly to world trade and the development of global governance institutions yet Europeanist rather than Atlanticist in outlook, with recognised connection to Russia and its interests.

Monday, 15 June 2009

But the moon is low and I can't say "No"

Labour dare not go to the country so Brown has been surrounded by minders and nursers. His cabinet is so enormous, as these people call in instantly the favour of letting him stay as Leader by insisting on a cabinet seat (so useful to have been a cabinet minister for post government jobs), that there is now an inner cabinet which he is allowed to attend but whose membership he did not choose.

Even a year ago, Brown's undoing as too complete for him to remain as Labour Leader could not have been imagined. It's told like it is in today's Wall Street Journal

In a previous post what might be in Brown's future was discussed. M Lamy would be a hard man to move aside. Perhaps Brown's self-deluding hubris is enough for him to try just one more time to face his nemesis Blair and go for the post-Lisbon European Presidency. There can be no European President from a country that does not use the Euro. Mandelson has stated it as read that the United Kingdom will adopt (or perhaps be adopted by, would be a better way to put it) the Euro. Could Brown's single achievement, the keeping of Sterling, be at risk from Mandelson's blandishments?

'The whole of Europe can be yours but there must be no more Sterling, and you can be President, not Blair. '

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Wages of New Labour

Poverty covers a multitude of conditions. Discussion and remedies are easily sunk into definition, measure, relativity, morality. So cutting to the chase:

Poverty is powerlessness. Subjection to an unremitting control exercised over income levels, housing, food, employment, social attainment, and thought. As early societies were, naturally, left behind with time's passing, we thought we might overcome what Beveridge, that greatest of Liberal politicians, identified as giants of our social, economic and political worlds. But those giants are animated by the hunger for power over others.

If you have no means of personal defence against personal attack; if you have no shelter but shelter derived from the most fragile of institutional arrangements that can be altered on government whim or market change; if you eat by exchanging tokens for a pre-limited range of goods, if you derive your tokens from tax-provided state funds, whether employed or workless, if you cannot educate yourself or your children from lack of resources and government interference, if you are prevented from speaking or even thinking beyond categories defined by received, hierarchically determined priorities, then you are poor. And if you avoid and evade all those statuses you are the target of regime impoverishment policies.

As a comment on the previous post notes, the question always put is how can state schools be improved? Not whether they should exist at all. It should be remembered that the most important outcome of state school provision is widespread impoverishment, both in life-choice and in intellectual attainment. Another commenter points out that if the National Health Service delivered today's patient with the service available in the 1800s there would be outrage, yet anyone receiving an education more than a century ago would emerge at least numerate and literate, unlike 40% of today's state school leavers.

Any young person now seeking housing so as to establish themselves in a family life would have enjoyed a far better chance in the Conservative, One Nation 1950s and '60s, apart from enjoying a better, universal education opportunity. In seeking employment, there has been great loss to resident working people in terms of individual wages, of social wages, and of employment opportunity, to the advantage of employers and owners in migrant receiving countries. And look at the technical literature on labour migration and its effects before crying 'racialist' (or racist as nowadays is cried). I have not touched on the sociocultural effects of the migrations of peoples.

If most people are now caught in a very clear and horrible poverty, even if not absolute or worse than statist, first world poverty (though third world poverty is starting to appear too), those who have escaped because of their social and economic independence are now being defined as 'terrorist', 'deviant', 'suspect', 'incorrect', 'unsuitable', and are being excluded, and deprived of their social powers and autonomy.

We began our resistance with the classic defence against the growth of the Fascist state - the rientro nel privato - (the very phrase is in Italian, mother of fascism), and moved back discreetly into our own provision and our own lives. But so many have seen and are following us to the exit from the overarching authoritarianism of New Labour and its glorious sunlit uplands of realised serfdom that the regime is in full cry.

We are going to have to stand and fight, and if the only weapon we will need to use is the vote, then that will be a great relief.

Questions to Ministers in the Lords

"I think Lord Mandelson might rather like it. It would give him the opportunity to shine," said Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader in the Lords.

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Staying Out of Uniform

Choosing our children's education is best done by our children with guidance from their parents. Poverty limits such choice severely. Usually children must attend a state school, if they are to attend a school at all, because school fees paid from already taxed income are beyond most families' means.

Yet many families use the state system offered to them less and less, or even not at all. State education offers appalling teaching in music, mathematics, art, languages other than English (and often in English too), and no education in a range of less central disciplines. Yet it takes all day from the age of five to eighteen, dressed in polyester clothes, for much of the year. No wonder people are simply walking away and making more appropriate arrangements.

It is difficult to think of any reason why the consumption of a proffered service should be compulsory. Nor why refusal to consume it should be rendered particularly difficult. We are not obliged to use the National Health Service. It would be thought very strange if those who have not seen their GP because they had no need to do so were required to submit themselves for inspection on a regular basis regardless of their health condition. The examination system provides regular checks on achievement in learning. You try taking Grade Eight without years of work, or A-level German for that matter. And the incentive to gain the qualifications offered by the examination boards is there too. Universities and conservatoires look first at high passes in controlled standards exams. Anyone seeking a successful working life will need a degree or diploma. And anyone leading a happy and fruitful life will voluntarily seek out the skills and knowledge to help them do so.

A compulsory consumption of a service might be imagined in the military, indeed is more than imagined for the generation before mine. But education .

Friday, 12 June 2009

Knowing Enough and Owning Enough

To be a grammar school boy from Hendon and getting on a bit isn't much fun. And who would want to be an elderly Scottish failed academic with passion problems. Oh yes they are. That's what is the matter. Lack of skilled use of basic feeling, inability to differentiate with any form of subtlety. Nothing there but rage and inappropriate desire.

Poverty and ugliness on top of all that is quite unbearable. So some have manipulated, lied and forced our world to make themselves feel better. There are people out here in the world with beauty, honesty, brains, the upbringing and skills to use their brains, openness, that is the self assurance to be open to the world and what is has to offer, and real wealth. Not rich in the sense of planes and boats and trains, but rich in having an independence. Our life style does not come from earnings, though earnings are a help. It comes from absolute security.

Undoubtedly we could have lived a much less comfortable life, with cheaper frocks and without developing, at least on my part for some of us had it already, the six acre bellow across the drawing room. We have lived cold, though never hungry - scrag of mutton stew will see any family through the dark with pearl barley and a wine pipe that runs from Tuscany to whatever accademia intellectual curiosity lands us in. But the great divide made by ownership is that we live as we choose. Not herded by hunger which comes first and fear which has to be added when hunger is removed from suasion.

In the world I came from the guarantee of independence of thought and freedom of movement was skill. Until the communists and socialists in England undermined the status of the skilled man as they wormed their way through the Union movement, unable to make ground by open call for the people's support. And when skill was not enough then property, no matter how small or degraded by changed economic usage, provided the face to take decisions in honesty and without fear. United, skills and property have carried us through lies, bullying and tyranny. Through war, state murder, refusal of patronage, rejecting fearful acquiescence, to decent professional esteem and some degree, some award, of personal probity.

Pity the poor. Not because of their poverty in material goods. That comes and goes. Pity them for their undefended world. Their vulnerability to power. There inability to command the most intimate aspects of their own lives - their physical well being, their education, their children's lives in both those things and more. And never, never, depend on these hateful statists for what you need to a lead a good and decent life.

The End of the Affair

The Regime is looking decidedly out of kilter. It holds Downing Street but not the Treasury, the Foreign office, or the Bank of England. Nor does it control the Leader of the House. It has lost the Speaker and without the Speaker and the Leader of the House government business is no longer firmly in its hands. Consequently there is the thinnest of government business programmes. Notably it is so unpopular in the country, (receiving only 15% of votes cast in a nation-wide election and beaten soundly in every by-election except where it used enormous numbers of doubtfully elicited postal votes and destroyed the voting register) it is unable to guarantee the election of any candidate for office in any by-election anywhere in the country. All sorts of ranks of ministers have had to be dumped or found in the Lords, including the Leader's effective replacement and full time minder.

When this happens to an administration the permanent governance begins to more than fray at the seams. It collapses. Civil servants will serve the elected government, and they will serve too the interests of the country that are longer term than a single elected government. But they will do this only when there is a governance derived from recognised, agreed terms. A social contract if you like between government and governed. That base has been destroyed by New Labour in its own interests of permanent power, of partisanship as a proper stance, rather than common interest and political morality.

So our government collapses. Commonwealth administered countries ignore our regime and settle their own affairs. Bermuda does not consult Brown on what it does any longer. Major financial interests, central to the economy of the country are placed under the tutelage of others. Europe does not consult Brown on regulation and control of financial behaviour. Industrial sectors, what wretched, ragged few remain, are disposed of without consultation of any interest of ours. Germany does not consult Brown on car assembly plant employment. And what Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg makes of 'Lord' Mandelson is his to know and ours to discover.

A control freak, as is our Prime Minister, might think that he is now in the best of all possible worlds. Every governmental decision must be referred to him or his nominee, as all other governance, political and administrative, is in a state of confusion and deshabille. The boiling water of electoral and political contempt has been poured into the nest. Now we watch as external and internal authority and regard collapses not just for the Brown New Labour regime, but for our country.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Don't Read Poetry, It's Bad for Prose

After being helped into his anorak - or is that a straitjacket? - Brown wastes our time in mouthing off on representation and written constitutions. Blocking out our futures with his big black crayons, while sending half-armed soldiers to their deaths so that he might buy images of ships and planes, powerless outside his cargo cult.

Towers of glass and not bamboo reach up from his City of unregulated delusion. And his handlers use tribal cult and rule to take what can be taken from our country.

Compare and Contrast

While an Italian family-based industry takes over Chrysler and prepares an international relaunch of a major sector of the car industry, a United Kingdom government minister (though he is called a 'lord' so he's a very important person) crawls off to Berlin to beg for mercy for car assembly workers and offer state inducements to keep them employed.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

What Am I Bid?





Nick Drew and Dearieme could have bought works by these two painters. Had they been willing to sell up house and home, that is. The moment at which Angels does just that for a painting comes closer by the day.

London Will Back Boris in Taking Out the Militant Tube Workers

"Let me make one thing plain. I respect the right of workers in the private sector to strike. Indeed, as president of my own union, I led the first strike ever called by that union. I guess I'm maybe the first one to ever hold this office who is a lifetime member of an AFL - CIO union. But we cannot compare labor-management relations in the private sector with government. Government cannot close down the assembly line. It has to provide without interruption the protective services which are government's reason for being."
President Ronald Reagan, 3 August 1981, Rose Garden of the White House.

Any London Underground employee who strikes, does not turn up for their shift, should be dismissed. There is a queue of people willing to drive tube trains for current wages and conditions. Employ them. If the United States could cope with attempts by air traffic controllers to demand 17 times the offer on wages and conditions previously agreed, London can face down the class aggression of Tube workers.

No Vision

The recession is not receding fast enough or far enough. Angels want to buy some paintings - literally paintings, not art works - and they are still so far out of reach. Some would like to buy a house, and the recession isn't doing its stuff in that market either.

The most unbearable thing about Brown is - after his own self - that he will keep trying to prevent the deflation of the bubbles. Nothing good is coming of the recession at all because of this. Instead of a really good slump, when we all get at some of the goodies, this installation of a prolonged grey misery of under consumption and hopelessness for life chances is a typical failure of the imagination.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Dress Codes

'Sasha, whose eighth birthday celebrations coincided with her trip to Europe, and Malia, 10, may remember Mrs Brown fondly. The last time that they saw her, when the Browns visited the White House in March, she left them each a carefully chosen set of clothes from Topshop' (Times).

Topshop? Carefully chosen sets of clothes? Aaaaaagh.

Labour's Real Cause for Shame

"In any reshuffle a prime minister will look at every post and decide what he chooses to do, I'm still the chancellor. There is no problem. Gordon and I will work as closely as ever."

"I'm very confident. I want to see this through and I am determined to see it through."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not delivering the same message as other Labour ministers. They are all declaring that Gordon is the man to lead them and in charge of his administration and his Party - those of them who are left after the mass exodus last week, that is.

The Chancellor states flatly that although the Prime minister will look at every post and decide what he chooses to do, Brown was not able to do that in the case of the post that is as powerful as that of the prime ministership itself. Blair could not dismiss Brown, now Brown cannot dismiss Darling. Yet neither chancellor was doing what the prime minister of the day wanted. More importantly, while the Chancellor today gave little emphasis to Brown being accepted as Leader of the Party, he did speak of the Party.

He spoke to something of much greater relevance. He spoke of Labour's shame, it's historic failure, the absolute and unavoidable responsibility it bears, through the policies that it has followed for the last long years.

The Chancellor spoke of the Labour party providing a platform upon which not one but two standard bearer's of the British National Party have been elected by popular vote to our continent's Parliament, representing parts of England.

We know that the British National Party is not a party of the right. It is an authoritarian, statist party committed to central planning, and to the close control of civil society. It's voters would have some difficulty in distinguishing many of its policies and objectives, and their means of delivery, from the Labour party. Except for its stance on the migration of peoples. And even there, the same principles are being used by the two parties, but with different objectives.

The Labour regime does discriminate by ethnicity, by economic status, by gender. It does collect, insists on collecting, data using those categories. It explains this behaviour by the justification that it intends to 'stamp out' certain kinds of discriminatory practices in the allocation of the big-state social wage, and in the labour market. What a dangerous set of practices to have allowed to become the modus operandi of the welfare state. Can there be any surprise that now the electors want discriminatory practices used to different groups' advantage? Labour has set in motion the overt mechanisms for discrimination. A dreadful thing to have done.

The Prime Minister himself demands British Jobs for British Workers, while woman after woman leaves his administration owning that the masculinist vulgarity of Brown's clique is unbearable. The Leader of the BNP demands the same but identifies British by the colour of the skin and the characteristics of the culture. This pair of disgraceful social and political bullies, each pretending that only the other is politically and morally unacceptable, are thinking and acting with the same improper categories.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has identified social housing as the take-off point for BNP electability, while the Prime Minster has identified labour migration; over all, Brown's regime, his Labour party, has provided a blue print for the centralised, authoritarian big state, discriminating in favour of its clients.

At least the Chancellor is acknowledging the shame and speaking of changing Labour's policy directions to push any version of such a state and its governance outside the Pale once more.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Brown Will Be Kept On

The Conservative dilemma is that they would like to fight a general election against a surefire loser, hence they have not really carried the fight to Brown. But now that they are ready there isn't a general election to fight. There are barely any by-elections, and the substitute votes at local and European level are not really doing more than demonstrating to all, including Labour supporters, how unpopular Brown's regime is, and enabling Labour supporters to let off steam about expenses and incompetences various. Like many of the rebellious Labour ex-ministers and current backbenchers the Conservatives, too, are assuming that Labour will think it best for the Labour party's longer term survival for Brown to be pushed out now and keep losses trimmed back from near annihilation, not wait any longer.

They have made a fatal error. The holding of Brown in position by Mandelson is not acquiescence in his policies or belief in his abilities. The universal contempt in which Brown is held is just that - universal. But while he is propped up in the office of prime minister the Labour party has time. Time to renew its battered image using the profits of office to fund itself. Time to reorganise itself from a trade union and welfare based essentially minority party that enjoys occasional bouts of office, to a tax-funded, administrative party that moves with the public mood and economic and financial circumstance - from high tax big state to lower tax somewhat - smaller state, to renew its appeal and stay in power answering to the electorate only once every five years.

This, of course, is the ground of the New Labour Project. The airs played above that ground in the last years have been too bitterly fought over by old guards, and left-leaners, by control freaks and delusional past glory as a world power seekers, by unreformed institutional Party structures answering to narrow, paying the piper interests, until the Project has been brought almost to an end.

On the theme 'never waste a good crisis' the Project's chief architect is there using the last months of power to clatter heads together and make the factions understand the urgency of a New party. Better to accept the end of the 20th century Party and its 20th century characteristics of responsiveness to union power and realised socialist redistribution by a benign state, better to abandon the nation state and its past assertiveness in running the world, better to abandon the beards and sandals civil liberties. And essential to do it at once. There is no more time for wallowing in faded ideologies and a collapsed economic and industrial past. It would be surprising if this time the Party name were not abandoned too, interred with honour in the great mausoleum to be constructed to Labour's glorious past (that'll keep the old and silly Party hacks busy).

The added advantage of all this is the reinvigorating of grass roots support, involvement in aspects of the Project that do not impinge directly on power-wielding but produce feelings of inclusiveness and worth - focus and input in countrywide citizen's groupings, variously named. Entire careers to be constructed on tax-supported 'charitable' undertakings to assuage the desires of those who wish to do good in Labour's name.

But time is now so short if the Party is to be reborn that central direction and authority must be accepted. As must Gordon Brown remaining in office until the shining New party is built. If he is pulled down the Party will die. Destroyed by the Conservatives who have delayed for just that goal - of being opposed by a Brown taking Labour to destruction. Delayed too long. Once the New party goal is clear and sought after, rather than grudgingly agreed as worth a try as it was in 1997, Labour will hang on to their one claim to power until they are ready with their New party. None of this done in Opposition either. Done fast, driven by needs must, and paid for by us. And if they aren't quite ready by next May, then there won't be a general election until they are. That's easy to arrange.

Brown won't be leading them then. Not when his usefulness is finished. But for now he will be held together and held in office, no matter how he behaves.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

So Who Would You Like As Our Prime Minister?

It Cannot Have Been Easy for the Prince of Wales

I admired the Prince of Wales yesterday and regret a remark, in an earlier post on 2 June.

Prince Charles stepped up and did his duty and represented us all, wearing the medals and honours that he has been awarded as a serving member of our armed forces. It was noticeable that Brown has no such distinctions.

Brown was distinguished by his greeting of boos and shouts of rejection from the veterans whose Commemoration he had gatecrashed and from which he had tried to exclude our county's representative.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Inequality and Its Growth Under New Labour

These are much more damning indictments of what New Labour has done than the maps of the destruction of the Labour party across England as hundreds of local Labour councillors lose their seats for Brown and Mandelson's careers.




Stop it Now

The sensitivity shown by President Obama in avoiding Berlin and going instead to Dresden and to Buchenwald was at first misinterpreted as a snub to the German Chancellor - an indication of poor relations between the United States and Germany. Yesterday the President rebuked the press for deliberate trouble-making. "Stop it" he said, in so many words.

Dresden is the image of the suffering of Germany in the Second World War. And Buchenwald the name for the destruction of our common humanity. In paying homage to what was lost at Buchenwald, and in visiting the gloriously restored Frauenkirche in the city so shamefully firestormed as Germany lay defeated and undefended, President Obama avoided any pretence that there have not been terrible divisions in peoples and in beliefs, yet asserted that they are capable of being overcome. To have gone to Berlin and then straight to the Normandy invasion beaches would have been as wrong as speaking as he did in Egypt without such a public recognition of what Buchenwald is, and made.

Both Leaders were pleased with their discussions, and gave measured and solid reassurance that the responses of two of the world's most powerful economies to the economic crisis were not opposed. Nor are they disapproving of the other, but informed and responding to analyses of events as they occurred, in consultation. Certainly there are differences but not conflict.

It is a sadness that Mr Brown, in his propaganda operations and from his very nature, has sought to misrepresent the policies being followed by the United States as being led by him, and those in Europe as mistaken and opposed to his 'saving the world'. In attempting to draw his trademark 'lines' and demonise any view other than his own, he does a typical disservice to the United Kingdom's credibility in the outside world.

President Obama would do a great service to England if he would tell Brown to "Stop it" too.

Friday, 5 June 2009

A Vote of Confidence

Angels cannot list the New cabinet installed by New Labour's Mr Brown. It won't stand still long enough to be satisfactorily and wholly identified. If the New Labour regime is still standing on Monday though, when it has undergone such extensive 'reshuffling' the House of Commons might reasonably require that it should face a vote of confidence.

We, the people, have no confidence in this farrago whatever, but our Parliament should give its considered opinion immediately it meets.

Is There Anybody Out There?

We are at war, and the Defence Minister resigns.

We have mass unemployment and rising, and the biggest unfunded pensions crisis ever, and the Minister for Work and Pensions resigns.

We have local government elections throughout the country in which the ruling Party vote has collapsed completely, and the Minister for Local Government has resigned.

We have European elections where the vote for Labour has fallen to third and possibly fourth place, and the Minister for Europe demands a seat in Cabinet in return for not resigning.

We have the highest levels of concern about safety and security in civil society, the security of our borders, and the destruction of our civil liberties, and the Home Secretary resigns.

We have the highest level of public debt ever, including the aftermath of the second World War, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer refuses to resign when required to do so by the Prime Minister.

We have the Business Minister flying round the world setting right the various offence caused by the Foreign Secretary, who refuses to resign when required to do so by the Prime Minister.

We have a Prime Minister who has landed us with £1.3 trillion of debt, no manufacturing or industrial base, and cannot control his own administration, who refuses to resign.

Fog in Channel Continent Isolated

Germany’s position on responding to the recession is winning out in the EU. The working papers of the Economic and Finance Committee prepared for the Ecofin meeting are reported in FT Deutschland. It is argued that it is now time to plan an exit strategy and agree on a binding plan to reduce deficits. 'Europe’s finance ministers are determined to decide a fiscal exit strategy as early as Tuesday, in time for the June 19 EU summit.' France wants to wait until September before reining in stimulus measures on the grounds that deficits are due to lower tax receipts not discretionary fiscal measures.

The Saviour of the World has just been foiled in implementing a potentially disastrous programme of discretionary fiscal measures by being too weak to sack the Chancellor of the Exchequer. ('Beefing up' the Department of Business, reported in the FT on the reshuffle, by adding parts of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills such as responsibilities for science and possibly skills, is no substitute for holding the Treasury.) Now the Europeans aren't going to do as he wants either. The G20 days of glory were confined to Docklands.

Brown 'Keeps Buggering On'

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary won't go willingly. Indeed they are offering their undying support to the Prime Minister (except in the matter of getting out of his way).

Brown wants Balls at the Treasury, Mandelson at the Foreign Office, Vadera at Business with himself saving the world from his nice new war room, beginning with some lovely piccies of Brown with his supporter Obama on Sunday. The Leadership of the House is Harman's, and she's just about the last of the wimmin and she's the elected deputy Leader, so he can't lay hands on that to move Darling forcibly. The Home Office has been gutted of all its interesting bits and Jack Straw has those over at Justice.

Brown can't just ignore formal government structures because he has to gain control of monetary policy, inflation targets and quantitative easing, and they're with King and the Committee. The Chancellor has to take back the independence, such as it is, of the Bank of England, under reserve powers in the 1998 Act.

Brown wants one more desperate round of scorched earth economic policies to 'draw lines' between wicked Tory 'cuts' and Labour 'investment' in even more public debt funded realised socialism.

Sterling is still falling.

Update:
Defence secretary John Hutton has resigned and will leave Parliament at the next election. (FT)

Mr Hutton's resignation statement:

Mr Hutton has issued the following statement:

"I have decided to resign from the Government. I will also be standing down as a Member of Parliament at the next general election.

"This is not the place to go into my reasons for leaving. But I can say that it has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to take. I was delighted to be appointed Secretary of State for Defence last October. I have always had the deepest admiration for our Armed Forces, and everything they do.

"My respect and affection for our Service personnel, and the civilians who support them, has grown still further since I became Defence Secretary. Seeing our people go about their tasks at home and on operations with the professionalism and commitment for which they are renowned has impressed me immensely. It has been my privilege to have been responsible for the best armed forces in the world.

"My decision has been made even harder by the fact that our forces are engaged in very difficult operations in Afghanistan, having completed successfully our combat mission in Iraq. I am humbled by the sacrifice of our young men and women.

"I will be very sad to leave the Ministry of Defence. I wish all of you - and your families - well for the future and thank every one of you for your efforts."

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Not Made in Our Image and Likeness

Encompassing all political activity within New Labour was one of the most pernicious of the Project's policies. Containing policy analysis and choice within the Party and, worse, very narrowly within the Party elite, defining all other opposition as outside normal or even legal activity undermined a characteristic of the post War political settlement that led to undermining democracy itself.

Holding power never meant holding power to the exclusion of everyone else. There is a great body of agreement on what is reasonable and expected in our politics and society and a strong sense of a political pendulum moving across sets of emphases as times and external imperatives and gains in one social group or another generate new circumstances. Parties themselves react with growth and change but move within political parameters that we have called Labour and Conservative. It is an understanding that fits very well with the autopoiesis of our Constitution.

The Brown regime holds no such conception of co-operation, change, self reform. Opposition is not just mistaken or wrong, it is bad, immoral, unacceptable of its very oppositionyness.

It is no accident that we have all identified Mr Brown's personality and noted that the traits he displays so markedly are present also in those he regards as his circle. The clutching of power to self, the secretiveness, the sense that only he can 'make that happen', the surprise that disagreement is regarded as noteworthy and should be acceded to when another view is preferred by the majority. As a person Mr Brown simply does not fit onto our democratic and political system. And now it is extruding him from itself with the strength that he had thought of as weakness - its infinite, informal, innate adaptability to the nature of our social and political order.

Charles Clarke, a Kingsman, called Brown 'uncollegiate'. Precisely.

Will Bunnies Go to France?

President Obama did the right thing in forcing Downing Street to come to its senses about the D Day commemorations. Perhaps Mr Brown now has grasped the difference between being a political leader and being Leader of a state. Prince Charles will represent the Queen and through her, all of us, at the weekend. She, and we, will still be here on Monday. Will Brown even make it to the weekend?

Even if he's still hanging on as prime minister, still pushes his way forward for his photo op with the American President, it's hard to imagine what the Heads of State will have to say to him other than good day and goodbye.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Who Governs England?

The Scots (SNP) and the Welsh (Plaid), who have their own Parliaments, are forcing a debate in the House of Commons on the dissolution of the Westminster parliament.

A large part of the unelected Prime Minister's Westminster majority, which he took over from Blair's 2005 election victory, is made up of Labour occupants of Scottish and Welsh Westminster seats.

Well, He Would Say That, Wouldn't He.

Mr Brown rejected Mr Cameron's charge that Britain had "a dysfunctional Cabinet, a dysfunctional Government, led by a Prime Minister who can't give a lead".

Is It the Wimmin Who Will Bring Brown Down?

The Independent is reporting that Hazel Blears has resigned. How many more can Brown watch resigning from his regime to rejoin the Labour movement?

Expenses Scandals Reveal the Scandalous State of UK Housing Stock

Notably the expenses claiming for houses has underlined the poor state of much of the housing stock. Rotting floors, damp, wrecked guttering and downpipes, extensive need for high level (from the ground, that is) repointing, roof repairs and replacements, lack of triple glazing, poor security, fencing and walling, and putting right the wilder shores of DIY interventions of the seventies. Poor internal maintenance, worn out kitchens and bathrooms, electrical outdatedness for modern needs or even outright dangerous, no insulation and elderly, inefficient heating systems. All this in quite undistinguished houses, the everyday houses of ordinary people.

Of itself it carries an important message. People have not been left enough of their own earnings to maintain their dwellings to a reasonable standard. The taxes they have borne have been so high, or their pretax wage levels so low (but they aren't particularly low by European standards, it's the stoppages on wages, not the wages themselves) that a major part of social infrastructure has been driven into grave dilapidation.

The constructing of a realised socialism at least in part of the economy has devastated everyday life enjoyment. It's all very well spending on 'schools'n'hospitals' but not when they are producer oriented systems that effectively starve consumers, by definition private consumers, of the means to provide themselves with shelter that is at advanced capitalist country standards.

Of course MPs out to make a profit may have bought rundown housing to advantage themselves with our meeting their renovation bills. I suspect though that most of us have had, and would have, difficulty in finding housing maintained at a decent level. The response to this is not government grants and means tested refurbishment allowances (although there is room for local authority co-ordination of, for instance terraces of roofing or better water and sewage services, and streetscaping, even walling). There wouldn't be such need for health services and 'place of refuge and tranquility' attitudes rather than 'place of learning and training' in education spending if we were left, all of us, with enough of our earnings to house ourselves properly. And keep our houses maintained to modern standards.

Taking Back the Bank

When the Bank of England was made 'independent' in the New Dawn, Brown and Balls tried to limit the loss of power to the Treasury by all and any means - the most notorious was the hiving-off of financial regulation to the FSA although the research and expertise needed to supervise financial activity was in the Bank. Just as importantly, reserve powers were secured in the Act to take back the conduct of monetary policy and set interest rates.

Brown cannot implement the cuts to spending and raise taxes to the levels needed to deal with government debt for obvious political reasons. His client state, his power base, he himself, would be lost.

The debt is to be inflated away and for that Brown needs to break every rule in the book, for though the UK may not use the Euro (oh Five Tests of yesteryear, where are you now?) it is as constrained by EU rules, no matter how relaxed during this recession, as any other Member State. And to break the rules he needs Balls at the Treasury. They set their false bank independence up and left an escape hatch. Darling has to go so that they can use it.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Looks Like Carelessness

Mr Brown has declared vehemently that he will not resign the Leadership of the Labour party. It's beginning to look as if the Labour party is resigning from Mr Brown.

Jonah Messes Up 65th D Day Commemoration Ceremonies

He's really excelled himself this time. It took the President of the United States, The President of France, The Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the other Commonwealth Realms (also Duke of Normandy), and the heir to the Throne to lift Brown's jinx. And it hasn't even started yet.

No doubt Elizabeth II wanted to preserve Derby day as an enjoyable occasion rather than whatever catastrophe men and horses would have been plunged into by the jettatore had he been planning to attend, so had him send himself off to France.

Russian Roulette

A spokesman for the Department for Business ruled out any further help for the company saying it was "ready to offer support to the workers though the job centre."

Can you hear Vauxhall? This is Deripaska, Gaz, and Mandelson with his special 'people he knows' political model speaking here.

You can all rely on support from the job centre.

Nearly 6,000 UK jobs at vanmaker LDV are at risk. LDV employs 840 workers at its Birmingham factory and a further 5,000 staff are employed by suppliers and manufacturers to the business.

Workers were sent home today after LDV was forced to reapply for administration.

Send Prince Andrew. He Has Fought for Our Country

The Queen, too, was in uniform, serving during the the Second World War. Prince William and Prince Harry are serving officers. As usual, there doesn't seem much point to the Prince of Wales.

The Prince of Wales is to attend the 65th anniversary celebrations of D-Day after the intervention of President Barack Obama.

King of Italy Celebrates the Values of the Italian Republic




Il capo dello Stato ricorda che "il 2 giugno si celebra la proclamazione della Repubblica, passaggio decisivo nel lungo e travagliato cammino storico che l'Italia ha dovuto percorrere per poter fare definitivamente propri i principi di democrazia, libertà, uguaglianza e giustizia sui quali si fonda la nostra Costituzione".

[The Head of State reminds us

"2 June celebrates the proclamation of the Republic, the long and difficult historical journey that Italy has had to make to be able realise clearly the principles of democracy, freedom, equality and justice upon which our Constitution is founded."]

Even Labour Party Members Must Vote Against Brown

It is hard not to wonder at the Labour movement. It is their party that is being destroyed before their eyes by the Brown regime. Since 1997 they have watched their party being saddled with every kind of infamy. Illegal wars, the reintroduction of the use of judicial torture, and information gained from torture used in court, the looting of savings and pensions funds and then the looting of taxpayers and the state, the dereliction into which education and learning has fallen, the killing of hospital patients from dirt and neglect, the mass unemployment, the steep increases in inequality, the encroachments on civil liberties.

To their credit they have joined the rest of us in protesting and opposing this corruption of their own beliefs and aims. They have demonstrated, written, sued, argued, resigned. But they have also continued their support as if each aberration were a special instance of wrong decision-making, or unavoidable response, or even believed that it all started in America.

If this last twelve years is what Labour does, what Labour is it has been achieved (if that is the word) in part by the enclosing of the PLP and more particularly the Labour Executive in defensive Party rules, embedded alterations to the Rule Book that make the mass Party unable to touch the Executive. Unable to affect any policy choice, or alter any decision once it has emerged from Executive secrecy. These last years have been a travesty of what Labour stands for and Labour supporters and Party members have a very short time indeed to remove this Leadership and its politicised administrators, and recover their political and moral claims to democratic support.

Until Brown and his cabinet have been removed from office and the Labour party chooses itself a new leadership our, including the Labour movement's, political democracy is enervated.

The effect of removing any answerability to the mass movement via Party structures evicts even the paid-up Party membership from what has come to be seen as Labour by the electorate at large. You have all been thrown out of the Party. And you all need to think how you are going to vote at the end of the week. Your choices are the same as for the rest of us. Do you want Brown and his Executive to continue in power? And, what is worse, in power most particularly in your name, on your local efforts, your commitment to Labour, real Labour ideals?

All you have, like the rest of us, all you have now is your vote. Who will you lend it to in joining all of us to demonstrate that Brown's regime represents none of us.