Friday, 30 March 2012

Bradford Goes West

Respect taking more than 55% of the vote in a bog-standard safe Labour seat is bad news for all the main political parties.  Electorates are voting tactically with remarkable outcomes. It takes a long time to convince voters that in first-past-the-post systems the vote should be cast against the target candidate, not for the preferred Party necessarily.  To have a charismatic and highly communicative candidate set against the target candidate is a bonus.

Thoughts turn at once to the elections for the London mayor but this is a very different election; not first-past-the-post, with inner city  and outer suburban electorates voting  markedly differently, and with both parties represented by non-standard candidates who, each in their own way, can be seen as a maverick.  Except the qualities that make Boris a maverick are very much more attractive than the maverick qualities of Ken Livingstone.  Indeed so unpleasant has Livingstone so amply shown himself to be, he has succeeded in losing many of the Party votes that might have accrued to him on party loyalty grounds.

It is the relatively safe seats in constituencies everywhere that are going to be touched by the Bolton West effect.  Harriet Harman has said Labour will be working out what happened and why.  So should the other mainstream parties - hurriedly.  Labour was the first to get the vote-savvy effect in the neck, by 2015 it will  be everywhere.

Unless minds change in a hurry over single constituency, first-past-the-post voting.  It wouldn't be a bit surprising if a brief, all-party supported bill nipped through Parliament in the next 18 months and we had a proportional, party-list system after all for our next expression of 'democracy' .

Monday, 26 March 2012

Eating Ice Cream

Offered an ice cream cornet:  remove your gloves; take one of those teeny, multi-coloured plastic spoons from the assistant and use it to attack your ice cream, do not use your tongue or any other part of your anatomy; help yourself generously to paper napkins from the dispenser, and  stand still.  Do not walk about,  trying to eat ice cream;  least of all leave the ice cream shop and eat your ice cream in the street.

Should there be concern about the Prince of Wales's fingers?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Second Thoughts on the Budget and Showing a Bit of Egalitarian Ankle

"The failure of a disastrous model of economic growth" is the Chancellor's succinct account in his budget speech of what happened to the UK under Labour.  It was matched in Ed Miliband's equally revelatory response that the United States economy was growing under that model, growing under stimulation and 'investment' policies that should have been persisted in by the UK,  even as it was brought down by unsustainable state debt.

The United States is the World power.  It cannot go bankrupt.  It is an enormous economy beside which it is pointless to place the economy of the United Kingdom.  As the government copes with the devastating results of  hubris,  Atlanticist intellectual fawning, and failed policies aimed at the disruption of European integration rather than at the withdrawal of the UK from the Union, Labour displays poverty of understanding, poverty of personnel, poverty of proposals for the sensible pursuit of debt-reduction and economic growth.

All they offer is those worn-out faces with their worn-out policies.  "Be like America.  The economists we cite have won Nobel prizes."  While all around them the people of the UK are hanging on like grim death to their housing and their jobs  and their shrinking public services because of vile experiments practised on their economy by those incompetent, bamboozled, economic idiots with a nasty line in state and Party control.

And as for the poor pensioners: pensioners are not a homogenous group.  Of course  the final salary, comfy house bought for small multiples of annual income on endowment mortgages that actually returned a profit,  university free-at-the-point-of-use, free travel pass toting generation should cough up.  They  are the 'rich' and many are 'rich' on state employee unfunded pension payments.  We are all in this together, particularly those who retired at 60 or even earlier and have quarter of a century of largesse yet to finish consuming.  If a pensioner hasn't a large enough income they won't be paying more tax.  There is a certain schadenfreude in reading of their shock at discovering that this time the gate came down in front of them, and not behind their cohort.   

What pension 'raid'?  Income is income and tax is tax.  Everyone should be handing over for agreed outgoings - the wider the tax base the more government expenditure can be controlled by interested tax-payers.  Something on the lines of that old, progressive chestnut 'everyone should use state educational and health services so that they benefit from the sharp elbows of the middle classes'.

Pity there wasn't a wealth tax introduced; inter-generational inequalities are far too embedded.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

First Budget Reaction

It had been said many times that Ed Miliband is more than inadequate, he is nuts, but I had assumed it was a weakish expression of distaste for a fratricidal, union puppet.

On the evidence of Miliband's response to the Chancellor of Exchequer's budget speech it can be considered a kind evaluation.   There was no response to the 2012 budget; most of the detailed response was to what had been announced in the 2011 budget.  It was a response that displayed no intellectual capacity to speak to the arguments and information just laid out in the Chancellor's speech. 

It had the kind of refrain that occurs in  dreadful English folk songs - a sort of hey nonny no about same old wicked Tories - which he chanted every couple of sentences.

The man is stupid. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cameron Gets It

"... our post-war predecessors had the right idea, embodied in the visionary plan prepared by Patrick Abercrombie in 1944.  His plan underpinned the Southeast’s economic success by proposing well planned and well located new towns, which would in time become new engines of economic growth.  And he twinned that vision with proposals for a new London green belt to prevent sprawl. Now, while everyone celebrates the success of the green belt, far fewer people celebrate the contribution that the new towns made to maintaining it intact.  Some people feel we’ve lost the art of creating great places with the right social and environmental infrastructure.   .... in the last century private and social enterprises also created places like Hampstead Garden Suburb, Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, not perfect, but popular, green,...."

And there are schools like this too:

At this time of year we would be singing, 
'There  is a green hill far away'  in Assembly.
Not so grandly as these chaps 30 miles up the road perhaps;  we did  'enthusiastic attack' in our Hall.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Narrowing the Field for the Presidency of the World Bank

Under the pretence of widening the field for the presidency of the World Bank the usual pseudo-keynesian, 'progressive'  suspects are pushing for choice to be narrowed.  The FT publishes what is effectively a letter posing as a multi-authored article  calling for a President who is: not necessarily American; not necessarily from the developing economies; is a proponent of a particular economic (read political) ideology; and their arguments are made with the usual holier-than-thou moral and ethical stance that only the 'left' is capable of achieving the Good.

Let us thank Goodness, then, that 'diplomatic and managerial skills' make the criteria cut.
A  'distinguished record as an economic policymaker, outstanding professional background, familiarity with banking and finance, ... [and] solid knowledge and experience of development policy' might be claimed by some lacking self-awareness, repentance, intellectual humility, and currently seeking a new World role.    Be afraid.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Widespread reports that south and southeast England are suffering a drought of 1976 proportions raise interesting problems, not least: who owns the water delivered to a consumer?  Quite draconian limitations upon water  use have been published: no garden-watering, car-washing etc;  even our windows are to maintain a steadily increasing layer of dirt.  But are there unspoken limitations on what we do with our water after we have used it?

In a country with hot, dry summers, not to mention a reasonable if needs-driven level of eco-consciousness,   everyone has installed, or will instal at the next refurbishment,   means to collect the acque chiare - rain water, kitchen run-off, shower and basin waste.  This water is theirs to use as they choose.  Bought and paid for at an ever higher price the greater the consumption.  In an eco-house the water system is almost enclosed; much of the water coming in stays.  It does not set off down the drains to be recycled by the water company and resold.

Is that the case in England? Or are we paying our bills to rent the use of water which is then mostly returned to the companies for re-renting after clean-up?   It's difficult to tell from the media announcements but they do take the form of specific prohibitions  - 'banned'  activities rather than banned mains water usage (you can leave your kitchen tap running and there's no  penalty).

Somehow it is all reminiscent of the television license fee:pay to own the set even if  BBC-watching enters the 'cruel and unusual punishment' category.  Pay for the water but you can't do what you like with it and you might as well hand it back as all the activities you would use recycled water for are banned.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Get Your Glad Rags On.....

Or at least your desert, cover-up garb.

'International politicans have thrown their weight behind Kuwait’s bid to move its economy forward, with former British prime minister Gordon Brown giving the country his backing to host the World Economic Forum in 2013, according to the Kuwait News Agency.

Perhaps they don't know; but Angels could have sworn  that the concept of  jettatore is carried,  is profoundly understood,  in Arab cultures.