Monday, 30 April 2012

Too Much Poverty, Not Too Many People

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith writes:

Madagascar is the sort of place that we Brits know little about. Indeed try anyone on the subject of France’s former colonies in Africa, and you often draw a blank. Places like Burkina Faso attract little interest. Thus, it was good to be able to watch the ever engaging Simon Reeve on his way round the Indian Ocean, stopping off at this huge island.

Simon Reeve, for those of you who do not know him, is simply the best television presenter there is, and though young, he has an impressive portfolio of programmes behind him. He is certainly someone to watch, in every sense.

And what did Simon find in Madagascar? Well, sadly, it was the all too common tale of ecological devastation. To be frank, Madagascar seemed somewhat unattractive to me – treeless, deforested, and flat. Rather like parts of Kenya, I suppose, the less well known parts. And Simon and one of the conservationists he met was right, I think, to identify the destruction of forests as catastrophic.

There are many reasons why deforestation takes place, but one group of conservationists in the programme identified a burgeoning population as being a major problem, and were teaching the villagers about what the programme called family planning. Simon rightly observed that rich westerners telling poor villagers to have fewer children was problematic. Quite so; but I did wonder just how overpopulated Madagascar was.

A quick look at Wikipedia, that invaluable help for lazy writers, confirmed the following:

• Madagascar has an area of 226,597 square miles and a population of just under 22 million, according to the latest estimate. That makes for a density of 91.1 people per square mile.

• The United Kingdom, just for the sake of comparison, has an area of 94,060 square miles and an estimated population of around 62 million, which means a density of 661.9 people per square mile.

I was never any good at maths, but this seems to indicate that the United Kingdom is far more crowded than Madagascar; and indeed the south-east of England considered on its own would be even more densely populated still. Come to think of it, some of the world’s most prosperous countries are also its most crowded – Holland, for example.

Madagascar’s real problem is poverty, and poverty has many causes. Growing population is often a result of poverty, rather than a cause of it. Simon Reeve did spot the fact that the country’s infrastructure is virtually non-existent and its roads among the worst in the world- some looked even more bone-shaking than Kenya’s. I know that television is not a subtle medium, but it might have been better if the programme made clear that the population question in Madagascar has to be seen in the context of its other challenges – and that handing out condoms is not necessarily what those poor villagers need.

The rest of the programme took us to Mauritius, which is far more prosperous than Madagascar, but seemed, to me, at least, to be just as treeless. And then it was onto the Seychelles which are “verdant”, though here we met a fine Yorkshireman who had reforested a small island.

It was good to see Simon tackle some sensitive subjects, such as the whole question of Chinese investment in places like Mauritius. And he also took up the cause of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, who were moved to Mauritius by the British government to make room for the American base on their island. This question, which barely causes a ripple in the consciousness of modern Britain, deserves to be more widely known. I will try and make it the subject of a future article. But kudos to Simon Reeve for bringing up the plight of the Chagossians, who are among the least fortunate of the dispossessed populations of this earth.

Tricolour Britain

Fraser Nelson writes:

With unionists getting grubbed in Scotland and Labour being driven to near-extinction in vast swathes of the south, a new map of political Britain is emerging. In my latest Telegraph column, I called it ‘Tricolour Britain’ — the SNP at the top, Tories at the bottom and Labour stuck in the middle (with Wales). Policy Exchange has today released research which throws more light on this slow-mo political segregation. I thought CoffeeHousers may be interested in what strike me as the top points.

1. Scottish Tory Syndrome is when a once-dominant party loses and doesn’t recover. The party has failed to capture the imagination of voters, so when its apparatus is knocked down there’s no political force to bring it back. Rather than become hated, it is ridiculed. When I left Scotland in 1995, voting Tory was still seen as a great evil. Now, it’s seen as a curiosity — a harmless but odd English habit like Morris Dancing or cricket. It has become just culturally alien in large parts of Scotland: something that’s just not done. I have friends who are Tory in London but SNP in Scotland.

2. Labour is facing extinction in vast chunks of the South West. Labour holds just 140 of the 1,873 of the council seats in the South West, or 7 per cent. In Dorset, it’s 3 per cent of councillors. In Cornwall, it’s 0.8 per cent. And if you think that’s bad, in 17 South West councils, Labour has zero representation. This is what political extinction looks like.

3. Save Ben Bradshaw! And even where the (urban) pockets of the south west where Labour is reasonably healthy — like Plymouth and Exeter — there are concerns right at the top of the Labour Party that it is losing apparatus and reputation. Ben Bradshaw, the Exeter MP, wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph protesting against this analysis. He’s one of my favourite Labour MPs, a walking reminder of the era when Labour won landslides nationwide. So I don’t wish him gone. All I can say is that a lot of people, atop his party, are very worried that Labour is becoming as alien to voters in the South West as the Conservatives are in Scotland.

4. The Labour-Tory North-South gap is big, and widening. The following graph shows the difference between the Conservative and Labour poll numbers in the North and the South:

5. The Lib Dems are losing friends in the north, deemed guilty by association. Polls in Scotland suggest that, at the next election, the Lib Dems will lose all but one of their Scottish seats — left only with Orkney & Shetland. That’s punishment for supping with the blue devil. In England, a gap is emerging for Lib Dems support in the North and South. They are fielding 1,100 fewer council candidates, and focusing on the South West — to defend what they have chosen as their heartland. Tory ministers have noticed how Lib Dem ministers think of any excuse to visit the South West.

6. The Tom Watson-isation of Labour. Orwell wrote about a ‘northern snobbishness’ which regards the South as inhabited ‘merely by rentiers and their parasites’. This is, increasingly, Labour’s attack line: Cameron and Osborne are posh rentiers, with parasitical banker chums. Brown-era hit men Tom Watson and Ian Austin are both northerners keen to play the class card against the Tories (the one they were itching to play against Blair and the likes of Bradshaw). Slowly, you can hear this coming through the Miliband/Balls attack line (‘out of touch’).

7. Labour deserts are emerging in the South and several councils have zero Labour members, including: Cheltenham, Eastleigh, Dorset, Poole, Wokingham, Maidstone, Cotswold, Tewkewsbury, South Somerset and Purbeck.

8. Tories: no friends in the north. Cameron’s message is like Heart FM: it sounds great to southerners, but they don’t get it up north. In 1951, the Tories held 51 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the North West; now they are down to 29 per cent. The following cities have zero Tories on the council: Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield. Neil O’Brien, director of Policy Exchange, has previously observed that Tories do so badly in cities that only two Tory MPs have premiership football teams in their constituency.

9. All parties have thinning troops, so they will be defending their base. The disenchantment with Westminster parties has seen all of them lose members, volunteers, leaflet deliverers etc. Parties with scarce resources will simply give up on places where there’s no seats to be had. Look at the top 100 Labour target seats — just seven of them are in the South West. Why bother there? If you’re a Tory strategist with £1m, you’ll spend it in the Midlands where there’s more low-hanging fruit — not in Scotland. Thus parties simply give up on parts of the UK, and the voters give up on them.

10. It’s not all Geography. Labour and Tory voters have pretty much the same concerns, north and south. The Policy Exchange polling shows that swing voters in the North and the South have near-identical responses to a whole bunch of questions. The following opinions are closest to party choice: believing benefits are too high, being inclined to use private healthcare, regarding the human rights agenda as a problem and being annoyed that public sector pay is higher than that in the real economy. There may be proportionally more C2D voters in the North than in the South, but finding a message for those C2Ds is something that would help either Labour or the Tories nationwide. The solution is not to have a ‘Minister for Merseyside’ but a message for those voters. People won’t come running back to a party if there is no inspiring message. The way to break out of the geographical barricades is to find a cause that people think is worth supporting. Sometimes, politics really is that simple.

In point of fact, Labour is now winning council by-elections with 60 per cent of the vote in Southern villages where it had not previously stood candidates for 30 years or more, if ever.

Like the Marxists of old, today’s Conservatives are driven by a determination to conform reality to theory. Crippling provincial economies by slashing the spending power of public employees far from London. Redefining legal marriage in order to include same-sex couples, which has never been Labour Party policy, and on which Labour MPs are probably going to have a free vote. Deregulating Sunday trading. Devastating rural communities by flogging off our Post Office and our roads to private companies and even to foreign states. Breaking the Royal Mail’s direct link between the monarchy and every address in this Kingdom. Abolishing Gift Aid while drastically reducing the activities entitled to charitable status. Bankrupting the Church of England by imposing VAT on listed building repairs. How many parishioners of the Vicar of Dibley want any of that?

We are in the situation that obtained between September 1992 and May 1997, when everyone knew that there was going to be a Labour Government just as soon as there was a General Election. But we also need a body of MPs, enough to hold the balance of power or at least to be useful in the way that the Ulster Unionists sometimes were, for a price, to John Major, in order to keep the Miliband Government faithful to the mainstream, moderate British politics of those who will have put it in. Economically social democratic, sanely conservative socially and culturally, and non-jingoistically patriotic in all directions: the EU, the US, Israel, the Gulf monarchs, whoever, including separatists in any part of the United Kingdom, and including those who may have imported communalism at local level.

Obvious, though by no means exclusive, places to start are the West Country and the North of Scotland, where the age-old rural Radicalism has been disenfranchised by the Coalition. Labour should identify strong local candidates and stand aside in support of their Independent candidacies, complete with union funding if necessary, thereby creating a healthy mutual obligation. This sort of thing has been done successfully before. For example, Labour’s lead list MSP in the Highlands and Islands has always been Peter Peacock, who had previously made it all the way up to Convener of Highland Council in 17 years as an Independent. I am told that at one time, and for some years, even the mighty Secretary of the Labour Group on Durham County Council was officially an Independent from agricultural Weardale.

David Cameron's Fourth House?

Are MPs only MPs if David Cameron says that they are?

A couple of weeks ago, he referred in the House to "George Galloway".

And this afternoon, we had "Gordon Brown".

Who does he think he is?

Down The Drain

After the great drought of 1976, there was talk of a National Grid for water.

But then came the 1979 Election. And then came Tony Blair.

The National Grid for electricity was a Tory achievement. But who remembers that now?

What The Font?

This is a very old trick.

You obviously learned about politics in some tutorial room if you are so much as remotely surprised at anything like this.

In my time, I have had posters in red saying very traditional Labour things up in council house windows while one in blue saying "For The Nation, For The Family, For The Countryside" was up on the farms, and in the local country shop right next to the policy on the sale of ammunition. (I maintain, of course, that those are also very traditional Labour things.)

And that was just to put the belt and braces on holding my Parish Council seat after I had cheerfully been expelled from the Labour Party.

Grow up. Or get out of London. Is there a difference?

How Politics Really Happens

Peter Hitchens writes:

The real political changes of the past 25 years or so have not taken place at general elections, but within the political parties.

First, there was the destruction of ‘Old Labour’ in the early 1980s by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the Labour Co-ordinating Committee. These bodies, using such tactics as mandatory reselection, got rid of or drove into the SDP many Labour MPs who were morally and socially conservative. At national level, left-wing factions in the big trades unions, marshalled by the Communist party’s skilled and well-connected industrial organisation, won victories on policy (particularly defence and foreign policy) out of all proportion to the number of Communists and Communist sympathisers in the union movement.

So, in the years following Jim Callaghan’s general election defeat in 1979, the Labour Party was transformed, permanently, from top to bottom. Much of this was the work of Communist sympathisers, who had since the days of Lenin supported Labour ‘as the rope supports the hanged man’, and encouraged sympathisers to join Labour and stay out of the CP, the better to penetrate the Labour Party at the highest and lowest levels. Much less was the work of various kinds of Trotyskyists, but the media were obsessed with the insignificant role of the ‘Militant Tendency’ a front organisation and code name for a tiny Trotskyist sect called the Revolutionary Socialist League, mainly concentrated in Liverpool. A major Communist Party, of the kind which operated in France and Italy, was not what Lenin and the Comintern wanted. They had long sought to take over the Labour Party instead.

Old Labour knew all about this, and the party’s organisation until the 1970s was well-trained in detecting and frustrating Communist party infiltration. William Rodgers’s Campaign for Democratic Socialism successfully defeated attempts to win Labour for the (pro-Soviet) cause of unilateral nuclear disarmamament. Ex-Communists, such as the Electricians’ Union leader Frank Chapple (he left over the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956) had no illusions at all about the CP’s methods and fought them without mercy (the CP never forgave him for exposing pro-Communist ballot-rigging in the union).

But these forces were weakening by the early 1980s, and the New Left of the CLPD and the LCC bypassed the old defences. There were also the new ‘Euro-Communists’, of Marxism Today, Communist Party members who had forsaken the rigid Stalinism of the old party and argued instead for a flexible, post Soviet, Gramscian approach – cultural and social revolution, not Bolshevism.  Some of the cleverer Trotskyists had found their way to the same place. These became the nucleus of Blairism, which was never ‘Right-Wing’ at all. Labour’s Right Wing was by then completely dead.  The New Left were bitterly hostile to the noisier, less subtle Trotskyists (such as Militant) and were happy to see Militant crushed by Neil Kinnock, a victory for the classical, subtle left over the radical, honest left. Fleet Street, in its usual idiotic way, portrayed Neil Kinnock’s crushing of  Militant as the end of the Left in the Labour Party. This ludicrous myth, the opposite of the truth,  is still widely believed. Ha ha. Actually, the whole of British politics would shift decisively to the Left as a result.

The transformation of the Tory Party was less intentional. By bypassing the party organisation,  wooing big donors and using the Murdoch Press and Saatchis to appeal directly to the electorate, and by  creating a ‘leader’ who was a national semi-Presidential figure, Mrs Thatcher and her allies created a vacuum where traditional Toryism had been. The party machine atrophied. The power and significance of the leader hugely increased. But if the leader was weak, he was vulnerable. John Major became the prisoner of Michael Heseltine because of his weakness.

As for the even weaker Iain Duncan Smith,  it was astonishingly easy for the media to ally with Michael Howard to overthrow IDS. Mr Howard then began a process of centralising the party, and delayed the election of his successor for long enough to give David Cameron the edge over David Davis, which he would never have done in a quick contest,  and - as exemplified by his action against Howard Flight for remarks made at a private meeting – sought to end the control which local associations had over candidate selection.

Now we see (as reported in The Guardian on Monday 30th April) that a group of Tory MPs have magically teamed up to remove old-fashioned, traditional Tory MPs, such as Christopher Chope and Peter Bone, from the leadership of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.

As The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt puts it:  ‘A conversation among a couple of colleagues mushroomed into the 301 Group – the number of parliamentary seats needed to secure a majority in the next parliament – which attracted 135 Tory MPs to a meeting in January. The group will on Monday show it is reshaping the Conservative parliamentary party when it takes the distinctly un-Tory step of publishing a slate of candidates for the elections to the executive of the 1922 committee. Candidates of all ages and intakes will be put forward to modernise the "antique" backbench committee, which has a hierarchical structure whereby new MPs have to defer to longer-serving colleagues in the weekly meetings. "Quite often, certainly senior members of the 1922 have seen the prime minister and the government as the opposition," says Hopkins, who is driving the changes but is not standing for election. "That is not the way to go about it. They should be challenged.’

Or, as I might put it, the remaining conservatives in the Conservative Party are to be marginalised. Will the voters notice? Some will, but millions, I fear, will continue to vote for a party that hates them, just as millions of Labour voters have been doing since the 1980s. And the next general election like the last four, will be a non-contest among parties which have no serious differences among them.

Most Israelis Do Not Want War With Iran

Mehdi Hasan writes:

Time for a quiz question. Last week, who said Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak – Israel's prime minister and defence minister – "are misleading the public on the Iran issue" and making decisions "based on messianic feelings"? Was it (a) Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; (b) the Stop the War Coalition president, Tony Benn; or (c) the former Israeli spymaster Yuval Diskin?

It was (c). At a public meeting on Friday Diskin, former head of Shin Bet (Israel's MI5), described Netanyahu and Barak as "not fit to hold the steering wheel of power". He went on: "I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off … They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race."

Diskin joins a long list of eminent members of the Israeli security establishment who have publicly voiced criticism of, and opposition to, their government's ultra-hawkish line on Iran. In fact, his astonishing attack on his former bosses came just 48 hours after the head of Israel's military, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, declared that the Iranian leadership had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, that it was unlikely to go this "extra mile", and was composed of "very rational people". "Decisions must be made carefully out of historic responsibility but without hysteria," added Gantz in a not-too-subtle dig at his political masters.

Last month, in an unprecedented move, Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad – Israel's foreign intelligence service – took to the airwaves in the US, using an interview with CBS to tell his American audience how a war with Iran would be "devastating" for Israelis because it would "ignite, at least from my point of view, a regional war". (He had earlier described an Israeli attack on Iran as "the stupidest idea I've ever heard".)

Meanwhile, Dagan's predecessor, Efraim Halevy, has said "it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel", and that "the growing Haredi radicalisation poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad". Then there is the current head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, who is said to have told an audience of Israeli diplomats in December that a nuclear-armed Iran would not constitute an "existential threat" to Israel.

But this isn't just about spymasters or generals. There is no consensus favouring military action against Iran within Israel's political establishment either. Recent media reports have suggested Netanyahu and Barak are isolated within their own cabinet; Daniel Ben-Simon, a Labour party member of the Israeli parliament, has called them "a two-man show" – or, as a recent headline in the New York Times put it, "Two Israeli leaders make the Iran issue their own".

Shaul Mofaz, the opposition leader – of the Kadima party and a former head of the Israeli army – has objected to Netanyahu's obsession with attacking Iran. "The greatest threat to the state of Israel is not nuclear Iran," Mofaz said in an interview earlier this month, citing the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians as a much more pressing issue. The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, told CNN in November that he preferred a "moral" attack on Iran, not a military one.

Oh, and guess what? The Israeli public is far from gung-ho. According to a poll released last month by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, 63% of Israelis oppose a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. An earlier poll, for the University of Maryland in February, revealed only a fifth of Israelis favoured a strike on Iran without the support of the United States.

There is an important lesson here for the west's hawks and doves alike. The hawks in the Commons and Congress who invoke Israel's national security as the chief justification for a pre-emptive attack on Iran are ignoring the expert opinions of Israel's own military and intelligence chiefs, both past and present. Meanwhile, the doves who take to the streets with anti-war placards that blame the Jewish state for exaggerating the threat from Iran should consider replacing the word "Israel" with "Netanyahu".

It is the cynical and belligerent "Bibi" who takes every opportunity to fear-monger about a Nazi-like threat from Iran. In a speech this month to mark the Holocaust, he proclaimed: "People who refuse to see the Iranian threat have learned nothing from the Shoah [Holocaust]." And last month in the US, he compared bombing Iran to bombing Auschwitz.

But Netanyahu isn't Israel – a nation of 7.8 million people, including 1.6 million Arabs. Those of us opposed to another catastrophic conflict in the Middle East should not allow his alarmist and messianic rhetoric to drown out the voices of Israel's doves: those critics of military action, who, ironically, are far more numerous and outspoken than the doves on Capitol Hill or in Westminster, and have far better credentials.

Just as it is wrong to reduce Iran to Ahmadinejad, or the US to George Bush, it is wrong, and counter-productive, to reduce Israel to Netanyahu. Its ordinary citizens don't want war with Iran, and the country's top spooks and soldiers are queueing up to tell us why.

The Wages of Austerity

Lord Keynes writes:

Well, surprise, surprise. Data for UK GDP in the first quarter of 2012 was recently released.

In Q1 2012 the UK economy contracted by 0.2%, which, after the contraction of 0.3% in Q4 2011, means the UK is now officially in a double dip recession. A graph of UK GDP data can be seen here:

George Osborne, the UK chancellor (the British equivalent of the US secretary of the Treasury), is reportedly sticking to his plan of austerity, as you can see in the video below from the BBC announcing the somber news of recession. One can only marvel at those in this report who seem little more than apologists for the austerity, who contend that the overall UK economy is fine, if only it wasn’t for the pesky volatility in the construction industry.

All in all, this demonstrates the uselessness of the hapless Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government now ruling Britain.

Without getting too Biblical, one is tempted to say that the wages of the sin of austerity is economic death – a death seen in a disastrous double dip recession which hit Ireland recently as well.

One interesting observation is that the UK is following the path of Japan during the lost decade, a point which was not lost on the perceptive shadow chancellor from Britain’s opposition Labour party (despite his having one of the most unfortunate surnames for a politician I’ve ever seen!).

As I have noted before, Japan was hit by a collapsing asset bubble and debt deflationary crisis in the 1990s. After a stimulus in the early 1990s, in 1996–1997 the Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto turned to austerity, including personal income and national sales tax increases. This plunged Japan back into recession and sealed its fate in suffering a lost decade that persisted until the early 2000s.

But precious little has been learned from this experience, so it seems.

Some more analysis of the UK and the Eurozone here from Bill Mitchell: Bill Mitchell, “The UK Government in a Race with the Eurozone to Ruin their Economies,” Billy Blog, April 26, 2012.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

1977 And All That

A double-page spread in The Observer about the Sex Pistols doing something or other on some boat on the Thames. How many people were involved in that, or ever even so much as bought a Sex Pistols record? And how many people took part in the Silver Jubilee?

Yet, despite the hilarious fact that the former Johnny Rotten now advertises butter on television dressed up as the country squire that he quite possibly now is, the insistence remains relentless that the Sex Pistols were the main event while the Silver Jubilee was a sideshow.

It is part of a much wider, and profoundly pernicious, trend. For example, there has never been a generation in which illegal drug use has been normal. Yet we are now onto at least the third in which that small criminal minority is accorded the unchallenged right to speak on behalf of everyone else.

Information Exchange

All three parties supported Harriet Harman's Equality Bill, as it then was, under which Catholic schools are to be pursued for having dared to teach that marriage can only ever be the union of one man and one woman, which at this moment is still the law of the land.

As set out in the most comprehensive study of this, among other, matters ever published, Harman and Patricia Hewitt ran the National Council for Civil Liberties when it was passing resolutions in support of the Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation, and when it was publishing calls to legalise and destigmatise sex between adults and children.

Hewitt went on to have overall responsibility for every social worker in England, while Harman’s pro-pederast past was explored in detail by Martin Beckford in the 9th March 2009 edition of the Daily Telegraph, but that newspaper was too spineless or too compromised to put it on the front page where it belonged, so the story was allowed to die, at least for the time being.

Such is the ideological and organisational background to the all-party Equality Act and to actions under it.

Organised Crime

Peter Hitchens writes:

Here’s how to influence Government policy: Make a career out of being coarse and crude; take illegal drugs, moan that it wasn’t your fault and demand sympathy for your selfish crime; get some tattoos. Next, wear a cowboy hat and rip a lot of holes in your shirt (an aide can rip them for you if you’re too busy). Then saunter into a Parliamentary Committee and casually mock its members, while saying nothing of interest or importance. The MPs will pay you slavish attention, and the media – especially those bits of it who claim to be uninterested in celebrity – will give you a huge platform.

I sat behind the alleged comedian Russell Brand on Tuesday as he was giving his ‘evidence’ to the Home Affairs Select Committee. I was on next and, unlike him, I had something new and important to say. I have spent the past 18 months researching and writing a book (out later this year) on the unofficial but near-total legalisation of drugs in Britain since 1971. But in our superficial culture, it was Mr Brand (author of My Booky Wook and Booky Wook 2) who featured in the newspapers and on the BBC (which did grant me a few seconds of airtime, it is true). And I’ll be surprised if the alleged comedian’s views don’t prevail when the Select Committee eventually reports later this year.

Our establishment seem determined to believe various fictions about drugs. They claim there’s stern ‘prohibition’ when most people arrested for cannabis possession are let off without any penalty or criminal record, and when Pete Doherty can walk into a courtroom with heroin actually in his pockets and walk out a free man. And, like Mr Brand, they claim that drug ‘addicts’ are cruelly punished  by the system, when in fact these  deliberate, selfish, pleasure-seeking criminals are idiotically treated as if they were ill. Then, to save the 'addicts' from having to steal to pay for their sordid pleasure, the State steals £300million each year from taxpayers to give them methadone, so that they can stupefy themselves legally at your expense and mine.

That’s what I call organised crime.

Who Does He Really Serve?

Ed Miliband writes:

When your back is against the wall and you are forced to make tough choices, your real motives shine through. That is why this last week, a bad one for David Cameron and his Government by any standards, has left me asking this question: Who does he really serve? There was grim news on Wednesday for millions of families when we heard how Britain’s economy, which two years ago was recovering strongly, has now slid back into recession.

The Conservative-led Government had told us all, time and again, how they would change things. But prices are still going up faster than wages, more than a million young  people are now left on the dole and the banks are still paying out huge bonuses. So much for Mr Cameron’s boasts last year that he had taken the economy out of the danger zone.  We now know that even as George Osborne was asking millions to pay more so that he could cut taxes for millionaires in the Budget, the British economy was sinking into a double-dip recession.

The elderly, squeezed by his new tax on pensioners, are now being squeezed again by his recession. The young, more than a million of them out of work, are now looking for a job in the middle of his recession. And working families, being forced to pay more while the wealthiest pay less, are now finding life even tougher during his recession. It does not have to be this way. In the United States, President Obama has dealt with America’s debts at the same time as boosting jobs and helping working families. The US economy is growing and unemployment is falling. Our Government, desperately out of touch with the needs of the British people, should look across the Atlantic and learn. 

What this last week has revealed is a Government not serving the hard-working people of this country, but bending over backwards – and bending the rules – for the rich and powerful.

But it’s not just in the economy where David Cameron is failing to serve the interests of the people. This last week we discovered more about the Government’s dealings with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. At first sight, it is an issue which seems remote for families and businesses. But it is linked to what is happening in our economy. An economy that is not working for working people is a direct consequence of a political system dangerously skewed towards the interests of a tiny minority. It is why we end up with a Government which is so out of touch that it chooses to prioritise the wealthy and powerful over the interests of everyone else. 

What this last week has revealed is a Government not serving the hard- working people of this country, but bending over backwards – and bending the rules – for the rich and powerful. Just like the tax cuts for millionaires, paid for by taxing everyone else more, we now know that instead of making decisions in the interests of the public, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt allowed a secret back-channel to be established providing confidential information, advice and assistance to News Corporation in its bid to secure Rupert Murdoch’s biggest ever deal: the £8 billion takeover of BSkyB.

It is scandalous that the Minister remains in his job today. Mr Hunt’s defence seems to be that he had no idea what his chief adviser was doing in hundreds of emails, phone calls and meetings over a six-month period on the single most important issue facing his department. If he really was so clueless then he should not be in his job anyway. The Prime Minister has shown weakness throughout this affair. He was weak in failing to act swiftly and decisively when the phone-hacking scandal broke last summer. And he has been weak in dealing with this latest scandal. Mr Cameron, perhaps fearing the spotlight will turn back on to his own dealings with the  Murdochs, has decided to leave Mr Hunt twisting in the wind. He even refuses to allow an investigation by the man appointed by him to ensure there would be ‘independent’ enforcement of ministerial rules.You do not need to wonder too hard why he made that decision. 

Mr Cameron is very good at lecturing other people about their responsibilities. He tells families they must pay higher taxes, lose their child benefit and work harder before taking their pensions. But when the moment comes for him to show responsibility, he miserably fails the test.I want to repeat the call I have been making on him since last summer: the Prime Minister must finally come clean on all his dealings with the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks. This full disclosure must include each and every instance in which he discussed the BSkyB bid, as well as details of the role played by his own advisers such as Andy Coulson. Anything less and people will conclude Mr Cameron has something to hide.

I am making a similar call on Mr Osborne to explain his role in this affair. We now know from evidence submitted to the Leveson Inquiry that the Chancellor was lobbied personally by James Murdoch and that his special adviser discussed the BSkyB bid with News Corporation executives. Mr Cameron has tried to push all such matters back on the Leveson Inquiry. But Lord Justice Leveson has rightly pointed out that enforcing ministerial rules is not a matter for him. This session of Parliament is expected to end on Tuesday and now Lord Justice Leveson has made his ruling we will be demanding the Government comes to the Commons before then and offers the people of Britain an explanation. David Cameron must not use Parliament rising as an excuse for ducking his responsibilities to enforce the ministerial code. 

I know some of you reading this will probably be thinking that none of us can be trusted. The reason is that for too long under successive governments, Britain has felt like a country in which those at the very top get their way and everyone else gets left behind. We need successful wealth creators and entrepreneurs. 

I hope the Leveson Inquiry comes up with recommendations about how we can prevent those same kind of concentrations of media power which helped cause abuses in the industry.

But what ultimately damages our economy is power held by a small number of people who seem to think they are too big to fail or too powerful to be challenged – no matter how they act. That is true of executives in News Corporation. And, while I do not believe Labour ever tried to do anything like Jeremy Hunt did, we were too close to Rupert Murdoch. I sought to change that last summer by speaking out against the BSkyB deal and demanding the Leveson Inquiry be established into the phone-hacking scandal and the relationship of the press with politics. We need responsibility at every level of society and a free press plays a crucial role in holding politicians to account.

But I hope the Leveson Inquiry comes up with recommendations about how we can prevent those same kind of concentrations of media power which helped cause abuses in the industry. We must also change an economy where bankers get bonuses but small businesses cannot get loans and young people cannot find work, where electricity firms rake in record profits but rip off the elderly, where executive pay soars upwards but that of everyone else gets frozen. When too many people think political influence and policy can be purchased by super-rich benefactors, it is right to say we should take the big money out of politics by banning any donation from individuals over £5,000. That should apply to donations from trade unions as much as from rich individuals.

If we are going to change our economy, we have to change the way we conduct politics. Any government is bound to make its share of mistakes, but from the Budget to the cash-for-access scandal and from the recession to Murdoch, the events of the last few weeks show this Government’s true colours. They are a direct consequence of being out of touch with the many and in touch with only a privileged few. On the BSkyB affair, instead of running for cover or hiding behind Lord Justice Leveson, David Cameron’s arrogant Government should come to the House of Commons and account for its actions.

The television license fee should be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four. The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected. The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.

One would not need to be a member of the Trust (i.e., a license-payer) to listen to or watch the BBC, just as one does not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats. That model could certainly be applied to everything from the Press Complaints Commission to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and arguably even to the Supreme Court, although in that case with only one candidate per region elected and with a vacancy arising only when a sitting member retired or died.

We need to ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national daily newspaper, or more than one daily newspaper covering the same region or locality. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national weekly newspaper, or more than one weekly newspaper covering the same region or locality. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one television station. To re-regionalise ITV under a combination of municipal and mutual ownership. And to apply that same model to Channel Four, but with central government replacing local government, subject to the strictest possible parliamentary scrutiny.

The above model for the election of the BBC Trustees should be extended to the new Independent National Directors of Sky News, who should come into being entirely regardless of the ownership structure of BSkyB. Each Sky subscriber, or other adult who was registered to vote at an address with a Sky subscription and who chose to participate, would vote for one candidate. The requisite number would be elected at the end. Ideally, their Chairman, appointed by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Select Committee, would be Vince Cable. In any event, and not least in view of cross-subsidy, they might usefully double up as the hitherto most ineffective Independent National Directors of The Times and the Sunday Times. Alternatively, and perhaps preferably, the subscribers to those newspapers would by the same means elect their Independent National Directors.

Those two loss-making newspapers exist because the rules were bent double so that Rupert Murdoch could buy them in order, to his credit, to fund them out of his profitable interests. So they ought to be required to maintain balance. The publications granted parliamentary lobby access should be required to be balanced among themselves, even if not necessarily within themselves. Broadcasters having such access should be required to give regular airtime to all newspapers enjoying the same access.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Many Christian Democrats in post-War Italy, and Jakob Kaiser in post-War Germany, looked to the Attlee Government as the practical example of the implementation of Catholic Social Teaching, although, for all the right-wing hysteria from Churchill and others, that Government was very largely continuing where the Inter-War Tories had left off when they had created the most comprehensive Welfare State in the world at the time while nationalising electricity and the BBC. (Churchill had of course been an opponent, indeed an enemy, of those Tory Governments.) Although it bears little resemblance to his performance on Any Questions last night, Iain Duncan Smith is to be commended for his defence of those principles.

But he has also declared his intention to vote in favour of the legal redefinition of marriage so as to include same-sex couples. Well, of course that is what he is going to do. It is not arrogance or hubris for a Cabinet Minister to believe that he has been invited to take his position because he has a special contribution to make to that area of policy at that very highest level, making him most disinclined to resign. If that were not so, then the offer ought never to have been made by the Prime Minister. See the cases of George Osborne, Liam Fox, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, and so forth. Iain Duncan Smith has spent a good many years working on the policies that he now seeks to implement, having said in the past that he did care which party implemented them so long as they got done. And, which is the present point, the vote on marriage is going to be a whipped vote. Any Minister or PPS who wanted to vote to defend traditional marriage would have to resign. The free vote will be on the Labour side.

Yesterday's post on the Netherlands has invited a barrage of unprintable "comments". It is good to see that they are so rattled. The Dutch are not, by and large, "reactionary" Catholics or "fundamentalist" Protestants. Theirs is generally the Catholicism of Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, or, without going into historic confessional differences, the Protestantism of Britain, Germany and Scandinavia. As with the opposition of Dr Rowan Williams to the redefinition of marriage, when the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lot have lost those, then they really have lost, with profound implications for everything from the economic system designed to deliver that social and cultural model, to the foreign policies designed to spread both that means and those ends even at the barrel of a gun.

And they know it.

A Bonfire of the Vanities

Harry's Place today accuses the Labour Party of being institutionally anti-Semitic. Yes, you read aright: the only party with a Jewish Leader, who beat another Jew for the job, is institutionally anti-Semitic.

Why? Really, need you ask? It does not hold the line sufficiently for the Harry's Place crowd's liking on matters relating to the State of Israel. Specifically, at least this time, it has failed to discipline Jeremy Corbyn MP for calling for an inquiry into undue ultra-Zionist influence over Conservative Party, and thus Government, policy, with consequences for the fiasco around Raed Salah, a man whom I, too, would happily see banned from my country.

The tragedy is that, at least above the line, Harry's Place has been moving away from the ultra-Zionist position in recent months. These days, it quite frequently publishes posts on the subject bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chapter Eight of Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory. Given the very strong views of several of the Harry's Place regulars above and below the line on the mere existence of that book (not the content, which they have not read), it is very high time that a review of it appeared there. Go on, I dare them.

Why is an e-book not "vanity publishing" but also putting the same material into old-fashioned print is, even when it is commended by two Peers of the Realm and three Professors as well as two other distinguished academics, including one of the Peers? How many of those who delight in spewing abuse at me under the guise of criticism of my work have ever managed that? If they reviewed, not me, but my book, then they might learn how to do it. What are they afraid of?


For all his political faults, and without denying that Hollande is a far better candidate politically, it becomes ever more apparent that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the Dreyfus de nos jours, brought low by an alliance between those who will not have a Jew as President of the French Republic and those who will not have such a Jew who feels no civic allegiance to any country but his own. He was one of two protagonists in this story who were used as foreign proxies in New York's domestic feud between Jews and blacks.

The other may have been an African in America, but she was not an African-American in the sense that Jesse Jackson meant when he came up with that term. The demonstrators outside the courthouse were mostly Latina and unable to speak English properly on camera. Why did the police not demand to see their documentation? More is the pity, neither American party takes policing the undisputed border of the United States anything like as seriously as they both take policing the disputed border of the State of Israel.

The Month The Confidence Fairy Died

Paul Krugman writes:

This was the month the confidence fairy died.

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. According to this doctrine, governments should respond to a severely depressed economy not the way the textbooks say they should — by spending more to offset falling private demand — but with fiscal austerity, slashing spending in an effort to balance their budgets.

Critics warned from the beginning that austerity in the face of depression would only make that depression worse. But the “austerians” insisted that the reverse would happen. Why? Confidence! “Confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank — a claim echoed by Republicans in Congress here. Or as I put it way back when, the idea was that the confidence fairy would come in and reward policy makers for their fiscal virtue. 

The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level. 

So, about that doctrine: appeals to the wonders of confidence are something Herbert Hoover would have found completely familiar — and faith in the confidence fairy has worked out about as well for modern Europe as it did for Hoover’s America. All around Europe’s periphery, from Spain to Latvia, austerity policies have produced Depression-level slumps and Depression-level unemployment; the confidence fairy is nowhere to be seen, not even in Britain, whose turn to austerity two years ago was greeted with loud hosannas by policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic. 

None of this should come as news, since the failure of austerity policies to deliver as promised has long been obvious. Yet European leaders spent years in denial, insisting that their policies would start working any day now, and celebrating supposed triumphs on the flimsiest of evidence. Notably, the long-suffering (literally) Irish have been hailed as a success story not once but twice, in early 2010 and again in the fall of 2011. Each time the supposed success turned out to be a mirage; three years into its austerity program, Ireland has yet to show any sign of real recovery from a slump that has driven the unemployment rate to almost 15 percent. 

However, something has changed in the past few weeks. Several events — the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s — seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working. 

The question now is what they’re going to do about it. And the answer, I fear, is: not much. 

For one thing, while the austerians seem to have given up on hope, they haven’t given up on fear — that is, on the claim that if we don’t slash spending, even in a depressed economy, we’ll turn into Greece, with sky-high borrowing costs. 

Now, claims that only austerity can pacify bond markets have proved every bit as wrong as claims that the confidence fairy will bring prosperity. Almost three years have passed since The Wall Street Journal breathlessly warned that the attack of the bond vigilantes on U.S. debt had begun; not only have borrowing costs remained low, they’ve actually fallen by half. Japan has faced dire warnings about its debt for more than a decade; as of this week, it could borrow long term at an interest rate of less than 1 percent. 

And serious analysts now argue that fiscal austerity in a depressed economy is probably self-defeating: by shrinking the economy and hurting long-term revenue, austerity probably makes the debt outlook worse rather than better. 

But while the confidence fairy appears to be well and truly buried, deficit scare stories remain popular. Indeed, defenders of British policies dismiss any call for a rethinking of these policies, despite their evident failure to deliver, on the grounds that any relaxation of austerity would cause borrowing costs to soar. 

So we’re now living in a world of zombie economic policies — policies that should have been killed by the evidence that all of their premises are wrong, but which keep shambling along nonetheless. And it’s anyone’s guess when this reign of error will end.

Economic Orthodoxy = Intellectual Dishonesty

As explained here:

In a recent post, Tom Hickey (courtesy of Clonal Antibody) drew attention to a talk from a few years ago by Bernard Lietaer. It sheds light on the uphill battle involved in taking on the orthodoxy when it comes to money. It seems very clear that the orthodoxy do not believe their own nonsense. It is pure careerism, or worse, that motivates the likes of Krugman, for example, in his recent embarrassing (for him) joust with Steve Keen.

Tom linked to a short snippet of Lietaer’s talk that referred directly to chartalism. Lietaer is not a modern monetary theorist, as he himself makes clear, but the entire talk makes for interesting viewing. There are about six minutes in particular, in the third video-part of the talk, that I think are worth watching. I have embedded it at the end of this post. (The other four parts are also available on youtube.) Around the same time as Lietaer’s talk, there was a good post that discussed it. Some choice excerpts:

 … One day [Lietaer] encountered the head of the BIS who told him “I have read your book.” This was followed by a question: “Why are you working in a central bank?” Lietaer responded that his aspiration was to improve the functioning of the system. To this the BIS head asserted that institutions of the system, including the BIS, IMF, World Bank and all central banks exist for only one purpose and that is to keep the system operating as it is; not to improve it. That is, to keep the system frozen as it was when the institutions were granted the existing set of powers. They therefore constitute what Lietaer termed an unseen lobby for the status quo. …

… Krugman asked [Lietaer], “Didn’t they warn you about not touching the monetary system? If you insist on talking about it, it will kill you academically. It takes a university economist completely out of the system of peer approvals that culminates for a few in the prize given by the central bank of Sweden in honor of Alfred Nobel.” …

… A very important observation made by Lietaer in the video lecture is that chartalism has never been academically challenged. In other words, the taboo is effective as an instrument of the unseen lobby.

There is specific mention of UMKC both in the talk by Lietaer and the post linked to above. The author of the post writes:

… A reinforcing anecdote relative to the taboo and lobby was related to me by Michael Hudson, one of whose titles is “Distinguished Research Professor of Economics, UMKC”. I once asked him what kinds of challenges he receives from other economists to his views. He replied that he doesn’t get any. “They know I am right, and they concede it, but then go back to business as usual ‘because it’s a job’.”

Not The Poland For Which They Fought

What strikes the reader most about Danuta Wałęsa's autobiography? The rapid self-betterment of 2 people who were born into very poor, large families in small, remote villages. 2 people who from childhood did primitive physical labour....


Danuta Wałęsa-- a girl with only elementary education who had worked for 5 years as a farmhand-- finds herself in Gdańsk. She finds a husband and in 1972, at the age of 23, she is a wife, mother of 2 children and in charge of a flat which, although small, is posessed of all the comforts of which she was deprived during her 19 years growing up in the country. She is able to give back 14,000 złoty which her parents have given her as a stake in the housing cooperative because the Wałęsa's flat has been given to them by the Lenin Shipyard (in 1972 the shipyard granted its employees 591 flats). Nowadays, a 36-metre 2-room flat is nothing out of the ordinary because such properties ( developers call them 'compacts' ) are in demand. One has to pay a price, however. The current market value of the Wałęsa's old flat in the Stogi neighbourhood is 170,000 zł. At today's prices it is out of reach for a family of four with only a single bread-winner, especially a blue-collar bread-winner who, like the Wałęsas, cannot rely on any parental support. Without money, which bank is going to offer them a mortgage?

Even if they could get a mortgage, would they be able to keep up repayments? Would they decide to have a further 6 children like the Wałęsas? Large families can apply for social housing but it is not easy and social housing also bears a stigma-- the family would find itself in very low-status environment which is full of dangers and which is very difficult to escape from.

In 1980 the Wałęsas (Danuta was 31, Lech 37) moved to a 136-metre flat in the Zaspa neighbourhood, which was also allocated to them by the shipyard and not bought. ( In the PRL the buying and selling of private property was not forbidden).


Before the birth of her first child, Danuta Wałęsa did casual work but she had no intention of continuing to do so. In her autobiography she states repeatedly that it was her husband's job to support the family financially and her job to look after the children. What would an electrician, a technical school graduate, have to earn today to support such a large family? In December 2011, according to the Institute of Work and Social Affiars, the minimum income needed to sustain a 5-person family was 3,940 (exluding any mortgage or loan repayments. For a 10-person family it would surely be more or less twice this figure. What full-time worker, even with moonlighting, brings home 7-8,000 zł a month? (The average monthly salary is around 3,400 before tax-CK)

In the autobiographies of both Danuta and Lech Wałęsa there is no mention of problems with paying off debts, difficulties with utility bills, lack of money to pay for nursery school, school books or medical fees. Danuta Wałęsa still has a sharp mind and can recall her life with Lech down to the smallest detail yet she makes no mention of financial problems. Shortages of food were not down to lack of money to supply and rationing problems. Despite difficulties with the ration card system, the Wałęsa's never had to endure hunger, cold, lack of clothes or an inability to meet their essential needs.

It is notable hat Danuta Wałęsa states that her family enjoyed a standard of living equal to that of the rest of the Stogi district. In her book she says that her large family never had to rely on welfare or benefits. In today's Poland such a situation is hard to imagine.

"Large families are the people most at risk from poverty" states the National Bureau of Statistics in its report on poverty in Poland, published last year. 1 in 4 families with 4 or more children live below the poverty line, which means that they are unable to meet their basic living requirements. Most large families ( which account for a third of all children in Poland ) cannot make ends meet on paid work alone. They therefore rely on welfare, free school meals and the help of private charities. How is it possible in this situation not to give in to a sense of hopelessness? How is it possible to maintain one's dignity, something which the Solidarność strikers constantly talked about?


The battered and rubble-strewn post-war Poland inherited many unsolved problems from the 2nd Republic. Amongst them was rural over-population. Migration to the cities before the war was limited my a lack of work. Many people migrating from the country ended up in shanty towns-- in the Warsaw district of Żoliborż a whole city of trailers, tents and shacks sprung up housing some 4,000 unemployed people. the first step to improving the lot of the peasantry was the package of agricultural reforms implemented immediately after the war, which to some extent satisfied the hunger for land. The next step was the 'colonisation' of the western lands, formerly belonging to Germany. The third step was the overseeing of the economy by the state, the nationalisation of key industries and fast-track industrial development. This solved the problem of rural over-population and ensured social progress.

Thanks to these processes, the technical boarding school in Lipno which Lech Wałęsa attended was founded. The future leader of Solidarność, acting on impulse, one day went to Gdańsk managed to find a job in the shipyards the very same day he arrived in the city. Today, even some of his children find themselves unemployed.


The story of the Wałęsa children in the autobiography is moving. The free-market reforms starting in 1989 were supposed to create an environment of unlimited development for young Poles. At the fall of Communism the eldest of the 8 Wałęsa children was 19, the youngest 4. They reached adulthood one-by-one in the 1990s and the first decade of this century. Danuta and Lech did not have any parental support, they were self-sufficient. All of their children have relied on, and some still rely on, financial support from their parents. None of the children have so far managed to make any capital out of their surname, which is a brand with global recognition. Maria Wiktoria (30) a marketing graduate tried to do so when she opened a fashion boutique in Manhattan, one of Gdańsk's oldest shopping centres. It fell victim to the free market. Thanks to her surname, she appeared on 'Dancing with the Stars' but she has struggled for years with unemployment. Magdalena (33) opened a dance theatre which went bust. She now teaches in a public ballet school. 2 sons, Bogdan (42) and Przemysław (38), chose a more stable route and got jobs in the National Security Department and the Border Security Agency. The youngest child, Brygida (27), also works in the public sector in the Gdynia aquarium. Would they have got these jons if they were not the children of a former president?

News of unemployed Sławomir has been circulating for more than a decade now. In his mother's memoirs she recounts a humilating scene in the job centre. Anna (32) got married, had 2 children and does not work. Jarosław (36) the best-known of the children started his political career working in his father's office. In his election campaign in 2005 he never left his father's side, in order to be in every photo.

The Poland which Lech Wałęsa fought for has not created the same opportunities for social advancement as the Poland which Lech Wałęsa fought against.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Fox Off

The gall of Liam Fox!

He presumes to intervene in the political debate despite having been forced to resign as Secretary of State for Defence because his office as such, and his fake charity which has since been deregistered, were being used to run a parallel foreign policy in the interests of the American neoconservatives (not in office in their own country), the racist Israeli Far Right, and the genocidal regime in Sri Lanka.

But then, why shouldn't he? He has not been expelled from the House of Commons, nor removed from the Privy Council. He even retains the Whip of the Conservative Party, which is led by the Prime Minister. If anyone ever raises similar, though never anything like so series, questions about, for example, George Galloway, then answer them with two short words: Liam Fox.

Mind How You Go

Three cheers for Tony Melville, who has resigned as Chief Constable of Gloucestershire in protest at the creation of directly elected Police Commissioners.

We need the police to be subject to local democratic accountability. Of course we do. But though police authorities composed predominantly of councillors, not by means of elected sheriffs. 

Those, like directly elected mayors, have no place in a parliamentary rather than a presidential res publica, and are wholly incompatible with the defence, restoration and extension of the powers of jurors, magistrates and parliamentarians.