Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Real World Intrudes

Oh, what fun, over on Coffee House. Telegraph Blogs dare not even post anything on the story of the day, of the week, of the month, of the year.

Britain only stayed out of the euro because Gordon Brown replaced Ken Clarke as Chancellor in 1997. No one of the Eurosceptical views of Ed Balls or Jon Cruddas would be allowed to make the tea for David Cameron, still less to head his Treasury team or his Policy Review respectively.

66 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht (not a single one voted in favour) when only 22 Conservatives did so, and those 66 included, in Bryan Gould, the only resignation from either front bench in order to do so.

44 Labour MPs voted against John Major's increase in British contributions to the EU Budget (not a single one voted in favour) when the Conservative Whip was withdrawn from all of eight MPs for mere abstention and a ninth resigned it in sympathy.

And now, every single Labour MP has voted against the Government, providing most of the votes that have resulted in tonight's defeat. But that is not even considered worthy of media mention, still less of any sort of analysis, at least short of merely reproducing a CCHQ press release about "opportunism".

The bottom has just fallen out of a lot of people's, in any case entirely imaginary, world: while the Government was opposed by every single Labour MP without exception, the Conservative rebellion was derisory and was mostly made up of "impossible" people (and not even all of those - no Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example). That is now the reality of the inter-party debate on the EU in this country.

Which side are you on?

The Living Dead On Halloween

Or is he?

Michael Heseltine, as befits any enthusiast for the neoliberal EU, has in his time privatised more of the British economy than any other Minister ever.

Heseltine's resignation from the Cabinet as long ago as January 1986 began the Conservative Leadership contest that has been going on continuously ever since, coming up to 27 years and with not the slightest sign of ever ending.

Apart from Gordon Brown, no one has become Prime Minister without Heseltine's endorsement in 22 years next month, and counting.

Heseltine bequeathed a grateful nation the Council Tax.

And even now, Hesltine has an office in the Business Department, at the desk of which he presents himself on most working days, for all practical purposes a senior and powerful member of the Government.

Really Shocked Me

Or not.

Is there any member of the present Government who was never a member of the SDP? Not only Man of the Day, Greg Clark. But also Anna Soubry, close Cameron ally, assisted suicide campaigner (do you still not miss Gordon Brown?), and the Minister who today announced that the Government was ending its consultation on abortion because it frankly didn't care what anyone thought.

In After The Party, a collection of reminisces published last year to mark the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Andrew Pearmain writes: "I started sleeping with other women on my trips to London, other Communist students and even a Tory member of the NUS Executive whose taste for rough sex really shocked me; she later joined the SDP." Well, she is not in the SDP, or even the Lib Dems, now...

Time To Jump Ship

Polly Toynbee writes:

A small mushroom cloud of indignation greeted Philip Hammond's nuclear announcement on his first trip to Faslane. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg accused the defence secretary of "jumping the gun" with a pre-emptive £350m announcement that his party will thunder ahead with a like-for-like replacement for Trident. As a coalition review of possible alternatives reports in January, why this poke in the eye? Lib Dems protested convincingly at this provocative political positioning to appease the Tory right.

But for all the radioactive language, this hard blue dividing line doesn't displease their coalition partners. Why would it? Both sides yearn for separate identities – and with the final decision kicked beyond the election to 2016, both can safely posture with no threat to the coalition.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, says it is inconceivable his party would ever be "handcuffed to Trident". He tells me, "We are making this an election issue for 2015", boasting that "we have already prevented a vast amount of money being wasted on it in this parliament." Nick Clegg said yesterday that he would prevent the spending of "billions and billions and billions of pounds on a nuclear missile system designed with the sole strategic purpose of flattening Moscow at the press of a button".

All who opine from every party speak solemnly of the need to make the right decision on Britain's defence for the next 50 years. Believe not a word of it: they are all thinking of the election in two and a half years. The Lib Dems will be pleased to be the least pro-nuclear party, hoping to woo anti-war votes they won from Labour over Iraq, but lost over coalescing with Tories. The Tories are happy to defend repeating a defence system designed in the early 1960s, because that's where their supporters are.

Alex Salmond will be smiling too. If Philip Hammond thought he was sending a missile into the SNP campaign for the 2014 referendum, he blew it. The Labour side of the "Better together" campaign says there are many fruitful defence issues that might swing the debate away from independence: could Scots still join the British army and should they join Nato? But instead Hammond chose the one question Salmond feels is on his winning ground – ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons.

So we know where everyone stands – except Labour. Deep policy thought is in progress. Ask, and it all depends who you talk to. Some in Labour are nuclear-heads because they occupy seats such as John Woodcock's Barrow, a one-industry town dependent on defence. Others are nuclear out of strong conviction a unilateralist Labour would be dead at the polls. Probably no one in Labour actually believes we need a Trident replacement for national defence – only for political defence of Labour. The higher theology of nuclear weapons was always about face, status and politics.

In Tony Blair's autobiography, he admits his reasons for cleaving to Trident were essentially political. But others, around Ed Miliband, see the end of all those political certainties. What use is a cold-war deterrent against present terrorism? Do we want to keep punching above our weight, why and at what cost?

But these subtle existential national questions will be put through the mincer of election warfare. Sir Nick Harvey, on being evicted from the defence department, says the review he was supervising will suggest third ways, stretching existing systems out for far longer, or as he put it, keeping a nuclear deterrent in a cupboard for a rainy day.

He admits that the 2016 deadline is entirely artificial, a political convenience that has nothing to do with the state of rust on submarines. Harvey plainly hopes Labour will opt for a third-way approach too. But the Tories itch for the chance to mount a Kinnock-like attack on Red Ed, weak on defence. So which way will Labour jump on Trident?

Talking to someone alarmingly close to Labour decision-making, of pro-nuclear persuasion, you can still hear the mad old rationale for Trident, the need for continuous at-sea capability, the pretence we will be vulnerable unless a replacement is agreed by 2016. Alternatives are rapidly dismissed: land-based nukes would require a massively defended piece of land and that would cost more. So would an air-based system, with complex refuelling. So, yes, it's the new subs or nothing.

Or, they whisper, there might be a cheap option but if the UK designed one, that would cause terrifying proliferation among all the world's small wannabe nuclear countries. What? Did he really say that? Any discussion of nuclear weapons soon reaches a point where it becomes clear that those who get up too close have their brains irradiated with nuclear nonsense. We must not only have the deterrent, but it must be super-expensive to keep the market price too high for new contenders?

Another cross-party review of Trident is headed by former defence secretaries Malcolm Rifkind, Labour's Des Brown and Menzies Campbell. There is a chance here that new thinking might break the deadlock in British nuclear politics. A costing they commissioned says the full Trident price tag is £83.5bn – or £1.86bn a year until 2062.

Is Labour really going to sign up to that? Few who know his mind think Ed Miliband will, though he may have to reshuffle his cabinet to abandon Trident. Nothing about the nuclear debate has ever been real, except the money and the votes. If some cheaper unreality emerges – a bomb in a cupboard – Labour and Lib Dems should both seize it, turning on the Tories for the £3bn they will have wasted already.

How will defence play out at the election? Pollsters don't know, since the issue has been in the deep freeze for so long. All depends on how you ask the question, says Ipsos Mori's Ben Page: a while ago voters were evenly balanced for keeping Trident, but told the cost in hospitals and schools, people turned against it. Yet pride in historic power is strong too, and fears can be stirred. YouGov's Peter Kellner agrees that people are reluctant to let go of past glory. Much will depend on winning strong backers: to abandon Trident, Labour needs cover from ex-generals calling for boots not nukes, plus experts from thinktanks like Chatham House and Rusi denouncing archaic cold war weaponry.

But Kellner would warn the Tories too that they will need influential voices – not just the admirals – to convince voters new nuclear submarines are worth so much money at a time like this. Philip Hammond just fired the starting gun. We wait to see which way Labour jumps.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fix It

Figures of the gravity of Peter Wilby, Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens have all cast grave doubts on the whole Jimmy Savile business.

When the Police investigated Savile and found nothing, it was not in the 1970s. It was in 2007, when hundreds of people had been convicted of child abuse decades earlier.

The only arrest has been of Britain's best-known child sex abuser, who has already done time for it on two continents. And even he has been released on bail.

One really does have to wonder.

Someone, probably someone broadsheet and therefore unused to this sort of thing, will go too far in print, most obviously about Freddie Starr, and be sued into the ground. And then what?

Still, it's an ill wind, and all that. This is an opportunity to point out the seamlessness between the 1960s and the 1980s. This is an opportunity to point out the true character of the Sexual Revolution. This is an opportunity to point out the true character of Margaret Thatcher.

And this is an opportunity to make it a criminal offence for any person to engage in any sexual act with or upon anyone under the age of 18 who is more than two (or possibly three) years younger than himself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon him or any third party anywhere in the world.

The maximum sentence would be imprisonment for twice the difference in age, or for life where that difference was five years or more.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

The Real Nuclear Deterrent

Civil nuclear power.

It is just a shame - literally something of which we ought to be ashamed - that we have to depend on the Japanese, or on any other foreign interest, to provide it for us.

But we need the money for Trident. Don't we?

We are becoming India, with nuclear weapons while our people starve. Or, if it were not for the Japanese, while our people freeze to death in the dark.

Harping On

Last night's Document was interesting enough. But who, exactly, would ever have been shocked to have discovered that Michael Collins had used British Army troops to bombard the Four Courts, so that in fact they fired the first shots of the Irish Civil War, at and under the command of His Mjaesty's Government of the Dominion within which they were stationed?

Only four years later, in  1926, there was a secession from Sinn Féin, which duly went on to hang the IRA, and which has been the ruling party of the 26 Counties for most of the time ever since. Does anyone doubt who engineered that secession? Sinn Féin has certainly never doubted it, although who are the proxies now?

And back on the pro-Treaty side, there was the 1933 merger of the Blueshirts, Cumann na nGaedheal and the National Centre Party, complete with a commitment to Commonwealth membership (which in those days necessitated retention of the monarchy, and a very high degree of integration in foreign policy and defence), albeit for a United Ireland as the ultimate aim. Again, it has never been anything less than blatantly obvious who was behind that. But, again, who are the proxies now?

Analysis

At last the strange media fantasy of widespread Conservative Euroscepticism is being exploded. It goes at least all the way back to Maastricht, when the mostly thoughtful Labour opponents outnumbered by three to one the Conservative pantomime dames of both sexes. Guess which lot got on television, and has done so ever since. The Conservative Whip was withdrawn from eight for abstaining (a ninth resigned it in sympathy) when, officially instructed to abstain, 44 on the other side had voted against Major's increase in British contributions to the EU Budget. Again, guess which lot got airtime, and still does.

But as was pointed out on last night's Analysis, the United Kingdom is in fact more likely to leave the EU under a Labour Government than under a Conservative one. Just as well that there is going to be a three-term Labour Government soon enough, then. On a recent Any Questions, fully half of the panellists called for British withdrawal. One of them was Nigel Farage, and the other was Bob Crow. Farage has never appeared on a platform with a major Party Leader and he never will. But Crow's union still submits an affiliation fee to Labour every year only for the cheque to be returned uncashed, a situation unlikely to last much longer since Crow appeared on the platform from which Ed Miliband addressed this year's Durham Miners' Gala.

Ah, yes, "the Durham miners would never wear it." Those were the words in which the Attlee Government dismissed the plan for the nascent EU. No wonder that they were so devastated by the Prime Minister who signed the Single European Act. She was no Eurosceptic. Ed Balls is, though. Jon Cruddas is, too. More and more of them are, and many of the rest always were. You do know who kept Britain out of the euro, don't you? Maybe you don't. Can you name the last sitting Conservative MP to have called for British withdrawal? I can't. But a Labour one did so on Radio Four last night. Some of them have been doing so for decades. Although no one in the Blue Team-obsessed media has paid any attention. Until now, at any rate.

Labour has as good as promised a referendum on EU membership, and will do so explicitly in time for the next General Election. That has nothing to do with electioneering, because it is going to win anyway. There is a telling media blackout of this fact. Likewise, Labour is going to vote against the increase in the EU Budget, but all attention will be on three or four Conservative rebels. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Teresa Gorman of the twenty-first century, is not that desperate to get onto Newsnight. Not that Newsnight will mind: this way, it gets to put on someone even more eccentric than he is. No platform, though, for serious opposition. Of course.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Economy and Security

Save an almost unimaginable amount of money.

And remove a defensively useless, downright provocative offence against the self-government of the United Kingdom.

By scrapping Trident.

Ed Miliband, speak for the nation.

Gangs and Disorder

The disorder of those who even now feel it unnecessary to mention that Mark Duggan was a nephew by marriage of the Mancunian Dessie Noonan, who until his murder in March 2005 was the single most powerful gangster in these Islands. Don't you think that that gives a certain context?

The Living Wage

We need a statutory ban on anything paying any of its employees more than 10 times what it paid any of its other employees, with the whole public sector functioning as a single entity for this purpose, and with its median wage fixed at the median wage in the private sector, to which manual jobs would no longer be outsourced. MPs and Ministers would be included in that, and there would be a statutory ban on anything, anywhere in the economy, paying anyone more than the Prime Minister.

In much that vein, there is also the matter of holding Iain Duncan Smith to the logical conclusion of his position, namely a unified system of taxation, benefits, pensions, minimum wage legislation and student funding, to ensure that no one’s tax-free income ever fell below half national median earnings. Some of us have been blogging away for years that there should be a single form of Social Security payment, called simply Social Security, and guaranteeing that minimum income universally.

Ed Balls, over to you.

Document Analysis

Tune in to Radio Four at 8pm this evening for Document, on the relationship between Britain and Michael Collins, such that British troops fired the first shots of the Irish Civil War. And stay tuned in at 8:30, for Analysis, when Gisela Stuart MP will call for British withdrawal as part of the ongoing disintegration of the European Union.

The strongest opposition to that project has always come from pro-Commonwealth Keynesians in both main parties, although constituting the historical norm only on the Labour side. Any intellectually serious, rather than televisually entertaining, call for the restoration of our sovereignty under the present circumstances was always going to come, just as the intellectually serious rather than the televisually entertaining opposition to Maastricht came, from that quarter.

The EU referendum motion was, as I explained at the time, the wrong motion. But it was the motion that there was, and the following Labour MPs voted for it: Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Ian Davidson, Natascha Engel, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Steve McCabe, John McDonnell, Austin Mitchell, Dennis Skinner, Andrew Smith, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Mike Wood.

Cruddas now heads the Policy Review. Cryer took a respectable 88 votes (to the 138 for the victorious Dave Watts) in the election to chair the Parliamentary Labour Party. Skinner is one of the three members of the National Executive Committee elected by Labour MPs, the other two being the no more EU-enthusiastic, or indeed remotely New Labour, Margaret Beckett and Steve Rotheram.

Although himself as far as possible from the Hard Left, Frank Field had previously nominated John McDonnell for Leader. As had the Countryside Alliance’s Kate Hoey. As had Ronnie Campbell, together with his constituency neighbour Ian Lavery, the two Labour MPs, being half of all the MPs, from the second most rural county in England; Campbell is a pro-life Catholic. And as had Ian Davidson, a Co-operative stalwart who on the floor of the House has correctly identified New Labourites as “Maoists and Trotskyists”, and who, as befits a protégé of Janey Buchan, is a hammer both of Scottish separatism and of European federalism.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Internal Affairs

How and why are internships legal? Access to things like politics and the media is now restricted to those who can work for little or no pay after university, and often during the university vacations as well.

Britain has now descended into self-parody, in which everyone who is anyone has known each other since they were 19 at the oldest, and routinely a great deal younger than that. Many of them are not even very much older than 19.

A certain amount of hope has been offered by the victory of Ed Miliband in the Labour Leadership Election and by the total failure of the Coalition, as perfect an example as we could possibly have wanted of the consequences of having no serious competition whatever for the top jobs.

With Tony Blair's internship arrangements placing him under what passes for scrutiny in his case, Miliband can and should signal his definitive break with the disastrous 1997-2015 era by declaring his intention to outlaw this practice by means of the Statute Law.

Among other good things, that would create the possibility that, just as his old mate Silvio Berlusconi was eventually nailed, after the manner of Al Capone, for tax evasion, so Blair, whom we may safely assume will regard himself as too important to have to obey this new law, will at long last be tried for something, be convicted of something, and possibly even be imprisoned for something.

Also Not The Religion Of Peace

Burma. See also Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, Tibet... As has been pointed out here in the past, the Dalai Lama has never condemned either the invasion of Afghanistan or the invasion of Iraq.

In fact, an examination of the relevant texts shows that violence in general and war in particular are fundamental to Buddhism, admittedly a difficult thing to define, in the way that they are to Islam and at least arguably to Judaism, but simply are not, as a first principle, to Christianity.

It is also more than worth noting that the Sri Lankan war criminals were among those on whose behalf Liam Fox was treasonably running a parallel foreign policy out of his office and via his fake charity.

Unconquered Liberty

Randy Boswell writes:

In a relatively rare admission for an American scholar, a leading U.S. historian who authored a provocative new tome about North American military conflicts states bluntly that Canada won the War of 1812. Johns Hopkins University professor Eliot Cohen, a senior adviser to former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, writes in his just-published book Conquered Into Liberty that, “ultimately, Canada and Canadians won the War of 1812.” And Cohen acknowledges that, “Americans at the time, and, by and large, since, did not see matters that way.”

The book also echoes a key message trumpeted by the federal Conservative government in recent weeks as it unveiled ambitious plans to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 over the next three years: that the successful fight by British, English- and French-Canadian and First Nations allies to resist would-be American conquerors — at battles such as Queenston Heights in Upper Canada and Chateauguay in Lower Canada — set the stage for the creation of a unified and independent Canada a half-century later. “If the conquest of (Canada) had not been an American objective when the war began, it surely had become such shortly after it opened,” Cohen argues in the book. “Not only did the colony remain intact: It had acquired heroes, British and French, and a narrative of plucky defense against foreign invasion, that helped carry it to nationhood.”

In an interview with Postmedia News, Cohen observed that, “all countries have to have these myths — not in the sense of falsehoods, but really compelling stories that are, in fact, rooted in some kind of truth, even if they’re not the complete truth. “And the War of 1812 gives Canada that,” he continued. “It gives you some foundation myths. It gives you Laura Secord. It gives you heroes.” Cohen, who advised the Bush Administration on geopolitical strategy from 2007 to 2009, said the War of 1812 “was the last point at which the United States thought really seriously about trying to take Canada by force of arms.”

It’s clear, he added, that “there were a lot of senior American leaders who thought the outcome of the war would be the forcible annexation of Canada — thinking, not entirely without reason, that there would be some segment of the (Canadian) population that would welcome that.” There were, in fact, deep roots for such thinking in the U.S. Rebel forces during the American War of Independence had launched a northward invasion — ultimately unsuccessful — nearly four decades before the War of 1812.

In 1775, a rebel pamphlet distributed among Canadians in present-day Quebec warned that they would be “conquered into liberty” by the invading revolutionaries from the South, an oxymoronic appeal to join in the revolt against British rule, and which Cohen captured in the title of his book as a sentiment which still echoes in contemporary U.S. foreign policy. Subtitled “Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War,” the 400-page survey of North American history from 1690 to 1871 contends that the national mindsets of the U.S. and Canada were profoundly and enduringly shaped by struggles over the land and water routes between Montreal and New York City, principally Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River.

And while Cohen’s book highlights the fact that the U.S. won the principal War of 1812 clash in that crucial corridor — the Battle of Plattsburgh in September 1814 — he concludes that “the nominal causes for which (the Americans) had fought the war had advanced not an iota” by the time a peace treaty had been signed and hostilities ended in early 1815. U.S. forces “had failed in their objective of conquering Canada,” Cohen writes. “They had suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of numerically inferior enemies; the Royal Navy had driven American commerce from the seas; and American national finance had suffered severely.”

But like Canada, which emerged victorious from the War of 1812 and more aware of itself as a potential nation, the U.S. salvaged a solid — even strengthened — sense of national identity, Cohen argues. “Some of this has to do with myth, understood as powerful stories that frame a deeper conception of one’s history,” he writes. “They clung to the victorious naval duels of the USS Constitution, the ‘bombs bursting in air’ over Fort McHenry, the fleet action on Lake Erie, the Battle of New Orleans … and — very much — Plattsburgh.”

Even as late as the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s, Cohen said in the interview, a “substantial body of opinion” persisted among American political leaders “that sooner or later, Canadians will decide that they want to join the United States.” But, added Cohen, even the most ardent annexationists in the U.S. had come to believe by then that the absorption of the Canadian colonies by the United States would only happen “on the initiative of Canadians.”

What Our Boys Are Dying For

Jim Kouri writes:

Apologists say that Bacha Bazi or 'Boy Play' is a very old cultural practice in Afghanistan and part of that nation's mainstream. Citing the Afghanistan strategy review, Vice President Joe Biden reported "great progress" in the counterterrorism effort that has significantly degraded al-Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly their leadership. Lagging behind, he said, is progress on the counterinsurgency front – eliminating terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and building a stable Afghan government.  However, not once did Biden – nor Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- mention Afghanistan's dirty secret – a large number of pedophiles and pederasts among the Afghan male population. 

Pedophilia is a widely-accepted practice in southern Afghanistan, where "boys are given to older men for the sexual gratification of the elder and the sexual education of the child," say many returning U.S. troops.  Afghans say pedophilia is most prevalent among Pashtun men in the south who comprise Afghanistan's most important tribe. Apologists say that Bacha Bazi or 'Boy Play' is a very old cultural practice in Afghanistan and part of that nation's mainstream.

When U.S. officials such as President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discuss the war in Afghanistan and make claims of success in that fledgling democracy, one issue that's avoided is the widespread sexual intercourse between Afghan men and young boys. In non- diplomatic terms, Afghanistan is a haven for child rape, according to several American military officers just returning from the frontlines of the Global War on Terrorism.

In a country that is considered overly repressive due to its adherence to the precepts contained in the Muslim religion's Koran, it's difficult for American service members and diplomats to understand the fact that a large portion of the Afghan male population are pedophiles (adults who enjoy sexual contact with prepubescent children) or pederasts (adults who enjoy sexual relations with pubescent or post-pubescent children). While Muslims in Iraq have on several occasions stoned homosexuals for their sexual activities, not all Muslims believe pedophilia is a violation of Sharia law. Those who believe in the sacredness and infallibility of the Koran adhere to the teaching that women are sub-human and quasi-slaves, and therefore Muslim men will look for relationships -- even sexual relationships -- with others of their own gender.

According to Reuters, there is a lot of homosexuality going on in Afghanistan, but those engaging in it don't think of themselves as gay, so that makes it okay since Islam officially disapproves of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. "They regard themselves as non-gay because they don’t “love” the sex object so Allah is happy. These are the men who avoid their wives as unclean. Apparently there is very little love of any kind in Afghanistan, which explains a lot," according to Reuters.  “Having a boy has become a custom for us,” Ena Yatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. “Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.”

Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from a perverse interpretation of Islamic law. Women are simply unapproachable. Afghans cannot talk to an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can't even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet. Otherwise she is covered, head to ankle, according to columnist Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, and a former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. In Kandahar, a city with a population of about 500,000, and other towns, dance parties are a popular -- often weekly -- pastime. Young boys dress up as females, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home.

A recent State Department report called “dancing boys” a “widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.” If women dressed and behaved in such a way, they would surely be punished by Muslim men. Even after marriage, many men keep their boy-lovers, according to former U.S. military personnel who served in Afghanistan. That helps explain why women are compelled to wear clothing that hides their faces and bodies and if they "sin" they are stoned to death in accordance with Islamic law. That same law also forbids homosexuality, but the pedophiles explain that it's not homosexuality since they aren’t in love with their boys only fulfilling a bodily need.

Paradoxically [how so?], the Taliban frown on sexual relations between men and boys and enforce Sharia law to the letter. Are the followers of Islam, who adopt a more "liberal" approach to practicing their religion, perhaps responsible for the widespread rape of male children in Afghanistan? So, why are American military forces fighting and dying to protect pedophiles and pederasts in a country considered by many to be the pedophilia capital of Asia? Why is there hesitation on the part of Obama, Clinton, Panetta and others to discuss the widespread sexual assault of male children in Afghanistan? Could it be that it is politically incorrect to discuss any immoral and unlawful behavior on the part of Muslims?

It's quite evident that U.S. politicians may bash Christians without fear of adverse effects on their political careers. But these same leaders will behave as if they are walking on egg shells to avoid even the hint of criticizing Muslims. In addition, there is always a hesitation to discuss man-on-boy sexual relationship for fear of mentioning the obvious: such a relationship is homosexual in nature.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Long Since Put Asunder

George Osborne's real boss and babysitter was the Chancellor who abolished the fiscal recognition of marriage, as such, as an economic, social, cultural and political good in itself.

Over to the party whose every MP voted against that abolition.

The People Into Parliament?

I suggested to an old friend that he might seek the Labour nomination at Middlesbrough.

But he assured me that he, a professional person in his middle thirties, could not possibly afford to print and post leaflets to every Labour Party member there, and to visit each of them at least once at home.

Yet both of those, and more, are now expected in order to secure a safe Labour seat. It is now, as he put it to me, "a posh boys' game".

Blue Light Spells Danger

Thirty years ago, the abolition of the House of Lords and the redefinition of legal marriage to include same-sex couples were both peculiar to the "Loony Left". The first was most associated with Tony Benn, while the second was most associated with Ken Livingstone.

Both are now the policy of the successor to the SDP. Both are now the policy of the Conservative Party. The only party that remains less than convinced is Benn's and Livingstone's own. The third leg of the stool, bringing the IRA into the government of Northern Ireland, was accepted in principle by all three parties all the way back when John Major was Prime Minister.

Out of the same stable comes the attempt to subject the police to political control. That is the otherwise wholly mysterious origin of Police and Crime Commissioners. Labour should promise to abolish them. The turnout at the forthcoming elections will more than justify such a commitment.

Murray In The Middle

The preposterous Douglas Murray is crowing about some attack on Alan Duncan which he has had published in some Murdoch rag in New York. Where no one has ever heard of Alan Duncan. Says it all, really.

Specifically, published in the Murdoch rag in New York that said that Scooter Libby was innocent, which compared any study of the influence of Leo Strauss to the theories of Lyndon LaRouche (while Murray's own book on neoconservatism does not mention Max Shactman or Trotskyism at all, it really is that bad), and which wants an open borders amendment to the US Constitution in the service of big business. Do we get a family of Palestinian, Iraqi or (soon enough) Syrian Christians for every one of these people whom we deport to the holiday camp that you keep telling us that the Gaza Strip is? We could easily settle, so to speak, for that.

Speaking of LaRouche, if you believe in "al-Qaeda", or in "the global terrorist network", or in "Taliban" distinct from the Pashtun as a whole, or in any connection between Afghanistan and the events of 11th September 2001, or in any connection between Iraq and those events, or in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or in such weapons as a threat to America or Britain even if they had existed, or in an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, or in such a programme's threat to America or Britain even if it existed, then you are exactly as sane as if you were a birther, or an 11th September 2001 truther, or a LaRouche supporter, or someone waving an Obama-Hitler placard at a Tea Party. Except that none of those people has ever caused a war. Likewise, if you were or are any sort of supporter of Newt Gingrich, whose schemes to colonise the Moon and Mars make him the Republican LaRouche, who as President would have started an awful lot of wars.

Doubtless, Murray vigorously supports the merger between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu on the basis of the latter's commitment to the denaturalisation of the only two growing sections of the Israeli population, the Arabs and the "ultra-Orthodox" Jews. Of course, merely taking away the citizenship of ancient indigenous Christians is very small beer by neocon standards. Look what Murray's filthy kind has done to them in Iraq and is planning to do to them in Syria. All the while cheering on the replacement of the present Lebanese coalition of Christians and Muslims under a Sunni Prime Minister who is the Arab world's leading centrist politician, with a ghastly Salfi-dominated alternative encompassing Phalangists and irredentist Lebanese Forces fighters (a kind of real IRA), with Armenian Stalinists and others making up the numbers. All of which rather calls to mind the lists of signatories to the Euston Manifesto and to the Henry Jackson Society, especially when they are set alongside each other. Molotov-Ribbentrop all round.

There are regular elections to the Palestinian Authority. There are in Lebanon, so long as Murray and his mates don't get their way. There are in Iran, likewise. There are in Egypt and Tunisia now, but I cannot imagine that you like the results too much any more than I do in, especially in the Tunisian case. If there aren't free elections in Iraq, then what was it all for? None of those places has two governing parties both of which are funded entirely from abroad, mostly from the United States, where the reverse would rightly be illegal.

None of those places has two governing parties at least one of which wants to revoke the citizenship of two large and growing sections of the population, within one of which sections are the original inhabitants who became Christian when the Roman Empire did and who then became Arabic-speaking, not much of a jump of what they spoke already, at the time of the Muslim Conquest. And none of those places has two governing parties both of which nevertheless sit in coalition with a party from the other of those groups, a party which holds that Gentiles were created as beasts of burden and that the concept of human rights is a Christian invention (which it is) whereas the Biblical Hebrew word for a human being can only refer to a Jew (which is rubbish, but that is what people now governing Israel really do believe and teach). Arguably, Israel was a kind of liberal beacon a long time ago. She is sure as hell no such thing now. Lebanon, in particular, is now better.

At least unless Murray and his motley crew get their way. Then they will turn Lebanon into into yet another example of  "the centre ground"? Who has staked out that ground, who has built on it, and who now occupies it? The 1970s campus-based sectarian Left, variously Stalinist, Maoist and Trotskyist. Though with chemical and sexual habits that would not exactly have been tolerated in the USSR or, at least officially, in the PRC. And the 1980s campus-based sectarian Right, devoted to apartheid South Africa, with its official monument to Hitler, and to the Far Right, often Nazi-harbouring pioneers of monetarism in Latin America and elsewhere.

Though with chemical and sexual habits that would not exactly have been tolerated by P W Botha or by General Pinochet. Those were the same chemical and sexual habits in both cases, and the two supposedly warring sides indulged in them together. Since they both came to unchallenged power, those habits have become legal for all practical purposes, and fall increasingly within the realm of enforced social respectability. Everything from cannabis and cocaine use, to sex between men and teenage boys. To be spread throughout the world. By armed force if necessary. That, apparently, is "the centre ground".

The archetype of this supposedly mainstream, moderate, sensible polity is the carve-up of Northern Ireland between a fully armed Marxist terrorist organisation, and a bizarre fundamentalist sect with little or no connection to the norm within Ulster Protestantism. The former could not have been more closely linked to the New Left. The latter could not have been more closely linked to the New Right, although it probably just wasn't told about the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Both are now permanently in government in what remains nominally a part of the United Kingdom. That, apparently, is "the centre ground".

And the good old cause of these soi disant centrists is European federalism; see, for example, the Statement of Principles of the Henry Jackson Society. That has always been opposed by the completely ignored figures of pro-Commonwealth Keynesians in both main parties. And it subjects us to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe's kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run Germany and at least until recently ran France, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women candidates, and a French Green who is unrepentant about his active and proselytising sexual abuse of very young children when he was a leader of 1968 student movement, the genesis and Genesis of neoconservatism, which seeks to bomb the world into conformity with John Lennon's Imagine.

That, apparently, is "the centre ground".

Friday, 26 October 2012

Pro-Life Is Anti-Drone

Jack Hunter writes:

My pro-life position is simple: Life is sacred. Life is so sacred that for it to be taken there must be an extremely good reason—and there are few good reasons. Convenience is certainly not a good reason. This innate sanctity of human life is something virtually all civilized people recognize despite one’s politics. Even those who identify as pro-choice are only comfortable with abortion to the degree that they can downplay or dismiss the humanity of the subject at hand.

Barack Obama has never claimed to be pro-life. As the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney writes: “President Obama has killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia through a drone war aimed at exterminating the suspected terrorists on his unprecedented and ever-expanding ‘kill list.’”

The drone strike program that was controversial during the Bush administration has grown dramatically under President Obama. The logic behind drone strikes is plain—the ability to eliminate terrorist targets with unmanned aircraft means we don’t have to endanger U.S. military personnel. But the grim reality of these strikes drastically undermines any good intentions. The method has quickly become an everyday nightmare for average Pakistanis. In September CNN reported that a recent study showed that drone strikes “are too harmful to civilians, too sloppy, legally questionable and do more harm to U.S. interests than good.”

Indeed. For every terrorist killed, the number of civilians killed continues to mount—and the question of who is actually a “terrorist” has become even more vague.

This week, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough explained that America’s drone policy basically says that: “if you’re between 17 and 30, and within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up … They are focused on killing the bad guys, but it is indiscriminate as to other people who are around them at the same time.” Scarborough continued: “Instead of trying to go in and take the risk and get the terrorists out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, we’re just going to blow up everyone around them.”

When Scarborough brought up how drones have indiscriminately killed many innocent children, Time columnist Joe Klein replied: “The bottom line in the end is—whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”

As the UK Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald noted: “Klein’s justification–we have to kill their children in order to protect our children--is the exact mentality of every person deemed in U.S. discourse to be a ‘terrorist.’ Almost every single person arrested and prosecuted over the last decade on terrorism charges, when asked why they were willing to kill innocent Americans including children, offered some version of Joe Klein’s mindset.”

Last year, the parody website The Onion ran the headline: “Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America’s Reputation Worldwide?” while also asking in a correlating video “Should We Stop Using Robots That Randomly Kill Children?” The faux “news” panel in the video dispassionately debated whether or not killing kids with drones was wise U.S. policy. It was a funny video that emphasized the horrors of our nonchalant regard for the death of innocent children.

But this is exactly what Klein did. This is exact what President Obama does. When moderator Bob Schieffer asked both Mitt Romney and Obama about the use of drones during the last presidential debate, Romney confirmed that he would continue the program. Obama ignored the question. Many Americans, from government officials down to the average citizen, ignore the question. Many Americans are unaware that there is even a question—thanks to a liberal media that continues to kowtow for Obama and a rightwing media that still defends Bush’s legacy.

But for pro-lifers, there must be a question: If life is sacred, how can we justify killing so many innocent children? Some might say, “Well, that’s just war. We make mistakes.”

Yet, I don’t know a single pro-lifer who would agree with rectifying the mistake of an unplanned pregnancy by making yet another mistake in terminating that pregnancy. If we justify the killing of innocent children abroad because their lives are somehow worth less, how is this different from liberals who dehumanize the personhood of a fetus? How does arguing, as Klein does, that killing their kids is OK somehow because it allegedly protects us?

I believe that sometimes war–and the collateral damage it brings–is justified. What the United States is currently saying to the world is that war is always justified if America is doing it. We are saying that our policy is now permanent war, which means constant collateral damage and the continued death of random innocents.

As an American, I’m outraged. As a pro-lifer, our policy of drone strikes is something I cannot abide.

The Deficit Myth Exposed

Ramesh Patel writes:

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on"
- Winston Churchill

As a Conservative I have no pleasure in exposing David Cameron's deficit claims. However, as long as the party continues to talk down the economy via the blame game, confidence will not be given an opportunity to return. For it is an undeniable and inescapable economic fact: without confidence and certainty there can be no real growth.

Below are the three deficit claims - the mess. The evidence comes from the IMF, OECD, OBR, HM Treasury, ONS and even George Osborne. The claims put into context are: 

CLAIM 1  

The last government left the biggest debt in the developed world.

After continuously stating the UK had the biggest debt in the world George Osborne admits to the Treasury Select Committee that he did not know the UK had the lowest debt in the G7? Watch: Also, confirmed by the OECD Those who use cash terms (instead of percentages) do so to scare, mislead and give half the story.

Its common sense, in cash terms a millionaire's debt would be greater than most people. Therefore, the UK would have a higher debt and deficit than most countries because, we are the sixth largest economy. Hence, its laughable to compare UK's debt and deficit with Tuvalu's who only have a GDP/Income of £24 million whilst, the UK's income is £1.7 Trillion.

Finally, Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35% - a near 22% reduction page 6 ONS Surprisingly, a debt of 42% was not seen as a major problem and yet at 35% the sky was falling down? 

CLAIM 2  

Labour created the biggest deficit in the developed world by overspending.
Firstly, the much banded about 2010 deficit of over 11% is false. This is the PSNB (total borrowings) and not the actual budget deficit which was -7.7% - OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook March 2012 page 19 table 1.2

Secondly, in 1997 Labour inherited a deficit of 3.9% of GDP (not a balanced budget ) and by 2008 it had fallen to 2.1% - a reduction of a near 50% - Impressive! Hence, it's implausible and ludicrous to claim there was overspending. The deficit was then exacerbated by the global banking crises after 2008. See HM Treasury. Note, the 1994 deficit of near 8% haaaaaah!

Thirdly, the IMF have also concluded the same. They reveal the UK experienced an increase in the deficit as result of a large loss in output/GDP caused by the global banking crisis and not even as result of the bank bailouts, fiscal stimulus and bringing forward of capital spending. It's basic economics: when output falls the deficit increases.

Finally, the large loss in output occurred because the UK like the US have the biggest financial centres and as this was a global banking crises we suffered the most. Hence, the UK had the 2nd highest deficit in the G7 (Not The World) after the US and not as a result of overspending prior to and after 2008- as the IMF concur. 

CLAIM 3  

Our borrowing costs are low because the markets have confidence in George Osborne's austerity plan and without it the UK will end up like Greece.

Yes, the markets have confidence in our austerity plan and that's why PIMCO the worlds largest bond holder have been warning against buying UK debt.

The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because, savings have increased. As a result, the demand and price for bonds have increased and as there is inverse relationship between the price of bonds and its yield (interest rate) the rates have fallen. Also, the markets expect the economy to remain stagnate. Which means the price for bonds will remain high and hence, our borrowing costs will also remain low.

Secondly, the UK is considered a safe heaven because, investors are reassured the Bank of England will buy up bonds in an event of any sell off - which increases the price of bonds and reduces the effective rate. Note, how rates fell across the EU recently when the ECB announced its bond buying program. Thirdly, because, we are not in the Euro we can devalue our currency to increase exports. Moreover, UK bonds are attractive because, we haven't defaulted on its debt for over 300 years.

David Cameron would like people to believe the markets lend in the same way as retail banks lend to you and I.

Overall, when the facts and figures are put into context these juvenile deficit narratives and sound bites ("mere words and no evidence") simply fail to stand up to the actual facts. The deficit myth is the grosses lie ever enforced upon the people and it has been sold by exploiting people's economic illiteracy.

So, David Cameron when are you going to apologise?

Cameron is playing the blame game to depress confidence and growth to justify austerity. Secondly, to use austerity as justification for a smaller state to gain lower taxes. Thirdly, to paint Labour as a party that can not be trusted with the country's finances again. Therefore, we Conservatives will win a second term because, people vote out of fear. The latter strategy worked the last time in office (18 years) and will work again because, in the end, elections are won and lost on economic credibility. Hence, as people believe Labour created the mess they won't be trusted again.

Finally, as the truth is the greatest enemy of the a lie I urge you to share this on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text and email etc etc. So the truth can be discovered by all. Finally, have no doubt, people have been mislead by the use of the following strategy:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it" Joseph Goebbels

Maggie's Boys

Legally or otherwise, can you imagine someone who carried on with 16-year-old girls making it past all of MI5, Special Branch and the Whips Office in order to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister?

Thanks to David Cameron, as of this month if Sir Peter Morrison were still alive then he would be guilty of no offence for having had sex with a 16-year-old boy. Even though it was a crime at the time that he did it. Give that a moment to sink in.

And to which Prime Minister was Morrison Parliamentary Private Secretary? Why, to none other than the Prime Minister whose all 11 New Year's Eves in that office were spent at Chequers with a very special guest. To wit, one Jimmy Savile. Gary Glitter was also a strong supporter of Thatcher's, including financially.

Possessed of every file on any of them, Margaret Thatcher surrounded herself with these people. As with Hillsborough, she must be made answerable for that fact. A fact which gives particularly stark illustration to the true relationship between the 1960s and the ludicrously alleged counter-revolution of the 1980s.

Blairism Is Abusive

Winterbourne View, Southern Cross, the rising costs of heat and light due to the insistence that they must remain in the transnational private sector: isn't more Blairite private provision exactly what we need, for example where the NHS is or used to be? Course it is.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Denial of Nature

So much for the political Catholicism of Iain Duncan Smith. Johnny Void writes:

Economically forced abortions or adoption could become the norm for low income families if Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to further slash benefits for larger families go ahead. The latest crazy scheme, coming on top of the soon to be introduced benefits cap for families, is to stop additional benefits being paid when a family has more than two children.

In a garbled interview on the Today programme this morning, the Work and Pensions Secretary appeared not to know how many families would be affected by these plans or whether the changes would save any money.  Instead the idea was presented as a moral crusade to stop the poor from breeding. He failed to distinguish whether these new rules would apply to unemployed families, those on sickness or disability benefits, or those in work, but on low wages.  Under Universal Credit all those on any form of benefit are to face the same conditionality rules, unless all adults in a household are earning the equivalent of 35 hours at minimum wage.

Under the family planning policies in China  parents can be fined for having more than one child.  This has led to thousands of children abandoned to grow up in state institutions, soaring abortion rates and horrific child poverty.   The one child policy has been steadily watered down in China over the years, yet Iain Duncan Smith is now planning similar economic penalties for mothers who become pregnant in the UK.

Like so much of this Government’s attacks, it will be women and children themselves who will bear the brunt of these moralistic cost cutting measures.  Women who are widowed, divorced or separated will be forced into extreme poverty along with their children, should they happen to exceed the government approved family size.  Women who have an unplanned pregnancy will now be forced to choose between bringing a child up in poverty or abortion.  Those who have multiple births may be forced into choosing which of their babies to give away for adoption.

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans amount to a denial of nature.  In his tiny mind all pregnancies are meticulously planned and everybody lives in cosy two parent families whose circumstances never change.  As anyone in the real world knows, this kind of chocolate box existence is not the reality for many people. It is unsurprising, if perverse that an old fashioned patriarch like Iain Duncan Smith should seek to destroy the lives of women and children first.  Don’t expect any chivalry from this dated old clown.

It will be children themselves who pay the highest price for these constant attacks on the families with least.  Children who are already growing up in poverty will see household incomes further slashed, if their impoverished parents are able to keep hold of a household.  Up to 50,000 families in London alone could be made homeless when the benefit cap is introduced next April.  But even this is not enough for Iain Duncan Smith.

Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies appears to the new direction of this toff Government.

Time To Bring In The Harvest

Polly Toynbee writes:

There goes the last remnant of a better era. Farming minister David Heath announced the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, the last of the old wages councils. There are just four weeks of "consultation" before farm workers lose this special protection. The rest of the wages councils were eviscerated by Margaret Thatcher and axed by John Major in 1993, ending an era when governments saw endemic low pay as their concern.

In the old days, the sectors with workers at most risk of exploitation had their own wages councils, with representatives of employers and workers fixing pay and conditions, mindful of what an industry could bear. Hairdressing, catering, retail, laundry and tailoring had some of the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers. Wages councils were founded in 1909, the year of the Liberal government's radical People's Budget, with its unprecedented taxes on the wealthy. What a sad paradox that, in their first return to government since Lloyd George, Heath, a Liberal Democrat, is killing off the last wages council.

His press release is headed: "Getting rid of outdated labour restrictions will mean more jobs." These days certain killer words flash out instant red alerts: "reform", "flexible", "harmonise" and "modernise" all signify their opposites. Heath's "plans to modernise the agricultural labour market" mean taking farm workers back in time. His plan for them to be "harmonised with the rest of the economy" won't feel harmonious when it "leads to a more flexible labour market" to "end an anomaly requiring farmers to follow outdated and bureaucratic rules".

Farm work is not noted for good pay and conditions. It is still one of the most dangerous occupations with a high accident rate. Isolated, under-unionised, with little choice of other work, a third of agricultural workers live in tied housing, exceptionally vulnerable to the whims of employers. That's why their wages council was allowed to survive when the others were scrapped. Their current minimum pay, which is legally enforced, is just 2p an hour above the national minimum. But the board also sets sick pay, holiday pay and a graded pay progression, important when so many work on small farms with little chance of promotion. The board ordains other conditions, such as warm clothing, essential for outdoor work. It sets a pay rate and age for child pickers, who will lose all protection from now on. (Nine-year-olds were discovered picking spring onions from dawn till dusk in freezing weather in Worcestershire last year.) The board sets fair rents for tied housing – £28 a week for a caravan – but there will be no rent limits from now on.

Richard Neville, a union member, drives a tractor on a Sussex farm. His farm-working parents were veterans of the last battle in 1976 over security in tied housing. "Wages are bound to fall back. The board fixes overtime rates at time and a half: we'll lose that, though sometimes we're doing 20 or 30 extra hours a week. There's a lot of poverty in these rural areas, because costs are high, but people don't see it." Labour's Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, is fighting to save the board. "Those who pick the apples should be able to afford to buy them," she says, watching the rise in rural poverty: "The most picturesque market towns now have food banks." One chance of reprieve comes from the Welsh assembly, which claims they have the right to prevent the board's abolition in Wales – though Defra denies that's within its powers: lawyers are at work on both sides.

Heath is right on this: the idea of a statutory board with legal enforcement officers, ordering employers to provide footwear and clothing to their workers, giving them three days' extra holiday, better sick leave on full pay and graded pay rates, does seem an oddly outdated anomaly. In a free market, why would the state intervene? Back in the 1970s workers' pay, rights and conditions were the stuff of politics. In those fractious times, unions' struggle to keep members' pay from falling far behind sky-rocketing inflation led to head-on confrontation with governments trying to hold inflation down. As the prices and incomes board strove to arbitrate, the net result was pay scales that made this country more equal than it had ever been in history – or will be again on the present trajectory. But all that was blown away spectacularly in the 1980s, as boardrooms turned kleptocrat. Within a few years the number of poor children shot up from one in seven to one in three, where it has stayed – and it will now worsen.

This week ONS figures reveal that real living standards have fallen by more than 13% since 2008 – but that virtually meaningless average hides a gigantic difference between high and low earners, as useful as averaging Zimbabwe and Manhattan. Resolution Foundation figures show that the incomes of the bottom half of households have stagnated ever since 2003: without change, stagnation is the new norm and recovery won't help. At £6.19, the real value of the national minimum wage has fallen back to 2004 levels. Everything this government does conspires to depress low incomes further, with cuts in credits and housing benefit as wages still fall behind high food and fuel inflation.

Labour contemplates the living wage, currently set at £7.20. Labour councils urge public and private employers to sign up. It's a great gesture when organisations do sign up, but it costs little for banks, local councils, KPMG or anyone else employing few minimum-wage staff. So far no large employer of the low-paid has signed up: no hotel, care home or catering chain, no supermarket, cleaning company or security guard provider. Voluntaryism isn't enough.

Labour should use its fight to save the Agricultural Wages Board to think again about the old wages councils. Bringing in the minimum wage was one of Labour's best achievements – but a single rate across all industries will always be a lowest common denominator, rising only at the pace of the most precarious sector. Market conditions in hairdressing, sandwich-making and care homes are unconnected. A fair rate set for each industry would help to keep wages up, avoiding the risk that the minimum wage is the norm, not a rock-bottom backstop. Wages councils could restore some of the best spirit of the postwar settlement, when the state did intervene on pay.

Pat Glass, of this Parish, has been taking on the Government’s failure to create the promised Supermarkets Ombudsman. Beyond that, we need to make the supermarkets fund investment in agriculture and small business, determined in close consultation with the National Farmers’ Union and the Federation of Small Businesses, by means of a windfall tax, to be followed if necessary by a permanently higher flat rate of corporation tax, and in either case accompanied by strict regulation to ensure that the costs were not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities or the environment.

There is the most pressing need to revive the movement of those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day. Those who obtained, and who continue to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on. Those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be reinstated. Those who have fought, and who continue to fight, for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs. Those who object in principle to government without the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas. Those who have been and who are concerned that any electoral reform be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation. Distributism and the related tendencies. And those who are conservationist rather than environmentalist.


Farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others organised in order to secure radical reforms. County divisions predominated among safe Labour seats when such first became identifiable in the 1920s, while the Labour Party and the urban working class remained profoundly wary of each other throughout the period that both could realistically be said to exist at all, with several cities proving far less receptive to Labour than much of the nearby countryside. Working farmers sat as Labour MPs between the Wars and subsequently. The Attlee Government created the Green Belt and the National Parks. Real agriculture is the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and it is a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market.


The President of the Countryside Alliance is a Labour peer, Baroness Mallalieu, and its Chairman is a Labour MP, Kate Hoey. For at least three consecutive General Elections until 2010, few or no Conservative MPs were returned by the hunting heartlands of Wales, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Devon and Cornwall. The present Coalition means, either that Labour is now the only electoral option for the age-old rural Radicalism of the West Country and Hampshire, and for the combination of that with Unionism (or, at least, with a strong suspicion of rule from the Scottish Central Belt or from South Wales) in the North and South of Scotland and in Mid Wales, or else that the Labour Party now demands to be replaced with something that can indeed meet this profoundly pressing and electorally opportune need.

"Natural Partners"

Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, about to announce their merger.

The ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Arabs, both alike facing denaturalisation, since it is inconceivable that this new party would not adopt that defining policy of Yisrael Beiteinu, the reason why it exists at all.

Both of those present parties and those Americans who meet their entire bills, whereas the Israeli Left is funded entirely from within Israel.

Israel thus governed and either Administration arising out of the forthcoming American Presidential Election, as promised by both candidates in the recent debate on foreign policy.

But also the Haredi-Arab alliance and everyone in the world who cares about the continuing Christian presence in the Holy Land, where Christian sovereignty is the historical norm, although only one of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders and the British still exists as a political entity, an entity with a self-imposed responsibility under the Balfour Declaration to protect “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.