Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Pause and Fix, Indeed

Universal Credit is so important, say the Government and its supporters, that they are not even going to bother to vote on it.

Just A Second

Rumour has it that new peerages are to be limited to 15 years, which is an absurd proposition. A time-limited peerage? Merely saying that makes the point.

I am increasingly of the view that citizens need access both to their own parliamentary representatives with the ear of the Government, and to those engaged in robust Opposition. With a six-year term (making it possible to bring that of the Commons down to four years), with the powers of the present House of Lords, and with remuneration fixed at that of the Commons, a new second chamber might guarantee that representation to everyone.

Each of the 99 lieutenancy areas would elect six Senators, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the top six elected at the end. Casual vacancies would be filled by the party for which the previous Senator was elected. Where the previous Senator was a Crossbencher, for by all means let that term be retained, then there would be a by-election using First Past the Post.

In each area, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats would be required, and other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two to a binding, publicly funded ballot of the whole electorate two weeks before the Senate Election itself.

594 Senators does sound a lot. But the 100-member Senate of the United States certainly costs more in absolute terms than this would, and probably costs more per capita. The same is no doubt true when that chamber is compared to the House of Lords. But citizens need access both to their own parliamentary representatives with the ear of the Government, and to those engaged in robust Opposition. This is how to do it.

Plus, although I am less sure about this one, something else. If the old hereditary peers were so independent, then why did they accrue so heavily to one political party, in the observance of the discipline of which they adhered rigidly to a public school honour code of never questioning "The Top People"? But there may yet be a role for intellectual and ideological, rather than for biological, heredity.

At the first ever Senate elections, but never thereafter, let each of us, with the whole country as the electoral area, vote for one candidate, and let the 100 highest scorers be elected, complete with the right to name an heir, who would in turn be required to name a spare. That heir would not necessarily or even ordinarily be a blood relative, but rather, on political grounds, a dauphin or delfino such as Gore Vidal named Christopher Hitchens, and such as I have named James Draper.

How might we go about this? Perhaps, recalling how elected hereditary peers had been chosen, each of us might vote for someone who was at that moment a member of the Conservative Party, a member of the Labour Party, a member of the Liberal Democrats, a member of another party, and a member of no party, with the top 20 of each elected? Or perhaps a simple Hundredth Past the Post election might suffice?

Wage Rage

Prices are up while wages are stagnant. Anyone would think that wages did not cause inflation.

I remember something like this just over 20 years ago, when we were told that a minimum wage would cause unemployment. Here in County Durham, we already had both the lowest wages and the highest unemployment in the country.

A World of Their Own

Calls to the Universal Credit helpline probably always were free from the Job Centre. But Job Centres are closing all over the place, and in any case it is not as if there was ever one in every village or neighbourhood.

Six weeks before you are paid? For what "world of work", exactly, is that preparing anyone? How is anyone supposed to find work without a permanent address having lost their home, and without even the money for the travel fare to a job interview or the Job Centre? Could you have found work without those things? Could Theresa May or David Gauke have done so?

Universal Credit is entirely counterproductive. Much of me does not want to come round to the Universal Basic Income. But all of me is increasingly doing so.

"Government Has No Money of Its Own"

Factually incorrect to the point of illiteracy, Theresa May (PDF). But then, with Philip Hammond at your side, you also screeched on about "racking up debts". You and he would certainly know about that. You'll get away with it, though. You will even get away with "Labour's Great Recession".

There have been seven recessions in the United Kingdom since the Second World War. Five of them have been under Conservative Governments. That party has also presided over all four separate periods of Quarter on Quarter fall in growth during the 2010s. By contrast, there was no recession on the day of the 2010 General Election.

And now, the Conservatives have more than doubled the National Debt. The Major Government also doubled the National Debt. Yet the Conservatives' undeserved reputation for economic competence endures. They are subjected to absolutely no scrutiny by the fake news detractors of their opponents, even when those opponents are endorsed by Nobel Laureates in Economics and by the IMF.

Withdrawal, Indeed

Good riddance to the dreadful Executive power grab that Tony Benn would have opposed with all his might, as would David Davis in better days. But what will replace it? Will anything? The sense is growing that no attempt will ever be made to leave the EU until there is a Government elected on a manifesto the contents of which necessitated it. For example, the Labour manifesto of 2017.

Know Better

As Boris Johnson calls for MPs to be banned from appearing on RT, on which his own father recently appeared, the question presents itself of why no one else ever asks those particular elected parliamentarians to appear.

The media Establishment is still trotting out the BBC's barefaced lie about Laura Kuenssberg's invisible bodyguard at the Labour Party Conference, and it is preparing to present awards to the likes of Janan "Corbyn supporters are as thick as pigshit" Ganesh and Nick "Chris Williamson is like Mussolini" Cohen, both of whom it regards as on the Left, so limited is its social circle.

"The BBC is no better" is a useful riposte, not least because of its accuracy. "How can you possibly appear on LBC, or on After The News, or in one of the Murdoch, Barclay or Rothermere papers?" "The BBC is no better." And it isn't. "How can you possibly appear on RT, or on Sputnik (the radio station), or on George Galloway talkRADIO programme, or in the Morning Star?" "The BBC is no better." And it isn't.

Indeed, there is nothing on it as intelligent or as balanced as Going Underground, or Sputnik (the television programme), or The Mother of All Talk Shows. It is no wonder that the more thoughtful Conservatives and right-wing commentators wish to be on them. Their colleagues who have never been invited need to look to themselves.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Left To Itself?

And so inflation soars away. But remember, there are still people who think that George Osborne was right all along. For that was the position of the Labour front bench until Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell took over. It remains the position of perhaps 100 Labour MPs, most of whom are going to leave Parliament, voluntarily or otherwise, at the next General Election, but who are still there for now.

Remember, when they start gobbing off about something or other, that they still think, to this day, that Osborne was right and that Labour ought to fight an Election saying so. Like Osborne, and indeed like Philip Hammond, they remain career-long absentees from the list of politicians whose economic policies have been endorsed by Nobel Laureates in the discipline and by the IMF. For that, you need Corbyn and McDonnell.

Keeping on one or two of those 100 or so might serve a certain purpose. It might make Labour look broad enough to tolerate them, although of course nowhere near so extreme as to permit them anywhere near the running of anything. Thus would the Labour Right mirror what has always been the role of the Conservative Right.

Yes, always. Ken Clarke was a Minister continuously from 1979 to 1997. Whereas few of the Conservative Maastricht rebels had ever been Ministers and none had ever been anything very much as a Minister (unlike on the Labour side). None of the really hardcore lot who had the Whip withdrawn over the European Finance Bill had ever held Ministerial office or, with one exception, ever had any hope of such. Jeremy Paxman mockingly asked John Redwood, who was then a Leadership candidate, which of them he intended to have his Cabinet, as if that question itself were a joke. It was.

Welcome to the future fate, if it has not already befallen them, of the Blairites. Keeping on a small number of them would make Labour look broad enough to tolerate them, although of course nowhere near so extreme as to permit them anywhere near the running of anything. And it is possible that someone has already been cast in the same role on the Left. Despite her political and personal closeness to the Leader, she has not been made so much as  Parliamentary Private Secretary, whereas there are members of the 2017 intake already in Shadow Ministerial positions.

It has clearly been decided that she is the figure so tribal, sectarian and separatist that, while keeping her on makes Labour and Corbyn look broad enough to tolerate her, neither Labour nor Corbyn will ever permit themselves to appear so extreme as to allow her anywhere near the running of anything. All that can be said is that that role, however useful, is not the one to which a Constituency Labour Party is accustomed in its MP if that office has previously been held by Ernest Armstrong, Hilary Armstrong and Pat Glass. Yet that is the role with which Laura Pidcock is now stuck, for the whole of a parliamentary career that might easily last 35 or 40 years. Left to itself, that is. Left to itself.

"We Need Trident To Justify Having A Navy"?

No, we need the sea to justify having a Navy. And we have no shortage of that.

But we have a pronounced shortage of a Navy, now to the point of crisis. Yet we still have Trident.

The Royal Navy was the mightiest in the world before nuclear weapons were ever even thought of.

News From Nowhere

300 dead so far, and hundreds more seriously injured, as a result of a truck bomb attack in Mogadishu.

And Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who brought us the Panama Papers, killed by a car bomb in Malta.

Harvey who?

The Great Mail Robbery

Services slashed, prices up, and half a million pounds per day to the shareholders. The privatisation of the Royal Mail has been plain and simple larceny.

The courts will have any moral authority to try me when they put George Osborne, his best man, and the rest of that mob on trial for this.

Critical National Infrastructure

The best way to protect some of these strategic national industries, such as energy, is to own them directly. Public ownership is British ownership, safeguarding, and safeguarded by, national and parliamentary sovereignty; safeguarding, and safeguarded by, parliamentary and municipal democracy; and safeguarding, and safeguarded by, the Union and the unions.

There is a clear, and highly active, role for those institutions even in relation to industries that either cannot, or on balance should not, be in public ownership. And there is now a major party in which both the Leader and the members understand all of this. Theresa May and her party need to make way for that Leader and for that party.

Disability Hate Crime, Indeed

Hate crimes against disabled children have risen by 150 per cent in the last two years. One such has been, and remains, the attempt by Durham County Council to cut the pay of its Teaching Assistants by 23 per cent. Indeed, that authority has also devastated its bus services, on which the disabled, including children, rely.

And, despite the prosecution's now being on to its second barrister in its desperate attempt to make any of this stick, the people who run that authority are still engaged in what has become a downright farcical campaign to secure the criminal conviction of a disabled journalist and activist. In the course of that campaign, there has also been a hilariously unsuccessful, and yet a chilling, attempt to abuse the mental health system.

I could only be convicted by a corrupted jury, and since there is not going to be a corrupted jury, then it is absolutely impossible for me to be convicted. Therefore, this whole business is, as much as anything else, a scandalous waste of public money.

Crowning Glory?

Is the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy now being announced on a daily basis? And why stop when this baby has been delivered? Every day for the rest of her life, let Kensington Palace, and then Buckingham Palace, and then Clarence House, announce whether or not the former Miss Middleton was with child.

Some people have a monarchist heart, but a republican head. I am the opposite. I recognise that the monarchy keeps sweet the people who need to be kept sweet. I do not know why it does, since it has never done the first thing for them, from post-War social democracy, to social liberalisation from the 1960s onwards, to every EU Treaty ever (although they agreed with the early, important ones at the time), to all of the constitutional and ceremonial changes of the Blair years. But it does, and their sweetness makes other things possible.

If they cared about the other things, too, then they might do better if there were also some kind of republican institution in this country, such as a collective Presidency. It was tellingly David Davis who, in 1999, sought to transfer the House of Commons the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in many key areas. That might be one to revisit if, as the only candidate acceptable to the DUP, he soon enough became Prime Minister.

Back Off

The Today programme informed us that "US-backed Syrian forces" had captured Raqqa. From whom? It was the "US and UK-backed Syrian and other forces" that already held it. Otherwise known, at least to themselves, as the Islamic State.

It is not bleeding heart sentimentality to oppose the arms trade. At best, you never know where the stuff will end up, and thus how it might come to be used against you. In arming Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, we do in fact know that it what is very highly likely to happen. Yet we carry on regardless. Where is the cool, strategic realism here? There is none. For that, you need Jeremy Corbyn.

And yes, I do hate that use of the names or initials of countries as adjectives. That is but one among the many reasons why I am unlikely ever to join the successors of Rod Liddle as Editors of the Today programme. It is no wonder that Afshin Rattansi is now at RT.

There Can Be No Weinstein At The White House

I do not accept that Harvey Weinstein is this important even in his own country, still less in ours. But he could have been. The atrocious Hillary Clinton is on a book tour to Britain at the moment. Not only is she the only candidate whom Donald Trump could have beaten, but she would as good as certainly have given some kind of official position to Weinstein. And then, where would things be today?

Where's The Equality?

Today's Daily Politics was downright bizarre. The guest of the day was the Leader of a party that had never elected anyone to anything, and which took fewer votes than the Monster Raving Loonies at the recent General Election. A quarter of the hour was given over to a discussion between her and a journalist about that party's future. But to have a future, you need to have a present.

Someone also came on from the Korean Friendship Association, to make the case for North Korea. Well, why not? He is wrong, of course. But if The Daily Politics never had one anyone who would qualify as a spokesman for the Saudi Friendship Association, then it would never interview anyone who mattered in the governing party, or anyone who had mattered in any British Government since the War.

In fact, all of the parties that out-polled the Women's Equality Party in June (the Yorkshire Party, the National Health Action Party, the Christian People's Alliance, the People Before Profit Alliance, the British National Party, and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party) ought now to demand an edition of The Daily Politics, as well as an appearance whenever one is granted to the WEP, while Wahhabists ought to demand platform afforded to the proponents of Juche, which, after all, has never inspired, funded or armed any attack on the soil of the United Kingdom.

Monday, 16 October 2017

In The Grass

Well and truly on manoeuvres, David Davis calls for the cancellation of student debt. Labour were once called "snake oil salesmen" for that one. But still, that was so very long ago. Wasn't it?

To Cap It All

The public sector pay cap was supposed to be an unfortunate necessity arising from "the mess left by the last Labour Government". Well, in that case, its continuation seven years on is an admission of failure by a Government that ought therefore to resign and go back to the country at a General Election.

No News Is Good News

Neither on Saturday nor, as an outside chance, today did the Northern Echo report my latest court appearance, although it was in attendance, and although it has always reported the previous ones. There is simply no story here.

Well, for now there isn't, anyway. Once we have dealt with the "evidence" (on which I was charged, six months to the day before it eventually turned up) of a fingerprint that may or may not be mine, from one hand but not the other, on one side but not the other of the fabled letter, and on it but not on the envelope in which it was posted, an envelope carrying no trace of my DNA where it was sealed; and once we have dealt with the "evidence" (on which I was arrested, exactly another month ago again) that words such as "Rohinga" occur both in that letter and on this site, so that the letter must, apparently, have been written by me; then we shall one or two other questions to ask.

For example, while of course the Chief Constable has turned out to have been entirely correct that the original threat had no credibility, how did he know? The Police and Crime Commissioner is in the same ward as the Leader of the County Council, without whose endorsement no one could aspire to the Labour nomination for the North Durham parliamentary constituency in 10 or so years' time.

Who might wish to aspire to the Labour nomination for the North Durham parliamentary constituency in 10 or so years' time? And who made the initial complaint that tried to pin on me, whom Labour was desperate to keep off the County Council, the kind of nutty material that public figures receive all the time, but which the Police somehow already knew, in this specific case, to carry no material threat whatever?

The Real Deal

As he made clear in, among other places, his famous televised debate with Roy Jenkins just before the 1975 referendum, Tony Benn would always have insisted on a trade deal. For him, there was never any question of a No Deal Brexit. The people who are now positing, and even advocating, such a thing are johnny-come-latelies anyway, and they have no idea what they are talking about, however confident they have been trained to sound.

Not for the first time, they are making the whole cause of opposition to the EU look like a peculiarity of cranks and weirdos to a public that, once again, finds the entire subject boring beyond endurance. I have long suspected that the ersatz Eurosceptical Right that appeared out of nowhere, to lavish coverage, from the very late 1980s onwards was all a ruse to save the Eurofederalist project in Britain. I am more and more convinced that that was, and is, the case.

Bound, Not Gagged

Here come the boundary changes again. In this hung Parliament, Labour needs to press its advantage by proposing a reduction to 500 equally sized constituencies, accompanied by 180 additional members.

Each of the 11 areas of Great Britain that were used for European Elections would elect 15 additional members: three Labour, three Conservative, three Liberal Democrat, three from other parties that would not then be permitted to contest constituency seats, and three Independents.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would each submit their locally determined shortlists of five to the electorate at large. Each of us would vote for one candidate on each list, and the three highest-scoring candidates on each list would be elected. Any casual vacancy would be filled by the next candidate on the list.

Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat voices would thus be heard from all parts of Great Britain, as would the diversity within those parties. The Liberal Democrats would not then be permitted to contest constituency seats, their “major minor party” role as the repository of certain perennial traditions within the polity having been duly recognised by the guarantee of 33 MPs. 

For the fourth category, the simple party list system would be employed. For the fifth, each of us would vote for one Independent candidate who had met a basic nomination requirement, and the highest-scoring three would be elected, with casual vacancies filled as for Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat additional members.

In Northern Ireland, the places of Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats might be taken by the SDLP, the UUP and the Alliance Party, none of which would then contest constituencies.  Otherwise, the system would be as in Great Britain. There is an argument to be made that it ought to be so across the board.

Take Your Pick

It is up to the Labour Party who its parliamentary candidates are, and it is up to the Labour Party who its members are.

I wish Laura Pidcock well. I shall voting Labour next time, regardless of anything else. But the Constituency Labour Party never picked her, it would not have picked her, and it might not pick her. Everyone on the ground here knows that.

There are half a dozen locally well-established figures in the more usual age range, including at least one who is firmly on the Left, and they would have been the contenders if they had had the right chromosomes. But as it was, a generation had to be skipped, the (fairly left-wing) CLP had to be excluded from the entire process, and someone from outside had to be brought in to a constituency where the MPs had always been very local indeed, in order to punish the CLP for a crime that it had not committed.

You see, North West Durham has had a woman MP for 30 years. Since 1987, when they were as rare as hen's teeth, so to speak. It is impossible to see why an all-women shortlist needed to be imposed here, of all places, and that for a second time. In my time, I have voted for both of Laura's immediate predecessors, both of whom were women. In fact, as a Sub-Agent, I once got one of them over half of the vote on a four-way split in what was then still very much a traditionally Tory ward. I have never been forgiven. Ho, hum.

Laura's base of support is fervent on social media, and on the wider Hard and Far Left in the North East, both within and beyond the Labour Party. But the CLP and the constituency are a different matter. Right now, this is three electoral cycles away from becoming a Conservative seat. I should be a pretty poor journalist if I sat here and did not tell you that.

As for Labour Party membership, when I am not being published in The American Conservative, then I am being published in The Weekly Worker. Having boxed itself in by expelling Professor Moshé Machover ostensibly for writing for that latter, although of course not really for that reason at all, Labour is now having to expel everyone who shares that publication's articles on Facebook or what have you. The list of Labour Party members opposed to Professor Machover's expulsion is easily strong enough economically, socially, culturally and politically to secure the transfer of The Weekly Worker to the ownership of something on the model of the People's Press Printing Society. That now needs to happen.

I think that I once had a telephone conversation with the "Head of Disputes", one Sam Matthews. It ended just as I was about to ask if his mummy or daddy was available. One of the Tory Boy interns whom the Corbyn Leadership has, alas, failed to purge from the party's staff, perhaps because there would be no one left, I confidently assert that he has never heard of figures on the list in the above link, such as Geoffrey Bindman, or Avi Shlaim, or Gillian Slovo. It is more than possible that Joe Slovo was dead before the boy Matthews was born.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Co-ordinate That Critique

The election for the Fabian Executive Committee is now in progress, and my 70-word statement reads:

Jeremy Corbyn is the most culturally significant British politician in living memory, the most agenda-setting Leader of the Opposition ever, and the global Leader of the Opposition to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy. Fabians must co-ordinate that critique at home and abroad, in preparation for the Corbyn Government that will lead Britain and the world out of politically chosen austerity, and away from wars of political choice.

This is my third attempt in a dozen years. In 2015, even the highest scoring of the 10 successful candidates won only 464 votes, while the lowest scoring was elected with a mere 305. I have won one election this year, albeit unopposed, which was not my fault. I have lost two. So here's to a score draw in the end.

On the ballot paper are 27 candidates for various positions, plus one elected unopposed as Treasurer. All 28 of us have put in statements of up to 70 words. Mine, and mine alone, mentions Jeremy Corbyn at all. A Lords frontbencher, a Commons frontbencher and two other MPs are among those who cannot even bring themselves to say his name.

Far and Wide

I am pleased for everyone who enjoyed Laura Pidcock's Constituency Labour Party dinner with Shami Chakrabarti last night. A number of my Facebook friends were there. But only one, it seems, from within this constituency, and he pretty much runs Momentum and all that in these parts. The rest had come from far and wide, being stalwarts of Hard and Far Left events.

The CLP was never asked whether it wanted Laura. It had always been used to very local MPs. It had nominated Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, but Andy Burnham in 2015, and Ed Miliband in 2010. Over half of the County Council seats in North West Durham are not held by Labour, while 34 per cent, more than one third, of those who voted here in June did so for the Conservative candidate, so anyone with the attitude that "They are the enemy" could never get anything done here.

Laura is 30 years younger than her predecessor, meaning that at least one entire generation was skipped in order to secure a candidate with the right chromosomes, while several perfectly plausible parliamentarians, from across the Labour Party but alas of the wrong sex, were already well established in North West Durham.

So the CLP barely campaigned for Laura, meaning that Hard and Far Left stalwarts had to be bused in from all over. The CLP barely turned up to Laura's dinner with Shami Chakrabarti, meaning that Hard and Far Left stalwarts had to be bused in from all over. And I am not here to be anybody's cheerleader.

Not Reassuringly Expensive

Time was when these people were just expected to go away and enjoy their gargantuan pensions. That was the deal. Everything that anyone needs to know about Stella Rimington may be read in Seumas Milne's superlative book on the Miners' Strike, The Enemy Within. It is no wonder that she has it in for him.

Senior MI6 figures wanted to prosecute her when she published her autobiography, and it was possible to see their point. But presumably she will finally have her collar felt this time. If not, then her latest action is an official act of the State against the Leader of the Opposition.

Of course these agencies spy on, and generally persecute, the Left. They themselves are the backbone of this country's huge, fabulously funded, and armed-to-the-teeth Far Right. That subculture is almost completely ignored, despite the roots in it of everyone who came of age politically in the 1980s and who is now a figure of any prominence in the Conservative Party, and despite the fact that it alone has murdered a sitting Member of Parliament during the present century. Indeed, since as long ago as 1990.

We do need some kind of overseas intelligence agency. At home, we have the Police, sections of which are very highly specialised. But what is the point of MI5? What is it for? Far Right political organisation and interference, and nothing else, accountable to no one. Everyone from John McDonnell to Peter Hitchens has called for it to be disbanded. Neither of those, for a start, has ever recanted that call. MI5 should be disbanded.

And Stella Rimington should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. If she is not, then there will be no case for invoking that legislation against anyone else, ever again.

And All That

Today is the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the beginning of the Norman Conquest. It was in fact fought about seven miles northwest of Hastings itself, at the nearby town of Battle. What are the chances of that happening?

Anyway, although writers nearer the time greatly exaggerated the numbers for effect, it was won by an army of between seven thousand and twelve thousand Normans. After the most tedious roll call in history.

The next Battle of Hastings will be at the next General Election, when Amber Rudd will be defending a majority of only 346.

Friday, 13 October 2017


Come one, come all to Durham Crown Court on Wednesday 6th December. At 12:30 today, an hour and a half after my hearing was supposed to have been held, the magic fingerprints (or rather, the magic fingerprint) purported to turn up. That was six months to the day after it  (or rather, they) had been the only basis for charging me, a decision that, on that sole basis, had taken seven hours. Convinced? No, and nor will the jury be, even before it has heard the thing that my legal representatives now know.

The award of full Legal Aid is, in this day and age, so rare as to amount to an expression of contempt for the prosecution's case on the part of the wider criminal justice world. It is a matter of record that the Police would not have charged me. It is a matter of record that those Labour members of Durham County Council whom I had ever met at the time that I was charged (Lyn Boyd, Joanne Carr, Malcolm Clarke, Ivan Jewell, Ossie Johnson, Carl Marshall, Linda Marshall and Olga Milburn) all consider it morally impossible for me to have committed the offence alleged against me. All eight of them are hereby invited to sit on the platform of my Victory Rally, details of which are to follow, which is to be addressed by Laura Pidcock MP or else the publicity will say that she had refused, and which might even be held before 6th December, since I have always had the moral victory.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and indeed efforts redouble: my magazine, my work to bring significant employment to this county, the work that I can still do for the Teaching Assistants, my candidacy for the Executive Committee of the Fabian Society this year, my candidacy for Police and Crime Commissioner in 2020, and so on. I could only be convicted by a corrupted jury, and since there is not going to be a corrupted jury, then it is absolutely impossible for me to be convicted. Therefore, this whole business is, as much as anything else, a scandalous waste of public money. Jurors and magistrates everywhere, while this is ongoing, just find everyone except the Hillsborough lot not guilty automatically, and let that be that, possibly forever.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Case Management, Indeed

My case management hearing is now only hours away. It would only have taken one tweet by 6pm today from @DurhamPolice: ".@DurhamPolice would have charged @davidaslindsay."

No such tweet has been forthcoming, so the point has been made: @DurhamPolice would not have charged @davidaslindsay. With that on the public record, my case management hearing is now only hours away.

"Remember The IMF!"

Major Memories

The re-emergence of John Major this week, right though he is about Universal Credit, serves to remind some of us that the mention of his name still calls to mind his Spitting Image puppet before his real person.

And here we are again, back in the Britain of my adolescence, in which the Prime Minister, the Government and the governing party existed purely and simply to be the objects of national and international ridicule, with absolutely no suggestion that they could conceivably win the next General Election.

I feel quite young again, even if I don't look it.

Lying Hunt

He refuses to apologise. Imagine the reaction if this mistake had been made by Diane Abbott. And imagine if she had refused to apologise.

Arsenic In The Marshmallow

Thus did the Queen Mother once describe herself. As the Queen retires from the Cenotaph, I continue to support the monarchy for keeping sweet the people who need to be kept sweet. But, the people who need to be kept sweet, I have no idea why it has that effect on you.

Either the Queen or her equally revered father gave the Royal Assent that in turn gave effect to every piece of legislation that created or extended the Welfare State, to every nationalisation, to every winding up of the Empire, to every social liberalisation, to every EU Treaty, and to every one of Tony Blair's constitutional and ceremonial changes.

What has the monarchy ever done for you? Even the argument that it stops politicians from getting above themselves is very obviously not borne out by the facts. But, although there are also other arguments for it, the top and bottom of the matter is that it keeps you sweet. And you need to be kept sweet.

Once Again, Not Again

The really important point from Jeremy Corbyn's "how would you vote in another EU referendum?" interview was his quiet insistence that there was not going to be another EU referendum.

Of course, that was a key part of the prospectus on which he beat Owen Smith, and on which he strengthened Labour's hold on the Leave heartlands. But the message has still never quite got through to some people.

So it bears repetition. There is not going to be another EU referendum. At least, certainly not under Corbyn. And thus, certainly not under Labour. As for the other lot, who knows anymore? Or even cares?

Right Out

On today's Daily Politics, the new Leader of UKIP, Henry Bolton, used "right-wing" as a pejorative term, as a way of saying good riddance to Anne Marie Waters and her supporters. The once mighty right wings of Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have all been in the wilderness for some time. And now, this.


Renationalise the railways (which could be done for free) and the utilities, and then put them under a new system of management that reflected the critiques of the 1945 settlement that have been made by everyone from Trotskyists to Blue Labour. Among other things, we would then get a real and permanent cap on energy prices.

Time For Real Energy

This country does not need watered down versions of Labour policies that the present governing party used to denounce in lurid and hysterical terms. This country needs a Labour Government. Led by Jeremy Corbyn.

A Different Universe

I look at the great Miners' Hall in Durham, and, like so many things up here, it strikes me as a standing contradiction of the theory that a rich and robust intellectual, cultural and political life is impossible in a context of very demanding day jobs, and requires something like the Universal Basic Income instead.

Just as the Greens need to be asked the Yes-No question, "Do you regret the defeat of the miners in 1985?", so do proponents of the Universal Basic Income in general, both in relation to the miners, and in relation to Thatcherism and deindustrialisation more broadly.

And yet, here we are. It is not as many of us would wish, but what else is there? Universal Credit? Merely to ask that question answers it.

Coal will come back, because it is there, and because, therefore, everyone will eventually come back round to the common sense of using it rather than depending on a few windmills, and on the oil and gas of any and everywhere.

Despite the best efforts of the people who have done nothing but manage other people's poverty for 32 years and counting, some of us remain committed to bringing Volkswagen's production for the British market to County Durham after Brexit, working both with the unions and with all the non-Labour sections of the County Council (the Labour Group must lie, so to speak, in the bed that it has made), and in the process safeguarding the Durham Miners' Hall and the Durham Miners' Gala.

Oh, well, the Universal Basic Income would not, of course, be a disincentive to getting a job if you still happened to believe in such things. And even the people who chose to live on nothing else would still need electricity, and the use of their own or the community's motor vehicles, all thankfully outside the EU's Single Market and Customs Union.

Although people do sometimes speak to me as if I had been in the thick of it, even I was a small child during the Miners' Strike. It was a long time ago, in, more or less, a galaxy far, far away.

Take The Central Issue

Which Nobel Laureate in Economics has ever supported the policies, either of the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of this one? But armed with a Nobel Prize for Economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz writes:

As an American looking across the Atlantic at the policy debate heating up in the UK, I feel a certain envy: at least in Britain there is a pretense of belief in rational argumentation. Maybe a few words about what economic theory and evidence have to say might make a difference. 

A third of a century ago on both sides of the Atlantic an economic experiment was undertaken. Until then, growth had been amazingly strong in the post-war decades, and there was shared prosperity. In the US, incomes had risen at every part of the distribution, and they rose fastest at the bottom.

There was convergence. In the US, especially, there was heavy public investments in infrastructure (the national highway program), education, science and technology—Sputnik gave a particular spur.

There was a bipartisan consensus on this, and on the need for regulations, for instance concerning the environment. Air became breathable, and rivers swimmable. Depression-era regulations on banks had resulted in decades of financial stability: again, in the US, an unprecedented half-century without a financial crisis.

Historians may debate what motivated the Reagan-Thatcher experiment, but the economics of what followed is not debatable: growth slowed and inequality grew. In the US, the bottom 90 per cent saw their incomes virtually stagnate. Today, the median income of a full-time male worker—and remember, these are the lucky ones with full time jobs—is lower than 42 years ago.

Britain didn’t have quite as much inequality, and the NHS prevented the disastrous consequences that have scarred the US, where life expectancy is now in decline across the country as a whole, and especially for those in the middle and bottom. But in the 1980s, the UK did move markedly towards the US, becoming a much more unequal society than before. It remains so to this day.

In short, the theory that tax cuts and deregulation would—by removing the restraints on entrepreneurship and increasing incentives—lead to a new era of high growth has been thoroughly discredited.

Deregulation led to new efforts to manipulate markets and public policy for profit, and unheard-of instability which has cost both UK and the US dearly, in the aggregate, trillions of pounds. Nor did lower taxes translate into higher capital investment, or more research. Indeed, under the so-called reforms, economic horizons got shorter, and performance deteriorated. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Theresa May’s Conservatives today now provide, as the conference season made clear, two different visions.

Despite the long years of stagnation, May gave a big speech arguing—albeit with a few caveats about regulation—that old-style laissez-faire in essence remains the best way to raise living standards in the end. What she was calling for amounted to a doubling down on a failed experiment.

Labour, meanwhile, calls for new visions and particularly for a new emphasis on investment, recognising that we can learn from the past, but 21st century economic policy will have to be different from that of the previous century.

Take the central issue of austerity: it has never worked. Herbert Hoover tried it, and converted the 1929 stock market into the Great Depression. I saw it tried in East Asia, when I was the World Bank’s chief economist: downturns became recessions, recessions depressions.

The austerity medicine weakened aggregate demand, lowering growth; it reduced demand for labour, lowering wages and pushing up inequality; and it damaged public services on which ordinary citizens depend. In the UK, sharp cuts to public investment do not merely weaken the country today, but also ensure it will be weaker in the future.

No firm would pretend it had a future if it didn’t invest. So too for a country. It must invest in its people, its infrastructure, and its technology. If it has to borrow to do so, yes its liabilities (debt) go up, but its assets go up even more, so its balance sheet improves.

And there is plenty of scope for raising revenues in ways which increase both efficiency and well-being. I chaired, with Lord Nicholas Stern, an international commission on carbon pricing which unanimously supported high charges on carbon use—£30 a ton or more; such a tax would provide incentives for a transition to a bright green economy of the future.

Taxing the returns on land, including capital gains, can raise large revenues—and land won’t emigrate. The UK, like the US, could actually benefit from a more progressive tax system.

An across-the-board cut in corporate taxes—competing with Ireland in the race to the bottom—won’t attract firms or foster investment. Instead, the UK should increase taxes on corporations that don’t invest in the country and create jobs, and lower taxes on those that do.

And it should send a simple message to multinationals like Starbucks and Apple that pose as good corporate citizens: their first responsibility ought to be to pay their fair share of taxes. Continuing to let them off the hook not only deprives the country of needed revenues, but also gives these multinationals an unfair competitive advantage over local firms.

Reagan/Thatcher/May economics is based on the discredited trickledown theory—somehow, if we reward the top, the economy will grow more rapidly and everyone will benefit. It hasn’t worked anywhere.

Why should the UK expect it to work in the coming years, as it struggles with the adjustments of Brexit? As EU research funds are lost, if the UK wants to maintain the quality of its distinguished universities, it will have to invest more—much more.

The strength of any society is in its people, so it makes sense to build up an economy from the bottom and middle up. A 21st century knowledge economy has to be based on education and innovation, and the recognition that a changing workplace requires life-long learning. With a declining role of corporations in training, government will need to do more, making full use of technology.

And university education must be made affordable to all—shutting out large fractions of the population because they fear being saddled with tens of thousands in debts is not only morally unconscionable, but economically stupid.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Not To Her Credit, But To His

How is anyone supposed to find work without a permanent address, and without even the money for the travel fare to a job interview? Could you have found work without those things? Could Theresa May, or David Gauke, or Liz Truss have done so? Universal Credit is entirely counterproductive. Much of me does not want to come round to the Universal Basic Income. But all of me is increasingly doing so.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Jeremy Corbyn referred to the fact that the previous Labour Government had lifted one million children out of poverty. Yes, he voted against that Government more than 500 times. But that is not very many, over the period in question. Most of the time, he voted with that Government, and when he did not, then it was they, and not he, who were usually "voting with the Tories". Although even the Conservative Party drew the line at several of the most extreme attacks on civil liberties, voting with Corbyn on those occasions.

There was no joining the Labour Party in seconds online in 1994 (and you didn't get a membership card until you had been in it for a year), so, while I did try to join the Labour Party of John Smith, the only person to have been Leader of the Labour Party while I was a member of it was Tony Blair. I left Blair's party in his later days, and I disagreed very strongly with a good many things that his Government did before that. But, like Corbyn, I am not, on the whole, ashamed of having been in the party that he led. We lifted one million children out of poverty.

Close The Gulf In Thinking

We are all supposed to be terribly pleased that we are to sell 24 typhoons and six hawks to Qatar. Until they are used on us. Arming the Gulf monarchies, which have no dividing line whatever with the so-called Islamic State, is as suicidal as being in a military alliance with Turkey, or behaving as if we were in a military alliance with Pakistan.

But then, anywhere could have a coup, or a civil war, or whatever, meaning that anyone could thus end up in possession of the arms that we had manufactured and sold. Nationalise this industry, make it the monopoly supplier to our own Armed Forces, rebuild those Armed Forces instead of splurging money on Trident, and ban the sale of arms abroad. All of this will be perfectly possible once we are out of the European Single Market.