Friday 31 October 2008

Obama Is Home And Dry

Deal with it.

Why do you Bush supporters want McCain anyway? Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush voted for Obama, who, after all, has never done anything to him, unlike McCain.

Meanwhile, his real continuity candidate (just as he himself was her husband's) will be voting for her old friend John McCain rather than her new archenemy, Barack Obama.

Maybe that is why you are so pro-McCain?

Barclays Nationalised

Just not by this nation.

Though at this nation's expense.

Edgy, Indeed

Charles Moore writes:

It is impossible to be ‘edgy’ if you are paid £6 million (or even £200,000) out of compulsory television licence-fee money and are backed by the biggest broadcasting organisation in the world. Ross and Brand might have some use, and some courage, if they were struggling on the low-paid pub circuit, living dangerously off their scabrous wit. But their position is one of the most incredible privilege, deferred to by bosses who are terrified of seeming stuffy and have no sense of humour or honour of their own with which to exercise judgment.

Like caricatures of French aristocrats before the Revolution, the Brands and Rosses are allowed to make sport of the vulnerable and continue to exact their taxes from the peasantry (you and me). The BBC, so down on a politician who makes an off-colour remark about immigration, so passionately concerned to forbid anything on air which might give any offence to Muslims, lets its stars make obscene and threatening telephone calls to a Jewish grandfather in order to get millions to laugh at his humiliation. Mr Sachs’s father fled Nazi persecution in Berlin in the 1930s and brought his family to England. Could he ever have imagined that, 70 years after the Kristallnacht, his son would end up being telephoned by this ‘comic’, post-modern version of the Gestapo?

Russell Brand is not in Who’s Who, I see, and all the BBC executives wisely give only Broadcasting House as their address, but Jonathan Ross can be found via his agent or firm, Off the Kerb Productions — 0207 700 4477. Why not ring him up and leave some ‘edgy’, amusing messages?

A Classic Conservative

Taki writes:

"The study of those two languages [Latin and Greek], with their illuminations on morality and philosophy, reached a nadir during the greedy Eighties and Nineties, when students said to hell with the ancients, let’s all become investment bankers and high-tech millionaires. The good news is that the present mess might see their return. Just imagine, 20 years down the road, Nat Rothschild hosting a Corfu party with Amo Latinam as the theme. (Keep imagining because it ain’t gonna happen.) Still, avaritia mala est, and the classics are staging a small comeback right here in the Big Bagel. Enrolment is rising because some young people are seeing the light, Corfu or not Corfu, that being the question."

Taki is, however, wrong to suggest in this article that, among British MPs, only the Tories ever used to speak to each other in the Classical languages.

Back when Labour MPs were Labour MPs, those who were not toffs (and quite a few were) were either products of the grammar schools and of an Oxbridge system that still required Latin even for admission to read Physics or Chemistry, or else had come up through the subcultures that included such organisations and institutions as the Workers' Educational Association and the Miners' Lodge Libraries.

Ave-ing each other and such like might very well still go on among Labour Peers.

The Ridiculous, But Usefully Illustrative, Seth Freedman

Neil Clark writes:

Seth who? I hear you ask. Seth has written a quite hilarious- and at the same time disturbing piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free website in which he berates the British public- and the media - for taking delight in the plight of hedge fund managers who lost billions by short-selling VW shares.

"The media have seized with glee upon the plight of hedge fund managers who have lost billions by short-selling VW shares. knowledge and comprehension of the events at hand were sacrificed in favour of uncontrolled delight at the outcomes."

"The background to the VW affair is simple enough; what is less easy to comprehend is the kicking the press and public have meted out to the losing traders whilst they were down..."

"much-maligned minority of hedge fund managers – widely believed to be the root cause of all evil by arch-socialists, archbishops and politicians alike – are treated as social pariahs, mocked and ridiculed at every turn, whether they make or lose money."

Freedman whinges.

Then, in an extraordinary paragraph, he writes:

The public's refusal to acknowledge that traders and fund managers have also suffered during this spell of market turmoil means the market players are unlikely to feel compelled to offer much sympathy to the public's plight in return, sympathy that many commentators are demanding be extended by the City on an almost-daily basis.

So there you have it. Unless the public (that's you and I, dear reader) show more sympathy to the plight of those poor, poor 'market players', they're not going to show much sympathy to us.

Freedman, a former City trader clearly sees it as a battle between the Masters of the Universe-ie 'the market players' and the rest of us. We'd better show them some respect and stop laughing at their misfortune, or else.

I don't think any article I have yet read on the financial crisis demonstrates the extraordinary arrogance of those who 'play the markets' as much as this one.

They really do think they are a breed apart from 'the public' who instead of spending their days 'short-selling' companies actually do things which add to the wealth of the country.

It's good to see Freedman's disgusting article receive a mauling from CIF readers.

But I'm pleased he's written it: as it shows quite clearly the arrogant, elitist mindset of those who have it all their own way, for far too long.

I Want A Porsche

And this is why.

Thursday 30 October 2008


Who should be the new Doctor Who?

And why?

Brand, Ross, Generation and Race

We are told that there is a "generational" split over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. But what "generation" would that be? Brand is well into his thirties. And Ross is nearer 50 than 40, the archetypal middle-aged uncle embarrassing everyone with his Travolta impersonations at a wedding reception.

They were on Radio Two, not Radio One, to which no one listens anymore, anyway. Radio One is now purely and simply the duplication of the commercial sector, except not as attractive to the target audience. Which doesn't even pay for it.

And we are told that this will drive what Middle England allegedly considers black music off the BBC. Those who are saying this, have you ever met any Africans or Afro-Caribbeans? I mean outside the wholly atypical music industry?

Old Labour family-centred churchgoers and ardent monarchists with tough views on crime. Like the white working class is or (increasingly, alas) used to be, except more observant even beyond the Catholic Church, which accounts for most regular churchgoers in the white working class, although that class certainly does not account for most practising Catholics (very far from it, in fact).

Indeed, even many of the Africans and Afro-Caribbeans inside the music industry could also be so described: Old Labour family-centred churchgoers and ardent monarchists with tough views on crime.

Let the BBC become a subscription service, to which anyone may listen or which anyone may watch, but which is controlled by those who pay for it. By no means only one person at each address, but as many as were prepared to write out the cheque or fill out the direct debit.

Make Use Of Repossessed Homes

Says a true Labourite who is therefore now an Independent MP, in this letter to yesterday's Guardian:

Your report on the “shell-shocked” state of the private housebuilding sector (Persimmon cuts value of its land bank by £600m, October 28), followed by your online report (Home repossessions and arrears rise as borrowers struggle, October 28) demonstrate starkly how housing demand and affordable supply are chronically out of phase.

Yvette Cooper, the former minister for housing - now the friendly face of Treasury policy on helping the hard-pressed with hope over homes - regularly pops up all over the media pledging ministers are doing all they can. They are not.

Yesterday her Treasury colleague Dr Ian Pearson responded to my written questions asking the chancellor if he would make it his policy to take possession of homes on which mortgage-holders with Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley have defaulted and allocate the properties to those on the waiting list for social housing with the negative: “Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley are run at arm’s length from the Government, on commercial principles.”

What is the benefit to taxpayers of keeping these banks alive, if they cannot be directed to helping people in dire housing difficulty? Dr Pearson added: “The Government have made increasing the provision of social housing a priority … In England, the Government are investing £8 billion over the next three years in affordable housing - a 50 per cent increase over the last three years.”

The situation is there are empty houses and flats and homeless people, which could be a win-win opportunity, but ministers refuse to require banks capitalised by taxpayers’ money to match the two together. Why not?

Dai Davies MP

Independent, Blaenau Gwent

Neil Craig Goes Nuclear

In a letter to The Scotsman:

"Professor Stephen Salter (Letters, 25 October) accuses me of being "dishonest" in saying that whereas the cost of our windmill power is being cut from 9p to 8p per kwh the French nuclear equivalent is 1.3p and requests that I inform him where the figure came from. I was responding to a previous article in The Scotsman about a proposed reduction in wholesale windmill prices to the grid and gave the equivalent French price, to the grid.

Professor Salter accuses me (letter 25th Oct) of being "dishonest" in saying that whereas our windmill power is being reduced from 9 to 8p per kwh the French equivalent is 1.3p & requests that I inform him where the figure came from. I was responding to a previous article in the Scotsman about a proposed reduction in wholesale windmill prices to the grid & gave the equivalent French price, to the grid. This came from the World Nuclear Organisation whose website lists the production cost of French nuclear as being 2.54 cents which does, or at least used to, correlate to slightly under 1.3p. Perhaps Professor Salter may wish to acknowledge his error in confusing retail prices with wholesale

Keeping the lights on is arguably the most important issue in British politics today. However bad the credit crunch may be it does not compare with what will happen when they go out. Nor is the fact that 24,000 pensioners have been dying, quite unnecessarily, every year from the effects of fuel poverty & that this is expected to nearly double this winter, an unimportant statistic.

As the previous LibDem leader said on TV "nuclear is the easy solution" going on to explain that it thus must be prevented from working otherwise the public could not be frightened into subsidising windmills. Professor Salter can confirm this since he was Nicol's co-speaker at the time.

Reactors can be built in 4 years, excluding paperwork & if we do not have them by 2015, when new EU emission controls will close so much conventional power, we will have massive blackouts.

And in a letter to what some of us still think of as The Glasgow Herald:

"Nick Dekker produces a well-argued but extremely optimistic letter (October 27) about our electricity supply.

Scotland may be using "only" five gigawatts of power, as he says, but we are also supplying another one to the Irish and English grids, and I doubt if either would let us break long-term contracts. Most of the 2.3GW from Peterhead is oil-fired and we simply cannot afford to keep it going. In any case, lack of transmission capacity would severely limit its ability to help us in the central belt. Wind farms only produce, on average, about 26% of their rated capacity, often less (hence the term average) and under the strictures of Murphy's Law would be unavailable in a mid-winter snowstorm when we needed it.

Most of the rest of his 6.5GW theoretical wind farm capacity is even more theoretical because it has not been built. Indeed, we have previously had the word of Scottish Renewables, hardly opponents of the concept, that wind farms cannot provide part of base load.

Pump storage is only useful if you have had 60% more spare capacity in the first place to pump it up. Hydro is valuable but its rated capacity is misleading, since any loch emptying water at maximum capacity will very quickly empty.

Ignoring these & the oil generator at Peterhead gives us a top capacity of just over 6GW for a peak demand, including export of 6GW.

Absolutely no problem whatsoever, then - so long as the ageing reactors at Hunterston and Torness never need repair, or if Longannet goes offline by accident, as it has previously, or, indeed, that previous peak demand is not exceeded in a cold winter.

And this takes no account of the fact that electricity usage goes up with economic growth - though I grant it looks like we may be spared economic success.

And it takes no account for the fact that all high-emission coal stations are to close in 2015, leaving us with blackouts, even without a growing economy.

It takes four years to build a new nuclear reactor, though even in England the government intends to first spend five years doing paperwork. We know that French nuclear designs can produce as much electricity as we want at 1.3p per kWh, because they have been doing so for decades. Our politicians, who know all this perfectly well, have been grossly irresponsible for decades.

We have recently seen politicians of all parties claim to be opposed to fuel poverty and the 24,000 pensioner deaths that it has caused each winter, even without blackouts or this year's prices. It is not possible for any of them to do that honestly while opposing the only practical way out of this unnecessary catastrophe.

Together with coal, nuclear power offers to secure high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs for the working class, and independence from Arab oil and Russian gas. Among many other good things, this would contribute significantly to reversing Thatcher's destruction of the economic base of paternal authority, initially in working-class families and communities, but then very rapidly throughout society as a whole.

Only public ownership can deliver what is necessary on the scale that is necessary. And public ownership is, of course, British ownership.

How could any conservative object to any of this?

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Georgian War Crimes

You don't say, Auntie!

The use of armed force to impose European federalism, American hegemony as defined by the neocons, and global capital, and to maintain artificial borders arbitrarily drawn by Stalin of all people: if that is not a war crime, then I do not know what is.

Puppet Cuts Strings

Even the Iraqi Government is against the bombing of Syria, and does not wish its territory to be used as a base for such attacks.

My God, but the Bush Era really is over now.

Let The RINOs Roar Their Way Home

Which way should Mike Huckabee's voters go this time? Huckabee's victory in Iowa was a cause of unalloyed joy, because he is really a Democrat.

He is a Democrat who believes in the six-day creation, but there used to be a lot of them, and there probably still are under the surface. (Bush is also a creationist, of course.)

He is also Democrat who opposes abortion, who defends marriage as only ever between one man and one woman, and who upholds Second Amendment rights. But when many or even most Democrats were like that, there were generations of Democratic dominance, making possible exactly the sorts of things that really do mark out Huckabee, incontrovertibly, as a Democrat: creating jobs, relieving poverty, extending and defending workers' rights, that sort of thing.

Since turning into shibboleths abortion, the homosexualist agenda, and the restriction of gun ownership to government functionaries and to criminals, the Democrats have driven away great swathes of exactly the people who made them the party of Main Street rather than Wall Street. That Huckabee ran as a Republican demonstrated this more starkly than anything else yet.

Huckabee also believes that it is not for America to try and export her political institutions around the world. Imagine!

Huckabee is not, by the way, a "former Baptist minister". He is still a Baptist minister, and I for one rather liked the idea that he might nevertheless have occupied the reserved presidential pew in Saint John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square. It would have been rude of them not to invite him to preach occasionally, which would have been nothing if not memorable for all concerned. (He is a "former" Governor of Arkansas, but that is never mentioned. Funny how Bill Clinton wasn't treated like that.)

Anyway, which way should his supporters, and the millions more like them, jump?

Well, they now have the chance to re-elect Congressmen Altmire, Berry, Boren, Costello, Cuellar, Davis, Donnelly, Ellsworth, Holden, Kildee, Lipinski, Marshall, McIntyre, Melancon, Mollohan, Murtha, Oberstar, Ortiz, Peterson, Rahall, Skelton, Shuler, Stupak, Taylor, Wilson, et al while adding to those al figures such as Bobby Bright (AL-02, a Baptist deacon), Parker Griffith (AL-05, a pro-life doctor and endorsed by Alabama's State Fraternal Order of Police), Doug Heckman (GA-07, a special forces colonel in the Army Reserves and endorsed by General Wesley Clark), Mike Montagano (IN-03), David Boswell (KY-02), Don Cazayoux (LA-06), Joseph Larkin (MI-11), Travis Childers (MS-01), Jim Esch (NE-02), Steve Driehaus (OH-01), Bill O'Neill (OH-14) and Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-03).

Meanwhile, the Senate already includes staunch pro-lifers such as Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. It also includes Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, an economically populist opponent of the neoconservative war agenda, and a cultural conservative who served as Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration. If the filibuster-proof sixty mark is to be reached, then it will need to be reached in such persons as Ronnie Musgrove (MS, who as State Governor signed the law banning public funding of abortion) and Bob Conley (SC, a traditional Catholic, Ron Paul activist, and opponent of the bailout).

The Democratic Epoch is about to begin. Let Huckabee and his ilk inaugurate it in style. And let the Democratic Party know that it is they who have done so.

Homecoming, Indeed

Not only should there be Homecoming Parade in Belfast, there should be such parades everywhere.

The Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan should simply bring themselves home, which would have the added benefit of bringing down the entire Political Class.

What they are now doing is not what they signed up for. They signed up to defend this Realm. Causing the removal of its present ruling element would be precisely such a defence.

Meanwhile, note how the same people who are sent off to be harvested in the Irish Regiments on one side of the Atlantic are those - the Irish Catholics and the Scots-Irish - who are also sent off to be harvested on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Hypocrisy of David Cameron

He appeared on Jonathan Ross's programme and made no protest when asked if he had ever ... well, we all know what ... over pictures of Margaret Thatcher.

Throne and Altar

In May, the Assembly of Quebec voted unanimously to keep the Crucifix that hangs above the Speaker's Chair and below the Royal Coat of Arms.

But now, the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives wants to end the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each day's sitting.

Facebook users, at least, can register their protest here.

McCain and The Episcopalian Diaspora

He always puts down that he is an Episcopalian, although he has attended his wife's Baptist church for many years.

My uncle in Texas is just the same.

In fact, roughly three times as many people put down that they are Episcopalians than the Episcopal Church can find any record of. They or their families moved west, there were no Episcopal churches, they have been going to what there is ever since, but they still see themselves as Episcopalians.

Like the English Church Papists of old. And, I was once told, like a secretly recusant section of the Russian nobility to this day.

Ten Years On

"Oh, so if it was 10 years ago, then it doesn't count?", sneered Cameron at PMQs.

Well, George Osborne must certainly hope so...


How did he pronounce his own surname?

And if "Kaynes", then why is it Milton "Keenes"?

Blair's Millions

From The First Post:

As the stock market plummets and house prices slump, Tony Blair, the man who as Prime Minister championed the "light touch" system of financial regulation blamed by many for the current crisis, is enjoying an unprecedented boom in his fortunes. The Times reveals today that the former Prime Minister's earnings in his first year since leaving Downing Street topped £12 million, more than six times his previous lifetime income.

The lion's share of his income does not come from his various advisory jobs, but from the lucrative international lecture circuit where he is now said to be the highest-paid speaker in the world. Since his first gig last October, Blair is understood to have earned £5.3m, which is even more than Bill Clinton did in his first year after leaving the White House.

Blair, who works exclusively through the blue-chip Washington Speakers Bureau, is certainly popular – there is currently a two-year waiting list for bookings, with clients prepared to pay $250,000 for a typical speech of roughly 90 minutes.

A People's Bank

Charlie Marks writes:

Finance workers pressed the Government to make sure the multi-billion pound bail out of banks protected their wages and jobs rather than executive bonuses.

Around 100 workers from banks including Lloyds TSB and HBOS lobbied MPs in Parliament and were meeting Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper calling for jobs and conditions to be protected.

The demonstration was organised by Unite which fears banking jobs will be lost as a result of the financial crisis.

The union published a so-called Social Contract, including ideas on how the finance sector should be reformed and an overhaul of regulations.

The workers wore T-shirts bearing the slogan Stop Bankers’ Greed and held up banners outside Parliament.

Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, said workers were facing insecurity through no fault of their own.

“We are launching this charter to raise concerns about the future job prospects of ordinary bank workers who are not well paid and who are not to blame for the current financial crisis.

“We don’t think these workers should pay the price for the bail out.

“One of the problems has been the lack of regulation which has allowed this crisis to develop.

“There is a huge disparity between the wages and bonuses of chief executives and the pay of an average bank worker which is just £15,000.”

Simpson also pointed out that with the decades of deindustrialisation, many communities were dependent upon the financial sector for employment:

“Workers in the financial services industry are not the culprits of the credit crunch and we are not prepared to allow them to become the victims. The taxpayer must now get firm assurances that the financial lifeline extended to these large organisations will be used to protect jobs and the public. It is not acceptable for the government to socialise the risk without allowing the wider society to capitalise on the rewards in the finance industry.”

The Unite Social Contract states:

1. Recognition of Unite as a key stakeholder in the future of the financial services industry.

2. To ensure the employment security of employees in the finance sector.

3. To protect and improve the terms and conditions of employees, including pension arrangements

4. End the remuneration packages of senior executives which reward short-termism and irresponsible risk taking.

5. Overhaul of the regulatory structures of the financial services sector to include trade union involvement in order to enhance the accountability of finance institutions.

The general secretary of the Communications Workers Union writes in Tribune:
Billy Hayes says the failure of private finance is a compelling argument to recreate Girobank and boost the Post Office network.

“GREED is good” seems distinctly perverse now. Financial crisis and recession are tearing up the received wisdom. The policies of Thatcherism and Reaganism have brought about the greatest economic crash since 1929. Yesterday’s victors are today’s culprits.

The new debate for Labour has to be how to restart the economy and protect those most threatened by the recession. This is the only route to re-election now.

The collapse of the private banking sector ought to alert Government to the viability of a publicly-owned banking industry. The last publicly-owned bank, Girobank, was privatised by the Tories. It was subsequently taken over by Alliance and Leicester, which in turn has been swallowed by Abbey/Santander.

So the success of Thatcher-ism in this field has seen a publicly-owned bank end up as the property of a private Spanish one. Meanwhile, Britain’s private banks have received £37 billion of public money to recapitalise their failure.

We have witnessed a retreat and consolidation of private banking services offered to citizens. According to figures from Community Banking Partnership, Britain has 180 bank branches per one million inhabitants. In France, this figure is 435; in Italy 560; Germany 540; and Spain 940. The likely retrenchment among British banks following the crisis will make the issue of access even more pronounced.

This horror story should stand as a cautionary tale.

In these circumstances, the remaining network of more than 11,500 post office branches comes into focus. Here is a large retail network, of a publicly-owned company, which could be used to address both problems of financial exclusion and universal access.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Girobank and it is time for Government to look at it again. And the Government should consider what future is there for the Post Office network.

In 2006, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee heard evidence from the New Economic Foundation (NEF), the Campaign for Community Banking Services, Help the Aged and the National Housing Federation in support of establishing a universal service obligation in banking. While not dismissing this entirely, the committee was not persuaded of the need for legislation.

In its recent publication, Keeping Britain Posted, the nef found that there is still a problem of financial exclusion. The Post Office Card Account (POCA) provides a basic bank account for five million people. In comparison, private banks have provided a total of 1.97 million basic bank accounts. There are further two million adults in this country without any bank account.

Yet the Post Office’s provision of POCA is under serious threat. A Government announcement on the renewal of the POCA contract is due by the end of the year. If Royal Mail loses this in the tendering process, the impact will be dramatic. A further 3,000 post office branches would face closure.

There is some talk in management circles that the POCA contract may be split between Royal Mail and another provider. This would still result in closures, as any loss of work will cut deep into the narrow margins within which the Post Office operates.
Given that the Government is providing a subsidy to keep branches open, it is breathtaking that another department is considering removing work from these branches.

The Government needs to decide on a positive future for the Post Office network. Awarding the POCA replacement to the Post Office is an essential first step.

With a little imagination, the Government could establish, through the Post Office, a universal banking obligation and a peoples’ bank. Building on the POCA, the Government could ensure basic service charges that the poor pay are reduced directly by allowing service debits.

Energy and telecommunication companies charge customers money for not using direct debits. A publication by the Save the Children/Family Welfare Association estimated that financially excluded families pay an additional £1,000 a year as a result. An enhanced Post Office banking service could be a tool to overcome this. The people’s bank could also become a vehicle for promoting micro-credits and seed capital for the disadvantaged.

Private banks have no obligation to disclose their lending patterns. As a consequence, they cannot be a vehicle for the Government dispersal of small-scale capital start-ups.

Experience in countries such as Bangladesh and Venezuela shows that the effective deployment of small amounts of accessible credits can work wonders in poor communities. Whether it is used for retraining or small business development, small amounts of seed capital can make a huge difference in reducing poverty.

There are many such options for using a people’s bank in a progressive manner. The alternative is stark. The problem of financial exclusion and poverty are deepened by post office closures. The NEF’s report, The Last Post, shows how closures have had a negative impact on the local economy. Its study of Manchester indicated that a local post office added £310,546 a year to the area served.

So the Government must change its approach. A report published as far back as June 2000 by the Government’s own Performance and Innovation Unit outlined some good ideas. These included the promotion of local post offices as front offices for local and national government services.

In addition, the centralised model of Post Office governance is in conflict with the devolved character of recent Government policy. It is ridiculous that a central management board of the Post Office decides that 2,500 branches must close for no other reason than this number accords to the level of subvention offered by the Government.

That being the case, it is of no account to the board that local communities have no say in what postal services they are to be offered. In Scotland and Wales, for example, the devolved governments can only complain about decisions taken in London which dramatically affect the economic development of these nations.

The postal service is a unique combination of commercial and social necessities. It can best register the service required if it is genuinely demand-led. Local communities, including the large communities covered by devolved government, must be able to register their needs with Post Office management and the Government at Westminster.

Of course, there are forces pressing the Government against a progressive policy for Royal Mail and the Post Office network. The Hooper Report on the future of Royal Mail is due to be published soon. Although Richard Hooper’s team has not looked at the Post Office network in any detail, he has received submissions to break up Royal Mail and privatise all or part of it.

Such moves would be a breach of the commitment made by Labour to the electorate in its 2005 general election manifesto. There is no need for this. A people’s bank offers a comprehensive future for the Post Office network.

Christian Coalition Defends Parker Griffith

From Right Democrat:

The Christian Coalition of Alabama has issued the following news release in defense of Democratic Congressional candidate Dr. Parker Griffith who is the target of negative TV attacks ads sponsored by the casino-funded Freedom's Watch.

Dr. Randy Brinson, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama stated:

Recently, comments that Parker Griffith made at a Baptist minister conference over a month ago have been taken out of context to cast aspersions on his character, patriotism, and even Christian commitment.

The Baptist minister who moderated the panel where the comments have made, Rev. David Carpenter, has said he was "shocked by the misuse of the quote" and appalled that "anyone would misrepresent the truth in this way."

In response to the original questions about Griffith's comments, the Alabama Christian Coalition conducted an interview with Parker Griffith to probe more deeply what he said and meant. After speaking to him, we felt that his original statement and explanation were well-rooted in scripture and demonstrated a true love of country and trust in our Lord. Earlier this week, we sent an email (see article below) to our members sharing the interview with them so they could reach their on conclusions.

We had expected to leave the issue at that, but the recent television ads by Freedom's Watch require an additional and more forceful response.

Given the nature of the attacks on Griffith, it is especially important to note that the person funding and directing the decisions at Freedom's Watch is casino baron, Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has made billions of dollars in the Las Vegas casino industry and through his investments in China. His casinos have been fined $1 million for rigging games; he is under investigation by the federal government for coercing employees into giving up health insurance; and he spearhead and funded the lobbying effort to secure the Olympics for China in the face of the public outcry over China's human rights record and persecution of Christian missionaries.

The fact that someone so intimately tied to the Chinese regime like Sheldon Adelson would dare use his tainted money to question the patriotism and faith of a Christian man like Parker Griffith is the height of hypocrisy. The Alabama Christian Coalition has a long history of fighting to keep gambling interests out of our state, and of working to keep our politics out of the gutter.

Our hope is that this Congressional race will be determined on the issues that concern all Christians, particularly issues of preservation of life and preservation of the traditional family. We would welcome a conversation by Wayne Parker and Parker Griffith that focused on these more important issues to the people of the fifth district.

"Interview with Parker Griffith"

Comments that Parker Griffith made at a Baptist minister conference over a month ago have been getting some attention during this past week - mostly from interest groups outside Alabama who are using these comments to call Griffith's faith and conservative credentials into question.
At the center of the controversy are Griffith's statements that he believes the greatest threat to America is from the breakdown of American Christian values that have been the foundation of our country for over 200 years and that if Christians "are strong in what we believe, I don't think radical Islam or any other cult will be a threat to us." Rev. David Carpenter, who moderated the pastors' conference where Griffith spoke, said that Griffith's comments "have been taken out of context, and it is unfortunate that anyone would misrepresent the truth in this way."

So we decided the easiest way to resolve the issue was to simply ask Parker Griffith to elaborate further on what he said and what he meant. I've been traveling this past week as part of a Christian voter registration and canvassing program, but I was able to get a film crew to his office and catch up with Griffith over the phone to talk about these issues. His answers were deeply rooted in scripture and demonstrated a love and trust in our Lord.

Ultimately, you, the voters will need to decide whether Parker Griffith should represent us in Congress, and our hope is that this interview will help you cut through the political spin and base that decision on the light of truth.

I'd strongly encourage you to take a couple minutes to listen to the interview I conducted with Parker Griffith.

Dr. Randy Brinson,
Chairman CCA

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Where Are The Sachsgate Sackings?

Not very long ago (even if it does seem that way now), the Chairman and the Director-General of the BBC both had to resign after Alastair Campbell took umbrage at a single, passing remark, live in the early morning, which was factually correct anyway.

A Parish Council? He Wishes!

Tony Blair once likened the Scottish devolved body to a Parish Council. Well, if Lanchester Parish Council demanded to see our bank manager, then he would come. He certainly would not expect us to go to him.

If Alex Salmond had been the Leader or the Chief Executive of a major local authority (such as Edinburgh or Glasgow), then they would have been straight on a train or a plane to pay court to him. Not the other way round.

If the Leaders or Chief Executives of several more minor local authorities (all those in the former Grampian region, say) had been in a similar position, then then they would have been straight on a train or a plane to pay court to them. Not the other way round.

But as it is, the mere "First Minister of Scotland" (as if! - tell that to the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and saviour of Scotland's beloved banks) is expected to make his way to London. To pay court to them. Not the other way round.

Who, being a potential MP or municipal player, would want a job like that? And who, if no potential MP or municipal player were ever up for it, would want such a job to exist at all?

TSB has deep Scottish roots. And as far as it and everybody else outside the parallel universe of Scottish nationalism (in all parties) is now concerned, the First Minister of Scotland is Gordon Brown and the Scottish Finance Minister is Alistair Darling.

What will Salmond even talk about when he gets there? He'll suggest this or that and it'll be "Oh, don't worry, we've already squared that with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer". Or, of course, "We'd never get that past the Prime Minister and the Chanlcellor the Exchequer". Not to mention "Didn't you used to be Chief Economist at RBS?"

Everything about the SNP and, as it were, its Lager, has always been a product of Scotland's strange and historically aberrant descent into insularity, exacerbated by devolution: that the oil would last for ever, that people would always want to buy it, that Scotland subsidised England, that any independence treaty would just hand over the oil revenue to an independent Scotland, that an independent Scotland would be a "successor state" rather than simply a secession, that it might ever be let into the EU, that it might be allowed to remain on things like the National Grid, that Perthshire was normal (rural, pretty, affluent, some distance from all the English in the oil industry, a long way from places in Scotland with their supermarkets, cinemas, hospitals and main employers in England), and on, and on, and on.

But now, it is time to wake up. Forty per cent of the Bank of Scotland and fully sixty per cent of the Royal Bank of Scotland are now in public ownership. At UK level. Where the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are both Scots sitting for Scottish constituencies.

A Prime Minister, moreover who, being in the Labour (or Conservative) tradition rather than the Liberal one that held sway at the time of Irish Home Rule, could more than reasonably claim that that tradition absolutely precluded signing anything that constituted or effected a secession from the United Kingdom, ever. Nor, for that matter, has there ever been a referendum, anywhere, on secession from the United Kingdom.

And a Prime Minister who could now strengthen the Union even more than the global banking crisis has already done, and even more than it will be elsewhere when (as will very soon happen) the Irish Republic cracks down on Catholic schools while liberalising its abortion law. He could appoint a single Secretary of State with specific responsibility, even if "only" in terms of advocacy, for the Highlands, Islands, Borders and possibly also North East of Scotland; for North, Mid and West Wales, and for English-speakers in Wales (there is no contradiction here - Wales is now run by a South Welsh upper middle class which uses the Welsh language as its cordon sanitaire); and for those in "the Roman Catholic community" in Northern Ireland (which exists as a legal entity quite apart from the Church, for employment quota and other such purposes) who wish to preserve the Union.

I nominate Brian Wilson. What could be his title as a peer, and why?

Ionian Investigation

Sod the bone idle Standards Commissioner. This is a matter for the Police.

Can they investigate something that happened in Corfu?

If it relates to an actual, incited or conspired to crime in this country, then one would have thought so, yes.

After all, they investigate international fraud, international terrorism and international drug-trafficking, to name but three.

Nothing Could Be Finer

I know that I have readers in South Carolina. And I know that they are fans of Bob Conley.

Furthermore, I have just been told, by someone who knows for certain, that the Republican leaders in the House now expect to lose forty seats, while those in the Senate are bracing themselves for a filibuster-proof sixty Democrats, along with President Obama.

A liberal one-party state? Well, no, not necessarily. It depends who the forty more House Democrats, and the sixty Democratic Senators, are. Those likely to win even Democratic primaries in normally deep red states are not likely to be either morally and socially liberal diehard capitalists and warmongers (like the Clintons, although Bush has done everything they ever wanted and then some, whatever he might say or have said), or morally and socially liberal economic populists and foreign policy realists (who are actually quite rare, there as here, and who tend to be not so much populists as just Leftists, there as here).

No, they are most likely to be morally and socially conservative economic populists and foreign policy realists, the sort of people whom a primary system would produce in much of the United Kingdom if we were lucky enough to have such a thing.

Many such candidates are being backed by, especially, Democrats for Life. But that organisation has no chapter in Bob Conley's South Carolina. African-Americans voting the straight ticket that has Obama on it will of course greatly assist this traditional Catholic, Ron Paul activist, bailout opponent and Democrat with moral views far closer to their own than are Obama's. But even so, readers in South Carolina, action this day.

Well in time for services this Sunday, email every church in your state that you can find on the Internet, and ask them to pass it on to everyone they know, saying that Bob Conley is totally pro-life and pro-family, will promote the economic interests both of the blacks and of the white working class rather than of Wall Street, and will oppose the harvesting of their children in pointless, unwinnable wars.

Make sure that that filibuster-proofing Democratic Senator number sixty is, and that every Democrat from President Obama down knows him to be, the traditional Catholic, Ron Paul activist and bailout opponent, Bob Conley of South Carolina.

"Foreign-Born Preachers of Hate"

To be banned from this country.

Jolly good.

I know exactly the three places to start.

With the signatories to the Project for the New American Century, and the Patrons of the Henry Jackson Society.

With those American and other ecclesiastics who have expressed racist views about Africans and others who do not share their liberal sexual morality.

And with Hans Küng, whose disparagement of the late Pope John Paul II’s Polishness made and make them the authentic voice of the age-old Teutonic racism against the Slavs; Küng only gets away with it because he is Swiss.

Let these be excluded from the United Kingdom. Their presence would most certainly not be, and periodically is not, conducive to the public good.

Ban The Brand

What public service does Russell Brand fulfil, that he should be paid out of license-payers' money?

Let the license fee be made voluntary, with those who chose to pay it enrolled as members of the BBC Trust. The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the members in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the nine English regions (with their boundaries adjusted to reflect those of the historic counties).

Members would vote for one candidate by means of an X, and the top two would be declared elected at the end. A Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State with the approval of the relevant Select Committee.

All would hold office for a fixed term of four years, and would have to be sufficiently independent that they could, in principle, serve on local authority remuneration committees.

The National Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution not only survive, but thrive. So would the BBC.

Without Russell Brand.

The Banking Crisis: Strengthening The Union

Martin Kelly writes:

"This morning, if I were a customer or shareholder in Lloyds TSB I would be feeling quite happy. The bank's directors have shown that in a time of crisis, they are capable of retaining their sense of proportion.

Alex Salmond is travelling to London to meet them; they are not travelling to Edinburgh to meet him.

In their eyes, he is obviously not sufficiently important enough to bother travelling to meet; an assessment with which one can only agree. They haven't bought into his personality cult, nor are they swayed by his shtick. Here boy! Good dog!

That, plus the central government stake in HBOS, and its controlling interest in RBS (where Salmond learned everything he knows...).

Devolution is, as we all know, "a process, not an event". But the only logical end of that process can never now happen.

So, will anyone even bother to contest the next elections to the Scottish Parliament? Never mind the ones after that.

Hungary: Counting The Cost Of Capitalism

In The First Post, this, by Neil Clark:

It was the ex-communist country that did everything the West and its neo-liberal economic 'experts' said it should do. It privatised vast swathes of its economy. It allowed free and unhindered access to Western multinationals. It filed up obediently to join Nato and the EU and employed Goldman Sachs to give advice on privatisation.

Now, after 20 years of free-market 'reforms', Hungary, together with the Ukraine, sees the results of its policies: an IMF bail-out.

Hungary's economic collapse gives a lie to the dominant narrative that eastern European countries have thrived since the sweeping political changes of 1989.

I lived and worked in Hungary during the 1990s and saw at first hand the way that the economic 'reforms' insisted upon by the IMF, the World Bank and the EU adversely affected the majority of the population.

Ten years on, and times are even tougher. On a recent visit to Hungary I was shocked by the increase in street beggars and the number of old people I saw searching for scraps in trash cans.

Away from the swanky new Budapest bars around Liszt Ferenc Ter and Vaci Ut which cater for foreign businessmen and home-grown yuppies, the capital has a shabbier, poorer look than it did a decade ago. The fall in living standards became even more apparent when I visited other towns and cities in the country.

The statistics paint a depressing picture. Last year, real wages in Hungary fell by seven per cent. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has reported that 200,000 people in Hungary, including 20,000 children, are under-fed. One in five children are being brought up in poverty, while campaigners predict that recent price hikes of electricity and gas could push a further 3m people into poverty.

The truth is that Hungary, like the Ukraine, has gone backwards, and not forwards since the fall of communism. Even Viktor Orban, the staunchly anti-communist leader of the main conservative opposition party Fidesz, has conceded that for the majority, life was easier in the relatively liberal 'goulash' communism era of the 1970s and 80s.

Despite the selling-off of millions of pounds worth of state assets in the government's mass privatisation programme, Hungary's public finances remain in a poor state. The scale of corruption has been mind-boggling: Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany - whose 'pro-reform' economic policies have been lauded in the West - has an estimated fortune of £10m, made from controversial privatisation deals in the early 1990s.

The new IMF loan, far from being the salvation that Hungary's political elite is claiming, is likely to make things even worse. The IMF is insisting the government pursues 'strong policies' to reduce its deficit - shorthand for yet more swingeing cuts in public spending. That would mean the final nail in the coffin for the country's chronically under-funded health service; my mother-in-law had to bring in her own toilet paper during a hospital stay this summer.

The IMF loan is also likely to mean the enforced privatisation of the few assets remaining in state ownership, regardless of widespread public opposition.

"What's the difference between communism and capitalism?" is the joke currently doing the rounds in Budapest. Answer: "Under communism we had a big government debt but we lived well. Under capitalism we have a big government debt but we don't live well."

Monday 27 October 2008

Where Is Bob Conley?

In South Carolina.

One of the very few states with no chapter of Democrats for Life.

Hence, one can only assume, the absence of any endorsement by them of this traditional Catholic, Ron Paul activist and Democrat, increasingly on course to take a seat in the United States Senate.

Show Your Compassion

Here, if you are on Facebook:

"A group for those who would warmly welcome the erstwhile Masters of the Universe from the City to rural County Durham, to live in the still intact huts of the only complete POW camp left standing from the War. In return for rent, of course. But that’s what Housing Benefit is for."


Back in August, Policy Exchange, the trading name for publication purposes of David Cameron's office, proposed relocating entire Northern towns and cities to the (already very overcrowded) South East.

Well, what with the falling pound (very good for manufacturing), and the fact that the denizens of the City are now public pensioners living on the charity of those of us so poor that we have to pay tax, which part of the country is not fit for purpose now?

Here in County Durham, we have the only complete POW camp still standing from the War. There is nobody in it. But the erstwhile Masters of the Universe would be more than welcome to relocate to the still intact huts.

In return for rent, of course.

But no doubt the hated State would step in and pay that for them. Which is nice. Isn't it?

An Unstable Stable?

The Times relentlessly rubbishes its own Osborne scoop (give that one a moment to sink in), while the News of the World publishes details of Osborne's cocaine-fuelled past with a sadomasochistic prostitute.

What is going on in Murdoch's London stable? Which side are they on? Which side is Murdoch himself on? And why?

"Bomb, Bomb, Bomb..."

Not "...Bomb, Bomb Iran", but, it seems, "...Bomb, Bomb Syria".

A country with at least five predominantly Christian provinces, and where civil servants are given Sunday morning off to go to church even though Sunday is a working day.

A country, for pity's sake, which is in talks with Israel ("indirect" talks, but so what?).

Let us be grateful that this last ditch bit of electioneering, trying to incite Syria to war in order to shift the Presidential debate from the economy to "national security", is certainly not going to succeed.

But let us have no compunction about calling it what it is.

Citizen Smith (Senior)?

Before he dies? It's the least that they can do, isn't it?

I'm going to make myself disliked in certain circles (imagine...) for writing this. But no. I don't think so.

"It's a pity that only one of them can lose," said Henry Kissenger of the Iran-Iraq War. The same was true of the Spanish Civil War. We need to face the fact that we had no dog in that fight, a war between those who entirely predictably went on to back the Axis while officially neutral, and those who wanted to turn Spain into a satellite of, initially, a de facto member of the Axis, as Spain would also have been if the Republicans had won.

Indeed, she would have been so even more than she was under Franco, since the Soviet Army actually fought alongside that of Nazi Germany, notably staging a joint victory parade through the streets of Brest-Litovsk. If Hitler had also had such a relationship with a Soviet-dominated Spain, then he would probably never have reneged on the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and therefore might very well have won the War.

The Spanish Civil War has always split Old Labour into its constituent subcultures. It did at the time. The Hard Left is as ardently pro-Republican as ever, because of its myopia (even now) about Stalinism, because of its anti-Catholicism, and because of the overrating of George Orwell. Meanwhile, Catholics, at least if pushed or if they know anything at all about it (as almost no younger Spaniards do, either), will still back the Falangists (whose ostensible Catholicism was a perversion defined by its reaction against other things, although there have been worse such before, at the same time, and since), at least on balance. No one else will have much, if any, view on the matter.

But we need to get real. Even if Franco was no Hitler, neither side deserves our historical sympathy. Franco, as much as anything else, maintained, and occasionally tried to press, a territorial claim to (staunchly British, staunchly Catholic) Gibraltar.

And since Soviet archives were opened up, all sorts of information has come to light. The entire Republican cause was Comintern-directed, and the Soviet intervention was in no sense parasitic as has traditionally been supposed or asserted. For example, far from being commanded by a Canadian volunteer, the International Brigade was in fact commanded by Manfred Stern, a Soviet Commissar.

But then, there never was an anti-Soviet Left in Spain in the Thirties; that myth has been astonishingly long-lasting considering its compete and utter baselessness. Take, for example, Francisco Largo Cabellero, Socialist Party Leader and Popular Front Prime Minister. Entirely typically of his party, he defined it as a revolutionary force wholly distinct from British Labour or the French Socialists, and differing "only in words" from the Communists.

The Socialist Party's 10-point programme of 1934 was wholly Leninist in form and substance, calling, among other things, for the replacement of the Army and the Civil Guard with a workers' militia, and for the dissolution of the religious orders and the expropriation of their property.

And so one could go on, and on, and on.

Stalin only loosened his grip once the Civil War was clearly lost, long after the Republicans themselves had given up what little commitment to democracy that they might ever have had. So the best that can be said about the Spanish Civil War is that the not-quite-so-bad bad guys won.

Had the even-worse bad guys (the Republicans) won, then Spain would actually have fought with the Axis just as the Soviet Union did, the Nazi-Soviet Pact would probably never have collapsed, and Hitler might therefore very well have won the War.

Meanwhile, we all need to learn far more about Portugal, our dear old friend, where they even use GMT when we do, and where they even use what we call British Summer Time when we do. Far from laying claim to any part of our territory, Portugal allowed us to use the Azores during the Falklands War.

There, a leader sometimes categorised by the lazy as a "Fascist", actually, on the border of Civil War-ravaged Spain, held the line against against both the Communists and the "National Syndicalists". That line was the Estado Novo (strikingly similar to the British tradition of morally and socially conservative economic social democracy) and exceedingly multiethnic, indeed multiracial, Lusotropicalism (strikingly similar to a patriotic allegiance to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth).

Yes, Salazar was authoritarian. But look at his neighbour, and look what he was up against domestically. Imagine if a Fascist putsch in the Irish Free State (and at least one was attempted) had coincided with very serious Communist and Fascist threats in Britain. The British Government of the day would have been authoritarian, too. And, while the emergency lasted, it would have been right.

Salazar was overthrown by a Maoist (yes, Maoist) insurrection, a figure from which went on to become a rabidly "free"-marketeering and pro-Bush Prime Minister before being wafted into the Presidency of the European Commission. What progress, eh?

But all is far from lost. Earlier this month, Portugal re-affirmed in law that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Not like Connecticut, which has followed Massachusetts and California, despite already having a civil partnerships law. With the lead coming from Portugal rather than from a growing number of the United States, where are "Christian America" and "secular Europe" now?

No wonder that Salazar was recently voted the Greatest Portuguese Ever in a mass television poll of his compatriots.

Hungry In Hungary

Hasn't neoliberalism done well in Central and Eastern Europe?

The Trouble With Economics

That true conservative, Martin Kelly, writes:

An academic named Guy Dammann has an article in today's 'Guardian' entitled 'The trouble with economics'.

Like all critiques of economics, it fails to mention the blindingly obvious; that economics is not a science, but a religion. Like all religions, it states that its prescriptions are the path to wellbeing and fulfillment. The recent extension of economic theory into such mystical, unscientific areas as 'happiness' more than prove the point.

The energy and complexity of arguments between economists more than echo medieval disputations concerning how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; and if we concede Marx's point that religion is the opium of the people, then, by the same token, for the past 200 years economics has been the opium of the elite, and of those who wish to join it.

One has many atheist friends in the blogosphere, and is always slightly saddened by their use of expressions such as 'sky fairy' to describe the object of sincerely held beliefs. When advised of a plan to create a Napoleonic state religion, Talleyrand remarked, 'In order to found His religion, Jesus Christ died and rose again. I would suggest you do likewise'. The sacrifice of the Cross and the mystery of the Resurrection are what separates Christianity from all other world religions. There is no Cross in economics; it makes crosses for others to bear.

The truly pernicious achievement of economics has been that folks who think nothing of rejecting God as an unsupportable abstract have no difficulty in paying homage to equally unsupportable abstracts such as 'equilibrium'. Much of their opposition to religion, which is of evangelical proportions, seems to be rooted in historic abuses of power perpetrated by Church authorities. It might put them off their dinners if they were to realise that many economists have been as deeply in the tank for their banking employers as the medieval Church was in the tank for the Medicis.

But I suppose those economists were just being rational.

Nightmare On Wall Street

The first of today's two from Right Democrat is this, by the glorious Pastor Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who teaches us that Wall Street's collapse is the logical consequence of the economic philosophy that governs America (and not just America, of course):

A telling word emerged in commentary about the collapse of the financial markets this fall—greed. It’s an old concept, and one with deep moral roots. Even venerable establishment economists such as Robert Samuelson said, “Greed and fear, which routinely govern financial markets, have seeded this global crisis. ... short-term rewards blinded them to the long-term dangers.”

The people on top of the American economy get rich whether they make good or bad business decisions, but their bad choices always make workers and consumers suffer. Prudent investment has been replaced with reckless financial gambling, creating what some have called a “casino economy,” where Wall Street high rollers absorb the winnings while leaving catastrophic risks to be borne—as now—by everyone in the economy. And the inordinate level of benefits accruing to top CEOs and financial managers—especially as the wages of average workers continue to decline—has become one of the greatest moral travesties of our time.

In the search for blame, some say greed and some say deregulation. Both are right. The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America—that markets are always good and government is always bad. But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with government and business. The climate seems to shift between an “anything goes” mentality and stricter government regulation. The excesses of the 1920s, leading to the Great Depression, were followed by the reforms of Franklin Roosevelt.

The entrepreneurial spirit and social innovation fostered by a market economy has benefited many and should not be overly encumbered by unnecessary or stifling regulations. But left to its own devices and human weakness (let’s call it sin), the market too often disintegrates into greed and corruption, as the Wall Street financial collapse painfully reveals. Capitalism needs rules, or it easily becomes destructive. A healthy, balanced relationship between free enterprise, on the one hand, and public accountability and regulation, on the other, is morally and practically essential. Govern¬ment should encourage innovation, but it must also limit greed.

Cokie Roberts, on ABC’s This Week, offered an appropriate judgment on those responsible for this fall’s financial debacle: “I’d like to see the CEOs of these companies marched down Wall Street in sackcloth and ashes.” Perhaps God’s own message to Wall Street can be found in the words of Micah: “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! ... They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. Therefore, the Lord says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.’”

The behavior of too many on Wall Street is a violation of biblical ethics. The teachings of Christianity and other faiths condemn the greed, selfishness, willful blindness, and cheating that have been revealed in corporate behavior for decades and denounce the callous mistreatment of employees.

The strongest critics of the Wall Street gamblers call it putting self-interest above the public interest; the Bible would call it a sin. I don’t know about the church- going habits of the nation’s top financial managers, but if they do attend services, I wonder if they ever hear a religious word about the practices of arranging huge personal bonuses and escape hatches while destroying the lives of people who work for them or invest in their companies. We now need wisdom from the economists, prudence from the business community, and renewal courses on the common good from the nation’s religious leaders.

It’s time for the pulpit to speak—for the religious community to bring the Word of God to bear on the moral issues of the American economy. The Bible speaks of such things from beginning to end, so why not our pastors and preachers?

Well, you do, Pastor Wallis. And that's a start, at least.

The Middle Class's Share of the Pie

Right Democrat also has this, by Leo Gerard, from the Campaign for America's Future:

Protestors disrupted a convention of mortgage financers in San Francisco this week, storming the stage as former Bush advisor Karl Rove spoke, heckling bankers with bullhorns and badgering a panel with demands for a foreclosure moratorium.

Fear and frustration compelled ordinary citizens to harangue the green-visor set at their normally staid annual meeting. Middle-class Americans are losing their jobs and their homes and their hope while watching Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spend their tax dollars to bail out the infinitely wealthy on Wall Street, whose reprehensible risk-taking caused the country’s financial crisis. The middle class wants its piece of the American pie.

Congress is trying to dish it out in the form of a second stimulus package that would extend unemployment insurance and food stamps and create jobs through programs such as highway construction projects.

Republican candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin oppose it. They’re running around the country with caricatures of Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-pack, pretending to represent the best interests of the working class and small business owners. It’s all false rhetoric and no real action. McCain and Palin object to intervention for anyone other than the wealthy, for whom they plan to enshrine tax cuts; for overfed CEOs, for whom they believe the $700 billion bailout was justified; and for themselves, for whom they believe the Republican National Committee appropriately opened its purse to purchase haute couture wardrobes, hair stylists and makeup artists.

McCain wants to brand a socialist “S” on candidate Barack Obama, although both voted for the bailout plan under which the U.S. government is nationalizing banks.

However, Obama believes not in socialism but in everyone serving as their brothers’ keepers. He described “the American promise” this way in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:

“It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, to look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools, and new roads, and science, and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.”

That philosophy has great appeal with unemployment at a five-year high of 6.1 percent; with the poverty rate rising to 12.5 percent in what is supposed to be the richest country in the world; with 47 million without health insurance; with 1 million homes lost to foreclosure in the past two years and another 1.5 million in the process, and with the chronically ill across American skipping medications because they can’t afford them, as The New York Times reported this week.

While you’re scrimping and saving and shopping at Costco to prevent foreclosure of your home, just remember what Palin told CNN reporter Drew Griffin about providing a stimulus package to help the middle class: “But now that we’re hearing that the Democrats want an additional stimulus package or bailout package for what, hundreds of billions of dollars more, this is not a time to use the economic crisis as an excuse for reckless spending and for greater, bigger government and to move the private sector to the back burner and let government be assumed to be the be-all, end-all solution to the economic challenges that we have.”

So, for Palin, great big government is okay to bail out Wall Street fat cats, but not to help the middle class. Palin’s knee-jerk Republican “let-the-private-sector-solve-it” attitude shocks the consciousness after the indiscretion of the private sector just landed this country in financial crisis. We’re not inclined to trust them, frankly, Ms. Palin.

McCain said the same, backing the bailout for the reckless on Wall Street, and damning attempts by Democrats to help those on Main Street – of course, all the while dragging up the image of Joe the Plumber and contending he’s the guy’s advocate.

The ticket clearly lacks both introspection and economic expertise. McCain said it himself last year – that he was no authority on the economy. By contrast, a person with some degree of economic proficiency, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, last week endorsed additional fiscal stimulus, saying it was appropriate now because the economy is likely to be weak for several quarters. In addition, economic expert and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman said last week that additional government spending now for a stimulus package is appropriate, particularly for infrastructure improvement, which would provide real value and create jobs.

Though McCain and Palin clearly don’t understand, it’s time for everyday Americans to share in the American pie. At a rally in Florida this week, Obama talked about how the policies of the Bush administration have shrunk the pie and permitted the wealthy to grab the few remaining crumbs. He told he crowd he has no desire to reapportion the pie, as McCain keeps accusing him wanting to — as a socialist, you know. Also, Obama objects to the McCain-Palin policy of continuing to feed the rich all of the crumbs, which is particularly evident in the GOP tax plan.

Obama told the group his goal is to expand the pie to ensure that all Americans get a piece. The crowd responded with a spontaneous chant of, “We want pie!”

That’s what is going on in America. That’s why protestors accosted mortgage bankers at their California convention. The middle class won’t stand for the rich wolfing down all of the pie anymore.

Sunday 26 October 2008

From Bullingdon Bull To Bilderberg Bilge

If the world is a conspiracy, then it is a remarkably unsuccessful conspiracy. There is nothing conspiratorial about the Project for the New American Century, or the political overclass that has now taken over all three nominally distinct parties in this country. They are, and have always been, entirely open both about themselves and about how they are connected to each other. It is not their fault that so many people are determined to disbelieve them.

Other such examples positively abound.

In that context, it has been brought to my attention by three different sources, all of them impeccable, that George Osborne is a member of the Bilderberg Group. So there we have it. That, and that alone, is why this fabled body receives practically no coverage. If it will stoop to allowing him into it, then it cannot have anything of any real interest or importance to cover.

Yes, the Bullingdon Club has effectively taken over the Tory Party. So what? That hardly amounts to being a secretive world government. For a few more weeks, the PNAC remains the nearest thing to any world government. And that is anything but secretive.

If the Bilderberg Group were anything more than an over-priced but thoroughly seedy dining and drinking club, then it simply would not countenance some prostitute-frequenting cocaine addict who could not run so much as his own bath, and indeed has never been expected to do so.

The question is now whether the United Kingdom is anything more than an over-priced but thoroughly seedy dining and drinking club, such that it simply will not countenance as Chancellor of the Exchequer some prostitute-frequenting cocaine addict who could not run so much as his own bath, and indeed has never been expected to do so.

Milk Bull

How shocking that, thirty years to the month after the murder of Harvey Milk, Californians will vote on Proposition Eight, which seeks to define marriage, so very eccentrically, as the union of one man and one woman?

Er, no, actually.

Not unless you want to lower the age of marriage to, well, what, exactly? Zero? Nothing else would really have sufficed for Milk and the rest of the “sex by age eight or it’s too late” crowd who invented, not yet two generations ago, the idea that homosexuality was about being rather than just doing, and was somehow any basis for individual or collective economic, social, cultural or political identity.

Nor would anything else really suffice for their noisy successors today.

By no means only in California.

Vile, Indeed

Over at Harry’s Place, the hedge-fund-trading, corporate-lawyering, Tory-voting arbiters of acceptably left-wing opinion have come up with a new ruse. Any criticism of their own class of crash-causing bailout beneficiaries must be anti-Semitic, don’t you know? It matters not that most Jews are not in that class, nor are most of its members Jewish.

They have already done this almost subliminally with a piece about Hungary. But now they are doing so flagrantly, in an attack on Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail for his suggestion that Nat Rothschild might not be the sort of person with whom politicians should associate.

He was clearly talking about international money men. The Harry’s Place lot can see that perfectly well. But they are determined to smear this richly deserved attack on them and theirs as an attack on Jews.

As much as anything else, just how Jew-ish are the Rothschilds these days? Just how much brissing, Bar Mitzvah-ing, kosher-keeping or Sabbath-nighting do they do? None, I expect. How many of them even have Jewish mothers, which is, after all, the one thing that really matters?

The fact that the Bullingdon Club ever let in Nat Rothschild strongly suggests that even they – yes, even they – did not know that he had a partly Jewish background. After all, they very nearly kept out George Osborne for being so low-born (the mere heir to a baronetcy) and so minor in his public school (only Saint Paul’s). They probably thought that young Nat was a relative of the Father Rothschild in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies.

But expect this sort of thing to spread, and be ready for it. Be ready to insist on the fact that, no, an attack on the crash-causing, nation-despising, variation-flattening, family-hating, warmongering bailout beneficiaries is not an attack on “the Jews”.

Rather, it is simply an attack on the crash-causing, nation-despising, variation-flattening, family-hating, warmongering bailout beneficiaries.

Well, They're Keen

Originally, I had assumed that this was spam; but it isn't:

I sent you an email few days back about Minekey's initiative regarding the upcoming U.S Elections 2008. provides a forum for global citizens to discover, vote upon and discuss the key issues being debated between Obama and McCain.Anyone can join the conversation on Minekey, and vote upon and discuss the issues which are central today to the welfare and prosperity of America. So far, users have expressed several thousand opinions about Obama and McCain, and all the important issues relevant for this election. We hope you too will test drive the micro-site and share this with your audience.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Help For Heroes

Wear your poppy with pride. I am doing so as I write.

And I very much hope that the X-Factor single in aid of Help For Heroes does well.

But the best way (indeed, really the only way) to help those heroes is to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and never embark on any such adventure again.

No true friend of the Armed Forces could possibly disagree.

They Are The Have Yachts, We Are The Have Nots

Peter Hitchens is on glorious form at the moment, from doctored Bullingdon Club photographs, to how "sex education" is just nationalised grooming, to assisted suicide, to Afghanistan, to this:

So here we see our new, one-party elite in all its lack of glory, interchangeable careerists from fake ‘Tory’ and fake ‘Labour’ front benches, floating around in lukewarm seas of money with Russian oligarchs, hedge-fund millionaires, foreign media magnates and who knows what else?

This, the Corfu set, is your choice at the next Election. You can have one thing, or you can have the same thing. If you want anything else, you can get stuffed. These individuals have no interest in you, or in this country, nor much idea of how the rest of us live. It is centuries since Britain was ruled by a set of people who have so little in common with those they govern.

What they’re really embarrassed about this week is that you might realise that this is what they are like. Peter Mandelson is less troubled than George Osborne because nobody would be surprised by anything he did, or anyone he met. If Peter turned up in North Korea having cocktails with Kim Jong Il, it would be Kim’s reputation that got damaged.

But it is much worse for the Tories. They have spent millions (raised how, exactly?) on buying themselves a nice new image. Now they fear that the whole lot has gone down the plumbing.

They tried so hard to avoid this. David Cameron even had a pseudo-holiday in Cornwall, where he posed for pictures, before heading off for his real holiday in Yachtworld, where he wasn’t so keen to be seen.

How it makes me yearn for the much-mocked old days of the grouse moors, and even Harold Wilson’s expeditions to the Scilly Isles. Our political leaders may not have been much good [well, I wouldn't necessarily agree with him on that one] but at least they were ours, not the trashy flotsam of the global elite.

Obama's Base Speaks

Right Democrat has this, the text of radio advertisement in support of Florida's Marriage Protection Amendment 2:

"Hi, I'm Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A "yes" vote on 2 does only one thing: it defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman. No one loses benefits. Everyone's civil rights are safe. Don't be mislead by dishonest ads about benefits. Protecting marriage between one man and one woman simply protects our children and grandchildren. Please, vote "yes" on 2."

For more, see here.

Going To The Dogs

Three cheers for Pedigree Chum. It is on the brink of joining the RSPCA (even if that is an anti-hunting political party with charitable status) and announcing that it will be having nothing further to do with Cruft's. The BBC's involvement also looks increasingly unlikely.

If breeding from brothers and sisters, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and grandparents and grandchildren is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is. If the result that pugs, for example, are so inbred that, although there are ten thousand of them in Britain, there are in genetic terms only five hundred distinct individuals, is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is.

If the situation whereby fifty per cent of Cavalier King Charles spaniels have heart problems, and many have a truly horrific condition in which their brains are the wrong size, is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is.

If the fact that dachshunds, bull terriers, beagles, basset hounds and those German shepherd dogs bred for show are freakish, unhealthy parodies of what they ought to be, and used to be, is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is. (The German shepherds still used by the Police are the real, healthy ones, scorned by the world of dog shows.)

If the plight of most bulldogs, which now cannot mate without assistance and cannot give birth naturally, is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is.

If the destruction of newborn Rhodesian ridgeback puppies because they are perfectly healthy rather than having the mild form of spina bifida required by the "breed standard" is not cruelty to animals, then nothing is.

And so on, and on, and on.

Her Majesty, no less, must now decide. Patron of the RSPCA? Or Patron of the Kennel Club?

Buy British

The job you save may be your own.

But why on earth has it been left to the Lib Dems, of all people, to say this?

The Slow, Lingering Death of the Labour Party

Yet another chance encounter with an old friend who has left the Labour Party ("with bells on", as she herself puts it). She says that she now plans to concentrate her political efforts on child poverty, in which (like me) she takes it as self-evident that New Labour has no interest whatever.

Just how many people are there left in the Labour Party who are not either in receipt of Councillors' allowances or closely related (usually married) to those who are? I am not saying that those Councillors do not do much good. Many do. But even so.

Meanwhile, even Tom Miller writes:

"I just missed re-election to the Young Fabians exec, which is a bit sickening, considering that I am membership officer and we ended the year 52 up, taken against the otherwise declining membership of the society as a whole.

I came top of the non-elected pile, which is even worse. As far as I'm aware, there is now nobody on the executive of the body who self-defines as being on the left of the party, which is a bit of a nightmare considering that two years ago we had a fairly broad spread, even including one members who is somewhere between Compass and the campaign group.

I plan to stay involved with the organisation despite it's now rather narrow focus, as I believe that the professionalism of those involved in planning things, the workable budget and the de jure factionally impartial nature of the organisation gives people from the whole spread of Labour Opinion somewhere to work. I will of course also be having a pop at co-options.

Say it like you mean it, Tom.

Tom Miller is just shy of 23.

"With My Body, I Need Not Thee Worship"

The Rector has apologised who conducted almost exactly a Book of Common Prayer wedding service, followed by what seemed to be an Anglo-Catholic Nuptial Mass after the style of yesteryear (basically the Tridentine Rite rendered into Cranmerian English), in order to bless a civil partnership between two other Anglican clerics.

But this whole situation is entirely avoidable. Civil partnerships already do not need to be consummated. There has never been any such need. So what have they to do with homosexuality, really?

Yet the legislation fails to provide for unmarried close relatives. That is proof, as if proof were needed, that the point of this measure is to privilege homosexuality on the specious basis that it is an identity comparable to ethnicity or class, or even to sex (which is written into every cell of the body).

The legislation must be amended immediately to allow unmarried relatives, whether of the same or of opposite sexes, to register their partnerships. Then there would be no problem.

If it had said that at the time of its enactment, then there would never have been anything more than a few newspaper stories about how same-sex couples were "planning to make use of a new law to protect elderly unmarried relatives living together from inheritance tax when one of them dies".

So why wasn't it set up like that?

See above, I'm afraid.

Cannabis Kills Babies

James Howson, who murdered his baby daughter by breaking her spine, was a cannabis addict, and high on that drug at the time.

Cannabis must be made a Class A drug, accompanied by a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.

How many more dead babies must there be before we confront the fact that the rich and powerful, and their spoilt kiddies, are as subject to the law of the land as everyone else?


The refusal of Shas to join a new Israeli coalition government is a useful reminder, because Shas is a useful reminder. Whatever else Israel may or may not be, Israel is simply not a Western country, still less is Israel the West's front line, or anything like that.

Israel is certainly no more a Western country than, say, somewhere where the President has to be a Catholic, and where a European language is spoken routinely, including in all official business. Or somewhere with at least five predominantly Christian provinces, and where civil servants are given Sunday morning off to go to church even though Sunday is a working day. Or somewhere where, at least until a recent invasion removed their previous protection, Christians comprised about one eighth of the population. Or somewhere with three reserved seats for Christians (and a reserved seat for Jews) in Parliament.

Those countries rather more Western than Israel are, respectively, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

A Western country does not, ever, have the balance of power held by a party which demands that the law of the land conform to not even to the the halachic practices of European Jews, but to the often very different halachic practices of Middle Eastern Jews, who are linguistic, cultural and therefore (from a pan-Arab point of view) political Arabs.

No wonder that Shas is as lukewarm as it is about the settler movement, and really about Zionism in general. People have berated me in the past for suggesting that the settlers, in fidelity to the Zionist pioneers, were trying to set up a little bit of "long nineteenth-century" Germany in the Levant, and didn't really want to be in the Middle East at all. Well, you don't have to take my word for that.

If Britain, or France, or America (and the shift has very definitely started there), or any other Western country ever saw the balance of power held by a party which demanded, for example, Sharia law, then Britain, or France, or America, or wherever would have ceased to be a Western country.

With the balance of power held by Shas, indeed with Shas as a significant political force at all, Israel is not only not a Western country, but is a very, very, very Middle Eastern country, far less Western than Lebanon, or Syria, or Iraq (at least before the invasion), or Iran, and right up or down there with other neocon favourites (indeed, the Clinton and Bush paymasters) in such places as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, above all, Saudi Arabia.

Non-neocon, non-Clintonite, non-Bushite attitudes and policy should reflect this.

Post-neocon, post-Clinton, post-Bush attitudes and policy should reflect this.

The attitudes and policy of the Obama Administration should reflect this.

Mandy And Oleg's Mate Is Buying Up Montenegro

Neil Clark writes:

I have always maintained that the demonisation of the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of his country came about not because Milosevic was an ethnic cleanser (he wasn't), nor because he was a dictator (he wasn't), but because he was running the 'wrong' sort of economy.

Yugoslavia under Milosevic had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car and tobacco industries, and 75% of industry was state or socially owned. In 1997, a privatisation law had stipulated that in any sell-offs, at least 60% of shares had to be allocated to a company's workers.

The high priests of neo-liberalism were not happy. At the Davos summit early in 1999, Tony Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to embark on a programme of "economic reform" - new-world-order speak for selling state assets and running the economy in the interests of foreign capital.

Now of course Milosevic is dead, and the Balkans have been 'liberated' from his 'tyrannical' rule (under which over 20 political parties freely operated). And Kapital is free to go anywhere in the region!

The newly 'independent' Montenegro is providing particularly rich pickings for the global financial/business elite, as this Daily Mail report reveals.

What was a Yugoslav army/navy dockyard in the Milosevic era is now a piece of real estate owned by TriGranit, Hungary's biggest property developer. And what do we know about TriGranit?

It is co-owned by a Hungarian-born Canadian billionaire named Peter Munk and Nat Rothschild. Munk, 80, is owner of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producing company. He was advised to invest in Montenegro by the Rothschild family, with whom he has long enjoyed business ties. Then he made a call to Deripaska. 'Oleg made the first phone call to the prime minister (Djukanovic)(pictured above) and opened the door for me,' Mr Munk explained. But Munk and Rothschild were not alone in the project. Also on board are Nat's father Lord Rothschild and two other business big names. One, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, adds lustre.

The toppling of Milosevic and the destruction of his country has certainly proved profitable for some, hasn't it!

As Monsieur Verdoux, the eponymous anti-hero of Chaplin's classic film said: "Wars- conflict- it's all business!"

Some People Never Learn

Con Coughlin, for example.

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

Does Iran even have a nuclear bomb, or even any realistic hope of acquiring one, never mind any actual desire to do so?

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

Has not Israel hundreds of nuclear bombs, so that an Iranian nuclear bomb should give Israelis no cause to worry?

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

Why would Iran ever wish to bomb any a part of the United Kingdom, or even any member of the Commonwealth?

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

Has Israel a majority population that is at least culturally Christian?

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

Is Hebrew a European language?

Is Israel a part of the United Kingdom, or even a member of the Commonwealth?

How is any of this anything to do with us?

Something Else

Rod Liddle (hardly a Vatican mouthpiece) writes:

The intention behind David Steel’s [Abortion] Bill of 1967 was to prevent the maiming of women by back-street abortionists, and the following year 22,000 women in England and Wales availed themselves of this vibrant new opportunity. The latest available figures show that 193,700 abortions were carried out in 2006.

Clearly, something has changed. You might argue that abortion has become what it was never intended to be, a primary source of contraception for the ignorant, the lazy or the stupid. It is not the terror of sinister men with wire coat-hangers which drives women towards the smart and kindly clinics, but — in the main — sheer forgetfulness, the deregulation of sexual intercourse, allied to the broader point that for the bulk of the country, abortion — like single-parenthood, divorce, etc — has lost any vestige of stigma. What are you doing today, Chantrelle? Oh, I thought I’d watch Jeremy Kyle for a bit and then pop down for a quick abortion. The deep depression into which Chantrelle may well sink after her brief operation was not something which she anticipated. Nor, clearly, is it something imposed by the disapprobation of society — because, in the main, there is no such disapprobation. It must be something else, then.

The ground is shifting.


Melanie McDonagh (a Catholic, unless I am very much mistaken) takes issue with Phil Woolas, who seems to think that having bishops in the House of Lords is the esse of Establishment, much as there are those who imagine that the Act of Settlement has anything to do with Establishment, which in fact it post-dates by a century and a half.

The sheer objectionable nature of a church whose doctrine was whatever the Crown, and so eventually the Crown in Parliament, said it was at the given time, has been an enormous force for the creation of a pluralistic society, and thus by necessity a representative democratic political system, in this country. Without it, there would have been neither the Nonconformist Conscience (because there would have been no Nonconformists) nor Catholic Emancipation (because Rome really was a long way away in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so some accommodation really would have been reached by those who still felt themselves Catholics, as if feelings mattered here, and who would consequently have had no need of Emancipation in 1829).

But all of that has only the most tangential relationship to bishops in the House of Lords. They were there before the Reformation. Indeed, with the abbots and priors of the still-undissolved monasteries they formed the majority of the members.

Still, the principle of giving representation to this Realm's Christian heritage as such, and to moral and spiritual values as such, could perhaps be better implemented today, if only because so many barely lukewarm articulators of such concerns have been (though are not so much of late, but that could change perfectly easily) bishops in the Church of England.

So, in place of 26 bishops, how about 26 representatives (all politically independent, of course), 13 specifically of the United Kingdom's Christian heritage, and 13 of moral and spiritual values generally? This would be far more than fair: if the aim were simply to reflect the population at large, then seventy-two per cent of such seats would be reserved for Christians.

Elections would be on a national basis. From each list of candidates, each of us would be able to vote for one candidate, and the highest-scoring 13 would be declared elected at the end. Vacancies in the course of a Parliament would be filled by simply bringing in number 14.

Stoke To Abolish Elected Mayor

Charlie Marks writes:

London’s Tory mayor, Boris Johnson has already hiked bus fares for the poorest - he’s now set to scrap the target of 50% affordable housing across the city.

One man wielding such power is the antithesis of democracy. Ideally, proposed legislation should be put to the public vote, of course. But until then we need to be sure that decisions are being made through parliamentary rather than dictatorial processes.

So it’s good to see that a majority of Stoke citizens have voted to abolish their elected mayor…

The current political system, which is unique in England, will be replaced by a council leader and cabinet set-up.

The referendum vote was 21,231 for a council leader and cabinet, and 14,592 for a mayor and cabinet. The turnout was 19.23%.

A government commission said the city must change its system, under which the elected Labour mayor Mark Meredith and his chief executive make all decisions.

Rejoice! Away with these mini-republics, which are wholly alien to these shores.