Monday, 23 October 2017

Crossed Wires

An old friend who runs a small business is having terrible trouble as a result of the plethora of privatised electricity companies supplying the same building.

The same product, via the same wires or pipes: how can it possibly cost different amounts from different companies? It can't. Of course it can't. Never mind from the same company. The same company! What do you get if you are on the higher tariff? Seriously, what?

If people realised all of this, though, then they might ask why the utilities were delivered by cartels of pretend-competitors, instead of being where they belonged, in public ownership. And that would never do. Oh, no. That would never do at all.

Married To The Widow Next Door?

On The Westminster Hour last night, even Jacob Rees-Mogg professed himself opposed to the Henry VIII powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Get out of that one, the people who were screaming blue murder when Labour voted against it. In better days, David Davis would also have voted against this dreadful power grab by the Executive.

Pale By Comparison

A very elderly person would seem quite ideal to promote understanding of noncommunicable diseases. But as a comment on an earlier post put it, "They are very lucky to have Mugabe as the other side, otherwise nobody would feel any sympathy for them apart from the Thomas Mairs of the world." That comment was not quite about noncommunicable diseases in the ordinary sense of the term. Yet the point almost works either way.

Robert Mugabe, who is there at all because Margaret Thatcher absolutely insisted on him, can make almost anyone else look good by comparison. Or, at any rate, that is the view of him from the old colonial powers of Europe, and from the United States. Clearly, he does not necessarily have that effect on Africans. To many of them, even his faults pale, so to speak, next to those of his enemies.

The ongoing sympathy for the Rhodesian cause in certain circles needs to be set in the context of the fact that Ian Smith and his supporters not only committed treason against the Queen, but then purported to depose her, going so far as to remove the Union Flag from their own, something that even the Boers' revenge republic to the south never did.

I have wondered for some time why the monarchy kept sweet the people who needed to be kept sweet, since it had at least signed off on every aspect of the Welfare State, on every nationalisation, on every retreat from Empire, on every social liberalisation, on every EU Treaty, and on every one of Tony Blair's constitutional and ceremonial changes.

But perhaps those people do not really care for the monarchy at all, or even for the Queen herself? They certainly cared rather more, in practical terms, for its visceral enemies and hers in South Africa and Rhodesia. That was not in the distant past. In the South African case, where we are talking about people who annually laid wreaths in memory of the other side in a twentieth century war against Britain, it was all the way up to 1991. (I do not blame the Afrikaners on that point, by the way. I have stood in the Boer cemetery in St Helena and read the headstones of those boys of 14 and 15, carved in the language of their captors. Of course their nephews hated Britain.)

Ultraconservative opinion might do better if, alongside the continuation of an essentially decorative monarchy, the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, or at least of the parts of it that made any political difference and thus including Royal Assent, were to be made subject to the approval of seven out of nine Co-Presidents, elected every eight years and required to name seconds in case they died or resigned.

Each of us would vote for one candidate, and the top nine would be elected. These would be non-party figures, although of course the German and Irish experiences indicate that winning an election entails having an electoral machine such as ordinarily only a political party possesses, and the party card can just be dropped as part of that process. But even so.

People who think that the monarchy acts as some kind of bulwark against whatever it is that they might happen to dislike are akin to people who think that the EU was some kind of bulwark against Thatcherism, or that it is some kind of force for peace. Which privatisation did the EU prevent? Which dock, factory, steelworks, shipyard or mine did the EU save? How did workers' rights in the Britain of 1972 compare to those in the Britain of 2017? Did the EU prevent the war in Northern Ireland? Or in Yugoslavia? Or in Ukraine?

Likewise, which aspect of the Welfare State did the monarchy moderate, as those people would see it, in any way whatever? Which nationalisation? Which retreat from Empire? Which social liberalisation? Which EU Treaty? Which of Tony Blair's constitutional and ceremonial changes? Still, it keeps them sweet. And they need to be kept sweet. But for how much longer will it do so?

Generosity and Convenience

“One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous. Why should people come to Britain and enjoy the benefits of the free Health Service when they do not subscribe to the national revenues? So the argument goes.

No doubt a little of this objection is still based on the confusion about contributions to which I have referred. The fact is, of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment. They make no direct contribution to the cost of the Health Service any more than does a British citizen.
“However, there are a number of more potent reasons why it would be unwise as well as mean to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody.

Happily, this is one of those occasions when generosity and convenience march together. The cost of looking after the visitor who falls ill cannot amount to more than a negligible fraction of £399,000,000, the total cost of the Health Service. It is not difficult to arrive at an approximate estimate.

“All we have to do is look up the number of visitors to Great Britain during one year and assume they would make the same use of the Health Service as a similar number of Britishers. Divide the total cost of the Service by the population and you get the answer. I had the estimate taken out and it amounted to about £200,000 a year. Obviously this is an overestimate because people who go for holidays are not likely to need a doctor’s attention as much as others. However, there it is, for what it is worth, and you will see it does not justify the fuss that has been made about it.

“The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.

“Naturally when Britons go abroad they are incensed because they are not similarly treated if they need the attention of a doctor. But that also I am convinced will come when other nations follow our example and have health services of their own. When that happens we shall be able to work out schemes of reciprocity, and yet one more amenity will have been added to social intercourse. In the meantime let us keep in mind that, here, example is better than precept.”

With my emphasis added, Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear: A Free Health Service, 1952.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fool Me Twice?

The attempted rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now well under way. Don't let it happen.

A Matter of Trust

I never cared for the hunting ban. Not that I ever like foxhunting, but the ban was introduced by Tony Blair and by his then Chief Whip, my then MP, Hilary Armstrong, in order to buy off parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War. Shame on those who were so bought. Neither Blair nor Armstrong went on to vote for the ban, and Blair bet Prince Charles a tenner that hunting would be continuing unimpeded 10 years after it had formally come into force. He won his bet.

But the hunting ban has now been the law of the land for well over a decade. Its non-enforcement, and the practice of the Police in certain areas of acting as escorts to the hunts, arresting only anyone who might object, raises serious questions about certain other legislation, such as the most recent attack on trade unions. Why is that to be enforced, when this is not, and indeed was never intended to be?

Still, how many people know that the National Trust was founded out of the Fabian Society? (The Ramblers' Association, by the way, was founded out of the Communist Party.) Someone needs to look into how it became a pillar of Toryland. The National Trust, that is. Not the Fabian Society.

Salisbury Convention?

One of Margaret Thatcher's most abiding legacies is Robert Mugabe. And what, exactly, does a "Goodwill Ambassador" do, anyway? Still, he cannot possibly be a less appropriate, or a less effective, choice for that office than Tony Blair was a "Middle East Peace Envoy".

Friday, 20 October 2017

A Bourgeois, Almost A Kulak

Some middle-aged men have ex-wives. I have the Labour Party.

As a young activist told me only today, "You seem to have a love-hate relationship with Laura Pidcock." But in fact, I neither love her (beyond the Saviour's universal injunctions on the matter), nor do I hate her.

I wish her well. I will vote for her next time if she is the Labour candidate, a question on which I am the least of her worries. But I am nobody's cheerleader. And I am sick to the back teeth of the way in which she is held up as working-class by people who assume that that is what everyone with a Northern accent must be.

She is at least a second generation university graduate, she was at least the second generation of her family to manage to make a living as a charity worker, and she was at least a second generation member of Northumberland County Council.

20 years ago, I arrived at university assuming that I was a bourgeois, almost a kulak. But that one lasted about an hour, and certainly not until the morning after my first night there, although it remained, and remains, how I was automatically treated at home. I refuse to let anyone trade on the same thing in the opposite direction.

Offensive and Unacceptable, Indeed

Clive Lewis ought not to have used such language. But Jess Phillips has no place on any high horse. She made her name by telling Diane Abbott, who is old enough to be her mother, to "fuck off". Indeed, she appears never to have done anything else as an MP.

As for Harriet Harman, I am still banned from certain very high profile political blogs for having been going on throughout the present century about her links to the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Lewis will be due the slightest censure when Anne Marie Morris has been expelled from the House of Commons for using the n-word while addressing a public meeting earlier this year. No United States Senator or Representative could survive that, and nor should she.

I fail to see the anti-racist credentials of any MP who explicitly presents herself in those terms yet who fails to move that expulsion.

Gongs, Be Gone

Several friends of mine have the CBE. It appals me that that puts them in the company of Harvey Weinstein and Simon Henig.

When Henig has lost his for his campaign against me, then it ought of course to go instead to one or more of the Teaching Assistants. Yes, I know that that is not how this works. But, in this instance, it should.

To whom should Weinstein's go, and why? His is Honorary, since he is an American. I propose the man whom his money helped to prevent from keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, Bernie Sanders.

A Tale of Four Power Grabs

Theresa May's power-grabbing tendencies are showing again. Despite the fact that her party did at that time have an overall majority and therefore still won all the divisions, she called a General Election because MPs from other parties were daring to vote against her even in the full knowledge that they were not going to defeat her. Had she gained the three-figure majority that she had anticipated, then would she have expected them to stop? Apparently so.

And now, not only the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that Tony Benn would have opposed, and not only the jaw-dropping attempt by a party without an overall majority in the House of Commons to claim a majority on the committees of the House, but also that party's three-line whip to abstain on Opposition Day motions, and its proposal to reduce the number of MPs but not the number of Ministers.

Still, the tide may be turning. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is lost in the undergrowth, and Conservative MPs are starting to express doubts about the reduction of the House to mere debating chamber. Although even in those, both sides vote.

A Very Poor Seam

The BBC put the Ian Lavery farrago in Newsnight's graveyard slot, on a Thursday against Question Time. It was hilarious watching toffs talk about trade unions. They had no idea how such organisations worked. No past or present member of Lavery's union has complained, and past members of it run into many thousands, by no means all of whom, let me assure you, are any friends of his. Dear old Auntie is simply out of her depth here.
The Beeb is aghast that this person can be a national politician, with his accent, his no degree, his Irish surname, his record in the Miners' Strike, and so on. Well, tough. Someone has already looked into this. The regulator created by the Thatcher anti-union laws found nothing amiss, and even the BBC, the NUM's very worst enemy since the Dawn of Time, has decided to get this "report" out of the way by broadcasting it on the night that no one watches Newsnight. Anyone who thinks that this is a story knows nothing about trade unions except that they hate the uppity little oiks.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Balance The Overwhelming Power

The rights of EU nationals in the United Kingdom after Brexit. Votes at 16. It is certainly all going on at the moment. 

Instead of arbitrarily allowing Irish and Commonwealth citizens to vote, let there be no nationality requirement for voting, but a requirement that any parliamentary candidate be a British Citizen in Great Britain, or a British or Irish citizen in Northern Ireland. 

And while I am never going to be fully convinced about votes at 16 (with the increases both in the school leaving age and in the personal tax allowance, Saturday jobs would now have to pay £250 per shift for 16-year-olds to be paying income tax), I do see the need to balance the overwhelming power of the enormous post-War cohort of births.

Therefore, make politicians tour the Sixth Forms as dedicatedly as they toured the old people’s homes. But require that parliamentary candidates, other than those who were already submitting to the accountability of seeking re-election, be at least 25, or possibly 30.

Polecats Poll Badly

I have been told time and again that he was kind and charming in private, and I believe that, because people with public reputations for niceness are often complete nightmares behind the scenes. But most people never see either him or them in private. So if your main spokesman is Norman Tebbit, then, quite apart from how many or how few people can now remember who he ever was, you are not going to win. After the rights of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, onwards to Orgreave.

Lest We Forget

The poppies are starting to sprout again. My father fought in the Second World War, and his father in the First, so I want to carry on wearing the poppy. But in very recent years it has come to mean the exact opposite of its original and intended meaning.

It, and the events associated with it, at least at national level, have become expressions of political support for recent and ongoing military interventions, and of others that might be proposed by the people who brought us those.

I had better give the whole thing until next year, the centenary of the Armistice. But if things have not reverted to their original intention by then, then I really could give it all up. I suggest that you adopt the same approach.

Hard To Beat?

Smacking children does in any case seem to be far less common than it used to be. But I have never quite understood the argument of those who wanted to ban it. Beating children is already illegal.

Over The Hill?

Can there be a more tragic sight than an icon of feminism who has ended up as a mad old woman in the attic? Yet such is now Hillary Clinton, banging on about how Vladimir Putin did this, that and the other. Yes, dear. Of course he did. You, on the other hand, really did kill huge numbers of women, and set back their sisters' rights several centuries. And you are up to your neck in the whole Harvey Weinstein business.

Raise a glass instead to Linda Bellos, whom it is inconceivable that Jeremy Corbyn has not known personally for many decades, who supported him for Leader of the Labour Party, and whose position on the issue that has most recently returned her to controversy is regularly aired by others in the pages of the Morning Star. Mercifully, that newspaper does not, however, publish the position of Hillary Clinton.

Underground No More

Tiny political parties, small-circulation publications, obscure think tanks, and so on: they often have links to certain sections of major parties, or to significant media outlets, meaning that a quarrel or a feud within one of them, or between two of them, or among several of them, can quite easily spill over into big league politics and commentary.

So it is with the vicious civil war within and around UKIP, which lies at the root of the present furore over RT. Nigel Farage and his supporters have close ties to RT, which makes it a target for his enemies, such as Douglas Carswell. Carswell has friends in, if only arguably of, the Conservative Party. And they, in turn, have friends around Boris Johnson. So here we are.

By the way, I have appeared on RT twice, and no payment was ever suggested on either occasion. I suppose that that means that I am proper politician after all.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Pause and Fix, Indeed

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

Just A Second

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wage Rage

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

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

A World of Their Own

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

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

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

"Government Has No Money of Its Own"

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

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

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

Withdrawal, Indeed

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

Know Better

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Left To Itself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We Need Trident To Justify Having A Navy"?

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

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

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

News From Nowhere

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

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

Harvey who?

The Great Mail Robbery

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

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

Critical National Infrastructure

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

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

Disability Hate Crime, Indeed

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

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

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

Crowning Glory?

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

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

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

Back Off

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

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

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

There Can Be No Weinstein At The White House

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

Where's The Equality?

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

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

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

Monday, 16 October 2017

In The Grass

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

To Cap It All

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

No News Is Good News

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

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

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

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

The Real Deal

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

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

Bound, Not Gagged

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Your Pick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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