Monday, 30 September 2013

Wondering At Workfare

Asylum seekers to receive benefits while, as a condition thereof, banned from working. But British Citizens to have workfare.

Wages and working conditions for the poor with jobs to be driven down even further by the enforced undercutting that is workfare. Isn't that supposed to be the problem with immigration?

What could have been, and were, people's jobs to be done instead for free, since there will be no additional entitlement, by people who were forced to be there.

And remember, Keynesian job creation is The Road to Serfdom, whereas this kind of thing bears no resemblance to serfdom. Oh, no. Perish the thought.

As for signing on every day, the hilariously obvious problems with that were also lost on Tony Blair. Mercifully, he had around him people who were a lot cleverer than he was and who were prepared to stand up to him. His Heir has no such advantages. Expect a lot more of Blair's brainwaves to be revived like this.

Osborne For Leader?

They keep doing this. Falling in love with popular hate figures.

They were left dumbfounded at the outpouring of public glee when Portillo lost his seat.

These days, it is Osborne and Gove.

Whoever the Conservatives love, the voters hate.

And vice versa.

Lining Up

When those two dozen MPs present CCHQ with the fait accompli of a UKIP logo alongside a Conservative Party one on the ballot paper and on their election literature, then what will the fishwives at the centre do about that?

That Nigel Farage obviously knows who they are proves conclusively that a party within, in point of fact, both parties already exists, and is, as small parliamentary parties go, quite sizeable. David Cameron, Grant Shapps, and indeed the fundamentalist wing of UKIP, can like it or lump it.

We need a ballot line system, such that voters would be able to indicate that they were voting for a given candidate specifically as endorsed by a smaller party or other campaigning organisation, with the number of votes by ballot line recorded and published separately.

Newspapers registered as such with the Post Office might also be given that right. Yes, we do have a State licensing system for newspapers. We have never not had one. Here is a potential use for it.

Hope And Comfort

It was June 1944 and the Allies were landing in Normandy. A 20-year old man, who had arrived in Britain as a refugee just four years earlier, was part of that fight. He was my father. Fighting the Nazis and fighting for his adopted country.

On Saturday, the Daily Mail chose to publish an article about him under the banner headline “The Man Who Hated Britain.”

It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticised and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory. The British people have great wisdom to sort the fair from the unfair. And I have other ways of answering back.

But my Dad is a different matter. He died in 1994. I loved him and he loved Britain. And there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would “disturb everyone who loves this country”.

Saturday’s article referred to a single diary entry by my father, written as a 17 year old, describing the suspicion he found of the Continent and the French when he arrived here. To ignore his service and work in Britain and build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd.

In fact, his story will make you understand why he loved Britain. Britain saved him from the Nazis. He arrived here as a 16 year-old boy - a Jew - having walked 100 kilometres with his Dad from Brussels to Ostend to catch one of the last boats out before the German soldiers arrived.

It was a boat to Britain. He arrived, separated from his mother and sister, knowing no English but found a single room to share with my grandfather. He was determined to better himself and survive. He worked as a removal man, passed exams at Acton Technical College and was accepted to university. Then he joined the Royal Navy.

He did so because he was determined to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in Belgium. He was fighting for Britain.

When I was growing up, he didn’t talk much about the Holocaust years because it was a deep trauma for both sides of my family. But he did talk about his naval service.

The Daily Mail’s article on Saturday used just a few words to brush over the years my father spent fighting for his adopted country in the Second World War. But it played a bigger part in his life than that.

It was hard for him as a newcomer in the Navy. Life could be rough. But when we were growing up, he talked about how he had grown to have deep respect for the people he served with. He loved how the Navy brought together people from all classes and all backgrounds.

My father would often talk about the time he spent on the ships where his job was to pick up and translate German radio messages. He remembered the banter at meal times and recounted moments like his discharge from the Navy when his commanding officer’s parting words were: “Don’t vote Labour, Miliband.”

After the war, he went back to university. Later, he would meet my Mum, become a university teacher and raise a family. My father’s strongly left wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision.

He was a man with a great sense of humour so the idea of me being part of some “sinister” Marxist plot would have amused him and disappointed him in equal measure and for the same reason - he would have known it was ludicrously untrue. I want to make capitalism work for working people, not destroy it.

But whatever else is said about my Dad’s political views, Britain was a source of hope and comfort for him, not hatred. Having been born in Belgium he didn’t start from a belief in the inferiority of other countries, but he loved Britain for the security it offered his family and the gentle decency of our nation.

When we went on holiday abroad, the part he would look forward to the most was coming home. When he taught in America, he hated being away from our family and from Britain. When he thought of how many Jews had been killed, including members of our family, he felt very lucky that his boat from Belgium had come here.

Like most refugees, the security of our country was really important to him. And like some refugees, he owed his life to it. So my Dad loved Britain, he served Britain, and he taught both David and me to do the same.

Britain has always benefitted from a free press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account - none of us should be given an easy ride - and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.

But what appeared in the Daily Mail on Saturday was of a different order all together. I know they say ‘you can’t libel the dead’ but you can smear them.

Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War, or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a ‘grave socialist’.

The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician - any politician - in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run.

For True Subsidiarity

My latest in the London Progressive Journal:

"The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to European federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity," is the fifth of the 10 principles set out in the Prague Declaration, the constituent declaration of the European Conservatives and Reformists. 26 of the 56 MEPs in the ECR are British Conservatives, while a twenty-seventh is drawn from their Ulster Unionist allies.

Yet 12 ECR MEPs, seven of whom are British Conservatives, are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council. There is also a UKIPite who was elected as a Conservative, a Swedish Moderate who is therefore a member of the European People's Party, and a Flemish separatist.

ALEC, you see, claims to be "federalist" but seems to have adopted the European rather than the American definition of the word. It is a body of State Legislators who undertake to ensure that their respective states all adopt identical legislation drafted by that body's corporate backers.

A handful of Democrats does belong to this thing, raising serious questions about the limits of the diversity of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party having arrived at the opposite extreme, with club rights extended only to those who subscribe to each and all of dozens of shibboleths.

But all except two of the State Chairmen are Republicans, and those two hold the office jointly with members of the other party. What was once the GOP provides all of the "Public Co-Chairs" of ALEC's policy task forces that write the legislation, on which they enjoy no veto power, since that attaches only to the "Private Co-Chairs" who not merely come from, but explicitly represent, their own corporations.

The one for International Relations, which are constitutionally outside the province of State Legislatures but on which work is clearly being done, has as its veto-wielding Private Co-Chair a senior executive of Philip Morris International. To ALEC, the whole of foreign policy is subordinate to the interests of big tobacco.

ALEC contains one Australian Senator, as well as one Georgian MP and one Pakistani Assemblywoman, and possibly also the Alberta Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations.

All of its other "International Delegates" sit in the European Parliament. There to enact legislation written by giant American corporations, as if the European Parliament were an American State Legislature, with the United Kingdom having much the status of an American county.

Eight of those MEPs sit for the United Kingdom. Seven of them are members of the party led by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and all eight were elected for that party; the eighth is now a member of an entity which laughably calls itself "the United Kingdom Independence Party".

And no fewer than 12, four fifths of the total, belong to the Group, and include both its Chairman and the Secretary-General of its Europarty, the creation of which was supposed to have been David Cameron's triumph in the cause of the sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to European federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.

Far More Detail

There was a large march and rally in defence of the NHS in Manchester yesterday – yet the BBC’s coverage largely glossed over it, only including it in coverage of Tory conference. Andy Burnham, who was one of the speakers at yesterday’s rally, has written to Lord Patten at the BBC to ask why the BBC neglected to cover the event, when other news networks did in far more detail. Here’s the letter:
Dear Lord Patten

BBC coverage of NHS march and rally in Manchester

Yesterday, Manchester witnessed one of the largest demonstrations in its long political history as people from a range of backgrounds and from all over the UK converged to raise concern about this Government’s changes to the NHS.

According to official estimates from Greater Manchester Police, around 50,000 people took part. GMP said it was one of the largest protests they had ever policed and it was clearly one of the largest political demonstrations held outside London for many a year.

I attended the event and was proud to walk alongside doctors, nurses and other front-line NHS staff from all parts of the country who had given up their Sunday in the hope of making their voice heard. From my observation, NHS staff made up a significant proportion of the large crowd.

It was therefore a real surprise to me to return home to find what I consider only cursory coverage of the event on BBC news bulletins. As far I could see, there was no specific coverage and it was only mentioned in the wider context of Conservative Party Conference. There was no explanation as to why people were there in such large numbers nor direct interviews with participants to find out what had prompted them to travel so far on a Sunday.

By any reckoning, this was a major national protest and it seems to me that the BBC’s coverage did not reflect this. Indeed, other major news channels seemed to reach a different editorial judgement, covering the story in more depth and interviewing participants.

My purpose in writing to you is not, at this stage, to make a formal complaint but rather to request that the Trust conduct a review of the extent and quality of the BBC coverage and to provide me with a considered opinion as to whether you consider it to have been adequate given the scale and social significance of the event. In particular, I would be grateful to know how many journalists and cameras were sent by the BBC to provide direct coverage of the event.

Since yesterday, the concern that many people have expressed on social media outlets is that the perceived lack of adequate coverage of yesterday’s events follows a pattern. As I am sure you are aware, there have been many complaints of the BBC’s perceived failure adequately to cover the changes to the NHS – in particular, the privatisation of services – in both the run-up to, and aftermath of, the Health & Social Care Act 2012. I don’t know whether the Trust has received complaints about this matter, and had the opportunity to investigate it, but either way it would be helpful to hear your views on this wider context as part of your response.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and I look forward to your response.

Best wishes


Patten is not only a former Chairman of the Conservative Party who continues to receive that Whip in the House of Lords, but also an employee of at least one company with interests in the privatisation of England's NHS.

Affix Stamp Here

There is only one way in which the State can control the price of stamps.

Just as there is only one way of safeguarding the universal service obligation.

The Blairite fundamentalists have already gone into schism over Syria and over the freezing of energy prices, positions commanding 70 per cent popular support.

Like the renationalisation of the Royal Mail, in fact.

So come on, Chuka Umunna. Say it. Say it in an interview and dare whoever has been preventing this to contradict you.

This way lies an end to the utterly absurd split between the Royal Mail and the Post Office, which has left each renting its staff's adjacent desks from the other.

The Old And The Bold

I am as baffled as ever by the Conservative Party's idolatry of Margaret Thatcher. They got rid of her. No one else did. It was them. But 23 years later, they love her now that she is dead.

However, she remains not without responsibility for the fact that there might be some money for fusiliers if a hundred billion pounds were not being spent on missiles pointed at nowhere, and which could not even be fired without American approval, nor not fired if the Americans instructed that they be so.

Heckled Hammond, think on.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Emergency Service

Not only did Andrew Marr do everything short of curtsy to David Cameron, but the BBC entirely ignored the pro-NHS demonstration today in Manchester, the 50 to 60 thousand attendees at which massively outnumbered the delegates to the Conservative Party Conference.

Give that a moment to sink in: the TUC and anti-austerity demonstration against the Conservative Party Conference is now larger than the Conservative Party Conference itself. This is the main event. That is the sideshow. The numbers speak for themselves.

Except to the BBC. Not for the first time, we need to look elsewhere in order to find out what is happening in Britain. Or in order to find out what is happening to British citizens living on British territory.

G4S prevented filming? Then how come RT managed it? Come on, Auntie. Stop using the Yes, Prime Minister excuse that, "You can blame security for anything."

The Last Opportunity To Give Peace A Chance

Norman Lamont writes:

Just occasionally one feels that one may be witnessing history in the making. President Rouhani’s visit and speech to the UN could represent a fundamental change in relations between the West and Iran. On the other hand, it could be yet another missed opportunity.

After the Iranian PR offensive – the Jewish New Year greetings, the denial of  Holocaust denial – it would have been impossible for President Rouhani’s speech to have lived up to expectations.  This was not the second coming of the Messiah.  In the event, the President’s speech was partly addressed to hardliners in Tehran and Obama’s speech was the more conciliatory.

Are the Iranians for real this time?  The message to the public was “let’s make a  deal quickly; we are different from Ahmadinejad; we are not a threat to anyone; it can be win-win; we don’t want just to settle this issue, but also to improve relations generally”.

Significantly, after the meeting of Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry, together with European foreign ministers, the briefing from the Americans was that this was a completely different and surprising Iranian approach – something quite new. 

Even William Hague, whose reaction to the Rouhani speech had been somewhat grudging, sounded positive. Last night, we had the dramatic news of President Obama’s telephone conversation with President Rouhani. Now that is a truly historic moment, and shows America is taking the Iranian overtures seriously.

The hardliners on both sides increasingly resemble each other.  They could still sabotage any attempt at reconciliation. In Tehran, conservatives’ websites are sniping at President Rouhani for “walking into a trap”.  The US Congress, with exquisite timing, passed a bill proposing a complete embargo on Iran just as he took office.  Even now, Senator Graham is preparing a bill to permit war against Iran.

Of course, it is right to be cautious. People justly point to the appalling human rights abuses, the bloody episodes in the history of the Islamic Republic and the hateful rhetoric of the former President Ahmadinejad against Israel.

But Iran is too an important a country to be ignored or locked in a cupboard. We  have to live with Iran and have to deal with it – just as the US decided it had to deal with China.

The Iranian nuclear issue is too dangerous to be left unresolved.  A military strike against Iran would run the risk of setting the whole Middle East alight.  Worse still, it would almost certainly not eliminate the Iran nuclear programme, but would impel them to weaponise it.

Yes, sanctions have indirectly helped to bring Iran to a more reasonable position. Voters in Iran demanded an improvement in relations with the West so as to ease the economic stress.

But there is plenty of resentment against the West because of sanctions. It would be a bad mistake to believe that a further tightening of the screw would either collapse the regime or force it to surrender. If anything, the siege economy strengthens the regime.

Henry Kissinger once said that he wished Iran could behave more like a state and less like a cause. The signs are that many people in the country and the regime want Iran to be a normal country. Yes, there are still radical thugs, but there are also pragmatists and reformists.

Once before in 2001 and 2003, when the reformists last had the upper hand in Iranian politics, the West gave them a cold shoulder, and many people have regretted it ever since. In 2003, the Iranians offered the West a nuclear deal that it would certainly grab today.

There are countries in the Middle East that, for their own political reasons, will do anything to prevent a settlement with Iran. Some Gulf States play up the Iranian threat so as to put themselves forward as indispensable allies of the United States. The citizens of these same states fund the West’s enemies in the form of Al Qaeda affiliates.

For Israel, the fears are more understandable.  But even Ehud Barak has said the Iran is not and cannot be an “existential threat” to Israel. Iran is a weak country militarily, whose entire air force could quickly be wiped out by that of Abu Dhabi.

The outline of a settlement of the nuclear issue is known already and attainable:  a combination of shipping out some stocks of uranium, limiting the number of centrifuges, capping the level of enrichment and, at the same time, insisting Iran accepts much more intrusive inspections.

 But the West will have to recognise Iran’s insistence on self-sufficiency in the fuel cycle.  Closing Fordow, or the whole nuclear programme, is a non-starter.

The window for a deal will not remain open indefinitely.  President Rouhani has indicated as much.  His own position will be undermined if the West drags its feet. A deal with appropriate safeguards is in the interest not just of Iran but also of the West.

This is almost certainly the last opportunity to resolve this matter peacefully.  It would be a tragedy not to give peace a chance.

A Matter of Instinct

John Harris writes:

A month or so ago, when the public's opposition to any intervention in Syria was revealed, the stock explanation of their views was pretty simple – boiling down to Iraq, the unhinged premiership of Tony Blair, and people's instinctive understanding of what is now known as "overstretch".

But something else was in the air: a very British kind of scepticism, coupled with an instinctive belief that other nations' wars are usually best left alone, and a general sense of people turning inward in pursuit of a quiet life.

A conservative position, in other words, at which a certain kind of metropolitan commentator huffed and puffed, while others such as Paddy Ashdown pompously despaired of their own country, which is never the best look.

They should get used to it, because this is where a large swath of public opinion has arrived. Conservatism with a small "c" has always been ingrained in our politics, spanning both left and right – but it is starting to feel like its values may yet define the future.

The shift is bound up not just with the wreckage of "liberal interventionism", but something even more deep-rooted which, outside London, runs rampant: post-crash, a palpable sense of people having had a bellyful of globalisation, open markets, and much more besides.

When expressed, such sentiments are often reduced to gripes about immigration and the EU. But precious few in the media and political class seem to even want to understand what's going on.

Easier, obviously, to think of the world beyond the M25 as stuffed with bitter Little Englanders newly in love with Nigel Farage, raising union flags in their garden and listening to Vera Lynn, rather than a country that seems to be in a quiet state of ferment.

What has happened, in fact, is blindingly obvious. In the days when politicians of all parties were crowing on about the demise of left-right politics and a new dichotomy between "open" and "closed" views of the world, few noticed that the "open" credo was not doing millions of people many favours.

For too many, the free movement of labour meant stagnating or declining wages and the doctor's waiting room suddenly being full to bursting. Open international markets became equated with outsourced jobs. The "open" view that states should regularly intervene abroad was manifested in the tragic grind of Afghanistan and the disaster in Iraq.

Within all this was something remarkable: New Labour reinventing the left's internationalism as military belligerence and blank support for the demands of global capital, which are obviously rather different things.

Ergo the rise of Ukip, and public sentiment that blurs into antipathy towards supposed welfare scroungers, the non-debate about the niqab, and so on. This profoundly conservative turn in the country has been brewing for at least a decade.

Some recognition of what was afoot was there in the "faith, family and flag" politics explored in the early days of "Blue Labour". There's a whiff of it in Ed Miliband's attempts to mould a new kind of left populism, shorn of the new conservatism's tendency to nastiness, but conscious of the fact that a politics built on Blair's famous rejoicing that "new, new, everything is new" no longer works.

Modern Labour politics, in fact, is streaked with something very different. The squeezed middle is surely a modern synonym for the petit bourgeoisie, the wellspring of conservatism down the ages; last week's revival of the British jobs for British workers trope in Labour's policy on apprentices spoke volumes.

But where is the Conservative party? It meets in Manchester this week, where it has no city councillors, knowing that across post-industrial Britain, it is underperforming. Its leading figures seem aware of where non-metropolitan public opinion is going, and can convincingly talk conservative on penal policy and some aspects of so-called welfare, as well as hyperventilating about immigration.

Indeed, we can expect the inevitable noises off about such themes this week, as evidenced by word from Cameron over the weekend about a new immigration bill due this year that will supposedly hack through migrants' "something for nothing" rights to any public service you care to think of.

But too many modern Tories' conservatism is dissonant, for some key reasons.

First – and here, picture George Osborne, who is not actually a small-c conservative at all – most of them are brimming with neoliberal zeal, and for all their thin approximations of patriotism, have a tin ear for issues that go from politics and economics into questions of national identity, culture and people's feelings for where they live (which is why they think nothing of selling off the Royal Mail and are in love with the quasi-Stalinist white elephant that is HS2).

Second, on foreign policy, Cameron is a Blairite, who underestimates how much we now mistrust callow politicians stomping around the world stage.

Third, the only conservative songs he and his allies can sing are the nasty ones. Funny, isn't it, how with the "big society" having long breathed its last, they have so little to say about such quintessential conservative themes as family and locality?

Certainly, if they think the moronic wheeze of a married couple's tax break is meant to highlight some overlooked understanding of the fabric of people's lives, they are surely mistaken – it looks cheap, in every respect.

Aside from Eric Pickles and the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the upper reaches of the Conservative party no longer contain anyone who understands non-metropolitan, working-class conservatism as a matter of instinct.

Indeed, there is an abundance of people like Osborne who probably feel very awkward about it. Thatcher, Tebbit et al sold the population neoliberalism because they combined it with an innate understanding of ordinary people's values and prejudices, and a brilliant sense of how to sweeten the pill, as demonstrated by the sale of council houses – the kind of masterstroke modern Conservatives must fantasise about.

Without such elements, the mask drops, and you end up with the spectacle of posh people brazenly defending the interests of other posh people, as seen in Osborne's millionaire's tax cut: again, never the best look.

On the fringes of this week's bunfight will be a new Conservative pressure group called Renewal, founded by David Skelton, a policy wonk and native of Consett in County Durham, and backed by Pickles. Its supporters' pet policies include the raising of the minimum wage, localising the benefits system, and re-acquainting the Tories with industrial activism.

They acknowledge the untamed economic winds that have laid waste to a lot of the UK, and the Tories' mislaid talent for finding working-class leaders. They also understand that in a great deal of non-Tory Britain, to quote one sympathetic MP, life is bound up with "strong family and community bonds and a deep sense of history and place".

They have yet to decisively find their voice, maybe for fear of offending the people at the top, perhaps because they are a very interesting work in progress – though, as far as I can tell, they are among the few Tories who even begin to understand the reason for the great gap between British conservatism and Conservatism.

But is anyone listening?

Not For Hardworking People

Last year, I wrote a blog for Labour Uncut about Cameron’s top 30 “real achievements”.  But things have got so bad in the last year alone that this year’s round up is now a full “Top 40″.  As the Tories meet this week for their annual conference in Manchester, here’s my latest assessment on what Cameron’s Government has really achieved since 2010: 

On the cost of living:

1. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 out of 39 months while David Cameron has been Prime Minister.
2. Wages are down by almost £1,500 a year on average since the General Election.
3. While ordinary people are seeing their living standards squeezed, David Cameron has cut income tax for people earning over £150,000.  And in April this year, bankers’ bonuses soared by 82 per cent as the wealthiest took advantage of the 50p tax cut.
4. Average energy bills have risen by £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minister whilst Britain’s big six energy companies have enjoyed a £3.3 billion windfall in profits since 2010.
5. David Cameron has broken his promise to force energy companies to put all consumers on the cheapest tariff.

On growth:

6. This is the slowest recovery for 100 years.  Since autumn 2010, our economy has grown by just 1.7 per cent compared to the 6.9 per cent expected at the time.
7. The UK is currently 3.3 per cent below its pre-crisis peak, while the USA is 4.6 per cent above its pre-crisis peak.

On the deficit:

8. David Cameron and George Osborne are now set to borrow £245 billion more than they planned in 2010 and the independent Office for Budget Responsibility has said that deficit reduction has “stalled”.

On jobs:

9. Almost a million young people are unemployed.
10. The number of 16-18 year olds starting apprenticeships is down by 12 per cent in the last year.  Overall, nearly 200,000 16-18 year olds are not in work, education or training, a rise since 2010.
11. The number of people working part-time because they can’t get a full-time job is at the highest level since records began.
12. The number of people unemployed for over two years is up 60 per cent since the General Election.
13. Almost 8 out 10 people who have been on David Cameron’s Work Programme for two years have failed to get a sustained job.  And the Youth Contract is on course to miss its target by more than 92 per cent.

On social security:

14. Two thirds of people hit by the unfair and hated Bedroom Tax are disabled.  David Cameron says the Bedroom Tax is supposed to tackle under-occupation in housing – but 96 per cent of those affected have nowhere smaller to move to.
15. David Cameron’s flagship policy Universal Credit is mired in chaos and delay with at least £34 million already written off.

On poverty:

16. The number of children living in absolute poverty has risen by 300,000 under David Cameron.
17. The Government’s own figures show that the Strivers’ Tax is set to push a further 200,000 children into poverty.
18. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that 1.1 million more children will be living in poverty by 2010 thanks to this Government’s policies.
19. Almost 350,000 people relied on foodbanks in 2012-13 (it was 41,000 in 2009-10).  Cameron says food banks show the Big Society is working, whilst Michael Gove blamed families who use foodbanks for their bad decisions in managing their finances.

On the NHS:

20. A&E is in crisis on David Cameron’s watch.  The number of people waiting over four hours in A&E has more than doubled compared to Labour’s last year in office and the number of people forced to wait in the back of ambulances outside A&E has doubled.
21. 2.9 million people are now on NHS waiting lists – the highest for five years.
22. David Cameron promised no top-down NHS reorganisations. But he’s wasted £3 billion on the biggest top-down reorganisation in history.
23. Whilst patient satisfaction was at record highs under Labour, the NHS has lost 5,445 nurses since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

On transport:

24. Last year, train companies made combined profits of £305m.  But passengers have been facing annual fare rises of as much as nine per cent a year since the Government reversed Labour’s policy of strictly applying the cap on annual fare rises to every route.
25. And things are no better for motorists with the Government’s VAT hike adding to the cost of petrol.  The average price of a litre of petrol in the UK is now around £1.38.  Up from around £1.21 in May 2010.

On policing:

26. David Cameron is cutting 15,000 police officers by 2015.
27. Response times to 999 calls are rising with night-time emergency response times up to 30 per cent longer.
28. The Tories are making it harder for the police to get CCTV and use DNA evidence, and cutting work with communities to tackle the causes of crime.

On immigration:

29. Illegal immigration is getting worse: fewer people stopped, more absconding, fewer deported and backlogs of information on cases not pursued.
30. Two thirds of the drop in net migration since the election comes from British citizens – 26,000 more British people leaving the country and 17,000 fewer British people returning to the UK.
31. The Tories’ net migration target ignores illegal immigration – which is getting worse.
32. David Cameron’s plans to pull out of the social chapter and co-operation on policing and justice will make it harder to manage European migration.

On children and schools:

33. Last year nursery costs rose six times faster than wages.  And David Cameron has cut Labour’s help with childcare costs, with families losing up to £1,500 a year in tax-credit support.
34. In total, David Cameron will have taken up to £7 billion a year of support away from children by 2015.
35. More than half of all free schools have opened in areas without a shortage of school places – while 240,000 primary places are needed by 2015.
36. Twice as many infants are now being taught in large classes compared to 2010.
37. There are now 6,063 fewer teachers than in 2010 and 5,950 teacher trainee places are unfilled this year.
38. David Cameron broke his promise on Sure Start children’s centres and has reduced the number of Sure Start centres by 566 since 2010.   Last year a third of councils also reported a cut in the number of after-school clubs.

On housing:

39. Housebuilding is at its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s.
40. Average rents have gone up by 9 per cent since the election – rising faster than wages.  And homelessness is up by 25 per cent since the election.

David Cameron and George Osborne will no doubt attempt not to look too complacent at their party conference.  They will avoid the high fives in public and try desperately to stop the cameras taking pictures of bottles of champagne.  They will also continue to attack Labour’s record.  But Cameron has been prime minister for nearly three and a half years and he has a record all of his own to defend.

Outside the conference centre, back in the real world, people know that for ordinary people, life is getting harder not easier.  The slogan at this year’s Conservative party conference may be “For Hard Working People”, but the truth is Cameron has failed to turn things around for Britain’s hard working families and he is only capable of standing up for a privileged few.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Walking The Walk

On President Rouhani's return to Iran, his opponents have thrown their shoes at him.

Whatever else Iran may be, then, she is not a dictatorship.

You cannot throw your shoes at a dictator and live.

A Long Time In Politics

Not even a full week, in fact.

Two principles that used to be axiomatic to both parties, but against which they have both defined themselves more recently, are once again the very terms of the debate.

They themselves are not up for question. All that is, is how, specifically, they are to be given practical effect.

One, which has turned out to be stratospherically popular as soon as the Leader of a major political party has dared to utter it, is that the State ought to fix the price of utilities in the interests of the consumer, especially the domestic consumer.

The other is that the State ought to give specific recognition to marriage, as such, in the taxation system.

The first is more popular than the second (or anything else that any politician has said in donkey's years, come to that), but they both have mass appeal.

David Cameron now needs to come up with an even more appealing variation on the energy prices fix. While Ed Miliband now needs to surpass the Government's marriage tax break.

The second is easy: make the thousand pounds universally transferable from the spouse or civil partner who is earning more to the one who is earning less, if at all, while removing the restriction of civil partnerships, which have never had any requirement of consummation, to unrelated same-sex couples.

Harriet Harman and a tiny band of Seventies Sisters, who were probably or certainly going to retire anyway, might kick up a fuss if they were so inclined. But what are they going to do, vote with the Tories? How many Tories might in any case vote in favour of this?

And if Harman created a vacancy for Deputy Leader, then it might well be filled by someone not formed politically, but rather formed in the womb, in the 1970s.

However, even though Cameron could rely on Labour votes to enact it against much of his own party, what, exactly, could he say in order to top Miliband's promise on energy prices? He is going to have say something in the coming week. But it is impossible to see what that something is going to be.

Leaving Party

With even Charlie Falconer and Andrew Adonis lined up against Peter Mandelson, Philip Collins, Dan Hodges and John Rentoul, the High Blairite ultras have become a party of their own.

They ought to constitute themselves as such.

Or join the one with which they agree. It is led by the Prime Minister, which is the only situation that can possibly interest them.

Question More

While I make no claim to having been responsible, Harry's Place is having one of its tantrums about the existence and popularity of Russia Today, which is now beaten only by the BBC and Sky as this country's preferred source of broadcast news, and which is only watched by a far more politically engaged section of the population than might automatically tune in to either of those.

The self-styled "decent Left" of Harry's Place would presumably prefer that we preferred the EDL-endorsing Fox "News", which is mercifully not available on Freeview, and which ought not to be broadcast in this country at all after it interfered from abroad in order to endorse a domestic terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom. But Ofcom doesn't want to know. I've tried.

It gives me no pleasure that Nick Griffin is "a parliamentarian". But, although mercifully not for much longer, he is. He has been on Newsnight several times and on Question Time once, which is more than most British parliamentarians can dream of.

Harry's Place is still smarting over Syria, and it probably always will be. Moreover, it takes the standard neocon view - well, of course it does, on any subject - in favour of European federalism within and under an American hegemony in the service of the secular Israeli Far Right, whether or not anyone in Israel votes for the secular Far Right.

It is therefore, like neocons in general, in no position to call anyone else a Fascist, whether in Dewsbury or in Damascus. Like neocons in general, Harry's Place rejoices that we are permanently subject to the legislative will of foreign Fascists, even if not for very much longer to that of British ones. Like neocons in general, Harry's Place rejoices that specifically Israeli Fascists should indirectly, but firmly, dictate the very life and death of our military and sometimes other personnel, even when they have no such say over those of their own State.

It is also quite clear from Harry's Place that it believes that it, and the extremely narrow sociopolitical base for which it serves as a noticeboard (a base within which the unquestionable Supreme Leader is Oliver Kamm, who is regarded as the sole arbiter even of the English language itself), should have the definitive say, like a less open-minded version of the Iranian Council of Guardians. Over who and what may or may not be published in any medium. Over what may or may not be taught in any educational institution, and by whom. Over who and what may or may not contest any election to anything.

Fascism. Plain and simple Fascism. Technically so called.

We Are The Ninety-Five Per Cent That Matters

And we must therefore reject any approach to climate change which threatens to destroy or prevent secure employment, to drive down wages or working conditions, to arrest economic development around the world, to forbid the working classes and non-white people from having children, to inflate the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, or to restrict either travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich.

Lost In The Post

So our Royal Mail is as good as sold, to "financial institutions". There used to be laws against insider trading, but they seem to have gone by the by.

Much of the blame for this must attach to Ed Miliband. If he had promised renationalisation in his speech this week, then no such institution would have taken the risk. Contrary to what they themselves often assert, risk-taking is exactly what they do not do.

There is no point complaining that this was in no one's manifesto. Having been in The Orange Book, this was in the Lib Dem manifesto. One among many reasons why there must be a Labour overall majority in 2015.

And one among many reasons why there ought not to be any Lib Dem MPs whatever in the next Parliament. If that could be made to happen under the German electoral system, then it can certainly be made to happen under the British one.

There Is Nothing Like A Dame

Once does not like to agree with Ken Clarke. But, not least because some of us had already made the point on Twitter, he was quite right on Any Questions: what sort of party, having pulled Godfrey Bloom for fear of appearing unserious, sent on Neil Hamilton instead?

Oh, well, I did tell Mabel Thompson to do panto. Neil Hamilton does it, and he gets to be on Any Questions. If she has ever been on that, then it cannot have been while I have been listening to it, which is now knocking on a quarter of a century.

She sent me one of her tiresome communications after my appearance on RT concerning Ascension Island. A ridiculous former tutee of mine, most notable in those days for electoral malpractice, had been in touch with her about it.

I normally delete her effusions unopened, especially since the one complaining that she had not had sex in 20 years. Resistible, Mabel? You? Surely not! But this time, I took a look. She has not responded to my reply asking exactly when she had last been on television.

Ho, hum. October is nearly upon us, during which Mabel must make a fortune from people who assume that what is in fact her ordinary appearance is a trick or treat costume. And then, Guy Fawkes will provide the ideal means by which to be rid of her once and for all.

Alas, just before the start of the panto season. But in that case, all the more work for Neil Hamilton.

Allowed Again

So, David Cameron is to announce a thousand pound tax allowance transferable from a working to a non-working spouse or civil partner.

Not a patch on the popular appeal of the energy price freeze, but at least a step in the right direction, considering that Alistair Darling had been all ready to do it until the last General Election intervened.

Plus Cameron matches the energy price freeze, and within minutes of having announced this, Miliband matches that, too? Why not? Once the Leader has spoken...

And this is no more or less hypocritical given the Tories' record when they were last in office than the energy price freeze is given Labour's.

Are we only one Parliament away from the Britain of publicly owned energy utilities and of the married couple's tax allowance? Do you know, I am starting to believe that we are.

Direct Interest

Giles Fraser writes:

It may be terribly naive of me, but I would have thought it was a minimum job requirement for the lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice to want to uphold the rule of law. Even more so, to make sure that the government of which he is a part doesn't itself act unlawfully.

But the small print of Chris Grayling's new proposals – a reform to the standing rules on who can bring a claim for judicial review – though technical and therefore, to many of us, rather dull, will have precisely the effect of making it so much more difficult for the public to test the legality of what the government gets up to.

And this is a really big deal – and not just for the "countless leftwing campaign groups" that he has admitted to be his target.

Judicial review is the process by which the public is able to test in the courts whether or not the government has acted lawfully – that is, simply abided by the rules of parliament's own making or those of common law. Judicial reviews are thus a process by which we are able to hold the government accountable to its own legislation.

Grayling obviously hates having his legal homework checked by the courts. It's an irritation to him to be told that the government has not followed its own rules. So now he is proposing that only someone with a "direct interest" in the matter will be able to bring a judicial review.

In other words, only those personally affected by the legislation can bring a case, thus excluding Grayling's hated lefty campaigning organisations from using this route to challenge the government.

But the sort of groups that will be shut out of court by his new proposals are not just "lefty" ones – Greenpeace, Child Poverty Action Group, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, that sort of thing. 

They will equally affect groups not known for their revolutionary intent – the National Farmers' Union, pro-lifers challenging decisions on cloning, Eurosceptics challenging new EU treaties, the Countryside Alliance etc.

Grayling argues that it is the job of government to decide where the public interest lies. That's just flabby rhetoric, for it assumes a basic schoolboy error that the courts are going round quashing government policies because they don't agree with them.

That's rubbish.

The courts don't interfere because they disagree, just when the government has acted unlawfully – to give a small example, where the law says that the government must consult when doing something and it hasn't bothered to do so.

If Grayling sees this sort of thing as unnecessary red tape, he ought to have the balls to stand before the House of Commons and change the law, explaining why consultation, for example, is unnecessary. 

In June 2009, the peace campaigner Maya Evans challenged the government, though judicial review, over its policy of passing captured Afghan detainees from the British military to the Afghan authorities.

There was, to quote the high court judges who handed her a "partial victory" in 2010, "a real risk that detainees transferred to NDS Kabul [the National Directorate of Security's detention facility in Kabul] will be subject to torture". Transfers to NDS Kabul were therefore unlawful, and had to be stopped (those to other NDS facilities could continue, with added safeguards).

If a government wants to make torture legal, it should argue for that in parliament. Instead, Grayling is trying to stop people like Maya Evans bringing cases where they are not personally affected by the situation – as if some poor blighter in prison in Kabul is in any sort of position to take out a judicial review.

No, the injustice secretary is being sneaky and thereby fundamentally undermining the rule of law. These proposals are currently out for consultation.

We should be a lot more worried about them than we are.

Left Populism

An iron law of politics has been broken. The rulebook states clearly that if traditional Labour red meat is gobbled up inside the conference hall, the electorate watching from afar will start to gag.

For at least three decades that has been the received wisdom, accepted by Labour luminaries along with the rest of the political class: if it tickles Labour's erogenous zone, then it's too leftwing for the country.

But that was before Ed Miliband's proposed 20-month freeze on energy bills. It sent the Brighton conference hall into convulsions of ecstasy, of course, but it also received an "off the charts" welcome from the public.

Indeed, it's had the Conservatives and their allies reeling in rare confusion as they head to their own clan gathering in Manchester.

Usually the Tories can cheerfully brand any Labour move leftward as a doomed journey into electoral Siberia: what should they say now, when Ed's hint of red is unarguably popular?

It prompts an intriguing thought: if using the state to rein in the energy behemoths finds favour with the voters, what other left ideas might be popular? Can Miliband repeat his success and craft a populism of the left?

If populism often comes down to channelling public anger against a perceived elite, there is plenty of rich terrain for Labour to explore, much of it in the same area exploited so adroitly this week.

The party's former pollster, Deborah Mattinson, says that any action against the banks, widely loathed since the crash of 2008, remains an automatic vote-winner.

It seems there is not a spending measure yet invented that cannot be sold to the public, so long as it is funded by a levy on bankers.

Meanwhile, the corporate giants exposed for paying next to no tax – Starbucks, Amazon, Google and the like – have also made "hitting big business very popular".

The polling suggests that Miliband could go much further and still keep the public onside. Forget a mere freeze on bills followed by a "reset" of the broken energy market: 69% of the public want to see the energy companies renationalised. A similar number would like the railways back in public hands.

Any action on petrol prices would enjoy huge approval: along with home heating, it's the daily cost voters complain of most.

While he's at it, Miliband can draw comfort from the knowledge that a 50p top rate of tax commands 68% support, with equal enthusiasm for Labour's proposed mansion tax on £2m-plus properties.

All of this would be both in Labour's comfort zone and popular. What, though, of those areas where Labour's instincts apparently diverge from the public's – tough matters such as welfare or immigration? Surely on those, it is only Ukip and the Tories who can play the populist card? Not necessarily.

Start with welfare – or, as Labour would need to rebrand it, social security. The Conservatives see this as Labour's prime weakness: why not play Tory bingo in Manchester, counting up how often Labour is dubbed "the welfare party". It's a George Osborne-Lynton Crosby favourite, knowing it fits with a focus-group perception of Labour as the layabouts' champion.

Yet Labour need not resign itself to this fate. There could be a way to make its own views connect, even here, with the public's. Presentation makes a difference: emphasising children who need help is always powerful, as is highlighting the plight of people with disabilities, central to the effective campaign against the bedroom tax. But it's not enough. 

Nick Pearce, the one-time head of the Downing Street policy unit who now runs the IPPR thinktank, offers a reminder that state provision of, say, education, health and pensions remains hugely popular: "The collective approach still resonates with people."

Britons still recoil from a world in which it's every man for himself: the challenge is to extend that impulse to those who have fallen on hard times, those currently branded "skivers". Pearce suggests a crucial step is giving welfare provision an institutional embodiment. People do not resent paying for education and health because they can see schools and hospitals with their own eyes.

Income transfers that show up as digits on a bank account don't have the same emotional power. Labour got it right this week, says Pearce, by ensuring its increase in childcare provision will come through neighbourhood children's centres rather than by giving parents more in tax credits.

Tangible services run by people you get to know – local institutions – trump mere benefits every time. The public will grow attached to, even come to love, the former, but can eventually despise the latter.

Still, that does not get to the heart of the matter. Public frustration with welfare mostly centres on unfairness, the sense that some people are getting something for nothing.

The remedy here surely lies in what Labour's thinkers call reciprocity, or the contributory principle: reasserting the ethos that underpinned the long-gone mutual and co-operative societies that paved the way for Labour – ensuring that what you get out relates to what you put in.

This way, when a woman over 50 gets laid off, she can expect more help, reflecting the fact that she's been paying into the kitty for longer than most. Jon Cruddas, Liam Byrne and others around Labour's top table are keen on just such an approach: Miliband himself, it seems, is wary, believing that it's someone's need, not their past contribution history, that should determine how much they get.

Immigration is similar, starting with, among other feelings, that same fear of unfairness: why are these people able to come here and enjoy a health service I have been paying into all my life? Labour needs to acknowledge that anger, but then speak to other instincts that are just as popular.

The Blue Labour grouping recently did some provisional "paradoxical polling" which produced fascinating results, suggesting exactly where a left populist sweet spot might lie.

Large numbers were ready to describe themselves as, for example, "pro-business but anti-bank" or "pro-European but anti-EU", to say nothing of "pro-worker but anti-union". Importantly, they also said they were "pro-immigrant, but anti-immigration".

That could be the cue for a campaign arguing that "the NHS would collapse without immigration: we need the doctors and nurses who have come here to work for it", a proposition that enjoys 52% support.

Next would come the attempt, there in Miliband's Tuesday speech, to reframe the immigration issue as one chiefly about a labour market so deregulated it's become ripe for exploitation, channelling people's anger away from migrants themselves towards the "shady gangmasters" who make their lives a misery and keep wages down.

There are similar moves possible on patriotism or crime.

It doesn't mean parroting the mantras of the right, but rather finding that place where Labour beliefs and public attitudes meet.

For years, left populism would have seemed like an oxymoron in Britain. The Tory-supporting press still want that to be true. But this was the week they began to worry they might be wrong.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Blooming No More

With Godfrey Bloom's autobiography not published this week as expected, he has already been pulled from Question Time. 

Have I Got News For You will have been recorded by now. Does anyone know if he was on it after all?

And he is due on Any Questions. But somehow, one does rather doubt it.

Red Britain

George Eaton writes:

You don't have to clear a very high bar to be called a 'socialist' today.

Judging by the response of the conservative press to Ed Miliband's conference speech, one would have thought that the Labour leader had proposed to nationalise the FTSE 100 (as socialists frequently used to do).

Matthew d'Ancona wrote in yesterday's Evening Standard that Miliband had "vacated" the centre ground, while almost every other right-leaning commentator responded by resurrecting the 2010 epithet "Red Ed". 

This neuralgic reaction undoubtedly owes something to Miliband's answer last week to the question "when will you bring back socialism?": "That's what we are doing, sir."

But as I noted at the time, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown also frequently described themselves as "socialist". For any leader of Labour, a "democratic socialist party" according to its members' cards, it is an obligatory affectation. 

The apparently sincere depiction of Miliband as "a socialist" by commentators such as Fraser Nelson and Dan Hodges reveals more about the rightwards journey of British politics over the last three decades than it does about Miliband's radicalism.

The suggestion that he has abandoned the centre also represents a profound misreading of public opinion. If Miliband is a socialist, then so are most of the electorate. 

Focus group approval for his pledge to freeze energy prices was, one senior Labour strategist told me after the speech, "off the scale".

His plan to crackdown on landbanking by forcing developers to "use or lose" their land, which prompted comparisons with Lenin and Robert Mugabe, is supported by the Bolshevik Boris Johnson and Conservative MP Jake Berry

His unremarkable support for a 50p tax rate (recall that Margaret Thatcher retained a top rate of 60p for nine years of her premiership) is shared by 68% of voters, while 48% favour a rate 10p higher.

A similar proportion (69%) back his pledge to introduce a mansion tax on property values above £2m and his commitment to workers' rights.

According to polling by Populus, 69% agree that "it is important Labour retains its strong links with the Trade Unions because they represent many hard working people in Britain".

His promise to repeal the bedroom tax is supported by 59% (it turns out that you can be too tough on welfare). 

In fact, in several respects, Miliband presently lies to the right of the British public. While he deliberates over whether to renationalise the railways, 70% of voters have already sided against privatisation.

Almost as many (69%) would like to see the energy companies taken back into public ownership.

A majority (60%) want the minimum wage to be raised to the level of the living wage and a full ban on zero-hour contracts. 

The unspoken fear among the right is that Labour has dared to elect a leader with the temerity to offer the public the "left-wing" policies they've always wanted.

Socialism, as Ralph Miliband understood it, might be dead, but responsible capitalism, it turns out, is very much alive.

Little Englanders: The True Internationalists

Patrick West writes:

One of the favourite tactics used by the pro-intervention brigade, currently trying to get stuck into Syria, is to name-call anti-interventionist opponents ‘Little Englanders’, a label often accompanied by ‘isolationists’, usually alongside some mumbled reference to Hitler and the Nazis.

The implication is that if we let bad things happen in faraway countries, they will eventually come to visit us. Ultimately, we will be damned by history as appeasers and cowards.

There’s an internet convention that any mention of the Nazis nullifies a debate, and I think it should apply to society at large. It’s a false analogy here anyway.

Britain is only endangered when mainland Europe is controlled by one power, or someone is threatening us with atom bombs. That’s why Britain fought off Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler and Stalinism.

But that’s by the by.

More interestingly: what’s wrong exactly with being a ‘Little Englander’?

The term ‘Little Englander’ was coined in the late-nineteenth century, an imperialist slur directed at members of the Liberal Party who were opposed to the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

The trendy liberals of the day, such as Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, believed that the state should put the interests of Britain (for which ‘England’ still served as a synonym) above those of Empire, as Little Englanders believed it wrong to send out troops to Africa to kill Dutch farmers.

Imperialism, the urge to control others, is prominent throughout human history. But humans can resist urges.

Indeed, had our ancestors had the foresight actually to be ‘Little Englanders’, Africa and the Middle East might not be in such a bad state today.

It was European imperialism that created the mess in the Third World, and no amount of present-day, feel-good imperialism can rectify that.

The Dutch and the British made a peace of sorts after the Second Boer War, but the Afrikaners didn’t make peace with the indigenous African populations for decades.

South Africa was the product of imperialism, just as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Kosovo were – and all of them are unstable for it.

They are all lands once plundered and ruled by Europeans and Turks, who withdrew or were pushed out, leaving behind them artificial borders containing mutually antagonistic ethnic, tribal and religious groups.

No wonder South Africans attach so much importance to keeping Nelson Mandela alive: look what happened to Yugoslavia after Tito’s death in 1980.

While Islamism is indeed born of a juvenile envy of the success of Western culture and the failure of Arab civilisation, Ottoman and British imperialism laid down the foundations for it (both Syria and Iraq are young, post-colonial states), while American neo-imperialism has aggravated it.

Consider America’s capricious foreign policy – supporting the Shah of Iran and today the Saudi ruling class – or the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, both of which connived to aggravate extreme Islamists.

If you believe moral imperialism is legitimate on humanitarian grounds, you will probably cite the 1999 bombing of the former Yugoslavia and the prevention of the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s Albanians.

Yet the action merely postponed the inevitable. Kosovo remains a time-bomb, as does Bosnia, Macedonia, and, let’s not forget this, Northern Ireland.

The only concrete achievements of bombing Kosovo were to hasten the departure of Serbs from the area, and to earn Britain the eternal loathing of the Serbian people.

The fact that NATO attacked a Christian nation to defend Muslims is a fact happily ignored by the jihadists.

There’s no such thing as a moral war, despite the protestations of the evangelising of the neoconservatives and the grandstanding of the liberal left. The only just war is one of self-defence.

Syria doesn’t threaten us. Assad is no Hitler. Vladimir Putin is no nineteenth-century tsar, jealously eyeing up the British Raj.

What makes al-Qaeda – and its Syrian and Somali franchises – the real enemy is that its members are also cultural imperialists. They, too, seek to control, to impose their way of life on others.

The interventionists seem more concerned with their public image and ‘how people/history will judge me’. Ten years ago, it was the self-importance of the anti-war camp – ‘Not In My Name’ – that stood out.

Now it is the self-righteous indignation from those who spew bile on those of us who understand that war will always be with us. ‘Let’s bomb Syria’ is the humanitarian imperialist’s equivalent of posting a selfie on the internet.

‘Something must be done’, they bellow: the cry of an idiot. Would you trust a heart surgeon who said ‘something must be done?’ It’s terrible to see pictures of dead children, but what if our actions were to send more babies to their graves? No, ‘first do no harm’, as the Hippocratic Oath goes.

To be a ‘Little Englander’: how gauche, how ‘white van man’! We Daily Mail readers, old socialists and Marxists, and crabby Tories; Ukippers who have grown suspicious of the EU, neo-imperialism and big business; old lefties who always were.

We Little Englanders – Tories and Trots and even some Scots – are the true internationalists, because we respect other nations. We look beyond the EU and the UN, to the world around us, not within ourselves.

We care not for destructive, feel-good imperialism and its repellent egotism. We are not isolationist. Isolationism is drawing your curtains.

We want to get to know our neighbours, not tell them how to arrange their houses. We live in a nice house. Why not come in and take a look around?