Good grief. I thought that the age of politicians cynically talking out interviews was over. Over the past 13 years Peter Mandelson had developed the art of talking a lot but saying nothing. He honed his techniques of deceit and obfuscation and almost rendered interviews pointless. His goal was to say nothing. I thought that with New Labour out of power we might return to the days when the purpose of political interviews was to give the public a chance to understand the actions of politicians. It seems that Zach Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, has other ideas.
In fact Goldsmith is not the same as Mandelson. While Mandelson came across and a bit of an outsider Goldsmith comes across as a member of an over privileged elite which considers that the world revolves around them.
He suffers from, what a friend from New Zealand once termed, the sickening over confidence of the English upper classes.
The story of the police manhunt in Northambria ending in the suicide of Raoul Moat is still making headlines. Yesterday we heard news that Moat had made a series of recordings of his dealings with social workers where he requested help from a psychiatrist. Also we heard that a Facebook page which has been created by people glorifying Moat’s attacks and portraying him as a hero. In Prime Minister’s Question Time we heard David Cameron express incomprehension at the sympathy for Raoul Moat and say: “It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story” and “the should be no sympathy for him”. Mr. Cameron is TALKING BOLLOCKS!
It amazes me that the Western world has regular incidents where alienated men go berserk and kill many strangers and we always dismiss the killer as evil. When we do this we condemn our society to suffer a reoccurrence of the incident. Mr. Cameron’s comments are merely the absurd knee jerk reaction of all politicians: “All terrorist are cowards”, “all firemen are heros” and “all murderers are callous”….yes, yes, thank you, does anyone have anything constructive to say?
Moat had obviously built up a narrative in his mind whereby his wife had left him for a police officer, that he was being prevented from seeing his children an that the police were deliberately harassing him. At the moment it is too early to say how much of this narrative is true and how much is imagined by Moat but I believe it is this story which has moved some members of the public to sympathy.
And we should have sympathy! This man was suffering and, in the end he killed himself.
The accusation when one says this sort of thing is: What about sympathy for PC David Rathband whom Moat shot and has probably blinded. Of course we have sympathy for PC Rathband but this is a given. That is acknowledged by the whole of society and should not and is not being challenged by politicians or the media.
Further, the media tell us the news in the form of stories. A popular catchphrase amongst journalists is “simplify and emphasise” and this is what they have done with Moat. They built up his character by revealing his body building and use of steroids. They told us of his camping out in a tent, catching rabbits and eluding the police for days. The main character of this soap opera was Moat and sadly, PC Rathbone only entered the story briefly.
The shooting of Moat’s wife, the boy friend and PC Rathband are awful and were Moat to have lived he obviously should have been brought to justice and punished.
But merely to dismiss Moat as “callous” is wide of the mark. Sir Fred Goodwin who destroyed RBS and then made off with a fat pension was callous. Berny Madoff who built up the largest ponzi scheme in history was callous. Peter Mandelson publishing his diaries within weeks of Labour losing power is callous.
Moat interminable recorded rants give us some indication as to his state of mind. One can only imagine his anguish as he sat on the ground with night drawing in, surrounded by police marksman and knowing full well that his heinous crimes would, if he surrendered, push him even further from those he loved. The anguish of fighting with himself over whether to end it all or give himself up to a life that he would hate could not have been helped by having the police shoot at him with a tazer.
The obvious suffering of Moat and the resonance with many divorced fathers mean that this story was bound to draw public sympathy and Mr. Cameron’s claim that we should have no sympathy for this man is incorrect and unhelpful.
This morning I listened to John Humphries interview the Shadow Education Secretary, Ed Balls, on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. Yes, I know, I should move on from ranting about the inadequacies of New Labour and start ranting about the Tories and Lib Dems but hang on.
Following the publication of Mandelson’s diaries and a book by Andrew Rawnsley both documenting the infighting within the New Labour cabinet between Blair and Brown, Humprys was trying to pin down Balls on his association with the infighting through his association with Brown. Mandy had called the infighting an insurgency and Humphries said that Andrew Rawnsley’s book claims Mr. Brown was vacillating before a planned “coup” in 2006 and Ed Balls told Mr Brown: “It’s too late. It’s all in place. It’s going to happen.”. An article in The Evening Standard claimed Balls also said: “Blair is never going to go. He has to be pushed. You mustn’t be weak. You’ve been weak for too long.”
So Mr. Balls waffled and said the book was full of inaccuracies but, tellingly, did not deny the specific incident.
Humphries drew attention to Labour’s part in the financial crisis and a McKinsey document stating the UK’s horrendous debt. Mr. Balls waffled, saying “interests rates were low” and “inflation was low” and went on to say that the crisis was global, implying that nobody is to blame at all.
It occurred to me that the feud between Brown and Blair may have contributed, in a very substantial way, to the prevalence of manipulators, bullshitters and bullies surrounding the New Labour government. Both Blair and Brown would have needed hatchet men and this need would have driven out any wise, thoughtful or competent advise. Leading on from this one can speculate on the whole nature of the New Labour years without the likes of Campbell, Mandelson and Balls. If wiser heads had prevailed might Blair have remained relatively sane and not led the UK into Iraq? Might Brown have had more time for the economy and avoided the worst of the financial crisis? We shall never know.
Several people have commented to me that the Tories would have screwed things up just as bad as Labour. Maybe. But of course they didn’t did they. It was Labour and you have to punish governments who screw up by chucking them out otherwise you are just rewarding incompetence.
No doubt the Tory/LibDem coalition will draw my attention in time, though right now I just find the absence of Mandy bullshit a refreshing change and with the remnants of New Labour still voluminously TALKING BOLLOCKS it is easy to get distracted.
The Labour party wont move on until it faces up to its mistakes and rejects the unsavoury characters from the New Labour years. If it doesn’t then, once the Tories have fallen out of favour, we will be faced with another Labour government wasting its time on spin rather than achieving objectives. In the words of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition the Labour party need to “Confess the heinous sin of heresy”and “reject the works of the ungodly”. ie admit that they screwed up and chuck out the likes of Balls.
An Iranian woman has been sentenced to death by stoning, the first such sentence this year. Help save Sakineh and end the horrendous practice of stoning – sign the petition against this.
Also check out the Iran Solidarity web site which was formed to mobilise support and stand with the people of Iran against the Islamic regime of Iran.
And here is the president of Iran. The buffoon who condones this practice. It’s odd but in most pictures of him his head appears to be inflating like a balloon. Let’s see if we can help that ballooning process along a little bit. There we go. Maybe his head is full of silly ideas and one day soon his silly balloon head will explode!
I was up in London today and had a look around Dalston in Hackney. Busy busy busy, at least it was along Kingsland Road near Dalston Junction. Ridley Road market was busy too as is normal for a Saturday. Wow, the ripe peppers look good! And what do you know? They have finally opened Dalston Junction station again which now links Dalston to Canary Wharf. No wonder the property prices have shot up.
Just by Dalston Junction station they have built a new apartment complex named Dalston Square. Not really in keeping with the other buildings but it will pack in the people who work in Canary Wharf. It simultaneously amuses and irritates me that the façade along the front of Dalston Square has pictures of famous London sites presumably to suggest that Dalston Square is itself in the same league as the fabulous Gothic St. Pancras Station. A little further down Dalston Lane, before Queensbridge Road, there have always been some old shops. Music systems, Jerk chicken, various stuff which gave the area some character. It seems that the houses behind them, known as Dalston Lane Terraces, are Grade 2 listed and have been left empty and are becoming derelict. The council sold them but bought them back recently and now the squatters who occupy some of them have received court papers to try and get them out.
The squatters say that they have been contributing to the community especially in the arts. They want to stay in the properties until renovation work commences and will allow access to surveyors. They are concerned that if they are thrown out then the buildings will rapidly degrade. They state that in the past squatters have been evicted from other buildings only for the council to render buildings uninhabitable by filling drains with concrete and removing cabling.
The squatters say that they are keen to talk to the council but that it has been difficult to “open a channel of communication” and they have now started a petition.
Given the way that buildings have been demolished to make way for Dalston Square and the huge gaps in the Dalston skyline where other buildings have been demolished it is understandable that one might think that the real motive for evicting the squatters is to demolish the buildings to build another high rise, faceless, well appointed bunch of rabbit hutches.
I am getting really irritated by Labour in opposition. Their outrageous self riotous indignation is disgusting. From Roy Hattersley arrogant assumption that the Lib Dems should ally with Labour to Harriet Harman winging that Lib Dem voters did not vote for the current policies.
Hey Harriet! I am a Liberal Democrat voter, don’t tell me what I think!
This week Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East became almost hysterical in the House of Commons and shouted that the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, was a “miserable pipsqueak”. This abuse from a member of a party which led the UK into war under the leadership of such miserable frauds as Mandelson, Campbell and Blair!
Labour backbenchers have still not faced up to fact that their acquiescence to being led by charlatans and incompetence for the past 13 years has cost them power and cost the country dear. Labour should wake up and smell the coffee. They knowingly allowed a bunch of frauds to lead them in order to win the election. This is an open secret. Even Tony Benn has admitted it publicly. They sacrificed their principles for power, they screwed the economy, they lost the election.
When Mr. Watson uses the term pipsqueak, I suggest that he is projecting. Today he swaggers around insulting people like a drunken bouncer but why did he not have enough courage to speak out when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were shafting Labour and the country? Could it be that Mr. Watson is a miserable pipsqueak?
I saw a cartoon in The Independent yesterday which implied that The Tory/Lib Dem coalition are using scare tactics to introduce spending cuts. I’ve also heard the Labour cabinet condemning all the cuts but giving no guide as to how the deficit (and the debt) which New Labour ran up should be brought under control. For those not steeped in financial jargon the debt is how much we owe and the deficit is the shortfall in our annual spending. So by running a deficit we increase the national debt. The talk by the new coalition government so far has concentrated on getting the deficit under control but bare in mind that Gordon Brown ran a deficit even during the boom years as the UK was spending more than the government gained in taxes!
Depressingly but, perhaps predictably, all we hear from everyone who has been asked to make cuts is justification for why their particular budget should not be cut. There was an education official on the radio recently “explaining” that the national debt is not like a credit card and that we can simply roll over the debt. Easy! We’re in debt, no problem, borrow more. It is this daft logic that has lead to the UK national debt of nearly 70% of GDP in 2009.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the United Kingdom became wealthy through empire and the industrial revolution and used that wealth to provide comfy lives for the British elite. Note that the majority of the British people had lives worse than many of those in India or elsewhere in the Empire mainly because of the cold British climate and the appalling working conditions during the industrial revolution. The British elite, however, did very well.
During the two world wars the European powers smashed each other to bits and America and the USSR stepped in as world leaders. The U.S. had ensured that the UK paid for aid during the war but the Marshall Plan got the UK and Western Europe back on their feat. The UK then hung on to it’s place in the world for a while. Our industry and trained workforce gave us “comparative advantage” compared to “developing countries” and so the UK and other European countries remained fairly wealthy and fairly secure. Sure Japan, Taiwan and others developed their own industry but most of the world remained pre-industrial.
Post World War 2 a Labour government came to power and, dazzled by the apparent success of Socialism in the USSR, started looking after the working class. For the first time ordinary people gained access to clean water, health care and pensions.
We developed a world view roughly as follows: The West leads the world, developing technology and operating industry, the far east copies the West and and performs some production and the “third world” supplies the raw materials but remains poor and dependent on aid.
But the UK was complacent., we became convinced that all our wealth was a natural state of affairs and that it could all be paid for by creative accounting. While we were naval gazing the Soviet Union collapsed, open markets became the vogue, China joined the World Trade Organisation and the rest of the world adopted capitalism and found that they were pretty good at it. Not only were they good at it they were unencumbered by a mature democracy or legislation to protect workers.
Global leadership, industry and power is now shifting from the democratic Western nations to nations who are either dictatorships or corrupt token democracies. As a quick preamble to my next bit of ranting I should explain, for the uninitiated, that the a common measure of a countries wealth is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is a measure of the total value of goods and services produced by a country. Because countries vary in populations another common measure is to divide GDP by the population and derive a figure known as GDP per capita. This gives a measure of how much each person, on average, produces.
Time for some figures.
UK GDP is sixth in the world, just above Brazil at 8 and India at 11 and below China at 3.
National debt is at 68% of GDP, higher than Ghana at 67.5% or Uganda at 19.3%
The UK’s budget deficit (how much more we spend than we earn) is at 14.2% of GDP, above Sierra Leone at 12.35% and Vietnam at 9.3%
The UK’s defence budget is 2.5% of GDP, that’s more than above China at 2% and Germany at 1.3%.
The UK’s Education spending is the same as South Africa and Mexico at 5.3% of GDP. That’s above Bhutan at 5.2% but below Fiji at 5.6% and Bolivia at 6.3% and Yemen at 9.5%!
It’s also worth considering that other countries do not have debt, they have surplus! They have saved money and built up substantial wealth in Sovereign Wealth Funds. For example:
United Arab Emirates 627 $Billion
Norway 443 $Billion
China 288.8 $Billion
The UK still has some cards up it sleeve. In 2008 we were the sixth biggest manufacturer after Italy but Russia was at 7 and Brazil at 8.
In recent history the UK has relied on North Sea oil to top up our income. I cannot find any figures on what percentage of our GDP is made up from Oil and Gas but I recall reading that the tax take on Oil and Gas was the largest contributor to the British exchequer followed by Finance. I believe that was before the financial crisis.
All this is not to say that the United Kingdom is doomed, just that the world is changing and we can’t rely on the UK remaining wealthy by default. British policies today dictate the future of this country and if we continue to run up a debt our nation will decline. It not rocket science. There are younger and fitter countries in the world.
Just today I heard a British politician talking about maintaining British leadership. Our political elite have not yet caught up with the 21st century. Why should Brazil, Taiwan or China be interested in being lead by a mid size debtor nation on the other side of the world?
No nation or empire lasts for ever. Nations and Empires rise and fall. The British Empire has fallen and one day the UK will fall and I suggest that, if we are not careful, people will look back and see that the obvious start was the 21st century due to complacency, vested interests and the inability of a people to make tough decisions..
We are no longer one of the few great industrialised powers in a world populated by uneducated and illiterate farmers. The UK is now just one of many educated and industrialised countries. It is true that we have a more mature system of law and democracy but undemocratic and corrupt governments around the world see this as an encumbrance and not as something to emulate.
We are in massive debt, the oil money is running out. New Labour’s policies of spend and hope have failed. I support the current government’s prescription of large scale cuts but this should be supplemented by informed strategic planning.
We should also reconsider our commitment to allowing foreign entities to buy British assets and industry. Sovereign Wealth Funds referred to above often buy industry and assets from the developed world and this is acceptable if everyone plays by the same rules. However some of the largest of these funds are owned by nations who play by very few rules. Specifically we should be wary of allowing SWFs of single party dictatorships or corrupt regimes owning large stakes in the UK.
Globalisation is all very well while the foreign money is pouring in and funding industry and jobs but once these foreign owners have their feet under the table they often find that it is more efficient to centralise production and transfer the industry abroad. This would be fair enough were it possible for British companies to buy up industry in China, Germany or Japan in the same way but other countries are not as open as the UK.
Last Sunday night there was a TV program enthusing about one industry in the UK which remains cutting edge and world leading. This was British Aerospace and it’s production of Rolls Royce Trent aircraft engines in Derby.