Sunday, 31 May 2015
So, God had sent two angels to see Sodom and Gomorrah for him. Remember that God is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, but he has to send a couple of servants to have a look at things and check them out for him. But never mind.
So the angels arrived at this city and were met at the gates by Lot, Abraham's brother, who invited them to stay with him. How did he know they were coming? Clearly he was a lot more omniscient than the God he worships.
So they went with him to his home where he showed the same fawning hospitality that his brother had done when they had fortuitously gone there first. Why had they done so? Because it suits the story.
But the men of the city were nothing like as hospitable and decided that they wanted to 'know' these strangers from out of town better. 'Know' is biblical code for sex. In this case it is biblical code for homosexual gang rape. So the men of the city surrounded Lot's house and demanded access to these strangers. But Lot went outside and attempted to reason with them. He implored them not to do what they planned to do. But here's the thing. In return for them leaving these angels alone, he offered them his own virgin daughters to do with whatever they wanted. Nice morality eh?
But the men of the City were having none of this. They wanted these strangers for no very obvious reason that anyone bothers to explain and they were going to rape Lot too because he was a foreigner in their city and who was he to tell them about morality and who or who they could or couldn't 'know'. So the angels pulled Lot in to the house and they blinded all of the men surrounding the house. They told Lot he must take his family and leave the city for they were going to destroy it.
Interestingly Lot went to speak to his sons in law despite his having just offered his virgin daughters to the crowd. Perhaps that's why the crowd weren't interested in them knowing that they were in fact married, which as we all know if you are of a medieval mindset, means that women aren't worth a damned thing. They must always be virgins. The same is true of angels presumably.
So they waited until the morning, because apparently the rapists outside were not so desperate as to beat down the door or anything to get what they wanted or maybe they were off seeking out guide dogs, and they left the city at the behest of the angels who told them to leave and not look back. They all left except the husbands of Lot's non virgin daughters who hadn't believed him about what was going to happen.
Then, once Lot and his family had escaped, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and all of its inhabitants with fire and brimstone. This must, logically, have included even very young children, even babies unable to speak or hold up their own heads and so utterly incapable of anything sinful or immoral. Yet God and his angels spared Lot even though he had offered his own daughters to the crowd. For added measure he even turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt. Why? For turning around and looking at God's handiwork and back at the place that had been her home a few hours earlier. Nice!
The next morning Abraham went out to see what had happened and saw that Sodom had been destroyed because there were not even 10 good and sinless people in it. Not even children or babies?
Anyway Lot, now wife-less and his daughters who were husband-less went and stayed overnight in a cave. And his daughters, worried about their lack of appeal to even gangs of rapists, decided, as you do, to fuck their father having first taken the precaution of getting him drunk. Both were made pregnant and both children were the fathers of races that would one day become enemies of Israel.
So what is the point of this fantastically stupid and deeply morally suspect story? It is essentially a bigoted fairytale to tell how a race that Jews don't like was created by incest between daughters and their father and how the children of Abraham are so much more morally righteous than all of the other tribes of the desert. Well, as long as you don't pay too much attention to what actually is said or happens of course.
Saturday, 30 May 2015
Unfortunately I'm a bit incapacitated at the moment and so have been unable to make a Video Diary this week. Instead here is an oldie that proved extremely popular. I'll leave it to your imagination to decide why. I think it's because of the mention of The Pope.
Friday, 29 May 2015
Does it not strike you as odd that David Cameron is currently engaged on a whistlestop tour of the EU to talk his fellow European leaders into allowing him to decide to whom he pays benefits? Yet that is essentially what our prime minister is doing, what his much vaunted renegotiation is all about. Britain, thanks to a succession of previous governments, now has to go cap in hand to Europe to win the right to spend our own money as we see fit. Oh and they can also send us a bill to demand more of our money for the EU thanks to the fact that our economy is performing better than the EU whilst of course being obliged to act as the default make work scheme for the entire continent.
France is annoyed with us because we want to dismantle the EU. Poland is annoyed with us because we don't want to keep spending our money on Poles and sending child benefit to that country whilst also integrating hundreds of thousands of Poles into our economy. Germany is upset because we are upsetting the whole apple cart and they may end up having to pay even more of the bill than they do already.
Britain, said France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, decided to join a football club and cannot now decide it wants to play rugby. It is apparently all right however that we joined a club which can change the rules as it sees fit and to suit its own purposes and which is resistant to actually asking the peoples of Europe for their opinion because they have a tendency to vote the wrong way. Britain voted 40 years ago to be members of a Common Market. We did not vote to be members of a club that obliges us to open our doors to 300 million people and pay them benefits and give them all the same rights as if they have lived here all of their lives.
If I were prime minister right now I would be proposing that Britain should do as it sees fit with its benefits system and that we see no reason to consult anyone about this. I would further be proposing a unilateral declaration of what Britain will henceforth be willing to go along with in Europe. It would amount to us rejoining the Common Market and being part of a free trade zone. Oh and we'll have our fish back too and retake control of our agriculture while we're at it. Under the circumstances our European 'partners' should be grateful that they have someone as reasonable and conciliatory as Mr Cameron to talk to - someone who has the courtesy to consult them about something that is really none of their damned business.
We are going to get our referendum at last. For now we will watch quietly while our prime minister talks politely and engages in his shuttle diplomacy. But past experience suggests that Europe is a one way street and that Britain may well have to opt for the nuclear option. For now they seem to doubt that we will, being unable to imagine why anyone would want to walk away. We however find this altogether imaginable. Many of us consider it eminently desirable.
Thursday, 28 May 2015
This blog has been arguing for years now that Fifa is beyond the pale. Finally the world, which knew this of course, seems to be readying itself to do something about it. UEFA may finally wield the power it has and exercise some control over its bonkers relation.
Sepp Blatter has to go. The only person who doubts this is the man himself who blithely claimed via a spokesman that yesterday was a good day for Fifa and that the election for president should go ahead as planned.
And this is where the power of Fifa comes in. Blatter has prospered because UEFA, though it employs more or less all of the best players, has the biggest and best supported clubs and generates by far the most cash, is outvoted by the rest of the world. The Fifa voting system is an exercise in self serving absurdity. Countries with a population of a few hundred thousand get one vote as do those with hundreds of millions.
This has encouraged the endemic corruption that is now at last being revealed. The rest of the world votes for Blatter because Blatter rewards smaller countries, or at least those who purport to represent them, for doing so. Meanwhile Europe and the likes of Brazil have to watch and suffer.
Blatter has become a master of spin and deceit. His response to this latest scandal was a classic of the type. But then so was his defence of the Qatar World Cup. It had probably been a mistake he admitted, but why shouldn't the tournament be relocated in time to the middle of the European season? Why should Europe get its own way? Because it employs all of the players and because European football is watched and loved around the world. That's why. But Blatter knows that. He just says what his cronies need him to say and gets away with it. Until this scandal erupted it looked as though the game would quietly acquiesce in the 2022 debacle. It had somehow become a fait accompli that the summer tournament would now be played just prior to Christmas.
Now the time has come to vote with our feet since voting itself has been corrupted. The federations of Europe led by our own Football Association should simply refuse to have anything further to do with Fifa while it is being led by Sepp Blatter. They should immediately walk away from a vote and refuse to participate in any future tournaments. That means that Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 are off as far as UEFA is concerned. Clubs would refuse to release players for these tournaments. If necessary we should arrange an alternative tournament.
UEFA should simply announce that it no longer recognises the authority of Fifa to run world football and that we are forming our own breakaway organisation run by those countries which have a football tradition and a commitment to fair play and the rule of law. It would be a unilateral declaration of footballing independence from the continent which predominantly runs and finances the game and which includes the country, England, that invented it and still plays a major role in setting the rules to this day.
This has the advantage of obviating the worries that legal action will be brought if Fifa cancels the corruptly won tournaments in 2018 and 2022. Fifa will soon no longer exist. It is being wound up and a new organisation will be created in its place, one that is accountable and democratic. If Fifa tries to do its usual trick of carrying on regardless and attempting to ride out the storm then everyone should simply walk away from it leaving Sepp Blatter as the president of nothing and a man facing criminal investigation.
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
I had planned on writing about Fifa and its 65th congress tomorrow as this rubber stamp committee of corruption and kleptocracy gets underway. Events however seem to have overtaken me.
This morning, with beautiful timing worthy of their famous railway network, the Swiss police arrested several Fifa panjandrums as they arrived at their hotel ready to elect or more likely re-elect a president. Sep Blatter, the egregious and slippery 79 year old president of this ridiculous but curiously stable organisation, is standing once again having once vowed that he would not stand for a fourth term. This will be his fifth.
This week Michel Platini, the head of UEFA and himself a less than impressive governor of the beautiful game, opined that Blatter would not quit because he would not know what to do with himself if he ever lost his role. On the contrary it is much more likely that Blatter knows exactly what he would do with himself. Shorn of his ability to bully and cajole with other peoples' money he would quickly find himself going straight to jail without the ability to collect any more of other peoples' money along the way. Blatter has proven himself fantastically adept at keeping just distant enough from the litany of allegations. Those around him seem to keep falling though. He is like the old joke about the elderly driver who has never been in an accident but has seen thousands.
Except of course none of this is by accident. Blatter employs the playbook used and trusted by the worst dictators the world has ever seen. Okay Blatter's Fifa doesn't employ outright violence to get its way, but then it does preside over Qatar 2022 which has led to the deaths or maiming of the poor souls who are working to build this absurd tournament in appalling and dangerous conditions as effective slave labour.
Fifa hosts its World Cup tournaments too with other peoples' money. Last year's admittedly superb tournament was paid for by Brazil, a country in which millions live in slums. Fifa took its vast profits and the country is left with vast debts and little other than memories to show for it. The circus moves on. It moves on to Russia and then to Qatar, vanity projects created at vast expense and because Fifa can cream more off the top when the tournament is hosted in countries which take a more relaxed approach to bribery, corruption and greasing the Fifa wheels. Russia famously didn't produce a single e-mail from its successful bid when investigators came calling because the computers had been mysteriously destroyed.
Fifa has cash reserves of $1.5 billion. Why? For what possible end? This lavishly funded organisation which runs the world game and pays no taxes thanks to its incorporation in Switzerland uses this slush fund to buy Blatter his passport to his job in perpetuity. When it was mooted that Blatter could no longer count on the votes of the Caribbean countries at the meeting beginning tomorrow he flew over and dispensed Fifa largesse to the tune of $180 million in development grants. Of course there is ample scope to cream a little off the top of this to further grease the wheels.
Blatter is a genius at the politics of Fifa, of divide and rule. He sees off his rivals each and every time by leaning on the right people, controlling the money and thus the votes and ensuring that anyone who gets too close to ousting him mysteriously gets their corruption found out. On the occasion when his own lackeys are caught with their hands in the till the mud never sticks to Blatter himself. Blatter is like a potentate, travelling around the world in private jets, enjoying lavish hospitality and mixing with the rich and powerful. He just takes care not to travel to the sort of places where he might be asked awkward questions by journalists or worse still by police officers and federal investigators.
Today we learn that several of the top figures of Fifa have been arrested. As usual Blatter is not one of those figures. The mud will not stick. But it doesn't need to. Fifa is a corrupt and venal organisation that is not fit to watch games of football let alone run the game. Its awarding of the World Cup to Qatar should have meant the end for the Blatter regime, his defence of the 2018 tournament in Russia is astounding even for this prize hypocrite and liar. It doesn't matter what if anything is proven against Blatter himself. It matters that he presides over an organisation that is demonstrably corrupt and serially incapable of resolving and dealing with that corruption. It is incapable because it suits Blatter and Fifa not to try. The list of abuses and lies, of endemic, institutionalised corruption is now so long it fills books and huge FBI files. Fifa is a stain on the reputation of world football. It is now time to call a halt, force Blatter from office. We can be pretty sure that once out he will not long stay out of a court room and then jail because that's why, at the age of 79, he keeps reneging on promises to quit.
Characteristically Blatter and Fifa are spinning this morning that this is all happening at their behest and is a sign of how open and accountable they are. They are also insisting that the election will take place as planned because the two events are unconnected, which is a level of mendacious duplicity which would take the breath away were we not wearily accustomed to their depravity and opportunistic bravado. But this is the last desperate throes of a regime that has at last met its match. Football itself could not bring Blatter down. It falls to the FBI to do it. That in itself tells us all we need to know about this broken and despicable institution.
Ultimately, as so often, the arrogance of Blatter and his cronies has been their undoing. The utterly corrupt and indefensible decisions to award and then defend the World Cups in Russia and Qatar illustrated how bad the situation was. This is going to be a spectacle every bit as exhilarating as the best that the beautiful game can serve up.
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
I think its probably time I wrote about Liverpool. I've been putting it off. There was an election, that's my excuse. But it is an excuse if I'm honest.
It's not been a good season. At the start of the season it had been my intention to write regularly about Liverpool much as I had done the previous season when we came so close to the championship. But it quickly became clear that the 2014/15 season would not be a patch on the previous one. Suarez was gone and he had raised us up to a different level. Then he moved up to a better level himself and, after a slow start, has proven himself at Barcelona. The man is a flawed and often unpleasant human being. But he is a great footballer. For a time he made Liverpool think that the glory days were back.
Unfortunately this season showed our true level. We are fast becoming a mid table club, little better than the Aston Villas of this world - a club that beat us to get to the FA Cup final. That would have been a decent consolation this season. But we weren't even good enough for that.
The fact is that the owners, Fenway Sports Group, have been found out. They are not as sophisticated or as clever as they thought they were. Aha! they said. All we have to do is find great players when they are still young and still cheap and turn them into world beaters. No shit, Sherlock. That is the holy grail of football. And Liverpool have been doing it for years, long before the present ownership arrived. Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and a certain Steven Gerrard all came through the Liverpool ranks that way.
But, it should be noted, Liverpool was always a club not afraid to bring in the best and pay the price. Kenny Dalglish? Heard of him? The best clubs find a way of finding and nurturing the best talent and complementing it with bought in stars. That was the Liverpool way. It is now the way of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea. There is a reason why Arsenal have only won one trophy in recent years despite having one of the best managers in the game in charge. They refuse to pay top dollar for top stars.
The current model for Liverpool is failing and turning the club into one of those sleeping giants of the game. Yes the plan to expand the stadium is a good one and one that will reap financial results in the long term (although it will still leave us lagging behind Manchester United and extravagantly funded clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City), but in the meantime the model currently being used is demonstrably not working.
For evidence of that we only have to look at the players who have left the club in recent years. Xabi Alonso, Suarez, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano. We would also have lost Steven Gerrard at his peak had he not had an admirable devotion to the club of his boyhood dreams. The consequence of that for Gerrard was that he has never won a championship medal, an honour he could have had at any of the clubs vying for his signature. Most are not so loyal. Even when you identify young talent and bring them on they reward you by demanding ridiculous salaries and whinging about being played out of position like Raheem Sterling. There is a player I will happily see leave. He is nothing like as talented as he thinks he is and has a bad attitude every bit as awful as his agent, which will mean that he will never be more than a flash in the pan - a trivia question in pub quizzes. If any club is prepared to pay a stupid transfer fee and wages that he is demanding then more fool them.
The club are set to have a review in the days ahead. They should take the opportunity to have a root and branch reappraisal of their approach and of the personnel. And that should include the manager. Liverpool are not a sacking club but Brendan Rodgers is not doing the job. He should go and someone more experienced and with a better overall vision employed. I would bring back Rafa Benitez, but then I said the same before Rodgers was appointed. Rodgers has not done a bad job. But he is a mid table manager at best. Yes, Liverpool had a good season the season before last, but that now looks like a fluke - the sort we often see from the likes of Southampton or Swansea. Now the owners must decide if they are content with that. The supporters are not.
It is said that FSG's plan is to turn Liverpool into a great and profitable club again and then sell. If that is indeed the plan then they should start casting around for buyers now, preferably billionaire oligarchs or middle east potentates. Liverpool needs stability but it also needs huge investment, both in the stadium but most particularly in the team. This is a club that needs to pay top dollar. If it does it will be rewarded. If the current owners are unwilling or unable to meet that vision and want to do it on the cheap then they are kidding themselves. Their investment is about to turn bad.
Monday, 25 May 2015
There is something rather beautiful about Ireland's decision at the weekend to overwhelmingly back gay marriage. This formerly very conservative, formerly very Catholic nation chose modernity and tolerance. It chose to embrace, in every sense of the word.
This is the modern world we live in. In just a few years old attitudes are dying and new tolerant ones replacing them. In the UK those who were opposed to gay marriage when the parliamentary vote took place now accept that they may well have been wrong. The world has not changed overnight, but it has become nicer, more accepting. And in increments it is changing and definitely for the better
The only real argument that those opposed to this move could ever make was that it is religiously unacceptable. As an atheist you wouldn't expect me to give much weight to that. And I don't. I simply do not accept that we should accept as some kind of prescription for our modern lives the atttitudes, even when they can accurately be discerned, which is debatable, of people who were ignorant about most things we now take for granted and who existed in a brutal, savage and atavistic world in which death and suffering were commonplace and usually religiously sanctioned.
Then again my attitiude to religion has always been that people have every right to believe whatever they want to believe. What they do not have the right to do is then seek to impose their beliefs on others. This decision in Ireland and elsewhere around the more enlightened parts of the world is just a simple recognition of this.
As I argued in this week's Video Diary, above, why does people getting married, whatever their sexual preference, have to do with anyone else? Why can't we just be happy that two people are committed to one another and love one another? Isn't that something to be celebrated? Everything else is irrelevant. You might as well argue that people who don't have kids are not doing what god commands and what marriage is for. We all have the right to define our relationships as we choose provided they do no harm to anyone else or to society at large. Two gay men or two gay women, two people of mixed race, two people of different or no religions should be able to spend their lives with whoever suits them. Ultimately, why not?
And yes I hear those who argue that this is a classic example of groupthink, of those shouting loudest being heard to the exclision of all else. Normally I would have a certain sympathy for that point of view. I'm a Tory after all. Except that this is such a no brainer of an issue that dissent from it, though it should be heard politely, makes no sense. Honestly, what is wrong with gay people getting married? Its something that takes place between consenting adults in a free society.
Because the alternative is there for us all to see across most of the rest of the world. Across parts of our own continent, the same continent that last weekend celebrated (if that is the right word) the Eurovision Song Contest, homosexuality is outlawed and spoken of as if it is bestial. That is the very definition of bigotry and irrationality. And of course in the rapidly expanding Islamic State any kind of divergence from what they, without irony, define as the norm is met with much much worse than mere tutting and a refusal to put a slogan on a cake.
What has happened in Ireland is wonderful because it was a joyous casting off of old parochial, paternalistic attitudes of religion. Catholicism lost the argument because, like all religions, it has demonstrated itself to be hypocritical and conflicted. Thus its teachings on this and so many other issues have been roundly rejected. They used to listen in silence to its idiotic teachings on contraception for instance before buying their condoms or taking the pill anyway. Now they have actively voted against it and defied it. Like I say: beautiful.
So Ireland and the western world should be proud of what we are doing. But more than that we should proudly proclaim that we are better than those parts of the world that try to control peoples' lives, throw people off tall buildings for being gay and even have morality police. There is a reason why our societies are more prosperous, more inventive, more flexible and generous. It is because we tolerate and indeed encourage difference and divergence. We didn't always of course, it has taken time, but we slowly saw that this is the better way. All we ask is that people subscribe to basic rules that are set in an open and democratic way. And yes that should mean that if someone doesn't want to put a slogan on a cake then they have every right to politely decline the business. The gay rights movement demands tolerance and they have been given it. It would now be politic of them to show some in return. People have a right to their religious beliefs just as people now have the right to be free and open about their sexuality, to love who they please. The battle has been won, now please show some magnanimity.
Sunday, 24 May 2015
So one day not long after all of this, Abraham was sitting by his tent when God came along with a couple of friends, or possibly angels. The Bible can't really make up its mind about who was there, who they were, what they were doing.
Anyway, Abraham, being the hospitable sort, offered them food and drink and provided them with a small feast to welcome them. One of them after all had promised him all kinds of stuff from lands to lots of grandchildren and so it seemed the least he could do.
So Abraham had the feast prepared by his wife and a slave and he washed their feet - who knew that God has feet - and was a most conscientious and attentive host.
One of his guests, it could be God, but its not made clear, asked where Sarah was. And Abraham pointed to her tent. You would think that God would know this without needing to ask, but maybe he becomes less God like when in corporeal form. He has to have his feet washed after all and needs to drink water and eat lamb for sustenance.
And one of these guests told Abraham that Sarah would have a son. We thought we had already been through this in the previous chapter, but its repeated once again. And Sarah laughed on overhearing this, hardly unreasonably because she was 90 at this point. But God was a bit upset by this. How dare she laugh? And God said that nothing was beyond him and that when he came back another time she would indeed have a son. At this point Sarah denied having laughed at all. But God, or whoever it was speaking (it's not really made clear) said you did laugh and was most put out by this.
Anyway, after this pointless exchange, the men (one of whom is probably God) got up and started to walk towards Sodom and Abraham accompanied them at the outset of their journey. You would have thought that God might have a better way to journey than on foot.
So God wondered if he ought to tell Abraham that which he intended to do about the wickedness of Sodom given that Abraham was going to be the father of a great nation, which is an odd kind of rationale for a God who had decided to make Abraham this father of a great nation for no very obvious reason. But God was intent, you see, on another of his acts of genocide. God was going to walk to Sodom, see if it was as bad as reputed, and then take action. Why did he need to walk there being a God? Who knows. But anyway, if things were as bad as reputed, he was going to have to get all vengeful again.
Anyway, Abraham entered into a kind of moral debate with his benefactor and asked God if he would destroy righteous people alongside wicked ones. Surely if there were good people there then they should be treated justly asked Abraham. If there were only 50 good people in this city then should they be destroyed?
So God promised that if he found 50 good people then he would spare the whole city. You might wonder why Abraham didn't ask for some clarification on this point. After all God seems a bit sketchy on what constitutes good and evil doesn't he. Abraham is allowed to lie about his wife and keep slaves after all and have a son with one of them.
But Abraham didn't ask for definition. He just got the numbers reduced. He got God to agree, after a lot of haggling, that there only had to be 5 good people in Sodom for the city to be spared.
All of this agreed, God went on his way to see Sodom for himself. Abraham returned to his tent and to his wife and to his ill gotten gains.
Saturday, 23 May 2015
Friday, 22 May 2015
As this blog has pointed out more than once in the couple of weeks since the election, Labour and the left are in a state of denial about the result and about their utter failure to convince the electorate. After the initial shock in which they did concede perhaps that they had got it wrong, they are now in the process of retreating back to their comfort zone and blaming voters. Take this fantastically deranged piece by the always entertaining - we're laughing at you, not with you - Polly Toynbee. Polly essentially makes all of the same arguments that so spectacularly failed during the election and calls Tories ideological without a hint of irony. As usual Polly fails to even keep consistently to her own arguments within the same piece, let alone to the logic of what happened a fortnight ago. The path to a loss in 2020 is well under way.
But this also gives a clue as to how a certain set of people will act and argue with regard to the EU referendum they have resisted for so long. Polly was one of those people who told the nation we should be joining the Euro all of those years ago. The arguments for our continued membership of the EU will be similar and similarly intellectually dishonest.
Now this blog has long been of a sceptical bent on Europe. Yet it ill behoves those of us on this side of the argument to take the same approach as the Toynbees of this world or of the SNP which angrily demands powers be given to them in Edinburgh but sees no inconsistency with being feverishly pro Europe at the same time - they used to be pro the Euro too, but they would rather you forgot about that. You might call this approach the Toynbee paradigm.
Those of us who honestly believe that Britain would be better off out of Europe must make our case painstakingly, rationally and honestly. But most of all we must keep our powder dry and wait to see what, if anything, David Cameron manages to bring back from Europe. The signs are that the EU has, very reluctantly, seen that the election was a game changer and that they need to make an accommodation with Britain's traditional semi-detached approach to all things Europe. It is an approach, by the way, which has been borne out. That's why Britain is creating the vast majority of the jobs across Europe, why we are sucking in the continent's unemployed even from countries like France and Italy and why we are not having to suffer the ravages of membership of the facile single currency.
There is talk from Germany that they may well be willing to meet us half way and that they need to make us an offer 'to save us from ourselves.' How very noble of them, although we might suggest that they would have been well advised down the years to adopt more of our scepticism about the whole EU project and then they wouldn't be in the mess they are in today.
Nevertheless, it is all to play for. The EU confidently expected to deal with a British prime minister who would either have denied the British people a referendum as recommended by the Miliband/Toynbee tendency or would have been stymied by coalition. Instead we have a Conservative majority government that seems refreshingly determined to honour its commitments and willing to use its new political mandate to get Britain what it wants and needs. David Cameron is touring Europe to that end this week. We should wait and see what he comes back with. To do anything else would be to behave like Labour and the left and the Toynbees of this world. And look where that gets you.
Thursday, 21 May 2015
Two weeks ago we had a general election. Sorry, I know that you are aware of this, being the well informed and well read audience you are. But it seems that at least two of the parties that lost in that election have forgotten, or at least are hoping that we have.
Ukip is a ridiculous ragbag army of fantasists and egomaniacs and so I shall not sport with your intelligence for too long by writing of it. We are to get our in/out referendum in the next year or two and then it will either have to change its name or completely reinvent itself. Since it cannot even make a decent fist of having its leader resign without making a spectacle of itself, we can be quietly confident that Ukip will soon be a historical curiosity. Like the SDP. Before long Ukip will no doubt rename itself Farage. After its only member.
But what of the other parties? Well in the aftermath of the disaster that was the election for Labour we were promised a campaign of introspection and a proper debate. That hasn't lasted has it. Instead we have the usual suspects trotting out similar platitudes to the ones we heard during the election campaign. Sure they have turned on their former leader and rubbished most of the policies they were all espousing and would now be implementing had they won, but in essence they are unwilling and unable to have a proper debate about anything, least of all the comfortable certitudes that come with their shrinking territory.
Labour candidates were confidently assured that all that they had to do was preach to their base and that electoral success would follow. The 35% strategy was a disaster because the country saw through it. They saw it for what it was: cynical, unimaginative, economically and historically illiterate. Yet within a fortnight of being roundly rejected Labour is spouting platitudes again. They might as well have them carved on a stone. Except of course the words of Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham are even less pithy and more platitudinous than those of the man who was their leader just 14 days ago.
Labour must return to the centre ground. But it has to be more than just a tactical manoeuvre. It has to mean something. The reason that New Labour died a death eventually and became so despised was because it was all about the message, all about the tactics and positioning with no underlying philosophy. The whole project was about accepting the new post Thatcherite consensus. Of course they did so whilst managing simultaneously to be rude about Thatcher and to appeal to the sort of people who think she was a she devil. But ultimately Labour got elected by accepting most of her signature reforms and building on them, however much they kid themselves otherwise. Where they came unstuck was that this contradicted their true instincts. That was why they spent more than they should and presumably why they still can't bring themselves to admit it.
What is becoming obvious is that Labour doesn't really know what its for any more. The working man it was created to defend has moved on. The party has too but not in a good way. It has been populated by a metropolitan political class captured by ideas it calls progressive but which actively turn off the very people it regards as its core. The most fervent of its supporters are people who are like the leaders of the Labour Party itself, people who regard themselves as morally superior simply because of a political allegiance.
Put another way these are the sort of people who, like Andy Burnham, claim to love the Labour Party. Love it! This is just a symbol of their serial inability to reside in the 21st century. The days of class war and of fighting for a decent standard of living for the working man are dead. There are opportunities to be had for people if they are willing to work hard. Labour are stuck in a past that says that the working man is a poor, benighted urchin in need of paternalistic policies and class warfare. It is fighting an enemy that no longer exists and for a class of people that doesn't exist and doesn't understand what Labour leaders are talking about when they talk of predators and the need to save the NHS.
This is the same party that fought an election based on the presumption that it could ride to power based on a captive vote that would never vote for anyone else. Then they lost Scotland. They are in the process of losing northern England too. They mouth platitudes about needing to talk to aspirational people. Yet they don't really want to.
Labour is about to do exactly the same thing that it did five years ago. There is even talk now of electing someone for only a couple of years and then re-running. Does that speak of a party that is confident of its direction and philosophy?
Here's a tip for Labour. In order to understand aspirational people just look to yourselves. You are aspirational. You are ambitious. You want the best for your kids. You are all remarkably good at accruing and enjoying the finer things in life and of enjoying our cosmopolitan capital city. Yet in order to win the power to enjoy these things you cleave to the left and patronise the people who vote for you and tell them what they should think and how much you will tax them if they succeed like you. When Emily Thornberry tweeted about that flag festooned house last year that revealed the modern Labour Party in all of its supercilious glory. Deep down you all knew that didn't you. You just prefer not to think about it and talk about saving the NHS and how awful Tories are instead. It is the collective cognitive dissonance of the left. It is the reason why you lost and will continue to lose and why this joke of a leadership contest just reinforces that.
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
The Bank of England is looking for people to put on the new £20 note. It wants people from the visual arts, artists, sculptors, designers, architects, film makers etc.
So here is a perfect opportunity to honour whoever came up with the idea of the EdStone that so inspired the nation during the election campaign and nailed the lid shut on Labour's attempt to win the thing. He or she deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.
I've already suggested that the stone itself should be rescued and put on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. Putting the great thinker behind the idea itself on a banknote would put it close to all of our hearts. Literally. Or near to our arses of course. It rather depends how you carry your wallet.
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
During the election campaign I wrote this post. It is just as relevant now, even though the Conservatives won. Because it describes the mindset of so many all around us. It explains why, on hearing that the Tories had won a majority, a few hundred morons erupted with fury and either tweeted about it or actually marched on the street. One former child star carried around a placard saying: 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.' Since then we have heard not a peep from her. Which is actually very funny when you think about it. It's nearly as funny as when a certain kind of Muslim marches on the streets of London carrying placards saying: "Freedom of speech, go to hell.' I've laughed myself rigid over that one many many times.
But it also explains the difficulties that the Labour Party and the likes of Len McCluskey have with the modern world. They are like true religious believers, unable to comprehend or frequently contemplate or consider that their world view is wrong and that class warfare is a demonstrably broken concept. And so they fall back on their more comfortable shibboleths, that Tories are evil, capitalism is selfish, privatisation bad, public ownership always good.
Unfortunately for them there are all kinds of events in our modern world that confound them and would confuse them if only they thought honestly about them.
Take today's news that inflation has fallen once again and that prices are actually falling. Think about that for a moment. This means that Capitalism and competition is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Inflation is falling for a complex set of reasons, but essentially there was more oil than there were customers for that oil and so its price fell handing us all a big financial boost. The supermarket sector has had to cope with new entrants who aggressively cut prices and so prices have fallen. We have long grown accustomed to the cost of technology relentlessly falling year on year, but now the same is true for our groceries too. We have been in a low inflation environment now for years thanks to globalisation and increased competition. Now prices are actually falling. It may be a temporary phenomenon but it is real and is there for all to see and feel in their wallets and purses. The days of 70s style hyperinflation are long gone. The only places they exist is in controlled economies like Venezuela.
And if you are of a lefty persuasion this must seem terribly confusing. Evil, rapacious corporations voluntarily lowering their prices? But this is what happens. Its called competition. Believe it or not these corporations do this to survive, in the same what they keep refining and improving their products. We all use the amazing technology in our pockets and on our desks, in our cars, on our wrists now. How did these innovations come about? How did Apple become the most valuable company in the world? By creating things that we all want, that I am writing this blog on now on a website provided for free by Google to encourage me to offer content. None of these things should compute for your average lefty, the sort who marched and tweeted furiously on their smartphones and on websites provided for them just in return for a few adverts.
This particularly doesn't compute for the kind of union dinosaurs who so zealously defend their privileges. Yet the unions now exist almost entirely in the public sector protecting their gilded existences. Just yesterday the health unions threatened strife over government plans to make the NHS more responsive and a 24/7 service. Outrage! cried the unions. Why? Because it is a bad idea to provide cover at weekends so as to save lives? A bad idea in our 24 hour world to make the public sector 24 hour too?
What was the response of the rail unions to the election of a Tory government? They called a strike. Why? Because the Tories are threatening to ensure they have a proper mandate to call their strikes that so disrupt and inconvenience our lives. There is no competition in so many of these spheres and so they hold us all to ransom. Then they react with fury when someone suggests that they might wish to be more democratic about it. For years now London has had no Tube service on Boxing Day because the unions refuse to work without receiving huge overtime pay and a day off in lieu. Public service? Forget it.
The unions, for all of their bluster, are more interested in preserving the interests of the producer rather than the consumer. That is why they continue to prosper only in the public sector where competition isn't allowed to work its magic.
The left prefers to stick to its doctrinal comfort zone rather than address the modern world as it really is. It prefers to talk of class war and of confiscating the property of the wealthy rather than address the fact that our public sector can often be guilty of the same excesses they accuse the private sector of. This is not to say that the private sector is not often guilty of greed or that there isn't much excellence in the public sector. I recently applied for a new passport which I did online, sending my pictures off separately and got my new one back just a week later. They even sent me a text message to say it was on its way. A truly excellent service. The same is often true of the NHS. But the passport service has learned much from the private sector. Are we really saying that the NHS cannot learn too?
And the British people instinctively understands all of this. It is why they rejected the simplistic and dishonest arguments deployed by Labour and the Left at the election. They can see that the world is not divided in the manichean way the Left finds so comforting. We do not live in an age of Dickensian squalor and of evil cotton mill owners. But that was the language of Labour and of Wallace. It is why they lost the election. They are now rowing back on the language. But will they have a true conversion and address the world as it really is? They would be doing us all and especially our hard pressed public services a favour if they did. We need honesty, not slogans and posturing.
Monday, 18 May 2015
There is an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer, having just entirely serendipitously saved the nuclear power plant and thus his hometown from disaster, is used as a pictorial example of what it is to be lucky. What word would we put a picture of the Labour Party or indeed of Len McCluskey alongside in the dictionary? Purblind? Arrogant? Pig-headed? Dinosaur?
Less than two weeks since Labour suffered a defeat of 1980s proportions the various factions within Labour are fighting for its soul. It is not a clean fight. One of the characteristics of Labour has always been that it is too slow to kill off leaders, but then they fight like rats in a sack and not at all scrupulously once a leader has fallen on his sword.
And into this fray comes the strutting McCluskey. Fresh from seeing off Jim Murphy last week who had been given less than six months to reverse a decline of Scottish Labour that has become near terminal, McCluskey is now letting it be known that he considers only one of the candidates for the Labour leadership as 'correct.' Murphy was not 'correct' for Scotland it seems. His failure to reverse that decline would not have been quite so problematic had he not held views that are not 'correct.' That same threat now overshadows the leadership election for the Labour Party as a whole. If his various attempts to fix the election as 'correct' are somehow frustrated then he will take his union's millions - it never occurs to him that it is not his money to do with as he sees fit. So Labour has a choice, it can do as Mr McCluskey tells it to do - what is 'correct,' or it can go bankrupt. Put another way it can be bankrupt or intellectually, morally and democratically bankrupt.
Labour lost the election because it campaigned for the sort of policies, with the leader imposed on it by McCluskey, that it regarded as 'correct.' But now McCluskey tells his vassals that this is wrong. They were insufficiently robust. The nation - the nation that voted Tory less than a fortnight ago - made this choice because Labour was insufficiently left wing according to McCluskey. So, frustrated by the lack of 'correctness' in the left wing party of choice, the country voted Conservative again. Only someone elected by militant zealots on a low turnout could come up with such a fantastically brainless rationale. Presumably the fact that Labour was elected 3 times under Tony Blair when it occupied the centre ground and was relaxed about people getting rich was another example of false consciousness. If only we were all as clear sighted as union leaders purporting to talk for the working man, although of course the working man is seldom actually consulted. Union leaders don't do democracy if they can help it - it leads to results that are not 'correct.'
McCluskey is the same union leader, by the way, who backed and continues to back the disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. A man found guilty of stealing an election and of widespread corruption still has the full and unstinting support of the man who seeks to appoint his chosen candidate as leader of the Labour Party, leader of the opposition and perhaps our next prime minister. He should be cast out of Labour for this alone, much as Rahman once was. But for McCluskey it seems different rules apply.
We all knew that Labour had a disastrous result at the general election. Yet now it is looking worse. A period of introspection is not allowed. The likes of McCluskey will not allow it. He cannot get his way by fixing the election as he did last time, so now he is having to use less subtle measures. 147 of Labour's MPs are sponsored by Unite. Unite is resonsible for the vast majority of the party's funding. It also gets to bring in new members to affect the outcome of the election, an election that has been delayed until September to facilitate this.
McCluskey kids himself that he is simply standing up for the working man. In fact what he is doing is standing up for the vested interests of the unions who regard actually standing up for working men and women in the workplace as being something of a sideshow. Only 11 days ago the country rejected the old fashioned patriarchal socialism of Wallace and McCluskey's Labour. But that's mere democracy. The people of Britain must keep being asked the same question over and over again until they come up with the 'correct' answer. And McCluskey doesn't mind bullying and shouting and spending millions until we do.
Sunday, 17 May 2015
Now hitherto in this story, we have been referring to Abraham throughout. This was to save confusion. But in fact, up to this point, the Bible referred to him as Abram. Now this changes. This is because God had chosen Abraham as his favourite and now decided that he should have a better name.
God had been doing deals with Abraham for a while now for no better reason than he really really liked him. He had his back. And now he offered his favourite a new deal. He was going to make Abram the father of a whole nation. What's more he was going to give him a more appropriate name too, one that befits the father of a nation or indeed of many nations.
So Abram became Abraham. And God gave his covenant to this renamed man, who was ninety nine years old, which is quite an advanced age to be getting a new name. But then he was also being given a whole nation and eventually lots of faiths thereafter, so it was fair enough really.
But God wanted something in return for this covenant with his favourite and with the generations that would follow. The males would have to be circumcised. At this point Abraham did not say 'What?"' and grab his crotch defensively. Neither did he ask what circumcision was or why it was felt necessary. Neither did he ask, hardly unreasonably, why God had given men foreskins in the first place if he now wanted it lopped off. He probably just thought it was God moving in mysterious ways once again.
This was a mark of the covenant between God and Abraham. It seems an odd mark does it not? Wouldn't something more visible have been sensible? Do those bearing this mark have to get them out in order to recognise their brethren?
Nevertheless, male children, God decreed, must be circumcised at the age of just 8 days. Why? Nobody really knows. All male children or slaves must be snipped. Anyone not being snipped would be cast out by his people for this act of unpardonable good sense.
Oh and now God also renamed Abraham's wife, who had been named Sarai. She would now be named Sarah. But in return for this she would now, he told Abraham, bear him a son.
Now Abraham fell upon his face - he does this a lot - and laughed. How could his aged old crone of a wife bear him a son? She was 90 years old.
But God was insistent and told the doubting Abraham that he would indeed have a son with his wife Sarah to go along with the son by her slave, Hagar, who had been called Ishmael. This new son would be called Isaac. God gave him an everlasting covenant too. Ishmael too would be blessed with many sons, said God, and a dozen princes would be his descendants and he would father a great nation too. This was quite a family.
So, having heard all of this, Abraham went off and started cutting the foreskins off his son Ishmael and off all of his slaves, none of whom screamed in terror or simple incredulity that here was a man who wanted to take a knife to their penises for no very obvious reason.
At this point, we are told, when the sprightly Abraham was slicing people's penises, he was 99 years old. His son, Ishmael, was 13 when he had his penis snipped. Why we are told this is not really clear. But anyway, they both had the snip and so did all of Abraham's slaves. And it started quite a fashion, albeit one that is kept necessarily under wraps. Surely it would have been easier to give everyone a hat.
Saturday, 16 May 2015
I posted this Video Diary Special in January when Steven Gerrard announced that he would be leaving Liverpool at the end of this season.
That moment is now upon us. Today is his last game as a player at Anfield. There will be floods of tears shed. But Stevie G will be back. Liverpool is in his blood and we love him. Today is just au revoir to a legend, the greatest since King Kenny himself. He will be back.
Since this Video Diary was made and uploaded, Chuka Umunna has announced his withdrawal from the race to be Labour leader. Sadly, Prince Charles has not announced his withdrawal from the role of heir to the throne. We can but hope.
Friday, 15 May 2015
So, we're supposed to believe that little Chuka, having spent the last five years less than subtly positioning himself for a run for the leadership has now decided that its all a bit too hot for him? Rubbish! He had never suspected this before?
It's ether because there is some story about him about to emerge, or because he knows it is too early for him. Even this will not be him being modest, it will be him realising that Labour have an uphill struggle and that whoever is leader next time will almost certainly not be able to win next time either. Labour is currently a lost cause. The infighting and union machinations are going to be bloody. Can you really see Little Chuka taking on the vested interests and forcing his will upon the likes of Len McCluskey?
Little Chuka would have been hopeless. He doesn't have the charisma nor the strength of will to force Labour to change. He's right to quit, but I doubt its because he has suddenly become self aware. He just lacks the bizarre and deluded self belief of Wallace.
Ukip, a party whose very name my blogging software finds it difficult to cope with, is unravelling/ engaged in civil war/ fighting like rats in a sack, choose your own simile. This is because Ukip is not really a proper party. It is a pressure group with delusions of grandeur, like a right wing version of the Green Party. It is a place to go to for failed Conservatives, or those who couldn't get selected by one of the proper parties and so believed all of the hype about Ukip tearing up the old older.
Ukip was not and never was going to tear up the old order. This is what people don't understand about the British political system. The reason that we have traditionally had two broad church main parties in this country is a function of our voting system. FPTP delivers stable majority governments for the most part. It means that those who wish to engage in politics need to be a member of those main parties. Yes that has broken down to some extent but not as much as we all thought. We have a majority Conservative government after all, something everyone said wouldn't happen. Some said it might never happen again.
The reason that Ukip prospered and that the Greens and previously the Lib Dems did so was that the main parties were obliged to tack to the centre ground to get elected. This left some people feeling disenfranchised. They felt this for the very good reason that they were being disenfranchised. But then that was because they were on the fringes. Democratic parties naturally tend towards policies and views that accord with the views of the most people - unless of course they are the Labour Party engaged in a bout of introspection and wishful thinking, but that's another story. Democracy is competitive and so they cleave to the centre ground where most people are.
Had we had a different electoral system things might have been different. We might have had proper multi party politics. But we don't. The British electorate rejected a new system in the last parliament. It is therefore incumbent upon the parties to get elected by means of the system we have, not to whinge about the unfairness of it. There is no perfect system. What we have is a compromise, but it is one that works for us and delivers stable and reliable government. The fact that is occasionally throws up anomalies and anomalous new parties is just part of the process. Eventually they get cast aside like chaff. Look at the Lib Dems, which were created by the merger of an old but nearly dead party and a new party, the SNP. They were once going to break the mould of British politics. Now look at them.
Ukip is now going through its problems because it is disappointed by the outcome. But what did they expect? They are a new party with a fringe view of the way our country should be. I have a certain sympathy for some of their views, but I recognise that the best way to get some of the issues I want on the national agenda is to compromise and vote for one of the main parties. That is how democracy works.
Ukip has done the country a service by forcing the main parties to address issues like Europe and immigration. But it is not and never will be a major party. Nigel Farage has performed miracles in many ways, but he has gone as far as he will ever do with a party that is not a serious party and has no thought through policy prospectus. It has only one MP for the very good reason that not enough people agree with it. The solution to that is not to engage in infighting or to rail against the electoral system. It is to join one of the major parties and argue for what you want. That is grown up politics. The British electorate saw that last Thursday. Its why Ukip, the Lib Dems and even Labour are now having to reassess what they stand for and what they want to say to the country.
Nigel Farage was right to resign as leader last week. He has done so before and was eventually brought back. But Ukip, if it wants to be a real political party and not a pressure group, has to have the debate its machinations are currently preventing. Nigel Farage and his party are complaining about the unfairnesses of the electoral system and yet he is trying to behave like a dictator. That's why not enough people take Ukip seriously.
Thursday, 14 May 2015
Last month, during the election campaign, when the whole issue of the immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean raised its head, I made the Video Diary above. I publish it again now for your attention. In it I make essentially the same point that Theresa May is making. She has rejected the EU's demand that we take 'our fair share' of the people flooding across the Med and made the simple, common sense argument that the only way to stop this human tragedy is to close our doors to them.
This is not the same as saying that we should not rescue people when they are in peril on the high seas, albeit peril that they got into knowingly and probably deliberately. But it is saying that we should not succumb to what is essentially moral blackmail, both from the EU and from the immigrants themselves.
In the video above I compare what these would be refugees are doing to a game of Russian Roulette. They take the gamble that they will either drown or win the lottery. By being rescued they win for themselves a new life, a home, schooling for the kids, benefits and maybe eventually the opportunity to get a job. It makes the gamble worthwhile. Indeed it makes it a no brainer.
But this is not to say we should indulge them in their moral blackmail, indeed it is incumbent upon us to prevent them. The only way to do that is not to rescue them and then give them all of their Christmases at once. It is to say, sorry you have to go back. If we don't do this we just encourage more to come, empower the traffickers and push the problem further down the line to indulge our own bleeding hearts back home.
It is not incumbent upon us to take the world's waifs and strays. It is incumbent upon us to help Italy and the other southern Mediterranean states to help sort this problem out. The only viable long term solution is to send the message loud and clear that you cannot head across that narrow but treacherous waterway and expect to be rescued and given a new life as a reward. You are endangering your own life, your fellow passengers' lives, possibly your children's lives and those of your rescuers. You are engaged in what is actually a disgusting act of moral blackmail. Those doing this, the traffickers, but also their customers, are committing a crime. They should be returned to Africa after being fingerprinted. If they are genuine refugees then there are procedures to claim asylum. But, since many of them have paid large sums to their traffickers, the likelihood is that they are economic refugees. They are not our responsibility and making them an offer they not only cannot refuse but are blackmailing us into making will just make matters worse and encourage more to come. This is simple common sense.
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
The reaction to the Conservative election victory has been fascinating. The bien pensants have reacted with fury. What exactly are they furious about. Well in essence they are furious because the country doesn't agree with them. But most of all they are furious because they think that they ought to be furious.
This is why David Cameron and his new government is playing up the whole blue collar conservatism that is making the headlines. Tories are aware of and worried about their image. The image you see above. But it is a wholly unfair image and unrepresentative. The new Cabinet is full of people who have worked their way up from their working class backgrounds, who attended state secondary schools and who happen to be Conservatives because they agree with the principles and approaches of the Conservative Party. The people who protested last week refuse to acknowledge this.
But the only reason that they do refuse to acknowledge this is because they think that they should. Its the same with those idiot celebrities who backed Labour last week. They only did so because they thought it gave them street cred. In reality, just backing a party during a campaign and then keeping quiet the rest of the time just shows up their shallowness. At least Eddie Izzard, for all that I disagree with him, is a committed Labour supporter and perhaps one day will join their ranks as a politician. The same cannot be said of Steve Coogan, the multi millionaire tax dodger Martin Freeman and Delia Smith.
As for Charlotte Church, well her juvenile display of righteous anger was revealing. 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more,' said the former voice of an angel. So what are you going to do Charlotte? Campaign against a democratically elected government? Become a politician? March on the streets? Or are you going to go back to your millionaire lifestyle, enjoy the fact that taxes are lower than they would be under Labour and that you won't have to pay a tax on your mansion and shut up again for five years? Yeah, thought so.
The sort of people who call Tories scum are in fact credulous morons. The sort of people who reacted with fury to the result last Friday are dilettante activists who overwhelmingly come from privileged or at least middle class backgrounds and who suffer either from some misplaced guilt or a simple herd instinct. They think that posting tweets about how awful the government is and how terrible it is that benefits are being cut for those awful afflicted poor people assuages that guilt or makes them look part of the zeitgeist. Essentially they live in a bubble of delusion or are simple opportunist liars. Most of them are the latter, after all what do they imagine is going to happen now that we have a majority Conservative government? Oh they can't actually explain that. But they are still furious about it.
This is a problem for the Conservative Party but not a major one. Yes they have an image problem, but it is an image problem that only exists with a certain kind of person, the sort who wants to look caring by just calling Tories names rather than actually doing something about the alleged injustices they rail against. And no matter how caring and sharing the Tories try to become there is a sort of person who will never accept it because it would deprive them of their righteousness. The government could achieve full employment, wean millions off benefits, make schools better for everyone, make the NHS more efficient, focus benefits on people who actually need them rather than malingerers, give Scotland what it says it wants, or at least what the SNP tells them they should have and there would still be people furious. Fortunately they are only furious on Twitter and on occasional marches. There is no great movement against some Tory imposition. There are going to be no Poll Tax riots. The People's Assembly started by Little Owen Jones died a death as predicted here.
Here's a quick guide for them all, although of course they are unlikely to heed it. Tories care about the poor. Tories care about the NHS, it is has been in Conservative hands for many more years than under Labour and is still going strong. Its problems come from the fact that we are all living longer, medical science has advanced hugely and can perform miracles. But those miracles are expensive. But the fact is that the NHS is still here. It will still be here in five years time. It is in no danger.
And as for the benefits system. Well people who think that the poor should just be recipients of endless largesse are people who don't have to live like that. The welfare system traps people, it robs them of opportunity and of motivation. It was never intended to be what it is today. It needs to be returned to its original purpose. The only way to make the poor less poor is to get them into work. At first it may be low paid work, it might be on zero hours contracts. But we all have to start somewhere. If we are any good we advance and are well thought of by employers. We've all done low paid work, many of us worked in pubs when we were younger or serving fast food. It is a well worn path to advancement. It's really not difficult to understand, unless of course you wilfully ignore it and prefer to call Tories names because it makes you feel better about yourself.
The people who were angry last week have gone quiet again now. They didn't really know what they were angry about and so now that anger has dissipated. David Cameron can get on with governing and governing in a properly Conservative way. That is good for the country. A certain kind of person will never admit that. But they will enjoy the benefits and so will the people they purport to care about.
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
This blog was right at the forefront of writing about the SNP menace and their mooted unholy alliance with Labour and the so called 'progressive' forces - that will be the ones that call people scum just for supporting or being members of the oldest political party in these islands and the most successful political party in the democratic world. That's the Tories, in case you are in any doubt.
For a collection of all that I wrote this last few months see here. You will see that I exhorted the English to do what they in fact did do, to vote to prevent Labour and the SNP doing a shabby deal. We can be pretty sure that, if we had woken up on Friday morning with the outcome that everyone was predicting and Labour and the SNP had done that deal from second and third place, then the anarchist morons would not have been marching on the streets and calling that an affront to democracy. The Tories this time won a greater share of the vote than Labour did in 2005. Where were the marching anarchists then?
Incidentally, while we're on the subject, aren't these anarchists a bit confused? What kind of anarchist is furious and demanding that the state be made bigger? Surely they should be pleased at welfare cuts? Or is this the kind of anarchy that needs state benefits?
Anyway, happily, what this blog called for came to pass last Thursday. The SNP, far from being the holders of the balance of power, will be just another opposition party, like the old Lib Dems, but with different accented sanctimony. They will also, as the third party of British politics, get to ask two questions each week at PMQs - how will Alex Salmond be able to resist trying to seize that particular opportunity? - get to sit on various committees and of course be entitled to lots more of our cash to boost their coffers. You thought we didn't have state funding of parties?
The party that wants to break up the British state is now a firm part of the establishment, fixtures in Westminster, a place they purport to hate. It is one of the great ironies, one of many admittedly, about the SNP, that they actually love Westminster itself. The Scottish Parliament was built in one of those more modern, less confrontational semi circular shapes. Arch pugilist Salmond and his minions always preferred the Westminster model. It suits them better. In truth they also like the traditions, the regality, the quant ceremonies and the wood lined corridors too. Oh, and the subsidised bars.
The question then is what should the newly elected and in possession of a majority prime minister do about the SNP. The temptation must be to ignore them. But that, though understandable, would be a mistake. He has already said that there will be no further referendum. This is entirely reasonable. After all we had one less than a year ago and the SNP told us that it was a once in a generation event.
But therein lies the clue to how to deal with the SNP. Their own words, inconsistencies, lies and evasions need to be used against them. There are plenty to choose from.
For instance, last year, during the campaign for independence, the nation was assured that it would all happen remarkably quickly. Our 300 year old union would be dissolved and Scotland would be free within 18 months. Of course there was a lot of detail missing from that, such as what currency they would use, but they told us that it could all be done.
Now they tell us that Scotland demands the right to set its own taxes and spending. Yet in the next breath they tell us that this would take a number of years to implement fully and that they will need to hang on to the Barnett Formula - access to money from England - in the meantime. They say this because they know damned well that, if Scotland were to try and stand alone, it would only be able to do so by implementing savage cuts or raising taxes. It is often forgotten that, before the SNP became as popular as it now is, it ran on a promise of a 1p rise in taxes to fund additional spending. They were given a kicking in the election in much the same way that they gave a kicking to Labour last week.
That is how to deal with the SNP. Do it with money. They are currently managing to have their cake and eat it. They benefit from a pooling resources across the UK, but also from an outdated formula that is unfair and unequal. Yet still they whinge.
Now however they have the power, as part of the Westminster establishment they purport to hate, to bring in exactly what they say they want short of full independence. When the government brings in legislation to give the Scottish Parliament new powers, just attach amendments to it to give Scotland full fiscal autonomy. You can have it next year in return for ending the Barnett Formula. If Scotland wants to end austerity as it says it does then it can. But it will have to pay for it itself. It will be a valuable and fascinating social and fiscal experiment. A socialist experiment right on our doorstep and liberated from we Tories. What are you waiting for Scotland?
Monday, 11 May 2015
Last Friday, as promised, Nigel Farage resigned as his party's leader owing to the fact that he had just failed spectacularly to be elected as an MP. Ukip were back down to just one MP, and even he is probably trying to think of an excuse to go back to the Tories.
Well now he has it. Because Farage has now found an excuse to not resign after all. It was already only a theoretical resignation because it was really just an extended holiday before he put his name forward to be leader again. Why wouldn't he after all? Ukip is a one man band.
But now Ukip have decided not to accept his resignation after all. After their triumphant performance on Thursday, in which they accumulated votes but no seats and had an election campaign performance so amateurish it made their brethren in the BNP look professional, any decent leader would do what Clegg and Wallace did and head off to the political wilderness. Not Farage. He used the kind of weasel words that the old parties use and showed himself to be worse than the lot of them.
To be fair Ukip probably would be a busted flush without him. But then that should tell us a great deal. This is not a political party it is one man's ego trip. His is a party of groupies and rejects. How Douglas Carswell must regret his act of petulant stupidity last autumn. He should head back to the Conservative Party where he belongs. Ukip is for muppets.
As has now been firmly established, the polls and pundits - and I include myself in this - got the election spectacularly wrong. I'm not just talking here of the assumption that the polls were right and that we were heading to another hung parliament with deals and constitutional crises. As a corollary of that we were talking of the end of the old duopoly in British politics, of Labour and the Conservatives fighting it out to form a government.
Yet that is exactly how this election turned out. The two main parties were not the same. The Labour Party had swung left and the Tories occupied the centre ground and won. The Lib Dems were squeezed out. This was not just because the nation was disgusted by their reneging on tuition fees - after all they are hardly the first party to renege on a manifesto commitment - it was because there wasn't any point to them. They used to be the party of protest, the party of high principle unsullied by actually having to govern. Now the country had seen the reality of them. They were ultimately no different. So people stopped voting for them and voted for Labour or the Tories. It delivered that majority to David Cameron.
And the Lib Dems have effectively confirmed this assessment by turning on Nick Clegg. The man who got them into government at last is now the subject of their anger for taking them into government. He even got a referendum on changing the electoral system, a change that the country rejected. But they were in government, they told the country that the were the moderating influence, the voice of reason in government. The country told them they were unnecessary.
Now the Lib Dems are angrily telling Clegg that he must become a backbench MP again, do the grind of that work and not swan off to some highly paid job in Europe as he would prefer. How dare he take them into government and make them unpopular.
But if that is the position of the Lib Dems now then what is the point of them? They must not go into government as this renders them unpopular. But for all of those years when they were slowly building up their support they were telling the nation that that was what they were for. So are they now telling us that their sole purpose is to be sanctimonious from the opposition benches? Power corrupted them, now they want to be pure again and talk drivel without having to worry about it ever being enacted? How fortunate then that there is only 8 of them.
But this is instructive about the rise of the minor parties that we all thought was changing the complexion of British politics and turning us into a continental style system in which coalitions and deals were the norm. Then the old order asserted itself and we got a majority government. Who would have thought?
Ukip, with their one MP, who is only an MP because he was first elected as a Tory, are now doing what the Lib Dems used to do and complaining about the electoral system. But this is an electoral system chosen by the people. It was chosen only 4 years ago. In other words the electorate set the rules and the parties must operate within them. That is perfectly fair, reasonable and democratic. It is why our two party system grew up the way it did. The electorate looked at the coalition government we had for five years, didn't like it and voted accordingly. The choice was between Labour and the Tories and the people voted Tory. Yes in parts they also voted Ukip and this affected the overall outcome in some constituencies, but Ukip couldn't even get their own leader elected.
The minor parties, even the Lib Dems, are an indulgence. We have the Greens, Ukip and the Lib Dems, all free to make pledges and claims that will never be tested and if they are they are exposed as pointless and jejune. The same will eventually be shown to be true of the SNP. But I'll come to that in my next post.