Sunday, April 28, 2013
UKIP's turn to soak up some punishment
UKIP asre fielding 1700 candidates, a massive intervention in an area where they scarcely figured last year. As most of the seats contested will be Tory, there will be a good oppostunity to see how big a slice of Conservative votes UKIP are likely to take not just on Thursday but in 2015: a long time away still but still a focus of Tory high anxiety. UKIP stand at 11% in the ST's Yougov poll, equal to the Lib Dems, so whilst it is likely to poll better than ever before, it is unlikely to storm any citadels this time around. Thrasher ad Rallings, of Plymouth University, see UKIP's following as typically older than the average and less well educated and more likely to be male than female. They tend to be against gay marriage and favour the return of the death penatly.
By entering the fray so agressively UKIP have taken a gamble: if it fails it will be ridiculed and dsimissed by the mainstream parties. Hence the row over alleged Tory 'smear tactics'. UKIP's deputy leader has answered that, "UKIP has been subject to a co-ordinated smear campaign." Ken Clarke, for the Tories has dismissed the party as hardly worth botherring about. But there can be no doubt Tories are worrying about the threat posed by Farages insurgent army,. A poll for The Sun today predicted Tories would lose 360 seats and control of 11 councils: a virtual meltdown. Ukip will aim to improve mightily on the 8 seats it managed in 2009. Farage had better get used to the roasting he is receiving- it's a compliment really to how grave a threat he is perceived to pose..
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Crime statistics spring 2013 Register further falls even when increases were expected
Sunday, April 21, 2013
A Couple of Thatcher Reflections- on her Legacy and her Sanity
It took about two decades after t he last war for modern historians to decide we were living in time of a 'post war consensus'; maybe it's taken till now for us to realise we've been living in a 'post Thatcher' period of consensus. Mrs T claimed her most precious achievment was Tony Blair- who, with Gordon Brown, quarried New Labour's macro-economic policy from the Lady's legacy. Unlike her he applied social democratic values to the distribution of wealth. Cameron and Osborne, on the other hand are seeking to apply both economic and social wings of Thatcherism in a doomed attempt to pull off a Thatcher type 'rescue' of the UK economy, and, they like to think, its soul as well.
What seems beyond a doubt, is that Dave and George both calculate that hijacking Maggie's demise for the party- effectively politicising her funeral- will pay a political dividend. Well initially the polls showed no movement though I see that today the polls show Labnour's lead pegged back by a few crucial points, so maybe it has worked to a degree. But as Jonathan Freedland pointed out, it could back fire.
"Cameron has seized upon Thatcher's passing as a chance to do himself some good, or at least avoid trouble, with the Tory right wing. Giving the warrior queen the works has proved an easy, cost-free way to throw some red meat in their direction. Short of a British veto in Brussels, there's nothing they'd want more."
However, banging on about Thatcher might encourage even more of his colleagues to conclude that poor old Dave is but the most feeble imiotation of the great lady. Moreover, digging too deep into Thatcher and all her works, might exhume the toxic effects she was certainly felt to have in the mid to late 1990s. Whatever her achievements as a politician she in no way brought 'harmony where there was discord'.
The final thing about Thatcher is offered by Simon Hoggart Saturday 13th April when he concedes that she did well to reclaim the Falklands and to curb the unions but cannot hold up her deindustrialisation of vast tarcts of the country on the assumtion capitalism would as if by magic, move in and create more industry. It didn't and her callous disregard to the consequencs of her actions will forever out trump her achievements as far as I'm concerned.
He goes on to suggest, on this occasion seriously, that Maggie towrds the end was virtually certifiable:
"What seems to have been left out of all the obsequies is the fact that, by the end, she was going mad. I wrote as much while she was still prime minister and heard it from several of her colleagues. Neither the evil witch nor the saviour- of-our-great-nation brigades could cope with that because it challenged their certainties.
But look at the evidence. The way she would grab a microphone from a TV reporter whose questions she didn't like. The predilection for tiny gestures at irrelevant times. (In his memoirs, Cold Cream, Ferdinand Mount recalls her breaking off an important and over-running meeting to fetch him painkillers he didn't need and had specifically said he didn't want. He also recalled her obsessive concern for "the mill girls of Bolton", even though, thanks to her policies, there were no mill girls left in Bolton.)
"We are a grandmother." Bonkers! Her unbelievable rudeness to colleagues, including Geoffrey Howe, who later helped destroy her. The way she came to speak about the government as if it had nothing to do with her. (The late John Biffen said she resembled a woman sitting under the hairdryer saying to her neighbour: "I blame the government, don't know what they think they're up to …"). The way she re-wrote her own history, obliterating things that hadn't worked, imagining those that had.
Most of all the poll tax, which might have come out of some ancient legend. "Once there was an unhappy land governed by a cruel queen. She decreed that everyone, from the richest lord to the poorest serf, should pay the same taxes, whether they could or not. So the people rose against their wicked ruler…"
And she didn't see it coming. Being off her trolley she had come to believe that whatever she believed must be right merely because she believed it.There is a nice line about that in John Major's memoirs: "Why did Margaret press ahead with what turned out to be an act of political suicide? Even lemmings have their reasons."
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Thatcher's Legacy is Great but Very Mixed
Sunday, April 07, 2013
Blair told Saddam had no WMD by Intelligence before meeting Bush
We now find that just before Blair went to see Bush in Texas, intelligence told him that Iraq's stock of WMD was 'trivial' and that Libya was the greater danger in nuclear terms. Today's Independent on Sunday takes up the story:
"Intelligence officers have disclosed that just the day before Mr Blair went to visit president George Bush in April 2002, he appeared to accept this but returned a "changed man" and subsequently ordered the production of dossiers to "find the intelligence" that he wanted to use to justify going to war.
This and other secret evidence (given in camera) to the inquiry will, The Independent on Sunday understands, be used as the basis for severe criticism of the former prime minister when the Chilcot report is published."
Despite the fact that he had been told Iraq's WMD would fit 'into the back of a petrol truck, Blair returned from meeting George Bush at his Taxas ranch gung ho for an invasion. Why was this? Well, he'd clearly been won over by a man whom he admits he admires. So many theories have been offered as to how his mind was changed but my bet is that it was pure and simple star struck hero worship. If you look at the picture above you can almost read Tony's mind: 'Gosh, I'm being driven in his truck by the US president- isn't this just great! .
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Jack Straw and Weasel Words
"A second Libyan dissident, Sami el-Saadi has accepted £2.2m from the British government after he and his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six, were abducted in Hong Kong and flown to Tripoli, three days after Tony Blair made his first visit to Libya, embraced Gaddafi for the cameras and announced that they planned to make "common cause" in counter-terrorism operations."
It was suspected that the Blair-Gadaffi deal involved a number of concessions by the latter plus a possible business element in exchange for neutralisation of the colonel's opposition abroad.
My first sense of dismay related to the belief that the UK does not use torture or facilitate torture in the interrogation of suspects. In my naivety I had kind of assumed we were just too... civilised for such things. After all that's why we fought Nazism: to make sure such things were eradicated. However, Ian Cobain's excellent Cruel Britannia, removed the veils from my eyes; his research showed that Britain has always used torture when it suited, especially as the empire was headed for the buffers.
My second was that Jack Straw, whom I'd always respected as a relatively honest and very articulate politician. I was not surprised Sir Mark Allen, former senior MI6 officer hid behind the official secrets act on this sensitive issue in which allegedly individuals and their families were handed over to a ruthless dictator, known to use the full panoply of despicable methods we associate with such leaders. But I was disappointed that Straw did the same.
Little by little one's faith that 'our' side is more principled and scrupulous than the 'other' side, is eroded away by such revelations. And little by little one comes around to the dismal conclusion that Blair and Straw, in pursuit of 'deals' thought little of their cost in terms of individual casualties and their human rights. El-Belhaj has offered to settle for just £1 from each of the defendants as long as they apologise to his wife and himself.