Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Skipper away for a few days in Madeira!

Taking a short break away from the toil of a Blighty embroiled in recession and depression and am currently enjoying Madeira quite a lot. Temperatures around 20-22 C and quite a bit of sun but main thing is freedom and novelty of an alternative culture. Sorry no pic but hotel facilities here pretty basic.

PS New Years Eve Note: Off to Funchal this evening to see what is promised as ´the best fireworks dispay in world´. Madeirans keen to rank themselves in world terms I´ve noted so will be keen to see if their fireworks are indeed that good.

Friday, December 23, 2011


End of year Party Poll Standings

Nottingham University's distillation of polls provides a fillip for Dave as he munches his mince pies over Yuletide. Their 'definitive assessment of party standings' put Conservatives on 37.4%, up 2.5 points on the first day of the month and Labour on 38.6%. Labour lead.

So there is a kind of even - stevens about current standings. Cameron's veto seems to have delivered a useful bounce which might well carry over into the New Year. Labour still lead but my feeling about these figures is that, given the awful state of the economy, the near inevitability of a double dip recession and Osborne's virtual admission of defeat in his Autumn Statement, the Opposition should be at least five points in the lead.

As for the Lib Dems, they are crawling along in single figures. This is additional good news for Dave as it means however incandescent his coalition partners might be at what he has done to them over the AV Referendum back in May and now the veto in Brussels, he is immune from political revenge. The Lib Dems know that if they withdraw and trigger and election it will mean their flickering political flame will be brutally extinguished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Mind Control of Modern Dictators is Scary

Like most people in the west I daresay, I'm still astonished at the intensity, the vehemence of the mourning for Kim Jong Il in North Korea. One asks if they are only doing it to avoid persecution by the secret police and are reminded of the Solzhenitsyn tale of a workforce meeting at a factory when someone proposed a vote of thanks to the Great Leader Stalin. The applause ensued for so long in the end the factory manager took a decision and sat down. Later on that day he was arrested on suspicion of disloyalty to that same great leader.

I'm sure coercion and fear play a big role but North Korean waitresses in Beijing apparently broke down in floods of tears on hearing the news. A defecting North Korean, now in South Korea on Sky News testified that 'we all hated him' and I'm sure that is true as well. Maybe the conclusion is that totalitarian dictators have a unique way of messing inside their subjects' heads. From birth north Koreans are immersed in a pressure cooker world of nationally drilled adulation which must leave some residue of genuine affection. Yet the day to day life of little food, monotonous hard work and no outlet for real emotions must make the whole population of the maverick state candidates for in depth counselling.

It was not so different with Stalin: queues of people in Moscow waiting to file past his coffin many in helpless tears. Such adulation is not the sole preserve of communist tyrants. Gadaffi's final act displayed crowds prepared to prostrate themselves in support of the 'Great Man' right up to the end. Not so different either with Bashar al Assad. My brother, who visited Syria just before the trouble started told me his highly intelligent guide talked admiringly of 'Our Leader' as if he was a colossus of integrity and benign benificence.

It's beyond belief that a man responsible for impoverishing his country and appalling hypocrisy regarding his own luxurious lifestyle(five hair stylists always on hand and a £5000 a year bill for the best cognac) could be mourned in a way which made the Dina aftermath seem hugely restrained and dignified. At such times one is grateful for our deeply cynical attitudes towards politicians not to mention our awful rottweiler press.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Could Cameron be a secret 'Phile' rather than a 'Phobe'?

One of my Current Affairs class suggested class yesterday came up with an intriguing analysis of Cameron's veto. He reckoned it was to pre-empt a referendum, triggered by the treaty revision the draft Brussels treaty threatened. He did this to avoid a national vote which might have led UK out of the EU, an outcome Cameron devoutly wishes to avoid.

An interesting idea, likely to be dismissed by sceptics, but if the euro-rescue measures which caused all the fuss go down the tubes then this crisis will go on for months and the veto could well appear in retrospect to be a mere detail. Certainly the markets have not reacted positively to the plan- far from it. Greece still seems heading for an early bath from the euro and even France 's economic health has been challenged by the ratings agency S and P's suggestion that its triple A rating should be downgraded.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Thatcher's Biographer on Cameron

Quite a bit of reaction to the veto but my eye was caught by a very interesting review of the The Iron Lady, the Thatcher biopic opening 6th January, by John Campbell, the author a distinguished two volume biography of Thatcher. Towards the end of his review, he turns his attention to the present incumbent with the following less than ecstatic assessment:

'But what of Cameron's real self? So far we have little idea. The impression is beginning to take hold that he is not as nice as he seemed.- which may be what the situation demands- but maybe not so competent as he initially appeared. Like Blair he wants to be liked; he also has the problem which neither Blair not Thatcher had of having to lead a coalition. But he gives out no clear sense of purpose beyond the immediate priority of cutting the deficit and seems to have no ideological roots or political compass: just am embarrassingly privileged background which he has to try to deny. Perhaps this is not his fault."

Monday, December 12, 2011


Is Cameron just a Bad Prime Minister....?

Justin Fisher from Brunel University has posted on the British Politics Group a quite provocative analysis of David Cameron suggesting that he's just not very good at being prime Minister. Given that he always said he was sure he'd be an excellent PM, this is worth considering.

He argues that Cameron fails to recognise the seriousness of issues until too late or mishandles them once he addresses them.

i) he was slow to react to the summer riots in our cities.
ii) ditto with phone hacking allowing E£d Miliband to grab some good publicity by condemning Murdoch.
iii) Liam Fox was allowed to twist in the wind too long before he was sacked- rather as brown dithered over Peter Hain when he should have acted. Blair, by comparison acted promptly and relatively ruthlessly, even sacking his best friend Mandelson
iv)Over the euro crisis he needlessly angered EU partners by lecturing them on how they should act. And when he needed support, it wasn't there.

Interesting thesis I reckon, which has much to commend it, unfortunately for the country perhaps.

Friday, December 09, 2011


Cameron Messes up Bigtime

Dave has tried hard to cloak his trip to Brussells in Churchillian rhetoric, but the chilling fact is that his veto of measures to save the euro has left the UK virtually alone on the northwest of the EU. He miscalculated monumentally, asking for too much and getting punished for being the perennial whinger on the sidelines.

He sought to extract guarantees that the City of London would not be adversely affected by the deal. But was roundly and comprehensively rejected. It seems the City is just as unpopular in EU capitals as it seems to be with the general public. Now he has to face a future as a pariah, ignored and even a little bit despised. Sceptics, like Bernard Jenkin are cock- a hoop, thinking Dave has delivered them. But with at least 23 nations in another camp it seems certain UK will be progressively marginalised and ignored, with decisions taken eventually in open disregard of British interests. From now on it'll be EU, 26- UK, 1 a ratio even Osborne's mathematics won't make advantageous.

Did he think he'd attract support? If so he miscalculated badly. Apparently Nick Clegg did quite a bit of groundwork in EU capitals and agreed totally with Cameron's line. But will he feel so much solidarity now? Paddy Ashdown has excoriated the deal and rank and file Lib Dems will most likely do the same. In one mad night Cameron has negotiated away Britain's influence in Europe and the world. Who will Obama ring now if he wants to speak to 'Europe'? Cameron ,his 'special relationship' ally? Or Merkel? Or even possibly Sarkozy? Oh dear, history will judge what a foolish, silly bugger has has been.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Obama's Key Card Could be the Young

Everyone seems to agree that Obama's chances of success in 2012 hinge on the state of the economy. This could well be true but two crucial factors might also play important roles: the choice of Republican candidate and the generational divide. This last was analysed by Andrew Sullivan in the ST yesterday and interesting reading it made.

A recent Pew survey of American voters reveals an astonishing difference between the attitudes of those under 30 compared with those over 65. Before Jimmy Carter differences of voting choice between the young and old were in single figures; now the gap is closer to 20 points.

On a whole range of issues youth does not agree with the senior cohort. Why is this so? Sullivan blames the previous Republican White House.

'.... it turns out that the real legacy of that great Republican strategist, Karl Rove, was an entire generation of liberal Democrats.'

Whilst the under 30s tend to agree with their parents on abortion, they disagree mightily on:

i) the degree to which government should intervene in society- 56% of under 30sw want bigger government compared to 25% of over 65s.
ii) same-sex marriages- two thirds of the young in favour- only a third of the elderly.
iii) 75% of the young are happy with inter-racial marriage- only 37% of the old.
iv) 64% of the elderly believe USA is 'the greatest country on earth'- only 32% of the younger generation do.
v) over 65s back unilateral foreign policy 44%-40%- the under 30s support multilateral foreign policy 63% -29%
vi) older voters are suspicious of China- two thirds of the young want closer ties.

The problem is that while the old tend to be less liberal on so many things, they do support their guaranteed benefits while the young would like them weakened. Sullivan picks pout one issue as a central explanation: the tendency for the young to be less racially homogenous and indifferent to racial and cultural change- the old are not. 79% of the elderly are white and grew up in a segregated country. Only 59% of the young are white and voting for a mixed race president was not a problem. That 20% gap might well prove vital to determining the election contest next November. What is more, the future generation of older voters, is likely to retain Democrat rather than Republican sympathies.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Clarkson Should be Ignored not Vilified

I've never seen Top Gear and have only occasionally read his pieces in the ST but have always thought Jeremy Clarkson to be, quite simply, an arse. I saw his performance when he said strikers should be shot in front of their families and it was obvious he was speaking in jest.

Bad taste humour, maybe, but all the furious indignation generated is surely wasted. If these remarks had come from a serious politician it really would have been an outrage but you'll hear far worse comments about right-wingers on the News Quiz or HIGNFY. Unlike his driving activities, this is someone who starts to speak before his brain is placed into gear; he deals in controversy and shocking his audience for a laugh is his stock in trade.

So the best response to Clarkson is to ignore Top Gear, Clarkson's journalism, and.... him.

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