Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Tories are the Only Party Left with a Shred of Decency

I apologise for the lack of blogging in the past month and extend the apology for the next few weeks potentially as well. Unfortunately a law degree doesn't let up and a series of recent coursework, exams and even a presentation are stoppping me from having any sort of life. You'll be pleased to know that I'm having a short break for Christmas upto New Year but will then be back to the grind until around the 18th Jan.

Anyway, the reaction to David Cameron's New Year Message has unsurprisingly been hostile but for different reasons to what we might expect. After calling for much of the fakery and unnerving party loyalty to be removed from politics this has been thrown back by the Lib Dems in particular, who seem determined to build a wall around their small corner of Parliament.

With a hung Parliament a realistic possibility after the next general election we need to start thinking about how our country can realistically hope to make progress; especially in the current economic climate. However, quotes from Lib Dems like Danny Alexander who state "The Conservatives cannot be trusted where fairness is concerned" are petty attempts to create hostility. I mean on what basis is this assumption made exactly?!

As a Tory I wouldn't mind working with the next Lib Dems after the next election, in fact it may even have some advantages in relation to policy areas such as the environment. However, if this is the attitude the party is going to show towards Cameron's olive branch then perhaps we need to think again about associating ourselves with the Lib Dems.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Somebody Tell Teacher!

I've always like Twitter. I feel it's a brilliant means for discussion across a range of topics and the public element to it makes it better than either MySpace or Facebook. In particular political discussion can not only be edifying but also a great source of entertainment.

Not last night though as the whole political twitterverse seemed to descend into a splurge of name-calling and tattle-telling with the main culprits, embarrassingly, being on my own side of the debate.

One of the Conservative's most prolific bloggers, Tory Bear, has chosen to lambast Labour supporter and active campaigner Bevanite Ellie over a joke which was not even her own. Rather the joke was originally 'tweeted' by a Labour councillor but TB has gone after the messenger instead.

To be honest the joke wasn't particularly controversial and typical of Labour's black humour towards Margaret Thatcher. However, TB jumped on this opportunity like a rapist and started demanding an apology like the whining kid who sits at the front of the class.

This then seemed to start a whole war over twitter of general poor quality barraging. If you're going to insult the other side at least try and be witty, yeah?

Much as I dislike Labour this seems to me like another Sun episode where the demand for an apology for the soldier's mispelt name actually engendered sympathy for the party. I sense jealousy over Ellie's success emanating from Mr. Bear and he will do well in future to keep this in check.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Polly Toynbee may have a point?!?!

It's not just Conservatives this week who disagree with Polly Toynbee's column as die-hard Labour supporters were forced to back Gordon Brown as party leader after her latest column suggested that Labour has no hope of winning the next election with Brown at the helm.

Now most Torys, myself included, would agree that Brown is doing the Labour government more damage than good (though none would want him to quit!) but this is not the part of the article I wish to highlight. Rather, as part of her same-old polemic on the Conservatives she states that "Cameron has collected no extra brand loyalty" and I can't help but reluctantly agree.

The evidence she cites suggests that despite the polls, 2% more identify themselves as 'Labour' whilst the Conservative Party this year has lost 40,000 members. For a party hoping to establish itself after the next election for a number of years to come this is not a good sign.

The problem lies in the failure of the Conservative Party to be able to establish any real sort of brand identity in the same way that Labour did in the run up to the 1997 election or, more recently, the Democrats successful campaign for the presidency last year. Both Tony Blair and Barack Obama engendered a real enthusiasm amongst the public in a way that David Cameron hasn't thus far been able to do.

Of course it is still early days in terms of the 2010 election but supporters and members have reason to be concerned. Many think that there isn't a lot behind either Cameron or Osborne so it is perhaps time to start coming out with some real policies for government. Not doing so is making Cameron appear weak at PMQs and at other times when there is policy debate as we provide no alternative.

I'm sorry to say that at the moment people are voting Tory out of dissatisfaction with Labour rather than enthusiasm for a Conservative government and this has to be changed in order to achieve a sustainable period in power.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A Good Week for Labour After a Bad 12 years

Gordon Brown must have something of a smile on his face this week after things have started to look up a bit for the Labour party, we can only hope for the sake of those of a nervous disposition that this smile isn't photographed.

First, what looked like it might be a stinging attack by the Sun newspaper has backfired and ended up with many showing sympathy for Brown, this was followed on Wednesday afternoon by a powerful performance by the PM on PMQs and in the early hours of this morning it was confirmed that Labour candidate, Willie Bain, won the Glasgow North East by-election.

This good week cannot be overplayed though. The Sun has ended up with egg on it's face but nothing more than that, many would agree that PMQs was a bit dull and Labour was always going to win Glasgow North East, the most telling fact probably being that turnout was so low.

Nevertheless Labour will feel the need to get carried away by all this but I somehow doubt that one week of minor political victories at a time when we are remembering our war dead is going to detract from the failings that this Labour government has ladled upon the country for the last 12 years.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Pressure mounts on Cameron over Lisbon

It's finally happened then. President Klaus of the Czech Republic has signed the Lisbon Reform Treaty bringing it into law. Once the Czech Supreme Court looked like it was going to declare this effectively constitutional treaty, well....constitutional there was always going to be a huge amount of pressure on Klaus from the other 26 countries to sign and this has happened in the last hour or so.

This brings bad news for two sorts of people euro-sceptics and EU Law students and unfortunately I fall into both categories. However, as David Cameron will now be realising at Conservative HQ there is little me or him can do about it and we've just got to deal with the Treaty as it comes.

Cameron is probably under a lot more pressure than my good self though. I have to learn a few new names and Article numbers but Cameron faces something of a no-win situation. On the one hand he has promised the British public a referendum on the Treaty but now Lisbon is in force, to reject the Treaty now would lose Britian a lot of face on the world stage. The flipside of this is to accept the Treaty though this would undoubtedly upset the strongly Euro-sceptic wing of his party; especially considering their new Euro grouping.

A policy announcement is due tomorrow and many will wonder which way Cameron will go with the definite possibility that either way will cost votes at next years general election.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems are enjoying this Tory discomfort but there may still be a way out. In my opinion Cameron is in a strong position in relation to Europe with the threat of a referendum. This can be used to ensure various opt-outs and concessions for Britain and it is at this stage that Cameron can either choose to campaign for a 'Yes' vote in a referendum (as happened in Ireland) or to promise the British public that no referendum is now needed that important opt-oputs have been negotiated whilst getting even the likes of Bill Cash MP to support this position.

In any circumstance, Cameron will be under great pressure over the forthcoming weeks and months. The best thing Conservatives can truly hope for is damage limitation.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Step Too Far

A report by International, published today, condemns Israel for denying the Palestinian people access to even the basic minimum amount of water required for living. The average Palestinian receives 70 litres of water per day though some receive less than 20 (the minimum required during a humanitarian disaster) meanwhile many Israelis are free to enjoy their swimming pools and hosepipes.

The plight of the Palestinians is not helped by the Israeli blockade and the fact that some Israeli soldiers use water tanks for target practice.

The response from Israel has been typically evasive with them claiming that they give to Palestinians the amount of water agreed under a 1990 agreement and going on to say that it is Palestinian mis-management that is the problem. There are two problems with this explanation that are vital for the survival of many Palestinians. Firstly, it is Israel who has control over the water supply to Gaza? These subjected people can only get something as vital as water from a country which wants to see their total defeat and this is a huge problem facing any Palestinian government. The only way this can be solved is if, as Donatella Rovera of Amnesty puts it, "Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians' access to water". Secondly, the Palestinians do have an inefficient water infrastructure but this is mainly down to Israeli military operations targeting Palestinian water doing major damage, including $6million worth of damage during the Cast Lead operation last winter.

It is about time the international community did something about this situation as we have moved far beyond politics now and Israel is now slowly killing the Palestinian people by denying them the source of life even many third world countries now take for granted.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Internet Campaigning Hits the Spotify

It seems that Conservative chairman Eric Pickles is now more famous than a lot of his party's MPs with a host of public appearances and this morning he added Spotify to the list. In a new advert which will start during the free songs the service provides Pickles will address the primarily young audience and highlight the innumerate failures that a Labour government has made us suffer from over the last 11 years.

Like many attempts by politicians to address such a fickle audience the advert has unsurprisingly been criticised for being excessively 'cheesy' and any self-respecting person would no doubt agree the 45 seconds are cringeworthy.

Nevertheless the importance of using the internet cannot be underestimated and it is certainly understandable that the party wants to broaden its base in the months before a general election. In fact, that the advert is so 'bad' is almost part of its charm and means that it has gained undue press coverage and will certainly be remembered for some time yet.

Furthermore, Pickles has proved himself as an asset to the party through his various appearances and his instantly recognisable voice and personality is something the Tory party should certainly think about using in the future.

By the way you can listen to the advert here courtesy of Paul Waugh.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The French (Counter)-Revolution

If Labour thought the in-fighting in their party was bad then they can take some comfort from France's ruling conservative party which is currently fighting it out in the country's court system. The case is being seen by some as a new class war with the aristocratic ex-PM Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin challenging the bourgeois President Sarkozy who, in no uncertain terms, worked his ass of to get to the top.

The case concerns a smear campaign (Clearstream) by Villepin back in 2004 which accused Sarkozy of accepting illegal kickbacks from arms deals. This was later proved to be false but Sarkozy went on to bring charges against Villepin who, he submits, knew the information was false but went on to use it anyway.

The stakes are high and French commentators wait for the decision with bated breath. A win for Sarkozy would effectively end De Villepin's career while a finding of not-guilty would be a damaging blow to the Sarkozy presidency. From an independent point of view, I think France has to hope for the President to come out on top of this dispute. Sarkozy is a man of action and during these troubled times this is exactly what all countries need but in particular one with a continental, protectionist economy.

Monday, 19 October 2009

BNP Stoke The Publicity Fire

With the BNP making the news again ahead of Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time it is unsurprising that this fringe party is trying to make the most of the coverage as any party would. Unfortunately for those of us who read the politics pages the BNP are filling headlines with their usual bile which makes Jan Moir look like Mother Theresa.

Today the BNP website announced an attack on the two non-white panellists who are also due to appear alongside Griffin on Thursday night. Having read the article I'm sure you'll agree that it is complete nonsensical diatribe which you wish you hadn't even bothered opening never mind reading; I mean halal cake....seriously?

Unfortunately the papers seem to disagree that this isn't worth the time of day with the London Evening Standard running with almost a full-page story and editorial comment. The paper realises that they themselves are contributing to stoking the race row but is only reporting the news that is being created more by the Labour Party more than almost anyone else.

The culprit this time is the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, who has suggested that the BBC may face legal action unless Griffin was removed from the panel. Now to me and surely everyone else with half a brain this is completely illogical, the BBC simply responded with a succinct "our understanding is that, if there was an election tomorrow, the BNP would be able to stand". There we go, in what is barely a full sentence the argument and subsequent news story is destroyed.

I hope Labour are happy with themselves for once again giving the BNP undue publicity, unless they have realised that they themselves are slowly becoming a fringe party and also need the coverage?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Marcus Cleaver for Supreme Overlord

Let’s face it, human society has become stagnant. For all this talk of the modern technological age the best two advances in the past decade have been ‘Pirate Sex’ and ‘Hole in the Wall’. Meanwhile atheism only thrives because God is too fucking embarrassed of us, which leaves us to aimlessly wander around the planet distracting ourselves by fiddling with our ringtones.

In fact if there was a nuclear holocaust tomorrow, the average person’s last thought would be ‘Oooh I’ve got an app on my iPhone to measure radiation. Oh wait it’s just have my hands’, before a fissure appears in their freshly carbonised skull and their brain is turned into a molten bubbly mess.

I like to think that my last thought would be ‘At least a lot of other humans will die, plus hopefully that pretentious Apple Store on Regent Street will now just be a pile of smouldering rubble’. But it doesn’t have to be this way people for I, Marcus Cleaver, am prepared to lead human civilisation into a new dawn.

With me as your God-like figure at the top, the intellectual elite will be allowed full freedom to work towards a better society whilst the infidel (namely those in the Facebook Group 'Prevent Marcus Cleaver's Attempt at World Domination’ will be....removed.

Utopia awaits.

Join the Facebook group here!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

No Split Over Europe

There is no doubt that during the 90s the Conservative Party were split over Europe and during this weeks party conference both opposition parties and the mainstream media have more than hinted that a similar problem could plague a future David Cameron led government.

The party policy towards the Lisbon Reform Treaty seems prima facie consistent with all major figures showing scepticism towards the rehashed Constitution Treaty that was rejected by both the French and Dutch voters. Certainly, if the LRT is not in force before a Tory election victory, the British public would be given a chance to have their say. Furthermore, it looks like Britain would vote 'No' to Lisbon despite the frankly ridiculous attacks by foreign minister David Milliband accusing the anti-federalist stance of the party as "embarassing".

The supposed problems for Cameron are apparently going to arise if the LRT has been passed by all 27 member states of the EU as the Conservative leader has not announced if there will be a referendum in this case. The question has come to light again this week, unfortunately coinsciding with the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, as the Irish electorate resoundingly approved the treaty, making the passing of the LRT more imminent.

There are many sensible reasons for not announcing the Tory position just yet, the first being that it would be unfair to interfere in the debate that Poland and the Czech Republic (the two countries yet to ratify the LRT) are having in their respective countries. The second reason is that it is most likely going to be 8 months before the Cameron family move into Downing Street and it is anyone's guess as to what shape the treaty will be in at that point. If it is still in it's infancy then it may well be worth having referendum but it would also be understandable not to if the LRT is, by then, operating with full force.

The fear that Britain will lose face with the EU and farther afield if it regails on it's ratification is a petty one. I would rather the government did what the voters wanted rather than keeping up appearances abroad if that was deemed to be the best step forward for the UK.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

A Quick Look at the Figures from @PoliticsHomeUK

OK this is a bit embarassing but the only way I can get the internet to write my blog is to go our university library and what with it being a Saturday it's closing soon so my look at these figures is severely limited.

The look at over 200 marginal constituencies is quite interesting to present a political map of the UK, particularly so this year with a general election coming up in the next few months.

The headline figure that a potential Conservative majority of 146 last year has been halved to only 70 this year, doesn't look great especially alongside other figures that seem to suggest less trust in the Conservative party on the whole. This though is perhaps an unfair comparison as Labour were at breaking point last summer and since then the political climate, at least, has calmed down.

Despite being cut back in some areas such as the North, the Conservatives are in a strong position and this only looks to be increasing with The Sun newspaper now backing the party and the Manchester Conference still to come. The party will also be pleased to know that the expenses scandal seems to be something of a distant memory.

Meanwhile Nick Clegg will be pleased that his party have upped their number of seats from 2008's figures but will still be disappointed that he could well lose some of his MPs from the South-West in the next election. He will be wanting to try and capitalise more from Labours seemingly inevitable demise.

Anyway I'm about to be shouted at but will perhaps try and write an update at some point. Please do read at least the first 11 pages of the document linked to above as it should give a good indicator as to the election in 2010.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Mao to Come From China

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China (PRC), a birthday which is culturally seen by the Chinese to be particularly significant. It is needless to say then that the celebrations will take place with military precision; something synonymous with the Chinese regime since the 2008 Olympics.

But the excessive security seen last summer could be stepped up even further for this years parade. Twitter and Facebook have been blocked and those living along the parade route were told that they could be shot if they stood on their balcony or even opened their window. Despite all this the parade, like the Olympics, should be nothing short of spectacular. With participants ranging from squadrons of jet pilots to students holding placards; this years parade will be the largest ever. China will also be showing off their new military hardware to which experts around the world will look forward to with baited breath.

All of this sounds very Satlin-esque and many commentators are likening the Chinese regime to the Soviet Union which collapsed in the early 1990s based on tell-tale signs of decline such as corruption, social discontent, autocracy and increasing militarisation. This may all be true to varying degrees but there has been no sign of major protest in China since the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Instead Communist China appears to have made great steps forward in its 60 years. Life expectancy has doubled with better healthcare available and China's ever growing university system now has 20.2 million students in higher education. Admittedly by global standards China is still a poor country with 207 million people living below the World Bank Poverty line but the central government is making efforts in this area.

Another way in which the PRC is different to the USSR is economically. Whilst the Soviets remained isolated in terms of the global economy, China has cemented its place at the centre of the financial world since joining the World Trade Organisation eight years ago and has recently proved itself by being the first country to pull through the global recession. Boasting foreign exchange reserves of $2 trillion, China would be the last country you would bet on having a financial meltdown.

China has achieved this bed of stability through its own flexible brand of Leninism known as the Beijing Consensus. Whilst Mao Zedong would perhaps have more than a few complaints if he came back to modern day China, he would no doubt be happy with the standing of his PRC on the world stage and the inevitable progress it will make in the future.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Obama's 9/11

What arguably secured a second term for George W. Bush was the way in which he dealt with 9/11. The strong, hardline response was just what the American people expected from their President. Now, eight years later, Bush's successor faces his own 9/11 which provides an opportunity for another term in the White House and furthermore the chance to secure his legacy.

Many economists agree that unemployment rates in the U.S. could persist around the 9-11% mark for years to come with the global recession pushing whole communities onto the backfoot. One only has to look at Detroit with it's jobless rate of 17.7% to see the effect of the collapse of the automobile industry though this has affected towns and cities across America. And of course it isn't just transport manufacturing that has suffered with unemployment in furniture manufacturing at 22.5% and the construction industry is suffering with 16.5% unemployment.

At least it's a good time to be an economist with theories being thrown at the crisis left, right and centre. What is perhaps most interesting is that Okun's law seems to be faltering. The principle basically states that as the economy shrinks it sheds job at a similar rate and vice versa. On this basis, unemployment in America at the moment should be at around 8.5%; not the substantially greater 9.7% it is suffering.

What does all this mean? Well for some economists such as the renowned labour theorist Larry Summers, this could well signify a hysteresis in the economy and this seems to be backed up by the Peterson Institutes's Jacob Kirkegaard who recently stated that "a lot of the jobs that have been lost will never come back".

So if economic growth alone won't re-employ America, what can Obama do? The way to create a job stimulus seems to come in two parts and suits a Democrat President. Firstly, people have to be able retrain and learn new skills whilst out of work but the thing that stands in the way is a lack of economic freedom to do so. A sort of Medicare bill but for skills education would perhaps give mature students a right to healthcare or subsidised mentoring so that they could, for instance, learn a useful skill without worrying as much about their family. Secondly, more support must be given to new companies; the future economy. This can be done through tax breaks or even direct loans but unless new companies receive initial help they will not survive for long in this time of economic hardship.

These policy ideas aren't exactly in line with my normal Randian way of thinking, but as George W. Bush said a year ago; I am abandoning free-market principles in order to save the free-market.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Snubgate?! More Like Snoregate!

Yesterday Downing Street was forced to deny rumours that U.S. President Barack Obama turned down offers of 'one-to-one' talks with Gordon Brown during the Prime Minister's trip to New York. The story is being played out in the mainstream press as a breakdown in the special relationship between the US and the UK but to me this seems more than a little melodramatic.

In the worst case scenario the White House may have considered that it wasn't worth talking to Brown; a leader that will more than likely be out of power in a matter of months. Even then this comes nowhere near to signifying the end of a relationship that has endured for decades between these two countries, one only has to look at the speeches given by the two leaders at the UN General Assembly to see how in sync the two nations are.

The more likely reasoning behind Obama's 'snubbing' is that he was far too busy to meet with Brown at this busy time on the international political calendar. Japan has a new Prime Minister with whom Obama would like to meet and of course countries like China and Russia are key allies when it comes to dealing with Iran. I have no doubt that Brown would like to have met with Obama but just because practicality says no doesn't mean we should jump to irrational conclusions; after all the President didn't meet with any other EU leaders either.

It certainly seems that neither Gordon Brown nor the Labour government can do anything right at the moment with most political stories ending up all over their face. Take the Baroness Scotland story for example. A clerical error by the Attorney General could cost her her job. Never mind the brilliant legal work that she has done with the Crown Prosecution Service, she too has been dragged into the Labour mire as part of yet more petty political point scoring.

Don't get me wrong I am always happy to see the demise of a Labour government, it's just I would rather see them fall because of their policy, not because they forgot to photocopy something.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

#ldconf providing the real alternative?

So it's conference season already and all the party machines are gearing up for their event of the year. For me, this year is already more exciting than previous years with twitter allowing the public a backstage pass and generating it's own public debate. Of course when I say 'more exciting' this is a step up from the political equivalent of a school assembly. In this non-literal game of 'follow the leader' the parties use the now highly publicised conferences to big themselves up. A couple of new policies might be announced but long gone are the days when heated discussion arose in those conference rooms.

Nevertheless with a summer that, in Britain at least, tends to generate very little political intrigue, us self-confessed anoraks take what we can get. With this surely in the back of their minds it is the Liberal Democrats who headline this years conference season and have already attracted much press attention. One does have to question if there would me this much interest if the conferences took place in say February but that is beside the point.

The Lib Dems seem to have gone on the offensive from what I have seen so far. Vince Cable in particular has challenged the Tories economic plans even referring to them as "ill-equipped politically, morally and intellectually for the challenges ahead" and stating in no uncertain terms that the shadow chancellor George Osbourne is too inexperienced to run the national economy.

It is clear that Clegg an the rest are on the hunt for votes but it is this really the best way to do it? The Lib Dems reputation as the 'nice guys' of Parliament is being challenged on a daily basis and isn't doing them any favour anyway but picking such petty squabbles will only generate hatred. In the same way, having poor excuses for having no policy is just as bad. Surely even the Lib Dems have to accept that they aren't going to beat the Conservatives at the next general election so surely their best bet is to attack the outgoing party and not completely alienate the incoming government?

Following my advice may mean the Lib Dems need to become even more authoritarian in their style and annoy me further but if it wins them votes I'm sure they won't mind too much about little ol' me.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Lehman Brothers: An Obituary

As we pass the one year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers a lot of media sources and politicians are looking back and asking how and why this happened. It is the latter query though which is both more interesting yet worrying for libertarians.

It doesn't need me to spell it out for you that a a lack of regulation and more generally, capitalism, has taken the brunt of the blame. In his speech from Wall Street, Barack Obama stated “We will not go back to the days of reckless behaviour and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses".

To me this seems like a rather over-zealous argument, how can you realistically blame capitalism for the expensive mistakes of various CEOs such as Richard Fuld? Running a high-risk business would pay-off with some massive bonuses in the short-term but when it all goes down the proverbial gutter, people can't be too surprised.

The real problem lies in government bailouts and in this sense the American government did the right thing by refusing to help out Lehman Brothers though this rule should apply right across the board. I understand that the likes of Goldman Sachs have now paid back what they borrowed with interest but the very knowledge that this safety net will be there only promotes greater and greater risk. Only when it is made clear that companies are responsible for their own actions will they be able to make a healthy profit without jeopardising the public purse.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A New Era for Parliament?

This summer of politics may be remembered for many reasons: the MP's expenses scandal, the G20 summit in London and the continuing demise of Gordon Brown to name but a few. But what may turn out to most affect the UK parliament is the scandal involving the Speaker of the House of Commons.

As Michael Martin failed to acknowledge his responsibility, MPs on the floor of the Commons had to directly challenge the Speaker; something rarely done. Although this successfully led to Martin's resignation, like it or not, a new culture has been bred that holds the Speaker to greater accountability. Possibly more than his remit deserves.

All this has led to UKIP leader Nigel Farage challenging the new speaker John Bercow in the next general election by fighting the Buckingham constituency and early reports suggest he will do well.

Traditionally, parties do not challenge the speaker but this has already been somewhat quashed as a tradition in the past two general elections where the Scottish National Party (SNP) challenged 'The Speaker seeking re-election'.

There are certainly a lot of good arguments out there for Farage as a Speaker and the idea of having a Speaker who is independent of all the main parties is appealing. It could be said that the UKIP leader would show antipathy towards those on the left but from what I've heard from Farage I would suggest he has just as much hatred for much of the Conservative Party!

In spite of all this I hope Farage doesn't get elected. Not because I dislike the UK Independence Party but because Bercow hasn't done anything wrong in the role so far. In fact, I believe the MP for Buckingham has done a pretty good job keeping the House in order from what I saw before the summer recess. Farage's argument seems to be that Bercow himself cannot be trusted because he was embroiled in the expenses scandal but then again who wasn't. Do you think Farage would have been as white as snow?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Step Forward or a 'Tragic Surrender'

Mexico this week took what is arguably an important step forward for building a liberal society. A new law decriminalises the possession of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs in amounts small enough "for personal and immediate use". The law has been passed by President Felipe Calderon in order to "regulate the issue" and to free resources and prison places.

The most telling part of this story though has probably been the reaction from Washington. One only has to look back to 2006 for American opposition to this policy in Mexico as pressure from the George W. Bush administration forced then President Vicente Fox to veto the bill. Guarded comment from the White House this time around suggests that the Obama administration is beginning to realise that the confrontational 'war on drugs' is not the best approach. American drug czar Gil Kerlikowske even said he would "wait and see".

But unsurprisingly there has been opposition to the new law on both sides of the border. Mexican officials fear that their country will become plagued by 'Latin Amsterdams' whilst others fear that the law sends out the wrong message as the Mexican government struggles to win their own war on drug trafficking. Meanwhile some in the southern states of America are concerned that the new law will inflict "a serious setback" to the battle against drugs. Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is worried that "We now have an entire country on our southern border that is a haven for drug abuse".

Personally, I believe that fully developed states should not worry about legalising drugs. Once this is done it takes it out of the hands of drug dealers and can enter the free market where each individual is responsible for their own actions. This may be different in Mexico that famously suffers from an inherent drugs problem (only a couple of months ago many high-powered officials including mayors and judges were arrested on drug conspiracy charges) but America has probably done the right thing by patiently awaiting how successful this small step towards legalisation is. If such a policy can make a difference in Mexico then it will mean other countries will have to start taking the possibility of legalising drugs seriously.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

"A Mockery of the Rule of Law"?

The decision by Scottish authorities to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds was bound to cause some distress but surely no one expected an anger-fuelled letter by the head of the FBI.

The empty words from Obama last week about the decision being a "mistake" were perhaps to be expected considering the American victims but for FBI chief Robert Mueller to completely attack the Scottish judicial system is unacceptable.

You may be wondering why I am so bothered about what Mueller has to say; after all he has no power over the decision. Well this is exactly the point! The FBI has no involvement with the Scottish judicial system and has no right to stick their nose in. In fact Mueller himself concedes that it is unbecoming to comment on the actions of other prosecutors.

As a law student I know the vital importance of the rule of law to any democratic country so for this Yank to come along and accuse Scotland of "making a mockery" of the rule of law is frankly insulting. Alex Salmond has certainly done the right thing by backing the decision in the face of criticism. The decision by the Scottish officials is in keeping with their legal rules and arguably more in line with the rule of law than America which has no system of compassionate release.

But this blog isn't seeking to debate the issue of compassionate release. Rather I seek to expose a problem that has plagued American foreign policy as far back as the 1950s. Washington seems to consistently involve itself in other countries affairs. This is prominently seen in South/Central America. Even the most liberal Americans such as libertarian Yaron Brook can't help sticking their nose in where it's not wanted. Many hoped for a change to this when Barack Obama became president and welcomed his reaction to the political crisis in Honduras but this incident shows that maybe the problem is abit more deep-seated than anticipated.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

#welovethenhs but should we have to?

The seemingly increasingly unreliable twitter had another outage yesterday but this time not because of hackers. No, this time the British public flooded the social-networking site with the hashtag #welovethenhs as part of a campaign by the creator of Father Ted, Graham Linehan. The accomplished tweeter has had some other successful campaigns in the past involving subjects from The Daily Mail to Eurovision.

Linehan goes on to say in his interview (linked to above) that "you attack [the NHS] at your peril". This is a response to the video above as well as a concerted effort by the American right to use the example of the British healthcare system as the argument against 'Obamacare'. Certainly there have been a lot of fallacies purported on news stations such as Fox News and these have since been succinctly dealt with by The Daily Telegraph.

The article seems to confirm what Stephen Fry tweeted about the matter and all should have been cleared up nicely. Unfortunately things didn't stop there and people's adoration of the NHS gushed through twitter. The problem with this is that the NHS is nowhere near a perfect system, in fact I would say for certain that the US system is a heck of a lot better than our own.

It would perhaps be unfair to have no provisions whatsoever for those who fall ill but a major reliance on the free market is simply the most efficient way to distribute healthcare. The traditional argument that 'at least a doctor here checks my pulse before my wallet' is absurd. These people associate health insurance solely with going on holiday but most Americans consider this a monthly bill that gets paid with utilities etc. The only reason we don't complain is because it gets taken out of our taxes, which pay for a variety of goods and services; including healthcare.

The campaign has also turned on Daniel Hannan who has also been a victim of @glinner's campaign. Despite making some authentic criticisms of the NHS, albeit not necessarily constructive, he has been made a scapegoat by even his very own party. The campaign has rallied such patriotic support that it has blinded some normally sensible people and whipped renewed fire into those on the left.

The problem lies in the fact that this isn't even much of a left/right issue as much as it is an authoritarian/liberal issue. It's the difference between wanting the government to interfere with healthcare provision and, as Hannan points out, flooded with bureaucracy or leaving it to the efficiencies of the free market. In my mind, Britain is leaning heavily towards the wrong side.

So America is slowly backing away from it's NHS hate campaign but I personally hope that this allows us to look at why the British healthcare system was picked out for ridicule. Of course a myriad of people have their own success stories with the NHS but this time the grass really is greener.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Hit Them Where It Hurts.

I'm always a little bit worried when Britain gets accused of interfering with her old colonies. Even when the allegations are completely unfounded, such as those in Iran, or so absurd they can't be true, such as those in Zimbabwe, there's always a lingering voice telling me we shouldn't be involving ourselves in other countries domestic issues. In fact the recent Iranian election provides a good example. The British media and a lot of the public were outraged at the apparently rigged election result as they have every right to. In fact Channel 4 news did a very good job of reporting the election and subsequent protests. However, what was most important was that the official representation of Britain (i.e. the government) refused to get involved with the election result and stated that it was a matter of the Iranians themselves to sort out.

I think though that there is a balance that needs to be struck. Certainly Britain is a respected country on the international scene which enjoys membership of the EU as well as a close relationship with the US. It would be somewhat pointless having this influence if we could not use it for the power of good. The problems arise when deciding upon the appropriate sanction in a situation. This is what Britain, and other countries/international organisations, have to decide upon in the upcoming weeks and months in relation to Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi will be kept under house arrest for the next 18 months for allowing a US national into her home. The Burmese have attempted to make the sentence seem lenient in the eyes of the international community by reducing the original sentence from 3 years hard labour but this is widely recognised as a meaningless token because it still means Suu Kyi will not be allowed to stand in the election next year; the first since 1990.

So as our friend Lenin would say; What is to be Done? Well in the short term it seems that once again Labour has done the right thing. The very critical stance taken by Gordon Brown clearly establishes the British position in relation to this matter. The long-term will be more interesting. Whilst we can't jump to extremes and invade, on the other hand we can't simply let this issue drop after a week or so.

The answer, I believe, lies in economic sanctions. By isolating Burma it makes it harder for the country to function. Some would suggest that this only makes things harder for the people of Burma but cutting off economic aid and trade is a good way to strangle the military junta.

At a time when we are considering the legacy of Corazon Aquino and 'people power' in that part of the world, it would not surprise me if the Burmese dictatorship was overthrown within the next year. From the outside, we have to show our support to her people by not assisting those in power.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Vatican vs. Capitalism

This may probably be seen by some as part of my continuing polemic against religion but it seems to me, at least, that I am simply presenting the case for the defence here. Throughout the post-industrial revolution period it seems the church has attacked those seeking to make a profit and be successful.

The main encyclical to this effect appeared in 1967 when Pope Paul VI recommended redistribution of wealth on a mass scale in order to achieve "Populorum Progressio" (The Development of Peoples) as the document was called. This was attacked beautifully at the time by Ayn Rand in her "Requiem for Man" but now the church is once again moving from the theological to the political in Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, “Caritas in veritate”.

This new piece from the Vatican seems to be continuing on the same theme that profit is evil but is given a modern spin by criticising globalisation as well. The call for globalisation, and capitalism generally , to be 'properly managed' seems to be particularly well timed as people are blaming the apparently 'free' market for the global recession. No one of course considers it was the perpetuation of a 'mixed economy' that ultimately collapsed in on itself; but that's for another time.

Capitalism is based on hard, cold logic and I believe it is this that the church fears most when we get down to it. The best way to explain this is to look at those on the right who believe that it is possible to defend capitalism while putting faith before reason and by advocating self-sacrifice, not self-interest, as the essence of morality. The hypocrisy involved by harbouring such a belief is self-evident but goes a long way to showing the church's long standing antipathy towards capitalism.

I'll leave you with a quote from the aforementioned "Requiem for Man":

"Consider the proposal to condemn Americans to a lifetime of unrewarded drudgery at forced labor, making them work as hard as they do or harder, with nothing to gain but the barest subsistence — while savages collect the products of their effort. When you hear a proposal of this sort, what image leaps into your mind? What I see is the young people who start out in life with self-confident eagerness, who work their way through school, their eyes fixed on their future with a joyous, uncomplaining dedication — and what meaning a new coat, a new rug, an old car bought second-hand, or a ticket to the movies has in their lives, as the fuel of their courage. Anyone who evades that image while he plans to dispose of “the fruit of the labors of people” and declares that human effort is not a sufficient reason for a man to keep his own product — may claim any motive but love of humanity."

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

"Mr Obama. Tear down this news ticker."

The Cuban nation has always fascinated me. Although the country adopts completely the opposite political philosophy to what I myself believe it's success in certain areas is undeniable. For example, Cuba has the best healthcare system in the world. After major natural disasters, the first doctors on the scene are Cuban and guess which doctors are the last to leave? Yes, they're Cuban.

This only becomes more impressive when you hear of the struggles that Cuba has had to face since the Communist revolution in 1959. Ongoing cold relations with the US have undoubtedly held back the country back and the collapse of the USSR also caused economic hardship during the 1990s.

Surely though it is time this petty war of words finished between the US and Cuba. It is clear that Cuba won't be changing any time soon. Many pointed to the death of Fidel Castro as a potential turning point but the seamless transition of power to Raúl Castro means Communism in the Central American Republic looks set to continue.

The Obama administration recently showed that it was prepared to take a step in the right direction though as a controversial news ticker was 'unplugged'. Previously located on the US diplomatic mission, the ticker displayed pro-democracy messages from 2006 until the Cuban administration responded by placing flags and billboards to block the sign.

Relations with Central and South America will be a long way behind healthcare reform and the economy on Obama's 'to-do list' but so long as Obama doesn't deliberately go out of his way to anger them like his predecessor and makes some reparation for the last 50 years; he can leave the White House satisfied in this respect.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Future for Atheism

Right. Bit of background before I throw myself into this subject because it would be unfair to put forth my position without first explaining my own religious views.

I was brought up as a Catholic because my mother is something stupid like 50th generation Irish-Catholic, tracing roots back to St. Grellan. Anyway I proceeded through the rituals of that: communion, confirmation etc. but last year decided as part of my new-found objectivist philosophical outlook to abandon this in favour of a fairly strong atheist belief.

I'd never really thought about this much as something that should be promoted amongst society in a similar way to an actual religion. However, a couple of news stories about 'Camp Quest', an atheist summer camp, got me thinking about whether I should take my atheism more seriously and be a more active non-believer.

Firstly, I would say that the attitude of 'Answers in Genesis', who argue Camp Quest drums a "hopeless" world view into young minds, only serves to show the intolerance shown by religion to many minorities. I support the Camp Quest, not because it drills secularism into young children but because, instead, it asks the campers to objectively weigh up the evidence and come to their own decision. If a child comes to the conclusion that there is a God then they most certainly will not be castigated for their view.

This sort of tolerance is vitally important to me as a liberal. I have the right as a free citizen to launch a verbal polemic against 'Answers in Genesis' but if I had the power to I certainly wouldn't shut it down because they preach a different view to me and, in my mind, indoctrinates young impressionable minds.

However, it is also for this reason that I would not 'come out of the atheist closet' for want of a better phrase. I would hate to feel that I am forcing my view onto anyone else. Naturally if my position was challenged I would defend atheism to the hilt but if someone came to me for religious advice I would tell them to weigh up the evidence and make their own decision.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Mopping up in Sri Lanka

I'm going to stick my head on the line here and if this blog was more public I would be getting attacked by voters in Mauritania and those following the ASEAN Security Forum in Phuket; but there hasn't exactly been much going on since perhaps the terrorist attacks in Jakarta on the 17th July. In fact one of the problems with having a birthday in August is that not much happens, it's like war and crises take a holiday. Probably the most famous thing to have ever happened on my birthday is the receiving of the Declaration of Independence in London in 1776. The reason it took so long to arrive was probably because the postman was on holiday.

Naturally I'm not naive enough to truly suggest that the world comes to a standstill in the summer but with the recession beginning to stabilise many countries will be looking to do the same. Arguably the country which needs to stabilise the most is Sri Lanka.

In the final assault of the Sri Lankan army which beat the LTTE many soldiers and civilians lost their lives and much of the Northern region (primarily inhabited by Tamils) has been devastated.

This was a couple of months ago now and the recovery has already begun. This has recently been helped with a huge loan from the IMF.

Regeneration has already begun in the North with plans for roads to be built amongst other projects. It is interesting though to see that both Britain and the United States chose to abstain from discussions over the loans in order to reflect human rights concerns in post-war Sri Lanka.

Suspicion remains rife amongst the international community mainly because the Sri Lankan government has been so secretive during the post-war period. Foreign media is not allowed to visit the camps and Sri Lanka's own traditionally free media has been censored. With reports coming in of deadly diseases spreading through the camps it is no wonder that supporters of the Tamil people are threatening legal action.

It is my opinion that this should be the least of Mahinda Rajapaksa'a worries. The Sri Lankan armed forces remains vast when compared to the population as a whole and it would be easy to squander the loan on maintaining this and offering large army pensions. Rather the President may have to step up to the plate yet again and be the bigger man in this debate. It would be both hugely popular and easy to give the money away to his own people but if the money is spent on making life better for the Tamil minority instead, then both Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka as a country will soon regain it's credibility on the world stage.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Norwich North

Firstly one has to congratulate Chloe Smith on her election victory today. I'm not going through all the statporn here but it's enough to say that a 16.5% swing and a 20% margin ahead of the nearest candidate is a pretty comprehensive win.

With parliament in recess, it is no surprise that the blogosphere has been attracted to this story like a moth to the only light left on in politics. I myself have succumbed as well, simply because there is no other news, but generally I don't like to look into by-election results too closely. With so much attention from the press and political parties alike the results are often not a true representation of either local or national feeling but how recent events are spun in the local and national press.

Furthermore the Conservative win wasn't all too surprising. We can't say that we now know that the Conservatives are likely to beat Labour in the next general election because the man on the street could have told you that. It would be unfair to even guess the results of the next general election from this for the reasons set out above.

Perhaps we can learn two things from this but I'm afraid neither are good for the Lib Dems. I've honestly not got some vendetta against the party, I'm just pointing out what I see. Firstly, the Liberal Democrats have actually lost out in terms of share of the vote going from 16.2% to 14%. I know this may be just a by-election which isn't necessarily LD-friendly but one expects them to be taking votes from Labour, not losing out to the Conservatives.

This brings me to my second point. it appears that the expenses scandal is over and has had little effect on the voters. The Conservative party were arguably the biggest losers in this debacle but seemingly gained votes from the Lib Dems who came out from the affair reasonably unscathed. If this is the public's fickle attitude only months after the Telegraph broke the story then I have little doubt it will be gone and forgotten by the next general election.

I suggest that the public are fickle but, in my opinion, it's not a bad thing this has gone both from the news and the minds of the electorate. There are much more important issues at stake which must be considered when casting a vote.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Magnificent Desolation

Despite no pretty play on the word 'Google' many people across the world will be aware that it was today, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon and uttered those famous words. Only a select few have been to the moon, really as part of the ongoing space race with the USSR and astronauts such as Armstrong are well into their 70s.

The traditional 5 year meet of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins at the White House has attracted a lot of attention this year and certainly will more so in 10 years time. The academic discussion around the milestone has varied from sustainable power to looking after the psychological welfare of astronauts when the return to the humdrum of everyday life.

Perhaps 40 years after the Summer of '69 we should be discussing the future of space travel. Americans have become increasingly disinterested with 'the final frontier' both on a micro level and governmental. NASA has less money to work with year on year despite their important work and maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS). Many suggest that if America had continued their space campaign as vociferously as in the 1960s there would be an American flag on the surface of Mars.

But the global recession and proposals for widescale healthcare reform only highlight that America may never commit to their space program in the same way again. The time may well have come to pass the buck to growing economies such as China who, it is rumoured, are interested in taking over the ISS.

Perhaps it will be a Chinese flag we first see on the Martian planet.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Nicolas Sarkozy and the Seven Monks

Once upon a time (May 1996) in the mountains of Algeria, the heads of seven French Trappist monks were found. This sounds more like a nightmare rather than a fairytale and could indeed turn into a nightmare for the French President.

But how can a relatively small event in a North African country 13 years ago scupper Sarkozy's hopes for legal reform in the French Republic? At the time it was assumed jihadists in the form of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) executed the seven men but recent revelations suggest that they were killed as the result of a botched Algerian military operation. Meanwhile the Sarkozy reforms seek to remove the inquisitorial nature of the French legal system by getting rid of the independent investigating judges and replacing them with politically appointed state prosecutors.

At first one can see why many French legal academics are up in arms against this. The point is well summarised by the representative of the monk's families, Patrick Baudouin, who suggests "The intent of Sarkozy's plan is clear: to put investigations back under political control by eliminating the magistrate and putting prosecutors in charge". He goes on to advocate that "once an independent judge is allowed to investigate, the ability of the rich, the powerful and the state to keep the truth covered up is reduced to almost nothing."

However the system that Sarkozy wants to introduce is very similar to the more adversarial legal procedure seen here in the UK and across the Atlantic in America. Many would argue this allows cases to be investigated in more detail and gives both sides a chance to forcefully submit their argument before an independent judge. The success of such a system can be seen in nearly a thousand years of English legal history but at the same time it is hard not to support the outraged French lawyers and judges. Although the Napoleonic justice system may be in need of reform, it's promotion of independence represents one of the country's most cherished values.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Lib Dems are all a twitter with Cleggy.

Most Torys are too old for computer whilst most Labour supporters are too poor. On this basis it was always going to be the Lib Dems making breakthroughs with technology in the party politics arena. The blogoshpere is dominated by Lib Dem blogs with middle-class mothers and self-employed geeks offering their opinion on the issues of the day. Every so often they come up with good points but more often than not it's the boring drivel you would expect from anywhere on the Lib Dem, proportionally represented, pyramid of power.

Anyway the reason I bring this up is that now the party leader has joined his supporters by doing an interview with the general public via twitter. However, rather than throw himself into the great unwashed, questions will be vetted by, you guessed, The Independent newspaper.

This is being hailed by many here in geek-world as the greatest thing since sliced bread and the Lib Dems themselves are mopping it up like the badly aimed cumshot it is. In reality it's not going to be any different to any other contact method your ordinary man on the street has with Nick Clegg apart from being limited in terms of time and to 140 characters. All questions which he doesn't want to be answered won't make it through The Independent and any responses that do come back will be shortened versions of "We don't have any policies we're ever going to implement because Britain has a two-party system. We just like to chip in with nonsense about PR every so often".

Stop wasting bandwidth.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

"Disparate and misinformed Fear will keep us all in place"

Those musically knowledgeable amongst you will recognise the above lyrics from the song 'Hunting for Witches' by Bloc Party, something of an anthem for liberals everywhere I think. 'Hunting for Witches' is probably an appropriate title for this article that turned up a few days ago. I caught it on the start of 'The Wright Stuff' on Channel 5 on Friday.

Basically a couple of police forces in England released radio adverts encouraging members of the public to check if other people are sex offenders by making use of a scheme in place. Immediately once can imagine the sort of people using this scheme. Gossipy women, twats of neighbours, clingy parents.

As a libertarian I am absolutely outraged by this! The scheme can only do more damage than good. Imagine finding out for example your mother-in-law or even your fiancé had checked you out. This alone would be enough to destroy a relationship.

I'm not advocating an absolute right to privacy for paedophiles but there are already effective systems in place to prevent close contact with children. The system promotes widespread distrust and could result in rehabilitated offenders being victimised.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Coming up short

Silvio Berlusconi hosting the G8 summit only seems to enforce the idea that the meeting is little more than a jolly boys (and girl) outing. I'm not saying it's going to be a typical Berlusconi party with topless 18 year old girls but the Italian host only makes the meeting more farcical than it already is.

Arguably this is a heck of a shame as the top 8 countries wield a lot of power, particularly in relation to overseas aid. The G8 nations promised in 2005 to deliver $22 billion in aid by 2010 but four years since this commitment only $7 billion has been spent. Organisations such as Bono's ONE blame this on countries like Italy and France who have only given 3% and 7% respectively of their pledged commitment but one has to remember that one of the other major talking points in L'Aquila, the global financial crisis has put pressure on all countries.

However, whilst the recession is a cause for concern in the developed world it can be a matter of life and death in Africa. Overall growth in sub-Saharan GDP is set to drop from 5.5% in 2008 to 1.5% in 2009. This is better than a lot of countries but when considering population will continue to grow at around 3% this is potentially disastrous with 53 million additional Africans living on less than $2 a day.

From a broader economic view this may be a blessing in disguise. More and more politicians from around the world are questioning the worth of giving to a continent which loses $150 billion through corruption a year and many economists believe that aid leaves African leaders unmotivated to make changes. Despite this, with businesses failing in both America and Western Europe I would hope that more venture capitalists look towards Africa for a more sustainable source of income for various sub-Saharan nations. Foreign investment in Africa is only around 1.7% at the moment but the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts an increase by 16.8% this year.

One success story is Liberia, a country torn apart by civil war in 1993 and plagued by political instability until 2005 is now reforming. Companies such as BRE are investing in rubber plantations. Now Liberia's predicted GDP per capita growth for the next decade is 6.3% compared with -0.5% for the last decade.

So my advice for the G8 leaders? Enjoy the sunshine.

Monday, 6 July 2009

STARTing the Iran discussion

During the cold war, meetings between the leader of Russia and America over nuclear weapons were a cause for concern across the rest of the world. With the capability to destroy mankind several times over, countries understandably sat with a sense of unease. Twenty years after the cold war has finished and America is still not Russia's best friend by a long shot. When Barack Obama meets President Dmitry Medvedev today he will not have the cheering fans he has come to expect in other countries nor the over-hyped media coverage.

Despite all this the meeting is hugely important. Sure the Russian economy is suffering more than most in the global recession with the steel industry being hit particularly hard but prudence in the good times, an extensive influence over former Soviet states and more nuclear warheads than the rest of the world put together make Russia a global player on the world stage.

Many issues will be discussed in Moscow from relations with Ukraine to environmental concerns but I think the most important issue could come to be Iran. As the West looked on with growing concern at events in Tehran, neither Medvedev or indeed Prime Minister Putin even mentioned the contested election. In fact Russia was the first country to officially receive Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his re-election.

There is certainly a special relationship between the bordering countries. Russia sees Iran as an entrance into Middle East politics whilst Iran themselves have benefited from Russia defending their interests. Of course the Russians have concerns over a nuclear Iran but don't think sanctions will stop the Islamic Republic and will rather have the effect of enraging hard-liners.

This is probably the most sensible line to adopt when looking at the issue realistically. While America and Russia re-negotiate their own START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) it may be a worthwhile cause trying to restrict the number of nukes Iran is allowed. In return for the world recognising Iran's nuclear ambitions they may well be willing to compromise in terms of the number of warheads or even a U.N. presence at their facilities.

In all honesty this may be stretching my imagination to its outer limits as Russia's relationship with Iran is nothing like say China's with N. Korea; plus Russia has more pressing concerns on it's other, European, borders. Nevertheless one has to question what is the point of having an influence in the Middle East if you're not prepared to use it?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

"Are you leading the news with that?"

Those are the words of David Milliband this morning on the Andrew Marr show in response to the leading story in the Mail on Sunday.

The newspaper suggests that the future head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, has been exposed to a potential security risk after his wife maintained a Facebook page with basically no privacy settings. Before being taken down from the social networking site, the page gave information of where Sawers lives and works along with where he goes on holiday and various high-profile connections including one with controversial right-wing historian David Irving.

There have already been questions raised as to whether the story compromises Sawers appointment to the position. Patrick Mercer MP, chairman of the counter-terrorism sub-committee, explained that he had some concerns over the potential security risk at stake whilst Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Edward Davey demanded an inquiry into the security implications.

It was left then to our Foreign Secretary to (once again) be the voice of reason in this furore alongside former Prime Minister Sir John Major. Milliband suggested that the amount of information released would not have been that great via Faceboook. For instance, the associations on the site are people with whom Lady Sawers is 'friends' with. I agree wholeheartedly with this view; so we know where the family went on holiday but it's not like we've got dates, flight details and what movie they're going to watch during the journey!

I can see why a newspaper would want to run with this story but Major agreed with Milliband that the issue had been "overblown". And as the Foreign Secretary so well put it: "the head of the MI6 goes swimming - wow, that really is exciting."

As a sidenote I would like to comment that I have generally been very impressed with the performance of David Milliband MP. He could easily have resigned a few weeks ago and left the government in disarray but he has stood strong and not sold out. The reaction by the British Foreign Ministry in relation to events in Iran has also been very well thought out and sensible despite the pressure on the Labour Party at home.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A message from "very good looking gilr"

I apologise to all of you who thoroughly enjoy my politically based musings but this message sent to my blog profile is well worth sharing!

good day dearest my name is joykassala very good looking gilr and honest i saw your profile today and became intrested in you,i will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send an email to my email address so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am.Here is my contacts email address ( i believe we can move from here! (Remeber the distance or colour does age not matter but love matters alot in life) I will be happy to seeing a good responds from you a lof of kiss and love to you.
Thanks and remain blessed.
Your's in lovely

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Now on Special Offer

So it emerged the other day that the Royal Family cost each British taxpayer 69p per year to maintain. Being the stark (raving) liberal that I am you may well have assumed that I would be well against this 'Imperialist ancient taxation' but I am not and would like to explain my reasoning based on a pure economic footing.

In America there is a subsidy for mohair. This has been around for years, originally used to guarantee the production of military uniforms. It has hung around though for more than 50 years later as one of those obscure taxes that only costs the American taxpayer a few cents per year. Nevertheless, pressure on state senators has made sure the subsidy always makes it through the budget.

Anyway the point is that this small subsidy doesn't provide any economic benefit. Journalist Eric Pianin suggested in 1953 that it "does little more than line the pockets of western ranchers who raise goats and sheep". The Royal family on the other hand are probably the first thing tourists think about when visiting Britain. I'm not saying that's all there is in Britain and tourism will just die but it has to be said that the Royals are part of our culture. The Queen as Head of State also performs an important function. State visits are important for a lot of countries and there is definitely something of a buzz when the Queen of England comes to town. I think this stems from what Walter Bagehot described as the "dignified part of government", although not truly performing an efficient part of governmental work the monarchy is venerable and respected. I furthermore believe that this acts as a stabilising influence on the political system when governments come into disrepute.

This isn't the traditional BNP rhetoric that the Royal family are what make Britain British but I think that people should look at this issue rationally and make a sensible choice.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Soto-may-or may not have ruined her chances?

This is more of an update on a previous blog I did but it is a story that I have followed closely for a variety of reasons.

The news came in today that the Sotomayor decision that was up for review by the Supreme Court had been reversed by a 5-4 majority. I searched via twitter to check for reaction in the States and was surprised by what I found. A lot showed very little knowledge of the case and took to the assumption that Sotomayor was discriminating against white people; even amongst the educated class.

If this was the reaction amongst some academics you can only begin to imagine what the wider public thought. As well as the offensive cartoon above, many more people took her decision as an attack on white people in general. Others were just plain racist.

The truth of the matter is that she is likely to be confirmed anyway. She has an outstanding background as a prosecutor, lawyer and judge and there is the obvious political difficulty with attacking a Hispanic nominee. Plus the Senate will look at the New Haven decision but certainly more objectively than the American public.

One more sensible 'tweet' points out that even if Sotomayor was present in the court, the decision would still have been the same. This is true if looking purely along liberal/conservative lines but often a judge can influence the whole court on decisions close to their heart, one only has to look at Safford Unified School District vs. Redding for an example.

So rather than looking upon the reversal as a potential roadblock to tenure, people ought to take note of what is to come from Sotomayor. A lady who feels strongly about discrimination could lead to major beneficial interpretations of the constitution in the future.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Gran Cuñado is Watching You!

The crazy series of events you have just seen unfolding before your very eyes was part of a spoof Argentinian gameshow called 'Gran Cuñado' which loosely translates as 'Big Brother-in-law'. Effectively, 19 comedians have all dressed up as exaggerated caricatures of candidates for the mid-term legislative election on the 28th June. In fact, the election was not due until October but was brought forward by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as something of a referendum on the Kirchner rule that has dominated Argentina for the past 6 years.

The show really lays into the Kirchners but this is only a reflection of widespread opinion. Polls suggest that the ruling couple will lose their majority in the lower house of Congress. Another thing that has not helped them is the emergence of a more cohesive opposition from their own Peronist movement. In particular, Colombian born businessman Francisco de Narváez is leading a high profile campaign in Buenos Aires against former president Néstor Kirchner. A failure to top the poll in an area which accounts for 40% of the electorate would certainly be seen as a humiliating defeat.

The reason for this change of fortune seems to be the rejection of Kirchner economic policy, yet at first glance this seems impossible to believe. During Mr. Kirchner's time as president between 2003-7, the Argentinian economy recovered swiftly from the collapse of 2001-2 mainly as a result of debt restructuring by Kirchner. What's more it seems that Argentina is making an early recovery from the current global recession with export prices improving.

Whilst Mrs. Kirchner was elected in a landslide in 2007, it was widely believed she would be less hardline than her husband. This has not been the case thus far though and attempts to raise taxes on agricultural exports were resoundingly rejected whilst Mrs. Kirchner seems to have gone to war with private business in general.

On the ground, unemployment is a growing concern amongst the Argentinian people with rates rising as high as 17% in some areas of Buenos Aires. In the same areas the poor rate is as high as 40%, figures not seen since 2002.

With Argentina being one of the economic powerhouses in South America, perhaps it is up to de Narváez to promote the restoration of capitalism. Although he cannot run in the next presidential election (being foreign born), his potential success later this month should send a message to the president that more business-friendly policies are what is needed to not only solve unemployment but also make Argentina a major global economic force on the other side of the recession.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Preparing for the Future

The Mansion House speeches are normally more of a back patting exercise rather than the substantial debate of economic policy seen on the 17th June. The reason for this is the collapse of the financial system and in particular the near-death of the banks last October. All of this has resulted in the biggest rift between the government and the Bank of England since Gordon Brown (as chancellor) freed them 12 years ago.

In many respects Alistair Darling is lucky to be making a speech at all after the recent cabinet reshuffle. Nevertheless the speech is representative of new Labour policy and make interesting reading. Firstly, Mervyn King stated that the central bank should not only take charge of macroprudential regulation but should also be given new powers in order to do so effectively. This echoes the position of the Conservative party but in stark contrast, Darling suggested that "to concentrate on institutions seems to me to miss the point". In effect Darling said that no one system of regulation has protected a country though this view in itself seems to be missing the point and also appears naive of the situation.

The most interesting exchange though took place on the European level. This comes after a meeting of European leaders on the 18th and 19th June where it was recommended that more regulatory power be shifted to Europe. The proposals would include a 'European Systemic Risk Board' (ESRB) that would look out for dangers to financial stability then suggest how to avoid them flaring up any further. On top of this a 'European System of Financial Supervisors' would aim for more convergence in financial regulation.

In general I am an anti-European man myself but if you had asked me in 1957 whether I supported the newly formed European Economic Community (EEC) I would have said yes. Any institution which facilitates free trade is good in my eyes. This is why I support these reforms even where pro-European new Labour have some concerns. Darling agrees that there should be more co-operation on both a European and global level but dislikes the proposed commanding role of the head of the European Central Bank as well as believing bank supervision should remain a national responsibility. To a large extent I agree with this position. If, as happened with the EEC, Europe begins sticking it's oar in where it is not wanted then we may not only lose our own sovereignty but, particularly here, land ourselves in serious economic trouble. However, it should be noted that when European Finance Ministers met on the 9th June it was recognised that European supervisory ruling should not impinge on national fiscal sovereignty.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Power to the Tweeple!

Most of the blogs on here tend to be very generalised accounts of governments across the world but this is a bit more localised and personal.

For some reason we get the Daily Mail delivered to our house. We used to get the Daily Express but for some reason (my mother's Nazi tendencies) the authoritarian bile poisons our letter box every morning.

From this attitude you can imagine my glee when my beloved twitter launched a campaign involving many influential tweeters to skew the poll asking "Should the NHS allow gypsies to jump the queue?" towards the positive. Reports have come in that within 20 minutes we were already at 86% yes 32% no! By 94-6 the Daily Mail responded by removing the poll. At a time when the Iranian regime is being criticised by the world press for something very similar, it is interesting to see the same thing here in our own country.

What will possibly be most interesting is the reaction of the Daily Mail. It seems hard to defend their position, especially as these polls are specially constructed. Furthermore they can't argue that twitter users are all lefties because there is a clear sense of irony. A fightback against such medieval attitudes.

Hopefully the rest of the press will have a field day too. I've already seen an online response by The Guardian and MSN has branded the poll 'ridiculous'. With the Mail trying to corrupt the British people's views towards xenophobic hatred, hopefully this will give the public a much-needed reality check.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Bibi See Two

In a landmark speech on Sunday, Binyamin Netanyahu finally accepted the two-state solution proposed by many as the answer to the Palestine-Israeli conflict. President Obama may rightly call this a victory on his part, but has this truly made a difference to the position we were in before?

Looking at Israeli politics it seems that only those on the far-right have publicly condemned the speech as a "surrender". Within the governing coalition there have been some small grumblings but nothing on the scale one would naturally expect.

The reason for this can be noted by a detailed look at the speech itself. Netanyahu stated he would accept the Palestinian state if two principles were fulfilled. The first of these has been labelled by Hamas as racist, which maybe goes a step too far, but the actual criticism itself is well grounded. The principle that a Palestinian state must “clearly and unambiguously recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people” has certain side effects which discriminate against the Palestinian people. In plain terms it means that any Palestinian refugees would have to be settled outside Israel's border so as to not "undermine Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people".

Secondly Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinian state be completely demilitarised. This also means that the government may form no military pacts with other countries and would have no control over its own airspace. In a 21st century middle-east this is completely unfeasible and will have to be challenged.

Hence we return to Obama who has to make the most of this concession. The general acceptance of a two-state solution has to be welcomed as a step forward but now a fair, realistic deal must be brokered.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Iran Votes 09

Today Iranians go to the polls in what is probably one of the most interesting political systems in the world. The Islamic Republic's politics is dominated by religion but with a number of candidates presenting a challenge to the incumbent Ahmadinejad the contest is turning into the sort of slagging match we would expect here in the UK.

Originally the contest looked as if it were going to be rather dull when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, seemed to show support for Ahmadinejad and resultantly Muhammad Khatami pulled out. Furthermore the Council of Guardians removed many of the candidates in May. When this occured only three opponents were left standing: Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi on a mildly reformist platform; and Mohsen Rezai of the ultra-conservative wing.

Although it is likely that the reformist candidates will split the protest vote to allow Ahmadinejad back in, the level of interest in Iranian politics is as high as it was in 1979 on the eve of the Iran-Iraq war. However, it is possible that divisions amongst conservatives may lead to a second round run-off against a reformist challenger. In all likeliness the leading opponent is Mousavi and it is certainly true to say that if this is the case, Ahmadinejad will face a tough time of it.

Whatever happens, this election has undermined the once uncriticised Ahmadinejad and led to greater openness in a country which badly needs it.