Thursday, September 30, 2010

Iraq: Labour need a truth and reconciliation commission

 So, it did turn into a ‘geek’ tragedy after all, at least for David Miliband.  Just as we were all digesting Brother Ed’s rather dull but worthy address to conference on Tuesday, and thinking that Labour had  put the past behind it, a huge, ugly crack suddenly appeared in the facade of Labour conference unity.   In a fatal lapse of self control, the defeated David  turned to admonish his colleague, the deputy leader, Harriet Harman, for applauding Ed Miliband’s admission that the Iraq war had been wrong.  “Why are you clapping?” said Miliband D,  “You voted for it”. 

  Those eight words echoed around Manchester as David Miliband walked out of the shadow cabinet, the only action he could have taken.   Had he remained, there was a real risk that a kind of civil war could have broken out.  David Miliband wasn’t the only former minister to be outraged by Ed’s condemnation of their collective action over Iraq.   Every member of  the shadow cabinet  is going to have to submit to the 'were-you-clapping' test now brother Ed has finally admitted on their behalf that Iraq was a disaster.  How many, like Harriet Harman, privately agreed with him?   Why did they allow it to happen?  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who will lead Labour's Star Trek convention? Spock or Sulu

 Watching the five Labour leadership candidates enter the final straight this week,  I couldn’t help remembering David Cameron’s wicked quip about a Star Trek convention.  There is indeed a hint of the Starship Enterprise with David Miliband as Mr Spock - austere, rational, borderline autistic,  and Ed Balls as Captain Kirk - bumptious, over-promoted, lacking emotional intelligence.  Diane Abbott is of course  Uhura, interjecting every now and then from left field and being largely ignored. I see Ed Miliband as navigator Lieutenant Sulu, who knows the way ahead but sometimes has difficulty explaining it..  Andy Burnham, like Ensign Pavel, is the one whose name no one can remember. 

  The Labour hopefuls shouldn’t be too bothered -  the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, always regarded it as a political allegory.  Nevertheless, the sense that the entire leadership cadre of New Labour are not on the planet is something of a handicap in an election race before a very down to earth media. But what is it about the Labour leadership candidates that makes them seem just a little other-wordly?  I think it stems from the fact that all five are essentially policy wonks, career politicians who've risen to prominence in a party that has lost touch with  any kind of mass popular movement. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vince is about as Marxist as Adam Smith

 ‘’Vince Cable “not a Marxist”’said a BBC headline yesterday on the eve of  his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool.  Indeed, he is not.  Vince Cable is an economic conservative, who has long advocated free market capitalism and cutting the state.  . Cable was a prominent contributor to the LibDem “Orange Book” which argued  for market reforms in the public sector, including the NHS.  He is an enthusiastic advocate of the Chancellor, George Osborne’s deficit reduction programme

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nick Clegg: an apology.

  I suppose I should apologise.  I was one of those McChattering hacks who urged Scottish voters to consider backing the Liberal Democrats, tactically, last May.  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  The LibDem surge seemed like a unique opportunity to break the dead hand of the two-party monopoly in Westminster and introduce fair voting. It was time, I said, to bring an end to elective dictatorship once and for all.

    But look where it’s landed us: with the most conservative government in modern times pushing through the most swingeing programme of public spending cuts since the “Geddes Axe” of 1921.  And declaring war on welfare and the NHS (in England at least).  And what have we  Liberal Democrat fellow travellers got in return?  A referendum on the Alternative Vote method of proportional representation, which it isn’t actually proportional and which will very likely be defeated anyway.  Ok , they have got things like scrapping identity cards and a raising of tax thresholds, but these are small beer.  And now Nick Clegg has declared that there is "no future" for the Left in the new, Tory-friendly LibDems.  All those election promises about Trident, taxing the bankers, not increasing VAT, hammering CGT tax avoiders, abolishing tuition fees...all sacrificed in the interest of getting Liberal Democrat bums on cabinet seats. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is the Pope really a Catholic?

   So, atheists are Nazis according to Pope Benedict, speaking in Edinburgh today. This is just a little rich coming from a former member of the Hitler Youth. I don't believe that the Pope is or was a Nazi, but I think it was a peculiarly inept and thing to say.  It was offensive, also,  to the majority of people in this country who do not believe in god.   

The Pope's exact words were these:    "Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.  As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."  

   This is very dubious history. Adolf Hitler was a Christian, a Catholic who remained so all his life, though he wasn't very devout.  Nevertheless, he repeatedly invoked god and Christianity in his war against "faithless communism" and the jews.   In his Proclamation to the German Nation in February 1933 Hitler said  that "The National Government regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of our national life".  German soldiers were required to wear belts bearing the legend "Gott Mit Uns",   "god with us".  The SS was supposedly based on the Jesuits.  In the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of 1933 Hitler agreed to outlaw secular schools and have all teaching based on faith. 

  Now, just because Adolf Hitler believed in god, I don't conclude that Roman Catholics are Nazis.  But the pontiff really does suggest that atheists are morally responsible for fascism.  Following the remarks from, Cardinal Walter Kaspar, one of the Pope's senior advisers about Britain being "a third world land" full of "aggressive secularists", where Christians are victimised for wearing a cross, it rather suggests that this state visit is turning into a public relations disaster.  The Holy Father and the Roman Catholic leadership is becoming detached from reality. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Independence - Is that it?

As Alex Salmond’s flagship referendum bill sank beneath the waves last week, there were precious few mourners at the quayside, even amongst the SNP. There were even fewer criers of ‘betrayal’ - though the godfather of fundamentalism, the former SNP deputy leader, Jim Fairlie, remarked that: "at the mention of the word 'independence', a shiver ran through the ranks of the SNP, frantically searching for a spine to run up."

    The opposition parties snorted about broken promises and nails in the coffin of  Alex Salmond’s credibility, but it was pretty routine stuff - as if the abandonment of the independence referendum bill was just another item on the list of lost manifesto commitments along with local income tax, the Scottish Futures Trust and abolishing student debt. But it is much more than that.  Only two years ago, at the height of the SNP honeymoon, people were seriously talking about the momentum towards Scottish independence becoming unstoppable.  August bodies like the Constitution Unit at UCL in London were holding conferences on the mechanics of separation -  one referendum or two? how to split the national debt? It was more or less assumed that an independence referendum would happen, somehow. Not any more  

Friday, September 10, 2010

I have been naked with William Hague

   I can't keep this secret any longer.  It has to get out.  I have been naked, on several occasions, in a room with William Hague, who was also  without clothes.  Yes, I realise that this latest bombshell will re-ignite the whole two-men-in-a-bedroom scandal, but I can no other.  I have to get it off my chest.   I know my phone is tapped but I want to sell my story before they do.  

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Poor Tony: domestic abuse drove him to the bottle. A Journey is misery literature for the political classes

  So that explains it:  Tony Blair was pissed half the time.  One of the most extraordinary revelations in the former PM’s foray into confessional literature, “A Journey”, is that he was, by many medical definitions, a problem drinker.  A stiff G and T (3 units) and up to half bottle of wine (5 units) each night put the PM way over the government’s safe limit of 21 units a week.  Did it addle his brain? make him careless? affect his judgement?  Actually, I doubt it. By the standards of his predecessors in Number Ten, notably Winston Churchill who began his day with a large Scotch, had a bottle of  Pol Roger champagne for lunch and kept himself liberally topped up throughout the day, Blair’s imbibing was purely recreational.  However, it is a curious thing to highlight in a political  memoir. 

   But then, as its title suggests, “A Journey”  is a very modern   memoir - aimed at a media culture of confessional womens magazines and celebrity journalism.  What better way to get noticed, and divert attention from the real issues - like Iraq -  than to get onto the therapy couch and admit to having a little bit of a drink problem - just like countless middle class, middle aged men and women.    Just like his hero George W. Bush, in fact -  though Dubya gave up the bottle after he found God.  Tony lied too - and was “manipulative”, he tells us. But always in a good way.Amd of course he never felt comfortable in Scotland because it was Gordon country.