Sunday, April 20, 2014

The modern political debate is mostly Right versus Centre. The consensus holds.

Left/Right in politics has long since lost its meaning. The Social Democratic victory had two origins. The Government from the centre by Conservatives from 1951-1964 and the Government from the centre by New Labour 1997-2010. In between we had  liberal democrats like Heath, Wilson, Callaghan and Major who did nothing to upset this consensus. The Thatcher era was the exception of course and many would see this as a necessary corrective. As a Social Democrat I think she went too far and regret that only the Falklands War and a divided Left permitted her to rule for so long. But once she was out of the way the norms were swiftly restored not to be strongly challenged again from Left or Right. Since Attlee there has been no Socialist Government and since Thatcher the prospects of a traditionally "Right Wing" one have vanished as well. Cameron's Government is to be deplored not because it is too right wing but because it is incompetent.

The voices challenging consensus are strong and almost exclusively from the Right. It is mainly the Tories on the Right who tease the consensus and I believe that, even though I disagree with them, it is healthy that they do. Rather less healthy is the unintellectual populism of UKIP who unlike the Tory Right like Douglas Carswell, Dan Hannan (etc.) has no rational, credible basis at all. Which may be why few Tories of any seriousness have joined Mr Farage!

What we miss in modern politics is strong articulate stating of the socialist case. Indeed few even claim to be socialists these days. I miss that not because I particularly want a Socialist government but because the debate arena is weekend by it being Right v Centre rather than Right v Left. I know the centre has won - and that we are choosing managers not leaders any more. But the debate is rather impoverished by this reality. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The silly irrelevance that is the"Commonwealth"

The Commonwealth is an idea whose time should never have come - and a very bad one. In the main Britain's withdrawal from Empire was swift if not entirely peaceful. But we got out, as we had to, and those Nations we had subjugated became independent. The detritus from Empire is sadly still there to be seen in all too many cases and our hands will never be entirely clean. But we are, thank God, no longer an Imperial power - a few embarrassing possessions aside.

The Commonwealth was the invention of those who could not come to terms with the loss of Empire. It was, remember, initially called the " British Commonwealth". Gradually, however, the old Imperial ties became largely unimportant - the notion of "Commonwealth Preference", for example, withered on the vine. And what are we left with? Not a lot. Some still peddle the notion that there is an "Anglosphere" (the Commonwealth plus the United States) - but few pay this much attention.

We may not all like the modern political and economic realities but they are not going to change. They are (1) China and ASEAN - the Pacific Rim. (2) The United States and Canada. (3) The European Union. (4) Africa (5) The Middle East (6) South America - oh and (7) Russia and its friends of course. Each grouping has geographical and economic logic. Britain has one home and one home only - in the EU.

The Commonwealth is at best a talking shop and one that is largely ignored by the rest of the World. It has no political or economic relevance. It can do nothing. Pass no laws. Create no wealth. Protect no citizen. It's a preposterous anachronistic irrelevance long past it's sell-by date. And its "Games" count for nothing in a world which has events of real substance galore.

(Just a post script for avoidance of doubt. I am not saying that Supra-political bodies are not important.  Just that they need to be universal, like the UN, and have a logic to their construct. The Commonwealth isn't one and can't ever be.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lord protect us from a Banker Prime Minister !

There is no evidence that successful businessmen make successful politicians - Hezza aside maybe.  I see nothing in Sajid Javid's story that makes me thing that he is anything more than a clever, ambitious self-promoting neo-liberal who believes that Britain can be run like a business. 

His equanimity about Britain being outside the EU is self-interest. There is a hardly a respectable business figure who would agree with him. I see no evidence of any beliefs other than those that hit the Tory hot buttons. Everything he says is designed to build his CV - and Cameron has fallen for it and helped him on his way. If you read through his tweets over the past few months there is no humour,no hinterland no originality. Just slavish approval for Cameron/Osborne and dismissive rudery about Labour

I appreciate that Tories are clutching at straws - Stephen Pollard has already said he wants Javid in Number 10 NOW!! - but Mr Javid is a curious choice. Because the business world is so discredited that the last thing most of us would vote for is a Banker Prime Minister. What a ghastly idea ! 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

UK Inflation is significantly understated

In a post on the ConHome website today Mel Stride MP celebrates Britain's "low" inflation and castigates Labour for getting it wrong. But it's Mr Stride, not Labour, who is being delusional about the Cost of Living. 

The CPI and RPI measures of inflation significantly understate the inflation that most of us experience. It will emerge in the weeks ahead that real consumer inflation is nearer 8% than the 2% the indices suggest. Some wages are increasing as well but not at this level. For those living on Pensions the CPI cap means that their standard of living is reducing and many are suffering. An inability to afford food means that the poorest are and will increasingly be suffering from malnutrition as they spend what they have on cheaper food with empty calories. Food Banks in our cities have to provide emergency relief for increasing numbers of the poor. Meanwhile the inevitable return to normal interest rates though maybe not in this Parliament for electoral reasons will further exacerbate inflation and make a bad situation worse.

This Government has nothing to boast about on prices. The figures are fixed - not least because the inflation of assets like housing costs are excluded from CPI. There are lies, damn lies and statistics. And politically nuanced statistics are the biggest lie of all.