Saturday, 5 November 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

It is quite right of course that the nation today commemorates Guy Fawkes, who today stands alongside Robin Hood as an iconic national hero who did his bit to free Britain of tyranny. As an effigy of the Speaker of the House of Commons is burned on countless bonfires across the land, and Squeaker Bercow, like Gorbals Mick before him, disappears in a shower of flames and sparks, the British people make their annual reminder to the political class to beware. 



Friday, 4 November 2011

Sorry, you can't change history

During my lifetime the African continent has made the most phenomenal social advances. In the cities with power supplies, refrigerators, aircon units and televisions equip even the humblest shanty or shack; cellphones have enabled those cities to avoid the 'copper cage' telecoms stage altogether, and cheap jet travel from city to city has bypassed the expense of building roads and railways. The death-toll from simple preventable disease has plummeted. Something else is noticeable as well; modern Africans all wear Western-style clothes that cover their breasts and genitals. 


It must be extraordinarily difficult for today's young people to imagine the African continent as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. It was the staple of our childhood cinema and television; Armand and Michaela Denis were household names, we never missed an episode of 'Daktari' (with Clarence the cross-eyed Lion), and every other wildlife documentary was set in the great rift valley or on the savannah. Africans were of two distinct types. Firstly were the educated, Westernised inheritors of Empire who shared our values system and our tailors. Then there were all the primitive village folk, in loincloths with bone earrings, who were variously porters, unskilled labour or wildlife poachers. Grinning women with huge swinging dugs and infants on their hip waited table, and blokes with flapping todgers ran around the place joy-shrieking. The nudity was, quite frankly, what made these programmes and documentaries interesting to a young English chap. 


All the academic and historical evidence supports this depiction as more authentic than not. Not everywhere, of course; not in the nascent cities, nor in places with the lengthiest history of colonisation or civilisation. But generally in that swath of the continent south of Addis Ababa, north of Pretoria and east of Kinshasa.  


Instead of trying to censor history, we should celebrate that the people of that continent have advanced so far in so short a period of time. You really can't overlay the present on the past with any degree of academic honesty. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Eurotank crushes Greek democracy

As an object lesson in the power that the EU can bring to bear when threatened, George Papandreou is feeling the full force. He is being crushed by a cabal of thwarted Euro-Socialism through his own PASOK party and every member of the Euro-Socialist PES grouping, including Mzz Ashton and five other Commissioners and significant numbers from the European Council, Council of Europe and European Parliament. PASOK supplies 8 MEPs and the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damaniki, all of whom are furious at Papandreou for threatening their comfortable existences. The truth has never been so obvious that these people are a class apart, willing to sacrifice their own nations and peoples on the altar of EuroFederalism and for their own deeply corrupt self-interest.


However, the Referendum is out of the bottle now and it won't be as easy to get it back in. If Papandreou resigns and the Referendum is cancelled, I predict fury on the streets of Athens. These are serious times indeed. 

Will Kelly damn UKIP?

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the future centre of gravity of British politics will be determined by the way in which the recommendations of Sir Christopher Kelly's committee into party finance are implemented. Peter Oborne reminds us in the Telegraph this morning that UKIP could be set to become the third force in Parliament, replacing the Lib Dems. Oho. Not if Kelly repeats Hayden Phillips' deeply corrupt and undemocratic  funding recommendation they won't.


Phillips recommended that parties get £3 each year for each vote cast for them in the last election. This favours incumbency, favours the existing party triumverate, locks in stasis (mandarins would call this 'stability') and mitigates against any new parties gaining recognition. The Lib Dems would be funded on the basis of their 2010 high, not their 2011 lows, and would go into the 2015 election with a wholly corrupt advantage, and keep the balance of the political centre on the left. Never mind that forty-five millions of electors are given no say in whether they want tax funds to go to the parties - making the move also a deeply and dangerously anti-democratic one.


Kelly will no doubt conveniently ignore, as did Phillips, the proposal made by Helena Kennedy's 'Power' Inquiry some years ago now. This was for a separate funding poll slip to be taken into the voting booth; electors could select any party to receive £3 a year of tax funds, not necessarily the one they were voting for, or could choose none at all. Thus voters who object to tax funds being given to parties could veto funding made in their name, and electors could make an intelligent choice about whether to fund UKIP whilst voting Conservative, or to fund the LibDems whilst voting Labour. It was a fair and equitable proposal, and therefore deeply unwelcome to the mandarins and to the State political class. 


But make no mistake. The Kelly report will be the most important thing that happens in British politics this year. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

There's only one story today

It won't last until a Greek referendum in January. There's doubt it will last until the end of the month. The Euro-stitch up is coming unravelled faster than a cheap sweater from Asda. China has snubbed invitations to buy up Euro debt, and even the US is rattled. Yet Greece comes somewhere in the global GDP league between Denmark and Columbia - hardly a major league player. 


The demise of the Euro was inevitable. The only question was when. It seems it might be 'now'. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Votes for the Dead?

John Donne may find some philosophical comfort in it, Wellington and Nelson will no doubt agree that a whiff of grape would shift 'em whilst poor Ethelred will not have made up his mind yet. 




Thanks to the Telegraph for this

One Nation

The times are certainly a-changing, perhaps more rapidly than at any time I can recall. Take the rewards of the most senior figures in our society, the Supreme Court judges, Generals, university Vice Chancellors. They can expect a working life in which the 'relativities' are maintained with a chauffeured car and a domestic servant as part of the job and in retirement no-one is much surprised to find them in a spoof-Lutyens house in Hampshire of the kind that requires a ride-on lawnmower. Fair enough. Yet these people were the 'Establishment', the privileged elite, the ruling class, against whom we protested in the 1970s through music and satire. Now their rewards - and status - are as nothing compared to those that head and manage the transnational corporates; they are as far below an investment banker in income terms as an unemployed teen is below a GP. 


And this is what's happened since the 1970s; a new class of the global super-rich has grown almost without notice, and with them a top-tier of earners in the City and global finance, and the CEOs, skimming the cream off the assets they manage for anyone in a pension fund or with investments. The fact that it's not their money that enables some 140 corporates to control 60% of invested wealth is an irrelevance - it's the fact that global corporates act solely for their own ends that matters. The nurses and teachers whose pension funds they manage (rapaciously) don't share in any increased quality of life, don't even get a sniff of the wealth and privilege that those who invest 20% of their earnings enjoy. 


As Mary Riddell comments in the Telegraph, for the first time both main parties have picked up the zeitgeist.  There is a national recognition that these rewards are too great, the differentials too wide, that these folk have piled wealth upon wealth for themselves just because they can. Though the MSM tags the 'occupy' protests as anti-capitalist they're not; they're anti-corporatist. And if they're against globalisation they're not protectionist; they oppose the way in which international capital can dodge and evade national regulation, not the idea of 'a fair go' for any nation in the global marketplace. Above all they're a reminder that 'One Nation' finds a deep resonance in the English soul.  

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Mandelson claims victory over Cherie

With his recent purchase of a £12.5m mansion in Chelsea, Peter Mandelson has claimed victory over Cherie Blair in their long-running and frequently bitter house-owning competition. "Cherie owns more" said a source close to Mr Mandelson "but Peter's are bigger. And in better taste. Hers are cramped and a bit suburban". It is understood that Mandelson is also providing a luxurious 'State Bedroom' in his Chelsea home for former Prime Minister Tony Blair that trumps the bedrooms that Cherie has decorated in the couple's own Connaught Square terrace and Palladian country cottage. He has also acquired a new pet; "Peter's got a cat. We think it's to keep Cherie away; she absolutely can't stand them, and had that poor Downing Street moggie killed by the SAS."


Mr Blair himself is abroad this weekend, receiving the Gold Medal for International Humanity from the president of Tashkentistan in a lavish award ceremony that was scheduled to include several condemned criminals being boiled alive in butter, Tashkentistan's traditional method of execution. Mr Blair is said to have asked for the executions to be brought forward ahead of his visit because of a butter allergy.