Saturday, 2 March 2013

Charles Moore: The bulb begins to glow

It's always struck me as extraordinary how otherwise intelligent people are unable to see something that to me is perfectly clear, like looking at those dot pictures in which I can instantly recognise the hidden figure within whilst someone else squints, turns their head and tilts the picture through three planes saying "No, still can't see it". So it's with some satisfaction that I read Charles Moore in this morning's Telegraph and see the first feint glow appear in the lamp bulb. He's seen the hidden glyph for the first time. 

This and many other centre right, independent, non-aligned blogs and sites have been banging on about it for many years. Politics is local but politicians are centrist. The parties are dying. Fewer than 1% of the electorate are members of the Big Three. An alien metropolitan political class has hijacked our democracy. MPs now put party before country or constituency. Politicians have more in common with each-other than they do with their electors. The parties have become consumer brands competing on the same ground for market-share. Politics should be a vocation and not a career. Voters are not apathetic - they're angry and fed up. And now these truths are dawning on those such as Charles Moore perhaps we can move to the next stage.

He's mistaken only in a supposed surge in Tory membership that he attributed to Margaret Thatcher, and here is the danger of relying on anecdotal evidence. No doubt in the immediate range of her powerful penumbra she had this effect, but the Conservative party overall actually lost over a million members between 1979 and 1997 as a direct result of centralist policies that robbed local Conservative associations of power. 

Eastleigh demonstrates the circle to be squared. The parties must recognise that it is perfectly legitimate for a local MP to lead the campaign against the development of a local quarry without either the party having to adopt a manifesto position against domestic mineral extraction or taking from them the whip. The local party may support GM crops in Norfolk but oppose them in Wiltshire. And as Moore suggests, when the Chairmen of local parties write to ministers they should listen as intently as they did in the 1950s when Margaret Thatcher entered politics; had they done so, Sir David Nicholson would have been sacked many months ago, before he became an albatross around the neck of the government.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Take the kicking, boys

Tory boys would be well advised to keep quiet and take the kicking from Eastleigh. There will be more to come next year in the Euro elections when UKIP are set to wipe out the existing 26 Conservative MEPs. However, by-elections and Euro elections are not General Elections - and if Cameron plays his cards right, he may yet enjoy the benefits of those votes in 2015. 

Farage is a cheeky delight with his 'the Conservatives split the UKIP vote' comment on Eastleigh and many natural Tories will welcome the chance to give Dave and George a slap next year but that doesn't mean they want the Mister Eds in Downing Street. The correct tactic for Cameron and his dags is not therefore to insult protest voters as polyester-blazered golf club bore racists but (fully in line with the new macrobiotic spandex iPad gay cycling windmill direction the party has taken) to tell them they 'feel their pain' and empathise with their grief at losing the party they grew up with. And ask nicely for their votes in 2015.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Carry On, Home Secretary

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the political wing of the shadowy cult Common Purpose, has been whining over Home Secretary Theresa May's use of powers (introduced by Labour) to prevent jihadists from re-entering the country. It's therefore fairly obvious that she's doing something right.

Unfortunately, May's powers only permit her to revoke British citizenship for those doing something 'seriously prejudicial' to the UK's interests to those with dual nationality. This is a necessary safeguard to prevent zealous socialist ministers from cancelling the passports of UKIP members on holiday abroad. So there is no easy sanction against the sole British national jihadist training in a Pakistani terrorist training camp. For the rest, those with dual nationality, the message is simple;
  •  book your terrorist training package holiday in Pakistan, the Sudan or Yemen and fly out
  •  the Home Secretary cancels your British citizenship
  •  turn up at the immigration counter a month later to have your passport confiscated and be refused entry back into the UK
  •  be blocked from appealing to the ECHR because you're no longer a British citizen 
  •  return to Pakistan. Get martyred by a US drone.
Looks good to me. Now if only we could trust the Home Secretary with a power to act against sole UK citizens holidaying in the terrorist training camps ...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Five Star - breaking the mould?

Italy essentially had a two party system on British lines, with both parties competing for the centre-ground on a left - right axis. Indeed, mainstream commentators are still this morning analysing the election results as the balance between the two, like arms of a scale. Except that something quite extraordinary happened. A third party, Five Star, headed by a 'foul-mouthed comedian' (I thought that was Berlusconi?), has won 50 seats in the 315 seat Senate, holding the balance of power, and 100 of 630 seats in the lower house, a proportion the LibDems never even came close to, even at their high-water mark. They came from no-where, non aligned on the left-right axis but with a healthy contempt for the old politics and the self serving political class.

Like the Pirate Party in Germany, which now holds 45 seats in State Parliaments, M5S is benefiting from a popular wave of discontent with the established parties that is also giving UKIP an increased poll share in the UK.

Of course Italy is too big not to have a functioning government. If some sort of satisfactory coalition can't be patched together, they'll be back to the ballot box again and M5S will either disappear as a spent protest (probable) or return to Parliament greatly strengthened (unlikely). Either way, Europe's political foundations are feeling the first feint tremors of change, a process that can only be slowed by economic recovery. And there's precious little hope of that in the near future.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Inappropriate touching

The going-home train was stopped at New Cross. One door down, a feisty young black woman had a mute young white decorator in a vice-like grip, berating him at full Afro-Carib volume for having groped her bum in the packed standing scrum between the doors. "Only my boyfriend touches me there! What the Hell do you think I am? You want me to call the Police? You're a Sex Offender, man!" and so on. He wasn't putting up a fight, just standing there wishing a hole would open in the ground and swallow him up. Eventually, with some final words of contempt, she released him and the rest of us got home. His passivity and shameful look left none of us in doubt that he had been caught bang to rights.

It was a reminder to the rest of us of the importance of maintaining the minutest of gaps even on a packed standing service between your own anatomy and everyone else's, and of the complex process of shuffling and twisting to ensure it happens. We've become extremely sensitive to what is now termed 'inappropriate touching', and packed, oversubscribed commuter services are a particular danger spot.

Not very long ago, the letters NSIT (Not Safe In Taxis) against certain men's names in exchanged address books would give advanced warning of serial gropers. And no doubt there was some 17th century equivalent that designated Sam Pepys as NSIC. That the LibDems knew for many years that Christopher Rennard was not safe to be left alone with women, and this was general knowledge in the Party, can only harm their pretences of political probity.   

Perhaps the most effective way of dealing with gropers is the sort of public humiliation I witnessed at New Cross. For Rennard, stripping him of an honour earned solely for a career as a political dag would serve just as well.