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Saturday, 27 September 2014

RAF destroys IS target ... maybe

From the Operations Control Room, RAF Akrotiri

RF Leader: Control - refuelling complete; we're good for another 4 hours over zone. Continuing holding pattern. Any targets yet?

RF Control: Red Flight Leader this is Red Flight Control; acknowledged. (anything from Waddington yet since that ox cart yesterday? You have? No, no, never mind - get it on screen) Red Flight Leader we have a potential target at grid Blue 22 ... a lone insurgent laagered with what looks like a herd of goats south of the vehicle track, over.

RF Leader: I have the target now Red Control; Are you sure it's not just a goatherd?

RF Control: We can see a black flag flying there, Red Leader - must be IS

RF Leader: Control, I think he just washed his Keffiyeh in the water hole and it's drying on the thorn bush

RF Control: Negative Red Leader; we have it as an IS flag here. Squadron will attack with Paveway munitions. Make your approach when ready

RF Leader: Roger Control; Squadron will attack in echelon formation. Images coming through now ...

RF Control: Acknowledged Red Leader. Out. (Fumpy? Get that film clip - half a second of the blurry bit just before the munitions hit then the shockwaves and blast debris - off to Northolt with the signal 'IS supply train formation attacked on line of communications and destroyed'. That should keep the PM quiet for today ..)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Global Corporates back EU shock

EU economic policy is driven by the interests of the ERT - the group of European global conglomerates with an inside track on policy making and with an influential hold over all new Commission initiatives. Emission standards for outboard motors? Airworthiness licenses for model aircraft? Any lunatic initiative you can think of that comes out of Brussels has been over the desks of the ERT gatekeepers. And is geared to give them economic advantage - and sod the interests of SMEs, local firms, Mom and Pop enterprises and the Mittelstand.

Some fifty ERT members sit as members of the Council at any time - the current make-up HERE includes just a few of the many FTSE 100 firms with strong links to this little known but powerful body. 

And they have taken over the voice of the CBI in a silent coup that has rendered the true voice of British business speechless; as Matthew Elliot writes for the Speccie
It is particularly disappointing to see Sir Mike Rake, in his role as President of the CBI, signing up to calls to abandon an EU referendum. The CBI made some positive noises about EU reform when David Cameron made his Bloomberg speech which called for renegotiation backed up by an EU referendum. Yet this support for reform seems rather hollow as the CBI’s true position has become apparent. It has gone from wanting to work with the PM to get the best deal, to suggesting that an EU referendum is a constitutional issue for the Government to decide, to now its President actively opposing giving voters a say. Given that independent polls show that business leaders overwhelmingly support a referendum (including CBI members), I’m sure many ordinary CBI members will be disappointed by this failure to back our best hope of securing a better deal for the UK. It’s reminiscent of how the CBI leadership misrepresented their views on the Euro, until Business for Sterling highlighted how out of step they were with both their members and the business community.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The next idiot to blame 'Apathy' ....

Like fat people who blame 'hormones' instead of eating too much for their condition, politicians prefer to blame 'apathy' for increasingly poor voter turn-outs in elections. However, the comprehensive inquiry into the myth of 'apathy' undertaken by Helena Kennedy for the Power inquiry demonstrated that far from being apathetic, nearly all are deeply engaged with political issues. They just don't like the politicians on offer. Low turn-outs are voters using the only protest weapon they feel they have available - boycotting democracy. They are therefore very much the fault of the political class.

The turn out for the Scottish vote must have filled many professional politicians with fear. Oh God, they must mumble, what if that many people voted at a GE? What if the 18 to 26 year-olds all voted? What if all the women turned up at the polling station?

The political class and their allies the global corporates are terrified of a fully engaged demos exercising the power of the vote. Their panic is reported in the Indie today as they urge themselves to block any opportunity for an EU referendum in the UK. And in a 'horror' paragraph that must sent chills of fear up their spines they report
Hundreds of people packed a hall in Clacton tonight to hear Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell, who defected from the Tories, pour scorn on the main parties. Mr Carswell is standing for Ukip in a by-election on 9 October that was triggered by his defection. All 700 tickets were taken, and organisers estimated that the numbers in the Clacton Coastal Academy hall could have been up to 1,000 with “standing room only”.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Local Government - Let a thousand flowers bloom!

If there are two words hated by the metropolitan political class they are Local Government. Add 'reform' and you have a subject that Prime Ministers, obsessed with legacy and international reputation, would rather spend a holiday in a leper hospital than tackle. Local Government is the antithesis of sexy. Yet if there is to be a meaningful devolution of power from Whitehall and Westminster we need a local democratic structure geared to receiving it. 

Firstly, there is no one single model of local government that fits all of England, its counties or regions. This will come as a shock to Whitehall, who imagine that 'one system fits all' is the way to go. Nick Drew has drawn attention to the manifest failure of the Cabinet system - under which councils are prevented by law from having more than ten councillors making the decisions. There may be places where this works - if so, they should keep it. If not, a multiplicity of alternatives are available. 

I've previously used the township of Vail in Colorado as an example of a small community that runs its own police, fire, library service, buses, street cleaning and refuse disposal, street repairs and lighting and so on. Education is a County level responsibility. But Vail isn't the only local government sub-division in Colorado; the State has 64 counties, two of which (Denver and Broomfield) are 'unitary' city and counties. The other 62 accommodate 269 incorporated municipalities - a variety of statutory towns, statutory cities, home rule municipalities and one territorial charter. All have slightly different rules, laws and ways of doing things; Denver has a party-free Mayor and Council (though they tend to be Democrats, they're elected as independent persons - not party hacks). There are a multiplicity of taxes, charges, subventions, virements and so on, but it all hangs together and there is a very high degree of autonomy and a highly localist distribution of democratic decision making. Denver City Council, which runs the police force, legalised personal possession of  cannabis after 53.5% of electors voted in favour. It's a bit like Norwich voting to do the same - and Norfolk County Council allowing them to do so. 

There will be throughout England a multiplicity of local government inheritances, boundaries and structures that are within living memory and which even the disastrous centralising Local Government Act 1974 failed to eradicate from local memory. Some may be based on the old Hundreds, some may have a renewed role for Watch Committees, some Counties may want to form Consortia - which could potentially exercise a national power to rival London; imagine a reborn Northumbria governing everything from Yorkshire to the Scots border, with a full set of counties, cities and towns within it all exercising democratic power to the extent they desire. 

Once Whitehall is taught the lesson that their job is to enable localist solutions, not to design them centrally, then we stand a good chance of success. But I fear we must have a mass cull of permanent secretaries and undersecretaries to get there.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

Blair: "I must not tell lies"

The Telegraph reports that Blair says that we should listen to his advice and that the lessons he learnt taking decisions about the fall out from the 2003 war are worth 'appreciating'. OK, fair dos:- 

Helena Kennedy's warnings

A slightly late Monday morning listening to Farming Today discussing devolved powers on Radio 4 - could this be the start of a truly plenary national debate? Spoiled slightly by being followed by that decrepit monster Blair advising us to kill more people. Well he would, wouldn't he. Helena Kennedy's piece in the Guardian reminded me that I first saw Cameron at close range shortly after his elevation to party leader, at the QEII centre in Westminster speaking in support on the release of Kennedy's Power Inquiry report. She now writes presciently
It is becoming very clear that Scotland’s referendum is going to have far-reaching consequences – with the parties and ambitious politicians at each other’s throats for whatever advantage they can squeeze out of the results. My fear is that the establishment will use constitutional change simply to fix the status quo. The fix that the masters of the universe and many of our politicians want is one that leaves the same people in charge to do the same things.

There is no need for some long and deadly, great and good royal commission, but if you want people to really consider the consequences of changes you need to give them a genuine opportunity to participate. You can do that with deliberative polls, where people meet and hear the arguments and express their views. You can do it with people’s juries, where there are challenging questions and alternatives and a commitment to following through on the results. People should be able to organise around the issues in their own communities.

Instead, we are back to top-down control. This is not about doing things differently but about Westminster designing change to head off at the pass something deeper and more democratic. In the bars at party conferences they will be asking themselves: how can we control this and get the outcome we want?
The way the Power Inquiry was run is an exemplar it would be hard to better; a series of rolling nationwide consultative opportunities and a comprehensive report all done within a relatively very short time.

So please don't believe any politician who tells you that this sort of comprehensive consultation cannot be carried out in the time available; they will be lying. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Shifting Plates

A week, as they say, is a long time in politics. Few commentators could have imagined six weeks ago that the UK's political tectonic plates would have shifted by as much as they have - but this is the nature of tectonic plates. They're sticky and hard to move, so pressure builds up until all the movement happens at once. The parties are now looking at the impending GE in 2015 in quite a different way, and next week's expected recall of Parliament will see it start to play out.

Localism is something all parties toy with until they're in power, when the thought of giving any of it away to we ordinary folk suddenly becomes less attractive. As I've written many times before, the Labour party is constitutionally unable to implement localist policies without imploding; central command and control is so fundamental to socialism that without it the party transforms from socialist to communitarian. The Lib Dems are now an electoral irrelevance, all but dead at the polls but with enough MPs until 2015 to be able to interfere in the future. Only the Tories would have had the capacity to absorb and implement localism without self-destructing. I write 'would have had' - for the members, citizens, who would have made this possible have been disowned by the metropolitan party and now largely support UKIP.

A desperate Miliband has just announced an increase in minimum wage to £8 in a last ditch effort to improve Labour's poll ratings, but Labour's economics have no credibility any more with voters. Voters know it was Labour that buggered the economy, Labour that turned an official blind eye to the mass sexual abuse of vulnerable children by Muslims, Labour that has disempowered English voters to prop up its own power and Labour that will deny them the level of political participation that many are now waking to. A desperate Cameron will seek to devolve to England decisions on how to spend the money allocated by a central government without allowing England to decide instead how much money to allocate to the central State. 

I don't know how this will play out; my small voice will just continue to plug the same Localism I've plugged since I started this blog in 2007, on the basis of the candle principle.

Oh, and if you haven't read Simon Jenkins' Big Bang Localism yet, it's HERE.