Saturday, 31 March 2007

Ken Clarke - Democracy Task Force

Earlier this week, the Conservatives, through a group chaired by Ken Clarke, published a report, “An End to Sofa Government” [downloadable at http://tinyurl.com/fgc2b]. Whilst this is obviously a political tool with which to criticise the Blair government, the report’s recommendations would go a long way to ending Blair’s style.

I am prepared to believe that Ken Clarke believes the recommendations should be implemented but interestingly, the Conservatives have made little of this report.

Perhaps Cameron has no interest in implementing it.

Perhaps Cameron finds Blair’s style quite attractive.

Perhaps it is simply a way of highlighting the shortcomings of the Blair’s 10 years.

Whoever is PM, whatever party is in power after the next election recommendations similar to those in this report should be implemented for the benefit of all.

Friday, 30 March 2007

John McDonnell - What Now?

John McDonnell - What Now?

At some point I was going to post again about John McDonnell’s bid for the leadership of the Labour party (my first McDonnell post is here at http://tinyurl.com/ytszny). I was prompted to write tonight because of a post - Lobby Now for John McDonnell - on another blog (http://www.grimmerupnorth.blogspot.com/). The blogger, Susan, mentioned that McDonnell had the support of only about 22 MPs of the 44 needed to make the leadership ballot.

This brought my doubts back to the surface.

When I read about John’s “manifesto” I was so pleased because I had found policies I believed in but I had nagging doubts.

John McDonnell won’t win a general election.

John McDonnell won’t win the leadership.

John McDonnell may not even get the support of the 44 MPs which he needs for his nomination to go forward.

Therefore, what is the point of supporting John when the support will be unsuccessful. Should John make the ballot for leader the party debate, which will be held in the media, could lead to divisions which will be exploited by the Conservatives. Supporting John could increase the chances of a Conservative government.

Now, I know a scenario such as I have described would be a fairly elementary tactic to scare MPs and Labour party members to hide any divisions by falling in line behind Brown (say) but yet there is a certain logic to that.

I know too that many on the left will continue to support John regardless of his level of support.

The questions I have for those are:

“Why?”

“Why support John McDonnell when he has no chance of winning either election?”

“Why risk damaging the party’s chances of electoral success?”

I ask these questions only to help me resolve my difficulties. There is no intent to rubbish John or his supporters.

Now let me do my thinking on this page and put down reasons I think others may continue to support John.

Some might say:

“I believe in John and in his policies. I would be a hypocrite to deny my beliefs by supporting another candidate or by withdrawing my support from John. Whether brown or Cameron win the election is largely irrelevant because both follow similar policies. Therefore, my support for John - even if divisions are highlighted - is unlikely to have a huge effect on the country is governed.”

or

“A general election defeat for Labour may bring benefit to the left-wing of the party because the defeat will generate a reappraisal of its direction. Getting John onto the leadership ballot will raise he profile and policies of the left and so, should there be a reappraisal, the left will be better organised and better known to take advantage.”

or

“Even if John fails to make the ballot, his campaigning to date has raised the profile of the left after the years of Blairism. This is worthwhile because, although we would like success in the short-term, being successful at some point is crucial.”

or

“Following the Blair or Brown route is a guarantee of a continued right-wing policies and such is the disdain in which the party is held that the next election may be unwinnable. Therefore, there is little to lose by supporting my core beliefs.”

or

“My belief in socialist policies are so strong that I’d rather have a Tory government than compromise my beliefs.”

or

“If those with minority views gave up on them nothing would ever change. We would be a mono – society. Change is only possible because mainstream views are challenged. This is how it is on the left of the Labour party. We are a minority but change is possible but only if we continue to hold on to and grow our base.”

or

“ I have been a socialist virtually all my life. I am not changing my beliefs now just to make others’ political lives easier.”

There are so many possible reasons but I think, now, that my doubts arise because my leftism is intellectual. I am not a member of any political grouping nor of the Labour, or any other, party. Therefore, given that my support is intellectual my doubts too are free to be aired intellectually and my doubts have the same strength as my support: each given equal time and importance.

I assume that for most, if not all other, supporters of John McDonnell their support is almost visceral. Their belief in the policies is so strong, there commitment total that the questions which concern me don’t even arise for them.

I would be interested to hear from supporters of John.

Iran – UK Armed Forces …… More

Today has seen an excellent article in The Guardian (http://tinyurl.com/yuhq4m) which states: “the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.”

There followed a lively debate on the paper’s CiF blog. Most posters agreed with the writer as I did - I posted my blog of 26 March (http://tinyurl.com/yolbet). A significant number , however, rejected the view that Blair had lost the high ground because of his record in taking the UK into an illegal war and not speaking out against human rights abuses. They claimed that there was no equivalence between the innocent 15 in Iran and those in Guantanamo or those subjected to rendition flights and subsequent “questioning”.

The issue of equivalence (or not) is irrelevant to my case. Whatever our 15 in captivity have done or not done is irrelevant. Our leaders knew (or should have known) that an incident such as this could happen and that taking military action against whoever was involved was a non-starter. Therefore, having the moral and legal high ground would be crucial.

Blair lost this when he ”.… lied to get us to support war against Iraq – an illegal war; he could only describe Guantanamo as an “anomaly” despite the degradation and torture of inmates; he accepted the landing of rendition flights in the UK. He has supported the flouting of international law. Through him, the UK has flouted international law.

This is key: the loss of the legal and moral superiority.

Blair lost this superiority – no-one else.

Blair is responsible for this loss – no-one else

Blair has reduced his, and the government’s, ability to resolve the situation.

The Iranians have done the capturing but we, because of Blair, are unable to respond in the most appropriate way.

Whatever the Iranians do - whether it be legal or illegal, moral or immoral - Blair has willingly lost the ability to impose the maximum pressure.

He acts as though he has that power but there’s little there.

This is one of the tragedies of the Blair era.


Thursday, 29 March 2007

Charles Clarke …Again

"Politics is the means by which POLITICIANS influence, control and otherwise direct ORDINARY PEOPLE."

I started yesterday’s blog with this same quote. I didn’t know that today I’d be writing about Charles Clarke again!

I have just read the full text of Charles Clarke’s speech to The Royal Television Society (http://tinyurl.com/37tesj) and I am underwhelmed – massively.

I pick up on only one area – although I could have chosen many more.

His last sentence is: “It’s time for Labour politicians to stand up and address the only question which really matters, both for us and the country, ‘How Can Labour Win Again?’.

What matters to Clark - and he assumes to all of us – is not about finding the best policies for the country as a whole but the much narrower and blinkered view of determining how Labour can win.

In my first blog I wrote about Clarke:

I read in today's Guardian (28 Feb 07) that Charles Clarke - former UK Home Secretary - wrote:

"Politics is the means by which ordinary people influence, control and otherwise direct the society of which they are a part."

Bullshit!!

What he means is:

"Politics is the means by which POLITICIANS influence, control and otherwise direct ORDINARY PEOPLE."


Politics is about winning: winning in the country, winning power; AND doing what the politician always wanted to do. Politics is NOT about winning the argument. Having power means the argument is irrelevant unless losing the argument results in loss of power.

I was correct in February. I am correct now.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Never Ever Let The Dream Fade

"Politics is the means by which POLITICIANS influence, control and otherwise direct ORDINARY PEOPLE."

I wrote this in my first blog - as a rewrite of a statement by Charles Clarke. (http://calumcarr.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html)

Perhaps all governments are like this but Blair’s government has reached new depths. One of their techniques is spinning and lying. We know they spin and lie but here I am rabbiting on about even more spin.

When the Lancet paper on Iraqi deaths was published last year the UK, US and Australian governments all rubbished its findings. Now thanks to the BBC (http://tinyurl.com/33h265) the briefings and advice given to them is available.

The briefings said that the methodology was “close to best practice” and “cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."

The government rubbished the methodology and the report saying variously:

"The problem with this is that they are using an extrapolation technique from a relatively small sample, from an area of Iraq which isn't representative of the country as a whole.” and

"We have questioned that technique right from the beginning and we continue to do so.

Surprise ! Surprise! The governments responses did not match the briefings.

Although now questions have been raised about aspects of the study, when they rubbished the study the government had only the advice from its experts to rely on. They ignored this advice and attacked the study by lying.

Obviously this is no surprise. We know they do it. The difference here is that we can see both sides of this example.


Is there no depth they won’t plumb to hide the truth, to confuse us, to fool us. Every spin, every lie reduces our democracy. I could say that virtually every act of this government reduces our democracy but that would be a slight exaggeration.

We need to get back to politics as Charles Clarke actually described it. I now he doesn't believe this but it is still a good description: "Politics is the means by which ordinary people influence, control and otherwise direct the society of which they are a part."

With this government we won’t get back, with a Tory government we won’t get back. We need a fresh start.

But that is a dream, an unrealisable dream!


Unrealisable it may be but never, ever let the dream fade.




Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Children “may face criminal checks”

This was the headline in Guardian Unlimited on (Tuesday 27 March; http://tinyurl.com/32oz4h ). The article started:

A plan to introduce compulsory checks on children to discover whether they are at risk of turning into criminals has been condemned by headteachers.”

This was one proposal in the Security, Crime and Justice Review introduced by Tony Blair today [downloadable review at http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page11353.asp ]

The review states that the government may establish universal checks throughout a child's development to help service providers to identify those most at risk of offending”.

The general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers said that he was astonished by the plan.

It is worth looking at what the Policy Review actually states:

Page 31: Ensure that Children’s Trusts and their partners work together closely with YOTs in order to intervene at the earliest possible point, so that vulnerable children and those at risk of criminality are actively case-managed. This multi-disciplinary approach should be used to coordinate the identification and assessment of risk, for example by considering ‘trigger’ factors, such as a child’s parent being sentenced to custody or being addicted to high-harm drugs

Establish universal checks throughout a child’s development to help service providers to identify those most at risk of offending. These checks should piggyback on existing contact points such as the transition to secondary school.

This suggests looking for “trigger factors” likely to lead to criminality and working with those identified but the report on which this part of the Policy Review is based goes further it states:

It seems likely, therefore, that the most useful framework for developmental measurement and assessment would start from birth with indicators of childhood health and development, together with measurement of family income, education, parenting skill and social ties to the neighbourhood or in terms of wider social and familial networks. As children mature, teacher ratings will become relevant and should be built in. In cases where these forms of measurement indicate high levels of risk, then developmental knowledge of the children’s own physical and mental health, behaviour, attitudes and aspirations might be added, together with more detailed information about the family and social context, in order to inform decisions about intervention and support.”

This area of the Policy Review is based on the work of Leon Feinstein and Ricardo Sabates who produced a massive 122 page report for the PM Strategy Unit [downloadable from http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page10033.asp ].

CHECK FROM BIRTH!!!!

I can understand the desire to improve crime prevention. I can understand the desire to identify children at risk of offending but the idea of checking from birth is abhorrent – however well-intentioned.

The thrust of both the strategy paper and the Policy Review seems to be to work with those children identified as high risk and so reduce the likelihood of their offending. There is no plan listed whose aim is to help eradicate the so-called trigger factors from society. In fact, the Policy Review is worse. It states:

It was never this Government’s belief that poverty and deprivation were excuses for
crime. To say such a thing would be an insult to the vast majority of people from poor and deprived backgrounds who don’t commit crimes and who live good lives.

This portion suggests that because many brought up in poverty and deprivation do not become criminals that these factors can’t cause others to turn to crime. This statement has the same form as Blair’s common theme about the Iraq War not being an excuse for terror in Britain. He’s right but it sure as hell contributes to the problem.

I’ve picked up on only one tiny area of the Review. I imagine Wednesday’s papers will have much more about the entire Security, Crime and Justice Policy Review. My quick glance at it as I wrote this post flagged up many other contentious issues.


Monday, 26 March 2007

John McDonnell for Labour Leader

Yesterday I wrote about my dilemma over who should lead the Labour party (http://tinyurl.com/2mslrx). I looked at David Miliband’s possible challenge and considered the issues likely to influence his decision but my basic problem was that neither Miliband nor Brown supports the policies which I believe are necessary. I saw the election outcome as either a right-wing government under Brown or Miliband or a more right-wing government under Cameron. What a choice! It’s like having to decide if I want dog poo on my left or right shoe. Each is equally repugnant.

Then I remembered that John McDonnell was running for the leadership and I understood he was standing on a genuine left-wing programme and I mentioned that I needed to check out his “ticket”. Susan – thank you - at http://grimmerupnorth.blogspot.com/ kindly forwarded details of McDonnell’s website (http://www.john4leader.org.uk/) and I spent a bit of time reading through his policies.

Here, at last I found policies that made sense to me, policies I believed in and policies I believe are right for the country but as I read his policies I had the expected sinking feeling.

The policies are right but he’ll not win the Labour leadership and, even if he did, he wouldn’t win a general election. This was my dilemma yesterday.

Pushing the policies I believe in might provoke a split in Labour and, therefore, increase the chances of a Conservative government. Therefore, what do I do, stick by my beliefs or sell out in the hope of getting the slightly lesser of two evils.

I’m still unsure on this although my gut feel is to stick with my beliefs: there’s plenty time to sellout later! Perhaps my uncertainty means that I haven’t bought in to McDonnell’s policies. Perhaps, with buy-in there can be no sellout / compromise.

Regardless, I am further forward than I was yesterday.

John McDonnell for Labour leader!!

Iran and UK Soldiers

Blair finally broke cover and spoke on the UK soldiers - Iran crisis. He is quoted in today’s Guardian (Mon 26 March 07, http://tinyurl.com/2gb6lc) as saying:

"I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us," …….... "They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which was unjustified and wrong."


Let us assume, initially, that the British soldiers were in Iraqi waters. Blair is saying the right words with the right force and seriousness but yet there’s something lacking.


Blair is trying to use moral and legal power to show the Iranians how seriously we regard their unprovoked act and how right and just is the British case. Blair and the UK government should have the high ground in moral and legal terms but they don’t.


Blair lied to get us to support war against Iraq – an illegal war; he could only describe Guantanamo as an “anomaly” despite the degradation and torture of inmates; he accepted the landing of rendition flights in the UK. He has supported the flouting of international law. Through him, the UK has flouted international law. Through his despicable actions he has lost the moral and legal authority to stand up to illegal acts.


Now when he should be able to demand that international law be followed, he has only bluster, weakness and hypocrisy on his side.
He can talk only as a hypocrite - a hypocrite who supports the law when it suits his narrow purpose. His hypocrisy shines like a beacon of despair.


If the British soldiers were in Iranian waters – even if in error - then their position is much worse. But here again the UK’s weakness is the legacy of Blair’s hypocrisy. As upholders of international law and human rights we might have had some credibility in asking for the soldiers’ release but Blair’s fragrant breaches have removed this possibility.

All that is left for Blair is bluster. Again, not the correct approach. He should be quiet and let others work away in the background and he should hope that they can get the soldiers out of a hole of Blair's making.

Here we see Blair’s true legacy: a leader and government devoid of any moral, legal or political authority to defend its own citizens. His disregard for the rights of others has been brought home to his own doorstep.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Labour Leadership Dilemma

The leadership “battle” is getting tedious: the papers and TV are full of stories / comments which are pro-Brown, anti-Brown, anyone but Brown, pro-Milliband. There is nothing about policy only personality or lack of it in Milliband’s case, (apparently).

Mind you, despite being tedious I’m writing about it again.

I assume the thinking is that Milliband will continue with Blairite policies whereas Brown is seen as a threat to their continuing. Why the Blairites should worry about Brown’s direction is beyond me because, it seems, Brown is actively supportive of all of Blair’s controversial policies.

With Milliband and Brown seeing similar paths forward, my gut feel is that Brown, despite all the negative press, is Labour’s best chance of fending off Cameron but it is an unwanted choice. Unwanted because neither of them (B and M) espouses the policies closest to me.

We need much more left-wing policies but there follows a very obvious and basic question: “What is the point of having left-wing policies if you don’t have the power to implement them?” Opposition isn’t a great place to have good policies.

Therefore it is better having right-wing policies with Brown / Milliband than right-wing policies with Cameron.

No wonder the Labour leadership is tedious: all the policies are similar, it’s about personality.

But perhaps, just a teeny-weeny bit perhaps, there is another route. I haven’t read his policies but I have heard that John McDonnell is running for leadership on left-wing policies – I must check them out. Is this not simply a dream for people with my views: that John McDonnell could win or even influence the policies of the winner?

The argument will go something like this, I’m sure. By supporting John McDonnell you are flagging up splits in the Labour party which will hinder its chances of winning the next election. Therefore, please come back in from outside and support a candidate who has a chance of winning the election.

There is an unerring logic in this but to follow it would mean leaving beliefs behind. Blair, damn him, has been brilliant at using this approach which is why he has been able to push so many of his unpopular policies through despite some opposition. It’s a shitty position: compromise my beliefs and have right-wing Labour or righter-wing Tories or stay with my beliefs and have righter-wing Tories.

I was almost writing “Hey, now that I’ve actually written this down it’s obvious. Whatever I do I get right wing policies. Therefore I can safely support McDonnell” But, as I was typing, the following doubt arose, “Yes, both might be right wing but sure as hell the Tories will be worse than Labour.”


The Labour leadership dilemma ....



Saturday, 24 March 2007

England and Change

Another poor England performance and increasing clamour for a change of manager. The future will be better if only we get a new manager, a better manager, a world-class manager. If only the players show commitment, their true abilities. Only change will do. Is the public unrealistic?

Only one international trophy ever!!!

Of course, expectations are far too high and this leads to instability. If the current regime isn’t working then change it – now – and keep changing it until we get it right – now.

Politics is the same. If the NHS isn’t performing as we want then change it - now – and keep changing it until we get it right – now. There is no stability only constant and unnerving change. So many changes and none given the chance to bed in and work.

Too much change destroys our ability to have a better future.

All of us need to lower our expectations and give change a chance to work (or fail).

Therefore, keep Mclaren and don’t change until England fails to qualify.

Hopefully, while this happens, Scotland will progress quietly and qualify but, if Scottish performances drop then we must remember the correct approach: change the manager immediately!

Friday, 23 March 2007

Budget - What a Difference a Day Makes!!


Conservatives are less certain today than before the Budget. Brown’s 2p cut in the 22p tax rate has left many Tories wondering how to respond. Cutting taxes was not on the Tory horizon: the opportunities for Labour to proclaim the Tories as tax cutters and not investors in services would have been easy to make. Therefore, tax cuts were not mentioned but already, post-Budget, right-wing Tory peers have called for Cameron to pledge to cut taxes.

Therein lies Brown’s hope.

Cameron is desperate for Tory unity to continue but tax cuts are now firmly on the agenda and, that is the risk for Cameron. Any debate within the Tory party on tax cuts – even before any policy decisions are made - will be flagged as the old Tory ways resurfacing. Any policy decision to cut taxes will be attacked unremittingly.

Many bloggers have said that Brown has made it safe for Tories to talk about tax cuts. Not so!! Brown’s move, which I deplore, to remove the 10p band brings in, I believe, £7 billion whereas the 2p cut to 20p cuts the take by £8 billion. If (or when) Cameron pledges to cut income tax Brown has the defence that his 2p reduction was hardly a tax cut because the overall budget was tax neutral. Therefore, there is danger if Cameron pledges tax cuts. But the Tory peers have already applied pressure for cuts and have shown, if not a split, a difference in approach.

If Cameron doesn’t talk about tax cuts, Brown will harp on about his cut in Income Tax. Uncertainty again for Cameron.

However this actually plays out, Brown has succeeded in creating uncertainty within Tory ranks. For Brown and Labour that is a major plus. Does the Cameron team have the political nous to focus on the Budget’s shortcomings and to hold the line with those wanting tax cuts?

This is a big test for Cameron.

An over-reliance on Stalin jokes and a lack of intellectual rigour in his reply to the Budget statement suggest he may not be quite up to the task. [I must nail my colours to the mast. I do not want a Conservative government. I do not want a rerun of a Blair government but want a Labour government which is noticeably left-wing and considerably to the left of the current government. I know that I am heading for disappointment.]

How does Brown emerge from the Budget? That he can handle Cameron is obvious but the approach he brought to the Budget has done nothing to implant the idea that he is a statesman. A heavyweight, he undoubtedly is but a statesman certainly not. Brown was far too political: too tricky several papers have called him. There is his danger. Well, there is one of the many dangers for him but yet he will be comforted by the uncertainty he can see within the Conservatives. No doubt he will be concentrating on developing this uncertainty.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Cameron - Thoughts

I was looking back at earlier posts and I was surprised to see so many posts taken over by my thoughts of Tony Blair. How sad I am that I should spend so much time criticising Blair, his actions and his government. I really should move on and I think I shall – for tonight at least – and so I shall look at David Cameron.

I should make clear that whatever happens I shall NOT be voting Tory because Cameron will move further and faster than Blair.

Cameron has been very clever. Unlike his immediate predecessors he learned the lesson of New Labour and has re-occupied the centre ground. Howard, Duncan-Smith and Hague all moved away from Blair into the right-most right wing. How easy they made the elections for Blair. The increasing shift rightwards left voters – happiest in the middle ground with no chance of voting Tory. Easy for Tony.

But Blair wasn’t really occupying the middle ground he had moved to the right and taken British politics rightwards too and this was the opportunity which Cameron needed. He could move the Conservatives leftwards into this new middle ground and sit on the same territory as Blair and be happy that he had Tory policies because Blair’s policies were essentially Tory. In fact, Cameron, went even further: he moved to the left of Blair and still had Tory policies.

Another outcome of occupying the same space as Blair is that criticising Labour policies becomes more difficult the closer Cameron is to them but he has to do something and he has two options: he can support Labour proposals when it suits him – to Blair’s embarrassment – and he can assume a reasonable and constructive tone rather than a critical one. He wins with either approach and then appears as a potential winner and potential PM.

Cameron is not invincible though: there are vulnerabilities. Yesterday’s debate, following on from the Budget, highlighted several: lack of detailed preparation, of intellectual rigour, over-reliance on jokes, and on his easy personality. Whatever else he may be Cameron is not a parliamentary heavyweight and even the comfortable and comforting poll leads may not be enough to sustain him.

Detailed policies – he needs those. Without them he can make general noises about detail and still have the freedom to attack Labour but soon lack of policies will leave him open to damaging criticism: that he is a lightweight TV performer without the ability to put together a detailed programme for government. With them, he is open to attack on the policies for being too right-wing. Yes, he’ll have plenty opportunities to attack Labour and he will attack them well but he will be under pressure for the first time.

Cameron reminds me of the presenters on CBBC – lightweight, flighty, flimsy, lacking seriousness and depth. Whatever one might say about Blair and Brown – and I have plenty to say sometime – they are at the top of their professions in mainstream TV with massive experience.

Rather like Blair, Cameron has had an extended honeymoon but if he doesn’t find some gravitas somewhere Brown will get him.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Budget .... Whatever

Another …. Whatever today.

I still haven’t read all the papers I want to regarding the Public Services Policy Review and the Citizens Forums which preceded the review publication. I’ll probably find that I end up not writing about this at all but I can’t help thinking there’s a good story in it. Anyway, I’m not ready.


What is my … whatever?

I should talk about the Budget. Brown was typical Brown: rock solid presentation with a rabbit at the end and probably a few dead rabbits hidden in the text awaiting discovery.

Putting up road tax is a positive move – provided one doesn’t want a car which is to be clobbered. If the basis for putting cars into different categories is the CO2 emissions then I’m OK with it. I heard that a 2l petrol Renault Espace is in the highest band, which surprised some commentators, but provided it has high emissions the categorisation is fine.

I have a feeling that the removal of the 10% rate will be seen as a mistake.

I haven’t read very much of the post-budget comment but I feel that removing the 10% Income Tax rate will hit some on lower incomes more than they benefit from the reduction in the basic rate from 22% to 20%. Perhaps the very lowest will gain through other benefits.


But rather than talking about the Budget details I want to talk about David Cameron’s reply. Very weak! Very, very weak!

I know it’s much easier for the Chancellor because he knows what is coming but Cameron hardly laid a glove on Brown. His overused “Stalinist” jokes fell flatter the more he used them. He should have used only one: “The Labour Party are just realising their next leader has the tendencies of Stalin and the poll ratings of Michael Foot. His comment about Milliband standing for Labour leadership got groans- no laughter. He was over-prepared with jokes but under-prepared for detail. Robin Cook, in a similar position, would have been meticulously prepared ready to spear his opponent with detailed examples.


Early evening I was ironing and watching TV: my mistake was to watch the Budget debate – turgid. A virtually empty Chamber and MP’s with nothing to say saying rather a lot and taking rather a long time to say it. Compare that with me: A virtually empty house, rather a lot of ironing and taking rather a long time to iron. I know which made better TV.


Well, possibly tomorrow I’ll get round to Citizens Forums. Perhaps the Budget should be subject to the deliberations of a Citizen’s Forum. TB would love that: he’d probably get more advance notice of the Budget details.


Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Olympics: Why London?

Today’s post is one of the “… whatever” variety albeit posted later than intended. I stumbled across Labour’s “deliberative forum” strategy in which about 100 ordinary people will study official papers currently under discussion, and then consider the same dilemmas which Ministers face on a daily basis before making their final decisions. As one who looks for the underhand in everything Blair does I immediately thought that here is a method for Blair to implement what he wants because the forum has been manipulated. I don’t know if this is the case but I started to read more about this area and this subject will probably form the basis of tomorrow’s post.

Finally I reach my delayed post on the Olympics.

I can’t get my head around why we wanted to bring the Olympics to London.

Whilst I will enjoy watching the 2012 Olympics on TV there won’t be any additional enjoyment from their being held in London. Paris or Madrid would have been just fine and there wouldn’t be the massive and spiralling costs.

Obviously part of London will undergo regeneration but the Olympics weren’t necessary for this to happen. There is also a claim that our participation in sports will be boosted massively but, again, no Olympics is needed. Building affordable sporting facilities in all parts of the country would boost participation.

“But all parts of the country will benefit from the Olympics coming to London” supporters claim. How, for example, is Aberdeen going to benefit. No team will have its training base there when Spain or the South of France are readily accessible. The further one moves from London the less will be the chance of any Olympics’ benefit.

All of us will bear costs. In fact, all of us will bear the increasing costs and, without doubt, the costs will increase significantly beyond the current estimate of £9.3billion. I bet there are plenty greedy construction companies already anticipating a raid on the contingency funds just as the government is raiding the Lottery fund.

The Games will go ahead on time but they will not go ahead on this or any other budget. The need to complete on time is a guarantee of hyper-inflationary costs associated with the build.

And then the cynic in me surfaces and I realise why we wanted to bring the Olympics to London. We didn’t but something else did: two huge egos were determined to bring the Olympics to London – Coe and Blair. What a legacy for each!

Coe’s profile will have been raised as, no doubt, will his speaking fees. One client said of Coe, “Seb was excellent taking no end of questions with a relaxed and humorous style”. Hey, I would do that for a lot less than the £10k minimum which Coe is reported to be paid.

As for Blair, I can see him charming, and lying to, IOC delegates in his distinctively charming and lying way. I know many will question the use of “charming” to describe Blair but, from what I have read, he does charm those who don’t know him. To those of us who have seen and heard far too much of Blair we can simply use the other adjective.

I wonder how by how much the cost has increased in the time I have taken to write this? Too much! Far too much!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Values, What Values?

Until death matters

Until truth matters

Until justice matters

Let us not proclaim our values

Let us get down on our knees and beg forgiveness


Tony Blair said,

we should not apologise for our values, for what we believe in or for what we do. The fact is that the values that we stand for are values that can unite Muslim, Christian and Jew, and people of different races and backgrounds, and terrorism will be better defeated if we do not apologise for our values but stand up for them.

21 Feb 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2gjrk4

How wrong he is!

Our values are not what Blair says they are but are what we do. Unfortunately what we do reflects very badly on us and what we do will not “unite Muslim, Christian and Jew, and people of different races and backgrounds..” but will divide us from them.

Three recent examples demonstrate the gap between Blair’s claims and reality.

Yesterday, I posted (http://tinyurl.com/2pndvq) about two Guantanamo detainees, long-term UK residents, who are free to leave but cannot because the UK government refuses to act for them. These men pose no terrorist threat but because they are not citizens we let them remain in that hell-hole. Obviously there is no legal requirement - nor is there any legal impediment - to repatriate the men but there is a moral imperative on the government to help.

What positive value does Blair believe this demonstrates?


Despite the best efforts of the coroner, we cannot even manage an open and honest inquest into the death, by friendly fire, of Lance-Corporal Matty Hull. The unveiling of truth was hindered by the delays and lies of the MOD and the US DoD. Only the perseverance of the coroner and Hull’s family has dragged such information as is currently available. Hull’s family have seen how little truth matters to our “masters”. Far more important is the requirement not to upset our US colleagues.

What positive value does Blair believe this demonstrates?


What did Baha Mousa, who died in Basra in our Army’s custody, see of our values? Abuse, humiliation, beatings and finally death.

What have his family seen of our values? Appallingly, much much less than even Matty Hull’s family.

According to a report in The Observer (18 March 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2sjb4o), a 6 month court-martial found no-one responsible for his death. A refusal to answer questions (or rather “I do not remember”) frustrated the search for the truth. Others were involved, as the Judge-Advocate said, “the ill-treatment of the detainees continued and intensified. Yet none of those soldiers has been charged with any offence simply because there is no evidence against them as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks”.

How much does truth matter within the Army?

Baha Mousa’s death is nothing less than racist murder and yet we cannot find those responsible.

What positive value does Blair believe this demonstrates?


Blair, no doubt, would say that these are the exceptions but it is in these “exceptional” ways that values are seen as worthless. Rather than trumpeting our values as being beneficial for others Blair should:

Ensure death matters

Ensure truth matters

Ensure justice matters

And until then

Let him remain silent about our values

Let him get down on his knees and beg forgiveness