Thursday, October 23, 2003

Some slight changes

A tiny redesign- to make links clearer and make the site a little livelier. Let me know what other changes you'd like to see.

Also an update to the links list with fixes and new additions. A fuller introduction to all the new entrants will follow over the next few days. Until then, All of them are quality, so go read.

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Read this Article.

Every left wing critic of the government should read this article by Paul Anderson. it is the smartest article I've seen about the current left's approach and its failings. I don't agree with Paul wholehearted praise of the Cook plan, but there's no doubt his advice to the left is fundamentally sound.

As he says "On foundation hospitals, I get the terrible feeling I’ve missed something important, because I just can’t work out what all the sound and fury signifies. I’m against top-up fees — a straightforward graduate tax would make much more sense — but I’d rather have them than continue to starve higher education of funds. Opposition in principle to British participation in the euro is a mark of political cretinism pure and simple. And immediate withdrawal of the US and British forces in Iraq is a recipe for a bloodbath."

And so I could go on. What really bugs me, however, is that a string of noes is, on its own, so utterly reactive and uninspiring."

This is precisely the attitude of thousands of Labour Party members.

I can't understand why Tribune would not use such a perceptive piece. Perhaps the editor feels that as a leading member of the "traditional left" on Labour's national Executive, the critique of his string of noes runs a little close to home?

Or perhaps Tribune just needs the space for it's "Defend George Galloway" campaign.

What was that Nye said about priorities?*

*For those of you not mired in Labour History. Leading Tribunite left -winger and post-war Health Secretary Nye Bevan said "The Language of priorities is the religion of Socialism". This has been quoted ad infinitum by Labour party people trying to explain why've not done everything wanted. At least half the time people get the quote wrong.

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George Galloway expelled from Labour Party

Good. I'm more proud than ever to be a member.

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The Spectator defends an anti-semite.. and other such nonsense.

Last week, Paul Krugman wrote an article about an anti-semitic speech made by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

You may have switched off already, but persevere, for Paul Krugman is an economics professor, ardent critic of President Bush and New York Times commentator.

Mr Krugman said that Mahathirs speech was "inexcusable" and "hateful", but this did not prevent his critics saying he was entirely wrong to even attempt to put Mahathir's remarks in the context of increased tensions between the US and the Muslim world, and even more wrong for placing the blame for these tensions at the door of the US Administration's foriegn policy.

Oliver Kamm wrote a typically ardent and intelligent example of the genre, which is well worth a read* The usual suspects all weighed in too, full of righteous fury.

Just another example of left -liberal tolerance of Anti-Semitism was the heavy implication of many right-wingers (though not by Mr Kamm, I hasten to add).

So imagine my surprise when the Conservative Spectator published an article defending Mahathir in the most robust terms, praised his history, an article which does far less than Krugman to condemn Mahathir's anti-semitism and concludes:

"We should cherish the likes of Dr Mahathir. The alternative is not greater democracy, but the triumph of fundamentalists who throw not insults but bombs"

Now, Mr Byrnes may be a left-liberal. All I know about him is that he writes Jazz articles. But whatever Mr Byrne's politics I hope those on the right who condemn Krugman, will condemn Boris Johnson even more harshly for publishing this without comment or qualification.**

*My own comments on his article can be found on his site too.

**My own views on Mr Byrnes's article is that it is wrong to write a context piece like that without making it clear that you do not defend or endorse the views expressed, but merely seek to explain why they have been, because if you don't, you leave yourself open to the allegation that you do so endorse. Mr Byrnes does not do that, which to my mind, makes his contribution somewhat suspect.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Please, just get it over with.

I can't bear to write another post about the mess Iain Bumble Smith is in.

Poor conference, Poor Speech, Poor polling, Poor policies, Poor management and now just plain poor.

As a Labour supporter, I want to save him, but I just can't take any more.

End it now. Please.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Let that be a lesson.

Never refer to unalloyed good news in Northern Ireland. Someone will always come along and alloy it.

But hold on, while the news media are treating this as a disaster for the peace process, speaking just as a political commentator, isn't there a case for saying that this argument is just a public dance?

Look at this way, both Sinn Fein and the UUP should want the UUP to be the largest unionist party in the November 26 elections. there's a serious risk the DUP could take over. That could lead to an Assembly led by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness. How to avoid that? Have Sinn Fein give enough of a concession to hold the elections, yet create a scene by which Trimble gets to look tough and get an extra concession before the campaigning gets underway. To even take it further, Could Trimble even run in the elections against SF if he doesn't get the concessions, thus shoring up his leadership for another post-election round of negotiations.

Maybe I'm just too much of a conspiracy theorist, but it was my first reaction. After all, the elections are still happening, and haven't been suspended.

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Play a guessing game.

To what well known organisation is Peter Cuthbertson referring?

"...we are putting forward radical ideas on the public sector that no one can seriously believe will not be implemented soon, in one form or another, and have a 5% poll lead"

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What's the solution for today's Tories?

Today is a day of unalloyed good news. It seems Northern Ireland really is entering a new phase of democratic politics. We can all take pleasure in that. The prospect of never again having to endure bombings, murders, assassinations, executions… even at one remove, well, we’ve seen it before, but this time it feels real.

So today at least I shall not be focussing on Iain Duncan Smith, or George Ian Smith, as he would be called if someone had not meddled around with his cognomen. Let us not think of Tory woes, let us examine tory solutions.

Times Op-Ed writer Michael Gove has written an tax-cutting piece for the Times. This is important for one very good reason. Tories know that cutting public services to cut taxes is not very popular so they need an alternative strategy. Mr Gove is a smart cookie, and he is trying to suggest one. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a summary of the latest Bush administration talking points applied to the UK. Why not cut taxes now and pay for it later?

Mr Gove believes that like the Americans, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can keep spending reasonably high and cut taxes, building up a debt, for as a consequence the growth fairy will escape from her shackles, and sprinkle us all with cash with which we will be able to pay our debts.

“For cutting taxes, especially from the level we now labour under, will shift the balance of the economy in the right direction. Tax cuts will encourage growth in the real economy, the productive private sector, while helping to bring about the taming over time of a bloated and unproductive public sector.”

But there is a bonus too.

“there is a secondary, and under-appreciated benefit, to keeping the Chancellor begging for it (our new growth acquired cash- Ed). Maintaining a budget in deficit while taxes stay low forces the Government to think about long-term measures to tame the State.”

So in sum: We should deliberately run up a huge budget deficit in order to encourage growth. The growth will amply reward our decision, but even better, by running up these deficits we force someone else to consider taking painful decisions on spending later down the road.

Now this begs a number of interesting questions.

1. If what we need to do is rein in the state, why wait until we have a ballooning national debt? Why not cut spending drastically now and save yourself the bother of the deficits?

2. If the answer to 1 is “because no-one wants to vote for a drastically reduced NHS but do want free money now” I am tempted to ask are you a politician or a snake oil salesman. However I shall restrict myself to asking why these social programmes will be seen as less important in the future than, you know, raising taxes back up to pay down the deficit, since you’re admitting that you can’t sell tax cuts, aren’t you also admitting that people would prefer tax rises to later service cuts?

3. If the answer to 1 is “because the extra growth will pay for the public services and service our newly acquired debt by growing the whole economy” then why do you say ballooning deficits will lead to future cuts?

4. Have you ever heard that interest rates might rise if you pump huge amounts of free money into the economy to stimulate growth? If not, look here. It's the Economist. What do you think the increased cost of mortgages will do for your boom?

5. Let’s take a look at what’s projected for America under the Bush Proposals. Brad Delong has a nifty graph of the Bush Administration deficit prediction. Take a look. Think abut the long term consequences of what this would bean for the UK. And then wonder what Michael Gove has been smoking.

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