Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Hartlepool by-election thought..
Most Labour party people I’ve spoken to have been shall we say, concerned about the possibility of a Hartlepool By-election (caveat*: I have no f**king clue whether there will even be one).
So, to be honest, have I. After all, you can’t look at a the Hodge Hill and Leicester results with equanimity
Then it occurs to me, in Hartlepool we will finally see a by-election in a constituency where there is a Tory base. The Tories were a clear second in the last elections. Until recently they ran the council with the Lib-Dems (though it was then a Mayoralty).
So, given that, given that there are very few Muslims in Hartlepool and that the predominant issue will likely be crime this should be an opportunity for the Tories.
Also, if the good people of Hartlepool will vote for a Monkey to run the council, then the Tories can’t really claim it’s ridiculous to expect them to get votes… 
So I wonder if the Tories see this possible campaign as a big a test for Howard as it is for Labour. After all, if not Hartlepool, Brent, Birmingham or Leicester, where would be Prospective Tory territory?

*Hey, caveats are popular right now, I'm just following fashion.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Mystery Minister...

As I understand it, the minister who didn't believe she was being sacked in this Robert Harris article was Barbara Roche. Just thought I'd mention it. No particuar exciting comment. 

Peter Mandelson as Euro Commissioner? The gossip is apparently rife. That's all I know. News 24 is a wonderful thing.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Face it- the sixties kids achieved nothing.
Why won’t middle aged media savants shut up about a mediocre generation?
The sixties eh? Swinging London, A new spirit of freedom. The Beatles. Rock and Roll. Vietnam. Flower Power.   Yes, we’ve all been there, in spirit at least. It’s hard not to, when the middle aged refuse to let go of their youth gracefully.
Trouble is, I can’t see what’s so great about the Sixties. Don’t get me wrong. There are some achievements of the Sixties which I have boundless admiration. The 1964 Civil rights act. The 1965 Voting rights act.  The legalisation of homosexuality here in Britain.
However, these weren’t sixties generation achievements. Somehow I don’t see Johnson and Jenkins passing a joint while getting down to Hawkwind. These were old schools liberals, schooled in the New Deal and the Atlee reforms respectively. They legislated away to the sound of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Schubert. Johnson liked a Bourbon and rainwater. Jenkins and decent Claret. Mary-jane passed them both by.
I don’t give today’s media darlings’ credit for the political and legal reforms of the sixties. They were the beneficiaries of visionary and committed liberals from an earlier generation – in education, in prosperity and in freedom. Roosevelt, Attlee, Johnson, Wilson, Jenkins. These people did the heavy lifting that gave us the real benefits of the sixties.  The trouble with the sixties is that the whining, self indulgent, spoilt, children that inherited this golden legacy fucked it all up.
This is a generation that faced no war, lived through no economic collapse. Shielded from dictatorship by weapons they had no responsibility for.  This is a generation with a silver spoon in it’s mouth.
And What did they do? Nothing.
Oh, sure, there’s the music. That was good. But I don’t believe Dylan is greater than Johnson or Guthrie. The Beatles and the Rolling stones were bastardised toned down versions of real fifties Black Rock and Roll. The Byrds at their best re-invented classic country.
But show me one achievement of the baby boomers that comes close to that of the New Deal, The Fair deal or the Great Society. It just isn’t there.
Politically the sixties generation came to maturity in the eighties. They were worse than useless. They threw away the precious gains of the forties and the sixties. Their irresponsibility in political attitudes ceded power to the right.
I don’t blame the sixties for crime today. I blame the eighties culture of greed, excess and selfishness.  Trouble is, it was the Greers, the Kuireshis, the Tariq Ali’s- and their political equivalents at every level of the Labour party and the Democrats – at their prime in the Eighties, who were supposed to hold the line. We needed them to be making the compromises, getting their hands dirty for the sake of others against a rising tide of the right. They walked away from the fight to preserve their purity. Whether it was militant, or identity politics, or the Bennite revolt. It was the pose that mattered not the achievement.
Those of us who come after the deluge might have expected a society based on community, on compassion, on a society geared for the needs of the many, not the few. Instead, we got the triumph of the individual. The sink estate. The failing school. The low tax economy.  Of course, The right is truly  to blame, but I refuse to forgive those who spent that timed indulging themselves and their consciences, disappearing up their own arses (or noses) for a decade while the hard won achievements of half a century were thrown away.
So now, we have to begin to rebuild, and the same self righteous, self congratulatory voices are raised again in condemnation.
Speaking as one child of the Sixties children. I refuse to be lectured about liberal morality, about responsibility, about community by a generation that so signally failed to defend all three when it was their turn to do so. 

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Butler, Brum, Burglaries and the Back Door.

I decided to wait before talking about the Butler report, because I didn’t trust what reporters would say on Day 1. Nick Cohen has a wonderful description in The Observer of the collected press corps thoughtfully studying the Butler report for half an hour before bolting en masse to the exits to deliver their verdict on the contents.

So, now everyone concerned has a little more than 30 minutes to consider their verdicts, where are we? Michael Howard is outraged and announced that he would not have supported the war if he’d had a time machine and been able to see the future. Charles Kennedy is furious. Geraldine Smith has called for the Prime Minister to resign.

You may not be rocked by the latter news. Smith is the only Labour MP to break ranks on this. Her insignificance is significant.*

For everyone else, it seems to be as you were. This is a week in which ur-Tory Peter Oborne can write in the Spectator "Things are better now for the Prime Minister than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the 2001 election. Nothing and nobody can stop him leading his party to the next general election, if that is what he wants to do. The polls suggest that nothing should prevent him winning it, most likely by a three-figure majority."

Can this be right? Can the news that we went to war on flawed intelligence really produce apathy- bordering on Torpor on those who were not already outraged?

Yes it can. The revelation that WMD intelligence was flawed isn’t a surprise. After all, if it hadn’t been flawed we’d have found the damn things. So the Butler report revolves around two axes.

First, was the bad intelligence something which Blair should have been able to identify. If a reasonable person could have judged that the WMD were not there in advance, then why did the Prime Minister not do the same?

To my mind, this is the most effective argument – and only Robin Cook can make it. Here Butler pretty much exonerates the Government. While there are doubts about the precise nature of the WMD, The intelligence services were clearly telling Blair they were there.

The second challenge is murkier for the Government. It seems pretty clear that the Number Ten team wanted to put the strongest possible gloss on the intelligence available to them. This, there is little doubt, led to the mysterious "dropping of the caveats" to which much attention has been paid. There are serious issues here about the interplay between building public support for a policy you believe to be right and strict adherence to the grey area of intelligence. There isn’t any evidence of any intent to mislead, but there is evidence that there was a campaign mentality in operation. Caveats don’t fit well in campaigns.

Seen through this light , it becomes less surprising that those who are outraged are those who were outraged before. The debate is not over whether the Government were dishonest, or whether Saddam was an evil dictator, or over the fact that it was reasonable to assume that Saddam had WMD. Instead the argument is about whether the Government was too emphatic in its basically legitimate claims. If that is the issue at hand, expect only to see those who opposed the war last year truly being outraged.

That’s enough for now…. After all, we’ve got crime, by-elections, reshuffles and the strange plight of the Tories to discuss this week.

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