Saturday, 23 May 2015

Truly Depressing

Yesterday a thought crossed my mind that was so appalling that I decided not to mention it to anyone for at least 24 hours so I could b sure it was a real notion and not just an emanation from a heat oppress'd brain.  Unfortunately, the grisly phantom refused to depart, in fact it seemed to grow more substantial.  And eventually I saw it clearly.  It was Alan Johnson, bearing the crown and septre of the Labour leadership.

Because, given the current crop of wannabe hopeless hopefuls, he really is likely to be the best choice as an interim leader while the Labour Party pulls itself together and works out its problems.

Still it is early days. Johnson isn't even a contender yet, and quite likely won't ever be. But given how Burnham and Cooper seem to be hoovering up the nominations of the (pitifully small number) of MPs, it seems unlikely any fresh face can hope to garner enough backing.

Whoever ends up as leader, they need to deal with the myth of overspending.   He or she must not be trapped into mealy mouthed condemnation of public spending that was quite justifiable. Labour did not wantonly overspend in the years up to 2008. Labour invested in schools and hospitals and infrastructure to make the lives of British people better. Tories can not attack Labour for this when the George Osborne said, in 2007, his party would match Labour's spending.

Not a word from Osborne then about the need to mend fiscal roofs and austerity. No prophetic warnings about imminent financial apocalypse. Just a pledge to spend as much as Labour, happily demolishing the roof - if you accept his new improved post GFC stance - to let more sunlight in.

Just as Tories can't complain about Labour's failure to adequate regulate the city when the same George Osborne - in 2006 - complained in a letter to the Telegraph about 'burdensome' regultion that 'threatens the global competitiveness of the City of London'

So let us hear no more hypocritical, disingenuous palaver about over-spending when the Tories were pledging to do exactly the same, or about failure to regulate the City when the Tories were arguing the regulations were too onerous.

Or - since the Conservatives will no doubt continue to bleat that chorus like the sheep in Animal Farm - at least let us not hear Labour leaders trying to deny that they over spent. Simply tell it like it was. Labour invested in the means for making Britain a better country and achieved far more than the current government of antediluvian dingbats, Europhobic madpeople, ideologically crippled malcontents and Ken Clarke can ever hope to do.

As for the myth of Conservative confidence, bear in mind the opposing plans to respond to the 2008 crisis.  Recall, if you will the Tory pledge to eradicate the deficit in a single term, and contrast Alastair Darling's more measured target of halving it in the same period.

The Tories failed to deliver their planned austerity, though. Osborne failed, but - wittingly or not - DID manage to achieve Alasdair Darling's goal of halving the deficit in 5 years. Which goes to show that the Darling Plan was the sane, sensible and honest one, if you must go down the austerity route. The country is still here, in spite of the right wing howls that Britain could not afford another five years of Labour.

In essence, Britain re-elected the Tories because Labour's plan worked.

Go figure.

Which brings us back to the mess of the Labour leadership.  Perhaps the biggest argument against Johnson (other than the fact he's a Blairite relic) is strategic. Cameron will likely seek to repeal the Fixed term Parliaments Act, giving him the choice of when an election is held. he - or his post-EU successor as leader - can then 'go short' and hold an election before his majority is whittled away, rather than hang on Major style in the hope that something will turn up.

So is no guarantee this parliament is going to last five years and allow a successor to emerge to fight in 2020. I imagine the EU referendum will mark the end of Cameron's reign. If he wins, he'll pronounce His Work Here Is Done and resign as PM. If he loses, he'll proclaim a new leader is needed to energise the party. Assuming BoJo or Georgie wins it, they call a snap election if they think they can win, "Too confirm our mandate," rather than making the mistake that Callaghan and Brown did.

So suddenly the 'interim' leader is fighting an election - which Labour will probably lose otherwise the Tories wouldn't call it - and Labour is back in the same situation - carry on with Interim Alan for another three years, or start the whole sorry process again.

Still, even Johnston would be better than Burnham or Cooper.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Avaunt, and quit my sight!

From the Indie:
Ed Miliband pitted “one half of the nation against the other” in a “class war”, one of the masterminds of New Labour has said.

Writing for the US newspaper the New York Times, Lord [Peter] Mandelson said he believed Labour lost the general election because Mr Miliband abandoned the ‘one nation’ rhetoric of his earlier speeches.

“The bigger reason Labour lost the argument is that the British, on the whole, do not like income disparities being turned into class war,” the former business secretary said

“Earlier in his leadership, Mr Miliband fought on a platform of social justice and fairness, using the language of ‘one nation.’ In the campaign, he seemed intent on pitting one half of the nation against the other.”
Mandelson is a massive sucker of privilege so probably does feel he is the hapless victim of some communist inspired class war revolution fantasia. A ghastly spectre of an ancient era that will not let istself be consigned to the dustbin of history.  An quiet spectre forever shaking its chains and gibbering.  He is, of course, an idiot.

A mildly rightwing programme such as Labour proposed at the election - basically a slightly less vicious version of the Tory austerity fetish - is not class warfare.

Mandelson is a relic, and almost always wrong. In office, he achieved nothing more than exposing - multiple times, and unintentionally - the contemptible, despicable power and money worshipping side of the New Labour project.

Why does he feel the need to carry on sticking his irrelevant oar into the business of a party that he has little real understanding of or interest in any longer?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Oddly, I don't recall seeing them much BEFORE the election ...

But here they are, crawling out of the wood work immediately after their vote-shedding faces are no longer likely to jeopardise Conservative prospects.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr Michael Gove:



And by 'charged' I mean 'told to by David Cameron' not 'in legal trouble because of'!  Though you'd think taking a blow torch to the legal protection of British citizens might merit the latter sort of charging.

And here is Mr Iain Duncan Smith, showing Ed Miliband that there is life after losing the leadership:


Iain is clearly very happy.  And who can blame him for feeling chipper?  He's just been charged (again, in the 'told to by David Cameron' sense) with hacking a further £12 billion out of the welfare budget. Obviously, Iain isn't going to be feeling any of these cuts, otherwise he might not be looking quite so smug.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

In Tony's Shadow

Well, there have been better nights in the history of the left.

First of all, I would like to point out that I was, of course, completely right.  While suggesting a potential Labour plurality of seats was a likely outcome, I was sensible enough to add the crucial rider that, "anything up to and including a slender Tory majority is still possible, based on just minor shifts."

So unlike Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Jim Murphy, Ed Balls, Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy and many many others, I survive and with my reputation for prescience enhanced.  I may not be quite as good at calling elections as I thought I was, but I am good at covering my own arse.

Anyway, on to minor matters.

It was, without doubt, the most fascinating election since 1997.  And it managed to eke out it's drama to the very last few seats, when Cameron crept across the line and achieved a wafer thin majority.

Some thoughts.

First of all, commiserations to Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report.  He's been happily analysing and discussing polls from all parties for years, with an enthusiasm that even I find a little bit odd and unnerving.  He is always measured and thoughtful in his comments.  And, it turned out, completely wrong.  Not just him, but virtually every polling company as well, to the point where the few that might have been pointing to a Conservative surge looked like outliers.  If it is any consolation, he was working with evidence, and the evidence al pointed the way he said it did.  But it can't be fun watching your life's work go up in flames.  He's not the only one who endured that last night, of course, but the rest of them deserved it more, one way or another.

Second, a nod to Ed Miliband.  He's a decent man, but clearly, not the man needed.  He managed to be right on most issues and still lose.  It happens.  It must be galling to go through what he has done - the family trauma of his so-called 'betrayal' of his brother, the constant vilification in the press, the mockery and disrespect from his own party - and find it has all been for nothing.  Tactically, Labour fought a good campaign, strategically they lost this election about 20 years ago, when Tony Blair started his process of 'modernisation', dragging Labour to the right until it became the mess it is today.  Ed Miliband was praised for preserving unity after the 2010 defeat, keeping the left and the right of the Labour party together - but perhaps a more ruthless attitude towards the Blairite faction might have been preferable.  Too many of them were left to fester in high places.

Interestingly, for the first time in the history of things, perhaps, First Past the Post has delivered a representative result.  The combined Conservative and UKIP vote is about 50% of the total cast, and the Tories and UKIP hold about 50% of the seats.  The British people voted for a government of small minded, reactionary, xenophobic, economically illiterate, right wing buffoons, and that is what they got.  Still, this election has highlighted the screaming, desperate need for electoral change in Britain.  While I despise everything about UKIP, 3.7 million people voted for them, a massive increase on votes. But they managed to win just one seat, while less than 1.5 million voted for the SNP and they get 56. The Greens polled about as many votes as the SNP. And got one MP. Something has to change. Everyone, except the Tories, seems to understand this now. Scotland should not be virtually a one party state; The Greens and UKIP represent people whose voices should be heard, or people will continue to becom disengaged from politics; the political 'elite' can't be protected by an unfair anachronism of a voting system. Though as Labour found out last night, the protection is somewhat illusory.

There were many silver linings to be found amid the dark clouds that gathered last night.  First of all, the notion of the supposed political influence of Russell Brand will hopefully be consigned to the rubbish bin.  Let's never, ever, ever have to endure the sight of a Labour leader trying to win an endorsement from that self important, vacuous, hypocritical clown.  Second the Tories are effectively isolated.  No-one is going to go into coalition with them, ever, after seeing how the Lib Dems were punished by the electorate for this.  They have to win by themselves, and it looks like their final share of the vote in 2015 is 36.1%, virtually the same as in 2010.  They barely improved their standing with the electorate and I think this is their high water mark.  They are the party of the 36%, and the feeble majority Cameron obtained last night. His administration will be weak and ineffectual, plagued by rebellion and being dragged to the right by the gang of loons and xenophobic 'bastards' that made John Major's later years so miserable. And recall what happened after that miserable administration was put out of its misery. A Labour landslide and 13 years of opposition for the Conservatives, blocked from power by the combination of First Past The Post and Balirite cynicism.

There is a whiff of the mid-90s already about Cameron's new government.  A PM that no-one actually wants any more (even Cameron himself doesn't want to be PM), a dubious economy and the prospect of civil war in the party over Europe.  That 12 seat majority won't last long, and won't insulate him against any significant rebellion. Isolated from other parties terrified of catching the electoral plague that did for the Lib Dems so viciously, and with the British economy still looking a bit peaky, and the prospect of even more ghastly spending cuts to come over the next five years, as Osborne continues to hack away at the deficit that defeated him last time, in defiance of economic sanity, it seems likely Cameron's second term will be a painful one.

Still, a lot of the 'Old Guard' have gone, the Blairite poison is mostly flushed out of the system, though it is a shame that the patient has had such a hard tme of it. Because 2015 is very much the result made inevitable by Tony Blair's ascension to the leadership of Labour. And yet the Blairites never saw it, cawing after 2010 about how Labour won when it was New Labour, and lost when it reverted to Old Labour - as if there was any significant difference between the manifestos of 1997, 2010 and 2015. Blairism was sold as a process of modernising, which was essentially a hollowing out of the party, and an obsession with pleasuring the rich and powerful, followed by a cynical rejection of the democratic reform when it became selfishly expedient to do so. All those that lost last night did so in the shadow of Blairism.
... he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Many found their graves last night, honourable or dishonourable or indifferent.  Or to borrow another much quoted line about statues, "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.  Or to nick off with another bit of Will, the evil that men do oft lives after them.  Blair's baleful influence lives on, though perhaps now enough pain has been inflicted on Labour for them to realise it has had its day.  Or perhaps, lemming like, they will insist on being more like the Tories, more pro-business and cozy up ever closer to the right-wing media.  And continue to ignore the little people who are expected to actually vote for them.  Because, you know, that's what worked for Tony.

Looking ahead, it really does make you wonder how Labour rebuilds from here. Caroline Flint? Chukka Ummuna? Keir "But I only just became an MP!" Starmer? The talent pool was shallow when Ed was chosen. Now it it more a dried out waterhole with the bones of defunct animals in it. Dennis Skinner won Bolsover with more than 50% of the vote. Maybe he could be leader? I have a horrible feeling the Labour Party might go for Andy Burnham or Alan Johnston, the slimy Blairite relics. Or Chuka Ummuna, who looks and sounds suspiciously like Tony Blair re-imagined for the post 'Cool Britannia' Britain.

Today, I'm very glad I live in New Zealand.  I wish Britain well for the next five years, though you did kinda bring it on yourself, and I suspect good wishes may not help much.  And I'm not sure how much longer there will be a Britain to wish well to.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Two minutes to Milinight?

Final Guardian / ICM poll shows Ed Miliband played his infamous 35% strategy to perfection:

Labour 35%
Tories 34%
Ukip 11%
Lib Dems 9%
SNP 5%
Greens 4%

If Labour 'win', it would be like Iain Duncan Smith winning back in the day when he was (briefly) Conservative leader - somewhat disturbing, more than a bit worrying, yet oddly reassuring that British politics isn't (yet) all about spin and superficial nonsense.

And on the subject of nonsense ...


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Prediction

The polls, essentially, are telling us nothing.

The key factor isn't going to be which party is a point ahead in the final day. When they are this close, the result will be down to who gets they vote out, and where the variations are.

Labour may punch above its weight a bit because its vote may feel more motivated to ... um ... vote. The Conservative vote probably doesn't have as much reason to get out - Cameron's campaign has been rubbish and negative and no-one really likes what he's offering. The rightwing vote will fracture in some critical seats, just like the left vote did in the 80s, allowing Labour and Lib Dem wins on poor vote share.

Scotland seems mysterious and ineffable. Anything like a clean sweep seems unlikely, though the SNP will make massive gains. I think there will be a god turn out in Labour's vote, and perhaps in the recent converts to Sturgeonism, there will be a reluctance to jeopardise Labour's chances of forming a government by forcing them into an awkwardness with the SNP ... But it is just a hunch.

So, with the expectation of being proved hideously wrong, here goes ...

Labour 281 (Based on getting more of their vote out)
Conservative 274 (Right wing vote wastage due to UKIP)
SNP 40 (I just can't believe the total annihilation the polls are predicting will happen. Does. Not. Compute.)
Lib Dem 30
Green 1
PC 4
Irish 18
UKIP 2 (Big vote, no seats. Gotta love FPTP!)

Which might put Labour+ LibDems JUST within reach of a majority without the SNP, based on Sinn Fein abstaining and the SDLP voting with Labour. Greens and PC as possible additional partners.

But anything up to and including a slender Tory majority is still possible, based on just minor shifts.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Oh, really?

Someone tried to draw my attention to an article purporting to reveal how climate data has been systematically manipulated to increase the warming trend in recent decades.  They failed, largely because the article was in the Telegraph behind a firewall, but I did glimpse enough to see that it was penned by Christopher Booker, of whom I have spoken before.

Christopher 'bullshit' Booker? Really?

Sorry to respond in such a predictable and Pavlovian vein, but the author is a serial crap-merchant.

For that reason if no other, I feel inclined not to bother reading it.  The Telegraph should be ashamed that it is giving space to a man who propounds biased and disingenuous nonsense masquerading as scientific criticism.  That said, the telegraph seems to know no shame these days.

In the extract from the article that was sent to me, I saw mention - positive - of John Christie's satellite temperature record at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH).  No mention, though, of how the UAH figures are constantly being manipulated and adjusted as well; the ItsNotCausedByPeopleEvenIfItIsHappeningWhichIsNotToSayItIsHappeningButItIsHappeningOnMarsAndTheDinosaursDidn'tDriveSUVsDidThey crowd (deniers, for short) don't see bothered about that. Because UAH continually undercuts the surface temperature and allwos them to claim there is no warming because blahblahblah. Even though, I think, the UAH figures are continually being revised UPWARDS for the reasons indicated above.