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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Friday, November 29, 2002  

Oh dear ...

CHARLES KENNEDY, often dismissed as a light-weight precisely because of his appearances on game shows, especially Have I Got News For You?, is to host the programme on 13 December. He probably thinks it will be a great platform for getting across what a great guy he is, but I think the ordinary voter has trouble classifying serious leaders in with game show jokers. It's difficult to imagine Margaret Thatcher or Harold Wilson, or even Tony Blair, presenting this programme, precisely because their stature seems above it, and would have been lowered if they had presented it. I am somewhat reminded here of US Republican Jonah Goldberg's words in support of President Clinton's rumoured hosting of a chat show:

Now, if it's a daytime Oprah-style thing, as some people are reporting, he will either be very good or very bad at it. If he's very good — weeping at dyslexic kids who can't take the SAT in the allotted time, getting outraged over husbands who leave the toilet seat up — people won't say, "Dang! this guy really was a great president!" They'll say, "Dang, he should have been doing this all along!" Which is something even the most committed Clinton foe can agree with wholeheartedly.

By repeatedly returning to the programme, Kennedy is only proving the same for himself. He's better as a game show host and contestant than a serious political leader.

Having said all this, Boris Johnson, who is not exactly party leadership material, and doesn't hold such a position, should be great as host tonight. He certainly made the programme fun as a guest.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:21 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, November 28, 2002  

Chancellor's career gone Brown the drain?

STEVEN POLLARD HAS a fantastic piece today on the Pre-Budget Statement and Gordon Brown's future. Fiercely and mercilessly, he tears into the Chancellor he describes as "finished". Judging by today's press generally, Pollard isn't alone. As is often the case with financial complexities, it takes time for the full implications to sink in. Now it has become clear that Brown's doubled borrowing is not only the result of personal incompetence, but that he has no credible way of blaming it on anyone else. The usual excuse governments make of a global downturn is useless here, ironically because Gordon Brown's Budget forecasts for world growth were bang on target. The world economy he got right: it's Britain's economy he's failed on. Pollard responds:

This is the week when Gordon Brown became a busted flush, and lost the chance to become leader of the Labour Party – and the next Prime Minister.

Most obviously, yesterday’s pre-Budget report has finally killed off forever the idea that Mr Brown is anything other than an average Chancellor, subject to exactly the same rise and fall in his reputation as almost all his predecessors.

... The equal and opposite reaction which had to follow Mr Brown’s spending plans was always blindingly obvious: the demand for massive pay rises. The fire strike is thus in large measure Mr Brown’s creation. If you wave huge wads of cash in front of people’s eyes then it should come as no surprise when they reach out to grab it for themselves.

... The state of Gordon Brown’s decline is made clear by the ease with which one can now consider a previously unimaginable thought: that Mr Blair could reshuffle him to another job - or even out of a job all together. As the Iron Chancellor presiding over a booming economy, Mr Brown was unmoveable. As just another hapless Chancellor, brooding, resentful, and a constant annoyance, he is about as unassailable as Nigel Lawson.

I must say I find it gratifying to see that the respect for Brown is now at last diminishing. For years, almost everyone from left to right happily credited him as some sort of fiscal titan, the one who kept this government afloat and the Tories drowning. Yet I never heard any economic explanations for this hero-worship. As with President Clinton, Brown did nothing but ride the crest of a conservative wave, yet respected commentators expected us to believe that substantial increases in the tax burden and anti-small business regulations had somehow produced this economic miracle. As the press turns on the Chancellor, I am sure all of this will be forgotten, as if his mediocrity had never been doubted. What a shame these press figures didn't think their support for him through in the first place. Maybe this statement will be more than just a turning point, and will be as significant as Pollard predicts. We can only hope.

Just one thing has me wondering. David Blunkett is currently head and shoulders above everyone but the Chancellor to be Blair's successor. And Steven Pollard is a Labour Party member and David Blunkett's biographer, a position usually, but not always, suggesting strong sympathy for the subject. Could this column be a case not just of biting political analysis but also of helping to clear the decks for Brown's rival and Pollard's favoured successor?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:21 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, November 27, 2002  

Nikki Page for London Mayor

WHEN KEN LIVINGSTONE'S disgracefully regressive congestion charge comes into effect, I think he will seal his fate, probably causing him to lose the next election for London Mayor. It presents a great opportunity for the Conservative candidate, whoever it may be. I am relieved to see that Nikki Page, currently John Redwood's assistant, will be standing for the Tory nomination. Steve Norris is untrustworthy, adulterous and anti-Conservative in so many of his instincts, his contempt for ordinary Tory activitists apparently boundless. Who knows how many decent people he alienated in 2000 with his call for the scrapping of laws against gay sex in public toilets? The Tories won the London Assembly elections in 2000 but lost the Mayoral Election. If we are to do better next time, we need someone better than Steve Norris. A victory for Norris would send a terrible and false message that politically correct extremism is the way for the Conservatives to win power again. Nikki Page is younger, more realistic and moderate, and importantly for the sake of representation, a woman. An infinitely preferable candidate to Norris, and I really hope she succeeds.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:28 | Permanent Link |

Could mass immigration be jeopardising good public services?

AT A TIME when the BNP is winning councillors and new supporters all the time, the independent think tank Migration Watch UK does an invaluable job in working to allow rational discussion of immigration, offering those worried about the issues the BNP raises a non-Nazi alternative. The former Saudi Ambassador Sir Andrew Green and David Coleman, Oxford's Professor of Demography, who lead the group, are a hard pair to stereotype as neo-fascist thugs. Today, their analysis is as detailed and concerning as ever. Migration Watch claims the influx of two million non EU residents over the next decade is causing immense problems for Britain's public sector. The whole Telegraph article is worth reading.

Mass immigration to Britain is placing intolerable pressures on public services, especially health, housing, transport and education, it was claimed yesterday.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, an independent think-tank, said the issue was being ducked by politicians because they were fearful of being branded racist.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 22:12 | Permanent Link |

Thought crimes against gays don't count against Catholics

TO THOSE WHO don't follow American events all that closely, I should explain that Matthew Shepherd is probably better known to Americans than 90% of Congress. A homosexual college student, he was lured by two hateful lunatics into a field and beaten to death. As with the dozen or so abortionists murdered by fanatical American pro-lifers, the left exploited this killing for all it was worth. At least one film is planned on the event, and Matthew Shephard is a name raised in every attempt at a rational college debate about homosexuality in the puerile and bigoted hope of linking political opposition to the gay lobby with murdering homosexuals in fields. Most of all, the murder was used to justify "hate crime" laws, which give longer sentences for the same crimes based on the mindset of those who attack fashionable minorities. So if you kill a black man because you want his car, it's a crime. If you kill a black man because you see it as every KKKer's duty, it's a hate crime.

Misguided and warped such intentions may be, but at least they are somewhat even-handed in application? Sadly not. A homosexual thug has beaten a gentle old Catholic woman to death for telling him that God would disapprove of his "lifestyle". And of course, when hate against Christians becomes an issue, suddenly, hate/thought crimes should be extended no further. It makes me so angry to see this decent woman's death given less importance simply because she isn't a part of a minority the politically correct elite care about. I feel even worse knowing how many lefties will secretly think she had it coming for trying to advise anyone against sodomy, just as they blame Americans and Israelis for the terrorists who murder them.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:03 | Permanent Link |

Brown trousers time for the Chancellor

WHEN GORDON BROWN made the economic forecasts on which his spending spree was based in his May Budget, many experts said they were over-optimistic, and they have been proved right by events. He confessed in his Pre-Budget Report today that he will now be borrowing not £11 billion, but £20 billion. This was higher than the most pessimistic forecasts in the City, who now fear rises in mortgage rates as this extra borrowing forces up demand for credit.

As was the case with Michael Howard's response to the Comprehensive Spending Review this year, the Tory response was biting and right. The myth that Brown is responsible for the good state of Britain's economy is slowly unravelling, as the harm his dozens of tax rises and imposition of regulations have done becomes clear. The Chancellor inherited a fantastic economic legacy, with unemployment the lowest of any major European economy, inflation historically low and mortgage rates at their lowest for 30 years. This prosperity relied on Britain remaining the competitive, low regulation, low tax economy in which Gordon Brown clearly does not believe. That, unlike its predecessors, this Labour government took two terms rather than one to cause industrial strife, tax massively and turn the economy belly-up is testament not to their relative competence, but to the especially lasting success of the Thatcherite legacy they inherited. It's an economic situation we need to restore sooner rather than later.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:44 | Permanent Link |

2DTV is no more a threat than Gore or Daschle

BRITAIN'S TV CENSORSHIP laws often seem too lax, and occasionally too harsh. The banning of 2DTV's video advertisement seems an example of the latter. Apparently if they want to make fun of the US President - depicted putting the video tape into his toaster - David Beckham, or even Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, in TV advertisements, they need to get permission from them first.

Although the mere sight of their maniacally smiling Tony Blair has me giggling, I don't think 2DTV is particularly funny, and I really can't see why President Bush would be offended by this advert. The man is leader of the free world, liberator of Afghanistan, holds majorities in both Houses of Congress and has no Democrat rival worth his salt. If I were him and heard about this, I'd write to 2DTV giving full permission to use this footage. He's always shown indifference to his silly liberal detractors, knowing that the Better Red Than Dead crowd portrayed President Reagan in the same way, and that it is they, not Reagan, who are the jokes of history. What a good way to take a sting out of their jibes it would be to voluntarily give permission for more of them to continue.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:33 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, November 26, 2002  

Britons as eurosceptic as ever

MORE GOOD NEWS for those who value Britain's independence comes in an opinion poll today. Reuters reports that eurosceptic feeling is as strong as ever, support for the euro 32% behind support for keeping the pound. Last month this figure was 31%. I don't any more believe that Britain will ever join the single European currency. Years of dithering on this issue, as on so many others, and now on the fireman's strike, suggest that this Prime Minister just doesn't have the courage or decisiveness to fight for something to which the public is so clearly hostile. And if he does hold a referendum, I believe he will be resoundly defeated. The euro is failing, and the dream of a federal Europe has never been shared by the people of this country. Britain is probably safe.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 19:33 | Permanent Link |

What happened to Robin Page proves who is really control

ONE OF VERY few left-of-centre British Blogs, Matthew Turner's is interesting and concise, albeit infrequently updated. If I linked to opposition blogs, his would be near the top of the list. His post today really caught my eye as an example of the attitudes certain people have to conservatism and right-of-centre thinking. When Tories talk about general attitudes and the upper ranks of society being against them, about media bias and a liberal elite, the left is only too keen to dismiss this out of hand. On the subject of racist attacks by non-whites getting little or no medias coverage, he takes just such an attitude:

It's strange, [the right has] won every political battle of the last 25 years yet they still see themselves as part of a group discriminated against and generally persecuted.

The high priest of this world view is Robin Page, a Telegraph columnist and man of extreme views on everything, who can't make a speech about government policy in the countryside without saying that he has less rights than blacks, or gays or lesbians or even one-legged black, gay, lesbians. He's never managed to produce any evidence of this, mainly because he knows that it's not true, yet he still trots it out day after day.

I don't know if Matthew Turner realises the irony of statements like this. There was one reason why this viewpoint - that ethnic minorities would never be treated the way the government is treating country folk - was so publicised: Mr Page was arrested and held in a prison cell for making it. Now thankfully, nothing seems to have come of this since then. But if this atrocious arrest occuring at all is not all the evidence Matthew needs of what Robin Page was talking about, I can't imagine what is. Entire perspectives on modern life are being criminalised. Others are becoming more and more taboo, to the extent that our entire political lexicon seems designed to make conservative arguments sound nasty. The truth is that while the right has gained a great deal in the last quarter-century, it is the left which ultimately control perceptions, out of all proportion to their popularity. From television to the press, from the teachers' training college to the university, from the social worker to the tolerance councillor, the left has a malign, unelected influence on this country. That is why Robin Page can be arrested for speaking up for people who live in the country, why there is McCarthyite criminalising of racial hatred while class hatred is ignored, and why collectivism is always portrayed as compassionate, and individualism always as selfish.

IN THE SPIRIT of linking to left-of-centre blogs, I'd also like to point you all to Harry Up Harry, whose promising start on Sunday will hopefully precede much more of the same as the weeks go on. Given his kind words about this blog, I can do nought but keenly wish him the best of luck.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:43 | Permanent Link |

We must direct parental energies towards supporting education

A CHELTENHAM HEADMASTER has claimed that a large number of school exclusions are partly the responsibility of parents. Many seek approval from their kids by siding with them against their teachers, and others use their children to get back at a school system they did not themselves enjoy as children. I know from my own school days and from my mother, who teaches in a secondary school, that many parents do undermine the authority of teachers, encouraging their kids to skip detention and ignore basic school rules on uniform. We have all heard too of those cases of parents physically beating a teacher who raised his voice at a classroom lout.

Parental influence is tremendously important, and this is as true in education and their attitude to school as anywhere else. Sadly, respect for authority in any form is now taboo, and those parents who would support the school in its disciplining of their children, feeling embarrassed at their behaviour, are shrinking in numbers.

It is for reasons such as this that Shadow Education Secretary Damien Green's proposal to allow schools to set out legally binding parental contracts as a condition of entry is such a good idea. If parents will not agree to support the school's rules and back its decisions, why should the school be under an obligation to serve them? Parental contracts would, in so many cases, force on bad parents the duty they should have by default, making teachers safer and more respected, and schools better places in which to learn.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:00 | Permanent Link |

Kleptocratic dictators must have no veto over UK foreign policy

ONE OF THE key test of President Bush's leadership came over the International Criminal Court. Was he willing to defy fashionable, politically correct opinion and put his people first? He passed. Britain's head of government is Tony Blair, so I don't even need to tell you how it went for him. Patriots, including Margaret Thatcher, warned what the ICC would mean: only democratic countries would sign up, so the court would be useless at prosecuting any genuine dictators or terrorists guilty of war crimes. Instead, it would be reduced to the sort of absurd judgements that have included calls for Henry Kissinger to be tried for allowing the CIA to smash Chilean dictator Salvador Allende's communist regime in 1973, or that Margaret Thatcher go to court for the deaths in 1988 of three IRA terrorists, shot in Gibraltar by the SAS.

Now, though not through the ICC, we see the effect of such reasoning. I am no fan of the British government, but it is outrageous that some of the naive and wilfully treacherous campaigners who worked for the Soviet sponsored CND throughout the 1980s are now attempting to take it to court, unless it promises to seek a second resolution from the United Nations before declaring war on Saddam Hussein. Why should democratic governments be bound by the will of others in its actions? Why should Syria and China be able to veto Britain's actions when she seeks to defend herself?

Those who demanded UN support for action against Iraq got what they asked for. No matter that such deals involved granting oil rights to France in post-Saddam Iraq, that it gave China rights to declare its most heroic human rights campaigners as terrorists, and murder them, that it meant elevating the approval of Syria to some sort of moral achievement in itself. The UN route has already made this world a little less safe for democracy and for liberty. Now, they want further concessions to an organisation massively composed, as we saw in its Durban summit, of anti-Semites, racists, terrorists and kleptocrats. If CND is able to make it illegal for a government to defend its people without UN Security Council approval, they will have at once made the UN a sort of over-arching, unelected world government, able to determine the foreign policy of all democracies, despite any domestic support in each country for something different.

This war is right and necessary and should be fought whatever the UN might think. It is time Britain looked at the legal frameworks binding her government, and asked what benefit we gain from involvement in any international treaties that limit our democratic right to make our own decisions. NATO brings obvious benefits, but what good does subservience to the UN do anyone who is not an African dictator living off the backs of his people? If a war is wrong, it is for the British people at the ballot box to punish the government, not for 'peace' campaigners in the courts to do so.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:37 | Permanent Link |

Phil Gramm retires

AS SENATOR GRAMM'S time in office comes to an end, the National Review sympathetically profiles this remarkable figure, known over here chiefly for inviting the UK into NAFTA, but who clearly has done a great deal to improve his own country. Entering the Senate as a Democrat, when he saw the Reagan administration achieving all that he had wanted to do, he switched sides - the honourable way. He didn't just swap parties - he held a special election to confirm his new status as a Republican, and won. For this alone he puts turncoats such as George Howarth, Emma Nicholson, Peter Temple-Morris, Sean Woodward, and most notably Jim Jeffords, to shame. He also clearly did more good in his time in office than all of them combined.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:03 | Permanent Link |

After six years, we want a government that can reach the point of decision

ELECTRIC REVIEW HAS another of those unique analyses that seem obvious as soon as you've read them but no one seems quite to have got to the stage of putting pen to paper and expressing. Because of its electoral success, condemning this government's modus operandi seems in too many circles to be missing the point. Thankfully, Simon Gordon opines on New Labour's natural state of indecision, and rightly condemns this mediocre administration.

This is not a very effective government. They do not solve problems. They announce initiatives, appoint committees and so-called tsars, frame new laws when old ones could well be used and govern by gimmick. Like many now in positions of authority and influence in Britain and beyond, they seek to avoid decision-making because that means taking responsibility and if you take responsibility you could get into trouble and then, inevitably, offend someone.

For the Tories, the true mantle of decision-making and of government should beckon.

But of course true Conservatives know the answer to the disillusionment of the British people with their political parties. It is to address the real worries of the voters.

... We live in age where the British people expect delivery. They grew used to this concept under Margaret Thatcher. They may not have agreed with every thing she did but they knew decisions would be taken and acted upon. We now have an ethos that can be summed up as a problem dealt with is a problem shunted into a siding in the hope it will go away... It is time again to speak in the language of the people. The great blend of tradition and practicality that is the Conservative Party at its best has the opportunity to articulate these concerns. It should speak out and speak loudly.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:01 | Permanent Link |

Monday, November 25, 2002  

If Home Secretaries can't affect sentencing, let's have democratic control of judges

THE LAW LORDS have surrendered further British powers to Brussels today, this time accepting the idea that an elected Home Secretary giving longer sentences to child killers breaches their human rights.

When capital punishment was scrapped in this country, the British people, rightly fearful of a new period of weak justice, were promised that democratic accountability for sentences would be continued. Killers might not be hanged, but at the least the Home Secretary would be given discretion in ensuring they were punished sufficiently and the public protected. No more. Now, judges can effectively give as weak punishments as are legally allowed without the voters being able to do a thing about it. Across the country, victims, their families and potential victims are entirely at the mercy of too many lily-livered liberal judges. Educated at all the top universities and living in those few parts of the country still largely unaffected by mass crime, they can afford to act according to their liberal consciences, passing sentences that insult victims and put nearly everyone in danger, for in their privately guarded neighbourhoods, they aren't the ones who suffer.

Home Secretaries being able to extend sentences was always a blunt way to assert democratic authority anyway, and I would not propose it be restored. Instead, I favour elected judges of the sort many Americans are blessed. Judges do a tremendously important job, and they should be accountable to, and held account by, every one of us. You can be sure that anyone who let off criminals with the slaps on the wrists that presently occur would not be in the job long. Elected judges would be an important measure of democracy, and would result in the basic fairness of those who favour soft criminal justice policies actually having to live in areas where those policies would be put into practice. Maybe those Islington tea party types would think differently after a few years of one of their chosen judges being on the bench. And if they continued to favour letting criminals off lightly - to the extent that crooks can currently receive £50 fines for their 53rd conviction for burglary - that would be fine, so long as they didn't want to inflict their high crime, soft justice ideals on everyone else.

One of the virtues of American federalism is that it allows this sort of diversity. If you seriously object to a certain policy carried out where you live, or strongly favour the way another area is dealing with an issue, you can move to the city down the road, or campaign for changes to your own. Rather than the 49% having always to submit to the will of the majority, different parts of the country could have different policies, as suits their wishes. Perhaps the Conservatives should propose elections for judges as a radical new policy for fighting crime. Whatever their view on law and order, few will be those who would turn down the chance to express this view in elections that have a chance of affecting how it is enforced.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:39 | Permanent Link |

Five reasons Saddam must go

ECONOMIST EDITOR BILL Emmott has a very good Guardian column today giving the five reasons to support a war on Iraq. His final paragraph summarises admirably:

You can oppose the ultimate use of force in this very special case if you are a true pacifist. But do not call on foreign troops to be used to stop genocides in Rwanda, or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, or to promote democracy elsewhere if you are not willing to have them used to deal with this genocidal, ethnic-cleansing, power-hungry dictator. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:09 | Permanent Link |

Sunday, November 24, 2002  

The worst relations at the worst moment

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP that matters most in this government - not that between T. Blair and G. Bush, but between T. Blair and G. Brown - has always been tense since Blair become Labour leader, and had its ups and downs. But is it approaching breaking point? Andrew Rawnsley ponders:

The relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has never been more crucial - and it has never been worse... What can be said is that their relationship has never before been under so much external pressure - and never before has it been stretched by so much internal strain.

An interesting column, and I feel that given his track record with the marvellously revealing Servants of the People, the sources he gives must be taken seriously.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:13 | Permanent Link |

Expect little new from the new party

REMEMBER THE START Again Party? Yes, I thought not. It came to nothing in the end. But what of the 'New Party For Britain'? The Sunday Times reports:

A GROUP of disaffected Tory businessmen and donors is planning to launch a breakaway political party aimed at challenging both the Conservatives and Labour. The group, which includes a leading Scottish industrialist and multi-millionaire, plans to field candidates in most seats at the next general election if its ideas take off.

Styling themselves “progressives”, the businessmen hope to attract wealthy donors and thousands of supporters including Conservatives who despair at the current leadership and Labour voters disillusioned with Tony Blair’s government.

They have already hired consultants to advise them on political strategy and promotion of the party and have approached a leading academic to front a new think tank.

Although the founders share many traditional Tory concerns, such as overregulation of business, much of their criticism of modern Britain focuses on the need to help poorer sections of society and their ideas reflect those of the “modernisers” within the Tory party.

The party's developing web site doesn't give any more details of the eventual name or policies, managing in six pages to say little more than that they oppose bad things and favour good stuff, though dropping hints about cuts in social security spending.

Will it be a threat to anyone? I doubt it. Clearly, it is the Tory Party which has most to fear. But Sir James Goldsmith was immensely articulate, flamboyant and wealthy, and his Referendum Party failed miserably. It had a single issue to grasp on to that mattered to a small number of people, enough to cost the Conservatives up to 20 seats in 1997. A national party based on a general vision that has been crowded out by the other parties can expect to do much less well. It may have the money that many other fringe groups do not, but Goldsmith proved that money alone is not enough. Britain's political system is notoriously difficult for a new party to succeed in. I think the Tories, and the others, are safe for now.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:21 | Permanent Link |
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