Northern Rock giving its staff a pay rise with public money. Whatever happened to that free market that banks keep banging on about?
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, iran, nuclear weapons, Uncategorized | Tags: , iran, Nuclear Program
A rare news item that tells us that today the world is really a better place. Have a great day everyone.
Now one really has to wonder why Brown approved a strike on Iran in June of this year if this is all true.
Filed under: Conservatives, Foreign Affairs, US/UK relations | Tags: Abkhazia, Bosnia, Conservative Party, David Cameron, EU, Foreign Policy, NATO, South Ossetia, Transnistria, William Hague
Cameron’s mistake could not have been mere slip of the tongue, as, whilst speaking about the need to stop redrawing ‘lines on a map’ he placed parts of Moldova and Georgia within the Russian Federation. During his visit to Washington last week, David Cameron visited the Brookings Institution to give a speech on the Balkans. Brookings, an influential and highly respected think tank always draws many of the top experts to its events and the question and answer is guaranteed to be thorough. It was here where David revealed his shaky grip on some of the major problems facing Europe. Mr Haltzel of the Center for Transatlantic Relations of John’s Hopkins University asked Cameron’s opinion on Russia’s attempt to relate the situation in the balkans to Transnustria Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Cameron answered,
You’re absolutely right, there should be no parallel between what is happening in Kosovo — where, clearly, the Kosovo people are not going to accept being part of Serbia. There’s no parallel between that, which is a special situation, and anything that might be happening in parts of the Russian Federation. And we should reassure the Russians about that. There should be no linkage between those things.
Unfortunately, as someone flying to Washington to give a major speech on foreign policy should know, Transnistria is in Moldova and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are break away republics of Georgia.Later he was asked about the ideas floated about partitioning Kosovo above the Ibar. His reply again,
There are a large number of ethnic Serbians, if you like, living in Kosovo, but not in areas contiguous to Serbia, so an attempt to redraw the boundary doesn’tsolve that problem.
The Mitrovica region, which the questioner was referring to, and contains the largest proportion of Serbs, borders Serbia. This is of course a very difficult region to master, but if you do have to take the trouble to fly to Washington to talk about it, some swotting up in the plane would have been a good idea.The full text of the speech and question and answer session can be found here
Filed under: Liberal Democrats | Tags: Cabinet, Data Fiasco, HM Customs, Parliament, Prime Minister, UK Government
Gordon Brown’s response to crisis week, “Sorry, I will change” is symptomatic of what is wrong with the government of Britain today and why I support the Liberal Democrats, the only party who actually seems to understand that Britain’s problems are deeper than people and personality.
Britain today is run by a bureaucratic government with all accountability concentrated in political figures who’s constant rotation serves only to distract the general public from the real problems at hand, and provides a veil of democratic accountability.
Take the current fiasco with the loss of personal data by HM Customs and Revenue. Even if the the discs were not lost by a junior employee as at first claimed, why is the Prime Minister now taking the blame. After all with issues facing today such as environmental catastrophe, a war in Iraq and a financial system in crisis, do we really expect the Prime Minister to be keeping a close eye on data security policy for customs?
We should instead recognise that the vast majority of the business of Government is not carried out by 22 Cabinet Ministers, but by half a million civil servants. But with these 22 being the only democratically accountable members of the government, we tend to focus all of our attentions on them. In the end the solution boils down to a question of what we want our elected our representatives to do, to manage government directly or to oversee government.
Presently we have a system of government that does neither, no Cabinet minister, splitting her time between constituency, parliament and the ministry can hope to have a full grip on what is going on in her department. At the same time, by acting as a representative of that department, and her fate being tied to it, cannot provide vigorous oversight.
Our only hope is to reorganize our government, a good first step should be to disassociate parliament, from the government. Why should we be satisfied with part time, inexperienced, political hacks as leaders. Why should the Prime Minister not be able to appoint outstanding people from outside of parliament or his party to the most important offices in the land? To give an example, Nicholas Sarkozy’s Foreign Minister is the founder of Medicines Sans Frontiers and a member of the opposition Socialist Party. Secondly why should people like the Foreign Secretary, also have to deal with their constituent’s planning permission applications? I am sure they have other things to do.
Having the heads of ministries have this responsibility be their only full time job, would make them more accountable, whilst removing them from parliament, would also free up parliament to provide better oversight.
If we carry on decapitating the political leadership every time a crisis occurs, we will make no progress in achieving what should be the goal of government, good government.
Newsnight’s feature on the US welfare system painted a picture of society in the States that is completely unrecognizable to anyone living here and the suggestion that a similar system should be implemented in the UK, is quite frankly criminal.
In the states the federal minimum wage is $5.55. There are 40 million people without health insurance and 9 million of them are children. 24% of the US workforce earn less than poverty level wages. In Washington DC, where I live and the Nations capital, the murder rate is around 15 times higher than London and the infant mortality rate is double that of Cuba. One third of DC residents are functionally illiterate and 1 in 20 are infected with HIV.
Why anyone in their right minds could even advocate introducing a welfare system that has clearly failed is beyond me.
Filed under: Britain and Europe, Foreign Affairs, Liberal Democrats, Party Matters | Tags: Chris Huhne, Democracy, EU, European Union, Eurosceptics, Far Right, Liberal Democrats, Membership, Nick Clegg, Referendum
I just can not find it within myself to understand the Liberal Democrat’s insane policy towards Europe. In supporting a referendum on membership of the Union we are risking the biggest policy disaster of a generation and playing into the hands of the lunatic elements of the far right. This policy is just stupid.
As a pro European party the leadership seem to be banking on the fact that they will win any election on EU membership. This vote will validate membership and silence the far right. In the end it will be a positive thing for Europe. The tactic is nothing more than a game of chicken, with the winner taking all and the loser crashing and burning. It is nothing less than irresponsible.
The latest eurobarometer polls show that 39% of people in Britain view EU membership as a good thing and 30% as a bad thing. This is shaky ground to hold a referendum on, notwithstanding the fact that with a media establishment strongly opposed to EU membership any referendum will be a tough battle and victory by no means certain. Yes, pro EU parties are overwhelmingly in the majority in parliament and UKIP is insignificant but that is because for voters Europe is a marginal issue. However this makes a referendum even more dangerous those who are anti EU tend to be much more vocal and motivated. By isolating a marginal issue for the majority of voters in this way a referendum on Europe risks being won by a narrow margin by a minority of hard core right wing activists getting out the vote.
The result of a lost referendum will be catastrophic. Leaving the EU would jeopardize security and police cooperation putting us at greater risk of a terrorist attack. We would put at risk millions of jobs and the health of the economy, through disintegrating our economy from our largest trading partners. In terms of foreign affairs, the UK will see itself quickly fading into irrelevance.
Some might criticize my argument as anti democratic, what can be more democratic than a referendum? What could be more democratic than a referendum after all? Well they would be wrong. Firstly it is not democratic to have a small elite in the media coupled with a small minority of hard core racists, mobilize against the best interests of the people.
Secondly, we have fallen into believing the tory propaganda that the EU is poses a serious constitutional change to the UK and so it needs to be validated by the public. The EU is an intergovernmental organization. A highly developed one indeed, but still, not a government or a nascent federation. This is important to understand because it means that all power still rests with our national elected officials. The greatest PR coup of the right was to convince the British people that every new expansion of EU cooperation was a hand over of power to Brussels.
Nothing can be father from the truth. Through the council of ministers our ministers have a veto on all matters of importance and an effective veto on all unimportant measures. Decisions made in Brussels are approved and passed by our elected officials, and if someone has a problem with a certain law, they should take it up with their government and not with Brussels.
Demands for a referendum are not present because the EU is expanding its power, they come from people who only think that it is. Fed by propaganda from a few who are following their own agenda. In fact the new Treaty introduces many additional checks on power.
If the EU did pose a fundamental shift in the structure and functioning of our democracy, I would support a referendum also. Indeed fundamental constitutional changes should only be made with the consent of the people, but on more minor matters there is a reason why we have representative democracy. In this case the Liberals are simply fighting the wrong fight.
Filed under: Britain and Europe | Tags: Democratic Deficit, EU, Europe, Parliament, Scrutiny
The problem over the democratic deficit in Brussels is as much to do with Parliament’s lack of scrutiny as it is with anything else. The public should understand that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinize all EU legislation, something it simply isn’t doing right now.