31 May, 2010

Israel and Gaza

Strange. I never agreed with my late father about Israel. By my early teens I had a large number of Jewish friends and I suppose had absorbed their views. I still harbour a strong sympathy for Israel now.

My father by contrast had been in Palestine after the war and was vehemently anti-Israeli. He even regarded the Balfour Declaration, that there should be a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, as a stitch up.

I asked him once how they had permitted the young state to establish itself. He said that after the war there was no taste for killing innocent people, women and children, particularly those who had been persecuted. They arrived in small boats and were let in.

When I heard of the flotilla of small boats arriving from Turkey I wondered whether the wheel was turning a full circle. I don't know. It appears they were warned not to enter the exclusion zone, that Israel had identified known gunrunners amongst them. Israel says it promised to deliver the aid via the usual channels from Ashdod.

Anyway the Israeli army boarded the ships and several people are dead. The BBC carried a report that some Israeli soldiers had been killed or wounded, but said this was from weapons taken from them. I should like to know more about this: what you have to do to take a weapon from an Israeli commando I'm not sure.

I think we need some independent report on this. I don't buy the business about this being just a humanitarian mission - there are better ways to go about that, which would have assured the aid got through. Aid doesn't seem to have been their principal goal. And we must remember that Hamas is a terrorist group, not a political party.

At the same time this hasn't done Israel any favours. We should let some light into the matter.

Danny Alexander

Danny Alexander, the MP for Nairn and whatever in Scotland, had barely walked into his new job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replacement for David Laws, when the Telegraph announced he had 'avoided' tax on his second home.

It seems that this time the Telegraph may be wrong and that in fact no tax was payable.

However what Mr Alexander cannot avoid is his extraordinary likeness to Beaker from the Muppets. Apparently they have never been seen in the same room together. Here, appropriately since Mr Alexander was Director of Communications for the Britain in Europe Campaign, is his attempt at the European Anthem.

29 May, 2010

David Laws

There was a strange story going around yesterday that the Conservative / LibDems had refused to put up a panel member on Question Time where Alistair Campbell was representing Labour. The chosen one had been going to be David Laws, the Coalition Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

This morning’s Telegraph ‘outed’ Mr Laws as having paid rent to a live-in lover (male), one James Lundle, that rent coming from the public purse. I suppose the two stories are connected.

Mr Laws has offered to pay back the money and said that he kept the arrangement secret because he didn’t want his sexuality to come out, nor his relationship to Mr Lundle.

Now it seems to me that this is somewhat odd. Laws was born in 1965 and so for all but 2 years of his life homosexuality has been legal. Several MPs from all parties have declared themselves gay and he wouldn’t be the only gay man in the cabinet.

And if he really wanted to keep all this secret, why pay rent to his lover, inviting scrutiny? I’m afraid it looks as if he was simply on the fiddle.

This is a serious problem for Mr Cameron because Laws holds a pivotal position. He is in charge of the spending cuts and is probably the only senior LibDem who is sensible on this issue. If Laws goes, there will be a movement to have Vince Cable as Chief Secretary, which Osborne and the Treasury don’t want.

Cameron will try to keep him on. But he can’t, not in the present climate. You can’t say ‘An end to the old politics, we’re whiter than white’ and then have as Third Lord of the Treasury someone who has had his hands in the till.

Phillip Hammond, Transport Minister, had been an able Shadow Chief Secretary and should be put quickly into the job. The LibDems could supply a replacement at Transport, preferably someone not barking green.

The late Berlusca

The Italian government is putting the final touches to an austerity budget, it is said of some €25-30bn.

This might be seen as a defining moment for Silvio Berlusconi. He has, since the banking crisis, affected to regard Italy as sailing above the wreckage (to the extent it has it was because the Italian banks were too old fashioned to buy any of the new fangled financial instruments) and Silvio has not been slow to take some credit for the fact that everything seemed OK.

But with a budget deficit and ballooning debt it wasn’t OK. Now the crisis, a sovereign debt one rather than a bank liquidity one, is in his front garden and knocking on his door. When talking of excessive sovereign debt, the markets never really thought ‘Greece’; they might have thought a little bit ‘Spain’ (which has been downgraded recently) but what they really think is ‘Italy’. And Silvio obliged by posting even worse debt figures than had been expected.

What sort of opportunity is it for Silvio? Perhaps this most Italian of politicians, who uses charm and style to circumvent even the most dangerous moments can reinvent himself as the man who made austerity work, the man who saved Italy, even (and he has already mooted this) the man who saved the euro.

But to what end? He has three years left of his mandate. At the end of it he will be 76. True, that won’t make him the oldest ever (that was Fanfani, who held on until he was nearly 80) but times are changing, and the corrupt, immovable system which kept Fanfani, Andreotti and the rest in power is no more.

Really for Silvio it is too late. He should, as advised by this blog, have done this a lot earlier. His only hope is that he wants to be President, a post elected by MPs, and that he can threaten to carry on after 2013 unless they vote him in.

It is a tragedy of lost opportunity. A man with the country at his feet who did nothing until the markets forced him to.

28 May, 2010

Will Hutton

Continuing an occasional series about the people who govern us.

The pieces of legislation which define the economic governance of the UK came shortly after the war; the Companies Act, and the component parts of the Welfare State. Will Hutton has understood neither of them.

Instead, he believes that society operates on a system of 'stakeholders'. that is to say that if you buy shares, say, one hundredth of a percent of a company, you are not entitled to one hundredth of a percent of it, because there are other people who have an interest, too: trades unions, local governments, whatever. Hutton saw no separation between ownership and involvement. In fact he failed completely to understand the capitalist system.

Hutton naturally asssociated himself with the loopier element of the Labour Party after 1997, the group of sycophantic pseudo intellectuals surrounding Tony Blair who were there to give credence to his absurd, and failed, 'third way' concept. Blair liked these guys because they meant he didn't have much explaining to do. Hutton wrote for the Guardian and headed up the Work Foundation.

Here is Hutton on Gordon Brown, writing in 2004

'His economic forecasts prove more accurate than those of his self-righteous and near permanently wrong critics. It is boring that brick by tedious brick he is laying the foundations of an economy and society that copies Scandinavia's successes as much as those of the US. And it is infuriating that the predictions that his sums will end in a terrifying black hole never come true.'

How pleased he must be with that statement now.

Now, incredibly, David Cameron has offered Hutton a job, working out how much public sector workers should be paid. It's like asking Cheryl Cole for her opinions on Rousseau.

If Cameron is ever going to make a change to this country, if he is ever going to get the Conservatives into power on their own, if he is ever going to defend us against these charlatans coming back to power, he must get out and denounce the intellectually bankrupt basis of their governance. Not give them jobs.

Greece: the knot tightens

From Associated Press (hat-tip Ian Martin of the WSJ)

“Greece’s biggest phone company says it accidentally cut off the prime minister’s home line in a mix-up over an unpaid bill the day the country faced a crucial debt repayment deadline. OTE telecoms says George Papandreou was left without a home landline for three days on May 19-21 after an employee mistyped a digit when cutting another subscriber’s line over debts. An OTE statement said Wednesday the mistake was not immediately noticed. It said the company chairman wrote to Mr. Papandreou over the incident.

On May 19, Greece repaid an expiring 10-year bond worth €8.5 billion ($10.48 billion) - using the first installment of a €110 billion rescue package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. There was a general strike the next day.”

Europe: all you need to know

From Clarke and Dawe

25 May, 2010

Greece: the island nation

One of the reasons the EU are going to such lengths to keep Greece afloat is the extent of its foreign bondholders: that is to say non-Greeks to whom it owes money. If it only owed money to its own citizens - and this is to a large extent the situation with Italy - a restructuring of the debt would simply mean impoverishing them a bit.

But Greece owes some €340 billion abroad, enough to trigger a major financial disaster.

So if a restructuring of its debts is too much of a shock, and it can't pay them back itself, what is the answer?

It's the islands. Greece owns something like 1,400 islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, of which only a few hundred are inhabited. They should sell them off now.

24 May, 2010

Sarah Ferguson

I have always been a bit of a fan of Sarah Ferguson. She was treated badly by the Royal Family and never did any of the kiss and tell stuff – although I am sure there was plenty to tell. And she has tried to earn money in whatever way she could, which is commendable.

The latest scandal in what seems to have been an over-eventful few years has shown her in a poor light. It seems she saw an opportunity at a time awhen she needed money and jumped at it. Ferguson is not bright, although brighter than her friend the late Princess of Wales who said she had wanted to be an air hostess but wasn’t brainy enough.

There is much tabloid murmuring about damage done to the Royal Family and Prince Andrew’s business role. As regards the Royal Family, they have ploughed on through far worse than this and it will soon be forgotten.
As regards Prince Andrew, most people think he is pretty lucky to have any kind of business role at all. The irony is that Andrew is the easiest royal to meet – you just say you want to import some goods from Britain. If you wave a golfclub in the air you get him for the whole day.

23 May, 2010

The cops vs. The people

Bedfordshire Police’s new speed camera van. They bought a normal speed camera van (whatever that is) and converted it at a cost of £28,000 so that it has cameras at the front, the rear and at the sides. It can detect a speeding motorist at a range of half a mile.

For me this is exactly why we want elected chief constables. Politicians boast about how much of our money they are spending on the police, or about how many policemen there are, but never about what those police are doing.

What most people want is to feel safe in their homes, to be able to walk to the shops or the bus stop without fear of attack, for their children not to be offered drugs at the school gate.

The Police don’t seem to be in tune with this at all, or if they are, don’t seem to care what we want. They like film cameras, fast cars and helicopters. And I am quite certain they enjoy their relentless battle against the British Motorist.

Unless this is something else that Cameron has given up because Nick Clegg didn’t like it, the game may soon be up. Sooner the better.

21 May, 2010

The last refuges of scoundrels

1. Repeating tirelessly the lie that the British drink too much because alcohol is cheap, and putting up taxes. Alcohol is not cheap in Britain, it is expensive, and people drink too much because they think it is naughty.

2. Pretending the European Convention on Human Rights was Churchill’s invention, so it must be OK. Forgetting for a minute that Churchill made mistakes (Dardanelles?) it is preposterous to make out that he would have approved of Pakistani terrorists being allowed to stay in Britain because the Pakistanis might have been horrid to them.

3. Fiddling the rules to stay in power. Shamelessly telling the people that a 54% majority having no confidence in the government should allow it to stay in power. The people can count.

4. Shafting your own supporters to stay in power. Cameron’s actions on the 1922 Committee involved people who are not members of a club voting on whether they should become members. Think I’ll try this at the Athenaeum.

5. Suddenly realising a hung parliament is a good idea, when you described it as ‘disastrous’ just days before, and describing your clinging on to power as ‘the National Interest’.

New Politics, eh?

Oh brave new world, that hath such people in it!

20 May, 2010

At last! The policies!

So, here we are. The General Election was on 6th May. Mr Cameron became Prime Minister on 11th May. And on the 20th May, a fortnight after you voted, they are telling you what the policies are.

I am still waiting for someone to explain in what way this is democratic.

If you voted Conservative because Mr Cameron was going to repatriate powers from Europe, your vote was a nonsense because he isn't going to do that any more. And he is going to fiddle the votes of his backbench 1922 committee, and the dissolution rules in parliament, to make sure he stays in power for five years and you never get what you voted for.

In my view this is just, just awful. We should have had another election but 'they' (the political class) said that 'we' (the electorate) didn't want one.

19 May, 2010

A simple economics lesson

No one should be surprised when European stockmarkets fall after Germany bans short selling.

If you buy something and someone restricts what you can do with it, it is worth less.

Europe seems stuck in the rut of blaming others. Instead it should be asking 'why isn't it a rush to buy our stocks which is causing market turmoil'?

The answer is the incomplete nature of the eurozone. It should either be a total political and economic union or not exist at all.

I would favour the latter. So would most Germans.

A shameful piece of nonsense

I think the first thing which needs to be said about the strange case of Abid Naseer and Ahmad Faraz Khan is that they arrived in the UK on legitimate visas and have not been convicted of any crime. In fact they have not even been charged.

However the Home Office wanted them deported, convinced they were al-Qaeda operatives and a danger to national security. A judge has now said that they cannot be deported because they might face torture.

A number of lessons need to be drawn from this. The first is, that having been told for years that our Foreign Office is a Rolls Royce machine, we are slowly coming to the certainty that it is comprised of a bunch of lazy, ineffective pen-pushers. Pakistan is supposed to be an ally of the UK in the war on terrorism, and we couldn’t even get some assurance that they wouldn’t torture their own people for something done here? We’re on the same side for God’s sake!

Incidentally, I don’t think the British Public are in tune with the politically right-on about torture. I think an opinion poll would reveal that the vast majority wouldn’t care if these people were tortured by their own government. It goes on in China all the time and we never complain about that.

The second lesson is that whatever we do in this coalition period it is clear that a priority must be getting rid of the absurd human rights legislation. Foreign lawmaking judges can hand down interpretations to British Courts to the effect that legislation, even the control over our borders, is now out of our hands.

So what will happen to this strange pair who are seeking asylum in a country where they apparently intended to commit mass murder? The Home Secretary, Teresa May, who has not had a good start, has suggested that they will be subject to control orders. I am against these. I think the guilty should be sent to prison and the not-guilty left alone. Control orders are a way of imprisoning the innocent.

But we’ll have to keep an eye on Messrs. Naseer and Khan. To mount 24hr surveillance requires 50 operatives.

Could someone in authority please take a step backwards and tell us whether this state of affairs is (a) roughly what they envisaged, (b) sustainable and (c) a suitable example of governance for the future. The new Lord Chancellor, who has also had a poor start, has said that reviewing the human rights legislation is not a priority. I think it is. This is clearly a piece of idiotic nonsense.

As someone said during the election campaign, we can’t go on like this.

17 May, 2010

The axeman cometh

In what I think will be regarded as a brilliant stroke by Chancellor George Osborne, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury - the man who actually has to implement the public expenditure cuts - is a LibDem, David Laws.

Here is what Matthew d'Ancona had to say about him:

'Mr Laws has the slightly stooped but twinkle-eyed countenance* of a mortician who likes to have fun at the weekend.'

He it is who will have to decide what is a 'front line service' (a phrase which seems to have been accepted without challenge during this election but which to my mind is indefinable and therefore meaningless) and is ring-fenced and what is not and therefore cuttable.
What about.... no, thought not.

This is the toughest job in the government and I wish him well.

*this use of 'countenance' to mean demeanour rather than facial expression is archaic, but we can forgive d'Ancona because he is a fellow of All Souls.

Triesman says

I rather agree with Matthew Sayed, that any comments Lord Triesman made to his mistress in confidence are a matter for him. In fact he said that there was some evidence that the Spanish were trying to find the names of the referees in order to bribe them; he didn't say it was a lot of evidence or that it was compelling, just that there was some.

Triesman has in fact done us a favour if his statement means that we lose the World Cup bidding. After the nonsense of the Olympics the last thing we need is another expensive international competition. This is a good race in which to come second.

Can I just remind everyone, read my lips..

We haven't got any money.

Lords a-plenty

A disturbing article in today’s Times. In order to reflect the state of the parties after the election, it is calculated that the Con-Lib coalition would need to create more than a hundred new life peers. In fact 172 new ones are what is being suggested over the five year term.

The problem is that you can’t get rid of any of the existing 211 Labour ones, elevated by Tony Blair because most of the last lot were Conservative.

So if we have a series of elections (not impossible: between 1964 and 1974 we had five) the House of Lords would increase inexorably as adjustments were made and nobody died until you were more likely to meet a peer over the dinner table or at a football match than a commoner.

This is unless it is reformed, which they have promised to do but over which those self same lords will have a vote.

Here is a different idea. Let’s abolish the whole damn thing. The House of Lords is always described as a revising chamber, but why do we need such a thing? Civil servants could check that the laws promulgated weren’t idiotic. Why do we need another body to say ‘The elected representatives of the people were a little wrong here, let’s change it to this or water it down’. A bit patronising, no? Why should the people I’ve elected to run the country have their deliberations watered down or ‘revised’?

It’d save a few bob, too.

And having sacked the lot of them, if we at some stage in the future felt we needed a second chamber after all, we could just create it, along sensible lines.

But I rather feel we wouldn’t miss it.

PS We didn't get a 'resignation honours' list from Gordon Brown, but he reserves the right to elevate some of his chums. Just imagine what horrors that might contain.

16 May, 2010

Abusive Gnome alert

An ugly struggle is developing in the tiny village of Furore, between Amalfi and Positano. The council has sent out letters demanding the removal of garden gnomes and similar statuettes of Snow White and her dwarves from village gardens. Hitherto no planning permission had been required to erect a gnome, but they have now been declared ‘abusive’. ‘They alter the natural environment’, said the mayor.

The villagers have not been slow to condemn this Gnomist tendency on the part of their elected politicians, with several declaring they will pay the fine and keep their little garden friends.

Furore lists its population as 810, but it is not certain how many of these are gnomes.

14 May, 2010

The Grand Panjandrum

Ken Clarke, who has been sworn in as Lord Chancellor. I was never really happy with Jack Straw in the post: the Lord Chancellor should look as if he drinks vintage port, not mint tea.

Clarke has said that abolishing the human rights act is not a priority, which is a shame, because at present if you don't like the decision of our Supreme Court you can appeal to some foreigners.

He will, however have to put up with the flak over the 55% limit for dissolution, a case of a government legislating to prolong its term in office and a pretty ugly spectacle.

Good luck to him.

13 May, 2010

The new boys

Here’s what the new coalition has achieved so far:

1 A 5% reduction in ministerial salaries. This looks like a silly gimmick. It is not necessarily a good idea to pay ministers less. If you’ve got monkeys you have to consider the possibility that you may be paying peanuts.

2. Fixed term parliaments. I don’t know what people think this will achieve. Now we all know the date of the next election, the government just has to inflate the economy in good time. What have we gained?

3. A new 55% vote required for a dissolution of parliament after a motion of no confidence as opposed to the usual 50% + 1 MP. This is a piece of sheer gerrymandering. It is a disgraceful, undemocratic fiddle.

Good grief.

John Smith

I missed it, but yesterday was the anniversary of the death of John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, in 1994.

When I heard of his death I was closeted with the returning oficer for Wiltshire (it was the time of the Euro elections and I was a candidate). It is hard to think of another party leader having died during an election campaign. Such was the commotion that there was even talk of suspending the election, but the matter was, of course, out of British hands.

Smith was highly intelligent, a good debater, but mostly wrong on a range of subjects. As shadow chancellor he helped lose the election for Neil Kinnock by publishing a draft budget, which we all had plenty of time to ridicule. It is following this humiliation that candidates on both sides are reluctant to reveal the details of their plans, and the ridiculous spectacle of people arguing about £6 billion when they needed to cut £160 billion.

Italy: The Caste and their cars

Seeing the shiny new Jaguars arriving in Downing St I thought what a boost to the car industry this must be. While central government has about 300 cars, I was rather surprised to learn that the total number of government owned or financed cars in the UK is 55,000.

However this is nothing like Italy, where the comparable figure is 629,000. They are known as Auto Blu, although they can be any colour; the police wave them across red lights and often, behind, say, a Maserati there will be an expensive BMW carrying an aide or a bodyguard.

Despite a law passed in 1991 that only Ministers, undersecretaries and a few Directors General are entitled to such a privilege, the number has grown dramatically, up from 200,000 just a few years ago. It is qute normal to see a government car, with police escort, pull up outside some luxury store so the mamma of someone important can do her shopping. Near us, a Lancia regularly collects an attractive ragazza and brings her back the following morning.

Now the minister for Public Administration (which sounds straight out of Yes Minister), Renato Brunetta, has promised to do something about it, under pressure from Contribuenti.it, a taxpayer's group.

He'll have a fight on his hands. The political class, known as La Casta in Italy, The Caste, looks after its own.

12 May, 2010


Gordon Brown made a decent resignation speech and people are nice to the departing loser, but before long conversation will turn again to whether he was the worst Prime Minister we have ever had.

I am inclined to think he wasn’t, firstly because competition for that accolade is pretty stiff, and second because his premiership was defined by trying to patch up, undo and explain the mistakes of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer which was, of course, him.

I think, however, he is well on course to be regarded as the worst Chancellor we have ever had.

In part it was the preachy hypocrisy. While pompously lecturing his European counterparts (there is one group of people who won’t miss him) on management of the economy, he unleashed a debt fuelled boom that has left us on our knees. While preaching about the ‘twenty-two Tory tax rises’ he introduced literally hundreds, introducing us to the term ‘stealth tax’ which meant something he had inserted into the small print which you only discovered several days after the end of the debate. While rambling on about Prudence being his watchword he allowed the economy to overheat, such that the only way he could stop the Monetary Policy Committee from raising interest rates was to change the definition of inflation, which he didn’t hesitate to do.

Brown wrecked the nation’s pensions, taking out, some say, £100 billion, leaving the stockmarket (into which the pensions were invested) roughly at the same level it was in 1997. He did this by cancelling the Advanced Corporation Tax dividend relief, confident that the voters wouldn’t understand it and therefore wouldn’t complain. With this and his tax rises and his debt he showered the public sector with money, most of which went on pay rises for people who might vote for him.

As a politician Brown was perhaps the most tribalist we have ever seen. Anyone who can profess to being a socialist while taking away the 10p tax rate, making our poorest people worse off, just to score a point off the Tories, is a psychological study.

With Brown goes the last vestige of New Labour. With its Spin Doctors and Special Advisers, its media refutation unit (what the minister was actually saying....) its corruption, its dirty tricks, it has brought British Politics to a new low from which I don’t expect we shall ever recover. On average, in their thirteen years of office, a new crime was created every day.

Good riddance to the whole twisted, sanctimonious lot of them.

That Clegg campaign song in full

Man of the moment

Brown out, Dave in

Presumably as a result of reading this blog, HM Queen has handed Gordon Brown his P45 and sent for David Cameron.

It is too early to tell the price the Tories are having to pay for this. There is talk that Clegg will become Deputy PM, that the new government will abandon Tory plans on inheritance tax and supporting the family, but will commit to a referendum on the Alternative Vote and the Liberal plan to raise the income tax threshhold to £10,000. And there will be six LibDem cabinet ministers.

It already looks like a very high price to pay, and I suppose there is more in the offing.

11 May, 2010

The Euro: Dirty Harry Trichet

I'm not a great fan of the near $1 trillion 'shock and awe' rescue package of the euro, given that it was more of a rescue for the banks than for the member countries, and that all it does is buy time, rather than address the fundamental problems.

But I did enjoy this, from Daniel W Drezner in Foreign Policy

"I know what you're thinking. Is this my last rescue package, or do I have another source of credit in reserve? Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a €720bn rescue package, the most powerful one in the world, and would wipe away any short position you've taken in the past week, you've got to ask yourself one question. 'Do I feel lucky?' Well do you, punk?"

We'll see. In my experience the markets get satisfied and warm for a bit, then a bit itchy, then a bit have-a-go.

But maybe they'll turn on Britain first.

UK Elections 21: the end of democracy?

I go away for a few hours (unfortunately they’d found my stolen car, leaving me with more forms to fill in than if I had wanted to change my citizenship) and all hell breaks loose on the UK Politics front.

Clegg announces that he will start negotiations with Labour, and Brown announces he will resign.

Actually, what Brown in fact seems to have said is that he will oversee the negotiations and hope to have his successor in place by the Party Conference in September / October.

So, let’s see what is being proposed. Far from being a weakened or Lame Duck Prime Minster Brown’s position is greatly strengthened: his offer to resign confirms him in power for a few months while he steers the negotiations towards the policies of his favourite, Ed Balls, who will also make him Viscount Brown of Concorde, if they don’t give in to the LibDems on an elected second chamber. All this will have been explained to him by Peter Mandelson (‘Trusssst in me..’) as the knife went in between his shoulder blades.

As stated before, the parties in Britain are themselves coalitions, so there is a great difference between a set of policies drawn up by Brown / Balls and one drawn up by Harriet Harman or David Milliband. We vote for individual representatives in Britain but the Prime Minister will have a huge amount of patronage and influence. Think you’ll be asked who you want? Don’t make me laugh! It’s out of the hands of the little people now.

A deal will be done involving other parties, since the LibDems votes added to Labour’s are not enough. Their votes are for sale, and the new rulers will spend hundreds of millions of our taxes buying them. For the second time in a row Britain will have a Prime Minister who did not stand as Party Leader in the election, chosen by senior Labour Party people (‘Jussssst in me...’) and a few big smells in the unions.

Can you honestly say you are happy about this? Coupled with the stitch up will be the LibDems’ price, an alien voting system which nobody knows is what we want – less than a quarter of people voted for it. If we move to proportional representation we will have this sort of stitch-up every time.

Our democracy is being wrested from us by a few insiders. And where is the guardian of our constitution HM The Queen? Palace officials say she doesn’t want to get too close to the details of her people being shafted in case it embarrasses her.

We need another election, and we need it now.

10 May, 2010


Interesting, while all the talk of negotiations for a coalition (or cohabitation) are going on, that today is the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill's wartime coalition.

They say that even though history may not repeat, it does rhyme

A billion here, a billion there

.... and pretty soon you're starting to talk about real money' said the American senator.

Yesterday Alastair Darling, acting UK chancellor, having spent the election campaign lambasting the Tories for wanting to take £6 billion out of the economy, 'agreed' to underwrite £13 billion of other European countries' debts.

Apparently he was forced into this because the Lisbon Treaty made such bailouts the subject of majority voting and we were simply outvoted.

The next time Mr Nick Clegg is in front of a microphone perhaps he could explain why the Lisbon Treaty was such a good idea.

Lena Horne

Lena Horne, who has died

The LibDems and the system

The LibDems, understandably, are resentful about the number of seats they won, which I admit was very low compared to their share of the vote. As Robert Tilleard comments, for achieving nearly a quarter of the vote they got less then a tenth of the seats. I wonder if I can offer some advice?

Firstly, the British system is not about voting for a party, it is about voting for a person to represent you. So in this respect complaints from a party are irrelevant. But no one claims that the First Past the Post (FPTP) system is perfect, only that it is the least bad.

The Tories suffered too:

In Scotland: Labour polled 1,035,528, which translated into 41 seats
The Tories polled 412,855, yet got only 1 seat

In Wales:Labour polled 531,601 for 26 seats
The Tories 382,730 for 8 seats

Those are even worse percentages of seats to votes than the LibDems complain of.

I have chosen this example because as everyone knows the Tories are not very popular in Scotland and Wales. They would have done far better to concentrate their resources on areas where they were likely to do well, rather than come second or third. The reason they don’t is that they feel they have to fight every seat in order to look like a national party.

And this is the Liberal problem – always has been. The reason they fight every seat is historical: they were once, when Lloyd George was with us, the governing party, and they still aspire to this: they think they have to offer a candidate in every constituency. They remind me of an athlete who comes second in every race demanding a share of the World Champion’s crown.

Of course, one of the reasons they so often come second or a good third is that they are the disaffected voter’s party. If we had a system in which they were likely to do very well, people might start to look at their policies, which are a ragbag of the clever and the insane. Europe, for example, is unpopular with the British electorate. If the two main parties had realised in time that the LibDems would be such a threat, they would have continually broadcast to a terrified electorate Nick Clegg’s speeches on further integration and Vince Cable saying how joining the euro would solve our problems. Their vote would have ben considerably lower if they had been scrutinised.

But they could do better under the present system. The solution for the LibDems is to abandon their blanket coverage and concentrate on places they do well. The South West is an example: if they had not bothered with candidates in a good 150 seats but love bombed the South West, turning themselves into a sort of Wessex Regional Party those second places might have been translated into firsts. As it is they put up candidates in safe Labour or Tory seats, the candidate gets 5,000 votes, nowhere near winning, and that five thousand votes are added to the total that they whinge about not getting them enough seats. It’s a bit disingenuous, really.

Back to the voting system. The human mind isn’t channelled along two or three fixed lines, it is nuanced. There are many strands of belief and opinion and government is achieved by coalitions of belief. Under the British system the large parties are the coalitions, each one has a left, a right and a middle and they just about manage to rub along together, Ken Clarke with Michael Howard, Tony Benn with Tony Blair. Under the continental system there are many more parties and they come together to form a coalition. The difference is that under our system you know the policies before you vote. Under the Continental system you get to find out about them after you have voted.

09 May, 2010

Another Election

This time in Germany, in North Rhine Westphalia, the region bordering Holland and Belgium, which comprises some of Germany's large industrial cities such as Duesseldorf, Dortmund, Essen and the old capital Bonn.

Mrs Merkel could lose her majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house, today, which would dramatically weaken her position. She is rather a victim of circumstance. Having delayed implementation of the Greek rescue plan because the majority of Germans are opposed to it, she is now being criticised for dithering, and making the final plan more expensive than it need be.

Several North Rhine-Westphalia cities are on the verge of bankruptcy, and in no mood to bail out the Greeks.

08 May, 2010

UK Elections 20: a marriage made on TV

So, here we are then. Nick Clegg has said that the Conservatives deserve the first inscription on his carte de danse and despite the fact that the incumbent would be constitutionally allowed first shout, Gordon Brown has graciously permitted this (ie not believing it can happen). So let us play the shadchan, or matchmaker, and work out what are the chances for this union.

Easier of the two positions to explain is the Tory Party, mainly because it is the least detailed. The core belief of the Tory Party (many people have said they should ditch the term ‘Tory’ but I think they should ditch the term ‘Conservative’) is that they ought to be in power. Nick Clegg landed a blow when he said they were already measuring up for the curtains in Downing St (silly, though; they already had them on file). Otherwise the Tories are the party of fiscal rectitude (I exclude the period of Anthony Barber’s ‘dash for growth’ in the ‘70s and John Major’s absurd adherence to fixing the currency against the Deutsche Mark) and of doing what the middle classes want. The new intake of MP is younger and less likely to lean towards the unattractive Daily Mail authoritarianism of its predecessors . It’s about ‘doing the right thing’ with a bit of modernity. Oh, and Cameron professes to be a tree-hugger, except when it might cost votes.

The Liberal Democrats are easier to understand and at the same time more eclectic. Over the years, partly because they have had no chance of power, some rather interesting policies have emerged, and these have been in part libertarian. They are against ID cards, believe there should be fewer cameras on the streets; they like the idea of localism and want an elected second chamber.

Against that the LibDems have two authoritarian Big State policies: they favour the European Union and the Euro, and they want to empower the political class at the expense of the electorate by embracing proportional representation.

In the negotiations the Tories can threaten a new election which the LibDems can't afford, but Clegg can threaten to cosy up to Brown. Cameron isn't in such a powerful position that he can take the nice bits of LibDem policy and reject the rest. These votes have to be bought.

Cameron can't really compromise on the euro because he has promised never to join it (unlike Gordon Brown’s ‘Let’s join the euro when the time is right’) and the LibDems don’t want to talk too much about that at the moment, but promises on the House of Lords, evening out the size of the constituencies and a referendum on PR some time in the future (‘the British people don’t want to be bothered about constitutional change until the deficit is reduced’) with the Tories deciding on the question to be put.

Add in a couple of cabinet jobs (not Vince Cable, please) and it could work. A part of me hopes it does.

UK Elections 19: the voting scandal

There was an internet campaign by the Government showing people the importance of voting, how to register, even a 3D mock up of a polling booth showing you how to put your cross. The politicians, all of them, said ‘make sure you vote’. The celebrities were pulled out. Some bloggers even made a video with Bucks Fizz singing ‘Making your mind up’.

Even the Electoral Commission helped the publicity, saying ‘Make sure nothing stops you voting’.

And the call was answered: hundreds of thousands of people registered for the first time.

Now we learn that many of them were disenfranchised. It seems that the returning officers, although knowing the numbers registered to vote, didn’t supply enough staff. People queued for hours at the polling station – Good grief! At the last election we’d have prayed for such a thing – and at 10pm were turned away, their democratic rights chucked in the gutter like an empty hamburger box.

Good bloody Grief.

What sort of message does this send out to first time voters, wary that their vote wouldn’t change things, but persuaded to be part of the system? What does it say to the rest of the world? There were observers there from Kenya for God’s sake, what story have they brought back?

We need the following: a quick report (not one of those £20m investigations designed to sweep the thing under the carpet for five years) and we need some heads to roll. Any Returning Officer who did not supply enough staff so that the numbers wanting to vote – and they knew the numbers – could do so before 10pm needs to be sacked, and publicly.

07 May, 2010

Greece: advice to rioters

I was intrigued to find that a lot of the rioting in Athens is taking place on Syntagma (Constitution) Square, near the Hotel Grande Bretagne (I don’t know why its name is in French).

It is an ugly building, stuffed with imitation third empire furniture; it would take, and does take, a provincial Japanese to believe it to be luxurious. I stayed there once and, in the grossly over elaborate dining room, ordered souvlakia. What arrived was a beefburger (not even lamb!), preboiled and reheated rice (complete lack of taste, just texture), and tomato ketchup. I called over one of the floor managers, from his uniform about the level of Vice-Admiral, and told him this was the worst souvlakia I had ever had; it was far better, not just in the average taverna, but in Charlotte St, London.

He said, with the usual Greek hospitality, ‘this is how our customers like it’.

And the hotel was fantastically expensive. On my subsequent trips to Athens I said I would stay literally anywhere except there.

Personally I hope the rioters stop trying to burn down the banks – they may need them – and concentrate on the Hotel Grande Bretagne. They’d be doing Greek culture a sevice.

UK Elections 18: the horse trading begins

As of 10am the position is this: Gordon Brown is constitutionally entitled to have first try at forming a government. No one expects him to resign.

The Tories will be the largest party but could only govern with help from others.

Already - before all the votes are in - we know that the Unionists' price is £200 million and the Welsh Nationalists' price is £300 million.

The LibDems' price is proportional representation, which would produce even more of this undemocratic horse trading, behind closed doors and without the consent of the electorate.

Clegg comes out

Obviously people get tired working all night but I did like this Sky News bulletin:

skynewsbreak: Labour's Margaret Hodge holds Barking, BNP's Nick Clegg polls 6,620 votes coming third behind Conservatives

How Freudian is that?

06 May, 2010

Breaking news: UKIP plane crash

I have just received news that Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP and candidate for Buckingham, has been injured in a plane crash.

Farage walked away from the wreckage and is in hospital, but the pilot is severly injured.

PS it appears that both are OK. The accident seems to have been caused by the UKIP banner the plane was towing getting caught up in the tailplane.

Great stunt to pull on polling day for the sympathy vote, Nigel

Nigeria: Goodluck!

I remember back in the ‘70s seeing pictures of cement carrying ships, hundreds and hundreds of them, anchored off Lagos, the result of a largely non-existent building boom for which the Nigerian government had grossly over-ordered, thus increasing their personal take. Many of the ships sank or rusted away.

Since independence Nigeria has been poorly served by its leaders. I had high hopes of Umaru Yar’Adua, scion of an important Muslim family in the North of the country. He seemed honest. But his health was poor and he died yesterday.

Nigeria is the 8th largest oil exporter in the world and has the 10th largest proven reserves. It is the most populous country in Africa, with 155m people, and a virtually even split of Muslims and Christians.

The Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, completes Yar’Adua’s mandate which runs for another year.

As the Muslims and the army look on, he will need everything his name implies.

Greece and the euro 3

While Britain gazes at its electoral navel there are other things going on in the world. In Greece strikers took advantage of their free time to riot. Amidst further scenes of violence, which willl do nothing to help the country's credit rating, an attempt to blow up a bank left three of its employees dead.

One of the trade unionists interviewed said that she had heard that the IMF had mentioned Greece's military spending, the highest in Europe, but that the Papandreou government had refused to cut it. Nothing to do with the warship deal I posted about recently, I suppose?

The new IMF plan envisages Greece returning to some form of controlled spending by 2014 (and that assumes the people are going to allow it to happen). Greece has no access to the debt markets, it is now wholly dependent on its European partners, and the bail out will keep it going until 2012. Then it is all going to happen again. Then, if Greece's productivity doesn't improve relative to Germany's, in five years it will happen yet again.

The Eurozone either needs to be able to tighten the regulations, taking more political control over its members' budgets (moving towards a political union) or it needs to find some way to allow its constituents to default and restructure their debt without the whole pack of cards falling down. At the moment we are somewhere between the two.

Mind you some exporting countries (Oh, hi, Angela and Nico!) aren't too adverse to a lower euro; not to imply they would think selfishly and allow Greece to get worse.

UK Elections 17: Election Day

Election Day morning, and though even those of us who have been following the ups and downs still don’t feel the candidates have told us enough, we’re not now going to hear any more (a ripple of applause at the back).

There are just over 4,000 candidates standing in the 650 seats, that is to say on average each constituency has candidates for the three main parties and another three.

There will be some great disappointments – only about three hundred candidates can seriously be confident.

The first exit polls, which are more accurate than the opinion polls, will be published at about 10pm, but even those won’t tell us the result with any accuracy. The rise of Nick Clegg, some are already saying the rise and fall, will have caused a tectonic shift in the relationship between votes and seats: will the LibDems come second in a huge number of constituencies, thus not improving their vote? Will they take seats off Labour, off the Tories, or both?

Another tectonic shift is that it is believed some 20% of votes will be cast by post, thus in advance of any final trend or upheaval.

The result? Every election has a story. In 1974, the first one I voted in, Ted Heath went to the polls on the slogan ‘who runs the country?’ and the electorate said ‘obviously not you, mate’. 1979: Mrs Thatcher, something new. 1983: The Falklands. 1987: Labour still not ready. 1992: it was Kinnock’s to lose and he lost it. 1997: Tony Blair, something new. 2001: Tories still in shock and disarray. 2005: Tories still not ready.

What will be the story of 2010? Many are saying it will be the rise of the third party. I am not so sure. I think the British like their politics Manichaean. I rather suspect the story of 2010 will be the implosion of Labour and a realignment of the left.

We’ll know something, but not everything, tomorrow morning.

05 May, 2010

UK Elections 16: who and what not to vote for

Plenty of pundits will tell you who to vote for but here is the far more useful cut out and keep guide to who and what not to vote for

Hung Parliament: I’m not quite sure how you vote for a hung parliament but the system is as I have posted: after you’ve voted they make the grubby deals; it is giving up your right to decide the government of the country.

Anyone using sickly or trite language. Examples might be David Cameron’s ‘I believe that children are our future’ or Nick Clegg’s ‘..this great country of ours..(pause).. Britain’. You’re voting for someone to make speeches in the National Parliament, for God’s sake.

The Parties
It seems to me there are plenty of reasons not to vote for each the parties, although the country is in such a parlous financial state I think it would be a democratic perversity if we didn’t vote out the people who got us here. You should vote Labour, however, if you have a job as co-ordinator of the equality agenda for the dolphin community in Nottingham, since that’s the only way you’re likely to keep it.

The People

Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood): in many ways the source of all the corrupt thinking in the Labour Party. Fiddled his expenses, claimed more money from a corrupt charity called the Smith Institute, briefs even against his own side. Architect of the overspending and of withdrawing the 10p tax rate from the poorest people, in order to put one over on the Tories. Just the sort of person we don’t want in public office.

Yvette Cooper (Pontefract & Castleford): The Wife of Balls. New Labour automaton whose political persona is limited to reciting slogans with all the force and interest of a speak your weight machine. Was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2008/9 so must bear some responsibility.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Kilburn): vile old lefty harridan who combines the politics of Vanessa Redgrave with the charm of Johnny Rotten.

John Bercow: another expenses fiddler. Sold himself to the constituents of Buckingham as an extreme right Monday Club member, met and married a socialist campaigner and drifted to the other extreme without holding a by-election. So awful that despite being nominally a Conservative he was voted in as speaker by the Labour Party, just to screw the Tories. The British Parliament deserves better.

Tessa Jowell (Dulwich): on several occasions she mortgaged her house (shared with her husband David Mills, Berlusconi’s tax consultant) and then a few days later signed the release after the debt was repaid. Even a complete idiot would have realised she was part of a money laundering operation but she let down her fellow women by saying her husband had advised her not to bother her pretty little head about it.

Esther Rantzen: see post here. Dreadful self-publicist trying to further her career

Peter Hain (Neath): another expense fiddler with a suspicious permatan. Sly and unpleasant, he became famous for digging up a cricket pitch

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion): her Green Party is largely a front for 1970s socialism, given a trendy edge. Their policies involve spending more of your money on things they think you ought to want. The last thing we need is this sort of self-righteous tosh increasing the already excessive hot air in the Commons.

George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow): how this person could be a part of a sophisticated legislature defies belief

Harriet Harman (obviously)

04 May, 2010

Michael Flanders

Speaking of Michael Flanders, Stephanie's father, was there ever a better line in a song than:

His inamorata adjusted her garter


UK Elections 15: well done the ladies

Want to know who's had a good election?

Martha Kearney, BBC's presenter of the World at One. Good interviewer, and occasionally injects a little humour into a subject which otherwise might make you lose the will to live.

Stephanie Flanders, economics editor of the BBC. Knowledgeable, interesting. Has a great blog called Stephanomics. By the way she is the daughter of Michael (Glorious Mud) Flanders.

Laura Kuenssberg, Chief political correspondent of BBC News Channel and a hot tip to replace Nick Robinson as BBC Political Editor

L'odeur d'un rat

When the European Central Bank was set up in 1998 they chose as their President a rather well regarded Dutchman called Wim Duisenberg. The key to the job was that the ECB should be apolitical and indeed stand up to the politicians in defence of the currency.

The French, however, argued that since the bank was in Frankfurt the President should be French and after much whining and dining got their way, as the French always seem to. Mr Duisenberg had to step down before the end of his mandate, in 2003, and the French parachuted in their man, Jean Claude Trichet.

Interestingly enough the verb tricher in French means to cheat.

At the time M. Trichet was accused of being involved in a massive fraud case involving some missing money at the bank Credit Lyonnais. He got off and took the first plane to Frankfurt.

Fast forward seven years. The European Central Bank has a liquidity window. It allows European banks to borrow from it against the security of European Government bonds. The restriction is that the bonds have to be rated as investment grade. Those of Greece, for example, would not be acceptable.

But now they are. Trichet has announced a sudden U-turn. Now every country which spends and borrows too much is going to press for the same treatment: sign the piles of IOUs, sell them to the banks, and the banks lodge them at the ECB in return for clean, fresh euros. The next stage, not ruled out by the ECB, will be to purchase Greek bonds outright.

The Financial Times said ‘Mr Trichet has taken an increasingly political stance..’

This is effectively a blanket guarantee and Angela Merkel should have forbidden it but she can’t because the ECB is non political.

Strangely enough this is all happening while the IMF is having a good run. Dominique Strauss Kahn and his boys rejected outright the terms of the European rescue plan for Greece describing growth projections as optimistic. Mr Strauss Kahn is expected to be Mr Sarkozy’s rival in the Presidential Elections.

Mixed Metaphor of the Week

Henry Blodget in Business Insider:

'Any prosecutor who found a smoking gun that hung a few Goldman executives would be lionized.'

03 May, 2010

UK Elections 14: Tactical Voting

I’m not really a great tactical voter; that is to say, positioning my favourite parties in order 1,2,3, I might vote for No.2 rather than No.1 because No.2 has a better chance of beating the likely winner, No.3.

I am not really in favour for two reasons. The first is that I might have got it wrong, and that in fact No.3 was down in the dumps with no takers, but the opinion polls hadn’t cottoned on. No.1 might have had a chance if only its own supporters had voted for it. Having stood as a minority candidate I am well aware that your biggest danger is that people don’t vote for you because they think you can’t win.

The second reason I am against tactical voting is that it seems to make a nonsense of the whole thing. The reason we are voting is that we want a government which does what we want it to do, and voting for something else sends the wrong message to the rest of the electorate and in particular the pundits they read.

But it seems to me that a new aspect to this has turned up for this election. Let me give you an example. I, I make no secret of it, am tempted towards UKIP because I think it important for both democratic and economic reasons that we leave the EU. But in this election, the Lib Dems are hoping for a big result. If they don’t get it, that is to say if, after scoring the second highest percentage of the vote, this has merely resulted in them coming a very close second in a lot of constituencies as opposed to simply second, they will complain that the system is unfair and that we should change to a proportional system. And some in the media will take them seriously.

I am against a proportional system because it involves party lists rather than voting for a candidate you identify with (thus strengthening the power of the political class: they decide who goes into parliament), because it doesn’t allow a single representative for your constituency and because it involves a stitch up after you have voted so that no one gets the set of policies they have chosen: we get what the political class would like.

So there is pressure on me to vote not for UKIP but for the Conservative Party (my second choice) so that if the total number of votes cast for each party is taken into account by the media, at least my No.2 choice won’t have done so badly that there is pressure to change to a system (not just a party) that I don’t want.

So even the smell of PR produces an unjust result.

02 May, 2010

UK Elections 13: the hate index

This useful guide to voting comes from the Political Betting blog


The unedifying sight of protesters hurling petrol bombs at armed riot police in Athens will have been seen around the world.

It is said that the Papandreou government has agreed terms with the IMF and eurozone ministers for the austerity package. But investors and existing creditors must be asking themselves whether Greece has the stomach for this fight.

Greek national treasure 84 year old Mikis Theodorakis, who composed the music for Zorba the Greek, has said this is a plot to turn Greece into an American protectorate. A chat show host now begins his programme with the German National Anthem and the sound of marching feet.

Whether they blame the Americans or the Germans or the whole of Europe, the Greeks are reluctant to blame themselves for their problems.

There will be another general strike on Wednesday, more violence, and we must now ask ourselves what will happen if the Greeks simply say no. Papandreou's government could fall. Failure to implement the austerity plan would result in tougher measures from the IMF. Greece could become a failed state.

This is looking very ugly indeed.

01 May, 2010

The view from there

We have felt able to comment on their election, here is the view from the States on ours

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Clustershag to 10 Downing
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Italy News

And what, amidst all the excitement of the British Elections (OK, sorry) and the Greek debt crisis, has been going on in Italy?

Francesca Martini is such a nice name you half expect it to be the stage name of some starlet. It sounds like a cold drink. And she looks like someone in an advert for good quality stock cubes. But this woman makes waves. She is undersecretary in the Health Department and has special responsibility for animals. She is going to improve the dog pounds where strays are taken, enforce the law which prevents people putting down poisoned meat for dogs, and is going to send people who can’t control their animals on a series of five 2-hour courses. Stray cats next, I hope.

Relations between Silvio Berlusconi and House Speaker and Deputy in all but name Gianfranco Fini are, to continue the stock analogy, simmering at just below boiling point. Fini wants to take over the party, Berlusconi wants to be President. Umberto Bossi, the head of the just this side of barking Northern League says the alliance is ruined, largely because he would like another election and he doesn’t want to look as if it was he who broke up the People of Liberty Alliance, as he did with Berlusconi's last government. But it looks as if things will carry on.

The theatres are on strike over government funding.

Antonio P., of Salerno, who was under house arrest, was deemed to have broken the terms of his imprisonment by standing on his doorstep begging the police to rearrest him on the grounds of an intolerable breakdown in his family relationships, saying he would rather go back to jail. Now the Court of Cassation has ruled that this was not a breach of house arrest so the poor chap has to go back to his family.

Claudio Scajola, Minister for productive affairs, who had been previously in the news for having kept open the airport of Villanova d’Albenga (near Genova) into which he was usually the only passenger, is now accused of receiving €900,000 in slush money from a dodgy developer called Sig. Anemone with which he bought a flat overlooking the Colosseum. Scajola says he can explain everything.

The usual May Day rallies. At least it's quieter than Greece.

Ban the Belgians!

Unable to decide on who should run the country, Belgium has at least decided on one thing. It wants to ban the burqa and the niqab. The lower house of parliament voted almost unanimously in favour: there were two abstentions and no one voted against.

Astonishingly, Daniel Bacquelaine, the MP who introduced the legislation said "It's not about introducing any form of discrimination," whereas I should have thought it was just a little discriminatory agaisnt people who want to wear the burqa or niqab. Bacquelaine is the head of the Francophone liberal Reformist Movement (MR) party: Belgium is one of the few countries applying segregation even to political parties. He said the ban was against clothing "aimed at stopping people from being identified."

But of course it doesn't apply to motor cyclists, so that is clearly nonsense. I should have thought the only way you could logically achieve this would be to ban all religious identification, including crucifixes, nuns' habits and the yarmulka.

Now the Muslim groups will go to the courts and Europe will drown in a stream of pomposity and self-righteousness. It would perhaps be better if Muslims decided Belgium was a nasty place to live and left, but that is what Mr Bacquelaine wants.

The true level of debt

There is a suggestion doing the rounds that the IMF be called in immediately after the election in order to certify the level of debt.

I am not sure about the IMF - whose experts arriving on the Heathrow tarmac would cause the pound to fall out of bed - but I certainly think some independent body should do an audit, so the new government can at least know - and let the public know - how bad it is.

One thing which should be included is the PFI - the system of joint public and private sector projects initiated by Gordon Brown. After all, if the project fails and we are left with a half built hospital or school the government is going to be forced to finish it. So the taxpayer is on the hook for the whole of the money. This was just one of Gordon's little fiddles.

There will be more.