Monthly Archives: September 2009

Tory co-treasurer finances Libertas

Today’s Irish Times has this:

Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan yesterday described as “disturbing” a report that Libertas had received £3,000 in cash and non- cash donations of £13,964 from Crispin Odey, a London hedge fund manager.

Now factor in this, from the Daily Mail on June 24th:

Odey, who recently became cotreasurer of the Conservative Party, clearly is fearful of the damage that New Labour is inflicting on Britain’s economic future.

Strangely tolerant beastie, the Tory Party.

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Filed under Britain, Conservative Party policy., EU referendum, Irish Times, Tories.

Call ’em out!

Malcolm found Gordon Brown’s extended peroration not only effective but also illustrative of the Anglo-American cross-pollination.

The American Democrats, fighting back against the GOP’s health scares, are employing an instant response. As today’s email round-robin from Jen O’Malley Dillon of the DNC has it:

As the Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner could use his important position to forge honest consensus around reforms that most Americans overwhelmingly support. Sadly, Boehner is choosing to be a leading peddler of health reform lies instead.

When Boehner repeated his claim that reform would result in a government takeover of health care, it was clear he’s been too busy trying to score political points to read the overwhelming evidence — including a post from the non-partisan FactCheck.org — debunking this claim.

And cruelly scaring seniors with lies about benefit cuts, even though his own party voted to gut Medicare? On his side of the aisle, that’s become standard operating procedure.

Then of course there’s Boehner’s blatant lie that reform will provide taxpayer-funded abortions, a claim rejected even by groups that oppose abortion. His lies have been thoroughly debunked, but John Boehner just won’t stop — so we’re calling him out.

That’s the way to do it. They don’t like it up ’em.

That was Gordon Brown’s approach.

Yes, it’s Tom-and-Jerry stuff.

Yes, it resonates.

Yes, it works.

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Filed under Britain, Democratic Party, Gordon Brown, Tories.

In a glass darkly

goldfingerThe mere mention of breeds of dogs causes an uptick in the hits Malcolm Refellow’s Home Service receives. For some reason Rottweilers seem the most effective.

[Oh, goodness me! It’s happening again!]

  • Produce the most close-analysed piece: zero recognition.
  • A scintillating book review? Nada.
  • A jaunty account of an outing? Zilch.
  • A profound study of whatever? Forgeddaboutit!

But:

Wa-hey! Stratospheric!

Any or all raise the response rate quicker than a hack at Iain Dale’s trim little ankles.

To Arthur, before Diageo got him!

So Malcolm felt a frisson of recognition in yesterday’s piece by Alan O’Riordan for the Irish Times Arts page. You really know what colour your bar-towel is with a title like:

Fresh draughts of literary history

promising that

the literary history of the pint of plain is stout and illustrious too.

Then we come to the full measure with:

Undoubtedly, the most famous celebration of porter comes from the poet laureate of stout, Flann O’Brien:

When food is scare and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan
When hunger grows as your meals are rare
A pint of plain is your only man . . .

Then comes O’Riordan’s own reflection on a fortunate piece of happenstance:

O’Brien’s Workman’s Friend contains what might just be the most quoted verses on our present subject. Yet the joke on reciters addressing a creamy pint is that the poem began life as O’Brien’s entry in a UCD contest to write the most banal poem.

That’s like finding that Newton’s law of universal gravitation was originally a submission to the Orchardman’s Journal. Or that Einstein not only worked in the Bern patent office, but, relatively speaking, also compiled the crossword for the in-house journal.

And so we drain to the dregs …

Somehow, suddenly, across nearly five decades,

… a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles
Malcolm’s sight.

A party of Trinity Fabians are ensconced in the unreconstructed back-bar of O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street. The evening has stretched out. Pints have been consumed. The troubles of the world are definitively laid at the door of the filthy capitalistic fat-cats and the running Rottweilers of Western imperialism.

The great Bob Mitchell, from Kinnegad in the County Westmeath, and one of Malcolm’s begetters, looks deeply into the last glass of the night. He reflects:

How many angels can you drown in a pint of stout?

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Filed under Dublin., Irish Times, pubs, reading, Trinity College Dublin, Uncategorized

Déjà vu all over again?

Try this pseudo-syllogism:

  • Western capitalism is in terminal crisis.
  • Former capitalist political parties have turned to social democracy.
  • The electors now favour the erstwhile Right.

It seems to work.

In Germany, Angela Merkel has got her centre-Right government, mainly because:

  • she deserted the historic territory of the CDU, and campaigned — credibly — under the slogan of  Die Mitte;

and

  • because the opposition (although, technically the majority) has failed to reconcile two differences. One is between the SPD and Der Linke (which, since it incorporates former Communists, is by definition, the “hard left”) and tends to reflect the pre-reunified Germany. The other is to bridge the gap between Germany’s social democrats and the Green movement.

Sárközy in France stalks as tall as any 168cm mannekin can. Again, it’s the admixture of:

  • centrist rhetoric (and some minimal following action)

and

  • leftist incapacity.

The essential problem is the lack of common interest on the French Left, divided intellectually, personally, and tactically. Until the rift between the factions of  Ségolène Royal and Martine Aubry can be reconciled that febrility will continue. A less doctrinaire approach (which implies that of Royal) would allow rapprochement with the further Left (perhaps a seventh of the electorate), the Greens and François Bayrou’s MoDem (going on for a further sixth of voters). Alternatively Bayrou (or some successor) must seek to embrace the centre-left.

If there is one place where a revival of leftism is overdue, perhaps imminent, it is Italy. Any outsider is left aghast as Berlusconi continues to sell a toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism and tabloid populism (a throttle-hold on the media helps). Yet there are “coming men” (and women) such as Dario Franceschini and Enrico Letta of the Partito Democratico. Equally, the attempts to build a left-of-centre political entity (going beyond the Olive Tree Alliance) look promising. Another positive thought is that the Berlusconi high-wire act cannot last much longer, and the fall thereof will be precipitous.

Which brings Malcolm back to Britain.

Any government, after a dozen years of power, and after the economic shocks of the last couple of years, deserves and expects a public kicking. In Britain the Cameroonies pursued a ruthless and unprincipled populism.

Quite what a hypothetic Tory government would be like is both difficult and easy to define. From time to time economic policies vary between extremes of “set the people free” (circa 1950) and strict economic controls (from time to time these include public sector pensions, wages, bankers’ bonuses — whatever will win a Daily Mail headline). In effect this is the age-old dilemma of a conservative: authoritarianism versus classical liberalism. At one extreme, the dogma propounded by T. E.Utley in 1949 has never been far away:

Human nature is violent and predatory and can be held in check only by three forces, the Grace of God, the fear of the gallows, and the pressure of a social tradition, subtly and unconsciously operating as a brake on human instinct.

In economic policies, that translates to “Rab” Butler saying (and cited by Harvey Glickman in the Journal of British Studies 1, November 1961):

A good Tory has never been in history afraid of the use of the State.

Heath, Thatcher and — doubtless — Cameron would accept that one.

Yet the Tory Party has lost the basis for that paternalist and philanthropic dirigisme: it derived from a neo-feudalism that is lost and gone forever. In stead, the moneybags of the modern Tory Party are in and around London EC4. In those circles any control on earnings is for the little people. Yet Cameron and Osborne say bankers must be curtailed, and

So are they all, all honourable men.

What we have not got (and, if the gurus of Tory HQ have their way, we will not be getting this side of a General Election) is any comprehensive view of economic policy. From that we can extrapolate. Things will not greatly change at one level (the Bank of England will still have its wicked way with interest rates and “quantitative easing”), but the public sector will be ground down.

And therein lies instant revival for the British Left. Once the cuts bite, the public is no longer there to soak up unemployment, front-line services start to suffer (as they undoubtedly must), hospitals and schools, transport and welfare are all contracted (or contracted out), the screams of anguish will rise higher and higher. The Tory calculation must be that two or three years of pain can lead to tax-cuts, and so to a golden future of a second term. Perhaps.

Far more significant than the lack of credible or consistent Tory policies has been that much-noted collapse of Labour morale. Now, “morale” is a curious thing. Consider the change in Thatcher’s standing between early April (terminal) and early June, 1982 (triumphant): all on the backs of 255 British dead. Equally, the present moment is an economic war. The sense is percolating through that Gordon Brown and the Labour Government are winning this one. As that realisation continues, can Cameron change the story-line again?

The bottom line is that the Left have the arguments:

There is an essential agreement that welfare provisions cannot be lopped remorselessly: to do so would further worsen social cohesion, increase unemployment, impact on the weak, elderly and defenceless. If anything the voters want most social, medical and educational provision expanded, not contracted to provide a cheap throw-away tax-cut thrill.

Social measures apply also to environmental concerns: the capitalist industrial system has to be constrained to secure environmental benefits to all. Greed is not good and will not be accepted.

Better social equality is not negotiable. Unbridled excesses by City slickers distorted the whole rewards balance system , inflated the property market  especially in Ireland and the South-East of England; and brought down the system once and for all.

Only the state can ensure delivery of the essentials of a modern infra-structure. That isn’t just the welfare, health and education structures. It’s utility planning for transport, telecommunications and the whole e-world.

Then there’s the system of governance. In the UK does the Union survive? How can provision be brought closer to the users? When, for heaven’s sake, do we allow proportional representation?

No more stealing our clothes

The Left has had its wardrobe plundered by the Right. Time to stop the pilferage. It was ever thus:

“A sound Conservative government”, said Taper musingly, “I understand: Tory Men and Whig measures.”

The Right’s moment across Europe (which is where these ramblings started0 has come about by occupying key points in the centre ground. The battle, though, is yet to come, when the Right retreats to its comfort zones. Meanwhile the Left needs to emerge from its fox-holes and assert its strength.

Punchline:

  • In October 1959 Malcolm remembers the Daily Telegraph rabbiting on that Labour was finished for a decade. The decade lasted five years.
  • Similarly, in 1970. That Tory dominance was even shorter.
  • Only a futile little colonial war, served up salaciously by the Murdoch media, allowed the Thatcher slash-and-burn then to create the context of a post-industrial wasteland in which Britain became dependent on a quaternary sector and service industries, and therefore suffer so severely in the present world crisis.
  • The 1992 election was traumatic for British Labour. Out of it came the 1997 landslide.

Do not, therefore, believe that the Left, in Europe or the UK, is out of time.

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Filed under banking, Britain, British Left, Labour Party, leftist politics., Tories.

Up hill for dumb Dale?

Mocking Iain Dale could be — perhaps should be — a national sport. So here’s another chance to join the fun:

Let’s note Dale twittering late this afternoon:

# RT @tobyhelm Just met friend frm Ireland who sd Irish referend is getting really close. We were told Yes camp on course 2 days ago. Not now.

The headline in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post was:

Poll shows Yes side on course for Lisbon win

whence Dale’s knowing comment presumably derives.

Pat Leahy, Political Editor of the Post, really does know a thing or two, and commented that:

As the campaign for the Lisbon Treaty referendum on Friday enters its final, intensive, phase support for the Treaty remains strong, according to the final Sunday Business Post/ Red C tracking poll…

According to today’s poll, some 55 per cent of Irish citizens say they will support the treaty, while 27 per cent say they will vote against it. 18 per cent are undecided. When undecideds are excluded, even assuming a strong No bias amongst them, Lisbon still has the support of over 60 per cent of voters.

Meanwhile, support for the parties remains largely unchanged since the last poll a fortnight ago.

The poll was conducted among over 1000 voters on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Guessing that Dale’s friend’s definition of “real close” amounts to a difference of 5% between Yes and No, that implies a swing of at least 12% in those couple of days, totally against the track over several months. Or wishful thinking.

Paddy Power (who also knows a thing or two, at least about where the money is going) quotes the odds:

Yes 1/25;   No 8/1

By the end of the week we’ll know who knows more about Irish public opinion:

  • the leading Irish pollster, plus the massed ranks of on-the-spot commentators, plus the top bookie;

or

  • Iain Dale, one man and his tweet.

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Filed under Iain Dale, Ireland, Irish politics

PoliticsHome? or away with the fairies?

Yesterday’s local blogosphere and today’s dead-tree press both seemed to raise more than a wry eyebrow that “Lord” Ashcroft, the Tory’s favourite sugar-daddy, had bought a commanding state in both ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome.

Now, to be honest, Malcolm had always felt dealing dining with either of those sites required a long spoon. At least Montgomerie and Co were up-front with their allegiances: right-wing, Europhobic and unrepentant. But PoliticsHome?

Well, for a start, the rolling strap-line seemed heavily dominated by right-of-centre sources. Is that a reflection of the balance of UK political blogs, or something a whit more dexter (sinister doesn’t seem quite the right word there)?

The Spectator‘s Coffee House and the paper’s political correspondents seem to  hog the space (actually, not without some reason: both are often worth the trip).

That’s not the whole story, especially with the Speccie. As Malcolm muses, there is a come-on headline on the Speccie’s site. It looks like this:

Spec1Yet, when Malcolm clicks the link to go to the Blogs pages, no continuation or expansion of that can he find.

There is a straight-t0-camera, no-blinking, vanilla piece by Alex Massie. He restricts himself to a meringue (crisp on the outside, mere dry froth within) of an argument:

Iain Dale and others might consider that left-wing objections are more to do with the fact that Ashcroft is Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and not, like the previous owners, merely a Conservative supporter. I can see why some people might think that does make a difference.

‘Tis passing strange.

Then again, PoliticsHome features those curious insider polls. We are told the sources are “experts”. We do not know who they are. What we do know is that the consensus of the cognoscenti varies none to far from, say, the political line of the Daily Mail. Either Malcolm mixes in the wrong company (quite true, fortunately) or these gurus are collective very anodyne.

Note: the Oxford English Dictionary‘s draft to up-date its definition of “anodyne” reads:

Unlikely to provoke a strong response; innocuous, inoffensive; vapid, bland.

The operation feels more like opinion-forming than opinion-reflecting.

Then something came out in the wash. It was the dog-end of Sam Coates’s piece in today’s Times: by comparison, the Guardian, which should have a hot-line to the horse’s mouth, Andrew Rawnsley (if diplomatic relations between the two sister papers are not hopelessly broken) was feeble — even “anodyne” by comparison. Anyway, here’s Coates:

In a statement on the website, [Stephan Shakespeare] said: “PoliticsHome will remain strictly non-partisan and readers can continue to have absolute confidence in its editorial independence.” PoliticsHome said yesterday that it would use a £1.3million cash injection to make the site more useful for businesses.

For businesses, Mr Shakespeare?

Malcolm was not aware that corporations and companies had votes. What about the individual electors, who do?

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Filed under blogging, Conservative Party policy., Guardian, Iain Dale, prejudice, Shakespeare, sleaze., Times, Tories.

A Paine in the … Brecklands

Tom Paine that is.painethetford

Here’s today’s Times about the local “currency” which may, or may not have been used in the town of Lewes:

One year, and 45,000 banknotes later, the Lewes Pound has been embraced by one group above all others. “Tourists come in and they’ll buy one for a pound,” said Alison Ridley, deputy manager of Bill’s grocery and cafe. “Sometimes they ask, ‘how much should I pay for one?’.”…

The district council said that the new currency had not made much difference to the economy, but had created loyalty to local traders.

The notes are printed with a quote from the town’s favourite son, Tom Paine. “We have the power to build the world anew,” it says. Perhaps the world is much bigger than Lewes expected.

One particularly curious detail: the town’s favourite son, Tom Paine.

Well, the world is indeed bigger than East Sussex. Elsewhere, by common agreement, Tom Paine was born and went to the grammar school in Thetford, Norfolk. Thetford is proud enough of their native son to have given him a rather racy statue (above).

Only when he had completed his apprenticeship as a corset-maker under his father, run away to sea, been sacked from the tax office, gone into and out of domestic service, ventured his arm as a preacher for the established church, tried a bit of schoolmastering, and he was into his thirties, only then did he reach Lewes.

That was in 1768. Six years later, broke, and having ditched his second wife, he was out of Lewes, and being persuaded by Ben Franklin to try his luck in the American Colonies. That was Paine’s connection to Lewes.

Of course, there could be need here for what wikipedia terms “disambiguation”.

There is another Tom Paine, happily still with us.

He is Roxy Beaujolais’ household cat, and master of all he surveys, at one of Malcolm’s favourite pubs: the Seven Stars, in Carey Street, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice.

When Malcolm and he last spoke, Malcolm did not detect a Sussex accent, however. The following image is shamelessly stolen from a posting to Flickr:

2242543538_d13d0a8287

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Filed under London, Norfolk, pubs, Republicanism, Times, Uncategorized