July 31, 2008

There will be blood

Mike Smithson of Political Betting thinks that should anybody actually stand up and fight Brown he will meekly stand aside. I think otherwise. I think that Gordon Brown is going to fight harder, and dirtier, than we thought he was capable of. Every time that he has chickened out has been over competing for the next stage in his career, it has never been about protecting the position that he already had. The simple fact that he was able to stay in the top job of chancellor for so long, despite repeatedly setting his attack dogs on his boss, shows that he knows how to keep what he has managed to get.

The fact that he hates electoral contests could simply show that he knows how bad he is with people, he knows that in a personality contest he will lose. To anybody. Or anything. Even if it smells so bad that you don't want to go within ten feet of it. Even if it is so repulsive that the very thought of touching its leprous skin would send shivers down your spine and to actually offer your hand to be shaken by one of its slimy appendages turns your stomach. Perhaps even if it was himself.

We should not underestimate Gordon Brown's intellect. He will know what he is like, you can see that by the insincere attempts to try and fake being likable that he has attempted. They may come across like a clanking automaton being forced to grind its way through actions that it was designed to perform, but it does show that he knows his own weaknesses. It would be hard for somebody of Gordon Brown's intelligence not to have figured them out after all the time that he has been made to spend in his own company, something that would give anybody phycological problems.

His history comes across as one of cowardice but I suspect that it is more like coldly calculated strategy, as human an emotion as cowardice would be as unnatural to Gordon as an unforced smile, he is minimising his risks based on his knowledge of his weaknesses in order to maximise the chance of reaching his goal. He has now reached his goal, the goal he has spent his entire life working towards, so standing aside will be a step backwards. He will know that he is smarter than any challenger. He will think that he is better than any challenger. He will believe he can win, but most of all he has absolutely nothing else other than politics. Becoming Prime Minister is his reason to exist, so this time he will fight.


YouGov (currently the most accurate based on elections) poll just in from the Telegraph and it shows
It shows that none of the Cabinet ministers who might seriously challenge him would improve Labour's standing with the electorate.
Should be enough to give the Labour MPs second thoughts about backing a Milliband insurgency. The numbers are:
The Tories are on 47 per cent and Labour is on 25 per cent, a 22-point lead that would give Mr Cameron a landslide victory at a general election.


With Mr Miliband as leader, Labour scores 24 per cent against 47 per cent for the Conservatives. Under Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, the figures are 24-45.

Were Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, to take over, Labour would fall to 17 per cent, in third place behind the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent and the Conservatives on 50 per cent.

July 29, 2008

Nick Clegg's summer message

The words are great:

"there are no safe Labour seats ...
"You will have heard lots about the Conservatives but there are huge parts of the country where they haven't got a hope ...
"There are places where only the Liberal Democrats can defeat Labour ...
"The latest in American campaign techniques" Obviously meaning the way that Obama and the democrats used the internet. This is a form of campaigning that they could really excel at.

The strategy that he is outlining is also great. It could well give him a real chance to be leader of the opposition by 2010.

However there where a few obvious problems. Such as the editing, the other was not using a tripod. Doesn't have to be big, or flashy, a £15 one from Jessops will do, even a £5 from eBay, but if you want to make a good video shaky-cam really doesn't cut it.

Don't panic ... unless you are Gordon Brown

Mortgages have hit a record low. This is natural, it is simply the market correcting. There was a bubble, it burst, prices are therefore going to fall back to more realistic levels before the cycle starts up again. As prices fall people will take their property off the market restricting supply until supply and demand equalise. Wait a few years and people will start investing again. A few years after that the TV property programmes will once again be popular. A few years after that people will be screaming how this is a new paradigm and the boom is going to go on forever. At which point you sell. All this has happened before and all this will happen again, to quote Battlestar Gallactica. There is no need to panic. Well, that is unless you where stupid enough to take out a 125% mortgage with Northern Rock in which case panic is probably your only hope. The biggest holder of Northern Rock mortgages at the moment is the UK taxpayer thanks to the government, but unlike any rational person they do not only not want to get rid of this toxic garbage they, the government, are actually proposing schemes to lumber us, the taxpayers, with more of it.

it may be necessary for the government to guarantee new better quality mortgage backed securities, to re-stimulate demand for these securities.

That may be necessary, Sir James is expected to say later this morning, in view of the government's objectives of supporting financial stability and operating in the long-run interest of consumers and the economy.

Except that it isn't in the long run interests of the economy. The banks made the mistake of issuing these mortgages so the banks should suffer the consequences. The ones that made the biggest mistakes will suffer the worst consequences, the ones that made less will fair better. By preventing the banks form having to face up to the consequences of their actions they will not learn from them and so will just make the same mistakes again, and possibly on a bigger scale since this time they will know that it is taxpayers rather than themselves who will have to foot the bill should things go wrong.

It isn't needed either. The market is correcting itself but as always this is not a smooth process and will oscillate up and down as it searches for the correct level given the new circumstances. Currently there is a bit of a downward swing as the banks get back to competing for new customers, without any need for government intervention.

Lloyds TSB has trimmed its mortgage rates for the second time in 11 days in the latest sign that lenders are responding to a slight easing in wholesale borrowing costs.


Several UK mortgage lenders have trimmed mortgage rates this month in response to a decline in the cost of interest rate swaps, used by banks to price fixed-rate mortgages.

Lloyds's latest rate cuts follows a similar reduction by C&G on July 17, while lenders including HBOS, mutually-owned Nationwide, and Woolwich, the mortgage arm of Barclays, have all reduced their rates in the last two weeks.

The market will correct its own excesses and probably be growing again in a
couple of years time according to the National Housing Federation.

Average house prices in England are set to rise by 25% by, 2013 a National Housing Federation report claims.

However 2013 is not soon enough to save Labour form an electoral apocolipse. Hence their desire to lump tax payers with a bill that should be paid by those banks that made bad lending calls even if it will perminently distort the markets in favour of risky practices, but then what is long term damage to the country compared to short term political gain for the Labour Party?

July 25, 2008

Holed below the waterline in Glasgow East

Labour have lost Glasgow East by 365 votes on a 42% turn out. This is a swing against Labour of about 20% matching the massive shift against Labour that have been seen in the opinion polls over the last few months. That this could happen in one of Labour's safest seats shows the perilous state that they have got themselves into. This means that Gordon Brown is nailed onto the Labour leadership until the next general election in 2010, nailed on in much the same what that Jesus of Nazareth was nailed on. It also means that next election is going to be an annihilation for Labour.

The current political situation reminds me a bit of the events that lead up to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On sighting the iceberg strait ahead the officer in command's first instinct was to try and do everything he could to avoid it, but it might have actually been better had they not tried to avoid it at all. Sure they would have lost the bow and flooded the first compartment, but Titanic was designed to be able to survive losing up to four compartments. By trying to maneuver around the iceberg First Officer Murdoch instead scrapped along the side of it. Instead of losing one compartment in a head on collision they lost five with the hull punctured in repeatedly along the side. This meant the ship was going to sink.

This is not the Labour Party I am thinking about here, they have already had their keel ripped off and are sinking fast, it is the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg has spotted the massive swing to the conservatives in the opinion polls and losing a large number of seats in the south of England is looming up before him like the iceberg before First Officer Murdoch. He is trying to maneuver around it by going full reverse on their long standing policies of higher taxation for more services. This could be a mistake (I'm not the only one to think so).

Since New Labour mounted their raid into Conservative policy areas the Liberal Democrats have in many ways been to the left of both the other main political parties. They are now trying to get over to the right of the resurgent Tories on tax, the Tories home waters, from a position that was to the left of both main parties in order to save their seats in the south. I don't see how they are going to make it, especially since their small media profile means that they cannot reposition themselves half as easily as the other two parties. Even if they could reposition themselves in time they are not going to overcome the shear size of the Conservative revival. It might be better to use their current position the party to the left of the others and target Labour seats in the north instead of trying to hold onto the traditionally Conservative ones in the south. Glasgow East has shown that Labour can lose seats anywhere at the moment, but there are places they are not going to lose them to the Conservatives.

Maybe instead of being cynically opportunistic and trying to emulate one of their rival's successes, by becoming born again tax cutters, it would be better to be cynically opportunistic about exploiting their other rivals problems, by being resolute to the left leaning principles that they have been talking about for a long time. What they lose in the south they are going to lose anyway, but they could end up gaining even more up in the north by giving the more naturally left wing electorate a credibly left wing alternative to an increasingly hated Labour Party. 2010 offers an extremely good chance for the Liberal Democrats of actually overtaking Labour and becoming Her Majesties Loyal Opposition but it might take a big gamble and a lot of nerve to make the best of this chance. I hope they have it.

July 23, 2008

Gordon Brown's secret source of strength

Friedrich Nietzsche's most famous, and most misquoted, aphorism is "From the Military School of Life - Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger." Nietzsche was probably being sarcastic, his first bout of military service ended when he injured himself while mounting a horse. His second left him with dysentery and diphtheria, from which he never really recovered his full health, plus the syphilis that would eventually kill him.

For Gordon Brown on the other hand the aphorism could turn out to be more literally true. The by-election in Glasgow East should be a walk in the park. It should be absolutely locked down for Labour, especially since half the population are part of Labour's welfare dependent client state. However things are looking rather different, it could even be that Labour will lose what is not just one of their safest seats but one of the safest seats of any party in the whole of the UK. Which is why Gordon Borwn's position as Labour leader and Prime minister is safe.

Why is he safe? Simple because should he be toppled there will be an election, and even with the inevitable bounce that all new party leaders get Labour will lose a lot of seats and probably end up in opposition. Would any sensible aspirant leader of the Labour party want to be in the hot seat when that happens? To go down in history as the shortest serving and least successful Prime Minister ever? No, far better for Gordon Brown to carry the can and then try to pick up the pieces afterwards. Nor are the back benchers going to mount a coupe either. As it stands all of them will have a fight on their hands to retain their seats, a very large number of them will lose this fight and find themselves out of the only job that they have any experience of, just as a recession starts to bite. Far better to wait out the bad years gorging on the over generous expenses of a Member of Parliament and spend the next two years preparing for the inevitable. The worse things get the more likely that should an election come early their acces

July 14, 2008

Labour Knifed

I'm not exactly sure which is worse. They way that our Prime Minister is desparately hurling himself at every passing populist bandwagon, being rejected because they don't want him on it, and then doing a U-turn and pretending to have never wanted to get on the bandwagon in the first place. Or that this is the kind of authoritarian crap that Labour's record shows is what they really believe in.

July 13, 2008

Stir up the fires, burn the authoritarians

Oh god, more authoritartian bullshit. The teenagers of Redruth, hardly a known crime capital, have been placed under indefinite house arrest without trial. What is worse this policy is popular. The state took away parents power to control their children so the parents now want the state to control their children for them. As DK says:

So, nine out of ten parents admit that they have no control over their own children and would like to dragoon the state into bringing in blanket and arbitrary curfews backed by the force of the law instead.

You know what, parents? Fuck you.

House arrest for teenagers in not the answer to knife crime. Whoever it was decided that collective punishment was the way forward please go fuck yourself, up the arse, with this.

Teenagers are not the source of knife crime, there have been teenagers since the dawn of the human race. They have been going outside in the evenings since the dawn of the human race. They have had knives since the dawn of the human race, before the dawn of the human race actually, but the dramatic rise in crime rates that we are worried about have only been going on since the end of World War 2. 50 years ago there where a lot more youths with knives walking about, but very very few of them using them to kill each other.


Perhaps you don't think that that shows an accurate picture? The definition of what is and what is not a crime does change all the time so you would have point. Literally thousands of things that where not crimes before now are, for example there has been one new crime a day since Labour came to power in 1997. So perhaps homicide rates would be better? There are fewer data, but the trend is identical.

So we are looking for something that had an impact on everybody in the country, but that affected the poor a lot more than the rich. something that happened just after World War 2 (the Home Office paper I linked to above dates it as 1954). Something big enough to change the very foundations of society.

Some people would say it was the end of conscription, and they would be wrong. Large scale conscription has been used precisely twice in british history. Once during WW1, once during WW2. If it was not having conscription was the cause of the criminal problems of today then you would expect similarly high crime rates before WW1 when there was no, and never had been any, conscription. Or at least a spike starting in the 1920s after the WW1 conscription had ended but there wasn't any.

Some people would argue that it was the end of the death penalty, and they would be wrong as well. The removal of the death penalty will certainly have changed the risk/reward balance of violence, but the death penalty for murder was suspended in 1965 and an effect cannot proceed a cause.

Maybe a good place to start looking would be this piece by Chris Dillow his idea is that it is based around social and economic conditions.

Put yourself in the shoes of a young inner-city (black?) lad. Unlike those from more fortunate circumstances, he does not see how it’s possible to succeed by co-operating with others and playing by the rules, simply because he does not see people who have done so. His law-abiding neighbours are poor. Chances are, the only rich men he sees are gangsters.

So, from an early age he learns that the only scant chance of success he has consists not in co-operating but in preying upon others, breaking the rules. Success, then, is a zero-sum game; “it’s a jungle out there” has long been a cliché because it’s true. At best, he carries a knife to protect himself; at worst, to kill others.

But what is the reason for these economic and social conditions? What changed the way that the poor live just after world war 2 so dramatically? It was not some sudden rise in inequality. Inequality was far higher during the Edwardian era when crime was at its lowest. It was not actual poverty, this has been reducing for centuries at an accelerating pace. Why did even the very poor see life as a positive sum game before world war 2 and then as a zero sum game after?

Before world war 2 many people would have been able to directly see the benefits of mutual co-operation because they would have been members of Credit Unions and Friendly Societies and other forms of benefit societies. Often operating in the pubs of the communities that they served most people would be a member of one and for a small amount paid every month they would get insurance should anything bad happen to them. A direct and very tangible demonstration of the good that can come from mutual co-operation.

There are a few left, such as the Exeter Friendly Society but most have now been wiped out. None exist in their original form. Why? Because they were destroyed by the monopoly power of something just after created just after World War 2, the Welfare State.

July 09, 2008

Inequality to fall

We are about to see a major reduction in inequality. After years of half hearted redistribution finally something that will actually produce a major reduction in inequality. Inequality always tends to reduce in a recession. This reduction in inequality is about as much the result of Gordon Brown deliberate plan as the previous years of growth were, none, but he has managed to make sure that there will be a much greater reduction by making sure that the recession will be much deeper than it need be.

Had he been following a prudent economic strategy, or even the classic Keynesian strategy, he would have stored up some economic reserves during the good times to be released now in order to reduce the impact of the recession. However he deliberately did not. He spent like a drunken sailor in port so there is nothing there to spend now. Not only did he spend everything he had he maxed out the credit cards as well, he cannot even borrow to try reduce the impact of the recession. In fact since government spending is going to have to rise due to the recession and there is no money to pay for it he is going to have to force even more taxes on us which is sure to deepen the recession.

Surely Polly and the Guardian should be shouting from the rooftops. Here is the economic genius that they promised us for so long. Here is Gordon's grand plan for reducing inequality finally coming to fruition. Why wouldn't left wing commentators be jumping for joy at this? For years we have been told that inequality is the worst thing to exist in our society, that people are literally dieing from their jealousy, and finally we are about to see an actual reduction in inequality.

They won't though. For the simple reason that going to the voters during a recession will turn an electoral defeat into a rout. People crowing about how the recession is actually a good thing and they should be grateful for such a skilful reduction in inequality would turn a rout into an annihilation. Inequality is not even close to the top of most peoples lists of priorities. Being able to afford the however bills is.

The fact that they almost never talk about inequality directly, always mixing it up the very different concept of poverty, speaks volumes. People don't really care about inequality that much. They don't care that much whether somebody else gets more money than they do, unlike certain parts of the left wing media people aren't primarily driven by jealousy, they care far about themselves and how they are going to pay their bills. Demanding other people hand over their money to you is a rational, if not moral, strategy; but not if you end up have to make sacrifices yourself as well.

July 04, 2008

(global) illiteracy

So a charity that promotes global learning is complaining that school children are 'globally illiterate', and do not understand global issues so of course something-must-be-done by the government (probably involving handing over large slabs of cash to charities that promote global learning). It gets top billing in the BBC's education section and a 'Have your say'.

Personally I would be more worried about the number that are functionally illiterate. Perhaps if they where actually taught to read then they could find out for themselves about current affairs, rather than having this time spent being brain washed about whatever the trendy cause-de-jour is.

July 03, 2008

Gordon's, not chilled

Its often said that Gordon Brown devours books, that he can get through a weighty tome
in a matter of days. Perhaps he should try reading a little of the Confucian or Taoist philosophies of ruling, particularly the concept of Wu Wei

Wu Wei has also been translated as "creative quietude," or the art of letting-be. ...
One way of envisioning wu wei is through Laozi's writings on how a ruler should govern their kingdom. The advice that was given is that it is similar to frying a small fish (too much poking and the meal is ruined). In other words, create general policies and direction, but do not micromanage. To do this well, you must understand the ways of your people and not go against the grain.

Can there be a better description of what Gordon Brown, and Labour in general, is not?

What Labour is, is a government that has been legislating at an unprecedented rate to put more rules onto the statute books more quickly than anybody before them, in order to 'send messages'. Most of which are unenforceable, and unenforced, crap which only sends the message that the law is now nothing more than a new and complicated form of press release rather than something to be obeyed. Micromanaging public services with targets set from the centre. Which simply distort what people do so that it is about reaching these targets and generating reams of statistics rather than actually doing their jobs. Micromanaging social interactions and licences to hug, which only speed up rather than slow down the erosion of the evolved social customs that bind people together for the benefit of everybody (the rituals in Confucian terms).

Labour's legislative reign has been anything but effortless doing, it has been a frenetic decade of showing how active they are while achieving nothing or worth. Their famous 'narrative' has turned out to be more like what was warned of by the greatest Western poet rather than the Chinese master.

a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.