Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Call of Duty

Battle Joined
Hung over is not as term I would use to describe how I felt this morning; being at death's door comes close but not quite close enough after a visit to the Wine (and port, and cognac, and a few glasses of Fino) show at the Business Design Centre last night.

I'm feeling a lot better now having somehow risen, Lazarus-like, to make it to the Pro-Referendum rally outside parliament today. Greater love hath no man, and all that.

The numbers were not enormous, but the crowd was in good voice and good order too - even one gentleman with the misfortune to have an uncanny resemblance to David Miliband was left unmolested. Fortunately for someone who does not hanker after full withdrawal from the EU the speakers, a who's who of thinking Euroscepticism, targeted the bulk of their fire power on the manifest injustice of Labour's lie over the referendum rather than the EU itself.

I suspect that I would have been very much in the minority in my own views. Outside the established political parties I could identify five different campaigning organisations represented, all of which, as far as I'm aware, advocate full withdrawal. Actually there were six, but as this blog is not in receipt of any public funding I feel no obligation to mention the last one's badly shaven baboons.

There are many views on how our relationship with the EU should evolve and it is important that even those who may even advocate more power for Brussels, but understand the desperate need for the public to have their say in the fundamental ways our country is governed, must be able to feel part of the campaign for a referendum. Much of the more positive media coverage of the referendum has come when some of those not fundamentally opposed to the reform treaty have come out in favour of a referendum as a matter of principle and it's important that these people are not alienated from the cause.

Much credit though to the organisers and the speakers. Farage was on good form, was he not, after what I have heard wasn't the greatest of keynote conference speeches, before retiring to the nearest pub for ale and nicotine, while Steve Radford of the Liberal Party injected a bit of fire. Dan Hannan confused the baboons, invoking not only Shakespeare but Plato too for good measure and contrasted nicely with the plain speaking Neil Herron. Jens-Peter Bonde brought a European flavour to proceedings, as well as potentially good tidings from polling in Denmark. I think that, for me, the best effort was by MEP and Freedom Association Chairman Roger Helmer, who claimed to be a newcomer to politics by megaphone, which if true makes it an even more impressive effort.

Also in evidence was a good cross section of the population in the crowd. Certainly those of a certain age were slightly over represented, but hardly overwhelmingly so. As with any such event there were the usual Bildeberg conspiracy theory loons and their ilk as well as the lower primate life forms, but they were the few and most seemed just like normal people who want their say.

Anyway, it's time for some hair of the dog.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Something for the Weekend

Pro-Referendum Rally

I'm not particularly good at making plans for the weekend more than an hour in advance, but I've got a good idea where I will be the coming Saturday. I'm not sure how much momentum has really built up behind the weekend's proceedings, but it's the closest I might get to having a say in how the country is governed, so somehow I will force myself out of bed, possibly even in time for pre-rally boozing.

Hopefully there won't be the tube problems I suffered on my only other visit to a political rally where at an anti-ID card protest I missed the burning of the Blunkett effigy.

More details here.

Counting the Cost

I hadn't intended to post this clip, which appeared on Iain Dale's Diary earlier in the week:

At the end of the day, most of the figures quoted have been floating around for quite a while and, in essense, there is nothing wrong with differential levels of public spending to reflect regional needs. However, having seen it posted in other places now where it always seems to attract the same kind of one-eyed comments I thought it was worth giving it another airing.

The issue, as far as I'm concerned is not that Scotland and, to a lesser extent Wales, may offer higher grade public services, but how they should be paid for.

Had an elected Scottish Parliament chosen to exercise their limited authority to levy additional taxes to fund this differential level of provision of services there would be no issue, but this has not been done. Had other services been cut so that these priority areas could be better funded that again would be a choice for Scotland, but most areas that both SNP and Scottish Labour MSPs would like to cut are reserved to Westminster, and as such there appear to have been no such cuts. If Scotland had discovered ways of finding efficiency gains of the order required to make these enhanced service levels, the world would have beaten its way to their door, but the world hasn't.

In the absence of any other explanation, the only plausible culprit for this discriminatory situation can be the inequities of the Barnett formula. It is an equation that is broken, having clearly gone before it's intent of creating a level playing field. Even when the genuine additional costs of providing services in Scotland are taken into account it is now clear that Scottish administrations have an enormous 'disposable income' that the rest of the county simply doesn't have.

Surly, even considering how important Scottish votes may be to Brown at the next general election, he cannot be blind in both eyes to the dangers of allowing the inevitable anger that such patent unfairness will inevitably engender.

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859

Today de Tocqueville's words may have more relevance to the Union than an American Republic already well acustomed to the taste of pork barrel polictics.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Demand a Recount

I couldn't resist the What Kind of Leader are You? test I came across at the Devil's Kitchen, but was somewhat disappointed with the result.

Having seen things like this go round before and noted how similar the outcomes have been across most blogs I read it's perhaps not so surprising that not too many have been in a rush to 'fess up on this one.

Here goes though:

I couldn't work out the psychopathic answers to get the ultimate fail grade at least:

Things could be worse then.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Cuckoo in the Nest

Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize Medal
When I reacted to the ludicrous news that Al Gore had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I made the mistake on commenting somewhat favourably on the Literature Prize award to Doris Lessing.

I admitted that I knew nothing about her, but from the Radio 4 precis she seemed not to quite fit the bill of the typical leftism victim who normally come out on top in such awards and she made a point a eschewing the various politically correct labels that some tried to attach to her. Perhaps I was also just enjoyed her reaction at hearing about her award as she got out of a cab, taking the whole thing very much in her stride.

Of course, I should have known better. The Nobel Prize Committees are, I am sure, very professional, and such a lapse could never have been tolerated.

The International Herald Tribune reports:
MADRID: The recipient of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing, said in an interview published over the weekend that the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States were not "that terrible" when compared with attacks by the Irish Republican Army in Britain.

"September 11 was terrible, but if one goes back over the history of the IRA, what happened to the Americans wasn't that terrible," Lessing told the Spanish newspaper El País.

"Some Americans will think I'm crazy," she said in the interview published Sunday. "Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think. They're a very naïve people, or they pretend to be."


Lessing added: "As for Bush, he's a world calamity. Everyone is tired of this man. Either he is stupid or he is very clever, although you have to remember he is a member of a social class which has profited from wars."

Source: International Herald Tribune

OK, she did go on to have a pop at the Iranians too, but overall it was just pretty standard anti-American, anti-Bush bile.

To consider a whole nation "naïve" simply because they find a single incident in which just under 3,000 people perished as bad as 3,700 dying over a 30 year period in Ulster's sectarian strife, sounds like a case of trying to find a justification for an extant prejudice.

As for the Bush diatribe, frankly it's just boring. Blah blah "stupid", blah blah "evil", blah blah "class". To be honest, I'll be glad to see the back of Bush myself, but when I look at him I don't just don't see the creature that the left are so desperate to see.

Perhaps he isn't the sharpest intellect ever to grace the White House, but he is clearly far from the moron that the true idiots wish to believe he is on the basis of occasionally poor public presentation. When I look at him I see a man of simple faith and of convictions that may be not that politically correct but are clearly heartfelt; I'm also never convinced I'm seeing someone who is doing a job that at heart they really want to do, more someone following an unavoidable destiny of going into the family business.

Most of the same crap was thrown at Regan through much of his presidency, but he had the charisma that ensured it never really held water. Sadly the left's simplistic tarring and feathering of Bush will probably stick.

It looks as though whatever may lie within Lessing's worthy tomes, I wouldn't expect much in the way of insight, more likely an artistic dressing up of threadbare themes, if her views on current affairs are anything to go by.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Welcome Home

England Rugby
It's finally all over. The England team returned from Paris today to a chorus of approval from all quarters, without anyone going over the top.

My England shirt is sitting in a kitchen sink full of dilute bleach, in the vain hope of getting some of the Guinness and red wine stains to fade. I normally never wear it on match days, preferring for reasons of practically and tradition to stick to one of the shirts I actually played in, but this was a World Cup final so it had to be the white on Saturday. I can give good news to anyone in the same position in that it appears that the intentionally red bits seem sufficiently resistant to bleach to resort to these measures.

The only thing that spoilt Sunday was a lack of Internet, hence this post coming today, and the revolting Roy Hattersley, who always strikes me as some kind of Brown Mark I, on Andrew Marr's show on Sunday morning, with his ridiculous comment on the supposedly excessive media coverage of a 'minority' sport. He didn't actually say anything about class, but you knew what he meant. I would suggest that Spluttersley takes a tour to the rugby clubs of South Wales, the South West or some of the Rugby Union pockets in the north. He might receive a painful lesson about just how ridiculous his views are, and after all, even if you accept the very dubious premise of that the type of hard class distinctions that aging socialists cling on to try to divide the country whenever it might come together, does it really matter?

As for 'minority' sports - frankly Roy, that doesn't matter either. I've seen people crowd round the pub TV for finals of rowing, hockey, even curling and a dozen other 'minority' sports of much smaller reach than the Rugby Union, and its World Cup which draws TV audiences behind only the soccer equivalent and the summer Olympics. These events draw people of every background together and break down barriers, and I suspect that's why, unless it is soccer, they are so distrusted by these relics of socialism. Old style socialism is driven by creating artificial barriers between us all and the engendering an envy and hatred between those they place in different camps that they claim to be the only ones capable of putting right.

But enough of that. For the last time this time around, once again, well done to the Bokke on a well earned victory and great respect to the England boys for a job done better than many of us dared to hope.

Oh, and for the record...I must dissent from the views of Jackart and Donal Blaney on the try that might have been, though I have a lot of doubts about the final penalty that the Springboks scored from. Even Planet Rugby in their 'stats from the final' story refused to classify it as the 'crossing' offense that Rolland awarded it for, and merely put it down as 'unknown'. I'm also in agreement with Jackart's other rugby themed post.

So Close, Yet Miles Apart

Bertie Aherne
Bertie...up to the challenge
It was hardly worth tuning in to listen to Brown's pathetic attempts to justify the unjustifiable in his statement today on the Lisbon summit. It was all so predictable, especially the endless gibberish on red lines. What Brown seems to have conveniently forgotten that the in the manifesto commitment to a referendum, it was assumed that exactly the same red lines would be in place in any EU Constitution text that was put to the people.

All it leaves the Prime Minister with, in defending the line that the document is fundamentally different, are the fact that the document has been rewritten to maximise incomprehensibility whilst preserving the intent of its predecessor, and that references to flags, anthems and mottos were dropped. The former speaks volumes on how much our politicians want us to understand their project, the latter I never gave that much of a toss about one way other, given that these symbols will continue de facto to be used in the same way they always have been.

One little self justificatory line he did try to use was that nobody else was having a referendum, apart from the Irish, who, he tried to imply, were only having one reluctantly as a matter of constitutional necessity. Leaving aside what everyone is told as a child about 'everyone else is(n't) doing it' excuse, his line on the Irish position was comprehensively being crushed even as he was speaking.

According to EU Observer:
As the only country so far to definitely have a referendum on the newly-formed EU treaty, Ireland has said other member states should not be "afraid" of taking the same path.

"I think it's a bit upsetting ... to see so many countries running away from giving their people an opportunity," Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said on Sunday (21 October), according to the Irish Independent.

"If you believe in something ... why not let your people have a say in it. I think the Irish people should take the opportunity to show the rest of Europe that they believe in the cause, and perhaps others shouldn't be so much afraid of it," he added.

Source: EU Observer

I don't think there can be too much doubt about which particular member state, with a leader whose cowardice is now legendary, he is accusing of being "afraid".

It was truly appalling to see the usual supposed supporters of the EU lining up to demand that the people should not speak and thereby ensure that public hostility to the organisation can only grow. Most worthless of all in recent days have been the Lib Dem leadership contenders who have also shown the same yellow streak as their departed leader on the issue; a bad dose of MRSA on both your houses.

It looks likely that the status quo will be maintained. In the UK the EU will remain a distrusted plaything of the political classes while just over the Irish sea it will be a project the people are part of. I suspect that if I had grown up in Eire, and that if suitable provision was made in Irish law to ensure that the self-amending elements of the treaty did not make the vote next year the referendum to end all referenda, that I would probably be inclined to vote in favour of what is on the table.

Bertie Ahern has more than his fair share of scandal and sleaze clinging to him, but on this matter, in terms of integrity and principle he outclasses our vile troll. The sensible side of the pro-EU debate must realise that those that engage with their people positively and willingly are their real allies, while those like Brown are the worst of false friends.