Saturday, 18 February 2012

A funny sort of peace

Since I'm on a bit of a wonder through Thatcherism at the moment.

One of the commonest bits of praise you hear about her; well from those who like her, growing up in South Wales I've met a fair few people who don't have a great opinion of her for reasons you can probably guess (hint: the whole mine closing thing didn't go down well). Anyway she's credited with being the first to have the testicular fortitude to really take on the unions.

Which is a bloody odd idea if you even take half a glance at the situation before she came to power. Heath had the three day week and the infamous "who governs" election, Callaghan even more famously had the winter of discontent to deal with.

If they weren't going to war with the unions then it didn't look much like peace.

Praise Thatcher for winning, but don't pretend she was the first to go into battle.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

I see my enemy, and he is me.

A little exercise in speech-writing, I can't quite remember whether this was supposed to be a SNPer waxing lyrical in favour of Scotland breaking up the UK and getting closer to the EU, or a Eurosceptic advocating breaking away from the EU while staunchly defending retaining the UK.

It is so hard to keep them straight.

We are a sovereign nation with a long and proud history behind it. We are a people with our own unique culture, society, and language. Alongside this great heritage of the past we can also rightfully take pride in our country's present.

We hold our sovereignty dear, the right to determine our own laws and make our own decisions rather than have them dictated to us by foreign politicians sitting in a distant building who neither understand nor represent our country.

There are some people who will stand up and start scaremongering. They will tell you we are too weak or too small to survive on our own, that our day is done and we must resign ourselves to our lesser status, content ourselves with begging for table scraps. They will try to make you afraid. and they are wrong.

We have the resources, the ability, and the strength of will to stand tall amongst other nations; and not just to stand tall but to stand on our own two feet. We'd be able to tailor our economic policies to suit our individual needs rather than an unwieldy one size fits all strategy. Freeing ourselves from outside restraints will allow us to be more competitive in the global marketplace and more attractive to business. This is not a move that will weaken our country, but build solid foundations for a more prosperous future.

There are some who will say that the large number of people who support this move are doing so out of small-mindedness when in truth it is them, blinded by their smugness who are too small minded to see the opportunities that it will open.

This is not a move based on isolationism, far from it. This will not cut us off but instead give us the freedom to develop stronger and more equal links with the rest of the world. It is based upon the fundamental right of a free people to be governed as they see fit, and leading towards

Saturday, 29 October 2011

DNA and means

Right, back in the saddle as it were. A while ago I tore a tendon and caused a small fracture in one of my fingers playing rugby that has made typing at least awkward if not all that difficult hence the silence.

In terms of party policy I feel there are always two types of policies. There are things we simply believe in, that are part of the party's dna (see how I'm working in the title here) and are advocated for their own sake. For the Lib Dems the easiest example of this would be civil liberties, we believe they are a good thing in of themselves and therefore advocate them.

The second type is an 'objectives' policy, namely policies that we support because we believe they will have good outcomes. This covers a fairly wide variety of policies from the economy to health etc.

Of course it's more complicated than this (it always bloody is) as ways and means intertwine with each other, inform each other, and generally muddy the waters in a very unhelpful way. But it's always there, really why something is being advocated is a greater insight into a political philosophy than what is being advocated.

It's also a shifting point. It is hard to change a value that you (or your party) believe is inherently right. Once it is made into a means to an end then you can adjust it in ways you claim better achieves that end. If you're a leader of a party that has a policy of high tax rates for the sake of greater redistribution of wealth then it's hard to credibly argue that lowering the top tax rate is in line with that. It's just a u-turn.

If you first shift your argument that high tax rates are for the sake of raising high revenue then the headline policy hasn't changed, and the alteration is a detail if not just a change of emphasis. It's hard to raise passion about the change in philosophical reasoning for the same policy that you already had. Emphasise the importance of actual policy, what you actually want to do. The trick's half done in plain sight, but although people notice they don't care.

Then you can make the headline policy shift to a lower top rate tax and your line is clear, you want high tax revenue, your aims haven't changed you've just found a better way of achieving them. Flip the script and play up what you believe in as important, and that should be the trick done.

That underplays the obstacles of course, the faster you have to do it, the more awkward the particular political issue, and most importantly people trying to stop you are the fun obstacles a carefree leader attempting to rewrite his party's principles runs into. The whole point is to attempt to avoid any comparisons between stages 1 and 3. a=b b=c but if a and c are put next to each other then they're going to explode in a messy cloud of u-turn accusations.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I'm left distinctly underwhelmed by this Vince Cable story frankly. I was all geared up to wade in and it's just such an anti-climax. After all the hype of Cable as a tax dodger, avoider, evader and possibly invisible ninja I read through the sun article and find this (later on of course, the later something is in an article the less attention people pay to it):

"They said an error was discovered by his personal accountants in January while his tax return for the previous financial year was being finalised. The accountants immediately alerted HMRC officials"

Now I'm a long way from being any sort of accountant, let alone an expert on any sort of elusive manoeuvring on the grounds of tax. But I'd have thought that one of the main rules to do it would be to well, not call up Revenue and Customs to tell them you haven't paid enough tax. Seems a bit of a giveaway, maybe it's one of those double-bluff things.

Really the most interesting thing is the Sun's line on it, namely that the knives are out for Vince Cable and I suspect Lib Dems in general. Not a surprise certainly, hostility from the newspapers generally and especially the tabloids is mostly part and parcel of being a Lib Dem, but still a concerning indicator. We're clearly well above the parapet for the rest of this parliament (a good thing) but while the other two usually have at least some of the press fighting their corner (although there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm in the Red-Ed corner) we may have to face down years of being fired upon from all sides.

The Huhne story seems to be going nowhere very slowly and repetitively, this is likewisea very small spark fanned into an awful lot of smoke, but all mud hurled leaves a little bit on its target and another 3 1/2 years of this could build up enough to make a difference.

Or in short the story doesn't worry me, its delivery does.

Cable fails to pay tax bill

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A very late Saturday quote

I'm a bit behind on this obviously. Saturday was rather interrupted by a rugby game followed by a post-match meet up that was of course very very sober. So sober in fact that it weighed heavily upon my head for most of the next day. So I'm taking today as Saturday.

Where a historian has to rely on one document he is safe, but if there are two to be consulted he was in difficulty, and if three were available his position was hopeless.

A quote I've seen attributed to George Bernard Shaw but (as I mentioned recently) quotes are hard to verify and he's also one of those that tends to have these sort of saying attached to him. I've been unable to track it down definitively in the very small amount of whimsical time I've tried to do so in. But really most quotes are just as valid whether said by a famous wit or mumbled out a nonentities mouth (on a side note, I remember phsyics quote about not being able to distinguish between world class scientists and the ravings of drunks sleeping on park benches that came to mind during the recent faster than light kerfuffle, but unfortunately I couldn't find it again).

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I really didn’t say everything I said

Bullfighting is now in the process of being banned in Catalonia, people far more knowledgable about Spain than I am claim this is at least partially driven by a desire to differentiate themselves from mainland Spain than anything else. So instead I'm going to fearlessly march in to a small detail that's tangentially related to it all.

Whenever bullfighting (or that old fun internet war about whether motor racing is a sport or not) there's one quote that gets dragged out more than any other.

"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games" Ernest Hemingway

And the thing is, it's absolute bollocks. As far as we can tell Hemingway never said it. Not only did he not say it, it isn't something he might have said.

A quote from him that has the benefit of being real is that bullfighting "is not a sport but a tragedy" (from Death in the Afternoon). And goes on at length to talk about it as ritual, art, and all kinds of other things but explicitly not a sport.

The title quote is from Yogi Berra who while being very quotable with his yogi-isms, often found all kinds of other quotes being assigned to him. With good lines we seem to want someone famous to have said them and they get attached. Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde are two serial sufferers (or beneficiaries?) from this affliction.

Or as goes around in various forms on facebook every so often.

"The problem with quotes on the internet is you can't trust their accuracy"- Abraham Lincoln.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What are you paying for?

One of the commonest mistakes made by top level sports teams (especially in the USA where salary caps make such things more damaging) is to pay a player on the basis of what he has done rather than what he will do.

So that a player in the latter part of an excellent career as a top player expects to get an eye-watering contract, but simply viewed forwards smart teams will let them walk since their probable future production doesn't warrant it.

The same should really apply to governments. The point is not who caused the financial crisis, but how to move on from it.

So when complaints are made that the government is still helping "bankers who caused the financial crisis" then they are committing the error of looking backwards rather than forwards.

Of course considerations need to be made about this, if bankers always expect rescuing then it removes a brake on how risky they are prepared to be in their actions. But that's how it should (and I hope is) viewed. In terms of future effects.

Reward and punishment makes for good politics but bad government (and sports teams).