Saturday, 24 December 2011

Season of discomfort and exclusion

I will return to the political offensive at some point in the future, once the Christmas break has disappeared into the memory banks.  The inanities of what laughably passes for debate are probably best ignored for the next few days, at least while prayers for the Duke of Edinburgh are recited along with the great myths of David Cameron's recent decision that the Church of England might offer him a few votes and a moral fig-leaf while his cronies dismantle what's left of social cohesion.

The UK must be unique in believing that the only people entitled to freedom at Christmas are motorists.  Therefore the near-collapse of the Hammersmith flyover yesterday seems entirely symbolic - if your highways are built on sand and concrete then they will wither away in the face of storms and disruption.  If you live outside a few, select cities, the country shuts down at around eight o'clock on the evening of the 24th and resumes, tentatively blinkiing in the hungover light, late morning on the 27th - which, being a Bank Holiday, means that again there will be very little public transport outside the railways and large towns.

This is exclusionary, as it assumes that the motorist supreme and the rights of the Clarkson-wannabe trump those sections of the community that might not either be able to, or wish to, drive around - despite this being the season of alcohol-fuelled bonhomie that makes the wise pedestrian suspicious of even the slowest-moving vehicle.  Rather than reflecting diversity and sustainability, the myth of the Christian solidarity evinced by closing down the country is appealed to - even the most secular trade unionist discovers their inner Jesuit when it is suggested that public service is a year-round obligation.

There is no reason why urban transport should not work all through the holiday period (after all they do at Easter, which is the central Christian festival), and that by Boxing Day we should be entitled to a level of mobility similar to that of other public holidays - the traffic congestion and the number of major events planned suggests that there should be demand for travel (indeed Southern are running twelve-coach trains to Brighton and Gatwick Airport).  Perhaps this could be one of the small ideas that go into making a more palatable political manifesto, rather than the moral high ground, which might encompass a liberation the population and doing something for social interaction - rather than the current justification for closing down the country. 

Humbug, bile and righteous anger to (both) my readers.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cameron the traitor

It is difficult to contemplate with equanimity the final unravelling of Britain's involvement in Europe. Cameron has unwound fifty years of hard work and the prospects for an isolated nation are depressing. Snivelling vermin that he is, the refusal to participate within the European framework will deny industry and economic growth, while ensuring that the Conservatives are never taken aeriously by European governments.

On this basis, one just has to ask what is the point of the Liberal Democrats staying in coalition. Providing them with human shields and conduits for bad announcements is not sufficient when virtually everything that a modern, progressive party should stand for is being destroyed to assuage the neanderthals of the Tory right. A realistic view of Britain as a middle-ranking power, with a need to trade and modernise, is one that puts it at the heart of Europe, not pretending to be the special friend of America and living off a past that was a myth almost a century ago.

Cameron has been craven to his friends in the City, who are treacherous to anything other than their own abili to rape, pillage and destroy those less affluent than them. This makes him a traitor by association. Deregulated bankers and financial services got the world into its present state, and European governments are trying to address these excesses. No wonder that the pillock was so craven as to allow their agenda to destroy the prospects for European progress.

Positively, this could be a defining, realigning moment. If Miliband can articulate the European agenda, along with regenerating progressive politics then he can reach out to the Liberal heartland. Cameron has done nothing to deserve trust or support, and therefore he has everything to lose. A revised, mainstream, European centre-left force could capture much more support than party politics suggests - big enough to face down the media and the City.

Cameron has sold out the country and the coalition. He should reap the consequences, and if he has promised Clegg something behind closed doors that cannot and should not satisfy anyone who believes that Britain is a European nation, with its own identity and a destiny linked with our friends and neighbours across the Channel.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Shoot Clarkson, not strikers

Jeremy Clarkson only takes home half as much from the BBC as the Director-General, which I suppose is a blessing.  The odious right-wing self-publicist's latest outbursts about public sector workers and people who commit suicide under trains are the tip of an iceberg that raises the fundamental question not of free speech but of whether funding such cretinous delusion out of the licence fee is a good use of scarce resources, let alone oxygen.

It's interesting that Jezza's defenders are resorting to free speech as the prime defence of their hero's crassness.  As a liberal, I believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, but one that carries the consequences of acting upon it.  You can go to jail for four years for inciting rioting on Facebook, but advocating (however jocosely) the summary murder of public workers in front of their families on television is apparently only enough for an apology and for your mate the Prime Minister to describe it as "silly".  If the BBC had sacked him immediately it would have been proportionate, and probably paid for several journalists to keep their jobs rather than a menopausal rent-a-gob.

The problem is that Clarkson represents a demographic that the rightists want to be promoted in the media, the saloon-bar ignoramus whose manufactured contrariness (along with the equally-odious Rod Liddle) provides validation that a particularly noxious brand of Poujadism is to be promoted - playing to the same demographic as Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson, the people who think that Enoch Powell should have been Prime Minister and that the real problem with the world is that there are foreigners in it.  Clarkson's infantile fixation with environment-destroying cars has deep-rooted psychological reasons, but is it really enough to justify paying him the equivalent of six senior civil servants' salaries each year?

If his remarks were made about ethnic minorities, he would be prosecuted for incitement - or if he dared to step out of line on Israel the Zionist thought police would be out in force.  Instead he continues the Tories' denegration of the public sector, a group of people who are clearly fair game now that they are standing up for their viewpoint.  As a regime mouthpiece, he has the charm of Comical Ali with the PR skills of George W Bush, but he is part of the Chipping Norton mafia.

And if anyone declared open season on Clarksons, he would doubtless be the first looking for protection from public-sector police.  So let loose the scum-hounds to remove him from parisitism at the expense of the public purse - as well as improving the quality of the media.

Pensions, the parasites and the swine

To declare an interest at the outset, I have both private- and public-sector pension provision - so my views may be slightly coloured by personal prejudice and knowledge of the protagonists.  It also makes me qualified to have an opinion.  The sight of coalition Ministers vying for the all-comers Uriah Heep lookalike prize while berating public sector workers for being hacked off with a pay freeze and large increases in the contributions that they are expected to make invites the usual Pavlovian reaction.

Where the pensions are not funded (for example the civil service) and the ongoing payments are made from general taxation revenue, there is a correct sense of betrayal, as there is no guarantee of future payment beyond the best intentions of the state - not backed by the proceeds of either current or future savings - so all that the pension contribution increase looks like is a penal rise in income tax for those in the public sector (so far, so Osborne).  In other cases, such as local government, the pension pots are fully funded, and there was a relatively recent process of actuarial projection to ensure that they were sustainable in the longer-term.  So this again looks like a raid by the current government. 

What is cowardly about the government, including the craven Chief Secretary to the Treasury (bearing an increasing resemblance to Beaker in attack-dog mode), is that it does not even acknowledge that the union side has been prepared both to recognise the issues and negotiate around them.  We're all living longer, and therefore retirement in most professions should be delayed - providing that there's enough work to go round to allow people to enter the workforce beforehand - and that is the sole real issue.

However, the clowns in charge believe that the real opportunity is to stir up class envy.  The public sector does have better pension provision, and therefore these parasites who have sucked the blood out of the economy must be punished.  The profligacy of New Labour in mushrooming bureaucracy and increasing employment numbers has created an increasing liability, although it could be argued that this is merely diverting welfare payments from benefits to pensions (analagous to the Thatcher-inspired expansion of higher education to keep unemployment numbers down), but this is a slanderous caricature of most public sector workers, who may have been better at protecting terms and conditions during the neo-con ascendency.  To hear the Tories using the rhetoric of 1970s Trotskyites against often low-paid workers is surreal to the point where Duchamp would be chewing the carpet.

Labour undermined decent private-sector pensions with Gordon Brown's ill-timed raid on pension funds in 1998, which makes the current approach look even more vindictive.  What is not being given much airtime at the moment is the fact that much of the problems with pensions are caused by the performance of the crony capitalists - much of people's provision is tied up in financial instruments and the stock market - both of which have been under such fine stewardship for the last decade.  So the rhetoric that it's all the bankers' fault is correct in its diagnosis, but incorrect in its analysis - the truth is that everyone's retirement is being blighted by the deregulation, greed and selfishness that Osborne and his clique personify.

Were I a conspiracy theorist, I would imagine that the timing of the PBR, either the pre-budget report or panic-beridden rhetoric to taste, was designed to fan the flames yet further.  Continued pay freezes in the public sector and further job losses, against a background of the collapse of any growth agenda and a few bones tossed out towards our decrepit infrastructure, do not indicate any desire to propitiate the public sector that drives the services that Dave believes are so fundamental.  His slimy front-man act does not fool those of us who can see that the New Labour client state of outsourcing and unaccountability bubbles profitably away out of general scrutiny.

The only way this circle can be squared would be through growth, that will reduce the National Debt and provide more wealth to the wider economy.  The Tories have no idea about how to achieve this - and so they demonise the public sector workforce and anyone who stands in the way of their "reform", whilst spouting infantile slogans about the common interest in being in this together.  They're aware that this is failing and are now attacking the Liberals and marginalisng them, which suggests that Clegg and Cable should go on the offensive as the right-wing seeks to propitiate its natural constituency - demonstrating both that coalition politics is about compromise, and honouring the genuine issues of social cohesion and fairness that are currently submerged under slimy double-speak.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

There is no Plan B - only Plan P for Panic

The noxious outpourings of politicians are merely graded by their degree of rebarbativeness.  Next week, George Osborne will present a Pre-Budget Report that has been trailled as the great opportunity to demonstrate how the great British basket-case is much better off than those pesky European economies, and how pulling up the drawbridge in an age of globalisation is a rational response.  He will probably convince the "Daily Express" but nothing and nobody capable of sentient thought will buy into the pernicious hogwash emanating from the (hotly-contested) smuggest member of the current chinless Cabinet.

We have spent eighteen months being told that there is no "Plan B" from the hair-shirt regime that has been prescribed for us.  Now Osborne will have to face up to the facts that the idolised private sector will not generate jobs, that his craven sucking-up to the City will not deliver the reform process that (cue gritted teeth) Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling kicked off.  The wheels have come off the pseudo-monetarist experiment, and that is clearly the stage at which, following a change of underwear, he will present U-turns and interventions in the market as part of a wider strategy when all they are is a rediscovery of the Keynesian verity that microeconomic measures do not make a macroeconomic policy.

The breakdown in government policy is not confined to the economic sphere.  Although the "Occupy LSE" movement does not have any coherent ideology, it represents the activist vanguard of the general dissatisfaction and frustration that people are feeling.  "We're all in this together" is the hollowest, most ironic mantra perpetrated by trustafarians on the wider populace for many decades.  The news that the rich are evading stamp duty, council tax and that they are still moaning for more concessions, while public sector workers face pay freezes and much higher pension contributions will not exactly discourage people from taking to the streets this Wednesday in a further display of rage.  While the economy founders, the parasites at the top go on awarding themselves remuneration and tax avoidance packages to the extent where even Dr Vince has been forced to emerge from the coffin of BIS and embrace the High Pay Commission's findings.

It will be interesting to note exactly what rabbits Osborne pulls out of his hat, although he is increasingly resembling a hamster with pellets of Class B hallucinogens stuffed into his cheeks - a charitable explanation for the cretinous platitudes with which he berates the rest of the world.  The sleight of hand will be marked only by the condescension and disdain for the lower orders whose activities allow his cronies to keep their fingers in the till.  Watch for the revolution.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Does my society look big in this?

Whenever I need reminding that the Conservative Party is largely composed of rank hypocrites and charlatans there are several reliable weather-cocks that emerge from the pustulent hinterlands - the Chancellor's temerity in calling schoolboy abuse from the European sidelines, or the incomptent denial of the Home Secretary that her position in government depends on taking responsbility for her decisions and those of her department - that prompt immediate, Pavlovian slavering.

The greatest and most pernicious lie that they are peddling is within the risible myth of the "Big Society" and its relevance to the ravaging of the public realm and the liberty of the subject.  At its best it might be a resumption of a tolerant voluntarism, whereby the doctrine of self-help and freedom from the state is developed, and it promotes the liberty of the citizen.  However, since the Tories are involved it is far more a matter of suburban, petty-bourgeois puritanism, where only those actions deemed acceptable by a cabal of scared delusionals are to be given an endorsement.  Subverting the theory becomes a far more appealing anarchic gesture given that its underpinnings can be turned into a leftist, libertarian promotion of plurality.

However, the real motivation appears to be an inversion of paternalism.  Victorian Tories worked on a basis of "noblesse oblige" - partly from moral imperatives but principally recognising that inequalities and poverty required at least some token measures from those with economic and social power.  This was replaced by at least some form of state-backed solidarity through the acceptance of Liberal and socialist conceptions that the role of the individual is not that of a forelock-tugging subject but as a citizen with basic entitlements to share in the wider prosperity. 

Thatcher's statement that "there is no such thing as society" is much closer to the current Tory party's ideology than the smug platitudes of the millionaire humbugs who populate its leadership.  The mantra of everyone being in the bankers' mess together is repeated ad nauseam, while attacking the public realm and its associated people through penal sanctions on pay, terms of employment, turning a blind eye to the failure of the financial sector to either reform or deliver its side of the bargain for being bailed out by the people.  No wonder the inchoate rage of the Occupy London movement is attractive when the entire motivation of one of the governing parties appears to be to punish the people for the sins of an unaccountable, elite group, whose perversion of probity has obviously got many of the current Cabinet to where they are today.

Perhaps people would be more inclined to support "big society" initiatives if they felt this wasn't filling in the gaps in public service that are being created by the mania to introduce private profit at every stage of existence - in the deluded and discredited idea that the private sector is a watchword for "efficiency" and can wreak transformational magic in the seconds it takes to spell "out-sourcing" and explain why a hyphen is necessary for pedantry even in such an ugly neologism.  Why participate in a process that syphons off profit and redistributes wealth upwards (even more than Labour ever managed) - while eviscerating much of what remains of genuine democracy and accountability.  The "customer" of a service is not a democratic agent but an unwilling dupe of market chimera.

The closing-down of political discourse is evident - even around issues that should not be partisan.  Appropriating Armistice Day into the mythology of social cohesion has been ongoing - particularly amongst those who believe that enforcing outward conformity is a further means of restoring a comfortable Little Englander mentality.  I admire those who choose to go into the armed services today, but wearing poppies commemorates those people who did not necessarily elect to fall for their countries - the key word is "choice"; doing Blair and Camerson's dirty work is at least a positive decison.  The aspirational Tory tabloids appropriate the poppy as a symbol of creeping conformity, as do their numbed and cretinous followers, demeaning generations in all nations who sacrificed themselves in the name of causes defined by others.  Warped patriotism does nobody any favours.

This is all part of a desire to infantilise the population, and stigmatise anyone who raises their heads above a consensual parapet.  A clever technique, as it makes people complicit in their own marginalisation and apparently legitimises a fear of the "other" and induces hostility and incomprehension as to how anyone can even contemplate expressing dissent.  Clearly someone in Central Office has been reading up on the techniques of social control practiced in the latter half of the 1930s across the supposed ideological divide.

We live in a world of charlatans and spivs.  The "big society" con-trick may well backfire, as it is a substitute for genuine social solidarity.  The impact of an unaccoutable, greedy and amoral political and economic group will not go unnoticed - why the hell should the rest of the population support unsuccessful gamblers and pyramid-sellers?  An opposition narrative is needed - things can turn round given a proposition that values people, gives some equality to sacrifice and outcomes, and which does not pretend that closing the net curtains against the world outside is an acceptable response to the disintegration of a nation.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sarko hits the spot again

The manufactured outrage about President Sarkozy's impression of the Israeli Prime Minister tells us far more about the pro-Isreal lobby than it does about the French President.  To describe any politician as mendacious is not exactly stretching the boundaries of credibility, nor is it unreasonable to suggest that dealing with slippery individuals is not necessarily pleasant.

For at least the past three decades, there has been an elaborate game of "don't kick me" played by the Israelis.  Apparently it is perfectly acceptable for their behaviour to go unchallenged, while the protestations of the United Nations, their regional neighbours and other sections of world opinion are at best misguided or at worst manifestations of anti-Semitism.  The shibboleths of contemporary politics, given the USA's craven and often counter-productive paternalism towards Israel, mean that the moment the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (in contravention of international law) is challenged the standards do not merely double but multiply hugely.

So let's hear it for our European partner, who will doubtless ride this one out.  And wait for the fall-out from rich, hypocritical lobby groups.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Little Englanders, smaller minds

Yesterday, the backwoods Tory Party revealed its inner idiocy with precision-tooled stupidity.  To watch the real and aspiring inbred knights of the shires dribbling xenophobic ignorance (admittedly aided and abetted by a number of Labour troglodytes who would find the concept of evolution difficult to grasp, let alone spell) is a salutory reminder of the depths of detritus that need to be shifted before political engagement can be elevated out of the sewers.  No wonder Cameron was keen for the Liberals to be assimilated into his coalition - many of his own people are so barking that they should be left in hot cars on sunny days as a piece of Darwinist experimentation.

Given the state of the European economy, and the deficiencies of the policy response from both Osborne and the Euro-zone, an opportunity for racist ranting was purely cathartic.  The need at present is to get a grip on the fundamental problems caused by the collapse of the financial cargo cult rather than to redefine constitutional niceties - which is the very crime the Tory right believes is committed whenever the issue of dragging the British governmental system into the latter half of the 19th century is raised.  The Poujadist tendency also have the capability to believe in the munificence of big business while proclaiming that "small is comprehensible" with respect to "repatriating" powers to Westminster and skewering the limited devolution ushered in by the last Labour government.  The doublethink continues to astound.

Nobody in their right minds claims that the European Union is perfect, or even perfectible.  However it does provide a major market for British goods and services, it does provide some modicum of protection for the individual and the citizen and it has presided over a lengthy period of relative peace and stability - despite challenges that in earlier periods of history would almost certainly have spilled over into a general conflagration.  It is bureaucratic, slow and frustrating, but it is all that there is.  This is what the Tories fear - as it makes it clear that their capricious populism is restricted within a framework of rights that can be upheld - whereas the cretins wish to return to an era of noblesse oblige and forelock-tugging, where rights are denied and latitude is given only to those with the economic clout or the social and cultural conformity to allow them to be trusted by the state apparatus.  Human rights are fine as a stick to beat ideological opponents abroad (even to the extent of supporting their extermination in sewer pipes) but denied at home as in some way un-British, denying a national moral fibre - this may be folk memories of the dreadful warnings of the debilitating effects of masturbation.  The Tories themselves are probably the best exemplars of the latter.

What is fascinating is to watch Osborne calling for fiscal union within the Euro, while wanting to keep Britain on the sidelines.  The cant and hypocrisy of Europhobic Ministers is continuously astounding, and in some ways more offensive than the knuckle-dragging, ignorant blathering of the backbenches.  The first rule of the playground is that you cannot influence something that you're not part of, and Sarkozy telling Cameron to shut up and let the big boys sort it out was a much-deserved rebuke.  Whatever the deficiencies of Eurozone policy-making the UK has no right to interfere or criticise.

The Tories are still in thrall to Murdoch and the Atlanticist delusion - which is hardly news or suprising, but useful to keep in mind.  The scale of stupidity that they demonstrate (as well as the racist demagoguery beloved of the Mail and Telegraph) is dangerous as they could still bring the British economy down in a competitive protectionist spiral if the EU closed its borders.  They lie about the potential for a free-trade zone; this is a stupid, evil delusion peddled by people whose superficial plausibility is now increasingly modelled on the PR approach of the BNP that would throw millions out of work and destroy the remaining economic base of the country.  They are frightened that the social and political protections of the EU will protect people from their excesses, and water down the chimera of neo-con "reforms".

The issue tore apart the Tories in the 1990s,and hopefully will do again.  What we need now is for the mainstream of politics to coalesce around the need for realism and the positive case for Europe - and if this needs realignment then that may be no bad things.  By the time of the next election we will be forced into a choice between the Tory vision of a British supremacism and a more sober, realistic recognition that the British destiny is part of the wider world.  What was a myth in Victorian times is dangerous nonsense today, and it is vital that we keep this in mind while judging the performance of MPs and their cheer-leading guttersnipe inadequates.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Virgin on the ridiculous

I seldom post about rail travel, mainly because there are plenty of other bloggers out there who do this, and partly because it is a routine part of existence that hasn't got materially better or worse in recent years (in general).  However, following a cringe-worthy journey from Glasgow to London yesterday, the entire juxtaposition of the allegedly supreme private-sector expertise and the grim reality of a Friday afternoon fiasco made me consider the links between fantasy and reality.

Heading south, the train ground to a halt somewhere in the vicinity of Oxenholme.  After about half an hour we were told by our cheery guard (I believe called a "Train Manager" in these times of subtle satire in job descriptions) that there was "a fault with the safety systems".  Not reassuring, especially as the word "safety" has the same significance in railway circles as the Blessed Virgin in those areas where incense and choirboys mix.  However, after a little while, we were on the move, carefree, mobile and heading for Preston.  The guard's view was that the train "might be terminated" there - although those of us with technical nous and access to the Internet knew that this was already the intention.

Preston is a dreary station at the best of times.  Seven o'clock on a damp Friday evening does not even approach such an apotheosis.  The passengers were spewed out into the dimly-lit ambience; the impression was that one was emerging into a film-set that was attempting to juxtapose British life during the Second World War with a method-acting attempt to recreate the ambience of the Bombay railway system in rush-hour.  For around half an hour, the passengers stood by the crippled train, without information about what would happen next.  The indicators presented a litany of increasing delay, the station staff were attempting the "Nothingness" technique of existentialism, and eventually trains were announced to points south, albeit without any urgency to inform the old, infirm and otherwise debilitated (there were a lot of Glaswegians who had spent about three weeks' worth of Scottish GDP in the award-winning Virgin Shop), that they needed to negotiate footbridges, subways and crowds wanting to go to Manchester.

A London-bound train pulled in.  It was not quite the last days of Hanoi, but close.  The train sat still.  Then the public address system crackled into life - announcing that "the train couldn't move until some people got off, as it was too full".  Clearly a few public-spirited people, or those who hankered after their lungs being able to function, did this, as we merrily crawled out in the direction of Wigan, Warrington and Crewe, gradually gettting later and later.  Joyous announcements followed about the potential connecting destinations you could possibly arrive at, especially if the train arrived with a reasonable chance of hoofing luggage, pensioners and doleful teenagers over footbridges.

The line between Stafford and Rugby is not noted for its scenic beauty, so it was just as well that it was a moonlit night.  We had plenty of time to enjoy it, as our friendly signalmen had decided that keeping a local train company was a sensible use of our time and theirs.  Just as we accelerated past it, there came even better news that the train had suffered a tilt failure, and therefore would go slowly all the way to London.  In the end, apart from hapless people wanting to connect at Milton Keynes for such fine places as Tring and Watford, whose train could be seen pulling out just as our doors opened, we arrived in London only 45 minutes late (on the schedule for the train but not the passengers).

Seldom is it worthwhile posting tales of woe such as this, except as catharsis.  However, what was very clear is that as with other walks of life, managers and people able to take decisions to benefit the customer are now so thin on the ground that when something goes wrong, affecting 500 people directly and those meeting or depending on them indirectly, there is never anyone actually there who can think laterally and interpose intelligence.  Every brand is defined by its failings - those without philosophical tendencies or a liking for the Theatre of the Absurd will consider flying or driving after an experience like that.  And that sure isn't environmentalism.

Over to you Ms Greening (get the difficult bits, like "Transport Policy" over in the title).

Reynard at bay - the tip of a stinking iceberg

The demise of Liam Fox, Cheyney acolyte, Thatcher worshipper, and apparently amoral Tory, is probably not cause for prolonged celebration, merely some small-scale gloating.  You can imagine the fuss that the Tories' preferred media outlets would have made if there had been an ambiguous hanger-on sponging off a Labour Minister, or if David Laws had not merely fiddled his mortgage.  So forgive me a lack of sympathy for this odious man's downfall (fingers crossed for George to be next!).

In terms of coincidences, the fact that this all happened the day Oliver Letwin was discovered leaving a paper trail across London's parks (it's all right, his Private Office have confirmed that there wasn't any confidential material reported missing) is a shame.  Fox is undoubtedly the more culpable of the two, but Letwin's smugness also deserves a severe puncturing.

The uniting factor is the contempt for probity that runs like a festering sore throughout contemporary politics.  This is probably a consequence of the "professionalisation" of the area - just as with doctors and other self-regulating parasites - and the removal of all ethical considerations in favour of "don't get caught and if you do it's because you're a victim not a malefactor".  The Tories have some spectacular examples, both at Westminster and in local government, but no party is unsullied.  However if you can find more snoutage than in London's flagship Tory councils and their acolytes at the GLA then I shall be surprised and might even be prepared to eat a few words.

Now Transport gets Justine Greening, a Tory on the make with unacceptable right-wing views, and the new Defence Secretary is a man whose priorities are clearly skewed if he thinks that his new role is a step up.  Britain, as a third-rate fringe European power, is very good at post-imperial posturing, but as with any of the other rightists, Hammond clearly harkens back to the days of tiffin and the rest of the world knowing its place.

It's been a good week.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The BBC, "quality" and the Tory lowest common denominator

After a month's purdah, principally a consequence of excessive spleen and a wish to watch the full gory detail of the conference season unfold before letting loose opinions, not much seems to have changed.  The economy appears to be heading towards a brick wall with the inability of Osborne and Alexander to grasp that we are in a paradigm most closely analogous to that of 1931 rather than 1981 - and even the Bank of England printing money won't save the situation.  More on the need for a contemporary Keynes at some stage.

Months of anticipation and leaks meant that the BBC's announcement of cuts, job losses and reduction in its output was probably not given the attention that it should have been.  It may be a belated punishment for its role in undermining the naked Murdoch empire, or it may just be the knee-jerk reaction of Tory bigots who fail to see the importance of a relatively impartial broadcaster not beholden to advertising or answering directly to the political authorities.  The sight of Lord Patten, seemingly unchanged from the "acceptable face of bigotry" persona that he used to support the adulterous Major to such good effect, supporting the obscenely-overpaid Director-General in announcing massive retrenchment in public service broadcasting is surreal, but not unexpected.

The BBC's description of its approach as "Delivering Quality First" is risible on many scales and many levels.  For a start, experience bears out that "quality" is a nebulous and subjective concept, and can be stretched to cover almost any multitude of sins - at its best it means delivering a reasonable output, at its worst it allows people whose practical and intellectual capabilities to judge others' efforts through a prism of process-driven hokum.  Management-speak is always a good sign that the foundations of the proposition are completely sham and bogus, and this does not cause any readjustment of that perception.

To propitiate the devil, and preserve the existing management, the BBC has taken on board additional responsibilities - including the World Service, the Welsh Channel Four and providing subventions to extend broadband provision in the countryside.  These are further calls on its resources that are, in many respects, worthy public services.  The World Service, in particular, has always been funded directly on the perfectly-logical presumption that since it is not targeted at UK residents it should be not be paid for by them, except as part of a general levy to promote British interests and values.  At least inside the main BBC it will be safe from bean-counters at the Foreign Office.

Public service should be about providing output for the wider community beyond that which the market provides, or at a cost that is reasonable to the end-user.  The perversion of the media market by Sky has had huge consequences not just for the BBC but for commercial broadcasters, who find themselves outgunned and outbid for rights to programmes by an organisation that has combined rapacious greed with targeting the gullible to part with huge monthly sums.  The BBC should have the confidence to protect these outputs rather than concentrate its resources on promoting the generally-dreadful BBC1, which apes commercial television for the most part (figleaves at marginal times don't count).

The problem remains that the Tories would then have a field day, claiming that the BBC is elitist and ignores the cretinous masses who consume pap from other media organs.  Reading the "Times" and the "Mail" is instructive as they seem to regard anything that the BBC does as being tantamount to despoiling virgins, especially if it might be considered to be putting forward any view other than the bile-filled maunderings of petty-bourgeois Philistines.  So left-liberals find themselves defending the BBC by default, rather than enthusiastically.

To me, the BBC still does a great deal that is totally worthwhile.  Radio 4 irritates because it seems to believe that the country is bordered by the M25, and the "Today" programme is too self-congratulatory and no longer as rigorous as it once was, but it is still essential.  6 Music is generally very good  - treating its audience with respect and  not being remitted to respond to commercial requirements.  "Test Match Special" would be missed!  BBC4 seems to secure most of my limited TV viewing these days - and that is under threat.  Doubtless the Tory right will dribble out objections to sub-titled programmes, but they challenge the cosy Anglo-American consensus that the neo-con agenda wishes to promote.

Of other services that I might want to use, Radio 3 has finally disappeared from much of the radar.  Constant re-jigging to become a slightly up-market variation of the Classic FM aural wallpaper, at least in the mornings, has excited a great deal of comment.  Hopefully it will also encourage people to switch off, as the only message that the hapless Controller seems to appreciate is audience figures.  For six hours every day there is a ghastly, patronising melange of nothingness - competing head-on in the market should encourage the commercial sector to cry foul and the audience to get something back.  However, the schizophrenia of ratings and public service will not be resolved. 

I am, fortunately, too young to be in the BBC's target audience for local radio.  There is much sound and fury about the proposed cuts - but most of the current output is uninspiring.  John Birt has a lot to answer for, as the attempt to mimic national journalism with limited resources results in inanity and wall-to-wall coverage of puffs and press releases.  Thirty years ago, the BBC local network was more limited in hours of broadcasting but still managed to cover much more than just local news - and it is probably indicative of the current paucity of vision that what is proposed to be stripped out is the last vestige of local culture and identity.

Now to fill in the consultation document that will rubber-stamp a further diminution in the belief that good broadcasting is the mark of civilisation.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Greed, delusions and economists

Economists are a group of people for whom there is a reasonable desire to create a derogatory collective noun.  There is a massive disconnect between what economics purports to study and the theory and practice of contemporary economists, many of whom are employed as apologists for the financial services sector.  Nothing is more depressing than the spectacle of self-styled experts lining up to argue their particular interest group from the perspective of wider public good.  The cretinous scribblers whose names appeared beneath the recent diatribe in the "Financial Times"calling for the abolition of the 50p tax rate are the latest of this particular sub-species to creep out from beneath their flat stones.

Given that the main priority of any government is to restore public finances, arguing for a tax cut only cuts the mustard when it can be demonstrated that the net effect will be to improve the country's fiscal position.  These windy morons were unable to do this, preferring instead to put forward the tired formulation that high marginal tax rates deter innovation and send the alleged high-flyers who command £150k salaries looking elsewhere.

The case is usually undermined by the appearance of said creatures on television, bleating how their City career will be blighted by such a measure and they will sink the economy by going elsewhere.  This usually results in my wishing that I retained a foam brick to throw at the television, since these toads are no brighter than the average indvidual and in many cases have been responsible for immiring the British economy in the brown stuff over the last decade, while raking in cash and generally being protected from the social anarchy that their selfishness has created.  Quite frankly, the only contribution to their welfare that we should be considering is a whip-round to pay for one-way tickets to somewhere where they can do less damage (South Georgia for instance).  These are not the people who should be rewarded.

Most "entrepreneurs", or less glamorously, people involved in the creation of wealth through real goods and services, would be distinctly happy to earn £150,000 of taxable income in the course of the year.  Their firms may turn this over, but this will be spent on all the paraphernalia of genuine business (stock, premises and customers, as well as other staff).  However, the familiar mantra of incentives is given a further promotion as it is the only way in which the parasites and their lickspittle economist mates can get away with perpetuating the bullshit that passes for debate.

What is more depressing is that the Tories are listening to these people.  The singularly-unimpressive shallowness at the heart of the party is convinced by the argument that those less well-off than you deserve it, and your wealth carries no obligations to contribute to society.  This mentality, as has been obsered ad infinium over the last month, is exactly the same as the looters' and rioters' who are now causing tax increases through the incarcerations ordered by a Government much more concerned about property rights than people, and whose prism seems to be defined by the "Daily Express" obsessions with house prices, people who aren't white, middle-class aspirations and the phobia of anything that isn't English (I include the Scots and Welsh in the demonology with good reason).

There is actually a strong case to increase taxation, both on the top 1% of incomes (as are currently caught in the 50% income tax band) and on unearned wealth and capital gains including land, to provide a more equitable burden and to make people realise that there are improvements to life that can be funded.  Tax reform could take lower-income groups out of tax and benefits altogether, and would address much of the inequality that has been introduced by neo-con economics and prejudiced pseudo-libealism.

As for the economists, I was amused to note that the next day eighteen times as many signed up to lobby the EU for a Tobin tax on financial transactions - a far more worthy cause and a means of redressing the balance towards the taxpayer who has bailed out gamblers, spivs and theives who continue to enjoy public subsidy on a level that would fund much better, and morally-worthy, activity, while denying either responsiblity or the right of the rest of society to hold them to account.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A farewell to the McTories?

Murdo Fraser MSP is one of the Scottish Tory Party's showmen.  His announcement that, if elected leader, he will seek to disband the toxic reactionary quislings and replace it with a centre-right party, competing with Labour for this accolade in Scotland, is eye-catching and very interesting.

Since 1997, First Past The Post has ensured that the Tories have not been able to elect more than one MP in Scotland (and indeed in the Blair hysteria they were wiped out completely), while the AMS system used for Scottish Parliamentary elections and STV for local councils has kept the party on life-support with a steadily declining share of the vote.  The Scots have long memories, and there is unlikely to be any forgiveness of a party that treated the country as an appendage for experimentation with such lovely flowers as the poll tax and the impact of deindustrialisation. 

The SNP's outstanding result in May was not just a function of the competence of their previous minority administration, but a reflection of Scottish distrust of the Westminster machinery.  Salmond peddled a delusional spin that the wider economy would not impact upon Scotland's public services, a variant of his previous elevation of economic successes in Ireland and Iceland as paradigms for Scottish economic growth.  Whereas the UK Coalition has a muddle-headed and wrongly-implemented agenda for reducing government spending, not significantly different from the one that Labour would have implemented had they won in 2010, Scotland has been behaving like a startled toddler hoping that the problems go away.  They won't, and the SNP faces cutting budgets and services with more immediate and draconian impact than the Westminster government.

At this stage, Murdo Fraser's intervention seems to be even more quixotic.  Labour have not managed to regroup in Scotland, and the Liberals have been reduced to impotent maundering from the Northern Isles.  The Tories were therefore well placed in terms of offering a critique of the SNP's machinations, but appear to be much more interested in their own internal blood-letting. 

The idea that a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Movement could outperform a Westminster-based party is possibly true, although there is unlikely to be a large pool of talent in the party - bright Scottish Tories will repeat Labour's chicken run to London as they are unlikely to find themselves wielding power in Holyrood.  However, Labour are the de facto reactionary force in Scotland, and they won't give up the territory without a fight.

One weekend's headlines do not make a strategy.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The French disconnection

Having decided to emulate a more sensible mode of existence, by maintaining silence for most of August and attempting not to fulminate about every single idiocy that has emanated from our beloved government since the riots provided the perfect shield for authoritarian posturing, my attention has wandered away from the cankerous UK domestic debacle.

Instead I found myself wondering whether anybody here would dare to suggest, as leading French business people have done, that the state of public finances is so dire that the rich ought to pay a bit more in order to accelerate deficit reduction.  The more mature nature of political discourse allowed this to be given a serious hearing, even in a country where public life has been diluted by the Thatcher/Blair worshipping that Sarkozy has adopted (albeit intermittently).

The English attitude to tax seems to be that it is something to avoid, evade and for other people to pay in order to provide the societal underpinnings that the pettifogging readers of mid-market tabloids seem to regard as their birthright.  I honestly can't imagine the parasitical and greedy being prepared to sacrifice some of their excess income to benefit the society that has allowed them to become bloated pustules on the face of social cohesion.  Would the City and their cronies in consultancy and politics go down the same route?  They'd rather cut services and entitlements for those below them in the income scale, kicking away the ladder and simultaneously bemoaning others' lack of entrepreneurial spirit.

That prime buffoon, Boris the Philanderer, has called for a reduction in the 50% tax band to keep these people sweet - and voting for him - while any economist would argue that the marginal benefit of keeping any of these selfish cretins (whose record in commercial and financial judgement would probably be equalled by a couple of monkeys pushing at a keyboard) in the UK is in fact a cost that we can ill afford.

Indeed the "mansion tax" idea, which the Liberals put forward at the election, is extremely attractive.  This would catch non-doms and bonus fraudsters equally as you can't hide land.  Add this to a suitable 50% threshold (say £100,000) and you have the basis of a plausible claim that "we're all in this together", especially as taxing those who have gained wealth without effort or who are managing their affairs to avoid any tax that repays the states that have given them opportunity is a clear signal that you can't evade your obligations.

Nothing changes - we continue to be misruled in the name of others' greed and expected to tug our forelocks to these people.  I remain convinced we need to be more European in outlook, and much less deferential to people whose vested interests are designed to maintain subjugation and destroy the quality of life for those whose moral scruples or misfortune mean that they are not acolytes of the selfish and venal.

Will we hear anything more about higher taxes?  I doubt it.  Turkeys don't vex their clients, especially when they're carrying a cleaver.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tippler's Tales

For those of us versed in Orwell, his idealisation of the English pub remains a classic of its kind.  Unfortunately, the Euro-phobic, mullet-sporting Tim Martin has appropriated the name as a default for his Wetherspoon chain, which does not do the late Eric Blair any favours, nor does the atmosphere of Wetherspoon pubs even aspire to the mediocre in most cases.  My local Wetherspoon has been reviewed as resembling the DSS waiting room, which is entirely reasonable given that the clientele overlap strongly.

Meanwhile, the decent pub becomes a harder-to-find phenomenon under a dead weight of the companies who own them, always squeezing margins and always latching onto concepts that will enable them to increase their turnover per customer.  Since Thatcher's botched intervention in the licensed trade, which purportedly increased choice for the customer by restricting the vertically-integrated structure whereby brewers owned pubs and therefore controlled what they sold, the emergence of the ghastly "pubco" has continued and magnified the trend to reduce the pub into a machine where character has been eroded in favour of margins.

There is probably a direct link between this and the extent to which the small, individual local pub has been eroded - many closing on a weekly basis.  At the same time, vast drinking barns, targeted at maximum throughput and minimum social responsibility, have been responsible for making many town centres and suburban high streets virtual war-zones after dark, egged on by Master Tony's amazingly depressing Licensing Act 2003 that transferred real decision-making away from local communities into the hands of the pubcos, whose lawyers and PR people could usually browbeat local authorities into nodding through egregiously asocial establishments blasting out music and promoting drinking well beyond either reasonable or legal limits.

Yet there is still some cause for hope.  Many of the better-run small pubs have discovered that there is a niche for the kind of communal experience that the chains deny.  They have also tapped into localism, through sourcing food and drink from local, smaller producers - and worked out that in many parts of the country people are prepared to pay a modest premium for something slightly better than the standard re-hash of tired menus and indifferent drinks.  These are not necessarily the idyllic country pubs that one finds in the "Good Pub Guide", indeed that publication's skew towards olde worlde charm (probably with morris dancers and legionella in the water) is sufficient to ensure that it never darkens my door.

It is a sobering thought (literally) that CAMRA now has more individual members (around 120,000) than any of the major political parties - it has been a successful consumer lobby group on a scale that must still dumbfound people who founded it 40 years ago.  British ale brewing should be a matter of pride, as the variety and quality continues to increase now that the multi-national brewers have lost interest.  Only last week, at the Great British Beer Festival, I enjoyed drinking Fullers Brewer's Reserve No 3, which was as good if not better than the more celebrated Trappist beers from Belgium.  This is a cause for celebration - but there are still too many pubs closing, too many botched renovations that destroy the built environment and undermine the function of a space where drinking is incidental to the potential active or passive socialisation.

Orwell probably wouldn't recognise most contemporary pubs, and his shade should steer clear of Wetherspoons, but for once there are still green shoots of quality, as well as established excellence.  After a few days of really deep cynicism and depression about the wider world, sometimes remembering small mercies is a salutory activity.

Britain, in all its hypocritical splendour

As people batten down the hatches awaiting whatever fate awaits them, it is profoundly reassuring that Parliament will be reconvened on Thursday for non-partisan hand-wringing.  The queues of politicians lining up to agree violently that criminality is wrong will do precisely nothing to add to the stock of human knowledge or provide us with confidence that there is any mind, let alone, a controlling one, at work.

The profusion of spivs and inadequates at the top of the government is depressing.  Wheeling out Theresa May as Home Secretary and Eric Pickles, that most risible combination of Mr Creosote and Moby Dick, to opine on "communities" demonstrates the chasm between those who claim to rule and the rest of us.  There is something so palpably inadequate about their empathy, their sincerity and their intellectual capabilities to cause even the most hardened optimist to despair. 

Then there are the half-witted right-wing commentariat.  I daren't look to see what Melanie Phillips thinks about the current situation, but I'm sure that she will find some means of blaming the BBC.  Then you have the "shoot 'em before you string them up from a lamp-post" lynch-mobs, who inhabit the "comment" sections of every web-site, doing battle with the weird fringe who don't believe that any form of individual responsibility is part of the obligations for acquiring the status of citizen or sentient being.  Add to this the knee-jerkers who spend their lives blaming everything from the Black Death to Hampshire's woeful County Championship form on the Coalition and there is much noise but zero insight being added to the situation.

What is needed at this stage of the process is some narrative of a way forward.  Flooding the streets of London with police may or may not work tonight, but there needs to be something much more focused on rewarding people whose community spirit is spontaneous and generous.  This is Deluded Dave's "Big Society" at work, unifying people at times of crisis and expressing disgust, horror and determination, but without the low conceptual framework that has typified every initiative that has spewed out of his semi-formed ideology since he ascended to the Tory leadership.  Trying to annexe communitarian spirit is akin to wrapping oneself in the Union Jack and won't wash, when half the communities trying to recover from these outrages are in a position of losing essential services while the UK government continues to support foreign adventurism and the illusion that the UK remains a global military power, and allocate vaster sums of money to replacing a nuclear arsenal that is more and more irrelevant in the 21st century.

So we get politicians seeking photo opportunities, and the near lockdown of entire areas through either fear or voluntary retreat by those whose activities keep the economy moving.  I'm increasingly moving to a Hard Liberal position where once the consequences of lawlessness are spelt out, then the perpetrators of violence, theft and intimidation are effectively beyond the point where they can expect to be protected from proportionate responses to their actions; this includes much more assertive policing and exemplary sentencing, as the vast majority of the population have not resorted to lawlessness and thuggery despite the provocations of our intolerable political hegemony.  Grievances can be expressed peacefully, with much noise and creativity, if they are genuine, and nobody is arguing that the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act (which are hideous in their assault on the liberty of the citizen) should be applied as yet.

If Cameron and Johnson were anything other than clowns in the pay of multinationals, floundering now that Murdoch's moral vacuum has deprived them of at least one noisy paymaster, then they would be peddling strong, zero-tolerance police tactics now as well as a narrative that examines the causes of social dislocation (inequality, lack of social and geographical mobility, poor education and the dismal state of much of Britain's social infrastructure and built environment are a few for starters) and comes up with a convincing vision as to how to address them and build some form of consensus.  Instead we get monkey-on-a-stick platitudes and the near-certainty that their arrogance will fan further discontent.

The best suggestion that I have heard today is that, given we are building aircraft carriers with no aircraft to carry, they could be converted to prison hulks.  An appropriately Victorian solution to a situation that bears more resemblance to something out of Engels or Mayhew than a supposedly modern world.  Not a solution, but a certain amount of whistling in the dark.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Let's cast Dave and Boris as Nero and Caligula

To describe the feral youth of London as anything other than criminal is to give them far too much intellectual and ideological clout.  Their trail of fear and destruction is an evil spree, not motivated either by a political grievance or a genuine desire for anarchy - a concept which relies upon positive human instincts and respect for others and the world around you.  Therefore by default it is only possible to have sympathy with the police's poor bloody infantry and the victims of gangsterism run amok.

There will doubtless be much hand-wringing about alienation and the continued failings of the police force, demonstrated admirably by the unravelling over Murdoch's tentacles extended into the higher echelons of the Met.  The social evils that exist are genuine, and need to be addressed as a matter of course, but without any intention of providing amelioration as some kind of reward for bad behaviour.  Liberal instincts must be to protect all individuals, which does not mean prioritising the rights of the violent and the disfunctional over the rest of the community.

Social cohesion has been systematically eroded through economic lunacy - that much is clear.  Creating a society based around material aspiration as the only means of self-validation has been deeply damaging, but the evils of unfettered neo-conservative social and econmic constructs create ghetto conditions and, for both those benefiting from the system and those excluded, exacerbate the fear of "the other" that has reduced most discourse to a sequence of hand-wringing platitudes.  On one side you get the dribbling semi-racist ravings of the mid-market Tory tabloids, and on the other a mirror image of intolerance, and never the twain shall meet.

It has been interesting to compare the response of Labour MPs to that of their Tory counterparts.  The latter tap into the middle class rhetoric of "mindless thuggery" (quite correctly in some cases) but listening to David Lammy and Diane Abbott (very glad I voted for her as Labour leader!) shows that they have a grasp of the underlying issues of social dislocation as well as a healthy anger against the morons who have been exploiting the situation for considerable personal gain and maximum disruption to the more socialised.

As a Liberal, I don't subscribe to the idea that one extends infinite tolerance, and it was good to see Simon Hughes making clear his views on what is happening in Southwark and the need for the community to assert discipline.  Even the hapless Clegg managed a decent fist of it, actually going to Tottenham to see for himself what had happened and engage with people affected by the criminality, rather than Theresa May's supreme vacuity and irrelevance, uttering Tory shire platitudes from the safety of the Home Office media room.  So there has been some good performance from most sides of the political spectrum.

The lacuna at the heart of Government has been the Bullingdon Boys, both of whom are now returning from their holiday haunts with something of chastisement.  Dave has been fiddling while London burns, while Boris continues to employ the smug, inadequate Kit Malthouse to act as a smarmy go-between.  He would do much better with a horse.

Time to pray things don't get any worse.

Invisible friends, invisible hands

Are we living in the End Times?  The gossamer-threads of the global economic system appear to be unravelling faster than you can say "co-ordinated bail-out", while our leaders engage in hand-wringing and exhortation that if we all pull together everything is going to be fine and dandy.  The myths of the unfettered capitalist system's innate superiority, peddled with extreme regularity and zealotry for forty-odd years as an excuse to dismantle and undermine the powers of the nation state, are exploding with monotonous regularity as the inability of a system founded on sand to right itself becomes clear.

Apologists for the market always argue that despite its manifest irrationality and tendency to over-react, in the long-run it always gets it right.  The only suitable response to that is to remind them that Keynes's definition of the long-run is at least accurate if not particularly encouraging.  The misreading of Adam Smith, perpetrated in the first instance by Hayek and increasingly by mainstream economists since the 1970s, and the veneration of the "invisible hand" is much closer to a masturbation fantasy than a harmless companion-in-delusion righting the wrongs of the state's inability to achieve omniscience.

My favourite joke about economists is that they will be able to tell you how the world functions, provided it is populated entirely by economists.  The pseudo-science brigade have been given another fillip by the invention of the computer, which enables vast amounts of spurious conjecture to be modelled, peddled as some form of insight without the slightest reality check - the initial premise is often so skewed as to be risible.  Yet because of the shamanic power of IT, coupled with a veneration for any algebra more complex than simple equations (a result of appalling teaching) and the desire not to be caught out by appearing not to understand things, managers and politicians alike get seduced by each blind alley of experimentation. 

Economics is at best a social science - and therefore needs to be put into a much broader context with respect to other disciplines.  For a start, there should be a requirement for all economists (employing their "skills" in exchange for gain) to have some form of knowledge of history.  The current situation is frightening as it resembles a strange hybrid of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and subsequent depression, the efforts to impose a monetarist orthodoxy that were imposed on the UK and other countries in the late 1970s, and the wider Industrial Revolution where power shifted from those countries with agrarian surpluses to those capable of levering competitive advantage out of the system.  Not understanding the parallels and differences with past crises, and the human and political factors tha go with them, makes economics blind to both its interpretive potential and to its obligations to have at least its little toe dipped in reality.

As someone whose political construct was formed in the early 1980s, it has been very disturbing to watch the unfolding of social breakdown in London this weekend.  There are some parallels with the early Thatcher period, before Heseltine decided that a showy giveaway of North Sea Oil revenue would pacify the natives, as the divisions and skewed distibution of wealth increase.  This has been leavened by thirty years of the myth-making around state impotence and the primacy of the individual - the flip-side, conveniently ignored by the Tories over the decades is that if the individual feels unable to achieve their aspirations then the castration of the state means that there is no outlet other than inchoate violence.

The reductionist theory of history will suggest that the rioting was triggered by one event, rather like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.  However, the real cause is much more the dismantling of social fabric and letting the economists, traders and ambulance-chasers loose in the national sweet shop.  The peddling of the lies around the uselessness of state provision, the desire to cream off profits through further upward redistribution of economic welfare, and the apparent belief that the consumer society is in some way a better moral arbiter than a state founded on consent from the citizenry will all come home to roost eventually.

And as the financial system continues to buckle under the strain of its own illusions, it is hardly surprising that there is a mood of fear and anticipation around.  If people's remaining stake in society is about to become worthless to bail out a failed, unfettered capitalism, then I would not be surprised to see discontent fanning out further.  The architects of the neo-con lie will be secretly delighted with their legacy, I suspect.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Protect And Survive - no, it's the Olympics

It is difficult to evade the smug, self-congratulatory effluvia of Boris and Dave now that there is less than twelve months to go until the egregious folly of the London Olympics comes to pass.  The only crumb of comfort for our invisible Opposition is that, with the exception of rent-a-gob Harriet Harman, the Tories are drinking from the poisoned chalice without noting its provenance from Master Tony and Ken Livingstone, eager to wrap themselves in spurious nationalism to distract from the carnage in the world around them.

Despite protestations that London is well-prepared and agog with enthusiasm (you know the score, pictures of Pearly Kings with their knucles dragging along the carpet) the tone of official propaganda has taken on what can only be described as panic.  For the best part of six weeks next summer the impression is that the centre of London will be some sort of grid-locked war zone, where the hardy venture with a spirit of adventure, a week's supply of Kendal Mint Cake and the kind of forced bonhomie that will evade arrest when confronted with the Met's finest armed with instructions to watch out for dissidents who aren't actually either interested in the crass spectacle or enjoying the disruption to their right to exist.

The weakness of London's infrastructure is clear.  Transport for London is spending time, money and effort in trying to persuade people not to go into work - perhaps a simple bribe would be best - as there will be too many people travelling for its system to cope.  Warnings of delays of up to two hours on the Tube and apocalyptic predictions of congestion on main line trains and stations should probably be accompanied by a Durer engraving and a prediction that those mortals who are sustaining the economy will be struck down with a plague of boils if they dare to impede the progress of the State's idols.  The only positive side-effect may be that more working at home is possible, but that is probably unintended as it might encourage less surveillance and more independent thinking.

At the same time, the centre and east of the UK's capital will take on an appearance more akin to that of an Eastern European capital in the pomp of Communist misrule.  Huge swathes of roads will be cordoned off, bus lanes suspended and pedestrians impeded to allow the "elite" of Olympic bureaucrats, visiting dignitaries and, lower down the pecking order, competitiors, to rush around the city at high speed.  Money will be spent on enforcement - making a mockery of the normal indifference of the police to violations of traffic law - in order to allow the panjandrums the illusion that London will function.

All this is hardly new, but nevertheless worthy of a re-heated rant.  What finally astonished me last week, and it has taken this long to unlock my jaw, was the revelation that there is no confidence that food supplies will hold up as a consequece of disruption to deliveries.  Londoners are being advised to stock up on "non-perishable" foods before all the tomfoolery kicks off.  Not much consolation when you have not merely funded the folly, failed to secure tickets to the elimination stage of Bog Snorkelling, and been advised that your working hours will now be four a.m. until eight p.m. to avoid any chance of spoiling the Olympic experience for those who have no financial stake in the capital.

Stocking up with food may well be very well in any circumstances, although I would have thought that this exhortation should also extend to alcoholic refreshment to promote oblivion in the face of vapidity.  However, the resonances with the 1980s are chilling.  Clearly the Olympic Delivery Authority (no salary too low) has been dusting off "Protect and Survive" with its advice on how to survive a nuclear war using only a couple of doors, some sand and three packets of digestive biscuits.  All that's missing is for the ODA to advise people not to strain their local undertaking services and leave dead relatives outside, tagged, awaiting September 2012 and a return to normality.  Olympic fatigue doesn't rank with radiation sickness but it will be equally pervasive.

This insight into the minds of the Olympians should be a rallying-cry to those of us who fear the current direction of the state.  The callous disregard for the welfare of citizens in the face of a corporate behemoth, be it Murdoch or the East London Sporting Fiasco, and the rhetoric of concern and the mangy carrot of "regeneration" are allied to lies and double-speak.  Let it not be forgotten that the last European nation to host the Olympics was Greece, and they are hardly joyous about the continued legacy of debt and rotting real estate.

Civil disobedience is probable, and, provided that it is non-violent, should not be discouraged.  The act of going about one's onw business and attempting not to be disrupted or thrown off course by the entire farrago is probably going to be criminalised by next year, but in the meantime...  And Boris might not be there, forced to spend more time with his families and concentrate on his leadership bid.

Britain may not be world-beating in many aspects these days, but it is probably the leading proponent of naked emperors.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The home-grown fascists and the forces of evil

Events in Norway should be a salutary reminder that terrorism is a two-way process - and the moral superiority brigade must be very wary of putting down too many markers at the moment.  Fortunately the usual litany of "it couldn't happen here" has been largely exploded by the increasing evidence of a link with our very own crackpot ersatz Nazi fringe.

The English Defence League epitomises all that needs to be cauterised.  It isn't difficult to identify how a self-appointed white underclass, fed by the xenophobic and inaccurate rantings of parts of the media (yes, the usual suspects of the "Scum", "Mail" and "Express"), and fearful that its cultural leanings are so weak, irrelevant and repulsive that they will be "swamped" by immigrants and the liberal conspiracy (if only!) that it mobilises.  Fed crap about how immigrants are stealing our jobs, and how all Muslims are followers of extreme, intolerant bigoted sects, it is hardly surprising that their limited powers of reasoning and articulation are directed towards bile-fuelled hate of anything different.

The irony that these idiots fail to notice is that they have become an even more extreme version of the alleged threat that the West faces - and that therefore, in a nice ideological volte-face, they subscribe to a Marxist interpretation of historical determinism.  It is their desire to see the troubles stoked and, apparently, while condemning the details of the atrocity in Norway, they are predicting, with some glee, that the same thing would be understandable if it happened in the UK.

Given the economic background, it is unsurprising that there is at least some upsurge in support for authoritarian parties that wish to violently take over and impose a dictatorial thugocracy, either with a nationalist or a millennarian socialist bent.  In some cases the individuals are so damaged that there is no reason or rationale for attempting to engage with them, as they have defined themselves as outcasts beyond the boundary that a society can be expected to accept.

These people are fringe nutters, but they do pose a significant threat to the practice of free speech and political discourse.  Their cousins are the Tea Party movement in the USA, and they have a great deal in common with the petty-bourgeois apologists who gave much support to the Nazis and to the Vichy Republic in France.  Purely calling for them to be banned and/or locked up is giving too much credence to their grievance, but their foulness needs to be understood as well as fought.  "Know thine enemy" is a vital admonition in the current situation.

The far right has never been more than a nuisance, but they need to be contained.  In the meantime, the priority is to expose the international terrorist network that looks like an amateur Al-Qaeda rather than a prelude to a thousand-year Reich.

Paying the price for George Osborne

You would have thought that there might be contrition.  Cameron and Osborne, when finding time to break off from their preferred pastime of brown-nosing News International, are presiding over an economy that is at best anaemic and most likely dangling over a precipice.  Instead, in a feeble imitation of Thatcher, the troglodytic "Chancellor" says that there is no "Plan B".

In the best tradition of Billy Bunter, to whom our cherubic Prime Minister bears an increasing resemblance each day, they are waiting for something to turn up.

In the meantime, the world is collapsing around their ears.  In the short-term we can be grateful that Gordon Brown did not permit Blair to follow his political instincts and take us into the Eurozone, given its inability to accommodate two-speed economies without a central fiscal policy.  The possibility of a collapse, hyper-inflation and social and political upheaval in what would have been regarded as second-tier economies (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland etc) is now looking a strong possibility with Italy fast approaching the basket-case status.

The US fiasco is depressing, if only because it tells us that free-market, right-wing nutters are the same the world over.  If the US credit rating is downgraded, this has major ramifications for the whole world economy, not least because of the symbiotic relationship with the Chinese trade surplus.  The consequences are unpredictable, but dire.

Gorgeous George increasingly resembles a rabbit in the headlights, incapable of grasping the fact that Britain is not in a good place.  He is right, as is Ed Balls and especially Vince Cable, that the structural deficit needs to be plugged and government expenditure contained.  However, we are wasting billions on the cargo-cult that is marketisation of essential services such as health and education, not to mention Trident replacement.  A creative response to the current crisis would be to prioritise investment in public infrastructure that will provide employment, support the private sector in growth and take advantage of the surplus capacity in the economy.

However, since university economics is now purely a matter of theoretical burnishing and showing off how much longer and more complex your equations are, before going on to a career in the parastic activities at the fringes of financial legality and morality, it is very unlikely that anyone will remind the Chancellor that his Coalition partners have the moral and historical legitimacy of Keynes, whose prescriptions for the Great Depression seem totally relevant in 2011.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

BBC news values - missing in action

There have been a large number of major, horrifying news stories in recent days.  The Norwegian atrocity is the obvious centrepiece, given the extent to which the unravelling of the new Right's agenda across Europe could be facilitated as a consequence - the links with the British far right, and the contiguity of the views expressed by the UK mass media are perhaps worthy of further thought.

However, the BBC News channel on television is guilty of dubious editorial judgement.  To spend the best part of thirty minutes with dubious face-to-face interviews of people for whom the interviewer's questions were at best asinine and at worst callous, then twenty minutes on Amy Winehouse "still dead" shock-and-awe with the same visuals repeated time after time and half-witted "showbiz journalist" commentary is doing a disservice to the huge number of other key issues squeezed into around thirty seconds before the sport:
  • the apparent mass killings in a Stockport hospital;
  • the ongoing famine in Africa;
  • the potential economic meltdown caused by the American political classes reaching an impasse;
  • the consequences of European attempts to stabilise the common currency zone;
  • new revelations about the extent of media corruption; and
  • not to mention, the performance of the England cricket team.
Whilst "earthquake" journalism works when there's an ongoing news story (such as Murdoch before the Select Committee) what is needed is for concise summaries as well as editorialising to a "human interest" level.  Understanding the motivation of a serial political terrorist is much more important than "we're still stunned" or "how awful was it for you"?

Time to exhume Lord Reith, perhaps.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Murdoch is not a side-show

We have a world falling apart around us - the horrific images of famine in Africa, the near-collapse of the US and Eurozone economies, the terrorist assault on Norway to name but a few causes of despair - which means that those with the most to hide in the current Murdochaplyse unravelling are attempting to raise people's eyes from the cesspit.

Perspective is obviously important, but the slow-burn arrogance and apparent lies fed to the Culture Select Committee in "evidence" by those at the centre of News International's currently-exposed criminality, and the extent to which this demonstrates that the market-based capitalist greed and supra-legal delusion continues to hold the Tories in thrall remains critical to democracy, and the ability to respond to the global challenges.

Murdoch's press has been the predominant acolyte of neo-con idol-worship in Britain, and, presumably, beyond.  The damage that this has done to social and international cohesion, through demeaning debate and the xenophobic imperative that puts the problems of "the other" below celebrity tittle-tattle, is only just becoming clear.  The attempts to place the behaviour of the plutocracy beyond the reach of national or international law are egregious, and they link through to the economic paralysis and the failure to address sustainable development throughout the world.

So we shall have to go on pulling the layers of cant and spin off the media machines - and not just Murdoch's.  The cauterising of the corporatist wound will take time, and the central nature of the corruption of institutions, the contempt and the willingness to become the lick-spittles of parasites on the part of senior Tory politicians are all priorities for exposure and cleansing.  Citizens have a right to government by consent, and the Murdoch issue demonstrates just how much further we have to go before we even have a sniff of it.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Melanie Phillips and Rupert Murdoch - the truth

We live in a world beyond parody.  My earlier musings on the evil of the "Daily Mail" were a generic piece of authentic disgust at one of the most repugnant manifestations of the petty bourgeois phillistines (a phrase coined by the great Scottish songwriter, Momus) who seem to dictate the agenda beloved of political focus groups.

Living in the end times, one of their prime columnists is Melanie Phillips, whose main claim to fame is that she has recanted any connection with the rational world, and now spews out filthy invective at anybody who is:
  • left-of-centre;
  • homosexual;
  • non-British;
  • receiving welfare benefits;
  • of an IQ greater than her shoe size (in UK measures);
  • intellectual;
  • interested in politics, culture and the world around them;
  • sceptical of being told what is good for them;
  • even remotely critical of the Zionist position; 
  • and on infinitum...
Mel also appears from time to time on Question Time, being the surest determinant that intelligent people will reach for the off-switch, and the Moral Maze (which since her grasp of morality is about that of an amoeba with learning difficulties is somewhat peculiar) - both of which appear to be produced by the BBC.

Tomorrow (Monday), the fatuous windbag has a column in the "Daily Mail" attacking Mister Ed for calling for the break-up of Murdoch's empire while not turning his guns on the BBC which should be broken up.  I would quite happily see such an event if that involved any of her broadcasts being confined to dissemination within a disused coal mine in South Wales, but this is the kind of cretinous crap that she comes out with to get her fellow droolers nodding their heads in comic unison about the evils of the leftist conspiracy that has taken over the world.

According to her, the BBC is gloating about the News International debacle, and pushing out all other news to one side.  This might be the case, but with the speed of the unravelling of the conspiracy, and the tentacles spreading beyond the media to the police, politicians and the governance of this country it is really quite important, and I suspect that most people would actually want their news from an organisation which, however feebly and imperfectly, has a charter for editorial impartiality rather than the craven dribblings of proto-Fascist scum who infest Paul Dacre's parody of "Der Sturmer". 

Since the delusions of Phillips are so egregious, so hilarious and so unbelievably deranged I can only postulate two possible explanations.

The first is that she does not actually exist, and is a parody created by a combination of Tariq Ali, Craig Brown and a number of other satirists.  Nobody sane could hold her views, so this wins around 30% probability.

The second is that she is so eye-poppingly delusional that she thinks that with Brooks potentially facing time enjoying the prisons that the right-wing consider to be so cushy, the lovely Mel can buy a red fright-wig and fill the space in dear old Rupert's heart so cruelly vacated by the conspiracy of left-wing, humanist, tree-hugging Muslim activists who have brought the neo-con delusion so close to the edge.

Truly she must live in Dagenham - four stops beyond Barking.

The turning of the tide?

There aren't many times in life when you feel as though there is a seismic shift going on, and, indeed many of them have led to grotesque disappointments (May 1st 1997 springs to mind as a prime example).  Given my grumpy, cautious disposition the current situation is full of future pitfalls but I am somewhat more optimistic than I would have been a few months ago.

A fortnight past, taking money on the demise of the "News of the Screws", the arrest of the former head honcho of News International in the UK and the rare sight of Rupert Murdoch eating humble pie (or, preferably, something worse) would not have been a punt that many would have signed up for.  The resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the clear indication that there is a considerable pile of further revelations about corrupt police, journalists and politicians to emerge would have been as implausible as anything dreamed up on strong hallucinogenic drugs.

The collapse of the thirty-year hegemony that the mass media has exercised is not inevitable, and it should not be taken for granted.  Pushing at an open door is not the same as dynamiting the foundations of a slum landlord's pride and joy which is the task that is needed.  There is at least some head of steam for righteous indignation at the way in which the press and party machines take the electorate as cretinous dupes, to be spoon-fed soundbites and mind-numbing celebrity pap, while at the same time preying on the vulnerable, the victims and those who are normally assumed to be incapable of answering back.

We need political leadership, and for once I think Mister Ed might have judged it right.  What is needed now is for the Liberals, who have never been done any favours by Murdoch and his equally-squalid cronies at Associated Newspapers, to be prepared to stick their heads above the parapet.  There's plenty of ammunition about fit and proper individuals in the media.

Where the biggest surprise may lurk is in the extent to which the corruption will undermine the Tories.  William Hague bumbled his way yesterday to defend his boss on the basis that supping with the devil does not diminish his integrity - to which the only sane response should be a manic cackle and a shout of "shut up you hypocritical Tory tosser" - while it becomes clear that the main protagonists in News International were confidantes, social companions and controllers of the Boy Dave and his merry crew, even when there was genuine suspicion of their malfeasance.  They can't claim ignorance - even those who wouldn't be suspected of wishing the Tories well warned them - and deafness is implausible given the extent to which they bent forwards to accommodate Uncle Rupert's demands.

The body language is fascinating, but the Tories and the police are looking to be wounded.  Douglas Hurd described Ted Heath's response to the miners in 1972 along the lines of roaming the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to.  This may well become the default mode going forward as the scandal develops, and I for one will enjoy this.  The acolytes and flunkeys are protecting their own backsides at the moment, for good reasons.  The Tories can't expect an easy ride - any more resignations in the top echelons of the police, and potential criminal charges do not play well with their own constituency.

The rottenness of the body politic, started by Thatcher and Major, near-perfected by Blair and embraced with necrophiliac glee by the new Tories, is now becoming apparent to more than a few grumpy old lefties.  Schadenfreude is for private pleasure, but the real task is to push sovereignty back to the people and away from the unelected, corrupt plutocrats.  We may just be at a turning point.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A calling to ordure - or the "Daily Mail" story

As the unravelling continues, the opportunities to settle scores with the enemies of enlightenment continue to multiply.  Impossible though it seems, the dethroning of the News Corporation toads may yet occur.  However, by focusing on the evils of one media empire, the tactics of much of the remaining ownerships are clearly aimed at ensuring that their own murkiness is left unprobed for a while longer.

The "Guardian" has had a good campaign to date, and is probably the least prone to upset (witness the facile maunderings of the Scum over its Brown revelations and the extent to which the "News of the World" used its police network to downplay the significance of what had been discovered two years ago). 

However, we should only rest easy when the other purveyors of pernicious brainwashing are forced to expose their methodologies to the world.  The sights must be trained on the "Daily Mail", with its obsession with immigrants, its petty-bourgeois intolerance and hatred of anything that might challenge the view that everything has been going downhill since around 1955.  The hysterical fear that is spread by this revolting parody of a newspaper is a Godsend to the Tories, who rely on distrust of "the other" as a means of shepherding the hard of thinking into their clutches.

I am often told that the "Mail" is technically brilliant - but whenever I see a copy it makes me think of the kind of propaganda that the Soviet Union would have rejected as too crude.  It is no defence when it sows such darkness into people's lives - and its veneer of respectability is a cover for a xenophobic, hate-filled agenda that would not have disgraced Goebbels in the 1930s.  The constant desire to do others down, the constant iteration that it's liberals and lefties who have got the country into the mess it perceives, and its distrust of anyone who dares to disagree are legacies that will shape our discourse for years to come.

Hopefully there are plenty of skeletons in its closet to emerge - notably the attempt to smear Nick Clegg for a realpolitik analysis of European geopolitics before the 2010 election - and indeed its constant attacks on the BBC.  The paper may look respectable, but it is sick to the core and its values should be held up to the same scrutiny that it applies to those it doesn't like.  In the meantime, wash your hands if you come into contact with it.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Has Murdoch killed capitalist anarchy?

The problem with blogging on the News Corporation self-immolation is that it is almost immediately overtaken by some new, jaw-dropping revelation.  The weakness of Murdoch's position is increasingly obvious - the vacillation about whether to put in an appearance at the Select Committee makes him look both exposed and diminished.

For what it's worth, the best historical analogy that I can think of is Hitler in the summer of 1942 (not suggesting any total correlation between the individuals' megalomanias) with the prospect of defeat looming.  Murdoch probably now sees the Select Committee as an equivalent of Stalingrad - bouncing through that would probably enable him to spew right-wing bilge in the USA (a far more lucrative market) at the expense of his UK newspapers and possibly BSkyB.  There will be attritional, vicious fighting as he will try to vilify and nullify those whose criticisms might be the most trenchant.

News Corp is hardly likely to be the toast of corporate behemoths the world over, as the seismic displacement engulfs the USA (the allegations of potential hacking of 9/11 victims' phones added to illegal activity abroad sanctioned by a US-run company are at least a double-word score).  The downside of American hegemony is that when its exponents are caught out publicly in their efforts to subvert other nations' democracy then the only damage limitation open to the country is to enforce its own laws. 

This will not be good news for multi-national corporations in other markets, as the principle is being established publicly that malpractice cannot be hidden up.  When the same scrutiny is applied to financial and ethical affairs then there is a chance that some of the sharper practices that have been imposed on people through the pressure to deregulate markets, reduce protections and safeguards for individuals and suck profits out of the places that generate them (in the grand cause of international tax avoidance) may be open to challenge.

Politicians must break free of the mantra of "business and enterprise can do what they like" to recognise that they are put in place to govern on behalf of the whole country.  The myth of the invulnerable, benign, wealth-generating entrepreneur has been exploded consistently over the last decade, and it is time that political discourse caught up with this.  Managed capitalism is the least bad economic system, but the combination of Stalinist trans-national corporations and craven client governments has been toxic on a grand scale, and removes moral legitimacy from all concerned.

Although Murdoch looks on his last legs, there are plenty of other monsters to be slain.  Collective disgust is not enough, but it is a basis to move forward from.  Ten days ago I would not have given any odds on the possibility that the House of Commons would unite against a pariah whose tentacles have enmeshed Tory and Labour politicians alike.  For once it is almost possible to be optimistic.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Blair-faced cheek

The reappearance of Tony Blair, slagging off Gordon Brown and the solitary mourner at the graveside of "New Labour", is a salutory reminder of why we are at the current state of political and moral bankruptcy.

For the most part, I shall forebear from continually linking My Little Tony to Murdoch, as there will be hundreds of others out there who will be happily doing just that.  Blair's real legacy is the venality and corruption that pervades politics, business and the wider society, along with the completion of Thatcher's desecration of the public realm.

Casting one's mind back to 1997, it is difficult to remember the extent to which Blair seemed like a better choice than the Tories.  There were a few solid reforms in his first term, mostly inherited from John Smith's programme of social democracy, such as devolution.  Everything else was fudged (Lords reform, electoral reform) or kicked into touch by the incredible policy of sticking to Tory spending limits.

Blair is a monster, and this became clear with his messianic zeal to promote some kind of moral crusade under the coat-tails of the USA.  Supporting Iraq, and playing the anti-European card whenever possible, placed him firmly in the neo-con camp of post-colonial gunboat diplomacy, while his fetish for privatisation by any other name means that many more of our public services are marketised, while cronies gain maximum snoutage at the expense of public service.

So for Blair to declare that the "New Labour" project died when he shuffled off to cash in his chips from the people he enriched is highly welcome.  Mister Ed is now unshackled from this appalling right-wing conspiracy and can start being genuinely radical, if he is either motivated or capable of stepping up a gear.

Labour should be capitalising on current disarray.  The government's economic policy continues Blair's regime of pandering to international capitalism, the banking sector and other non-productive cankers on society, while denying manufacturing the chance to compete.  This results in the economy bumping along the bottom, with the spectre of stagflation never far away..  The anger about the destruction of public service and the assaults on public sector workers both psychologically and financially should be harnessed.  Miliband does not need the support of the haute bourgeoisie - he needs to secure the trust of those who are disempowered and disenfranchised.

For once, Blair may have done us a favour.  Short of a suicide pact with his mentor, there is not much else that he can do to atone for his sins.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Recanonise St. Vince? If we can dance on Rupert's grave.

The denouement now occurring in Wapping is, hopefully, the first sign of the removal of malicious and unaccountable elements from the media.  Murdoch is wriggling in a way that he hasn't since he first acquired the "News of the World" in 1969, and the Tories and Labour are queuing up to have their memory cells erased given the extent to which backside-kissing has been the order of the day.

From the moment that Thatcher and the then-editor of the "Sun" started chewing the fat together, and creating the Poujadism that has blighted British politics ever since, the sight of the two parties cosying up to News International has become so commonplace as to be unworthy of comment - the way things are in a post-capitalist, post-national age, where governments are clients of large corporations whose accountability (and tax liability) is opaque and where, until now, Murdoch has assumed that the main-party consensus would protect his dubious activities.  However, the buck stops at the top - it does for public servants such as Greg Dyke whose immolation at the hands of the right-wing press still sticks in the craw.  Murdoch has tried to run News Corporation as a family fiefdom, and his judgements are now so totally shot that the kindest diagnosis is that he has decided on method acting after an overdose of "Citizen Kane".

The irony of this is that the Torygraph "outed" Vince Cable's suspicion of Murdoch before Christmas.  As a Liberal News International, and the remainder of the frothing, semi-rabid right-wing scum pack, are hardly likely to be favourably predisposed - witness the monstering dished out when Clegg outperformed during the election campaign in 2010.  Cable's previous reputation as the politician who explained the financial crisis and began to question the status quo is overdue for rehabilitation - especially since Jeremy Twat is now going to find it very hard, within UK and EU competition law, to block the takeover of BSkyB.  Cable might have been in a position to take a much more robust line on this than the Tories, who, after all, spend their holidays schmoozing with the odious Rebekah Brooks and taking their political cues from the "Sun" and its up-market cousins.

However, what is pleasing is that there are early manifestations of Dozy Dave's Big Society - the calls for boycotting of the rag that precipitated its early demise (both by readers and advertisers) and the refusal of reputable charities such as the RNLI to be co-opted into the final edition's crocodile tears and phony contrition.  I suspect that the Tories won't see it this way, though.  For them, and for Labour, who spent the best part of two decades ingratiating themselves through prostituting most of their remaining principles, this is an unwelcome example of grassroots democracy.  Brooks's tenure is an outrage given that she was in control throughout the first period of hacking, and her attempts to blame the situation on the "Guardian" would be nauseating if they weren't so clearly deranged.

The good news flows from the genuine outrage and the realisation that what forensic journalism from the "Guardian" has unearthed is probably the tip of a tabloid, Tory iceberg.  Proper journalism is professional, and doesn't rely on backhanders, technological terrorism and an agenda designed to make Torquemada seem like Mother Theresa  Apparently Ms Brooks told her soon-to-be-sacked hacks that there are at least two more years of revelations to come - and I for one can't wait.  Hopefully this will extend to the "Sun", as Murdoch's daily comic is so pernicious and so self-satified that the hubris and humble pie would provide much delight amonst those of us who think that the News International acquisition of Times Newspapers should have been referred to the competition authorities.

There will be apologists coming out from all corners - people who have taken Murdoch's shilling or wish to.  The first one to amuse me was Bouffant Bo-Jo, clearly unhappy at his re-election prospects, who probably saw Murdoch as a good negotiating pawn to screw more than £250k per annum out of the Torygraph, for reasons that one does not wish to speculate about without serving a Freedom of Information request on the Child Support Agency.  Murdoch, not single-handedly, but with dominance, has led and debased the currency of the media in his time in the UK.  For once, one is almost (but not quite) thinking that Maxwell's larcenies weren't as bad.

While crowing over all this is highly enjoyable, schadenfreude should not be allowed to take away from a number of key issues that the junior Coalition partners should seek answers about:

1.  The extent of police involvement and complicity.  The purchase of law-enforcement agencies by capitalists is totally unacceptable in a society where citizens have pretensions to basic freedoms - this could be a scandal in the Met greater than that of the Vice Squad in the 1970s.
2.  Corporate governance within News International.  If it is as poor as the amnesiac parasites have been putting forward, then they are clearly not fit people to control a free advertising newspaper on the Isle of Wight, let alone three (there were four) national newsapapers and the opiate of the people in the form of extortionate "let them watch sport" satellite television packages.
3.  The extent to which the warnings about Coulson and his cronies were ignored by the inner cabal of Tory party grandees.  If Alan Rusbridger is right then their judgement is so screwed that you have to question the entire premise of a Coalition based around trust and an agreement.  Cameron's platitudes are too little, too late - he is guilty by association and should be prepared to take the consequences.
4.  Introducing a "fit and proper" test for media ownership, and more stringent definitions of monopoly and competition.  There is also the question as to whether UK media should be controlled by organisations based outside the country - a strong case should be made for a majority of GB directors on all company boards, registation and full tax payment within the GB to qualify for permission to own and operate media outlets in the UK.
5.  Whether there has been collusion between Labour and the Tories - this is a systematic problem that neither party has demonstrated any wish to do anything about, and Blair's poodle-like devotion to Uncle Rupe does not inspire confidence.  Mister Ed needs to be clear that the Labour Party is repenting of its folly, and to make common cause with libertarians of all stripes.

For the rest of us, there is the need to keep up pressure, and encourage further investigation by those sections of the press and media not quivering from anticipation of future exposure.

Murdoch is cunning, but looks increasingly cornered.  A good utilitarian solution would be to administer the coup de grace and then start the process of genuine pluralism within the media.