Monday, 9 December 2013

Gideon - a revolutionary in the closet?

As the Coalition stutters to its end, its pursuit of a balanced budget seems likely to deliver economic stagnation and social upheaval well beyond the days when Cameron, Osborne, Gove and their amoral cronies retire to count their money.  Quite apart from hoping that Iain Duncan-Smith is not allowed anywhere near a brewery given his inability to organise the proverbial, the Pre-Budget Report last week demonstrated the vacuity and half-witted foolishness of current policies.

About the only defence that can be mounted is that the Coalition is merely carrying out the bastardised neo-con dirty work that Blair, Brown and the bankers began.  Yet over the life of the government living standards will fall, there are more working people in poverty than those who would previously have been regarded as the indigent poor, there is a property bubble which Gideon is praying is not pricked before 2015, and economic growth appears to be confined to the Tory heartlands.  Investment is talked about, but is always tomorrow - and there is a generational conflict being stoked that will be unpleasant for all involved.

The Tory spin machine has been highly effective in deflecting the blame.  When the initial furore over student tuition fees was handed over to the Liberal Democrats to take the hit for, this was a wonderful sideswipe.  Nobody questioned the morality and practicality of a system that saddles people with £50,000 of debt before entering the workplace, while at the same time extending the numbers in higher education so that it is almost axiomatic that a large number of graduates will never find work suitably remunerated to even make a dent in that burden.  No-one is allowed to ask whether the target of numbers in higher education is more relevant than quality, nor whether this is effective in improving competitiveness, the quality of life and the general welfare of society.  Nobody was permitted to ask whether tuition fees and loans could be re-thought if the function and purpose of higher education was addressed.  Instead, it creates resentment, debt and expectation.

Now Gideon has indicated that quite apart from the debt burden, current new entrants to the workplace will have to work until they are 70.  With property costs high everywhere, and at a level of lunatic obscenity in London and the South East, this is in effect creating an entire underclass caused by nothing other than age and being victims of a failed economic experiment.  It is difficult to feel anything but sympathy - but the Tory narrative is that anyone not in this predicament (middle-aged, or public sector workers) should be levelled down rather than used as a model to rectify social injustice.

A frequent observation is that the Tories are Marxists, with a very determinist view of society that requires the plebs to be kept in their place through social control.  This may be Gideon's problem, in that he forgets that in creating expectations he sows the seeds of social resentment and ultimately rebellion.  Exacerbating economic and generational inequality is at the heart of the neo-con agenda, which is why the banking and financial services sector has survived in a wealthy, smug capsule while the rest of the country picks up the tab for their excess.  Everyone else is the non-deserving poor - but if a state-banked RBS can afford £500m for bonuses it is clear that the reward for being a Tory stooge is to be allowed to repeat one's own follies ad infinitum.

There is an alternative, which requires rebuilding social cohesion.  Resentment at paying taxes is natural, and exacerbated when the quality of service provided is so clearly inadequate.  The Tory press attempts to portray this as a consequence of feckless, fecund immigrants, with a leavening of Europe and the threat of the left.  Yet the lack of investment and proper planning for infrastructure is a much more widespread cause of the crumbling social fabric.  The Tories are scared that destroying the South-East bubble will annihilate their support - while trying to scupper national infrastructure projects such as HS2 because anything that is public and visionary is antipathetic to a rapacious, selfish localism.  This hypocrisy requires a coherent programme of targeted taxation, public service reform and capital projects which will increase national wealth - and hence the ability to repay debt.

Delivering a radical capitalism may take time - as anyone who dares complain that the status quo is doing nothing to promote long-term capital stability is seen as a deviant neo-Keynesian freak.  Yet there is nothing that stops responsible private enterprise working to promote social cohesion, growth and infrastructure - rather than the current cry that such things are a burden that can no longer be tolerated in the pursuit of some mythical entrepreneurial godhead.  A space exists for this to be promoted, and it will probably be necessary unless the revolution is to turn violent.

Osborne has presided over a further skewing and damaging of the economic base.  However important sound finance is, he has gone about it the wrong way.  In creating a new underclass, disempowered economically and disenfranchised politically, he is building the fabric of a revolutionary cauldron.  For any 1980s Trotskyite, he should be cheered as the antithesis to their numbskull thesis.  For those of us who can spell "dialectic" the priority must be for a constructive synthesis to emerge.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Inundations, Mandela and the media

Pity poor Gideon.  His unspectacular Autumn Statement, where things are now recovering slightly from a depth of which he is the prime architect, was bumped from the media's agenda firstly by storms and floods, and then by the death of one of the most significant historical figures of the latter half of the 20th century.  Nelson Mandela's passing is significant, and the media has had plenty of advance notice to fill it with prepared tributes - notably ignoring that many of today's Tory scions were in the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s, where a combination of racism and bigotry encouraged the much-documented singing of calls to hang him.

Nothing can be added to the obituaries.  However, it did demonstrate that the contemporary obsession with blanket news coverage distorts and trivialises issues.  If someone dies, it is axiomatic that, unless foul play is suspected, they will remain dead for the foreseeable future and the causes of their death will not change the newsworthiness.  So from a "news" angle it is not really enough to explore all angles and every slavering pursuer of a soundbite - especially when elsewhere there are immediate threats to life, limb and economy.

The moment that Mandela's death was announced, the worst storms to hit the North Sea since 1953 were relegated to local and "by the way" coverage.  Communities along the coasts of the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands the Germany faced disruption, damage and lives lost - but it wasn't a metropolitan event.  After the tragedy in Glasgow last weekend, another round of arbitrary fate should have been high on the agenda - as well as demonstrating both the prudence and the success of mitigating measures put in place over the last six decades.

The 1953 storm occurred overnight, without modern communications and alert mechanisms - and was a catastrophe rather than a disaster.  The 2013 version occurred in the evening, with the advantage of better meteorological knowledge and more means of warning people of the imminence of threats.  Spectacular it may have been, but it should have been celebrated as how the communal interest is served by collective action - and as a demonstration that the atomisation of society would not have resulted in the degree of protection that has been demonstrated around Europe.

This will all get lost in the backwash, as new stories supplant those already-relegated - leaving people to pick up the pieces of their lives.  There is no sadder reflection of obsession with death and disaster that the positive elements and the recovery process is neither heralded nor followed up.  While Nelson Mandela's death is a reminder of how time passes, the world goes on turning.  A narrative of acceptable mourning was not required - because unlike Thatcher his legacy is not divisive - and the condescension and manipulation that the media has perpetrated is not a worthy tribute.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Julian Smith MP - claims of treachery come well from a charlatan

It was clear that the appearance of Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, before a Commons Select Committee, would bring out the inner idiots of the Tory party and their clients in the right-wing press.   Mark Reckless and Michael Ellis, two of the backbench chinless fodder that support the theory that  Dave's party will end up as a scummy irrelevance, distinguished themselves by a concerted display of jug-headed poltroonery in which their alleged scrutiny was designed to play to a gallery of Murdoch and the tax-dodging propagandists Barclay and Rothermere rather than as representatives of the British public.

As an aside, Julian Huppert was extremely effective in reminding us why Liberals should always be supportive of a free press, even when its behaviour is uncomfortable or wayward.

Julian Smith is a nonentity backbencher, representing a safe rural seat in Yorkshire.  He has been particularly keen to besmirch the Guardian - using claims of treachery.  This is a contemptible approach as all it achieves is to create a McCarthyite atmosphere and distract attention from the issues that have been raised throughout the disclosure of UK and US collusion in intelligence-gathering and the lack of any meaningful controls on behalf of either the state or the citizen.  So unsurprising from a Tory stooge incapable of rising up Davy's payroll ladder - but one who probably has half an eye on the UKIP threat to what is otherwise a sinecure for toady mediocrities.

So to call Rusbridger a traitor, after a Select Committee appearance which made it quite clear that he has been as responsible as it is possible to be when in possession of material whose enormity threatens the legitimacy of the state, is the act of a coward and a fool on losing ground.  If Rusbridger had published, unredacted and unconsulted, the full range of material that has been leaked, that might have been both unwise and compromising to national security.  Instead it appears that he has been scrupulous in not undermining individuals as well as informing authorities of his intention to publish specific items.

Smith, Reckless and Ellis, who sound like a cross between estate agents and loan sharks, would do well to reflect on their idiotic posturing.  They are keen enough to promote the USA when it suits them - particularly in terms of justifying the rape of society and the promotion of inequality - but the rights and range of a free press appears to elude them.  No country other than the UK would be having the debate or using the right-wing press to slur the integrity of others - it is beyond parody that basic rights do not exist here and are actively resisted by the very people who claim to represent the people's interest.

However, these charlatans are part of the authoritarian conspiracy that Blair and Straw did little to roll back.  Taking the security services as the fount of wisdom is a woefully stupid misjudgement - their competence is enhanced when they operate legitimately and within the control of the citizenry.  But one expects nothing less.

Were I living in Skipton and Ripon I might even be thinking of voting UKIP - then Julian "Playground" Smith might have to wake up to the realities of a complex world, deprived of a status that allows him to sink to the gutter and be provided with publicity as part of the deal.  The term "tool" doesn't go far enough.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Boris channels his inner Nazi

For once, Boris Johnson, the bouffant poster boy of the Poujadist deficients, let his mask of irrepressible clownishness slip to reveal the Social Darwinist beneath.  Clearly pitching to the decaying authoritarian clique that renders the Conservative Party an increasing irrelevance, his remarks on the subject of intelligence and financial merit manage to combine both repugnance and risibility.

Anyone with a sense of historical continuity will recognise the arguments about relative intelligence and social merit from the justifications put forward in the first half of the century for campaigns of sterilisation to keep the race pure, and, in the case of the Nazis, the elimination of those deemed too feeble-minded or degenerate to be allowed to exist within society.  While Johnson did not go as far as advocating such actions, it is all of a piece with the reintroduction of concepts of the "deserving poor" and the other paraphernalia of the neo-conservative agenda.  Perhaps he should be applauded for such a candid insight into the mindset of the Bullingdon clique.

In the same speech, he applauded the rich and suggested that they should be rewarded further, even more than their rapacity has already plundered from the economy.  Suggesting that the share of income tax paid by the top 1% of earners has risen is an idiotic thing proposition - unless, of course the share of income accruing to them has remained constant or decreased.  The Tories (in both their genuine and New Labour guises) have presided over a further skewing of income distribution in favour of the parasites and drones - so it is only right that a proportion of this is returned to the state in the form of taxation, quite apart from the reasonable supposition that these gains are hardly merited by individual effort.  According to Boris's fanzine, the London Evening Standard, there are 2,000 bankers in London grossing over £1m per annum, despite their obvious culpability for the depression and their cupidity and hypocrisy in demanding sacrifice from others.

To argue against either of the suppositions that genetic merit and plundered wealth should determine economic and social opportunity risks the label of class-envious socialist or worse - the canard set up by the new right to immunise their immorality and hypocrisy and shout down their opponents.  Yet there would be some justification if there was a genuine equality of opportunity for those already outside the economic and political fastnesses, but all the evidence points to declining social mobility. When even Sir John Major feels sufficiently motivated to peel himself away from the cricket to call Dave's bluff on this one you can tell that the Tories are regressing to a 1920s and 1930s mode.

This makes the Social Darwinism less surprising.  The British historical narrative peddled by the right airbrushes out the anti-semitism and the eugenicists whose influence in the upper echelons of British society in the 1930s was widespread and pernicious.  It is surely appropriate here to insert the obligatory reminder of Lord Rotheremere's endorsement of the British Union of Fascists - and to marvel at how his descendants' socio-political position has not evolved.  These views, vile and repulsive that they are, have no place in any civilised community - but they are now articulated and their detestability justified by "fighting against political correctness".

Johnson is a demagogue who has learned that behaving like a buffoon allows him to articulate his inner thoughts with the get-out clause of japery.  The mask that slipped this week should alarm his cohorts in the Tory party much more than the rest of us, as it continues to demonstrate that the Tories remain a home for the kind of swivel-eyed depravity that alienates a much larger slice of the electorate than they would have you believe.  Whatever happens, his foul tirade is a gift to opponents from both a Liberal and an egalitarian standpoint.

The foul toad wishes to lead the Tory party - which is a prospect that should galvanise and focus campaigning against them.  For every platitude that emerges from Cameron there is a far greater counterbalance from Johnson, Osborne or Gove that renders their reasonable mask risible.  In attacking those who he regards as stupid or poor the mask is off, the contempt is clarified and we are closer to defining terms that will marginalise the Tories going forward.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

If in doubt, attack the BBC

As an institution, the BBC has not covered itself in glory.  The Conservative and Unionist Party, on the other hand, is a paragon of everything that is morally-upstanding and a pillar of rectitude, populated solely by a noble breed of self-sacrificing public servants whose personal, moral and ethical behaviours could be scrutinised and not a piece of moral grit be discerned.  As the principal client of Rupert Murdoch, the Tories continue to accompany his fiddle in attacking the BBC and what they consider to be an outdated model of impartiality, based on non-partisan control and an editorial regime that does not automatically spew out the garbage produced by the propaganda machines.

There are two complaints generally levelled by Murdoch's sock-puppets about the BBC.  The first is profligacy.  This is probably true, in places, and reflects the contemporary culture of greed almost entirely.  Poor management is not unique to the BBC, or to the public sector, which is something that the Tories tend to forget on a convenient basis when bankruptcy, administration or takeover approach the private sector paradigms they embrace so cheerfully.  However, as a publicly-funded body there is a clear expectation that cock-ups will be addressed and punished, and - critically - unlike the private sector (bankers, self-styled entrepreneurs and all the other 57 varieties of spin) if they are repeated the culprits will be drummed out.  Mismanagement in any organisation is bad, the BBC just happens to do it in public.

The other moan is about left-wing bias.  Now, as a member of the fully paid-up sceptical left, I find this hilarious.  I had a lengthy exchange with the BBC over the seemingly-Tory Nick Robinson's uncritical use of the word "reform" to describe Coalition intentions to allow their cronies to peck over the corpse of the NHS - and it is hardly the case that most news outputs do not reduce even the most complex issue to a game of "he said/she said" rather than attempting to tease out the ambiguities and difficulties of the issues under discussion.

BBC-bashing is a tonic to the backwoods droolers - so the MP for Basingstoke, the laughably-mistitled Culture Secretary Maria Miller, trots it out on a regular basis.  The culture she represents is either based around viruses or bacillae, so should be given the shrift it deserves.  Perish the thought that Cameron failed to get through an uncritical, and illegal, approach to intervention in another sovereign state, or that the facts about the economic recovery are much less benign that the chinless Gidiot would wish us to believe.  The BBC reported these, along with the CPS's interventions in a legal matter relating to a currently-suspended Tory MP.  Traitors - informing people!

There is a need for the BBC to demonstrate it is a good steward of the money and the authority presented to it.  Murdoch and the Tories will never let it have that space as it does not fit a narrative of the evil public behemoth doing down plucky little Sky and the Scum.  Yet it is always a good sign when the neo-con mendacity re-emerges, it means they know that they're are on the run and in for a serious kicking elsewhere.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Clegg: losing his party after he lost the country

There are too many obvious punning headlines around Sarah Teather's decision not to seek re-election as a Liberal Democrat MP.  Given that there was an uphill struggle for any MP with a slim majority over Labour in the context of post-coalition politics, a cynical perspective would be that she wanted to get out in order to corner the market in former Liberal members before there becomes a glut in 2015, but her decision begs the questions as to what exactly is Clegg's political end-game.

Persistent rumours have done the rounds that the Tories would love to turn him into a contemporary equivalent of Sir John Simon and the Liberal Nationals - ostensibly independent but reliant upon the Tories for continued representation in Parliament; this is the equivalent of chemical castration for politicians.  Clegg's main failing is that he has done absolutely nothing that makes this implausible, seeking solace in the coalition and the more congenial company of his Cabinet bed-fellows.  He is not the only Liberal leader to have felt that his party is an embarrassment - but he is rapidly becoming a paradigm for the ostrich who has failed to notice that such views are less-than-cordially reciprocated.

The real opportunity that he would have had in 2010 is to continue to force the agenda towards collaboration and co-operation in politics.  Instead of the equivalent of being human shields to a bunch of chinless and scheming Tories, the party could have worked to build consensus across party boundaries - eliminating the impetus to establish new forms of tribalism.  Going into the 2015 election with a strong message that coalition has delivered better government, rather than tempering the swivel-eyed on occasion, might have been a stronger rallying-cry to the party and its supporters.

For fair-weather voters, this might have been unpalatable.  The Labour defectors who wanted the Lib Dems to be the repository for their consciences over Iraq and Blair's incredible right-wing drift would never buy into that particular kind of narrative.  For the Liberal Democrats, this might have been a viable survival strategy - able to argue where policies were implemented and able to demonstrate changes that could only have been effected with Liberal policies.  Instead there has been a string of policy initiatives that have been under the name of the Coalition - driven by the Tories - and which have not been tested on either of the parties or the electorate.

Clegg has joined the ranks of the leaders dismissive of their own parties.  The SDP in the 1980s hated the activist control of the Liberal Party, so they invented structures designed to neuter it.  Clegg and his coterie are falling into the same trap.  Yet they depend upon the remaining members and the remaining support to see the loss of seats and vote in 2015 remain as tragedy rather than farce.

The Liberal Democrats meet for their conference in Glasgow next week - and it will be interesting to see how much embarrassment could be caused if the party is restive.  The more, the better, at least from the perspective of pluralism.  Clegg and Alexander endorse the Coalition as much as they endorse their own party, and the more that the party can be seen to have its own direction and values, the better it will be for their successors and those of us who continue to believe that the libertarian left position requires clear articulation.  And if Clegg gets a safe Tory seat, he can become a fellow-travelling footnote.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Cameron pays the price for being Blair-lite

Over a decade ago, My Little Tony detached himself from George W. Bush for a sufficiently long time to steamroller an illegal war through the House of Commons.  He was assisted by the electoral system delivering a large majority in 2001.  Last night, Cameron, the self-described heir to Blair, discovered that the electoral arithmetic of a hung Parliament did not permit him to emulate the despicable feat.

If the UN concludes that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people, that remains an atrocity and a crime that should be subject to all due process.  The Stop the War simplistic mantra of "Hands off Syria" has no real traction in such a situation; there are, however, many other ways of approaching evil than unleashing actions of moral dubiety and counter-productive revenge.  International law was not clear in its justification for Cameron's approach - the required level of casuistry would make even the most accomplished Jesuit blush.

Besides, the West's experience of unmandated intervention is hardly inspiring.  If a solution is to be found it has to come through the UN and the Arab League, not imposed by post-colonialism - as all that does is store up festering resentment and undoes the self-proclaimed good.  Cameron could only see that some form of delusion over British power and influence could be peddled by jumping the gun on the international community.

For once, Labour stood up and were able to carry the Nationalists and sensible dissident Coalition MPs with them.  Removing the dictatorial powers of the Prime Minister and imposing checks through the Commons can only be welcome - the spoilt brat reaction of Michael Gove emphasises quite how desirable this is.  Government is by consent of the citizenry - public opinion can be right.  The time-servers and arrogant twits of the Tory party are now united in demonising the democracy.  Cameron is damaged - and he should remember that what was Blair's tragedy could well end up being Bullingdon Dave's farce.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Freedom,David Miranda and the new totalitarians

The Home Secretary is a woman whose rank hypocrisy oozes from every pore.  About the only civil libertarian act undertaken by the Coalition has been the abandonment of Labour's plans for identity cards, more by default in terms of cost-cutting rather than as a consequence of any desire to protect the liberty of the citizen (or subject, as the police and Tories style us).  Over the last week, the abuse of the Terrorism Act by the UK border staff and police is becoming clearer - any legislation that permits detention without representation, evidence or requirement for pre- or post-hoc justification is an abomination that should be struck from the statute book.

The embarrassment that the US and UK governments are feeling over electronic surveillance is A Good Thing.  Any rational being accepts that there may be occasions that require curtailments of individual liberty for the greater good - a simple utilitarian concept - but that the balance of evidence has to be that there is both a proximate threat to the general security and that there is no either legitimate means of securing the desired outcome.  The hysterical reaction by the Bush and Blair administrations has soured freedoms over the last decade; the extent to which "security" can be used as a fig-leaf for actions that would not have looked out of place under Stalin or Hitler - the whole gamut of enabling legislation and the presumption that any objector is a traitor are the kind of mid-20th century totalitarianism that demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the ability of the law enforcement agencies to achieve their goals without stepping over the line of repression.

Tories have always been authoritarian and dictatorial - it is instructive to watch the re-run of Thatcher: the Downing Street Years to see the roots of this swivel-eyed contempt for the masses - and they have always played the law and order card to appeal to their narrow-minded suburban power base.  The police, in their narrative, and by extension other uniformed half-witted agents of the state, are capable of exercising judgements and decisions that should be scrutinised by the courts and the legislature.  As an argument for a written constitution, Bill of Rights and automatic legal scrutiny it cannot be bettered.

Amusingly, "Lord" Ian Blair, a spectacularly uninspiring Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been banging the drum for all-encompassing anti-leaking legislation.  The delicious irony of a former boss of an organisation which has several of its scions facing prosecution for corrupt practices with respect to the tabloid press, not confined to the odious Murdoch rags, calling for official privacy to trump both a free press and proper scrutiny of the agencies of state, should not be lost.  Leaking, according to Blair, is aiding terrorism.  There's nothing like a foolish Establishment to raise suspicions.

Detaining the partner of a journalist demonstrates both paranoia and idiocy.  The symbolic smashing of hard drives to satisfy the technically-illiterate state machinery, alongside the suggestion that government intrusion is a price worth paying, demonstrates security services and government in cahoots of new incompetence.  If the investigation into David Miranda's detention, and his lawsuits, results in the government being given a good kicking, then it would be reasonable to expect resignations and policy reviews.  I shall not be holding my breath.

Friday, 23 August 2013

HS2 - delusions, lies and spin

In a week when it is clear that the government's moral compass has not merely lost its needle but its relationship to magnetism, and the Home Secretary's pathetic attempt to defend extra-judicial policing, it is difficult to know where to start in dissecting the continuing spiral of foulness into which this Government is falling.  However, the continuing idiocy and chorus of cretinism surrounding the HS2 project is worthy of ignominy.

Unsurprisingly, the swivel-eyed and half-baked fools of the Institute for Economic Affairs (inspiration to the unlamented former Prime Minister) came out with a risibly inadequate and intellectually-challenged critique of the project.  Given the government's institutional incompetence with respect to project delivery, their criticism of some aspects might have been justified.  Instead, attempting to conflate HS2 with other, needed national and regional projects that might support it turned it into the kind of rodomontade that only libertarian loons could support.  The IEA's spokesman, clearly incapable of rational argument and looking shifty, could hardly string a coherent set of arguments together.

Then you add the poisonous maunderings of the deputy editor of the Spectator, the farcical Melissa Kite, given houseroom in the Guardian.  Ms Kyte's half-witted intervention was that it wasn't about millionaire nimby parasites in the Chilterns who are to be protected from the socialised transport system but the proles who live on their estates who might be disrupted.  Kite is more a figure of pity than anything, given her posturing as some kind of throwback from Downton Abbey, but the mood music is hard to ignore.

Add to the mix the winner of the Labour Party's all-time Norman Lamont lookalike contest, Alistair Darling.  Darling made a few cogent points about the need to ensure that transport resources are not all directed towards a high-speed rail network, but his grasp that the project will benefit his constituents in Edinburgh rather more than the denizens of Birmingham appears to suggest that he needs to take a course in basic economics where external benefits are actually considered.

The problem for HS2 is that it is now being promoted by a discredited government.  HS2 provides a transport solution to a problem of disconnected regions and the need to provide more capacity for passengers and freight.  The problem with transport is that many, otherwise intelligent people, are incapable of grasping the scale and interactions - taking Scottish and North-Western passengers off the current railway provides more room for freight (constrained at the moment) and more space to run commuter and regional trains (currently the subject of moaning about overcrowding) as well as reducing journey times.  Not difficult, but the spinning liars pretend the only people who will benefit are those who travel to and from Birmingham.

Time for some truth, realism and honesty.  Don't expect it from the IEA, or the populists - insulting the electorate's intelligence is too easy an outcome.  But beware of the fools and the knaves who play into the hands of the reactionary, anti-people agenda.  HS2 isn't perfect, but at least it addresses questions these charlatans would run a mile from if challenged about.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Spying, the privatised state and the abdication of government

Politicians in headlong retreat are unappealing.  Little William Hague has been leading the chorus of unconvincing denial that GCHQ has been involved in the unravelling American-led snooping, which should reassure anyone whose gullibility threshold has been set somewhere in the stratosphere.  The Guardian should be commended for running with the Prism story, whereby Internet giants and others are being trawled for intelligence without either accountability or clarity as to what is being achieved.

Panic makes bad legislators.  Obama has clearly surrendered to the spook-industrial complex in his defence of the actions of his agencies.  The rule of law and the right to privacy are fundamental human rights - as indeed is the right to go about one's business unmolested and unthreatened by others, providing of course that one returns the favour.

Yet the privatisation of what should be the public domain makes personal data and information into nothing more than a tradable commodity.  Google, host of this blog, Facebook, Apple and others all rely on the level of information their clients are prepared to trade both to earn revenue and to increase their grip on the market place.  When consumers and citizens are able to make informed choices, this should not be a problem.

Where the assault on the liberty of the citizen occurs is where the blurring of boundaries between civic participation and economic agent becomes so impossible to discern that there is no real difference between information available to the state and that which can be traded for marketing purposes.  Even having to exclude one's information, as an active choice, from being the target of marketing through the electoral register, is a prime example of this arrogation of corporate and state power into the trading of individual identities.

Yet those who excoriate the state with the most hypocritical gusto, right-wing hysterics who pretend to be libertarian, are quite happy for blatant infringements of individual liberty in the name of national security, and to shut up those whose dissent or non-conformity is perceived to cause a threat.  This means that they are compromised where it comes to intelligence agencies using corporate data without the safeguards that would exist through disclosure and freedom of information laws.

The state's boundaries are opaque and being made less clear - outsourcing of core services and functions is designed, inter alia, to reduce accountability of both politicians and service providers - making it easy to shift the blame.  From service provision to civil liberties is a very small step, but we need politicians prepared to spell this out.  If Clegg wants further clear water between him and the imploding Tories, he should be challenging Miliband and other opposition politicians to come to a consensus on liberty and the right of the citizen to a life where his or her data is accessible, open to challenge and is not infringed by the state or corporations for the easy narrative that we are currently being peddled.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bashing the Bishops

Our Lords Spiritual, Temporal and Venal have not overturned the Commons vote in favour of allowing gay couples to marry.  However, what they have done is demonstrate both the anachronism of an unelected second chamber and the damage that the Church of England can do.  There are pressing arguments to do something about both areas of a major democratic deficit.

One of the key arguments that the status quo commands is that the British state has an officially-sanctioned religion of which the Head of State is the nominal head.  The Church of England is embedded in most aspects of ceremonial life, and therefore unpicking this will have unintended consequences beyond merely separating out government of all citizens from the spiritual adherence of what appears to be a generally-declining section of Christianity.

Unfortunately, there have been very few Bishops in the Lords of any moral or intellectual stature in recent years.  The moral compass that they exhibit is not exclusive, neither is their radar particularly well-tuned.  Apart from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, whose gentle authority and humanity tended to unite even non-adherents with a degree of respect, both the current and retired episcopate appears to be mediocre at best, and more generally ludicrous in its interventions in the polity.

To hear Lord Carey suggesting that gay marriage leads almost inevitably to bestiality, and then to have the current occupant of Canterbury prattling on implying it is the end of civilisation as we know it demonstrates both the scale of the problem and the ease of its solution.  Rather than leading by example they appeal to the same group of knee-jerk reactionaries who have given Farage the poll and ego boosts  of the last few months, without even preaching any tolerance, understanding or compassion.  Political, Tory appointments both.

While the Lords remains intact, there is no real reason to expel the Bishops from an automatic legislative role, as they are an obvious symbol of blight.  However, as the cupidity and greed of the Lords-for-hire scandal extends further, any reform will surely sweep an anachronism aside.  Whether or not the remainder of the unpicking of the Crown and its privileges are achieved, this seems almost inevitable.  And the Bishops have been the architects of their own undoing.  Perhaps they will mediate on Samson and his fate.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Renaming the Tube - GLA Tory attention-seeking or symbolic stupidity

The unmemorable bunch of Tories who act as cheer-leaders for the Bouffant Adulterer on the Greater London Assembly have produced a truly wonderful document.  In a piece of immense sophistry, self-publicising political onanism they have concluded that by calling in favours from crony capitalists, and renaming London Underground lines and stations they might be able to restrain one year's worth of fare increases on the Tube.

This is one of the most cretinous emissions that the Tories have yet been guilty of.  Let's start from the position that they are genuinely concerned about the level of public transport fares, and are looking at means to generate income.  Anyone with basic economic theory will understand that the value of branding is where it is unique and where advertising and promotional expenditure produces an uplift in income for the funding company.  The more companies involved, the less the impact on consumer consciousness.  So this is a stupid kite flown even at the start - the assumption on income levels depends upon the uniqueness of the marketing opportunity.

There are already two emblems of such privatisation of the public realm already - the Cable Car across the Thames, which is a novelty tourist attraction outside the main transport system, made even more ludicrous by not being part of the general ticketing arrangements - a white elephant in most aspects - and the hire bikes; this are mostly ridden by bankers (I think that was the word I heard from a pedestrian nearly decapitated when a smug rider disregarded the Highway Code).   Yet both Emirates and Barclays must consider their name stands out amongst others for being associated with the transport system, and being unique there.

Renaming Tube stations and lines, or attaching sponsorship to them, is the response of neo-con intellectual toddlers.  The Underground forms the backbone of most non-Londoners' experience of the capital because it is perceived as simple and unchanging - reinforced by the stylised diagrammatic maps descended from Frank Pick - and because it provides constant points of reference.  Changing names, branding and the perception of reliability will not just confuse people it will also damage the branding of London as a global business centre and tourist destination.  All for a few headlines in the disgusting propaganda rag that is the Evening Standard...

The GLA Tories, despite being deprived of their former colleague, the convicted criminal from Barnet and Camden, are clearly of very little brain and what there is is stuck up their fundaments at an angle from which very little can be seen.

What would be more useful for them is to study Paris.  The Metro is even less branded than the Tube, nevertheless stations do get renamed, quite often in commemoration of individuals or events which to some eyes may seem odd.  There is still Stalingrad, to counter-act Bir-Hakeim.  Meanwhile Resistance figures such as Jacques Bonsergent are honoured - but all of these impact upon the consciousness of a nation less afraid of history and change.  There is no feeling that this is a corporate playground, merely a means of transport for the citizens - not the plebs and drones unable to afford a GLA taxi account.  Even the bikes are the city's, not a bankers' promotional tool.

The idea that public transport and public spaces are a realm which is owned by the people is so alien to the current crop of right-wing, thick self-seeking egotists who make up the bulk of public representatives that such an argument would not even impact upon their little bubble.  As a citizen, I expect to be able to orientate around landmarks, not marketing tropes.

One alternative might be to have popularly-nominated renamings: we could have a Tory scandal line crowned by the Mayor in all his hypocritical glory - running through Hamilton, Aitken, Mercer, Yeo, Profumo, Major, Currie - if there was a Milligan station then the line colour would have to be orange.  The potential for subversion is enormous, but even more great would be righteous vandalism, to reclaim the identity of London for its citizens and visitors rather than the LSD-fuelled inanities of a bunch of backbench has-beens and never-weres.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Small crumbs from Patrick Mercer's downfall

The venality, cupidity and stupidity of Tory backbenchers is a given.   Patrick Mercer, ex-Tory MP and continuing idiot, has suffered the consequences of arrogance and a failure to recognise that the consequences of the expenses scandal are such that the kind of scams perpetrated by our self-selected masters are now subject to scrutiny.

When the expenses scandal broke, it affected politicians of all parties.  However, only the Tories seem to think that a combination of denial and finger-pointing at the previous administration is a sufficient response.  With any luck, there will be at least some reflection as to how the swivel-eyed are continuing to take the proverbial from the system - and other parties should be keen to point out the cant and hypocrisy of the continued abuse of public office emerging from a party that is keen to demonise anyone working in the public sector or in receipt of social security payments.

Mercer himself deserves very little consideration.  Sacked from the Tory front bench for an utterance that could realistically be perceived as casual racism, he appears to be both vain and credulous if he falls for a journalistic sting - especially since opinion has swung against backbench greed and the scrutiny of such lapses is now tighter.

In the best duck-house tradition he is snivelling about being entrapped, and engaging in casuistry that any payment was for consultancy work which just happened to result in him asking Parliamentary questions.  Doubtless, despite being caught in the act of what might be considered corruption, he will try to draw parallels with the sting on Vince Cable, which got within a whisker of giving Murdoch everything that he wanted.

The Tories have persistently opposed any statutory register of members' interests - and have undermined the efforts of other parties to secure this.  There remains a huge gap between public and politicians, which surely provides an opportunity for coalescence between reformers to demonstrate to the electorate that the patrician grafters are on the way out.  A small step may be feasible both in terms of demonstrating that the Coalition exists for its programme alone, and, for the greater good, in showing that there is still appetite for reform.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hague falls into the ethical foreign policy trap

One of the few areas in which the current UK government's existence can be described as an improvement on the last has been a weakening of the rhetoric of moral superiority in foreign policy.  The late Robin Cook upped the stakes drastically when the e-word was introduced into the vocabulary, making Blair's bellicosity and entry into at least one illegal and one dubious military action hypocritical as well as wrong.

Until now, give or take the anti-European posturing required to avoid being mauled by the lunatic tendency, Hague has been a reasonably good Foreign Secretary.  Despite the right's posturing, the UK is no longer a great power and really only of any consequence when acting in concert with other EU members, and good diplomacy is about realism rather than the stilted windbaggery that Blair emitted whenever he emerged from under Dubya's coat-tails.

Yet the pressure on the EU to remove its arms embargo on Syria looks like the very kind of pseudo-moral opportunism of the New Labour era.  The risk of escalation, as well as the law of unintended consequences, should dominate the calculations of political leaders.  Taking on the odious Syrian regime - a Russian client state - risks too many other area.  It is unclear who or what motivates the Syrian opposition, and it is unclear what the consequences would be for neighbouring states if the country is used as a proxy for conflict between others.

Western intervention in the Middle East has not been benign.  By all means, it should be backing democratic reformers economically and politically, but within the framework set down by the United Nations.  At the same time, should the west wish to enforce international law, the same needs to apply to Israel - a rogue state itself which enjoys seemingly unfettered economic and political licence.  Ethics are vital, but within the context of international law.

The other pragmatic rule for diplomacy is only to get involved where there is a reasonable chance of endorsing the outcome.  You do not score some kind of moral Nectar points from hand-wringing or windy exhortation.

The EU, the USA and Russia have all raised the stakes, paradoxically reducing the chances of a regionally-based and regionally-enforceable solution not just in Syria but for the Palestinians.  Hague (and, lest it be forgotten, Hollande) have engaged in the kind of post-coloinial guilt-posturing that should have gone out with the spectacularly-successful peace envoy, My Little Tony.  A shame, because after three years, the UK has overstepped the mark for a peripheral European state.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Adonis may just have got Clegg and Laws nailed

I have skimmed through Lord Adonis's book on the formation of our Coalition government.  Removing the self-justification and the rose-tinted view of the Labour proposition that might have been on the table, there is at least one insight that seems credible - the temperamental collision between the Orange Book Liberals and the "modernisers" coalesced around Cameron.

Adonis seems to forget that the inconclusive result of the 2010 election had led to a reasonably comprehensive kicking for the Labour Party, and that the big beasts of the unreconstructed statist Labour right (who I blogged about yesterday) were in no mood for compromise.  Yet he puts a persuasive case for the possibility of a minority Lab-Lib administration that might have been difficult to derail in the Commons if only because there would have been no interest from the Nationalists or the Northern Irish parties in voting it down to let in the Tories.

Clegg, Laws and Alexander in particular have given the impression that they do not find it very difficult to do business with the Tories.  The constant refrain has been to keep dissent within the Liberal wing of their party to a minimum, preferring instead to concentrate on the common ground that formed the basis for the Coalition Agreement.  This demonstrates the disingenuous and, in my view, suicidally naive attitude that the Liberal Democrat leadership has demonstrated until it has been too late to disentangle them from their hapless, and apparently doomed, cohorts around the Tory Notting Hill set.

Lord Adonis is correct in his analysis that there was a predisposition to engage with the Tories - who were ahead on both seats and votes compared to Labour.  This was in line with the pre-election view that the first party to do business with would have to be the largest one - and, whether or not it was right in retrospect, the Tories did engage seriously.  There was no dissent from their front bench (John Reid and David Blunkett could have taken note) and the agreement was reasonable given the relative strength of the parties.

The suicidally-naive position taken by the Orange Bookers was to assume that this meant the Tories would either be in a position to deliver or would be able to behave honourably.  With a party steeped in history, they should have been prepared to call on experience and the wiliness of those who have survived in the wilderness for all their political careers.  Instead, there was a revolting consummation and coalescence that did nothing other than give the right satisfaction that they had a bunch of naive little hostages, able to be blamed, duped and patronised whenever necessary.  What was more startling is that they appeared to enjoy this.

The 2015 election will be much less predictable than 2010, and there need to be clear markers put down by all parties in advance as to how they will respond to a distorted and perverse electoral system that could deliver majorities on very small percentages of the vote or create further distortions where there are four-way contests.  Clegg owes it to both his own followers and to other parties to make it clear how he would respond if he both keeps his seat and is in a position to move the politics forward.

Adonis's glossing of Labour's failings should also encourage Miliband to consider carefully how the next two years pan out.  With the Scottish and Welsh dimension, as well as the disruptive influence of UKIP, he has to play a careful game that does not risk completely alienating those whose position is defined as centre or centre-left, and who have no real truck with tribalism.  There will be even more at stake, and it is not yet clear that Labour have got out of their defeatist, mono-cultural mindset.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Unleashing Theresa May's inner fascist: "Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles"

One of the Liberal Democrats' achievements in government was the climb-down on proposals to give the state unfettered powers to snoop on e-mails, mobile phone information and generally continue its criminalisation of the citizen.  This doesn't appeal to the authoritarian imbeciles whose anti-libertarian agenda emerges every time there is a perceived threat to the state by terrorists or by groups that do not conform to the narrow-minded bigotry of the Tory and Labour right.

The arguments put forward to justify further intrusion are superficially attractive, but as with all flawed legislation the damage that could be done to the liberty of the citizen is much greater than the protection that could be afforded.  As usual, the knee-jerk response comes out - and the parade of has-beens, and never-should-have-beens is repugnantly right-wing.  Step forward John Reid, Alan Johnson, Michael Howard, Lord Carlile and the preposterous Home Secretary, Theresa May, who is clearly fostering her insane leadership pretensions by appealing to the snoopers and the state repressors.

Lynton Crosby, the Tories' Mephistopheles, would be proud of the whistling dogs.  "Terrorists", nasty, "criminals", well we don't like them, and "paedophiles" - the in-group for condemnation are her justification for resurrecting oppression.  The euphemisms of "law enforcement agencies" are not balanced with any coherent justification as to how individual rights are to be secured in a system which makes the power of the state even more arbitrary.  Bad legislators make stupid laws - the Dangerous Dogs Act is a prime example.

The denial of rights is only justified in time of war and under clear limitations.  A further encroachment on liberty should be another reason for Nick Clegg to consider who his interests are really aligned with.

Has the Coalition served its time?

The vision of Nick Clegg and David Cameron renewing their Coalition vows has become an annual event, usually the result of a further humiliation for both parties in the electoral cycle.  Last week, both of them insisted that the current co-habitation between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories will see out its allotted lifespan, before the immolation that seems inevitable at the General Election.

For both leaders, this must seem to be an expedient outcome.  Amongst the more thoughtful sections of the politically-engaged it is also supporting the abstract notion that Coalition government is in some way an end in itself.  There is no obvious alternative configuration that would command a Commons majority, and there remains economic crisis and stagnation to address.  Add to this the promotion of an "enemy within" mentality and there are strong reasons to support the continuation of the current arrangement, even as it saps the Liberal Democrats and masks the unpleasant rightward drift of the Tories.

Yet, the counter-factual seems to be missing.  With two years to go, and the swivel-eyed backbenches doing their best to scupper any legislation not burnished in the forge of Farage-appeasement, the prospect of meaningful progress on any area of policy diminishes.  Pre-election posturing has already begun, not least from the right-wing fellow-travellers whose unarticulated desire is to morph into UKIP-lite - creating a reactionary rainbow coalition inclusive of the street thugs of the EDL through to their uneducated, unthinking Eurosceptic brethren within the Tories.

The electoral landscape of 2010 provided very few options, and these have closed down further.  It is getting very difficult to see what benefits the Liberals are securing from participation beyond a masochistic pleasure at being Cameron's human shield against the loons.  As the minority partner, most of the distinctive, liberal policies that were in their 2010 manifesto have been lost - unless there is a political expedient (e.g. the cancellation of Labour's identity cards on cost grounds) - and it is difficult to  envisage a remarkably-different economic strategy having emanated from Labour.

Yet this is not the whole story.  While the Liberals have been compromised and outmanoeuvred, they have managed to restrain the lunatic section of the Tories - even to the extent where some Tory Ministers have had to remind their own constituency that the electorate may have despised Labour but they did not endorse any of the other parties to manage on their own.  This creates a political space for the Liberal Democrats before the election - and the choice for them is whether or not they do this from within the Coalition or without.

The restraint on unfettered neo-con, authoritarian dribbling has been vital (and the benefit of Coalition government needs to be argued accordingly) but it needs to be made much more explicit.  The refusal to emasculate and privatise the NHS, the refusal to engage in a demagogic race-to-the-bottom xenophobia surrounding our European partners, and the resistance to the further promotion of the banking parasite above the working human are all useful negatives to put alongside the start of a progressive reform of tax policy and at least some efforts to target spending where people need it most in education.

For Clegg, or, should he refuse to engage, his party, there is a choice ahead.  Staying in power provides further dampening, but also the risk of more guilt by association.  Sitting outside a Tory minority administration would allow them to promote extremist policies to test with the electorate - the Stupid Party has always flirted with this - while ensuring that there is no Commons majority to enact any such deranged wibblings.  The left needs to think about how it pushes the Tories and UKIP into competing for the same space - creating space for reclaiming the more engaged Conservatives and setting out a democratic, socialist space.

The correct way forward is imponderable, but the collaborative, inclusionist phase of the Clegg-Cameron relationship is at an end.  Both are wounded, marginalised and increasingly irrelevant to the post-2015 landscape.  The Liberals, damaged possibly beyond repair, need to determine whether they are able to stand independently or being incorporated - and to do this in the context of possible deal-making with Labour.  The choice will not be easy, but the need for a leftward shift becomes more evident by the week.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Terrorism, the EDL and the limits to tolerance

A brutal murder in broad daylight, in front of horrified onlookers.  Whatever the identity of the victim, this would have been a shocking event - made even more disturbing by being a soldier outside his barracks, butchered by apparent jihadists on a random, arbitrary basis.  The act of assassination is an odious evil, and there is no relativity that can justify it, no apologist sufficiently odious to make excuses and limited human capability to understand and forgive.

In isolation this is a new level of barbarity within the UK, although not, sadly for the wider human race.  The brutalisation that has never been pushed out, and the doctrine adopted of what is unreported and unknown is acceptable, does radicalise and render morality relative rather than absolute.  Yet the moment that this is view put forward to contextualise and understand the challenges faced there there follows an inevitable tirade of abuse for multicultural collaborationism and treachery.  To observe that a catalyst has been the ineptitude of the language used by Tony Blair and George W. Bush when they launched their counter-terrorism strategy is so obvious, yet the hysteria tends to militate against putting isolated acts into a geopolitical context.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that the English Defence League and its fascist adherents used the murder for a grotesque parody of patriotism.  Reading Daniel Trilling's interesting, if rapidly outdated, study of the far right in Britain, Bloody Nasty People, it is clear that the EDL is a front for hooligan thugs whose articulation of national identity is mindless racist violence allied to the day-to-day pseudo-morality pushed by the Daily Mail, The Sun and the far right of the Tory Party (where it elides into UKIP).  On a night when law enforcement should have been focused on the investigation into what was clearly a terrorist murder, the EDL sent a bunch of masked, racist cretins onto the streets of Woolwich - chanting abuse and throwing missiles at the police.  True patriots, indeed.

This is what makes anyone ashamed to be British - this is fomenting hatred and gratifying urges that a civilised community does not need to suppress.  The apologists come out and blame multi-culturalism, in the unlikely event that they can spell it, or particular immigrant groups.  Whatever the reasons for alienation from mainstream politics, this is beyond the pale of utilitarian liberalism.  A spark of debate towards a secularisation of the state may be the correct response - rather than the knee-jerk simple condemnation that the left will tend to come up with - but it is hardly a great advertisement for nationalism that these moronic BNP-dupes are allowed to run riot and incite violence and hatred.

In the context of a new, undefined, territory of terrorism, there are far-rightists who will try to exploit this for evil ends.  There is no simple victory that can be achieved against them, beyond not descending to their level of street thuggery, but there needs to be a differentiation between a diverse, tolerant society and one where groups can intimidate and attack others.  They fail on the latter test, so have no place within the spectrum of human decency.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Gay marriage - watching the Tories swivel

There is a tide of fatalistic risibility that ascends to engulf the Conservative Party.  The Old Bloxhamist Gerald Howarth, the preposterous Monday Club MP for Aldershot, revealed his inner torment by suggesting that "aggressive homosexuals" are waiting in the wings to march down the aisle as a precursor to much darker activities, while the usual bunch of neanderthals demonstrated their inability and crass ineptitude, allowing Labour and the Liberal Democrats to provide a solid majority for a reform that is really only important to those who see it as a benefit.

The Tories have clearly not learned from the 1990s and their rather depressing sequence of scandals that there is now much less prurience about people's sexuality, and much less desire to dictate to the rest of the population what is acceptable within the law.  Personal morality is just that - it is not to argue against standards and responsibility but merely to suggest that the state should keep out of the bedroom.  For each of the splenetic, bile-spuming Tory backwoodsmen, the liberalisation of society is coming as a shock; there may be much deeper Freudian interpretations about their public abhorrence, but unless one has actually been to Eton it is very difficult to reach any firm conclusion.

The irony of the last couple of days has been that the paragons of free-market, deregulated Ayn Rand frothing are totally unable to see that the logical extension of their position is to support individual freedom and rights.  Instead, in a game of tabloid bugger-my-neighbour they have demonstrated the rank hypocrisy of the Tory right - scared of UKIP, scared of a world that has passed them by, and hostile to anyone who is prepared to be different and not conform to a haute bourgeois societal norm.

Pratfalls await, and this is much of a muchness with the lunacy that has overcome much of the right at the moment.  As the imbecility count rises, we can only look forward to more ignorance and bigotry being paraded in a desperate attempt to court the declining fringe vote.  The disconnect between a pointless Tory party and the wider electorate can only increase.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Never underestimate the power of a dead sheep

Denis Healey once described an assault from Lord Howe as akin to being savaged by a dead sheep.  For the current bunch of Tories, they would probably be more welcoming to someone suggesting an evening of ovine necrophilia than home truths being put forward by a man whom many have never forgotten for being the catalyst to Thatcher's political demise.

Howe's rallying-cry to Liberal Democrats and Labour to elevate the discussion over Europe beyond the petrified squabblings of Tory bunny-boilers caught in the headlights was impeccably timed - as it is clear that there remains at least some part of the Conservative party whose eyes do not swivel and who have considered that internal blood-letting over the EU is both unattractive and counter-productive.  There is a small, sensible core of what would be a perfectly acceptable centre-right party, trapped inside a group of xenophobic charlatans, led by a charisma-free loon who can please neither his left, his right nor the electorate.

For twenty years, the Tories have been trying to reconcile the pragmatists from the demagogues who are putting around the dangerous canard that the way to solve all Britain's problems is to retreat into a form of decaying autarky, and the latter have won.  Whether or not the phrase of "swivel-eyed loons" was used there is a disconnect between those who exist in a practical political environment and the backwoods, non-specifically-disgruntled "activist" base.

What the Europhobes cannot articulate is how their hostility to Europe would benefit the UK, beyond providing further impetus to implement Bangladeshi-style labour laws and remove civil liberties and the rights of the citizen.  This alone should be something that the majority fears - and this should be articulated by all politicians from Miliband through to Ken Clarke; the lies and half-truths are accepted because there is no strong challenge and because of lazy, sensationalist reporting (when the organ in question is not ideologically-tainted in the first place).  

Lord Howe's contribution is therefore both welcome and necessary, because there is an honourable tradition of realistic European politics from within the Tory tradition.  The perception that propitiating UKIP will do the Tories any good needs to be given a clear, well-defined once-over, and there needs to be a cross-party presentation of the pro-EU case - Miliband himself has done himself some good by arguing that the only time for a referendum is when there is any proposal to transfer significant powers to Brussels (in line with the Liberal Democrats' 2010 manifesto).

Cameron is trying to run with the hare, and hunt with the hounds.  When he has to get the damaged goods of Jeremy Hunt to deny any rift in his party, you can tell he is on the skids - what is needed now is for the debate to be moved away from the Tories and into the heart of political dialogue.  Howe is right that the left needs to articulate the case, but the real attraction for the rest of us is that then the Tories can implode without much risk.

The Tory backbenches are full of the scared, thoughtless chancers who have made it very difficult to take the party seriously.  The lazy stereotyping and arrogance betrays their inability to break free of the idea that they have some kind of divine right to rule denied purely because not enough people voted for them last time round.  Howe may do nothing to ease the problems in the Tory party by criticising Cameron's ineptitude, but he is starting a much more noble project of defending the national interest.  

Saturday, 18 May 2013

"A student demonstration isn't the Dreyfus trial" - Salmond nails UKIP

Of the amusing spectacles this week, watching the television footage of Nigel Farage attracting a robust response from Scottish leftists in Edinburgh probably achieved the greatest and most lasting satisfaction.  The absurd Little Englander, who shares with the Clown Mayor an ability to portray extremely nasty views as mere buffoonery, was always likely to be on shaky Caledonian ground, and the poltroon was given the kind of welcome he seldom receives south of the Border.

As usual, it was Alex Salmond who hit the spot with his attack on the Farage bandwagon - about the only thing that I can find in common with Murdoch is a view that Salmond is amongst Britain's most effective politicians.

Farage used a demonstration against his odious views to attempt to extrapolate that all Scottish nationalists are tainted by "excesses" and that they are "deeply unpleasant" - a view that the electorate in Scotland has not exhibited since devolution.  As a non-Scot, I did not find the country tainted with a "total and utter hatred of the English" during the years I lived there - a total and utter contempt for the Tories and their right-wing fellow-travellers did not discriminate between home-grown and imported, but it is very difficult to work out which orifice many of Farage's insults emerge from.

The most charitable explanation is that Farage, buoyed by his mid-market tabloid cheerleaders, has acquired the delusion that his far-right ranting is universally popular, and that the loud abuse and attacks are in some way psychically destabilising.  The fact that I shall now always call wee Niger "bawbag" is a suitable memorial for the evening.  However, it does not constitute "fascism" as he suggested - he is much closer to that suppression of debate and free expression than a loose grouping of political opponents.

Perhaps less reported was his excursion into being interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland - where, when challenged about his lack of knowledge of Scottish politics, he simply hung up.

The "fight when I win, flight when I've been found out" response is typical of the far-right - but it does not provide evidence for UKIP's claim to be a serious force in UK politics.  Instead of which he decided to attack the BBC for an "insulting" interview, when it was clear from listening to it that he had been caught with his political trousers down - and instead of any humility or recognition that his ignorance of Scottish politics was a disadvantage he decided to bluster it out.

Salmond's response is textbook - it should be used by all sane leaders across the country.  Faced with this evidence, he stated that it would be a "great mistake" to take "somebody of that mentality with any degree of seriousness" - which is both masterful and contemptuous.  This has the added bonus score of bringing out Scottish Tory UKIP leanings, an Alex Johnstone who is an unmemorable MSP jumped on the defend-Nigel bandwagon to attack Salmond and further marginalise Cameron.

Farage is a buffoon whose apparent strength derives from tapping into to inchoate resentment - and his risible political party is suffering the incursion of the criminal and fascist elements (one of their Worcestershire County Councillors has already been forced to resign following Islamophobic comments) - and it is countered by both demonstrating that his views are not universally welcomed and through making it clear that he will be opposed.  If you express odious views, and harbour those whose knuckles brush the lino, you cannot expect to be welcomed as a conquering hero by anyone capable of rational analysis.

To claim martyrdom for a cause you need to have a definable cause other than self-publicity.  Salmond claimed Farage without breaking sweat - so he will return to his delusional past with his tail between his legs.  Result.

As a postscript, while watching Channel 4 News last night, this issue prompted intriguing debate including the breaking of cover by a UKIP MEP, Roger Helmer.  As a right-wing caricature buffoon Helmer takes some beating - he is the kind of saloon-bar bore who any sane individual wants to avoid, but his breathtaking ignorance of Scotland was second only to his leader's.  However, I was motivated to do some digging:  Wikipedia - Roger Helmer MEP.

With members like that, UKIP's Nutter Tendency shades into other parts of the far-right - echoes of the Monday Club and the FCS abound.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The idiocy of Brian Coleman - convicted politician

I commented on the conviction, a fortnight ago, of the former GLA member Brian Coleman, for assault by beating.  After that, it was an intention to let sleeping dogs lie (in every sense) as the downfall of an arrogant bully is of only tangential relevance when taking on the greater iniquities of the right.  However, Coleman has given the most extraordinary interview to one of the local newspapers in Barnet which is so objectionable that it is worthy of further attention.

The interview can be seen here: Coleman interview - May 2013.

This is an astounding piece of revisionist history that would make David Irving blush.  Despite the evidence of CCTV that Coleman's act were aggressive, violent and totally merited a conviction, he suggests that he only agreed to a plea bargain to keep his driving license, and implies that he was justified because his victim had been part of a political campaign against his policies.  There are words which can describe this, but they are not printable - readers can fill in the gaps.

Coleman's behaviour is clearly now beyond what should be acceptable in public office.  The national Conservative party has taken action against him, and "processes" are taking place within Barnet Tories that might result in his expulsion from the party.  Yet there has been complete silence from the local MPs (Theresa Villiers, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord - normally all given to rent-a-quote knee-jerk populism) and councillors, as well as senior local Tories, despite a conviction for violence and no evidence of any remorse or even comprehension of his actions.

If, and, the pinch of salt required would probably require Lot to be a multiple polygamist, Coleman's assertion that the plea bargain was a tactic to maintain his ability to drive, then one simple question remains: why did he not then go on to defend himself in court?  Was he advised that overwhelming evidence, stacked up against him, would inevitably result in a stiffer sentence?  Was he advised that witnesses could potentially exacerbate the level of the offence and reduce mitigation potential?  Nobody, save Coleman and his brief - to use the vernacular of the criminal classes - will ever know the truth, and Coleman appears to have no grasp of reality.

For Coleman then to claim provocation is both risible and insulting to his victim.  He has pretended to be a senior politician - trousering thousands of pounds in allowances and putting his repugnant views forward - while at the same time fundamentally misunderstanding his role and responsibilities.  A typical Thatcherite Tory, in other words, who believes that standards of conduct and decency apply to the lower orders who should kow-tow to the great leader.

For local residents and business owners to campaign against an unpopular policy, for them to combine and to identify the relevant officials and councillors is not an unacceptable campaign and persecution, it is democracy in action and should be applauded.  The only provocation that Coleman suffered was from campaigning against a policy perceived as damaging, and then the risk of humiliation when he was caught flouting it pushed him into a state where violence was his response.  Hardly a suitable candidate for public office.

Yet what is so extraordinary is that Coleman makes no reference to his own conviction and culpability. It's always somebody else's fault; had the little people shut up and allowed his policies through without question he would never have found it irresistible to attack someone.  This sociopathic amorality is sick in the most fundamental sense - it is a reasonable deduction that he needs psychiatric help not just for anger management but in order to permit him even a reasonable chance of functioning in a society where social relationships have progressed beyond the toddler stage.

If this was a one off, badger-watching "moment of madness" then perhaps some mitigation would be permissible.  Coleman, however, has a string of Standards complaints upheld against him, including such gems as calling a correspondent anti-Semitic for questioning the actions of Veolia when the correspondent was Jewish himself, and threats and abuse against bloggers.  This suggests someone who is seriously out of control and who is a danger to himself and to others.

What may be the case is that Coleman - humiliated by the electorate last year and by his cohorts through being stripped of his Barnet cabinet portfolio - is suffering from limelight withdrawal.  From being the odious toad relishing his role he now an embarrassing never-was, which makes his wish to follow in the footsteps of Lembit Opik, George Galloway and Nadine Dorries onto reality TV a little more explicable.  I am sure that there will be a long queue to purchase a single ticket.

There is the interesting parallel with the downfall of Chris Huhne, whose release under tag has caused a tabloid storm.  Huhne, as with Coleman, denied culpability until the last possible moment, and then faced the consequences.  He, too, was treated according to due process and has now been treated equally to other non-violent, unlikely repeat offenders - and this has created a prurient outburst of sham indignation.  Coleman's downfall, despite being a self-styled senior Tory, has hardly caused ripples beyond the circulation area of the Evening Standard, despite a crime of violence.  Double media standards ahoy!

Had Coleman done the sensible thing, and shut up, then he would not be subject to further scrutiny and criticism now.  Instead he has opened up the whole can of worms about the Tory party's inability to control its own members, and sending out messages about what is and is not acceptable.  For the Tories to spend so long dithering about his future when he has been convicted of a crime of violence is odious and immoral, and for him to continue his self-pitying in public is sick.  It sends out a message that the Tory party is scared of him, even when he has been convicted - and it sends out the clear signal that there is at least a strong current of support for thuggish behaviour as a substitute for rational debate.

It is reported that the victim has received an insulting and threatening letter, attributed to someone who is "not a friend of Brian Coleman" - which should be subject to scrutiny and investigation.  Whatever action is taken should be proportionate to the message that this sends out - that to involve the police in a criminal offence is a damaging thing to do.  Unless Coleman and the Tories condemn this then the action of inductive reasoning can only lead to a limited number of conclusions.

Yet Coleman's interview itself condemns him.  There are a number of legal terms that spring to mind while reading it: perjury, defamation and contempt.  It is to be hoped that any evidence of further wrong-doing is tested, if only to provide the springboard to take action to protect the wider community and Coleman himself.

A mischievous thought is that Coleman has taken to mini-cab driving to supplement his diminished income - hence his desire not to lose his licence for the dropped charge of dangerous driving.  As with Huhne he has a reputation for speeding, so one can only assume that there is a reasonable chance that the toad will be off the road at some stage in the future.  This is scant justice for a braggart, fantasist and bully who cannot accept that he now a violent, convicted felon.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

HS2: the opposition shows all that's wrong with Britain

The myriad of opportunists who have jumped onto the anti-HS2 bandwagon will doubtless relish the "conclusion" put forward by the National Audit Office that the business case is shaky.  Leaving aside the fact that the bean-counting mentality that the NAO demonstrates has not saved us from the follies of PFI, privatisations that have resulted in transfers of wealth from taxpayers to speculators and the ludicrous marketisation of public services, this is another piece of political grandstanding that shows that British central governance has a rotten core.

Whether or not HS2 will deliver precisely the benefits, to precisely the costs put forward today, in 20 years' time is a moot point.  Economic forecasting is often only one step up from Mystic Meg, but because it is encased in equations and, generally, put forward by consultants in expensive suits with bills to match, tends to have a mesmeric effect upon Ministers and civil servants, while at the same time being easy to unpick and attack if you find yourself ranged on the other side of the argument.

What one looks for from politicians is leadership and, occasionally, relying on gut instinct.  We appear to live in a country which, despite the marginal maunderings of the right, is prepared to maintain massive expenditure in wasting people's lives (blighted education, the benefits culture and the economic  deserts that afflict many parts of the country), spend unquestioningly on the National Health Service's pseudo-markets rather than primary care, while maintaining the delusion that the nation is a Great Power with the responsibilities and resources to match.

Yet all these would be much easier if politicians had the guts to admit that to generate growth, sustainably, and to reduce the entitlement culture, the government's prime function is to underwrite investment in the infrastructure that permits the appropriate and expeditious development of private-sector economic activity.  The mixed economy remains a reality, yet there remains a fetishisation of any private-sector funding - which as I have constantly argued is a chimera and a lie perpetrated as a means of reducing the headline rates of tax and bribing crony capitalists.

The Coalition's main economic failing has been this complete lack of vision.  At a time when long-term interest rates have been lower for a longer period than at any time in economic history, and when Gideon's personal goal of maintaining a credit rating has been scuppered by the lack of stimulus in the economy, this would have given the opportunity to set out an infrastructure plan, drawing on pension funds and other investment sources to finance bonds, which would have transformed transport, utilities and the social and economic cohesion of the British Isles.  Instead we have a bunch of selfish chancers whose main aim appears to be delay and criticism of the government - cutting off other people's noses and spiting their faces through acts of cretinous short-termism.

This is not solely a Tory failing, nor is it a Labour one.  This is endemic - the country never anticipates, preferring to respond when the crisis hits.  Nearly a quarter-century ago, the Tories accepted the findings of a study which recommended that London's growth and prosperity would be served by construction of Crossrail and upgrading Thameslink by the start of the third millennium.  Thirty years from its publication, they will be delivered - at greater expense and having wasted nearly two decades where infrastructure improvements could have contributed to wider society.

Our European partners appear to have a generally more sensible view of the potential of infrastructure to generate growth: Paris now has the equivalent of five Crossrails while high-speed rail is extending across western Europe.  Britain (and London) aren't as different in their needs and solutions as the tabloids would wish to portray.

HS2 may not be the optimum project to improve connectivity to the regions and nations, nor, alone, will it transform local economies.  However, it is there.  An alternative would delay increasing capacity for another decade.  The debate cannot be had on its own - as regional policy is about more than just railways.  There is the current heat and light being generated by the fool Johnson about London airport capacity, forgetting that the vast majority of people do not live within easy reach of the Thames Estuary, and that non-London airport capacity is already there and not being exploited to take pressure of existing runways.

For once, even some Tories are making the right noises - but the window of opportunity is low.  There is a risk that HS2 will be sacrificed to appease the knuckle-dragging Eurosceptic cicatrices whose influence will loom large as Cameron tries to hang on as Tory leader.  This, with bean-counters and self-styled fools such as the Taxpayers Alliance baying at their heels, will be a litmus test of whether good government will be sacrificed on the altar of useless party expediency, and whether Britain has got beyond about 1830 in its attitude to the fabric of the nation.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Gove, Hammond and the end of the Coalition

To watch the slow-motion disaster that is the modern Conservative Party unfold has a sense of repetition for all those who can remember the 1990s.  Compared with the hapless Major, Cameron's smarmy condescension deserves all that is coming to him - and hopefully he will succeed in turning the Tories in on themselves, revealing their true xenophobic irrelevance and creating space for a genuinely centre-right party; whichever of the current bunch of self-interested spivs succeeds Dave will then compete in a game of two bald men fighting over a comb with Farage.

Over the weekend, two of Cameron's prototypical Tory grandees, Michael Gove and Philip Hammond, gave a carefully-choreographed signal that the entire reason for the rise of UKIP is that they are in a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and that they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were to be held tomorrow.  Given that they are both supposedly senior Cabinet Ministers (God help us!) this will not have been an act of "rebellion" uncleared with the unaccountable coterie that surrounds Downing Street.

Cameron is playing his last desperate card to appeal to the rightist base - coinciding with a visit to the USA.  The neo-cons see America as some kind of substitute parent, which makes Cameron's behaviour seem adolescent - as the Obama Administration is seeking a free-trade deal with the EU.  This would be entirely in line with the kind of activity that Cameron claims to want to encourage, yet at the same time his treachery is to encourage his fools and knaves to raise the stakes, not over points of principle but as a desperate effort to shore up his motley bunch of chancers.

The two Cabinet Ministers who have declared their hand are prototypical.  Gove is attempting to do for education what Osborne is doing for sound economic management, with an arrogance and lack of engagement that can only be born from decades of embedding within the Murdoch empire.  Hammond is a Surrey Tory chancer who looks like a cross between Michaels Fabricant and Heseltine while spouting the kind of 1950s rhetoric about hard work and Little Englandism beloved of his blue-rinsed acolytes - an undistinguished minor Minister whose tenure at Transport and Defence have hardly set the world on fire.

Yet these mediocrities typify the contemporary Tory Party.  The latest tactic is to blame the Liberal Democrats for the lack of a referendum.  Today one of Gove's wet boys was on the radio suggesting that in some way Clegg has betrayed the Liberal manifesto of 2010, which promised a referendum if any treaty changes resulted in a transfer of powers to Brussels.  So the Tories, desperate to find someone to blame for their own inability to create a political case, are using this to justify spending the next two years tearing themselves apart.

Clegg has been handed this as a gift, which will show whether he is a genuinely Liberal politician or, as many suspect, a Tory wannabe.  The Coalition will probably limp on in Government, while the political discourse moves towards a post-2015 alignment.  Clegg needs to veto any Tory activity other than that defined by the Coalition Agreement - or to allow it to be voted down in the Commons, a much more effective demonstration of independence.  Liberals need to remind the electorate (and natural allies in Labour, Greens and the Celtic devolutionist parties) that the current arrangement is of necessity rather than choice, and that there is more than one alignment of political pluralism.

The Coalition is now fatally weakened - and by the Tory inability to maintain cohesion between the few remaining pragmatists and the feral right, whose rhetoric these days would make the League of Empire Loyalists blush.  Gove, who should be avoided on the television unless one wishes to contemplate whether he could be used as a model for a Rentokil commercial, is blundering towards Redwood territory - and the challenge to Cameron resembles that of Redwood and Major back in 1995, one of the events that sealed the direction of the 1997 election.  With Labour not as focused, this means multi-party politics are the reality - the current Tory infighting has reinforced this - and it is up to the left and centre to find the means to exploit this idiocy.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Wanted: a credible alternative while Miliband's dreaming

With the Labour Party's message increasingly appearing to be focused on not being the Tories, rather than having a programme for government that will address the fundamental issues of the neo-conservative coups d'etat, there remains the possibility that the right will win in 2015 by default.  Miliband has spent too long fence-sitting, an easy temptation when there is such a large number of imbeciles in the Government whose main objective is to commit petty acts of self-immolation whenever opportunities present themselves.

For the last three years there have been three tendencies in the Labour Party:

  • a group of tribalist fools who have justified their position by blaming the Liberal Democrats for going into a Coalition with the Tories, despite the electoral and political machinations making another outcome impossible;
  • the Miliband faction, best typified as a Billy Bunter waiting for something to turn up, rather than taking the battle to the Tories and exposing quite what an unpleasant beast continues to lurk beneath the modernising skin; and
  • a Blue Labour cadre who are doomed to failure by assuming that the way to victory is to appeal to the party's shrinking traditional class base.
None of the above is totally wrong in their analysis or prescription, but taken individually or collectively they cannot provide a convincing reason to vote for Labour.  Labour has not yet really come to terms with modern political reality and pluralism - their hubris was punctured in 2010 but only marginally - and they have yet to make convincing inroads into the areas where they will need most success in 2015.  Scotland and the prosperous shires do not make particularly heartening targets at present.

This may well be because Labour is scared of admitting that it got many things wrong under Blair and Brown.  By collaborating with the prevailing direction of ideological travel, they did nothing to redress the balance nor to create a political climate where pure economic determinism can be trumped by putting the citizen at the centre of discourse.  

Miliband should be tapping into the folk memories of the Depression and the incompetent and partial response of politicians to the current crisis - papering over the cracks in a service-driven, greed-focused financial system is not acceptable while there continues to be greed, snoutage and rank hypocrisy from the apostles of capital.  Blaming "the cuts" solely on the Tories won't wash, but a message of social justice alongside acknowledging that simple economic growth is not a panacea could be the start of creating a progressive climate of hope.

People aren't valued - and people aren't treated as anything more than cogs - either productive props to the economic titans or as nuisances and parasites.  No wonder social cohesion is diminishing.  No wonder that there is a feeling of despair and isolation.  A radical position is much closer to the libertarian than to the financially-determined, and we don't seem to be getting anything out of Labour.  If Osborne's luck changes and, despite his incompetence and malevolence, the economy is massaged into picking up, Miliband offers nothing more than a slightly-shifted managerialism.  This will not be enough - and time is running out for a more radical proposition that could form the basis of a Labour-led revival.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Peddling Europhobia: lies, delusions and Nigel Lawson

It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate the Conservative Party from a dinosaur theme park.  When the solids/air conditioning interface becomes the dominant feature of internal Tory feuding, there are all the self-styled elder statesmen; memories of whom have only recently been stirred up by Thatcher's death - and whose sanctimonious physiognomies have been a salutary reminder to anyone who can remember their previous pomp.

So far, so Tebbit.  The latest manifestation of the undead was the re-emergence of Nigel Lawson, the greatest Anthony Barber tribute Chancellor in history - fuelling unsustainable booms and then recanting.  "Lord" Lawson is now reinventing himself as an arch-Eurosceptic, having been one of the leading figures of the regicide in 1990 - paradoxically because he was one of those Ministers most closely identified with shadowing the Deutschmark in the run-up to the establishment of the Euro.

Frightened rabbits are now assuming that the lights in front of them are the Eureka moments of salvation rather than the juggernaut of an irrelevant destiny.  So pulling out of the European Union is presented as a panacea for every failure that the neo-conservative experiment has visited upon the plebs and the rest of the world that is not cocooned through ancestral or other ill-gotten wealth, and which has a great desire to be seen to protect its own position through a Manichean confidence and hubris.

These old fools are peddling a major lie to the electorate.  The costs, impacts and practicalities of EU exit are large and not a one-way bet to the sunlit uplands of isolationist prosperity.  Whenever one of these loons screeches about a trading rather than a political relationship they fail to remind people that the status of non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland is of vassal nations, forced to comply with EU laws and regulations without even formal representation or participation in the decision-making process.

This means that any withdrawal will be partial rather than full - effectively refusing to engage in the diplomacy and evolution of EU politics and institutions, as well as running the significant risk that future benefits available to member states will be denied to England and Wales.  One of the key reasons for UK marginalisation within the EU has been the continued failure to engage, preferring instead to resort to the sloganising megaphone and the stereotype of perfidious Albion.  This has allowed the EU's direction to be dominated by Franco-German priorities - which has had mixed results culminating in the inappropriate austerity that has befuddled the Eurozone.

This distaste for engagement and refusal to compromise suggests that Clegg and Miliband need to adopt a Euro-realist position going forward.  So far, the dribbling xenophobes portray any support for European co-operation and involvement as the kind of starry-eyed idealism that should be reserved for ensuring that the lower orders know their place.  A few points need to be reiterated: we shall never be able to fully disengage from our major trading partners, we shall never be able to unpick the entire legacy of 40 years' economic, political and legal engagement and we shall never be able to prosper as a low-cost, exploitative offshore tax haven.

Pragmatists should also be prepared to point out that any withdrawal would be a constitutional and legal nightmare on a scale that would dwarf any of the areas of reform that the Tories vetoed as low priority - distracting from the economy and social and environmental progress.  The EU myths are pervasive, and, as is usual in the UK, complex to rebut.  However, the economic costs and benefits are important to keep in perspective.

Lawson is a cynical vulture circling round the Tory corpse - finally getting revenge for humiliation and marginalisation after his fall from office.  The propitiation of the Farage and the tweedy knuckle-draggers will only go so far - as Europe itself does not represent an election-swinging issue.  Perhaps the only consolation is that this now looks like the kind of private battle that beset John Major, and we all know what happened to the Tories after that.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Brian Coleman - a cautionary tale for our times

Last Friday, Councillor Brian Coleman was convicted of assault.  When I last commented upon Coleman, he had yet to suffer a spectacular fall from political grace of a kind that few politicians have experienced.  Unlike Chris Huhne, he did not conspire to pervert the course of justice beyond a protracted denial of any culpability.  Yet despite some damning evidence on CCTV of both his crime and his incredible pig-headedness in refusing to accept responsibility, the process dragged on for months, clogging up the courts and wasting time and money in a way only a Tory politician caught in the headlights can do.

Coleman had become a political liability for the Tories well before this.  Evicted from the GLA by Labour in the form of Andrew Dismore, even his cronies and clients in Barnet then dropped him from their Cabinet - moving from a bling-tastic six-figure allowance scam to the levels of individual councillor allowance must have been cushioned by living in subsidised accommodation - and then the national (not the local) party suspended him after the assault charge was brought.

In many ways, this is a tragic indictment of a career politician - who appears to consider himself both superior to other mortals and immune from both criticism and the consequences of his action.  The provocation (as his lawyer tried to argue in mitigation) was that the victim had been vociferous in protesting about (and recording the consequences of) Coleman's parking policies on local businesses - and as the leading councillor he was a legitimate target, especially when spotted parking illegally to use a cashpoint when other road users would have been fined.  To criticise a politician and to expose apparently hypocritical behaviour is the right of any reasonable elector and citizen.

So he has been convicted and fined - a criminal record is not a light punishment.  Yet he still has apologists and "friends" who are willing to defend his conduct and not to question whether he remains fit for public office.  Humility and common sense would dictate his withdrawal into private existence, making the most of an opportunity to re-assess whether his talents might be best directed into not antagonising his fellow human beings.  Until he either stands down or is defeated, he will face what he will doubtless regard as provocative scrutiny, but he has done nothing that gives confidence that such behaviour is a one-off, unrepeatable aberration.