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.