Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The stopped clock of Iain Duncan Smith

In the context of further global terrorism, turning the clock back two decades to the March of the Bastards may seem to be a luxury.  However, from a UK and European perspective the events of the private implosion of the Conservative party resonate, if only because it reinforces my earlier hypothesis that the entire charade demonstrates that the Tories have pushed themselves into a corner from which they cannot emerge with credibility.  As with rat-fighting, they will inflict more wounds upon each other until the death of all protagonists is an inevitable fate.

There is a generally-held view that Budgets are either popular on the day or have some long-term merit.  Osborne has managed to preside over two disasters in 2012 and 2016, which is quite an achievement.  This year's fiasco did provide some useful ammunition, and it was moderately satisfying to hear the rather cogent analysis put forward by John McDonnell being reinforced by the opportunistic critiques of the former Quiet Man, now the Noisy Hypocrite.  As a Budget throwing out illusionary gifts to the client groups of the well-off, especially well-off pensioners, this year's was roundly excoriated from all sides.

However, the breathtaking credulousness of the right-wing media in buying Duncan Smith's claim not to be resigning over Europe but over principle, when he has spent the last six years supporting the same policies that he is now denouncing, is both amusing and inevitable.  Many sensible people would argue that there is an urgent need to reform the taxation, benefits and pension systems to achieve efficiency and equity, which is clearly not the aim of the current government given Osborne's tendency to fiddle around with gimmicks (Lifetime ISA, Sugar Tax anyone?), but no real effort is being made by any party to address this.

Duncan Smith could have resigned at any stage - this was opportunist and blatant.  If Cameron had authority he would now sack all the Eurosceptic Ministers on the basis that they have now repudiated the manifesto on which they were inched into power last year.  Instead he is attempting to pretend he is both compassionate and progressive when he is even less principled than Boris Johnson himself.

A longer-term memory is a reminder that the Tories were so desperate to get rid of him last time round that they elected Michael Howard as leader.  Always worth considering when he is being put up as a Poujadist tribune.  He may be right once or twice a year, but that is rather less frequently than a watch with the batteries removed.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The unerring desperation of the Europhobes

Watching and listening to the referendum coverage, the exit brigade are in full revolting mode.  As observed previously, the overriding impression is that their predominant fixation is on the Tory succession - with no consideration for the issues.  The presence of the fruitcakes and self-publicists (the spectrum of Farage, Galloway, Hoey and the mulleted poltroon Tim Martin of Wetherspoons is risible), along with the constant refrain of "not fair" whenever an argument is used against them, they are challenged on the effects of their preferred outcome, or when the case to remain is placed at the centre of discourse will never cease to amuse.

Murdoch, slavering and bruised by the near-brush with accountability that he suffered, is now cheer-leading for the lunatic fringe with all his might.  Co-opting the Queen, every dribbling loon's favourite German, into the anti campaign smacks of desperation, especially this early in the run-in to the actual vote.  Whatever the views of a deluded, privileged elite, this is hardly the stuff of substance and moving towards the sunlit uplands that the part-time Mayor of London sets out but cannot define whenever questioned.

The constant parading of the alleged "Project Fear" by the remain campaign is hilarious - if it were not so disingenuous.  Being able to define the steps that would have to be taken following a vote to leave is, one would have thought, a prerequisite to a credible argument.  Understanding the political and legal processes is incredibly basic, but there is no effort to set this out, doubtless because there is no appetite for reality in a headlong drive back to the 1950s.

Peddling myths that the UK would be able to set terms is a vainglorious canard of the worst kind.  Why would former trading partners wish to open up on any terms in order for one nation to preserve its own benefits without any of its obligations?  Pure economics might suggest that this is the case, but a cursory familiarity with politics, game theory and history argues that the position an exiting England could exploit is rather akin to the Afghani cricket team taking on the Australians.  Amusing to watch, but not just one-sided.  This is the lie that the anti-EU brigade try to peddle, usually by speaking very quickly, loudly and then by changing the subject.

There remain good reasons to be Eurosceptic.  There are also good reasons to want a reform of the institutions from below.  However, there is fast emerging an even more appealing reason to remain in the EU - the facts that the Goves, Duncan Smiths and Graylings of this world will be forming a new loony right outside the Tory mainstream.  They are rapidly moving away from any position where they can collaborate with the remainder of their party, and the prospects for realignment come closer. In the short-term there will be continued dribbling - in the long-term the dance of death precipitated by Cameron's weakness in his own party may succeed where other factors failed, and we will face a radically different party landscape in six months' time.  Reasons to be cheerful.