Thursday, 28 April 2016

The anti-semitism dog whistle

Ken Livingstone's failure to fade out from politics has finally caught up with him.  Odious, historically-inaccurate remarks and an inability to even contemplate retraction of what was either stupidity or insuperable arrogance are likely to result in his deserved defenestration - and will undermine what good he was able to achieve in his time as London Mayor.  For those with a tinfoil hat persuasion there is too much coincidental timing between the current brouhaha and the desperate attempts to resurrect Goldsmith's campaign and reputation.

The problem for Labour is that mud sticks.  However fast a party acts to clean up its act there is always a tendency for guilt by association, or worse still the tendency to over-react in order to attempt to head off the mob.  Again, the accusations around Corbyn have the smack of a concerted campaign aligned to the reluctance of the Blairites in particular to accept that their particular era of party control has reached its inevitable end.  Corbyn has not covered himself in glory, but dithering is not a crime, more the sense of fair play that undermined predecessors not confronted with the same level of media hostility and internal challenge.

What is generally more disturbing is the continued acceptance that to cry anti-semitism is an unanswerable condemnation and conviction, without the ability either to respond or to rebut the allegation.  Even to suggest that this is an unhealthy state of affairs raises the danger that the challenger is a fellow-traveller, and that not to condemn in exactly the same terms as the accusation raises doubt as to the integrity of the sceptical individual.

In the worldview of those who seek to polarise debate, there is no space to criticise the actions and behaviours of the Israeli government, both internationally and domestically, before falling into the trap of general anti-semitism.  Failing to differentiate between the vile misinterpretations of Livingstone, shared with sections of the neo-Nazi right, and people who challenge the right of a nation to operate beyond the constraints of international law is doing their cause no favours.  Closing down debate and assuming that any opinion expressed about current, past or future conduct are the actions of those who are neither prepared to provide robust evidence in rebuttal nor to accept that the realities of history and politics are not unambiguous.

The danger now is that the terms of discussion get closed down.  The actions of Livingston and Shah are irresponsible and wrong - but this cannot be used to silence the questioning as to the strategic and political imperatives that stand in the way of normalising international relationships, nor to further reduce free speech.  The disgusting behaviour of Boris Johnson over President Obama, and the subliminal anti-Muslim rhetoric being used by politicians fighting for election and the Brexit brain-dead, are not exactly equivalent, but they appear almost to have sanction, without the automatic chorus of disapproval.

Nobody is blameless, nobody is capable of encompassing the whole debate.  Instead, we get sub-standard tittle-tattle on party lines, and name-calling on behalf of establishment groups.  There is no evidence that this needs to increase paranoia or distrust, but if the idiocy and evil of individuals is to be used for mass manipulation then it is a tragedy and diminishes the Pharisitical judgement-pedlars despite their continuing efforts to claim the moral high ground.

Monday, 25 April 2016

BHS and the perverted face of capitalism

I am not a habitual shopper at British Home Stores.  Therefore, on the level of the self-styled venture capitalists who today put it into administration, it is my fault that the demise of another company is occurring.  Management failure and asset stripping have nothing to do with it - not in a new capitalist jungle where the only guaranteed winner is Teflon-coated and where the morals of a destruction of social fabric are warped beneath a perversion of language.

Markets shift and tastes change - and firms adapt or die.  Not a difficult concept to grasp.  And not a bad outcome if there is regeneration and new growth elsewhere.  So I cannot find it in my heart to regard BHS's potential demise as anything more than the actions of the market clearing out a retailer, like Woolworths, that has failed to evolve or provide a response to the challenge of the internet, specialists or discounters, that has provided it with brand identity or loyalty.  What makes me much more concerned is the ethical and strategic vacuum at the centre of contemporary financial and economic structures.

As an economist, I suspect my fellow pedlars of snake-oil deserve much more criticism than they get.   This is partly a function of Britons being scared of numbers (witness the Brexit cheerleaders' desperation to move away from quantifiable discussion) and also of microeconomists' reductionism in a risible attempt to scientific respectability.  Numbers are king, especially if you can manage to convince people that a third-rate algorithm cooked up in Excel holds the key to wealth and happiness.  Whether the perpetrators have any experience of the mutability of the world, or the thought patterns and values of other people remains to be proven.  Empirical evidence tends to suggest not.

Warping language into "wealth creators", "entrepreneurs" and other positive self-projection does not disguise the facts that most of the most disgusting perpetrators of this myth do this solely at the expense of others.  The myriad sales and chicanery around BHS's ownership since its acquisition by Arcadia and "Sir" Philip Green do not disguise the fact that most of the focus has been on "realising assets" - this seems to have resulted in large amounts of money disappearing from the BHS balance sheet and into places where they can't be used to compensate the 11,000 staff whose livelihoods are now at stake and whose pensions will have to be partially-compensated by the rest of the community.

While this all unravels, the "venture capitalists" will have ventured none of their own capital, or so little as to be easily replenishable.  Is it any wonder that there is little trust in business or institutions when this is the assumed modus operandi of modern capital?  An ethos that treats humans as overheads, expendable and collateral damage when the latest brainwave proves to have been a chimera undermines social cohesion.  The fig-leaf of "corporate social responsibility" while firms and bankers avoid tax and press for ever more favourable treatment at the expense of the wider community, and the blind acquiescence in this particular capitalist model by the new right are vile outliers and ultimately may prove self-defeating.

Inequality and greed are not necessarily long-term motivators for stability.  Greed is driven by asset bubbles and insecurity - and social control through indebtedness.  Students, householders and the vast majority of the population are kept in a state of tutelage while the gap widens - increasing aspiration and uncertainty.  What is disturbing is the extent to which this is seen to be a desirable and inevitable outcome - focusing on monetary compensation rather than social cohesion and the worth of the individual is a recipe for short-termism and moral blindness.

Whereas the operation of capitalism is a necessary, least-bad outcome compared to many of the alternatives on offer, the unfettering of social and legal control in the name of deregulation has become an evil.  Responsible citizens of all parties need to be alert to the possibility that further irresponsible pandering to the parasites will spark off extremism, and there could always be an ironic outcome that the current handwringing over Corbyn's alleged ultra-leftism might be seen as a nostalgic exercise.  Government and society operate by consent, and if you exclude, alienate and pauperise then the basis on which this can be sustained becomes less and less tenable.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Obama's challenge to Project Lie, Duck and Dive

In terms of revisionism, the cabal promoting leaving the European Union would leave the Kim dynasty in Pyongyang gasping for breath.  Leaving aside the racist and frankly despicable maunderings of the Bouffant Buffoon in the Australian-American puppeteer's organ, the arrival of the President of the United States has further undermined the arguments that the rightist proponents of Little Englander delusion have been peddling.  It has also been a bad week for the leftist fellow-travellers, with Farage demonstrating his true inner fascist by inviting Marine Le Pen to bolster the cause of European disunity.

To start with Obama, he articulated the stark realities that a relatively important but small country cannot expect to call the tune where the world is increasingly dominated by larger population units, both politically and economically.  For all the fuming and bluster, it is not an unreasonable next step to work out that improving links for the USA will be much more effective with the EU than with an introverted, fissile and decomposing United Kingdom.  The "special relationship" is not unconditional.  Reality and power relationships kick in, despite the delusions of the Brexit proponents that we are still living in the 1880s where the colonial urge and acknowledged superiority of the British Empire trumped reality.  A delusional reading of history leads to cretinism in the present.

There is a tinfoil hat mentality in the nut cages at the moment, as apparently Obama's speech was using British English terminology.  In the drowning cranium of a Brexiter, this clearly means that he was Sooty to Cameron's Harry Corbett - but at the same time he would have been damned if he'd used Americanisms as being patronised.  Such is the desperation of the drowning.

This morning, I enjoyed hearing Michael Howard's exit from the sarcophagus, lisping his way into the reactionary hinterland.  Apparently the USA has no grasp of federalism and therefore cannot understand the extent to which the admittedly-flawed European model is holding Britain back.  This would be news to anyone who has made even the most cursory study of the history of the United States and its constitutional arrangements, but never let the facts get in the way of a rant from a cornered rat.

What should be remarked upon is the extent to which the flimsy arguments of the Brexit brigade are being exploded.  The response is that of the frustrated toddler, probably suffering from poor socialisation and a lack of potty training.  Their risible response whenever something comes along that they disagree with is to retreat to a mantra of "Project Fear".  This is a meaningless trope that is becoming boring in its constant repetition - the challenge to provide evidence or even a convincing alternative hypothesis is beyond the capabilities of those for whom photosynthesis would be a very large intellectual advance.

There are a number of delicious ironies emerging, not least the demonising of Obama, who as an ally and the lodestar of the neoliberal promised land, even with slightly dangerous collectivist leanings, should have come along and advised the UK to pull out rather than play a role commensurate with its power.  As a head of state, his views are at least relevant.  However, sharing a platform with the vile harridan of the Front National is acceptable.  This causes the leftist Brexiters to choke on their own cant.

No compelling argument in favour of Brexit has yet been put forward, nor one that cannot be destroyed with around two sentences' worth of inductive reasoning and the capability to assess probabilities.  As a sceptic, I would rather remain in the hands of an institution where there is at least the potential for further democracy and accountability, rather than, as the rightists calculate, moving into a world of impotence in the face of globalisation and unfettered capital.  Obama is right, strategically, and the hysteria around his intervention may well demonstrate that the argument is shifting, despite the best efforts of the liars, charlatans and fantasists.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Michael Gove and spoilt brat syndrome

Better to be treated as children than to behave like them.  The motley collection of individuals who are peddling the Brexit line descend further into the latter camp on a daily basis.  Michael Gove's surreal outbursts around the advantages of the UK turning into Albania pale into insignificance in the context of his other incoherent rant that the government and other bodies are treating the electorate like children.

The chasm at the centre of the Brexit argument is turning into a black hole.  Whatever the merits and demerits of the government's arguments for remaining in the EU, the lunatic fringe can hardly argue that distributing leaflets that put forward the case that the Tories have actually delivered their election manifesto is illegitimate, nor that it is infantilising to put forward evidence that sets out the economic and social risks of taking a step that may not be in the interests of the vast majority.  It was ever thus.

Treating the electorate with respect does not mean pandering to the racist, the insane or the just plain hypocritical stance that has so far characterised much of the official Brexit campaign.  As a bunch of nutcases and has-beens this is undoubtedly one of the most impressive menageries ever assembled, as reminders of such relics of political success as Milords Lawson and Lamont, let alone John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith, should send shivers down the spine of anyone who expects the debate to be carried out in the context of trying to inform those making the choice.

The rank hypocrisy of accusing the remain campaign of infantilising the electorate is on a par with the playground "Project Fear" trope.  It is the reaction of a group of people who are aware that their arguments are wafer-thin and being exposed, alongside their problem in mobilising support from those for whom dyspepsia is a curse rather than a lifestyle choice.  The risks to the UK are not just economic but also political, as evidenced by the views of the USA, for whom the allegedly special relationship will be torn up if the UK does not remain in the European project.

That these are risks should be acknowledged, and the consequences of leaving the EU will be unpredictable is the rational response of an adult.  At least the odious Arron Banks, who bankrolls the Kippers from offshore, is sufficiently honest to admit that financial crippling of the average household is a price worth paying for his nationalistic fantasies, which he indulges in while not having to suffer the consequences - a worthy companion for Nigel Lawson who is exhorting us to disconnect from the land from where he provides his pre-senile dribbling to a media struggling to find balance in the face of the lunatic fringe.

Perhaps we live in times of desperation for the Brexit campaign, despite the fanatical cheer-leading of those who see the chance of further neoliberal insanity and those who use fear of the other as a political lodestar.  They are the real infantilisers, playground bullies who don't like being called to account, and a group whose unappealing fanaticism undermines the prospect of a return to intelligent discourse when the whole unnecessary charade has been put to bed.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Missing the point of austerity

One of the reasons for not slumping into apathetic, knee-jerk leftism is the sheer laziness and associated smugness around the protestations of correctness.  Akin to the opposing schematic where it is considered an act of base class treachery to be anything other than a full-blooded neoliberal contempt for the notion of society, it diminishes the level of discourse and creates a very large hole in the debate about both the rights of the citizen and the role of government.

There was a large-scale "anti-austerity" demonstration in London yesterday, which appeared to be uniting a diverse range of those with a grievance against the current government and the structures of the world.  It coincided with a thoughtful piece by George Monbiot in the Guardian that analysed the extent to which the neoliberal, economic reductionist language of the Thatcherite/Reagan right has paralysed efforts to broaden debate from purely monetary frameworks into a much wider engagement on the future direction of society in an unstable, environmentally-unravelling world.

Demonstrating against the government may provide a degree of self-satisfaction, but the cause itself should be examined before engagement commences.  Many of this administration's policies are at best misguided and at worth downright idiotic, and should be protesters about with vigour.  However, "austerity" is a misplaced dog-whistle, as it in itself does not represent more than a fig-leaf to cover the poor intellectual endowments of knee-jerk oppositionism.

Austerity in itself is not a bad thing.  If it means that public resources are properly and efficiently managed in the pursuit of improving the lot of the citizen, then this should be cheered on.  It does not imply that cutting services and slashing the role of the state is of itself a good thing, but it does work towards the presumption that government involvement should be as lean and effective as possible.  Attacking the current consensus on these grounds provides much more potential.

The revelations of the ease of tax avoidance, and the recent exposure of the chicanery and opacity surrounding Tony Blair's post-governmental financial affairs, should act as a galvanising moment.  Impressions of declining quality of public services and the public realm may be subjective but they are unlikely to be wrong.  Taken alongside increasing costs and the complexity of much government engagement there is the basis for a much more pro-austerity narrative, but going after the parasites who keep their snouts in the trough while protecting their own interests is a true pursuit of austerity - which might even appeal to those Tories who are vaguely uneasy about the direction of the country.

The privatisation, outsourcing and contractualising of public service delivery has proceeded apace in the last forty years, at the same time as a deluded belief in the power of microeconomic regulation as a proxy for either the market (if you're at the extreme neoliberal end of the spectrum) or the public interest (if you retain the capacity for rational thought).  This has created a hidden state, and the bullying power of the outsourcers means that government, at all levels, is near-powerless to exercise the correct control that would benefit the wider community.

If you look at health, or education, or indeed any public service, there are a plethora of indicators and targets - which are used not to illuminate but to obfuscate, fudge and shift blame around.  Complexity is the enemy of accountability - a lesson that has been ignored since the financial crash - and there needs to be a manageability test rather than a pure financial assessment of the best way to deliver services.  Just because something keeps lawyers, accountants and economic regulators in business does not make it a desirable state of affairs.

There is an asymmetry of capability between the state, on behalf of the citizen, and the behemoths and profiteers that stalk the land  It's down to money and resources - the latter have much more to hand than the former, and then charge the former for the privilege of being outwitted.  If you place complex contracts in the hands of local councillors, officials or even national civil servants, it is hardly surprising that they are usually fouled up, and difficult to unravel.  You read about the way in which contract variations are a one-way bet for the outsourcing organisation, which does not provide them with an incentive to get it right first time - yet billions of public money are spent out each year without proper control.

Austerity should be around ensuring that the taxpayer and the citizen get good value for their money.  Taking the battle to those who are profiting while individuals and services suffer is a much better, but more time-consuming reaction than a pat on the back amongst like-minded folks.  Identifying the Tories as the enemy is easy but wrong - it's the technocrats, the parasites whose conduct is on the margins of amorality and criminality and their apologists who are the real foes and who should be the first to feel the discipline of austerity and fiscal duty.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The deluded folly of leftist Brexiters

In the surreal world of the European referendum campaign, there are a number of sub-plots to the battle for the Tory succession.  Perhaps the most surprising group are those on the self-proclaimed radical left whose belief set is that the European Union is a front organisation for the worst excesses of every form of global capitalist ill, and that in some way a diminished England would be able to shake off its confines.

An alternative articulation of this particular delusion is that the European Union is unreformable, and that the utopian goal is best achieved by collapsing the existing structures in the hope that something new and better will emerge.

The distortion of the terms of debate in the UK over its future and its role has been exacerbated by the globalisation of wealth and the further diminution of democratic accountability.  Recent events have done nothing to reinforce any conviction that politicians and bureaucrats operate in the public interest.  The paradox of the remain argument is that the risks and dangers of the exit option far outweigh the failings and urgent reform required in the EU.

Where the EU scores is not so much at the economic but at the social level.  The limited rights of workers and the obligations placed on employers and governments may not satisfy the most vehement radicals, but they are a starting point for protection and regulation that goes some way to rebalancing away from the exploitative economic conditions that have been the focus of socialist ire for the best part of two centuries.  

Europe has also been instrumental in environmental protection, which given the current direction of travel is another benefit that needs to be protected.  The social and cultural hinterland of European engagement is a tangible benefit that the EU has supported and promoted, and the presumption of the rights of the citizen is distinctly un-patrician and precious in the context of a world where there is pressure to reduce every interaction to a monetised transaction.

On the larger-scale, as opposed to the individual rights secured, the EU has a better record of intervening in the interests of the wider community.  It is typical that part of the exposure of British duplicity has been the revelation that the UK government has been undermining efforts to investigate, regulate and close down tax avoidance in offshore schemes, which the majority of EU members have been pressing for.

Nobody who supports the EU would argue that its development has been smooth, optimal or that its current political and institutional structures are right.  The headlong rush to expand into the emerging eastern democracies might have been handled better - and the approach of ultra-orthodox adopted by the northern states during the 21st century depression had vile and unintended consequences.  There is a democratic and engagement deficit.  Yet this is not enough to argue against the European ideal nor efforts to achieve there.

Cornyn's belated endorsement of the remain campaign is welcome, as it demonstrates both realism and the calculation that there is a majority of mainstream opinion in favour of continued membership. Changing the EU is best done from within, and with enthusiastic support for the wider ideal.  Even Cameron has edged towards this position.

The left-wing Europhobes are sincere and well-intentioned, which is probably more than can be said for many of the motley crew of has-beens and xenophobes leading the right's charge.  Yet they resemble the Trotskyites of the 1980s, preferring to spar around purity and factionalism rather than turning the fire on the enemy, who are the unfettered neoconservatives whose objective is not merely to leave but to dismantle the rights and benefits that are guaranteed through the commitments required even under the current flawed Union.

EU membership is, in the scheme of things, central to citizens' interests, but peripheral to the debate as to what sort of society we are looking for.  The delusion that leaving will make achieving the latter is a gift to opponents not just of Europe but of a better society.  Time to reflect, and ensure that the  minor divisions on the centre and left are not exploited by the right in its Machiavellian strategy to deny the damage and lunacy of much of its anti-European campaign.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Cameron's teflon failure: hypocrisy and diversionary tactics

The Panama Papers are much more interesting than the presentation by the majority of British media outlets suggest.  In focusing on the ethical and moral failures of the Prime Minister, interesting and important though they might be, the challenge to the accepted political and economic framework is being carefully ignored.  There are vested interests at play that fundamentally undermine confidence in the ability or desire of government to control those who can buy their way out of their obligations to the communities that sustain their wealth and cupidity, and it is unlikely that there is only one channel into this financial morass open to the rich and kleptocratic.

Cameron's idiocy has been not to admit up-front that his family wealth operated at the point where tax planning, avoidance and potential evasion become semantic definitions.  To get useful idiots (or calculating back-stabbers) such as Nick Boles and Chris Grayling to dribble platitudes around honouring his father's memory was crass in the extreme - most mere mortals being crawled over for tax or benefit misdoings would not expect this level of grace to be extended.  It is interesting to note that in publishing his personal tax affairs there is no real clarity as to what arrangements are in place for family wealth beyond those which are already known about, and which therefore a damage-limitation exercise would require disclosure.

The grudging, farcical incremental disclosures over the course of a week damage Cameron much more than the detail of his family fiscal freeloading.  Blair's legatee is now truly defined by the same kind of snivelling hypocrisy and cant, even to the apologetics doled out to Tory activists at their recent spring gathering - doubtless patrolled by peacekeepers, qualified first-aiders and ghouls anticipating score-settling in three months' time.  The collapse of trust in politicians can only be accelerated if no alternative is offered.

Given that this international disclosure only affected one law firm and financial service in Panama, the operation of free-market economics suggests that there is a reasonable probability that this is not the only source of murkiness upon which lights can be shone.  Again, using inductive reasoning and probabilities the possibility that other senior politicians and the wealthy may be less than spotless is a plausible explanation as to why the flak has been concentrated on a wounded, unwanted Prime Minister who has displeased many of his media clients by securing his manifesto commitment around the European Union and admitting it.

The sceptical may wonder why those paragons of national interest, Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, have been relatively happy to assail Cameron.  The fear of scrutiny of the personal and corporate affairs of the wealthy is endemic, encouraged by the Thatcher-Blair-Cameron continuum of sucking up to the rich while at the same time pleading poverty and austerity as excuses for the failure of public policy to promote the interest of the majority of citizens.  Going forward, any time that Osborne parrots the collective mantra: we're all in this together, anyone with brain-stem activity and intellectual function greater than an amnesiac amoeba will mentally substitute the second person for the first person pronoun.

Of all the cargo cults on offer, there is the acceptance that the rich are immune from both obligation and the impact of their decisions, and that this is some form of promotion of dynamic economics whereby trickledown will magically improve the lot of all citizens.  This is hubris and humbug justified by a perversion of economics and a morality that bears no relationship to the self-proclaimed Christianity that is used to provide casuistic justification for post-colonial adventurism, or any of the other major religions.  Disclosure of the extent and depth of this penetration of perverted ethics into the mainstream is the long-term reality of the publication of information around tax and financial affairs of those seeking to avoid scrutiny or challenge in the pursuit of not paying their dues for the individuals, communities and social structures that have generated their wealth in the past and which sustain their security going forward.

The irony is that the security of the extremely-wealthy has become the end of politics, not the happiness and prosperity of the citizenry in general.  Students of language will note that "social security", with its collectivist undertone and notion that the citizen has basic rights, expectations and obligations, has been replaced by "welfare" - a grudging and loaded term that implies neither rights, not humanity, but a burden-driven requirement to provide just enough to stop the underclass from a visceral rejection of the property and power relationships that are promoting increased inequality and which are likely to alienate increasing sections of the middle classes who have previously been co-opted into the new right consensus.

Cameron's failure to arrest the notion that the only deserving group are his cronies in the wealth-based establishment mirrors the causes of the rise of the mavericks.  The prospect of Donald Trump becoming the Republican candidate for US President is frightening, but reflects, much as the temporary elevation of Farage did, a final twitching of the idea that incoherent rightist ramblings provide a narrative for the frighted.  What is more interesting is that there are challenges from the non-traditional left - in Europe and the USA - which destroy the fixed assumption that there is an inevitable move towards far-right authoritarianism.  Even Corbyn will benefit from this, despite the best efforts of his opponents within his own party, let alone the wider media.

The distrust of politicians that the revelations reinforce is as deep-seated as it is reasonable.  When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the most effective governments realised that there was a need to provide stability - Brown and Darling nationalising zombie banks will probably be seen to have been the least-bad option.  Compare and contrast to the destruction of the UK steel industry, and what appears to be ineffective hand-wringing by government.  A European industrial strategy takes strategic interests into account.  At the same time it is proposed to spend billions on Trident replacement, which has very limited strategic or economic value, as its deployment would demonstrate the final collapse of civilisation and its societal relationships, and its maintenance is a matter of phallic drive in a world where traditional power relationships and enemies are over-shadowed by terror and incoherent foreign policies.

Hence why a sceptic regards the stupidity of Cameron as being a side-show.  It is, however, instructive to compare the sanctification of Cameron's deceased father with the treatment doled out by the Daily Mail (Hurrah For The Blackshirts!) to Ralph Miliband - whose reputation and behaviours were traduced in the name of politics.  Ian Cameron may have been a grasping, tax-avoiding upper-class Tory, but it does not necessarily pass down through the generations.  Dribbling rightists should take care not to be exposed in glass houses - a warning and portent for the future.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Eva Greenspan: a cautionary tale of local government

It is unusual to give prominence to a disgraced, convicted violent criminal, but the new Chairman (sic) of the London Borough of Barnet's Planning Committee was summed up by the odious Brian Coleman thus:

Councillor Mrs Eva Greenspan (Church End Ward ) Long serving (1990) former Mayor , hugely popular in the Jewish Community and loves her Planning on which she works hard  . Has failed to convince various Conservative Leaders over the years to make her Chairman of the Planning Committee . Was a very generous Mayor but her farewell speech when she described herself as "the Peoples Mayors" did raise a few Conservative eye brows. Has a low boredom threshold and can rarely sit still during a Council meeting . Must have the highest mobile phone bill of anyone on the Council . Known for her elegance and exquisit dress sense . Forms part of the "Orthodox block vote" in the Conservative Group which Leaders upset at their peril . 

Ms Greenspan has, as of 31st March 2016, achieved the one missing achievement that Brian suggested was missing from her portfolio of bountiful and disinterested public service.  Being elected as Chairman of the Planning Committee, apart from attracting an additional allowance of over £15,000 from the backbench minions, demonstrates that the processes of local government are entirely in keeping with the kind of one-party state that has existed under Labour, Tories and in the relatively open and transparent regime in North Korea.

Quite apart from noting that the impact of inflation on the current value of thirty pieces of silver, it would be instructive to consider what Ms Greenspan's background is.  I am indebted to the website of the law firm for which she is a "partner" for the following information around this paragon of virtue:


Eva Greenspan

Partner
Eva Greenspan is an experienced and well known real estate lawyer advising on commercial and substantial residential transactions for individuals and corporate investors and developers.
Eva has a considerable following of European and overseas clients as well as UK companies who rely on her for expertise in planning matters and advice on their funding requirements. She also acts for a number of banks and funds.
Eva is the former Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet (2006/2007) and remains today the Chairman of the Planning and Environment Committee of the London Borough of Barnet and a member of a number of other Council committees.
Eva is on the advisory board of a number of operational businesses and companies and is active on a number of charitable and non-charitable committees and is a Governor of Henrietta Barnet Grammar School.
Eva studied Architecture in Switzerland and has a BA in Psychology from the Open University and qualified as a solicitor in 1997. She is a Freeman of the City of London and a Member of the Variety Club of Great Britain.
Eva speaks several languages and is fluent in German, Swiss German and Polish and plays the piano, having studied at the Frankfurt Konservatorium.
To the best of my knowledge this has been on Quastel Midgen LLP's website unamended for the last 18 months.  Since she has only been elevated from presiding over a sub-committee (merely responsible for Finchley and Golders Green) this shows prescience and foresight only marred by the fact that her recent elevation has only been to the Chairmanship of the Planning Committee not to a defunct Planning and Environment Committee.

For those unaware of the background to Barnet Council's intriguing moral experiment, it may be worth drawing attention to the recent tales of woe on planning reported by one of the local newspapers.  


There are a number of particularly intriguing points in this article particularly around the potential for conflicts of interests within "Re" (a joint venture between Barnet Council and Capita) - which are not exactly unassuaged by the elevation of Ms Greenspan to the Chairpersonship of the Planning Committee.  

The Director of Planning at the Council is a Mr Joe Henry (or at least he claims to be the Service Director of Development Management and Building Control), but he actually works for Regional Enterprise (Re) which has the following nauseating piece of corporate puffery on the Barnet council website:https://barnet.gov.uk/citizen-home/council-and-democracy/re-regional-enterprise-limited.html

As identified above, Re also offers services to those seeking to develop, including the noble and upstanding Borough itself which is seeking to flog off its HQ building and provide more opportunities for expatriate buy-to-let landlords with minimal flats and good networks amongst the development community.

This is clearly an issue that requires careful handling, so it is deeply reassuring that the Barnet Conservatives (who hold a majority of one over other parties, assuming that a forthcoming by-election does not result in a swing to them) have elected a Chair of Planning who is prepared, professionally, to specialise in real estate and to signal to potential clients where her knowledge has been acquired.  Providing this degree of scrutiny over an outsourced contract where the boundaries are opaque and where even discovering the accountability lines requires forensic examination of the Capita-run Council website is clearly reassuring.

Local government often gets a bad press.  It is undoubtedly the case that there are people for whom public service and doing their best by the community is the prime motivation - however, unless anyone can demonstrate any argument to the contrary, the balance of probabilities set out above does not promote any confidence that standards in public life are necessarily the prime motivation.  I am sure that Ms Greenspan will discharge her duties and responsibilities consistently and in line with previous experience, and am very glad that I don't live in a borough where experiments in organisation combine with what might be seen as an alternative moral universe.