...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 3559: Defence Foxed


It's the BIG story of the day and it could well end in the end of a career in frontline politics… so obviously the meeja have completely ignored the highly damaging leak of a confidential letter from the Defence Secretary to the Prime Monster in favour of camping about outside Dead Millipede's Caravan of Sulk™.

(Seriously, if he WANTED to go quietly could he not have just said so rather than drawing all the attention by refusing to make a statement until after the moment when it was OBVIOUS what he'd done? No, no, no, now I'M doing it!)

A couple of weekends back, Radio Four's Saturday morning-when-Parliament-is-on-holiday slot Beyond Belief Westminster ran a very special episode (no, not like THAT) about the STAR CHAMBER, with Mr Andrew Rawnsley actually explaining REAL STUFF rather than the usual overheated opinion from hacks of any flavour except Liberal.

The Star Chamber, in case you don't know, is where the spending ministers go to justify their budgets or, at the moment, prove their cuts are good enough. It involves standing up in front of a panel of judges and doing you piece and getting ejected if you fail… yes, exactly like X-Factor.

It takes its name from the court of Privy Councillors that used to be convened in the Palace of Westminster to try prisoners of the highest rank.

We haven't actually HAD a Star Chamber for the last thirteen years, because Mr Frown preferred to execute people in person. Er.

Mr Rawnsley therefore had to interview a number of former senior Conservatories – but in spite of that it was pretty interesting (probably 'cos they were all so past it they had no interest in not telling it like it really is) – about some of the PITFALLS of going through the Star Chamber process.

You can, for example, try getting your cuts in FIRST. The rewards for this are MANIFEST as discovered by Mr Eric "In A" Pickles and Ms Caroline "Magic" Spellman who have been rewards with seat on the judging panel for being good little boys and girls.

But this can be high risk, too, as a too enthusiastic approach to cutting your own department is likely to leave you without visible means of support – something called "doing a John Moore" in Whitehall circles, after the former darling of Queen Maggie who went out on a limb for her, and then sawed it off after himself.

If you find things getting too TIGHT, of course, you have the option of appealing to the Cabinet. The problem there is that you are basically asking your RIVALS to give up their own cash for you. Which can end up making it even trickier for you unless you have a cast-iron case or a copper-bottomed manifesto pledge (or possibly a silver tongue) in your portfolio.

One approach is to offer bigger savings LATER in return for a little investment NOW. This is clearly what Mr Iain Drunken Swerve is up to, offering to show huge benefits from reforming, er, benefits if he can just have a little start up cash. The problem here is that the Treasury is likely to say that they like the big savings later, but they would like some saving now AS WELL. This, of course, is one of the reasons why the 'Eighties were so GHASTLY, so we have to hope Mr Drunken Swerve does a better job than his predecessors.

Another way is to bring PUBLIC PRESSURE to bear by the strategic use of the LEAK. This too has its disadvantages. It's usually pretty obvious who is leaking. The Cabinet are NOT stupid, and remember THEY are the ones judging your case. So, good people to irritate. Also, the Treasury does not like to be pushed about – in fact, Mr Nigel "Blip" Lawson said that he used to make a point of NEVER giving in to the demands of leakers. As he saw it, they punished themselves: if they hadn't leaked they stood a chance of PRIVATE humiliation; given that they had leaked, they make PUBLIC HUMILIATION inevitable.

This, of course, was the strategy so inexpertly adopted by the current-but-probably-not-for-long Minister for Explosions, swivel-eyed Euro nut, "Fantastic" Dr Fox, leaking the "suggestion" that the Trident atomic weapon system was supposed to be funded "by the Treasury" rather than from the defence budget.

This, incidentally, was one of the most AMUSING moments of the programme as they went over to a Whitehall Mandarin for a response. It was all he could do not to laugh like a HYENA at this idea, suggesting that perhaps the Defence Secretary could pay for our Nuclear Defence but the Treasury would take over the air-force instead, or maybe the Health Department would like to exclude AMBULANCES from the Health Budget on the same basis.

It was the general consensus of the talking heads that the Fox had shot himself.

Of course the MOST risky strategy of all was to go over the heads of the Cabinet direct to the Prime Monster. Most risky because if the PM intervenes on your behalf EVERYONE is going to know it pretty darn quick, and you will definitely use up all your goody-points with Number Ten, so it had better be worth it.

Of course the WORST thing that can happen is if you are FOUND OUT running to daddy in Downing Street behind everyone else's back.

Oh very fluffy dear.

Basically, you've nailed your Ed Balls to the mast of saying no more cuts just at the point where you've also put the Prime Monster in a position where he cannot be seen to act in your favour (because he'd have to publicly overrule the Chancellor). One of you is going to have to GO, and let's face it it's NOT going to be him.

Look, defence spending is budgeted last year, this year and next year, at 3% of GDP (about forty billion pounds). That doesn't sound like much, but it IS up from the roughly 2.6% of GDP where it sat for most of the last decade (having come crashing down from an enormous 5% of GDP during the Cold War 'Eighties and 4% during the Milder War 'Nineties). What that means is that a 12% cut would only take the Defence budget BACK to where it was for most of the Hard Labour era. (Although yes, the Treasury WAS giving out extra handouts for, you know, fighting TWO WARS, but there's an easy saving there of, perhaps, NOT fighting any wars, maybe?)

Playing the "it will undermine morale" card is the worst kind of moral blackmail, and frankly stupid. We should be devoting our primary resources to supplying the army in the field… at least up to the point where we can pull it OUT of the field… and THEN worrying about what else we can afford by way of aircraft carriers and aircraft to park on top of them and so on.

The REAL question, though – the one the Strategic Defence Review OUGHT to be answering, but I bet it doesn't – is do we really WANT or NEED an army that can "project British military might anywhere in the world" or would we perhaps be better off with one that can defend Britain without PIS-BAD WORDING off people on the other side of the Earth?

So anyway BAD NEWS for swivel-eyed Dr Fox; GOOD NEWS for, probably, Mr Davis David who is the obvious choice to replace La Foxy as right-wing eminence gris in residence. And PROBABLY OKAY NEWS for the rest of us (except Mr Balloon who hates him) as Mr David is about sixty percent less swivel-eyed than Dr Fox.

Day 3558: Mr Potato Ed

Tuesday (again):

And so the party assembly has anointed the younger son of the aging communist to be the next leader. But enough about the Labour Party, let's talk North Korea

No, no, no, let's talk about Mr Ed Millipede, the Ed Boy, the Big Ed, Ed and Shoulders, Ed's you Lose Tails we Win [that's enough "Ed's", er, Ed]

He says he wants a NEW politics, a GROWN-UP politics, and he doesn't like being called names [oops!].

Well here's your FIRST challenge, Mr Ed. If you don't like name-calling, then tell your chums to stop with the "Con-Dem-Nation", okay?

All summer, your Party has been hooting like a chorus of gibbons in full cry with "Traitor" and "Gerrymander" the FIRST resort in any argument. You NEED to tell them to stop. You need to tell them to GROW UP. And you need to do it SOON if anyone is going to believe you have authority over your rabble.

Grown up politics ISN'T saying "don't call me names; you smell!" It's putting your own childishness aside FIRST, and asking others to join you.

Look, the Coalition are DOING the new politics.

So either you get on board, or you stay in your playground with your "I've got my own new politics too, so nerr".

Because, believe it or not, it WOULD BE terrific to welcome you on board. If you're willing to contribute IDEAS rather than JEERS then there is a place for you at the table.

You say, for example, on the economy that the plan of outgoing shadow chancellor Mr Alistair Dalek is a place to start; you say that you won't oppose ALL the Coalition cuts. Okay. So lay out the things that you think SHOULD be cut. HELP the Coalition to form a plan that is FAIR.

You say, for example, that our politics is broken and that you will vote yes to AV; well, hello, but Captain Clegg's been saying that ALL YEAR – would one little "I agree with Nick" hurt that much? You should be getting your Party to campaign as a whole for reform, and you should stop with the opposition for opposition's sake about the size and number of seats. Everyone knows that the system is biased in your favour, and you just look selfish and partisan when you whinge about your advantage being cut. Drop it, and you'll look more mature and statesperson-like overnight.

And you say that some of the political figures from history whom you admire most are Keynes, Lloyd George, Beveridge; you should probably be straight with people and use the "L" word.

Lesbian, lesbian, lesbian.

Er, no, you should use "Liberals".

During your leadership election campaign you spoke of "exterminating the Liberal Democrats"; and how VERY not in keeping with your heart-warming story of your parents flight from the Nazis, I am sadly forced to add. You've really got to get over that.

And then you say:
"I won't let the Tories or the Liberals take ownership of the British tradition of liberty"
Well, begging your pardon Mr Millipede, but if you think you can "take ownership" of Liberty (like you used to think you would "take ownership of the means of production" before you jettisoned those principles) then you're DEAD WRONG.

Liberty isn't yours to take. It belongs to ALL of us, and the Liberal Democrats exist to protect it, not possess it.

You say that too often your Party seemed too casual about Civil Liberties.

You're DEAD WRONG about that too.

You weren't CASUAL; you set about DELIBERATELY to DESTROY some of our ancient liberties and protections.

  • Freedom from being locked up without trial;
  • freedom to go about our business without intrusion by the state – whether it's being watched by CCTV wherever we go, or retaining our DNA even if we're innocent, or fingerprinting and database-ing our kids;
  • freedom to just LIVE without having to prove our identity to the state.

And you PERSONALLY voted very strongly for introducing I.D.iot cards, very strongly for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests, and very strongly for Hard Labour's anti-terrorism laws.

And you PERSONALLY voted very strongly for a stricter asylum system; how VERY not in keeping with your heart-warming story of your parents' flight from the Nazis, I am sadly forced to add. AGAIN.

I will say I am GLAD to hear what you had to say about IRAQ (even if your brother wasn't).

I've heard members of your party saying they're glad to admit it was a "mistake". Iraq was NOT a mistake. Letting the gap between rich and poor get larger was a mistake (in the sense it was not the INTENTION of your policies it just happened in spite of them); arguably allowing the banking bubble to blow the economy to pieces was a mistake (you certainly didn't MEAN for it to happen, though it was highly negligent to carry on wishing that that boom would never end with not plan B in case it did); but Iraq was not a mistake. It was quite deliberate and it cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

I've heard your deputy, Harriet the Harminator, saying the Iraq War was wrong merely because there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction found. That is NOT good enough. Let us be quite clear: the ONLY justification in international law for war is an attack or imminent threat of an attack. "Intention to attack" was the Monkey-in-Chief's PRETEXT for the war (and a PRETTY THIN pretext it is too, basically: "well he MIGHT attack us one day"). The presence of WMD's would have been NECESSARY but not SUFFICIENT evidence that Mr Saddam meant to attack us.

So I am GLAD that you went much further than that, that you said the War was WRONG (not a "mistake") and that you laid out (some) reasons why it was wrong, even if your reasons don't go as far as mine.

And I think we can give you the benefit of the doubt on the "I was against the War but just didn't tell anybody". It's a stupid line, but we appreciate the need for a new leader to save face here. After all, we allow Mr Balloon a similar measure of benefit of the doubt.

I'm afraid I'm much LESS glad to hear your not-so-very-coded language on IMMIGRATION.

You say:
"All of us heard it on the doorsteps about immigration. Like the man I met in my constituency…"
Just activate your Mr Balloon Quote-o-matic, why don't you.

"I don't believe either that we can turn back the clock on free movement of labour in Europe. But we should never have pretended it would not have consequences. Consequences we should have dealt with."
How VERY not in keeping with your heart-warming story of your parents' flight from the Nazis, I am sadly forced to add. YET AGAIN.

You're in DESPERATE DANGER of turning the clock back. Do the lessons of the Labour Losership campaign mean nothing to you? Did Diane Abbot die in vain?

It's NOT about immigration, it's about JOBS, it's about HOUSING, it's about SERVICES. You NEED to keep the focus there and not slip into SCAPE-GOATING and the proto-xenophobia that follows.

Let's not get carried away and pretend that it was a GOOD speech. It was all a bit:
"Friends, Romans, Dinosaurs, lend me your ears; I come not to bury New Labour nor to praise it, but to do BOTH"
A ritual denunciation of the ancien régime while praising the Party for all their achievements in government. Praise for the Party for their victories in the election against Lord Cashcroft against the British Nasty Party, and then a sharp reminder of how BADLY they did in the election. A slap for the Left-wing Unions to prove to the Right-wing Press whose whipping boy you are. Er, aren't. (The battle is a BIT lost before you start if they can force you to denounce the unions who elected you inside of three days from your election.) You've clearly learned from Hard Labour's summer that the way for you to do best is to be as nebulous as possible so people can read any protest they like into your vacuousness. Your delivery was dreadful but you did the necessary.

I'm afraid I can't bring myself to TRUST you at your word. You've reneged on too many policies, adopted too many all-things-to-all-people positions, and you're frankly just too SYNTEHTIC.

So, I'm going to call you "Mr Potato Ed" because just as Mr Balloon looks like an empty plastic bladder with a smile drawn on it, so Mr Potato Ed could be a lumpy vegetable with a random collection of replaceable plastic expressions pinned to the outside. Don't like the Iraq War hat and I.D.iot card spectacles? Never mind, just swap them for a Civil Liberties bow tie and some sticky-out mea-culpa ears. Don't like that Hard Labour snarl? Not to worry, we'll replace it with some kissy-up-to-the-Liberals lips. And so on.

But it would be WRONG to judge you on just one speech. We will judge you by your ACTIONS, starting with who you pick for what job in your Shadow Cabinet, particular who gets to be Shadow Chancellor.

Best of luck.


Beware the redundant rhetorical flourish.
"And there was one more lesson that I learnt."
Sadly it clearly wasn't ARITHMETIC because
"We do not have to accept the world as we find it. And we have a responsibility to leave our world a better place and never walk by on the other side of injustice."
That's TWO more lessons, Eddy. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 3558: Role of President to be Renamed Miss-Chief aka Rigg the Election


You've still got a few hours left to nominate candidates for Party President, and I'd like you to consider making sure Auntie Jennie Rigg gets up to the starting line.

It ought to be very difficult to choose between any of the THREE brilliant candidates standing for the post of Party President following the surprise announcement that Baroness Ros will not be seeking a second term.

It OUGHT to be, and yet it's actually really easy to place my "one", "two" and "three", with the very important caveat that even my "three" is a sign of very high endorsement.

(For reference, Mr Ed Millipede should come in somewhere in the five to six billion range on this scale. Possibly even lower if humanity should encounter any space aliens!)

Auntie Jennie is a personal friend of my Daddies, and we have sponsored her diary on one or two occasions.

She is, as she herself says, a one-lady diversity campaign: in a world where the meeja are only interested in jumping on ANY sign of people doing THE RUDE at all, she should make more than a few heads turn. Or indeed spin right round and explode!

Daddy Alex often says (when he thinks I can't hear him) that the Liberal Democrats should have the slogan:

"The Party that thinks RUDE is OKAY"

And Auntie Jennie is a walking, sparkling, purple-haired neon sign that reads exactly that!

She ISN'T going to stick to the Party line, and certainly not the COALITION line, but she WILL stick it to anyone who tries to force ignorance, poverty or conformity on anyone else!

Auntie Jennie defies all expectations (and most descriptions!): she's a single mother with lots of co-daddies, who supports herself; she's a barmaid with a degree in law; she's a blogger and podcaster and can make metal detectors go PING just by looking at them funny.

An Auntie Jennie Presidency would be a free-wheeling anarchic cavalcade of whimsy. Can't you just picture her reprogramming the Dimblebots on Questionable Time or Any Questionables, and just imagine her checking Paxo's gusset anxiety on The Newsnight Show. The VERY LEAST that you can say about her is that she adds to the GAIETY of the nation, but she's so much MORE than that.

What Auntie Jennie's candidacy does is to make the MPs/former-MPs HAVE to pay attention to the REAL grass roots of the Party and be aware that they have things to say and they are NOT going to shut the BADWORD up!

But the REAL reason we are backing Auntie Jennie for President is because the Liberal Democrats are a Party where ANYONE can do ANYTHING, just so long as you are willing to just go out and DO IT.

As a fluffy toy who regularly gets to interview very senior people I have to tell you this: the SECRET of getting access to the top people is to ASK the top people, and because they are LIBERAL DEMOCRATS, and because they believe in people power and open government and you know, actually just TALKING to people, then they very often say YES.

You don't need to be BIG or CLEVER; you don't need to be MAINSTREAM or ESTABLISHMENT; you don't need to CONFORM. What you do need is passion in your blood, and democracy in your soul, and Liberalism to your fingertips, and Auntie Jennie has all of those in spades.

Day 3547: Is that REALLY Machiavelli on the Wall? Millennium Elephant meets the Deputy Prime Minister

Friday (again)

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The first thing you see on entering Captain Clegg's Cabinet Office is a picture on the far wall of one of those ascetic thin-looking medieval chaps and you think… isn't that Machiavelli?

Well, no, the FIRST thing you see is, of course, the ebullient form of Captain Clegg himself, bouncing around, welcoming you in, looking rather trim as though RUNNING the COUNTRY thoroughly agrees with him.

Well, no, the REALLY FIRST thing*, before you even GET to his office, you have to go through some of those glass TUBES off the "Grid" from my SECOND-favourite SPY series, Pooks (aka MI:5 for the Americalandians). And, given that Pooks is some of the most silliest fiction ever, it's moderately ALARMING that it turns out to be real!

(*…I'll come in again)

I'd show you, but they wouldn't let us take photos. They wouldn't EVEN let us take a photo of the "Security Alert Status" brass plaque on the wall (currently set to "highlights" – i.e. above "combover", but bellow "mullet").

Anyway, once we all got in, and after they'd carried out a controlled explosion on Auntie Linda, and once Captain Clegg had welcomed us into his office, there was a nervous declaration that the art on the walls was still that of the previous occupant, Lord Mandelbrot, the former first Fractal of Darkness.

Which would explain Machiavelli.

Captain Clegg hastened to add that he has commissioned some of his OWN choice of art to replace Lord Mandelbrot's tastes.

(He didn't specify whether he would also be replacing Lord Mandelbrot's PIRANHA POOL with optional trick bridge.)

Anyway, speaking of dubious Italianate social realists who favour stability over moral virtue has absolutely nothing to do with our first question which was about the POPE.

Sitting down with the Deputy Supreme Pumpkin of Great Britain – and some rather nice cookies – I said to him, as an "aggressive secularist" with two gay daddies, was there anything he thought he ought to say to Papa Joe?

Captain Clegg said that for a short audience he wasn't going to open Pandora's Box and a few minutes were not really enough time to enter a theological debate.

Which is pretty much all you could expect him to say; I mean it would be charming if he'd said "I considered performing a citizen's arrest and dragging the elderly former member of the Hitler Youth off to a trial before Richard Dawkins and Peter Tatchell but decided it would have been bad form", but it wasn't really LIKELY was it?

More interestingly, he did go on to develop his own personal position, saying that although he's not a man of faith that doesn't mean he wants to play the arch-atheist all the time (oh, go on, it's FUN!). In fact, he said he felt that if must be fantastic to have faith and wonders whether the lack of it is a shortcoming in himself.

To me, "faith" is CERTAINTY without EVIDENCE and for that reason alone is very, very dangerous. I'd rather have one good solid DOUBT than a bucket-load of faith.

We moved on to more serious questioning, and it quickly became obvious where the concerns of the Party lay.

Throughout the Liberal Democrat conference that followed on from our interview, there were these two almost-contradictory narratives running: the one from the Coalition leadership emphasising that the Coalition is strong, and functioning well, operating together and with no major differences; the other from the membership crying out that they WANT to be distinctive and different, they want to be reassured that they are not just winning their share of achievements, but also that we are not being subsumed by the Conservatory Party, devoured by Mr Balloon.

And so we came up with questions looking for distinctiveness, not division, from Daddy Alex wondering why the Conservatories reform proposals seems more favourably treated than ours; from Auntie Linda, asking "how did we get here?" and "where are our values really reflected?"; or from Ms Charlotte Henry wanting to know how the budget would have been different without input from the Liberal Democrats.

The budget is actually the obvious place to go to to look for a checklist of Liberal Democrat "wins", and Captain Clegg had his ready: without Liberal Democrats in government, we wouldn't have got the increase in capital gains tax; we wouldn't have got the increase in personal allowance; we wouldn't have got triple lock on pensions, increasing by the best of earnings, inflation or 2% a year.

Some of those things portrayed as "Conservatory wins", things like simplifying the business tax rates, were things we always campaigned on too.

He also promised that we will see introduction of new green taxes and we'll see further steps towards our promise of no tax to pay on your first ten thousand pounds of income. To people who say that the budget "watered down" that Lib Dem pledge he reminded them that we never said it was to be achieved overnight.

In what was to be really the leadership's major theme for Liverpool, Captain Clegg told us we should "hold our nerve" and not allow the language of the "old politics" to derail all that we've achieved so far, that it was very early days and while the need to tackle the deficit overshadows everything we should look at those achievements, not least the budget, as a downpayment on fairness to come. He also promised us, in a teaser trailer for Mr Huhney-Monster's announcements, big green developments over the Autumn.

Before all that, Daddy Alex had asked about electoral reform and the Coalition agreement: the Conservatories had wanted to equalise the electorates and cut the number of seats in the House of Commons and they got it; the Liberal Democrats had wanted Single Transferable Vote and only got AV and only then after a referendum. Weren't we short-changed?

There were two things the Captain pointed out in reply: one to the Conservatories; one to Hard Labour.

The first on was that the cut in numbers was not as big as Tories wanted, and was only to bring the House into line with EXISTING legislation, the 1986 Act, so actually this is not a Tory thing.

The second thing was that constituencies of equal size come from the Chartists and is not just a founding principle of Labour movement but already a legal requirement – technically all the current bill does is elevate one of several criteria to lead criterion. And there's a 10% leeway so the Commission can work with existing ward boundaries.

Furthermore, he insisted, it's a huge exaggeration to say the re-boundary-ing will benefit Conservatories over Hard Labour, except in Wales where people are hugely overrepresented. But rectifying that overrepresentation, now that there is a Welsh Assembly, is in keeping with the spirit and practice of devolution.

On AV, he admitted to the compromise. Idealism and pragmatism bump up against each other, he said. But no other party was willing to go further than AV. With no cross-party support, further reform was not going to get off the starting block.

Auntie Helen reminded him of the question he'd fielded at Prime Monster's Questionable Time: asked if amending the current bill would be the end of the Coalition, he'd said that the AV deal wasn't the be-all and end-all of the agreement.

Imagine what would have happened if I'd said the opposite, replied Captain Clegg. At the moment they're only trying to amend the bill; if I said it would pull the plug, those Conservatory backbenchers on the wingnut fringe would be CERTAIN to make SURE the bill was amended and that the Coalition fell.

He reiterated that there is a COMMITMENT in the Coalition Agreement to see that the referendum bill is passed.

Is the Coalition working, interjected Daddy Richard.

Much, much better than anyone could have imagined, replied Capitan Clegg. It's much more about what both sides can bring and working out solutions jointly. There's no need for a narrative of winners and losers.

Not like Tony and Gordon, muttered Daddy darkly, and that may have raised a smile.

The press, says Captain Clegg, are still looking at the government through the prism of the old politics and can't cope with the new dynamic. If we can show, through the Coalition that there IS an alternative to the old yah-boo politics, THAT is the PRIZE.

On a more personal note, Daddy Richard wondered about the volleys of abuse – "traitor", "sell out" and the rest – that have been launched at the Liberal Democrats and mostly at him personally. That's got to hurt, Daddy asked.

Brickbats from other politicians don't bother him, he said; it's only when it comes from people in his Sheffield constituency, when people in his surgeries are like that that it gets to him.

But not politicians. Referring to Hard Labour's leadership contest, he remarked that clearly if you want to curry favour with Labour you get nasty about Nick Clegg.

Then Nick Thornberry asked a rather interesting question. Reminding the Captain of his often-used example of the life-chances of a bright child from a poor part of Sheffield being eclipsed by a less able one from a more affluent part of town, one Nick asked the other: will the Nick Clegg of ten years in future be able to say I fixed the social mobility problem?

The other Nick's reply: yes.

Credit where it's due, he admitted that there are some good trends based on Hard Labour decisions of a decade ago.

But for him, obviously, education is key, and the pupil premium and more autonomy in schools should have a big effect.

He also wants to address how the health system works, suggesting a "health premium" like the pupil premium, and radical decentralization, and drawing a link between child mortality and ill housing.

He added that his biggest regret of the first months of the Coalition is that he didn't do enough personally to say that Health White paper is a really good liberal piece of legislation.

And then there are the proposed welfare reforms, not all in this Parliament, that he hopes will do something over time to shift incentives from dependency to work.

Expressing genuine frustration with the games that the press play, he referred to his writing what he believed to be a considered and thoughtful piece for the Times only for it to go misrepresented as an attack on the poor.

What he wants is to use the the welfare and tax reforms to challenge the culture of dependency fostered by the Labour government and all Mr Frown's tax credits.

The approach of previous government was almost a statistical game, drawing a line in the air to say you are "poor" if you are below it and then spending millions on nudging a few people from just under the line to just over the line and calling this success.

For Captain Clegg a truly fairer society has to go hand in hand with radical devolution, really setting people FREE.

Finally, there was the question that the Captain asked of himself, inspired perhaps by our probing for differences with the Conservatories, perhaps by his own narrative of unity:

What do the Liberal Democrats get out of the Coalition?

His answer:


And then our hour was up and it was time to go: us to race off to Liverpool for conference; him to a meeting with the Home Secretary! So we gathered up our stuff and left him there under the watchful eye of (possibly) that notorious Florentine political advisor.

Machiavelli once wrote that REFORM is the most dangerous endeavour a Prince can embark upon. Those who benefited from the old regime will resist with all their might; those who might benefit from the changes will be only half-hearted for they have no benefit yet, and worse you will inevitably disappoint some of your supporters.

Yet he ALSO wrote that a Prince who gains power by fortune or inheritance or in the gift of powerful figures rises easily to power but has a hard time maintaining it, while a Prince who comes to power by SMASHING the existing order rises with difficulty but rules with ease once he has power.

I wonder what he, sitting there on the wall, would make of Captain Clegg.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 3550: Freak Schools


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The BIG controversy of the week – at least according to the meeja – was the policy motion saying: "We think Free Schools stink". I paraphrase. A bit.

Having made ONE speech (collecting MY Blogger of the Year Prize) and then gotten his face on the telly asking Captain Clegg a question ("do you agree with Vince"; pitch him a HARD one why don't you) my normally shy Daddy Richard seems to have gone a bit CRAZED for the limelight and submitted a speaker's card.

To make matters even WORSE, he thought he have a go a speaking AGAINST!

Don't panic, this wasn't Coalition-loyalty gone MAD; it was the USUAL reason for attacking a policy at Lib Dem Conference: it wasn't Liberal ENOUGH!

The central thrust of the motion was contained in lines 16 and 17 which say:
In relation to 'free schools', conference calls on all Liberal Democrats to urge people not to take up this option…
and then go on to list all the BAD things that might be a RISK if Free Schools go ahead.

Basically an instruction to all Liberal Democrats, but especially those in local authorities, to scupper the implementation of the Coalition policy. i.e. it's fine to have Free Schools on the statute book so long as we don't let anyone ever USE them.

(Incidentally, Mr Evan was a LITTLE bit naughty in his remark that this was "just" "calling on" people to do this as if this was merely a suggestion, when he knows perfectly well that "calls on" is conference language for "conference says you WILL do this", not "conference says you might like to do this". Having said that, I suspect most Liberal Democrat ministers will use exactly that loophole to totally ignore the motion.)

The second of two amendments submitted was clearly aimed at substantially watering down this main thrust, starting by deleting those powerful lines 16 and 17 and all that followed, and although it restated the risks more clearly, it replaced that command with a softer:
urges Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians to work within government
which is both less vocative and rather more touchy-feely Coalition compromise-ive.

The first amendment, by the way, was to add a further RISK to the table of BAD THINGS that Free Schools might cause, namely a risk of increasing RELIGIOUS divisions, clearly for people worried about Faith Schools

There were more than seventy cards put in and so Daddy's was NOT one of the ones called, but here's what he WOULD have said:
Conference, I'm wary of this free schools idea. I'm sure we all are.

But I don't think this motion makes a clear case for why we should be wary or what we should do about it.

Are we wary because it's the Tories?

We all know Free Schools are a Tory totem, something to flourish at their voters, maybe even more importantly at their backbenchers, rushed through the House because, well, because the Tories didn't actually have so many policies and free school were a big visible marker to announce they had arrived

But are we using this motion just to prove we're different? Because that's gesture politics. And I'd like to make that gesture to the Tories too, but it's not a good enough reason for making policy.

Are we wary because of our principles?

Because if we are the motion doesn't say so.

I'm right there with Freedom from Ignorance, but I want us to remember Freedom from Conformity too. We don't know all the answers and I'd rather we put our efforts into making sure resources go to those who need them than stopping other people from trying something new that might work better.

Are we wary because we're too used to used to running local government and this takes us out of our comfort zone?

We are the party of handing power back to people and Conference Free Schools does hand power back to people. If we want to be about giving power away it means giving our power away too.

Are we wary because of the money? Because this as the motion says risks:

"Creating surplus places which is prejudicial to efficient use of resources in a time of austerity"

That's a good reason right now. But alarm bells start to ring. It sounds like we don't just mean for now, but for always.

And I don't agree with that.

I don't think it is wrong to create a surplus of places, and I object to the idea we should be placing the emphasis on efficiency.

When I think of education, I want to think of opportunity first, not efficiency

Conference, efficiency is the enemy of choice.

A perfectly efficient system has exactly as many places as there are pupils and no choices at all.

If you want pupils to have genuine choices, you are going to have to have some surplus places.

I think with this motion we're in danger of missing the point. What is wrong with free schools is not that they create surplus places, but that they risk creating surplus places for people who already have plenty of choice.

Like the movers of amendment one, I'm suspicious of faith schools and the possibility of increasing social divisions.

But I don't think the answer is to reduce parents options.

I think that people end up sending their kids to faith schools because they have too few choices, not because they have too many.

Conference, I wish I could recommend the much better-drafted amendment two, but it contains the same problem, the same emphasis on efficiency not choice, so I'm going to say I'm against the motion.

We don't need to make this Tory policy a whipping boy to prove we are different. We're better than that. So, let's go back and come up with a better Liberal critique so we can make Free Schools into Schools of Opportunity!

Anyway, in spite of Daddy's dramatic NON-INTERVENTION, the motion was passed by a huge majority (amended with the FIRST amendment on Faith Schools, but not the SECOND amendment that watered it down).

Now, you may very well think that that is a silly thing to do, passing motions that won't really change anything, but of course is DOES change something: it changes the way that the Liberal Democrat conference members felt about THEMSELVES.

When we all arrived in Liverpool we were all, quite separately, worrying away about what the Coalition really MEANT. All of us, every single one, were pretty sure that WE were still Liberal Democrats, but what about everyone else? Was it TRUE what the Hard Labour chorus have been hooting all summer about us being ABSORBED by the Conservatories? Would we find ourselves alone among a breed of POD PEOPLE?

Getting to Conference, the first thing that happened was that we all SHARED these worries; but the SECOND thing that happened was that we all CARRIED ON BEHAVING LIKE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.

Passing the motion opposing Mr Borogrove's silly policy was a way for us to come together and say "we are STILL the Party of Liberal Democracy".

And that is why, or ONE of the reasons why, by the END of the week, the Party was feeling much better about itself.


Yes, of COURSE Daddy Alex wrote the speech for Daddy Richard – or "script edited" it as he insists; you don't think Daddy Richard can WRITE, do you?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 3555: Curse-ed*


Beware the CURSE of the BOTYs they say**. Auntie Alix went quiet; Lady Deputy Councillor Stephen was silenced; Wicked Uncle Costigan vanished without trace; even Mr Jumbo Graham was never heard of again… unless you read his Quaequam Blog…

Well, I'm a Militant Atheist Baby Elephant and I don't believe in curses!

I TWEAK the nose of the SPINDLY KILLER-FISH… and then run away and let DADDY deal with it!

Besides, if Scooby Doo is right about these things, then it's probably just Auntie Helen in the Old Abandoned Mine-Shaft with some LUMINOUS PAINT and a Count Packula FRIGHT-WIG!***

Where IS Daddy anyway?

Uh oh!

Right, up with this I will not fluffily put! Besides, I need Daddy to avoid rubbish sentences like that last one!

Paging Cuddly Cthulhu!


That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even the Curse of the BOTYs may die


Oh look, there's Daddy, under that enormous pile of Fringe Flyers that the idiots brought back from conference. Get up Daddy, we've got proper WORK to do!

OK Bloggers… I'M BACK!

*no, no, nothing to do with the soon-to-be-annunciated front-runner in the Labour Loser competition.

**or at least snigger about because it DOES sound a bit RUDE!

***Because, let's face it, she does do EVERYTHING ELSE for us, doesn't she!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 3548: It should have been ME... and it was!!!


Well, adjectives escape me, this came as something of a surprise, but it turns out that I am Liberal Democrat Blogger of the Year.

And I have the coaster to prove it. No really, it's cut from rare crystal Libroleum and is worth more than words can say.

Prescious Thing
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Once they'd picked him up off the floor, they made Daddy Richard make a speach. Here're his words in full:
wibble, wibble, wibble, wibble, wibble
So let ME say, big thank you hugs to the judges for voting for me and to all the other nonimees for being such good sports and most especially to Auntie Helen for doing all the work that makes the Blog of the Year awards happen.

Only the Liberal Democrats could get into government after ninety years... and choose a soft toy as their best blogger of the year.

I'm actually a bit chuffed. Thank you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 3547: The Elephant in the Cabinet Room


At last! Now I really AM in Government!

Uh oh, here comes the BOSS, better look BUSY!

Now THIS is how to run the country!
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ACTUALLY, we're here for a BLOGGER'S INTERVIEW, along with awesome Auntie Helen, fearsome (just kidding) Auntie Linda and Best New Blogger nonimees Ms Charlotte and Mr Nick (no, another one!):

Liberal Democrats mean open Government
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More, as they say, on this story later...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 3545: I Like To Ride My Economic Cycle


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

and, er

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


First, I keep meaning to say: economics is more ART than SCIENCE, like History with CALCULATORS.

Don't just take MY fluffy word. There ARE other opinions. They say ask TWO economists and you'll get THREE contradictory answers; or an economist is a man who can pick a fight in an empty room (especially if he's Mr Frown).

But, Ms Jane asks:
Can you explain what you mean by balancing the budget over an economic cycle? How do you know how long the cycle will last in order to do that?
That's a TRICKY ONE, but I'll have a go!

If you look at economic measures of how well the country is doing, GDP is the usual one, you will see a generally rising trend that we call GROWTH but with zigzag-y up and down waves: not QUITE your smooth S-shaped sine-wave, but still with noticeable peaks and troughs where the economy grows faster and then slower, or sometimes even shrinks (which is obviously a recession). If it's a really STEEP downward "zag" then that's what we call a crash!

One "economic cycle" is the time from the top of one peak to the top of the next peak, or from the bottom of one crash to the bottom of the next crash, usually something like every six or seven years.

Recent economic cycles have been marked by: the Oil Shock (1973); the Early Eighties Recession (1980/81); the Lawson "blip" (1987); the House-price Crash that finished in Black Wednesday (1992); the collapse (2000); and the Credit Crunch (2007/08/09).

(Funnily enough we seem to remember the crashes more than the peaks – just like people remember famous WARS rather than famous PEACES. Isn't it nice to be in the SIXTY-YEARS PEACE.)

But no one is really sure how long "a cycle" is or really when they start and stop or even necessarily whereabouts we ARE in the cycle.

Before you ask how can that be, I'll point out that there's a lot of TIME-LAG before we get these figures. We can get a rough estimate of the previous quarter's growth, but it's very CRUDE, and those figures get revised all the time. It's often a year or two before you get a reasonable GDP figure, and it can be up to six years before you're certain of your final tax take.

So although we can look back with the benefit of HINDSIGHT and know where we WERE, it's much harder to know where we ARE.

Mr Frown used this uncertainty to his advantage to keep moving the goalposts on his "golden rule" (that's the "don't borrow more than you pay back over the economic cycle" rule).

Essentially, if you care, he paid back a HUGE amount of money between 1997 and 1999 (paid for by raiding pensions, windfall taxing the utilities and flogging the 3G licences for a fortune) which is REALLY the last economic cycle (or last-but-one now, probably) and then kept insisting that "ooh no, that economic cycle hadn't ended yet" and so he could still count that big repayment against further borrowing. Which is basically CHEATING.

What the Golden Rule SHOULD mean is that if you are in a trough you can borrow more than you earn to tide you over, but if you are on a peak you should be paying back what you borrowed.

Our best guess is that at the moment we are on the upward curve starting to come out of a particularly deep and nasty trough.

In the Keynesian scheme of things, we should still be borrowing more than we earn this year but starting to narrow that gap with a view to, maybe in two to three years, balancing the budget and then running surpluses for the next part of the cycle… and I bet you can see the problem already.

The Coalition ISN'T planning on running budget surpluses in two to three years time; the deficit is SO HUGE that the Coalition's plans are to try to balance the budget in about five years… just in time for the next trough in the cycle!

(And if you think THAT'S bad, remember that even the non-insane/non-Bully Balls bits of Hard Labour were only planning on halving the deficit in that time and would almost certainly definitely have run into the next downturn before they could recover from the last one!)

HOWEVER that's all in the Keynesian scheme – that is if Mr Milton Keynes was driving the economy.

But Mr Milton Keynes is NOT driving the economy, and more importantly HAS NOT BEEN driving the economy for some time.

That "borrowing more than you earn" is called a CYCLICAL deficit and it's sort of okay, at least in Keynesian economics, so long as you really do pay it all back again.

Unfortunately Mr Frown DIDN'T pay it down again and that's why we're actually playing a DIFFERENT game which is called: "get rid of the STRUCTURAL DEFICIT before we even begin to worry about the CYCLICAL one".

A STRUCTURAL deficit is "what the deficit would be if you took the CYCLICAL deficit/surplus away". That is, if you could pretend that the GDP curve really WAS smooth, without the zigzags, then any difference between what you raise in tax and what you spend would be the real underlying or "STRUCTURAL" deficit.

Running a STRUCTURAL deficit means that there are ALWAYS things that you have to borrow in order to pay for. Even in the GOOD years, when your cyclical SURPLUS might hide your structural DEFICIT – i.e. it LOOKS as though you are repaying more than you borrow – it still means that you aren't repaying ENOUGH to pay back all that you borrowed in the last trough. It means that in the long term your debts inevitably go up and up and up. And that's impossible, so you go BANKRUPT.

Eventually, SOMEONE has to repay the debts you've run up.

That's why that sort of borrowing is NOT an "investment". That sort of borrowing is stealing from the future.

You're not robbing Peter to pay Paul; you're robbing Paul's KIDS to pay Paul. Maybe Paul is okay with that, but we're NOT.

(Oh, and to anyone who says: but France and Germany and Japan all have higher debt-to-GDP ratios than we do – where that debt-to-GDP ratios is how much they owe compared to how much they earn; like the way banks used to let you borrow up to three times your salary – I say to them: would you jump off a CLIFF because France and Germany and Japan have all jumped off A HIGHER CLIFF? Thought not.)

So… it all seems pretty obvious: eliminate any structural deficit and then use the Golden Rule as best you can to negotiate the peaks and troughs.

Only it's never going to be that simple. Of course not. Economists cannot agree which bit of the deficit is structural and which bit is cyclical. And even if they could, they cannot agree where in the cycle we ARE, so they STILL can't tell which bit is which.

So here is my RULE OF THUMB: if your growth this year is better than your growth last year, you should be SHRINKING your DEFICIT or GROWING your SURPLUS; if your growth this year is WORSE than your growth last year you should be SHRINKING your SURPLUS or GROWING your DEFICIT.

This, at least, is what we are doing.

Of course, as a fluffy elephant, I don't HAVE thumbs…

It was all a lot easier when we just did CLASSICAL economics which just said: "balance the budget or you go broke".

I guess we'll just have to WING IT and hope the next downturn doesn't come until after (a) the next General Election or (b) Master Gideon gets out of short trousers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 3544: The Unions Don't Have to be Our Enemies – part two, a World of Pain


Why do middle-class teenage "rebels" and Union Barons (not to mention psychopaths like Uncl' Jo Stalin) all love Mr Marx (Karl, not Groucho; you know, the comedian not the philosopher)?

I'll tell you: it's that GINORMOUS loophole "the dictatorship of the proletariat" where the "intellectual" elite get to patronise the "ignorant" workers into doing their old jobs but for their new masters.

It's GREAT if you like lots of personal privilege and bunch of saps to enforce it for you.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, whyever would a Union leader like Mr Mark Swarovski be deceitful about cuts?

One after the other we've had the Unions (or equivalent), the representatives of their VESTED INTERESTS lining up to unsubtly warn us of the dangers of cutting THEIR particular carriage on the gravy train.

First we've had the Heads of the Armed Forces (yes, THEY'RE a UNION too) with dire predictions of unpredictable threats unless the navy gets its two aircraft carriers (HMS Tony and HMS Cherie, I believe they used to be called), and the airforce gets a hundred million pounds worth of joint strike fighters to fly off them so that they can cover the army wherever we happen to invade be defending next. Or in twenty-five years.

Now we get the unions threatening civil disobedience and poll-tax riots. Are they REALLY expecting the mob to fill Trafalgar Square demanding to pay MORE taxes?

Mr Bob "Scare" Crow of the RMS (Really Mean Service) Union has already been out on a "one day" tube strike (I say "one day" because somehow the disruption manages to cover the day either side as well) allegedly "justified" on the grounds of safety (I say "justified" because somehow I don't see public safety being compromised by ticket sellers being asked to come out from behind the glass windows and help people on the platforms), but there was a sinister WHIFF of MUSCLE FLEXING about it, as though Mr "Scare" Crow wanted to be the first to plant a punch on the Coalition.

(And forgive me, but I'm pretty sure that Mr Gandhi didn't take a hundred thousand pound salary to lead the civil rights movement. On the other fluffy foot, no one wants to see Mr "Scare" Crow in a LOIN CLOTH!)

Next up, ooh scary, the BBC coverage of Mr Balloon's first big speech to the Conservatory conference as Prime Monster is threatened by a "dispute over pensions". No, that one's just PETTY.

(Auntie Beeb is doing an admirable job holding the ring so far: I know that because I'M annoyed that they're uncritically reporting the Unions anti-Coalition propaganda… about the cuts hitting people on benefits hardest…or as I'd put it, the cuts in government services hitting the people who USE government services more than the people who don't… or cuts in government jobs affecting more women than men for the wholly outrageous reason that the government EMPLOYS more women than men… and THEY are annoyed that the BBC is uncritically reporting the Coalition propaganda that the cuts are necessary, as opposed to their entirely legitimate magic money tree point of view. Some bias may have been shown in the last sentences.)

But it's almost like EXTORTION, really: "do as we say or else…"

Or, as a spokesperson for the Policepeople's Union might have said: ain't it terrible all these protection rackets wot these Unions is running. You might want some protection from that, know wot I mean, guv. You see us right and we'll make sure that no… harm comes to you, alright, squire, evenin' all.

Ms Charlotte, aka the new Lady GoreGore, fears that the Coalition will not be strong enough to take the heat when the Unions start to hold the public hostage. Their demands may be selfish, their analysis a denial fantasy, but they have the power to really badword things up for the innocent working person.

I think, perhaps I just hope, that the Coalition is stronger than that. And I think that people might be surprised to see that the STEEL comes from the Liberal Democrats more than the Conservatories.

It is very clear that the Unions the Left and the BBC think of the Liberal Democrats as the "weakest link" in the Coalition. They want to break the Government so they are concentrating their fire on us. I think that's a MISTAKE. Steel just gets STRONGER when it is tempered. And I think that they might find Captain Clegg and Mr Danny, not to mention Saint Vince, are tougher badwords than Mr Balloon and the whole of the Bullingdon Club put together.

Look, if it's TRUE what they claim, and we HAVE lost half our voters to Hard Labour and another half our voters to the Greens and another half our voters to the Alliance of Concerned Mothers and the League of Chastity…

(Okay, three halves is a mathematical JOKE, but hilariously all these exaggerated claims of Lib Dems "defecting to Labour (or wherever)" ARE spiralling out of all credibility: they're pretty close to saying that more members have defected than were in the Lib Dems to start with!)

…but if it's true that we've crashed in the polls, then REALLY SERIOUSLY what's in it for us if we break the Coalition?

We see this through until it works or it doesn't. Or as superannuated muppet Yoda would put it:
"Do or do not, there is no try"
What I'm saying is IF the Unions pick a fight with us, then we're going to have to stand up to them because we're DEAD if this fails and we're dead if we give up part way.

Sun Tsu in the Art of War warns that you should always give your opponent a way to escape, because if trapped they will fight like TIGERS.

But read the constitution people: we HAVE to stand up to the Unions because more than anything else in the World standing up to bullies is what the Liberal Democrats are FOR.

Mr Balloon might not have the stomach for this, but Liberal Democrats have the heart and stomach of a concrete elephant… and the BRAINS of a FLUFFY ONE!

But it DOES NOT have to be like that.

The Liberal Democrats could be the BEST THING for the Unions in this Coalition: people who will LISTEN to you, people who are NOT dogmatic about the cuts but actually willing to be persuaded and change our minds.

Why not try a bit of reason and argument rather than strutting up and down outside Transport House waving your willies at us! Frankly, we'd rather see you in the LOIN CLOTH!

Mr Ben Mathis Tweets pithily: I'm appalled at the idea of strike action over deficit reduction. Public sector strikes will hit the poorest hardest!

Which is superficially very funny, but then rather less so when you think how TRUE it also is.

Regrettably, there's a chance that the people suffering WILL blame "the Government" or "the Cuts" rather than the Union for taking a vindictive and selfish approach to negotiation.

It is so easy for people who are scared of losing their jobs to be persuaded that SOMEONE ELSE is to BLAME and that SOMEONE ELSE should PAY. There's a LOT of "the recession/deficit/cuts are ALL the fault of the BANKERS" about. The banks do bear SOME of the blame – they leant a lot of money to people who couldn't afford it, backed by property that wasn't worth it – but they don't bear ALL the blame.

Just as some people who borrow too much are victims but also willing participants, so the public services and Government-sponsored departments, bodies and schemes are at least a little COMPLICIT in the ever-expanding state sector. It's hard to pin the blame on the managers when money was being waved in their faces by Whitehall, but somewhere at the back of their heads – you would have hoped – they must have KNOWN this was being fuelled by "money from nowhere". They ought to have at least CONSIDERED what might happen if the Golden Goose got croaked.

The real people to blame, of course, are the last Hard Labour Government. They promised people jobs that they couldn't really afford to pay for and then borrowed money to cover up the shortfall, leaving it for the Coalition to sort out afterwards.

That's really HARSH on the people whose job was paid for on a lie.

To Mr Swarovski's assertion: There is an alternative to public spending cuts.

Daddy Alex has a rather more… SUCCINCT response: Yes. Bankruptcy.

But that way you get dragged into a flame war with a Labour troll with nothing better to do with their time than spout angry aggressive dishonest bilge.

Which is a shame because there is WAY too much anger about already – I remain profoundly taken aback by how Hard Labour would much, much rather spend time hurling the word "traitor" at Liberal Democrats than sitting down and sorting out why they lost and what they need to change about themselves to win next time.

(And before the predictable shouts of "you came third; you lost more than we did", I'll pre-empt that with saying that the Liberal Democrats put on a MILLION votes at the election and only the PERVERSITY of the voting system meant that more votes gave us fewer seats! Which only proves our point about how BROKEN the voting system is.)

What Labour and the Unions are doing with their frankly-opportunist opposition for opposition's sake, is to SQUANDER the BEST EVER opportunity to control spending in a public-service friendly way.

If you could just see past your own WRETCHED temper-tantrum at losing power, and realise that you lost power because you threw it away, not because a different party with their own principles and agenda failed to roll over and do as you demanded when you demanded… then you might, MIGHT be able to work out that you should be SUPPORTING the Liberal Democrats, not trying to break them.

I mean THROW US A BONE, why don't you – we're shackled to this bunch of hard-right wingnuts now, have you any IDEA what it's like trying to get them to tack leftwards? Oh yeah, you had Blair…

The Government likes to talk about how it is doing GROWN UP politics now. If you did the same, treated people as ADULTS – accept that you lost the election; understand that the voters chose to believe that the cuts were necessary; don't just flat out deny that the Government has a point of view that is different because they see thing differently and NOT because they are "evil" – if you talk to ministers with a view to balancing the cuts that they are committed to with some amelioration for the most vulnerable, then you could actually do some GOOD for your member (remember them?).

If you bring options to the table then we can WORK with you and present those to the Coalition, if we HAVE an alternative then we can have something to negotiate with Master Gideon. If you give us nothing we have nowhere to go.

Issuing threats, closing the tube, cancelling the Prime Monster's TV appearances… all this posing and performing might make you feel you are big and important, but you are ACTIVELY HARMING the interests of the people who you claim to represent and, to put it bluntly, are compelled to pay you a big fat wage.

On the whole, you OWE those people, so GROW UP!

And one last thing: it's possible that there are union members, union leaders even, who are already thinking this way, who "get" what the electorate – including their members – were saying at the General Election, and who realise that working together is NOT collaboration but a funny old thing we call democracy.

You guys, you need to SAY SOMETHING.

At the moment, the "back to the Winter of Discontent" crew are getting all the air time and the meeja are just lapping it up, salivating at the thought of a good FIGHT. They are – probably – distorting every part of what you want to say and what we want to say in order to make this black and white, black VERSUS white. You provide the pictures There's no news like BAAAAAD news, after all.

I know, I know… you don't want to risk the Union movement looking split. Well the alternative is that you look like the BADDIES.

Which is just FINE if you want the Coalition in power FOREVER. But you know, I thought that just maybe you don't.

Day 3543: The Unions Don't Have to be Our Enemies – part one, a Land of Denial


Seriously, there are TWO ways this can go.

The Unions can represent their members' INTERESTS by working WITH the Government to pilot through the cuts that EVEN LABOUR said were unavoidable, with the maximum amount of attention paid to minimising the harm done to the most vulnerable, keeping the job losses to natural wastage where possible, freezing pay, showing restraint and keeping more workers IN work…

…or they can throw a tantrum, cause fuss and bother to the public whose jobs and taxes actually go to PAY public sector wages and we'll end up sacking a quarter of them.

It is all too obvious that the Unions and the more vocal knucklebrains in Hard Labour have been SPOILING for a FIGHT with the Coalition all summer.

Not a week, barely a DAY has gone by without some new pronouncement of how the Coalition Cuts are going to bring about the apocalypse: the poor will suffer ten times what the rich will; women will be hit harder; race relations will be set back a thousand years; young people will become a lost generation; old people will be rounded up in detention camps with a single winter fuel allowance between them; the North East will be targeted for extermination; cats and dogs living together; human sacrifice… hang on, that's Gozer the Gozerian


What's REALLY impressive is that the cuts HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN ANNOUNCED YET.

Golly, if only the Left had had such foresight when they were – you know – RUNNING THE DARN COUNTRY for the last thirteen years. Why they might have seen the end of the Housing Bubble and the Credit Crunch coming.

Tragically, no such PRESCIENCE is shown by Mr Mark Swarovski, writing in the Grauniad, who claims that there is no need to cut public spending by a single penny, because he's found a hundred and twenty billion pounds in unpaid taxes down the back of the sofa.

Even if you IGNORE that he doesn't know the difference between tax AVOIDANCE and tax EVASION… £25billion of his total comes from totally legal tax avoidance – i.e people not paying tax that that they DON'T HAVE TO PAY. Basically he's saying you should pay tax on your ISA… or when you sell your house. Fancy paying 40% of the profits when you move home? No?

Even if you ignore that, the figures are just plucked out of his hat…

According to the National Fraud Authority, the Government loses FIFTEEN billion to tax evasion, not the SEVENTY billion Mr Swarovski claims. Fifteen billion IS a lot of money and, as we've discussed before, ought to be a much more promising target, fifteen times more promising, in fact, for the Government than benefit fraud. But you can't just randomly multiply the figures by five in order to fill the gap in the Budget.

Actually, come to think of it that IS what Hard Labour Chancellors do to fill the gaps in their Budgets…

But even if you ignore ALL that… where does he think that that money is going to come FROM?

Extracting an extra hundred and twenty billion quid from the productive part of the economy… that really WOULD be: "taking money out of the economy just as it's struggling to get back on its feet".

Mr Alistair Dalek, former Hard Labour Chancer and Mr Frown's Sooty-puppet, has said that some of the recovery should come from private sector growth.

I couldn't disagree with him more: ALL of the recovery will have to come from private sector growth!

The Government does not produce any wealth. It doesn't grow food or fish the seas or mine anything from the ground, nor does it take raw materials and add value by manufacturing them into something else. The Government ensures the provision of essential infrastructure – transport, power, water, sewerage, peace (at least that's the theory behind having an army) – and can improve opportunities for citizens – through education, health provision and the welfare state. But these are support services. Government does not produce any wealth.

That is why the Coalition is actually CUTTING the tax on business. It's not just for FUN you know – and not, whatever the Trots tell you, to "make our class rich at the expense of the poor"! We're cutting Corporation Tax so that businesses will have more money to invest in jobs and in equipment, and so that foreign companies will move here or stay here.

In Ireland, the Irish Government RAISED its corporation tax rates… and all the corporations just LEFT. That is why the former Celtic Tiger is now a Celtic HEARTHRUG!

You CAN make a case for supporting construction workers through the recession by having the Government borrow to invest in infrastructure projects, new housing and school repairs (and no, Mr Bully Balls, we didn't ACTUALLY cancel the ones that were being worked on), but ADDING people to the Government payroll does NOT cause economic growth. Quite the reverse!

Every extra wage is one that has to be found by taking more tax from the private workers. More tax now or, if you borrow, more tax later.

Worse still, in areas where there is super-high state sector employment, the Government is actively sucking the best workers out of the system, undermining attempts to persuade new business to set up in areas where all the people with drive and initiative and brains are already in Government offices, leaving these areas a jobs wilderness.

So why is Mr Swarovski saying that we can avoid the cuts altogether?

Well, I'm afraid I have to be HORRIBLY CYNICAL and suggest that he knows PERFECTLY WELL what the economic reality is, but he is trying to deceive people – mainly his own Union members, but also the public – in order to wind them up for a fight.


More on this story later

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 3542: Economic Literacy Test: Caroline Lucas plays Mini-Me to Bully Balls Dr Evil


I am FED UP of being called "economically illiterate" by people who clearly wouldn't know one end of the economy from the other.

Usually it is the Egregious Ed, Mr Bully Balls who was, don't forget, special advisor to the Chancellor who outspent the government's income for seven years running while letting the banking sector play chicken with a housing bubble.

This time, though, it was the Sickly Green MP Radio Caroline Lucas, repeating the same deluded, deceitful and frankly DANGEROUS dribble on the World this Weekend.


The principle cause, the thing that turned the Wall Street Crash into the Great Depression was the decision by the American government that rescuing banks that had gone bankrupt gambling on the stock market would only encourage them to do it again: so called MORAL HAZARD. So they let those banks go BUST. That wiped out the savings of huge numbers of Americans, businesses, particularly FARMS, as well as individuals, and the American economy IMPLODED.

The effect on Great Britain was twofold: firstly, with the American banks gone, our supply of credit dried up and there was a credit crunch. Secondly, with the American economy gone, our exports dried up too.

British exports were ALREADY in trouble. For starters, during World War part one a lot of our export markets got pinched while we were busy. But then Mr Winston Churchill (remember him? Oh yes) had attached the pound to the Gold Standard at too high an exchange rate making our exports more expensive and so uncompetitive. And then the Unions (remember THEM?) went and called a GENERAL STRIKE which made our exports less reliable as well as even more expensive.

So by the end of the 1920's the economy was a bit TOTTERY anyway, and the American collapse knocked us over like a domino.

Add to that the fact that countries all over the world responded to the crisis in the WORST POSSIBLE WAY™ by throwing up protectionist trade barriers.

So suddenly Great Britain stopped making money.

THIS is where the spending cuts happened. In those pre-Keynesian days the government tried to balance the budget EVERY YEAR, rather than over the course of the economic cycle (if you are a Keynesian) or NEVER (if you are Mr Frown or his Sith apprentice Bully Balls or in this case Radio Caroline).

So the then Chancellor, Mr Philip Mount Snowden cut public sector pay by 10% AND (note this) raised income tax from 22½% to 25%.

This is GENUINELY a case of a government that is "taking money out of the economy". Taxation TAKES money from the economy. Government spending puts it back. In a "balanced" budget you put back as much as you take out. If you INCREASE tax and DECREASE spending the Government is literally REMOVING MONEY from the productive part of the economy.

If there is LESS money in the economy then FEWER people can buy things and this SLOWS the economy further.

The NORTH was hit much the hardest by the collapse in exports, because it was so heavily, too heavily invested in HEAVY industry: mining, shipbuilding, steel-working. In the South, more-flexible light industry sprang up: making things like washing machines and even cars leading to economic growth and recovery in those areas. This was the beginning of the North South DIVIDE as formerly-prosperous parts of the North remained stuffed (at least until rearmament came along and the Government suddenly needed a lot of steel and coal and ships).

Rearmament, incidentally, when the Government said: "forget balancing the budget; we need to buy stuff", is ironically one of the inspirations for KEYNESIAN economics, because that Government spending kick-started the economy.

Now there are some SIMILARITIES to today's situation and some GLARING DIFFERENCES.

We HAVE recently had a big crash on the bursting of an economic bubble; we HAVE been overly reliant on foreign credit (then American, today Chinese); we have seen Government income fall and expenditure rise; and we HAVE seen a MASSIVELY SPLIT Labour Party supplanted by a Coalition of Liberals and Conservatories who have to clean up the MESS.

HOWEVER, this time we SAVED the Banks (however ODIOUS they may have been before and indeed since) so we still HAVE an economy; this time our exchange rate is NOT chained to an absurdly macho level (yes, we were all wrong about that one); this time thanks to the European Union we DON'T see trade barriers flying up between us and our major customers; but equally this time the Government was ALREADY in a lot of debt because of years of uncontrolled overspending and manufacturing was already on its knees from decades of neglect by Governments of BOTH other parties; not to mention the TITANIC (in every sense) over-reliance on the financial sector to keep us afloat: something of a case of Mr Frown placing all our eggs in one ROULETTE WHEEL.

So once again I have to say it's just not as simple as saying "cuts=bad=great depression".

The DANGER of the economy tipping back into recession because of Government making deflationary spending cuts has to be weighed against the OPPOSITE DANGER of the markets losing confidence in British creditworthiness which would see interest rates shoot up, bank lending squeezed even tighter and a whole lot of people laid off when the money just plain RUNS OUT, causing an EVEN WORSE recession.

Frankly, it is seeing both sides of the DANGER that meant the Liberal Democrats had to change their minds about the urgency of the cuts. And anyone who's saying they've got a plan for the economy WITHOUT saying they've at least considered the other threat is deceiving you.

And speaking of things I have to keep repeating, Hard Labour (and Sickly Greens) are STILL calling the Coalition Cuts "taking money out of the economy". This is, to coin a phrase, economically illiterate.

For the last nine years, and for all of the next five (heaven help us) the Government has spent and will spend MORE than it takes out of the economy in tax.

i.e. the Government is putting money IN to the economy.

It has been possible to do this by running up a rather large tab… to the extent that we are in debt for getting on for a TRILLION POUNDS that is a MILLION times a MILLION pounds or twenty grand for every man, woman, child and fluffy elephant in the country.

That is in a word Radio Caroline might understand UNSUSTAINABLE.

The Coalition policy is NOT to "take money out" of the economy but to "put in LESS", eventually to STOP because it ISN'T OUR MONEY.

"Ah ha!" says Radio Caroline, "you're making the mistake of thinking of the country's economy like your household economy where if your income goes down you have to control your spending, but it doesn't work like that."

No, Caroline it REALLY REALLY does work like that.

In an emergency, you can borrow money to cover a gap between your incomings and your outgoings. Maybe there's been a personal crisis, maybe the tumble drier exploded, whatever. You talk to the bank and agree a bridging loan.

Government debt is just a really, really BIG bridging loan.

The "bank" in this case is the world money markets. And just like you might have to negotiate with the bank in order to get the money you need, and just as the bank might give you certain conditions, then likewise the Government has to "negotiate" with the markets, sometimes literally, sometimes by taking action that convinces the markets that the UK's finances are sound and that the investment is both worthwhile and safe.

And just like a bank, eventually, the money has to be PAID BACK.

Radio Caroline's solution is to dump our problems on future generations. Which just shows up the Sickly Green's promises of a sustainable future.

We've been borrowing for years and years and years; we just can't carry on like that.

"Ah ha!" will say Mr Balls, "but Mr Milton Keynes tells us that it is OKAY to borrow. When you are in a hole… KEEP DIGGING!"

Except this is only HALF of what Mr Keynes tells us. The OTHER half is PAY OFF THE DEBT in the GOOD TIMES. Which is exactly what we DIDN'T do for the period of the BOOM YEARS between the collapse and the credit crunch.

In the late 1930s the British Government COULD borrow money to spend on British industry precisely BECAUSE it had been running PAINFUL balanced budgets up to then; in 2010 we CAN'T because we HAVEN'T.

If you just KEEP borrowing money to prop up your Government spending you end up with a completely different economic model and it is called WEIMAR GERMANY.

The value of your currency collapses; your interest rates spiral out of control; and EVERYONE gets very, very poor very, very quickly.

And yes, that ended up with a nasty bully in charge as well, so you can perhaps see the attraction for Mr Balls.

And another thing!

If one more person repeats this nonsense I swear I will SPIT!
"If you make public sector workers redundant then they stop contributing tax to the Government's coffers"

It is NOT POSSIBLE for a public sector employee, no matter how lovely and worthwhile and socially valuable, to make a net contribution to the Treasury. Not even if you count all the VAT and airport tax and Stamp Duty that they might pay

Think about it: the VERY MOST that someone could possibly pay in tax is ALL of their earnings and if all their earnings come from the Government in the first place then the VERY BEST that the Treasury could ever do is BREAK EVEN.

And in practice you must have a bit of pay left after the tax or what do you buy your sticky buns with?

In pure CASH terms the Government is always ALWAYS better off NOT paying someone than paying them.

That does NOT mean that the Government SHOULDN'T employ people. Obviously there is a HUGE BENEFIT to be had in having teachers and doctors and policemen and poets laureate (er). And often – though not always – economies of scale mean that the Government can do this more efficiently than the private sector. Can but not necessarily does.

But suggesting that the Government will somehow be worse off if it employs fewer people is STUPID SOPHISTRY.

It's a CON: if you pay me twenty quid I'll give you a tenner back; so now if you don't pay me you'll not get that tenner – you'll be ten quid out of pocket! If you believe that then I'll have ten pounds please.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Day 3531: Lord Blairimort's "Journey" …straight to HELL


Frankly, I don't want to see Lord Blairimort interviewed unless it is UNDER CAUTION.

But there he was anyway, with Mr Marrmite, all rictus grin and self-justifying twaddle, dismissing the worst recession ever as "prosperity interrupted" and, worse, implying that his Middle Eastern victims "would probably have been killed anyway".

He was clearly worried that the flesh-toned make-up would run under the studio lights revealing the bone-white pallor, blood-red lips and shocking-green hair underneath.

(Oh go on, admit it: he DOES look like The Joker. The more steeped in EVIL he gets, the more his true "Joker-face" shows through!)

Lord Blairimort's problem, or from his own point of view his greatest asset, remains his wilful blindness to his own failings.

The plus side to this absolute lack of self-doubt is that it makes him the consummate politician: he doesn't NEED to fake sincerity; he genuinely believes whatever it is he says that comes flying out of his mouth (at least for the moment that he says it). The down side is that he thinks he's on a mission from GOD and won’t listen to any other voices (other than "the voices").

Mind you, it's not stopped him developing a really annoying tell: whenever he's going to tell a REALLY obvious whopper, he can't help GRINNING. In fact, when it came to saying "the Iraq war WAS legal" he even started to GIGGLE.

It's possible that he just no longer CARES what anyone else thinks, but what seems more plausible is that he's created his own personal purgatory where HE thinks he's the last honest guy, but NO ONE in the world believes him and he just can't understand why.

"You've got to understand that there IS another point of view," he tried pleading. Well, YOU never accepted that, did you Lord B. A million people marched, but they were all traitors and collaborators and Saddam-lovees.

Really, I'd have more sympathy but, you know, killed hundreds of thousands of people.

It remains impossible not to be TERRIFIED that this MANIAC is still dubbed with the title of "Middle East Peace Envoy". Even HENRY KISSINGER looks shiftily at his Nobel Peace Prize at the thought of THAT.

"There is not a part of the Middle East that is not touched by the same problem that Iraq had," insisted the former First Among Poodles, and both my Daddies shouted out: "Yes, it's YOU!" at the same time.

His bellicose approach to Iran and the danger of their acquiring atomic weaponry demonstrates most clearly that he has learned NOTHING from the DISASTER he helped to precipitate when he conspired with the Monkey-in-Chief to obliterate the Iraqi regime… and anyone who happened to be living within a hundred miles or so of where it was standing.

Looked at from Iran's point of view – and you've got to understand that there IS another point of view, don’t you Lord B, pardon my SARCASM – they haven't invaded ANYONE!

They liberated themselves from a (Western-backed) dictator; they defended themselves from a (Western-sanctioned) invasion from Iraq; they observed the use of (Western-supplied) weapons of mass destruction by the Baathist regime; and they saw a just-plain-Western attack on their former enemy, OUR former ally, when he stopped playing ball. They see us break our own UN rules, they see us turn a blind eye to Israel's rather unsubtle nuclear posturing, they see us doing highly suspicious deals with former foes like Libya, they see the way we turn tail and run when North Korea DOES get the bomb.

Honestly, what are they SUPPOSED to think? Cos I'M stumped!

I'm not saying it's all sweetness and light in the Islamic republic – any country that executes people for being gay daddies (even if they're not!) goes straight to the top of the VILE-O-METER as far as we're concerned (obviously in the UK we merely SMEAR them as gay daddies… even if they're not).

Great Britain's involvement in the Middle East STARTS with LAMENTABLE and goes rapidly downhill from there. Peace and democracy are only created by TIME, not military invasion. And the Iraq war has done NOTHING but entrench hostilities and encourage deranged terrorists across the region.

Asking Lord Blairimort to bring PEACE now is like asking GODZILLA to take charge of Tokyo's town planning. You end up with nothing but ASHES.

The interview concluded with Mr Andy asking Lord Blairimort about his LEGACY.

Hard Labour losing the election was, of course, all Mr Frown's fault, hilariously because he hadn't been "New Labour" ENOUGH.

But if there's anything to CHILL your BONES about the path the Coalition is currently treading, it is Lord Blairimort's tacit endorsement of our policies.

Most telling moment?

Mr Marrmite asks: "your Journey sounds like someone who started out in Labour and moved until he realised that he was a Conservatory and not Labour."

Lord Blairimort: "Well I'm not… er, a Conservatory."

BUZZZ! Hesitation AND deviation!

There's a TWEET going around:
Brighten your day! Move copies of Lord Blairimort's book to the CRIME section of your bookshop.
Sadly it seems Lord Blairimort's signing tour is being interrupted by protestors and he's cancelled at least one appearance. [Added: and another one!] Apparently he was convinced that they could deploy eggs and shoes within forty-five minutes…

People have suggested that the donation to charity of all the proceeds (or is it profits) from his TOME is some kind of BLOOD MONEY, the ex Prime Monster attempting to buy FORGIVENESS for all his crimes, as though the newly-Catholic Lord Blairimort couldn't purchase an INDULGENCE or two from Mr the Pope.

But I'm afraid I can't ascribe anything like so HUMAN a motive to him. To want to BUY forgiveness he'd need to show some sign of WANTING it or even some understanding that he NEEDS it.

No, I'm afraid I think that his donation is more to do with his status with his new chums among the super-rich: it's a gesture of "look how much money I can give away", a keeping up with the Jones only with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet instead of the Joneses.

Still, the British Legion will do very nicely out of it, as the book appears to be selling like hot cakes. Or indeed like yellow cake uranium.

Maybe good intentions are running thin, and the Devil needs a load of doorstops to pave the road to hell. It is, after all, a Journey.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Day 3536: For Labor Day… Your "Which Monster Are You" guide to the Labour Leadership Contenders, or Why They Are All Dreadful


The contest to be the next Labour loser is more and more seen to be less and less interesting, what with most commentators having it down to a grudge match between the two Millipede brothers: Mr Red and Mr Dead.

Apparently it IS possible to tell them apart.

Daddy Richard says that he despises Dead Millipede more for being the British Foreign Secretary who made us complicit in torture and rendition on behalf of the Americans.

Daddy Alex disagrees. He thinks Dead Millipede was ONLY complicit because he is SPINELESS; whereas his younger brother actually LIKES being evil. Or the "Emissary from Planet F… Badword" as Mr Lord Mandelbrot, former First Fractal of Darkness, put it. Talk about takes one to know one!

So we did Votematch's which Labour loser should you support quiz…

…and these were the results we came out with:

Ms Diane: 69%
Mr Red: 58%
Mr Bully Balls: 35%
Mr Dead: 35%
Mr Andy: disqualified for not supplying his own information.

Well, that came as a bit of a SHOCK, I can tell you.

No, not agreeing with Ms Diane – she was against the war, we were against the war, that much is obvious. No, the shock was the big number two for Mr Red. Well, it was until we caught a repeat of the Radio 5 / BBC News Chanel debate and saw him in action, triangulating desperately, trying to appear as the Mr Compromise between every other position possible, and ironically being more Heir to Blair than even his big bro.

In fact, watching them all sat around with enormous day-glo gonks strapped to their faces as they spouted various forms of self-serving dribble, made me realise what a total bunch of WANDERING MONSTERS they are.

(Or, for those of you who've never heard of "Dungeons and Dragons", they're the random, time-wasting hazards that get thrown at you between bits of the plot that actually MATTER.)

Which gave me the idea for doing you a quick spotter's-guide to the "big beasts".

So, roll your five-sided die and determine which of the following you will have to beat up before moving on to the Dungeon of Deficit…

Ms Diane Abbott-and-Portillo is… the Mummy: all wound up in old wrappings, but resurrected with new CGI for diminishing returns.

The problem with Diane is that she can't stop behaving like the kind of five-year-old who is far too pleased with herself. Whenever anyone in the audience said that they voted for a party that wasn't Hard Labour you could hear her barely-sub-vocalised "oh dear"s or "tut tut"s. To the point where it had to be pointed out that this was alienating exactly the people she is supposed to be bringing back to the fold.

And repeatedly applauding herself for being "the one who voted against the war" isn't big and isn't clever – thousands and thousands of people died because we DIDN'T stop it, a fact that fills most of us are filled with REMORSE not smugness.

Mr Andy Crash-and-Burnham is… the Goblin: grotesque sprite of mischief, voted most likely to be squashed by a Mûmakil in the Battle for Minas Tirith

Maybe it's the big, pleading, "don't hurt me" eyes, maybe his face is just made that way, but the poor man always looks like he's wearing too much make-up. Doesn't seem to stop him using the crassest of clichés though, e.g. continually repeating the "Con-Dem Government" line as though it was even funny when it was original.

Played the "it was the most agonising time of my life" card when asked why he voted for war. That's not actually an answer and, worse, it's really not an apology either.

Mr Bully Balls is… the Troll: a huge bruiser of a beast, known for lurking under bridges and on Lib Dem Voice threads deploying their Zombie Arguments.

Mr Bully Balls' advantage is that since he is already known as the big bully he can throw his weight about as it's what everyone expects. Consequently, it's BIZARRE that he's trying to portray himself as the loveable misunderstood one.

To his credit, he's the only one willing to go out on a limb with actual policies. On the down side, his policies are BONKERS. He's the one saying that we shouldn't try to reduce the deficit at all. Economic madness. Tactically, it lets him duck the "Labour said THEY would do cuts" questions but strategically it leaves him open to the "and when the market refuses to lend to us under those conditions and you have to sack every single state employee for lack of funds, what would you do?" question.

Is looking for third opportunity to deny Mr Frown before cock-crow.

Mr Red Millipede is… the Golem: a lumpy, barely-humanoid form made up from spare parts and animated by a magic word, the better definition of spin I have yet to hear.

More twisty-turny than a twisty-turny thing. Clearly trying to position himself as the left-wing (but not TOO left wing) radical by denouncing both his brother and Mr Bully Balls. Becoming obvious, however, that HE is the one using the "dark arts" of spin, leaks and off-the-record briefing to try and undermine the others.

Adopting the INTERESTING position on the war of saying that everyone knew he was against it he just didn't tell anyone. And by "interesting" I clearly mean "easily lampooned" here.

Playing heavily on his position as Cabinet Minister for the Fluffiest Bunniest Possible Department to distance himself from any impression that he may have been part of the Hard Labour Government of the last thirteen years.

Pity that letting slip his desire to "exterminate" the Liberal Democrats revealed his more… Dalek-y side.

Finally, Mr Dead Millipede is… the Vampire: the bloodless, soulless spineless creature of the night; lack of reflection probably explains unwillingness to examine New Labour record in power.

I must confess, for the longest time I expected that, when it came to the count, Mr Dead would top the poll from the outset only to be pipped at the final post as his brother picked up the transfers from the other candidates one by one.

But it's now looking like he is SO far in front that the only thing that could stop him is if Lord Blairimort actually came out with that endorsement.

One suggestion though: a sneering snigger when someone brings up the rendition allegations is NOT going to serve you well, Mr Millipede.

Not that any of this actually MATTERS.

It's all too painfully obvious that Hard Labour are HAPPY to be in opposition, they are COMFORTABLE there and they look to be settling in for a LONG STAY again.

Mr Millipede may be under the COMPLACENT illusion that he can WAFT back into power at the next General Election, perhaps on the back of a Coalition made unpopular by years of cuts and Eighties-style economic hardship, but he's wrong.

History's NOT going to repeat itself. For a start, the devastation wrought by the Queen Maggie in the Eighties was mostly on communities, often in the North, dependent on a kind of industrial mono-culture and those communities just don't exist any more. Mining, steel, shipbuilding… the damage has been done. Actually, if there is a risk it is in places like the North-East where the government directly employs a huge percentage of the workforce.

But more importantly because Hard Labour are not offering any alternative. You can't wish away the years of overspending (as four-fifths of the Labour candidates seem to want to) nor deny them completely if you're Mr Bully Balls. And the hangover is going to be with us for years.

So there's no danger of Hard Labour coming back.

No, the real danger next time is that the Liberal Democrats will take all the blame and that will let the Conservatories win outright!


Of course, you CAN do this for OUR side too…

Mr Balloon is… the WILL-O-THE-WHISP: the sinister spirit with no substance that lures the unwary to their doom.

While Captain Clegg is… the WEREWOLF: you thought he was just an ordinary little man but OOH! he's turned out to be something much more scary and powerful after all.