A peek at Gordon's vision
One of the surprises of Gordon Brown’s premiership so far to date, is how little substantive policy there has been. Pretty much everything Brown has done has been about political positioning—putting the Tories in an awakward spot, distancing himself from Blair and the like. As Rachel Sylvester argues in the Telegraph this morning a positive Brownite agenda has yet to emerge.
The EU reform treaty and the left
Of course the left in Britain should favour a referendum on the European Union reform treaty, an issue that will dominate official politics for months to come. But it needs to make absolutely certain it doesn’t line up with UKIP and the Daily Mail in the process. A referendum is the only politically honest course for Labour, after having promised such a vote on proposals for an EU constitution. The only reason for the prime minister to pretend that the reform treaty is not essentially a repackaging of the document rejected by the Dutch and the French is the certain knowledge that the chances of securing assent are slimmer than a bulimic supermodel on amphetamine sulphate.
Referendums in Scotland
The implication ( which could be drawn from Rees-Mogg's Times article) that the reason the Leader signed up to the European constitutional Reform Treaty so avidly was that it retrieved powers devolved unwisely to the Scottish government and conceded them to the European Union subject to negotiation with the member-state - ie., the Westminster Labour regime - is attractive but for subsidiarity's fundamental role in the European Union's foundation.
Dear Foreign Secretary,
I write to explain why I shall be among thousands of angry and despairing British citizens attending the Referendum Rally in London on Saturday 27th October and why I and others now urge our fellow citizens to overturn hundreds of years of highly developed Parliamentary tradition and demand a national plebiscite on the Reform Treaty.
The Swiss model
Switzerland's ever-closer relationship with the EU is not a good poster child for those who question the benefits of Britain's membership.
How many people actually care about Europe?
We await the next political opinion poll - hopefully tomorrow’s Guardian will have one from ICM, though until Ming Campbell is replaced by a new Liberal Democrat leader we are once again in a sort of polling interregnum with a known unknown bearing down on us. There were a couple of polls over the weekend. Firstly a Populus poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us what we already knew, that the overwhelming majority of people say they would like a referendum on the new European Treaty, in this case 73%.
The focus shifts?
Although much of the media is focusing on Brown's refusal to offer a referendum on the EU treaty, there are straws in the wind which suggest that the Tories are not going to get an easy ride on the issue – unless they get their act together.
Immigration Number Shocks
Following Friday's soiree, I've had a riffle through the large collection of papers being submitted to the House of Lords enquiry into The Economic Impact of Immigration (see their website here). Labour's own cross-departmental submission got a lot of coverage last week, with Home Office minister Liam Byrne still insisting that immigration has made us all better off (eg see the Grauniad's account here). The truth, as regular BOM readers will know, is that while immigration is estimated to have boosted overall GDP- by £6bn pa according to Byrne- it has done virtually nothing for per capita GDP: higher output is simply offset by having many more mouths to feed. But the other submissions to the enquiry contain some new (to Tyler) and truly shocking stuff.
The MP who thinks David Kelly was murdered
Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP, has gained a reputation in Westminster as one of the best ferreters out of information. But his new theories about how David Kelly died appear a little far-fetched. (Anything which involves letters from people who sign themselves ‘Nemesis’ seems a little suspect to me). David Aaronvitch in The Times does a great job of debunking Baker’s thesis and poses a challenge to Baker:
David Cameron should not renew George Osborne's spending pledge
As ConservativeHome has already noted, we won a £1bn tax cut but had already surrendered a £37bn real increase in spending. One of the most important internal debates in the run-up to the next General Election will be whether George Osborne should repeat the pledge to match Labour's spending for the subsequent three years. At the moment, he has said that we will match the commitment until 2010/11. We need to ensure that the pledge does not become 2011/12 and then 2012/13. Tory grassroots members oppose the pledge by 64% to 24%. There is also much unhappiness amongst Tory MPs about the spending me-tooism. I think they do so for three good reasons:
Two bits of carbon news caught my eye this morning. First was this from the BBC - an estimated 23% of China's carbon emissions is produced making export goods for Western markets. So although there is some weight to the argument that China is building two coal-fired power stations a week, and what can we possibly do about that - if exports account for such a large percentage, then we do have significant leverage in reducing China's emissions.
The wrong kind of evidence
Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been rising more rapidly than most forecasts predicted. The Times reports: An international team of researchers has found that, since 2000, the rate at which CO2 has been pumped into the atmosphere is 35 per cent greater than most climate change models have allowed for. Since the year 2000. OK. What has the temperature been doing? Well, since the year 2000, global temperatures have levelled off. This year is a case in point. As recently as April, the Met Office forecast:
And the winner is…the Liberal Democrats!
It is of course something of a cliché, but the leadership contest does allow us some airtime and public interest to talk about what the Liberal Democrats believe in some places where the broader public may hear.
Personalities and Politics
Whilst I appreciate it is an easy trap to fall into, one of the dangers of being involved in politics is sometimes taking an exceptional dislike to an individual because of their politics.
Now I am not being twee here, for example I think it's right that, if someone shared the politics of Adolf Hitler it might not be a good idea to invite them round for dinner with a few of your friends. But where centre politics are concerned, whether right or left, I think it is important to divorce personalities from politics. If nothing else it helps foster respect from the electorate.
So I am a little bit bothered when some Conservatives and Liberal Democrats make a few personal jibes about Gordon Brown.
The inherent danger in being the Lib Dem leadership "front runner"
There used to be a time when it was good to be seen as the favourite, the early pace setter or the front runner, but recent political battles tell us otherwise, and I have got the impression the Nick Clegg camp are starting to talk down the "front runner" status of their man whilst the press try to talk up Nick Clegg's chances, possibly because they fear him the most and by promoting his "favourite" status, they hope to weaken his electability or possibly it is also just out of sheer laziness. After all, the press did for Ming, and now they want to say they chose his successor.
The Top 10 Political Misjudgements
Ever since Gordon Brown decided not to hold an autumn General Election this year, there has been speculation that it could prove as fatal a misjudgement for him as it did for Jim Callaghan in 1978. I myself speculated in a recent column: "The danger for Mr Brown is that his government, like Major’s, is now entering a period of what the Germans would call Gotterdammerung – the twilight of the gods. Far from renewing Labour in office, it could be that his destiny is to spend the next two years fighting back the inexorable Tory tide, while Mr Cameron prepares for his inevitable victory."
How does this square with Brown’s “no election” statement?
The main lead in the Guardian this morning confirms how serious Labour was about going to the country in late October or early November and could provide further ammunition for the Tories as they seek to attack Brown. For according to the paper “nearly a million pounds” was spent in the run-up compared with just £200,000 by the Tories.
Fixed Term Parliaments
I'm not exactly fiercely opposed to fixed term parliaments. I doubt they would bring the country crashing to a halt. It just seems that those proposing them haven't really identified a problem. While Conor Burns clearly really hates Brown all of the other examples he brings up of governments that went to the polls early he thinks are legitimate.#
Free Prescriptions for all …
… Scots. The Scottish government is abolishing prescription charges in Scotland for all Scots. At the moment, 96% of all prescriptions are dispensed free of charge. Abolishing prescription charges north of the border is going to cost the English taxpayer another £70m.
The middle class closed shop
Today's Guardian makes depressing reading for anyone who supports a progressive agenda in British politics. The Guardian/ICM poll suggests that Britain remains a nation that is still dominated by class division. Of those questioned: 89% said they think people are still judged by their class - with almost half saying that it still counts for "a lot". 8% thought that class does not matter at all in shaping the way people are seen. 55% of people said that class, not ability, greatly affects the way they are seen.