Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Labour

How To Get The Right & Bob Crow on the Same Side #EU #PeoplesPledge

Tomorrow’s vote will change nothing and we will not get a referendum on our EU membership this side of 2016.

Well, that was stating the blinking obvious I admit; it’s a non-binding vote even if enough MPs had the principles and minerals to vote for it. The debate is significant though, as it will be the first time that there will be a serious debate on the principle of a referendum on our membership of the EU which will draw in the PM and Foreign Secretary.

It will also be a useful albeit small step on the road to a referendum and, hopefully, our exit from the EU (or, as Europhile referendum supporters like Keith Vaz would put it, ‘settle the issue once and for all’ in the hope of staying in). We will be able to name names and see just how sound our MPs are.

It will also enable us to carry out that exercise on MPs on both sides of the house. One refreshing aspect of yesterday’s ‘People’s Pledge’ event was the genuine cross party involvement (by which I don’t mean another session of UKIP vs. Tory back-biting) and for a rightie like me it was particularly enlightening to hear the case put from a left-wing perspective alongside those of my own political persuasion. Indeed, I didn’t stay for the Conservative panel’s session; if I wanted to hear right-wingers banging on about Europe I could just talk to myself go to a Bruges Group meeting.

It takes some doing to get the likes of the RMT (one of the anti-EU unions) and Dan Hannan to agree, but the arrogance of Cameron and Miliband have achieved it. Ed Miliband might be siding with David Cameron in calling the pro-referendum campaigners ‘barking’, but he should remember that Britain is a nation of dog lovers. His own party membership’s views on a referendum are close to the Conservatives with over half supporting it.

Frankly the news I found most disconcerting in recent months was not Cameron’s three line whip on tomorrow’s vote (sadly I was unsurprised by such Heathite behaviour), but Ed Miliband’s ruling out a referendum being in the next Labour manifesto – I suspect that, given Cameron’s self-survival instinct, such a pledge could tip the balance and force the Conservatives to match Ed’s bid or risk serious in-fighting 1992-style. Of course, given that Labour’s half-baked promise ‘to increase tuition fees but just not by as much as those nasty Tories’ was openly admitted to be unlikely to survive until 2015, there may still be some cause for hope.

For once only I shall say, “more power to Bob Crow’s elbow!”


Balls To the Bankers

As the currant bun, among many others, reports:

Balls has no regret over UK’s vast debt


Mr Balls told the Liverpool conference: “Don’t let anyone say it was public spending on public services here in Britain which caused the financial crisis.”

No, it wasn’t public spending that caused the financial crisis, but it is at the heart of the fiscal crisis. The financial crisis was caused by a credit bubble, formed by the bankers irresponsible lenders and borrowers, and which his government encouraged (or at least was happy to allow to continue, while interest rates were too low). Yet when that bubble inevitably burst it was the size of the existing annual deficit and the total public debt that left the country so poorly prepared. That, Ed, is what you should be apologising for.

But Mr Balls did admit to Labour “mistakes”.

They included the 75p pension rise, abolishing the 10p tax rate, weak controls on Eastern European migrants and failing to regulate the banks properly.

Ah, there we are: the banks.

Frankly, Labour blaming the bankers for the deficit is like a drunk driver blaming the tree that stepped out in front of him.

Let me do a picture for you, Ed:

If it wasn't for those pesky bankers ... in their time machines

Tessa Jowell (speaking on LBC radio on Sunday) might call it an underachievement of income (i.e. they didn’t tax us enough), but if I buy that Aston Martin that I cannot afford, it’s not because I’m undercharging my clients.

More pressingly, though, it’s not swivel-eyed right wingers like me you have to win over; it’s the people who put your leader where he is.

This Isn’t Just an M&S Parody …

This wasn’t just a gold sale,
This was gold drizzled away at the bottom of the market.

This wasn’t just a deficit,
This was a wholemeal structural deficit steadily rising over 9 years.

This wasn’t just overspending,
This is an artisan underachievement of income.

This wasn’t just printing money,
This was a jus of quantitative easing supporting a shell of faux growth.

This wasn’t a raid on pensions,
This was a delicate extraction of £5bn a year topped with a liberal portion of chutzpah.

This wasn’t just an end to boom and bust,
This was a conflate of bovine extract on a bed of debt and dodgy accounting.

This wasn’t just an economic balls-up,
This was a Labour economic balls-up.

Some Downtrodden Workers Are More Equal Than Others

Guido has picked up on an example of the Left’s confusion over job losses, when the jobs in question were doing things that are, let’s say, not exactly the sort that dominate the Grauniad sits vac pages.

Yes, Sally, that burly mugger heading towards you is called 'reality'

It’s a shame though that not even this amount of brain-ache was evident when thousands of pubs were closing – with the commensurate losses of jobs and businesses after the smoking ban – or the closure of thousands of post offices, or the strangling to death of so many small businesses by regulation….

It might be the Labour dream to have the entire working population to be on the payroll vote working for the public sector, but all those evil big businesses are still nothing more than a collection of people, all trying to make a living.

‘Do Nothing’ Should be Osborne’s Plans B to Z

You’re the captain of the super-tanker ‘Tired Metaphor’. You’ve only been there a few hours, taking command with your plan to jettison a modest amount of the unnecessary and badly distributed weight, to allow the vessel to right itself and thus be steered away from the iceberg that those Mediterranean leaky buckets over there have been heading straight for.

But despite having nudged the wheel only minutes ago, you can hear the old captain down in his cabin. He’s been working his way through his drinks cabinet, and is now so blotto that he can’t even see the icebergs anymore and thus thinks there never was any problem, and is saying that you’re doing it wrong anyway because the tanker isn’t turning on a sixpence.

Labour's car scrappage scheme - were you stimulated?

Yes, the Left are whining that the economy isn’t booming yet, and if only George Osborne were to commence another spending splurge – a.k.a. ‘fiscal stimulus*’ everything would be OK. The economy is grinding to a halt and yet Osborne’s doing nothing. After all, the stimulus that Alistair Darling embarked upon was such a success, wasn’t it?

Err, no. Apart from the sickening sight of thousands of perfectly good cars being destroyed as part of the scrappage scheme (a bung for the motor industry dressed up in green clothing to get round EU state aid rules), the extra spending added even more to the public debt total, increased the deficit and yet as soon as the stimulus ended (as it inevitably had to, because there was no money left, remember?) everything drifted back to a near-halt.

This is the fundamental problem with ‘fiscal stimulus’. The ‘multiplier effect’ is a mirage because for every pound spent by the state, a multiple of that pound must first be generated by the private sector. It must be raised through tax, either now or in the future; the latter not only presenting a net drain on the economy, but also adding to upward pressure on interest rates. On top of that, the state pouring money (back) into the economy will be inflationary.

So, the Left seem to think that pushing up taxes, interest rates and inflation is the way to get the economy moving do they? Fiscal ‘stimulus’ may provide some short-term relief, but it doesn’t significantly shorten the time it will take for the economy to recover. The culmination of a twelve month recovery will be two years’ away if we embark on a year of ‘stimulus’.

The problems we have seen in recent years are down to one thing: debt. First, it was business and personal debt – specifically the ‘toxic debt’ – that gave rise to the ‘first’ financial crisis. (And no, its not just ‘the bankers’ to blame: for every irresponsible lender there must, by definition, be an irresponsible borrower.)

The shock of that episode then sent its waves towards the other great indebted institutions: governments.

It is the addiction to debt (and for governments its parents, interventionism and excessive public spending) that is the problem here. Not surprisingly, as with an addict in the early stages of their withdrawal, many people are screaming for more of their drug. Just as with drugs, the comfort that comes with another shot is short term. Just as with an addict, every shot puts off their recovery. “Just one more dose, please”, cry the Left (and, unsurprisingly, some sectors of business), “then we promise we’ll be able to give up”.

George Osborne should stay strong (some would say be stronger and bolder). Do not give in to the debt addicts, you’ll only put off their – and the nation’s – recovery.

Not for the first time, I find myself quoting Reagan: “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

* A caveat for the future: my definition of fiscal stimulus for these purposes is purely one involving increasing public spending: tax cuts are no such thing; they involve leaving money in the economy and thus present a real lasting positive effect.

Should Red Ed Consider Some Sunscreen?

So Red Ed’s people are probably pleased at The Sun’s editorial this morning, crediting him with the cancellation of the first phase of strikes at the BBC. Officially, it was down to some sort of movement on the pensions question that has brought the two sides back to the table. Says the Currant Bun:

It was quite a U-turn for Ed. Only days ago he refused to condemn the walkout and backed the right to strike. We told him to prove he is not a union puppet if he wants to win over Sun readers. Looks like he took it to heart.

Actually if Ed had any sense, he should have stayed out of it and used the time-honoured position of “it’s between the management and union and I call on the two sides to come back to the negotiating table, blah, blah, rhubarb”. By associating himself with any developments – or allowing himself to be associated – he has put himself between a large piece of solidified magma and a far-from-fluffy place.

Is there a suggestion that he has some sway over the unions rather than the other way round? If so, what happens when one of those “irresponsible” strikes kicks off’ (something that will happen fairly soon), and bear in mind that his definition of “irresponsible” is still to be tested. Will he be issuing calls to the bruvvers to refrain from strike action please … pretty please? When they ignore him, what then?

If he was trying to show that he is not a union placeman, thus apparently taking the advice of The Sun, then doesn’t any spinning of willingness by the unions to listen to him actually underline the closeness between them and the new Labour leadership?

I’d put it down to inexperience; not knowing when to be statesmanlike and rise above it all. But then again, is being statesmanlike – i.e. looking like Prime Minister material – really top of Red Ed’s ‘to do’ list right now?

Red Ed and William Hague: A Genuine Question

William Hague, MP

Hague: Been there, done that?

As I know very little about internal Labour Party politics (except what I pick up from the media, whose knowledge in many cases is of about the same level), I have a genuine question.

Paul Waugh apparently heard an Ed Balls supporter saying of Red Ed “He’s pretty rubbish..But at least we got one over those Blairite b*******”.

Now bearing in mind that the string of Conservative leadership contests from 1997-2004 were essentially ‘Stop Ken Clarke‘ affairs – and for ‘Ken Clarke’ read ‘Blairite’ in the Labour context – how much is there in common between Ed Miliband‘s rise to prominence and William Hague‘s?


  • Both were completely unknown to the general, non-political, public
  • Both came in after bruising electoral defeats for their parties
  • Both have the job of addressing, and maybe fixing, some aspects of their parties’ internal machinery, and
  • Both face a certain degree of play-ground standard ridicule (though I do believe that ‘Red Ed’ is a perfectly valid epithet given the trade unionist influence over his election).

Red Ed’s election may herald a lurch to the Left for Labour, just as Hague, IDS and Howard were seen to anchor the Conservatives on the Right (simplistic summaries I know, but I think that was the wider perception, accurate or not).

Just a thought.

Fearing the Worst – Giving Polly a Good Fisking

Polly Toynbee speaks at the October 2005 Labou...

Polly Toynbee, with her mouth in gear

Polly Toynbee was churning out incoherent ramblings again last week. Unlike mine, though, she gets paid for hers. As Guido suggests, perhaps she’s got financial worries on her mind, like so many in the real world beyond the Grauniad offices. (Was it coincidence that this came out hours after her husband was told he’d be out of a job?)

Where Cameron and Osborne have been most successful is in frightening people … However, fear can be useful politically. Cameron’s government has skilfully created a hate campaign directed at the public sector. The release by Eric Pickles this week of all the spending data from his department and its quangos was admirable openness – but mainly a crafty assault on everything spent by public servants. Anecdotes work. People are easily persuaded that the handful of civil servants paid more than the prime minister are typical and that Indian head massages are the norm.

Yes, Polly, anecdotes can be powerful things, which must explain why, having piously cited David Cameron’s efforts, you serve up this:

… the public sector can be lax, but where is a comparison with lavish corporate hospitality at Wimbledon, Twickenham or the grand prix all paid for from peoples’ pension funds? A public employees’ £539 group awayday to Blackpool Pleasure Beach is less than the champagne bill for a public company’s beano at the races.

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Harriet Harman for Labour Leader!

Yes I know she’s not standing for it, but second to Diane Abbott Harriet would surely be the next most likely to frighten off the voters.

More to the immediate point, she does give good value at the despatch box. She is now of course acting up in the role of genuine caretaker leader (as opposed to the unofficial caretaker role that Gordon Brown held after October 2007). Her blend of Eighties “wimmin’s rights” and almost cringeworthy performances at PMQs used to make for an entertaining half hour. Today, however, she actually did quite well, all things considered. Then again, with up to three weeks to prepare you would expect her to be good, and with Cameron on form she needed to be. The same should go for tomorrow’s PMQs.[Doh! Should have checked the order paper first!]

Next week, though, should be more interesting. With only six questions – about ten minutes if she’s lucky – she will struggle more than she did with a full half hour. We shall see….

Are The LibDems In The Big Game … Or Their Own Endgame?

It’s difficult to see how things will work out well for the LibDems.

Whether there’s a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement or a full coalition (yeah, right) with the Conservatives, Clegg will have alienated or disillusioned most of his activists and half his voters. If he gets in with Labour, in a coalition of the losers, he’ll just disillusion the other half of his voters.

In the eyes of the ‘man in the street’ – the normal sort of person who thinks about politics seriously about once every four years – the LibDems have been a proxy for either a “none of the above” or “don’t know” option. The party has successfully duped many into thinking the party is somehow in the centre of the political spectrum, while a goodly number of Lib Dem activists would happily admit to being left of centre (or further). Whichever party they tie up with, that apparent equidistance will have disappeared.

Already there is no shortage of voices who, having been urged to vote LibDem to stop the Tories, are now spitting feathers at the prospect of a LibDem/Conservative deal. Even if Clegg does the dirty and ties up with Labour, a less distasteful prospect for many LibDems, any trust in the LibDems will have gone – and with it any chance of a credible claim to represent a new direction or honesty in politics.

Yet if he gets PR does all this matter? Yes, because a deeply divided – or even terminally split – Lib Dem party will not be able to compete against the likes of the Greens or UKIP in getting the attention of the electorate.

A referendum on PR will have to be won. Polls may presently show a majority in favour, but that is without any prominent campaign in favour of the current system. Bear in mind also that the longer the current negotiations drag on, the less the appetite for more of the same every couple of years.

Before he gets that far, of course, he has to actually get electoral reform. Whatever Cameron or Labour promise, it will have to come down to a vote in the Commons. How many MPs, having done the maths, would feel there is nothing to lose by defying the whips and not voting for Christmas?

Of course, before he gets that far, the coalition/support deal will have to survive the course; bear in mind any PR referendum will be unlikely to take place within a year (quite possibly longer) once the myriad of systems have been examined and the actual question decided on – and every decision in a coalition will be a long negotiating process.

So just what are the chances of the Lib Dems coming through the whole process still able to achieve as much as 23% in any election – PR or not – or even existing as a single party?