Monthly Archives: April 2007

House price boom should be treated like national debt

Not much time for blogging at the moment, but I thought I should flag this up now:

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research says in its latest journal that the surge in house prices is one “of the major adverse developments affecting the UK economy over the past 20 years”. The thinktank’s director, Martin Weale, says the rise has a similar effect to rising government debt because it transfers a burden to future generations.

Salmond proposes an independence loop-de-loop

You may have noticed I gave myself a miliband or two of wriggle room when I said that my Friday post on Scotland was ‘possibly’ my last one.

Euan Ferguson’s hagiographic, and appallingly badly written, article about Alex Salmond in the Observer today got me hopping:

The border, slow epoxy, is setting. Every indication, every poll, not least that revealed in today’s Observer, is that the SNP has a convincing, unassailable lead, and that on Friday Salmond will form a coalition with Nicol Stephen’s Lib Dems, and become First Minister: and, in 2010, in keeping with his manifesto, will take the country into a referendum vote for independence.

Really? Nicol Stephen is currently ruling out a coalition unless the SNP block their plans for an independence referendum. And the latest, largest, poll, puts an SNP-Lib Dem coalition at having a majority of 1. Hardly a strong administration then – that suggests that for the Lib Dems to agree to it, their price would have to be rather high indeed.

But the biggest nonsense today has to be Salmond’s claim that independence was “not a one-way street“. The Scots can suck it and see – if they don’t like it, then they can run back to Mama England’s ever-loving arms.

At what point are the English going to be given a way on all this I wonder? Pretty much everything the SNP have been asserting assumes the good will of the English – a good will which is likely to be in rather short supply during the divorce proceedings. Why, for example, should we accept this “Union of Crowns” idea? If a referendum were held, would the English go along with it?

But the fact that Salmond is now saying this suggests that he now recognises that the independence issue is growing increasingly toxic for the SNP. He’s trying to shut down the debate – he has to still pay lip service to independence, but with so many platitudes as to render it almost meaningless.

RoboCop comes out against elected mayors

An interview in the Guardian:

Looking colourful in a salmon pink shirt and maroon pair of braces that contrast with his grey, brushed-back hair, Mallon claims that the mayoral model is open to abuse by the power-crazy. He realised that after meeting another mayor early in his tenure – whom he refuses to name.

“I would like to suggest I am a pretty sane, balanced human being who no doubt has his quirks,” says Mallon, one of just 13 mayors in the country.

“But I am not going to abuse my power. I am not going to abuse my authority or do anything I should not. If you get a mayor who was power-mad, he could bring a town down or a city, so you can see I am not completely sold on the elected mayor idea. It works here because I like to think I am sane – though people who usually say that aren’t. It works fine here but it is unique.”

The big question is, who is he referring to?

Turks march for secularism

Presumably Sentamu and Williams will be condemning this:

Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Istanbul in support of secularism in Turkey, amid a row over a vote for the country’s next president.

The protesters are concerned that the ruling party’s candidate for the post remains loyal to his Islamic roots.

The candidate, Abdullah Gul, earlier said he would not quit despite growing criticism from opponents and the army.

Crying Wolf about Fascism

I was deeply impressed with an article I read earlier this week in the Guardian magazine section by Naomi Wolf.

I was impressed because while individually I think she had managed to point to a lot of worrying trends in terms of US policy, it actually left me less convinced that the US was on its way to becoming a fascist state than when I started. Remarkably, it is actually less than the sum of its parts.

Her overlying thesis was deeply flawed in that while all these trends are worrying, many of them appear to have already reached their nadir and are beginning to turn around. We’re already seeing US scepticism about the War on Terror, it is hard to conceive how a law tougher than the Patriot Act might be introduced given the current balance of power in Congress and there is absolutely no suggestion of locking US citizens up in Guantanamo – itself something which the courts are making hay over. One doesn’t need to be complacent, as she suggests, to believe that the US isn’t heading towards Fascism – one merely needs something vaguely resembling a balanced view.

Could a disaster tip the US over the edge? Maybe. But then, a disaster could tip any country over the edge. It is inherently unpredictable. Making such outlandish statements is not a call to arms, it is a cry of apathy.

(Probably) final thoughts on Scottish Independence

This will probably be the last thing I write on Scottish Independence this side of polling day as I’m off to Cardiff tomorrow.

Firstly, a group of 60 Scottish scientists have hit out at the SNP. We should remember that the Scottish Enlightenment was very much a product of the Union. A generation of outward looking Scots revolutionised everything from philosophy and economics through to engineering and architecture. It is this rich history that the SNP are so dismissive off.

Secondly, going back to my ponderings about what Scottish Independence would mean for the Welsh and Northern Irish, I wonder what the implications for Gibraltar would be? The Spanish are already challenging the UK’s occupation of Gibraltar – would they use the break up of the UK as an opportunity to press the issue once more? Would Gibraltar revert to the remaining UK (as someone pointed out to me the other day, we could no longer be the “United” Kingdom and instead would have to be called the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or KEWNI), to Scotland, or to both? Would the Spanish have a case for claiming that the Treaty of Utrecht needs to be renegotiated given that one of its main signatories no longer existed?

Indeed, what is the SNP’s policy on all the other colonies as well?

Of course, this only affects a few tens of thousands of individuals scattered around the world. The SNP might consider their plight to be irrelevant. But I do wish they would at least acknowledge such issues instead of presenting independence as an opportunity for Scotland to have a completely fresh start. We have a rich, entangled shared history together which the SNP would like to turn their backs on but which, if they get enough votes next week, they will quickly find they cannot afford to.

Fortunately, it does appear as if the Scots have basically come to realise that, with the gap between the SNP and Labour closing by the day. At the outset of the campaign, support for Scottish independence was running at over 50%; despite outspending their rivals, the SNP have seen support for their flagship policy plummet by over 30%, down to the low 20s now. If any other party had presided over such a disaster, the media would be having a field day.

The best they can now offer the Scottish electorate is that they are ‘not Labour’ – but there are lots of parties that fit the bill. It may well be enough to win a plurality, but something tells it will be a pretty hollow victory for them. We shall see.

Factchecking Durkin

Rob Fenwick points me in the direction of the Great Global Warming Swindle website.

I’ve got my foot out of the door and was barely looking at the website, but two inaccuracies screamed out at me, one mere exaggeration, the other a bonkers, brainless, stupid factual error that only a complete moron would commit.

Claim the first:

A DVD of the film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, will be available in the next few weeks (despite the strenuous efforts of those who support the theory of global warming to prevent its release).

These ‘strenuous efforts’ amounted to writing Durkin a letter and asking him not to release it. What a big baby. Next, the website has a page explaining how the sun is responsible for global warming:

It would be surprising, surely, if the sun did not have a major influence on the earth’s climate (why is summer warmer than winter?).

Read that again – why is summer warmer than winter? The answer has nothing, zero, zip, to do with the temperature of the sun. It has everything to do with the Earth spinning on an axis which is tilted relative to its orbital plane (pre-schoolers struggling with this concept may find the diagrams here useful).

Durkin and WAGtv appear to be under the misapprehension that the Sun gets warmer in the summer and colder in the winter. They appear to be wholly unaware of the fact that when it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is colder in the souther hemisphere. Indeed, one might even be so bold that they are unaware that the Earth is a globe at all, insisting that in fact it is flat (okay, maybe not, but the ‘sun gets warmer’ theory of how seasons work went out in medieval times).

Two screaming inaccuracies in 30 seconds. And people take these clowns seriously?

(I’m convinced that even Durkin might concede he’s wrong on this one, but in the interest of this little boo-boo being whitewashed out of history, I’ve included it here for posterity).

Two can play at that game Mr Howells (UPDATED)

Think you’re funny eh Will? Well, when I was at the anti-war demo, I saw this scandalous poster:
Mark Pack - the world’s #1 terrorist
I think we deserve an explanation after this revelation.

(see this if you don’t understand)

UPDATE: No one likes a laugh at Labour’s expense more than me, but Norfolk Blogger is entirely wrong to take this latest example is indicative of how “Labour” campaigns.

As Lib Dems, we get this sort of slur all the time – you will recall I went a bit off the rails last week because Francis Maude was attempting to brand the party as racist on the basis of a single unfortunate incident. It isn’t true when other parties play this game, and it isn’t true when we do the same.

It would appear that Busharat Ali has shown himself to be unfit for public office; serious questions have to be asked about Bristol Labour’s judgement in selecting him, and allowing him to publish this leaflet. But there is no evidence to suggest that this is part of a wider tendency within Labour.

Take the piss, and certainly don’t vote for Busharat Ali, but reading more into this than is credible simply lowers the tone of political discourse.

The Church of England: An Apology

Yesterday, I made the claim on this blog that the Church of England was obsessed with sex. However, having heard about Peter Halliday this morning, I now accept that when it comes to paedophilia going on where the Church has a clear duty of care, they aren’t particularly interested in sex at all.

UPDATE: On a serious note, what really gets me about this story is the narrative that the CofE is spinning that the 1980s were a dark time when paedophilia was rife and that attitudes have changed (cf. Today). As a 5 year old I remember being sat in drafty assembly halls to watch public information films about ‘stranger danger’ – and let’s not forget good old Charley. They only people who appear to have thought that paedophilia was ‘okay’ in the 80s appear to be in the Church.

UPDATE 2: It’s interesting to note that despite stonewalling John Humphries on the Today programme this morning, the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service are now joining in in condemning the Church:

Although the Children Act 1989 was not implemented until 1991 and most denominations did not establish child protection procedures until some time later, it was well known even then that serious crimes against children had to be reported to the police. The Church had a clear responsibility to take effective action to ensure that a known risk was prevented from having any further contact with children whatsoever.

“Sadly, the fact is that those in charge at the time failed to act appropriately and take professional advice was readily available. CCPAS’ child protection Help Line was established in the late 1980’s; had we been contacted by the church authorities then we would have had no hesitation in telling them to go straight to the police. Of course, there was also nothing to stop them from taking advice from police or social services at the time.

It is also misleading to suggest that there was only one opportunity to act in this case. The introduction a few years later of the Church of England’s child protection policy and their training programme should have highlighted to those concerned the inappropriateness of actions previously taken and this should have resulted in a different response.

Contrast this with the Church’s line:

“But I think also that in accordance with the way things were done in those days the Church can be seen to have done the best it could.”

In any other corporation, you would expect to have heard a statement from the man at the top by now. Not so in the case of our ‘moral guardians’ (although Williams does have lots of stuff on his website about how important he is to provide us with moral leadership). Watch this space.

UPDATE 3: Jonathan Calder provides a good rebuttal of the Church’s ‘nobody knew about child abuse in the 1980s’ line. Still no response from our moral guardian, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Qapla’!

I was about to go to bed, only to discover that this blog is the top Google result for the search “similarities korean klingon” and that someone actually found me that way.

I’ve also been impressed by the number of people finding this blog over the last 48 hours because of my post about Kryptonite. It’s good to see people grappling with the really important issues of the day.

Finally, I still get a significant number of visits from Konnie Huq fans. Disgracefully, I suspect this is because of the promise of seeing her “modelling the latest in tweenie fetish wear“.