Monthly Archives: August 2006

Zachariah has a George Bush Snr moment

The Times, 18 February 2006:

Taxes aren’t how Tories will save the world’

A CONSERVATIVE government would not introduce a “green” tax, according to the deputy chairman of the party’s commission on the environment.

Zac Goldsmith, the son of the late Sir James Goldsmith and Editor of Ecologist magazine, who was appointed by David Cameron after he became leader, said that good environmental policy was not about raising taxes or increasing regulations but “shifting emphasis”. “Most environmentalists would come out with a huge increase in taxes,” he added. “I don’t agree. The Conservative Party doesn’t like forcing people to do anything and I don ’t think we have to — most of the obstacles are from bad governance.”

The best way to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions was to make people aware of the importance of buying local food and introducing energy-efficiency savings in the home.

The Guardian, 31 August 2006:

And, as George Osborne will point out in Japan, we will need to make more use of eco taxes. “We should move some of the burden of taxation away from income and capital, and towards taxes on environmentally damaging behaviour. Instead of a tax system that penalises hard work and enterprise, we need to move towards more effective and fair taxes on pollution.”

This, of course, is a quote from Boy George, who last month described the Lib Dem proposal for a tax shift as a panic measure written on the back of an envelope.

So what’s changed? Why has Zac “Read my lips: no green taxes” Goldsmith and his chums done such a vaulting U-Turn? Could it possibly have something to do with the new Lib Dem policies threatening to strip them of the nice green sheen they have been carefully cultivating for the past few months?

Symbols and reality

Some more logical gymnastics from Evan Harris:

Evan Harris, the party’s science spokesman, admitted that the proposed package would be more progressive but said he was worried that ditching the 50p rate was a “symbolic” move that would send the wrong signal to voters.

In other words, we shouldn’t bother striving to do what we believe to be right, but what we believe to be popular.

The real problem with Harris’ rebellion is it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By spending a large portion of Conference week denouncing our policy he threatens to drown out those who would rather explain it. He effectively hands a stick to our opponents to beat us with.

Evan Harris prides himself as a secularist and rationalist, yet he’s going to go to Brighton next month calling us to vote for the equivalent of fairies at the bottom of our garden.

Don’t get me wrong, I have certain misgivings about our proposed new taxation policy – I may even get around to submitting an amendment of my own – but what objections I have are about how the policy will work in reality, not what “messages” it might send out.


A couple of things to say about Tommy Sheriden’s new party, Solidarity – the Scottish Socialist Movement.

  • Solidarity from a splitter? He he he, at least he hasn’t lost his sense of humour.
  • How long will it be before its name gets contracted to SM – one of the few things that Sheriden hasn’t been accused of?

Oh, and before I forget, here’s a bit of Sheriden humour that I forgot to blog about last week:
Q. What’s pink, hard and obsessed about by Tommy Sheriden? A. Click here.

Things wot I hate: Run London adverts

Readers outside of London should feel privileged that they have been spared Nike’s latest marketing/CSR initiative: Run London. They’re adverts are everywhere and they have been driving me nuts.

Irritation the First: this cheery repackaging of North versus South London rivalry. In truth, there is no such rivalry, just a simple tribalistic identity rooted in a desire to smash The Other’s face in. Time Out magazine occasionally produce “north” and “south” special editions and this probably where the marketing whizzes got the idea from. But it isn’t as if the people of Dagenham feel any great sense of commonality with Islington. You might just as well talk about east vs west, outer versus inner or – with rather more justification – ye olde versus nouveau. The tone of this whole advertising campaign – “north vs south rivalry – bonkers, eh?” – is completely misplaced because it is making light out of something that any real Londoner knows doesn’t actually exist. But if it did, it would be highly inappropriate, a bit like trying to suggest that football hooliganism or sectarianism could somehow be repackaged as something fun and silly.

Irritation the second: this endless abuse of language. We stretchy, we bendy. We banana powered, we water-cooled. We D-I-S-C-O, we techno techno techno. Argh!!! I’ve remembered them all! Whatever happened to fucking verbs, eh?

Irritation the third: the fact that this is a transnational corporation chewing up London culture and spitting it back at us and expecting us to be grateful. You’re called Nike. You expect us to pronounce your name nyk-eee, yet won’t even do us the courtesy of providing us with an acute accent above your last letter: isn’t that enough? What makes you think you have the right to come here and tell me what to think about my own city?

Irritation the fourth: the fact that just by blogging about this I’m helping to promote the bastards. I can’t even complain without helping them. Their website is possibly even more annoying than their tube adverts, and yet by linking to it I’m somehow helping to connect them with their target audience. I hate you all.

It must be the silly season…

… why else would the Guardian be so desperate that it has chosen now to publish a story announcing that (gasp!) Tony Benn is critical of the government and (shock!) his son is a member of the cabinet!

In what way is this earth shattering news to anyone (that is anyone outside of the American mid-west and not still getting to grips with the parentage of Bart Simpson)? It was kind of news when Hillary won his seat in 1999, sort of interesting when he got his first junior minister post, but now?

God help us if they start publishing “Tony/Lauren Booth thinks the government is a bit shit” stories again. They might just as well pack up and go home.

How far is too far?

I haven’t blogged about the situation in Lebanon, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t been constantly on my mind. The problem is, how do you articulate a position without instantly being jumped on by either side? As with Iraq, for so many people there is no space for nuance.

But I will say this: I have constantly hit out at people who tend to make excuses for terrorism. When Jenny Tonge made fatuous remarks about how she would have been a suicide bomber if she was Palestinian, I was one of the first to criticise, just as I was earlier this year when Chris Davies made similar comments. But it does amaze me how certain people who have been quick to attack such comments seem blind to the fact that it does work both ways.

Israel’s attack on Lebanon was by no means unprovoked but it has resulted in something like 10 Lebanese deaths for every 1 Israeli. The Israeli reaction to claims that this is disproportionate is “what would you have done?” But this sounds just a little too much like the rote of “something must be done” > “this is something” > “therefore it must be done.” Are we really to believe that there is no such thing as going too far?

Israel can’t expect us to sympathise with its right to defend itself, however disproportionately, and then expect us to condemn Palestinians or Hizbullah for reacting in the same disproportionate manner.

Conspiratorial Pots and Kettles

Another incoherent article in the Observer by Nick Cohen again this week. The man truly is hopelessly confused.

This week he manages to conflate people who see Zionist conspiracies in everything with people who believe in the conspiracy theory (for that is what it is) that al-Qaeda is a SMERSH-style international organisation with Osama Bin Laden sitting there in his cave in Northern Pakistan plotting their every move (presumably complete with white Persian sitting on his lap).

Although I must admit to not having seen Adam Curtis’ Power of Nightmares, my understanding of his thesis is not that terrorists identifying themselves as al-Qaeda don’t exist, but that there is no “organisation” called al-Qaeda as such. Indeed, that is both their strength (hard to eradicate fully) and weakness (can only ever pick away at targets without ever really damaging infrastructure in a meaningful way).

As Max Hastings puts it in today’s Guardian, this grand conspiracy theory – shared by busom buddies Nick Cohen and George Bush – has the perverse effect of equating the Palestinian struggle – people with a legitimate grievance even if groups such as Hamas go the wrong way about it – with people who are completely beyond the pale, cannot be reasoned with and who are committed to the total destruction of our way of life. In the past, international diplomacy would have been dedicated to driving a wedge between these groupings; Bush’s strategy over the last few years has been to drive them together.