Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is the purpose of the EU ..?

Can anyone please explain to TMP what useful purpose the EU now serves? The Commons expenses fiasco provides a useful jumping off point for the biggest rotten apple in the European political barrel.

The European Parliament and its various agencies and institutions now exist for the systematic abuse of power and the laundering of money, for the maintenance of its own interests and those of its overpaid apparatchiks. It shamefully remains unauditable and unaccountable.

It was thought up (like so much else) in the pre-internet age, when information and markets were barely accessible to any but "insiders"; which is utterly different to the globalised world of today. Europe was emerging from a world war when Germany decided that third time was unlikely to be lucky, and instead sought a pact with its neighbours whereby it's economic power could prevail without attracting the same sort of controversy as a Blitzkrieg. The Germans rightly thought that as the largest country in Europe, and with a pretty good track record of being organised and able to make all sorts of stuff, they would be in the economic box seat most of the way.

The French, pragmatic as ever, went along, comfortable in the knowledge that they would simply ignore anything they didn't want or like. The other states were pretty much frog marched along, although most generally managed to convince themselves that this inevitable outcome was actually going to be good for them.

Huge bribes were offered so that the French and Germans could develop the more backward states as better consumers of their products. And at the same time, external barriers were erected and the rules set out to ensure that there was a level playing field inside the EU, by hanging the same millstones of social policy around each others necks.

But above all else, and at all times, the political classes took care of themselves as never before in the history of mankind. This was to be the gravy train to end all gravy trains.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is enough, enough?

Some people are starting to ask if the Westminster Follies has run for long enough. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has been moved to call for a truce, pointing out that the humiliation is complete, and perhaps it is now time to take stock, and start to try and restore some dignity to Parliament.

Stressed MPs - many of whom may be facing criminal investigations although they all felt they were part of the "nod and wink" scheme that made up for their relatively low basic salaries - are talking of possible suicides; but this farce needed to run and run, because for a long time many of the Westminster villagers simply refused to "get it", because they had become part of a 12 year "project" by New labour to use it's vast majority to install a centralised and "presidential" style of administration, with political animals (paid from public funds) like Damian McBride, threaded through the service as never before. Now we can look back over the 12 years, perhaps "conspiracy" actually says it better then "project" ..?

Blair's vacuous babes were emblematic of his "Stepford" Administration, where inexperienced and wholly inappropriate individuals were controlled through programmed responses that took away the need for anyone to weigh up arguments and think for themselves, because the debating chamber became almost completely irrelevant under the junta. The fact that 75% of UK legislation now emanates from Brussels also engendered a sense of futility and pointlessness where those who found themselves sidelined and politically irrelevant found they had more time to spend flipping their mortgages and dealing with their domestic expenses.

Like so much else that has gone wrong with Britain today, this entire affair sits squarely on the smug shoulders of Tony Blair, who was ready to do and say anything to get into power and stay there. He pretty much came from political obscurity, with no respect for any of the great traditions of parliament or democracy. Despite his obviously toffish family and background, he correctly calculated that he could get nowhere as such a raw neophyte in the Conservative party, and set about using his lawyerly skills for wooing the defeated and demoralised Labour party, looking for a new Messiah. And like Blair, ready to do and say anything to get back into power.

His biggest enemy from the outset was always going to be "common sense" and that sense of rectitude that the British understand as "fair play". Blair (and his chief svengali, Alastair Campbell) wanted unquestioning enforcers and vapid lobby fodder. Even 80 year old lifelong party members were to be ejected from triumphant gatherings like the Labour Party conferences, at the first sign of dissent.

Another part of Blair's poisonous legacy is that all parties saw how he had got away with such a lightweight background, an absence of any skill or gravitas - and decided that it was safe - necessary, even - for them also to have candidates that were camera and sound-bite friendly professional politicians, with no life experience to speak of.

TMP believes that the overriding issue of the past 12 years is the substitution of "good old fashioned British common sense" by process, belief in various forms of entitlements, and crude undemocratic diktat. The fact that Labour's "project" has involved importing large numbers of people as cheap labour to fuel the phony boom (and also mostly vote in their favour) meant that it would be necessary to try and eradicate the "British" dimension from Britain, in order that the new workforce should not feel awkwardly excluded from the society that the British believe themselves to be part of - which is a very distinct existence from that of many European countries that have been variously invaded, conquered and carved up many times over the past few hundred years.

The latest news that the UK birth rate is now the highest since 1972 is a very mixed blessing. Despite the issues of an aging population, the planet doesn't need more consumers of resources, and the fact that 24% of all births in the UK are now to mothers born outside the UK, is significant. This news only adds to the belief that no one in government is listening to the people who would have liked to have been consulted rather more closely before their society was changed in so many fundamental ways. But maybe if Westminster sits with its ears shut for long enough, the majority of the "people" will have born to parents from overseas anyway? Perhaps then government will start to pay attention to the English native minority…

This refusal to engage in a debate about the nature of Britain without name-calling and presumptions of prejudice gives the BNP their once-in-lifetime opportunity. Although it seems that the BNP contains too many fundamentally stupid people for the movement to ever take a proper hold - not least thanks to that innate British sense of "fair play", so admirably shown during Joanna Lumley's Ghurkha campaign. But there will be trouble. One of the responsible parties needs to take ownership of the concerns that are apparent throughout the country that England (especially) has been re-engineered into something the English didn't ask for - and don't want - through the process of unfettered immigration.

The present expenses shamble has shown the entire population just how completely corrupt and untrustworthy a large part of the government and parliament has become. If it can display such bad manners, poor judgement and crass stupidity over matters such as porn TV and phantom mortgages - just what else have they mishandled? Of course the only way forward is to hold an early general election and re-examine each and every candidate; those who have not previously been MPs will have the advantage that their lives up to that point will be a good deal less transparent - and there is going to have to be a good deal of weight placed on the argument for the "Devils you know" to support existing MPs who have not taken the proverbial in their expense claims.

But even then, any MP "excused" or "pardoned" is going to lack moral authority, and we have created the most enormous dilemma for the country.

The Boy Dave endorsed the value of basic common sense in his various protestations at the sheer crass stupidity of the Grandees and their presumption of entitlement concerning such obviously tasteless expenses as moats and duck houses. The lack of judgement displayed was stellar, but the opportunity this provides to flush out the worst of the old fossils, is probably very welcome. So far at least, most of the excusable and potentially useful Tory babies appear to be capable of being filtered from the bathwater. From a glance at the league table of expenses, Labour has a rather bigger problem since a minister is always going to face a higher bar of expectations and responsibilities.

Gordon Brown's curiously differential treatment of Hazel Blears' naughty mortgage manipulations seems quite inexplicable if you don't bear in mind that the Auld Fraud is himself slightly bonkers anyway. It is always quite pointless to try and attribute rational behaviour to the unhinged. And since Broon was looking distinctly wobbly before all this broke, just imagine what the torture by Telegraph as been doing for his state of mind over the past couple of weeks.

One of the good things to emerge will be a complete reappraisal of just where the surveillance society has taken us. Technology made it possible for the mole to sneak out the documents - probably on a memory stick or mobile phone memory card. We can either carry on in the knowledge that nothing is safe, or we can start to contain the technology that is increasingly containing us. For many years, executives in US corporations have been reluctant to use email for anything but the most bland and inconsequential purposes, since they know the power of disclosure is total, and it can quickly becoming unreasoning and unremitting.

Nixon's infamous White House tapes were a sign of things to come and had little to do with modern IT - it didn't exist; and most of the MPs' expenses remained hidden for long because they were hand written on old-fashioned bits of paper - but then duly scanned into retrieval system.

On the matter of a return to "common sense", please show TMP anyone happy to have all their private correspondence and communication thrown open to public comment and ridicule, and we'll show you a desperately sad and boring individual. The wonder is that we have yet to get any juicy Mistress scandals from all this. What a tediously boring and dowdy lot these MPs truly are.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summarising Proust

Those who came here looking for Monty Python's famous sketch can find it here... but the task for TMP to round up the past week in politics is on the same scale, given that the Telegraph claims to have been given a million pages of documents by its mole.

It seems that the people of Britain have been woken up at last. Not by the numerous despairing attempts of us doomwatchers trying to point out the constant creep of surveillance and invasion of the mind snatchers from Blair/Broon's nanny state - but by the sound of yelping as MP fingers have been caught in the public till after the telegraph and its moles slammed the drawer shut. And there are fingers strewn all over the floor!

The gravy train just ran over a cliff, but only after 12 years of the relentless erosion of liberty by Blair's presidential style and disdain for parliament and the unelected Brown's simple "unfitness" for the job. The "system" they are all apologizing for and desperate to change was controlled by the champagne socialist dynasties and cliques, that believe they know better than the pesky people who get in the way of their grand plan. And it is now apparent that the compliance of backbenchers in the cynical sidelining of parliamentary process was being bought at wholesale rates by a culture of "nod and wink" expenses. All presided over by their own dodgy pick of Speaker, who was installed in a very crude act of disdain against all the traditions and expectations of parliament. But it now seems that many MPs were too busy flipping their property and speculating to be bothered to attend parliament and find out what was going on.

The full list is published here on BBC News website. Although all parties have found the imprint of their members' snouts in the trough, the majority of those snouts belong to labour MPs, Ministers, even. The dreadful Jacquie Smith kicked this all off with her husband who was caught with his dick in hand (he is also paid for by the state, remember) and his porn TV channel claim. You could not make it up, could you? The Home Secretary, of all people, responsible for some of the most insidious invasions of privacy and destruction of liberty in a thousand years was first to find out what it was like to have her own privacy invaded! Except that it wasn't actually a private matter if it was paid for with public money.

And all this coming so soon after the MPs harangued the dodgy bankers and extracted the "S" word from the next least popular category of sanctimonious, incompetent and bullying trough divers in the land. All we need now is for someone to nail that last bastion of sanctimonious hypocrisy - the news media itself - and we will have the full house.

However you cut it, that the motley collection of shifty characters that have been given carte blanch by three landslide majorities to do what that pleased with the UK for the past 12 years, have been caught on the hop; and how! Every single one of them has been sheepishly apologizing and making excuses including many who would have done nothing wrong in the minds of reasonable people, if only it had been better managed the instant it became obvious what was going to happen.

These people are mostly shown to be political pygmies, whose moral authority to tell the rest of us what is good for us, has just evaporated and can never return. TMP was pondering whether or not to add the word "Blears" to its online spelling checker database, but we don't think we'll bother now, because it is soon (with any luck/justice) unlikely to ever be heard again.

Indeed, TMP got a great sense of amused satisfaction when typing the labels for this post: "deeply flawed Gordon Brown, sleaze, corruption, unlawful expense claims Hazel Blears, Jacqui Smith " Now you lot please go and get the same sense of satisfaction by demanding a general election, and then voting those MPs whose years of sanctimonious preaching onto the dole.

But there must also be some account made of the degree of the sin, based on the position of the miscreant and the size of the piss-take. Normal life would quickly be intolerable if every speed camera was suddenly to be set to trap anyone doing 30.01 mph in the spirit of New Puritanism. But a lot of the stress of modern life after 12 years of relentless Blair/Brown project is that most of the grey areas and general discretionary "slack" of life has been repealed, and is now policed by squads of the otherwise unemployable in they shiny peaked caps. Which employee has never tried it on with their expenses, or not helped themselves to the office pens?

It was the sheer lack of any evidence of "good taste" that has dumbfounded the voters, themselves facing paying for this government's ineptitude over the next 20 or 30 years. TMP is surprised that there isn't more of an effort going into a campaign to get some MPs to be made criminally bankrupt under this government's ironic "proceeeds of crime" legislation.

But it is quite clear the atmosphere was one one of "it's an entitlement because the basic salary has been artificially restrained - and they're all at it, so we might as well join the fun". That means the biggest responsibility must rest with the government itself, and micro-managing Brown in particular. But any preaching minister with an error of judgment of more than £1000 is obviously is toast; any humble backbencher with more than £10k of hard-to-explain claims is probably also a gonner.

Now only a general election that explores all these issues and returns MPs who have shown they "get it" can start to rebuild the essential confidence in parliament that has been so clumsily lost by the grinning mismanagement of Broon, ably aided and abetted in his foolishness by his Caledonian Comrade and fall guy, Gorbals Mick.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The banking scandal in microcosm

We don't think I've seen anyone yet draw the stark parallel with New Labours "nod and wink" relationship with some of the more conniving turncoats of the City and financial services industry, and what went on at Westminster. Talk about a mess of pottage.

Looked at overall, we can see the familiar pattern of trough-diving socialism of the type that has always rotted through any socialist administration. Sly deals being done with the purse keepers - and the comforting group excuse and belief that "they're all at it anyway".

The worst of this is the revelation that we have allowed our nation and its sovereignty to be taken to the brink of the economic and political abyss by a collection of least desirable white-collar criminals ever to walk the streets. What else have they got wrong and done wrong in pursuit of personal agendas?

However, someone has to stand up and call a halt to the fun in order to resume the struggle with the monster of Brown's slump - but now it clearly cannot be Broon or any of his trough-diving colleagues.

Blair was left the Clark/Major legacy of contained inflation as a basis for future growth which it now seems was squandered on wide boys and girls of the Scottish financial services industry to help fuel the fantasy property-lead boom that provided taxes to fuel the fantasy welfare state - but just what on earth is Brown leaving to his successor?

A shoebox stuffed full of worthless IOUs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Still no ideas, Will?

The Guardian writer and BBC's favourite jouryneman economic guru, Will Hutton, is still stuck bemused in his cosy socialist world where the fairy money once grew on trees, and is still struggling to come to temrs with a world that is collapsing around his ears. Like everyone else, he can offer almost no useful and practical suggestions.

"We need to create a network of public/private banks to support industrial and infrastructure investment and we need a wholesale transformation in the short-term, risk-averse way in which British banks have treated manufacturing companies for more than a century."

Despite Armageddon, we still seem to be up to our arses in bankers, bankers and financial this-that-and-the-others. Doubtless because of Will's "form", this would all be much better under state management and control, since all he has to offer are some historic references to deluded irrelevant precedents.

"British banks [around the time of WW2] were cajoled into supporting new industries and restructuring old ones."

One thing Hutton gets right is to observer that this mess is still mostly about confidence. And by far the biggest problem is the long term crisis of confidence brought on by the government's denial of the presence of the mammoth in the room: far too much public spending and unbelievably huge amounts of public debt.

Inspiring confidence is generally about leadership, a quality that is currently absent in every sense of the word in government, and scarily also in wider society. Brown's period of "leadership" is clearly over, so no one is taking him seriously any longer - especially as his own party jostles for position in the inevitable leadership contests ahead.

The media and the electronic communication age have discouraged anyone of any quality from sticking their head above any parapet - especially when they can see examples of how easily even great talents such as Hutton [yes. we are being ironic], can be exposed to scrutiny and ridicule - and made to look naive and foolish. The present humiliation of MPs' expenses is possibly the single biggest and most sustained exposure of clay feet in the history of mankind.

Current UK "leaders" (in all walks) are almost entirely talent-free, and seem driven by nothing other than their towering greed or hubris - or both. Amongst all the banking disasters, Lloyd's Chairman, Victor Blank, stands out as a fine example of how this double jeopardy can play out.

Anyone of any quality observing the current leadership crises in finance, government, the metropolitan police and just about anywhere else that long lenses, email and Google can pry, cannot be blamed for not wanting to get involved. Yet we are headed into a puritanical frenzy of transparency and accountability that would probably be able to find and dish the dirt on St Francis or Mother Teresa. Only those who have never done anything faintly interesting in their dull grey lives will be able to survive examination under the arc lights of the New Inquisition.

So overall, this seems to be a rather bigger issue and problem than even a bloke of Hutton's immense talents and track record in solving the nation's problem can cope with.

The leaders that got us out of holes in the past tended not to be motivated purely by small scale money like fiddled expenses. Rarely did they allow a bean-counter's take on the world to get between them and their visions. Quite often, these people were obsessive about proving a point and willing to risk everything.

Stopping the gravy train

We paid peanuts, we got monkeys. Sly, artful and self-serving monkeys, perhaps, but monkeys all the same. The current furore of MPs expenses - however its exposure has been motivated - has reminded us of the challenges of being ruled by a cabal of small-minded jobsworth with no experience of anything other than being cogs in bigger machines, that religiously claim their expenses.

This comes about because of a stupid decision made a long time ago to avoid the embarrassment of increasing MPs salaries to match those of (allegedly!!) similarly skilled and responsible jobs - so that MPs get paid substantially less than a huge number of relatively trivial local council managers. Instead, a less politically sensitive way to bolster the earnings was devised to provide a "generous range" of "expenses allowances", as we all now know. The relentless exposure of this crass exploitation of loopholes sets a useful example to Labour's new regions of high rate tax victims looking for way to avoid paying all but the barest minimum for Labour's mismanagement.

It's a pity that this pathetic Labour junta has pretty much confirmed the jaundiced view of the electorate that they aren't worth even minimum wage, but something needs to be done fast to try and restore some respect to our leaders who are an unprecedented laughing stock and devoid of all respect at a crucial time like this. After the demise of the Tories in 1997 over the issue of handful of comparatively minor exposes of political sleaze, there will be quite a few deposed Conservatives looking up how to spell "schadenfreude".

There is much to be said for MPs who do not need the money and for whom politics is not a tempting gravy train for the otherwise unemployable, but a genuine opportunity for public service - and something that you get into only after you have some obtained some experience of how the world works in the real world of real wealth creating employment.

And there is NOTHING in any form of education that comes close to the experience gained from employing and managing people who are spending YOUR money.

Apart from nannies and cleaners, what experience do any Labour Ministers have of such a crucial element of the way the world works? Bugger all, we suspect, judging by their chronic nativity and reliably appalling judgement. Something we suspect that they have in common with Labour's assorted BBC and Guardian flag bearers who simply have no experience of life outside the UK's publicly funded soft-left media and luvvie bubble. (TMP would point out that the Guardian seems to be largely funded from advertising public sector jobs ands services...)

Although anything has to be better than Broon's pantomime administration, the Tories are not what they once were. Mrs T. was possibly as effective as she was because she plainly didn't need the money like the present collection of simian ministers all seem to. Far be it from TMP to imply that she was a kept woman, but her husband Dennis was not short of a few bob, and the need to pay the mortgage was never going to cloud her judgement.

Tory spokesman Dr Liam Fox speaking on BBC TV said it would be a pity if only the "independently wealthy" were able to afford to take part in politics. But after 11 years of rule by the independently poor, could it be any worse?