Kirchner didn’t even win a majority of Argentines in the Falklands

Posted on March 12, 2013

The Falkland Islands’ referendum could hardly have been more clear. Turnout was over 90%, and while 1,513 voted to stay as  a British overseas territory, only 3 voted against.

Those three are intriguing. Iain Martin of the Telegraph speculates that they may have been voting for independence from Britain but not in favour of joining Argentina.

But what if they were motivated by true Argentine nationalism? After all, there are some Argentines living in the islands (real ones, I’m not adopting the Kirchner Government’s ludicrous suggestion that everyone there is legally Argentine). And any who have been resident for seven years prior to the referendum had the right to vote yesterday.

The precise number of Argentines living there isn’t clear – a spokesman for the Falkland Islands Government tells me there are “a handful”, but legal nationality wasn’t a question on the Islands’ 2012 census. The closest estimate I can find is from the BBC in 2007, who reported that:

“20 Argentines…are fully integrated into the 3,000-strong community of the archipelago”

It seems likely that those who were “fully integrated” 6 years ago would by now have lived there long enough to be entitled to vote in the referendum. Even in a worst case scenario in which half of them had died, emigrated or fallen in the sea since 2007, that would leave 10 Argentines with a vote on the future of the islands.

So it seems clear that not only did an overwhelming majority of Falkland Islanders vote to stay British – not even a majority of the Argentines eligible to do so voted to leave.

Maybe Christine de Kirchner needs to have a rethink…

 

Some things change – but Prezza stays the same

Posted on January 07, 2013

A new year heralds change – 2013 will see new heights of human achievement, new lows of tragedy, new inventions and discoveries, new works of art and new ways to move the spirit.

What it will not see, it seems, is a new commitment to accuracy from John Prescott. In the history of scientific endeavour, few leopards have been discovered with less changeable spots.

This morning the good Lord – turned Sunday Mirror columnist – tweeted:

Unfortunately for Prezza, that photo – much used by the lefty twitterati in recent months – is from September 2004, as reported here.

That means the bubbly was being delivered not to George Osborne or his Coalition colleagues but to Gordon Brown, at a time when John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister. Either Prezza knows the photo is from the wrong administration and is deliberately misleading his 167,000 Twitter followers, or he has mistakenly picked it up from somewhere else.

Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the latter. The only recent, mainstream use of the picture was in the Daily Mail last year, accompanying a story that the Chancellor intends to introduce a green tax on chilled champagne. The tax will supposedly be called the “Thermal Reduction Initiative (Champagne)”, or “TRIC”. Published under the byline “Pru Cremier”, the story was published on…April the 1st.

Oh dear, John.

We should elect the BBC Director General

Posted on November 11, 2012

The scandal rushing through the offices and studios of the BBC has many sources – horrifying historic sex offences on a staggering scale, poor journalism making it to air due to an apparent panic within Newsnight and a disastrous failure of management at the very top have all played their part.

The results of the crisis are clear to see. The Director General has gone under the professional guillotine. Newsnight’s future is in doubt. Less than half of the public, who fund the Corporation, now think it is trustworthy (according to a ComRes poll carried out before the erroneous report aired and Entwhistle resigned). Infighting has gone public, with various famous faces slugging it out in the press.

The question now is how to solve this mess.

Simply hoping that the next DG, and all of his or her successors, will have a better approach to crisis management than the beleaguered George Entwhistle, is not enough. As the misappointment of “Incurious George” showed, the current system cannot guarantee it will always pick the right candidate.

Not only is the appointment process flawed. Entwhistle’s flailing attempts to hide behind protocol and process rather than step up and deal with the scandal showed that the position itself has a fatal lack of legitimacy and authority.

The next Director General must be selected through a process which is transparent, which openly tests their abilities and policies, and which confers on the winner a genuine authority and legitimacy. In short, the Director General of the BBC should be elected by the licence fee paying public – an electorate who, through a recall power, should also be able to sack them if they so wish.

Only that way will we end the oddity of the people’s broadcaster (and its multi-billion pound budget) being run by an anonymous suit anointed by Lord Patten for reasons unknown. Only that way will we prevent a re-run of the farce in which the Editor-In-Chief of a publicly-owned Corporation seems surprised that the public expect him to answer to them when things go wrong. Only that way will the people be willing to place their trust once more in the BBC’s discredited leadership.

The Labour Representation Committee: Back in the USSR

Posted on July 09, 2012

There is a fascinating internal struggle going on within the Labour Party at the moment. The GMB Trade Union declared their intent to ban Progress, the arch-Blairite pressure group, from the party, and appear to be well on their way to doing so.

Atul Hatwal’s Labour Uncut article on the topic drew attention to some of the factions on the hard left of the party who aren’t coming in for the same kind of criticism allotted to Progress. So I wandered over to the website of the Labour Representation Committee, a leftist pressure group who quite cheekily took their name from the original name of the Labour Party itself.

There I found this remarkable gem of a blogpost, identifying the LRC – which is chaired by John McDonnell MP – as an eager ally of the Assad regime in Syria. Which, at a time when Assad is murdering civilians by the thousand, is pretty classy.

It’s worth reading the whole piece as a classic case-study in deluded, old-school leftism, peppered as it is with references to “world capitalism and imperialism”, “bourgeois nationalism” and “the world masses” (whose official spokesman is, of course, taken to be Cuba).

For now I’m going to give you just one staggeringly brilliant quote:

“Sensing its end coming near, capitalism prepares for war not against Syria, or Iran, but against the USSR”

Err, against who?

It’s bad enough having Parliamentary representation for a group that harks back to the beliefs of the USSR, but it seems the LRC think the Evil Empire still exists. If their campaign to save Bashar Al-Assad’s skin is motivated by a desire to preserve the Soviet Union, then they may be in for a nasty shock next time they look at a map…

 

++ Update ++

Though Cowards Flinch has done some digging into the backstory of Marie Lynam, the LRC blog author (who the LRC’s leadership are desperately trying to distance themselves from in the comments below), and points out that she is apparently a member of the Fourth International Posadists.

The Posadists are a really hardcore Trotsykite cult clique who are actually odd enough to have their own Fortean Times article – thanks to their ideological leader’s weird beliefs, which included campaigning for a nuclear war as soon as possible and the idea that UFOs were sent by an alien socialist utopia.

In that respect, they’re kind of like the Scientologists, except they believe in taking everyone’s money rather than just that of their own members. Should the LRC really have Posadists blogging for their site?

Trenton Oldfield and the Suffragettes – those similarities in full

Posted on April 11, 2012

In the aftermath of his wrecking of the University Boat Race on Saturday, maritime Marxist Trenton Oldfield has done an insightful interview with the Independent in which he modestly claims to be the modern-day ideological descendant of the Suffragettes – and in particular of Emily Davison, who died after throwing herself under the King’s horse.

It’s quite an ambitious claim – let’s check the similarities…

  Suffragettes

Insufferable and Wet

Cause

Votes for women. “Fighting elitism”.

Personal link

Denied the vote. Err, private school and the LSE.

Supporters

At least half the population. Laurie Penny. Himself.

Method

Hurling oneself under a dashing horse. Swimming towards two boats.

Target

The King. Rowers.

Personal Cost

Loss of life. Damp beard. Widespread disdain.

Outcome

Full voting rights for women. Mockery.

 

Oh.

The Suffragette slogan was “Deeds not Words” – if you judge Trenton Oldfield by the former or the latter, his was a belly-flop of a protest.

The benefits cap debate – a win for Ministers, and an economic fail for critics

Posted on January 23, 2012

The furore over Iain Duncan Smith’s proposed benefits cap was predictable, and Ministers have merrily sailed into it for two reasons – because a high profile fight on this topic brings them an electoral advantage, and because they knew the Left would swallow the bait in one great, unthinking gulp.

The idea that no household should get more than £26,000 in benefits – equivalent to a pre-tax salary of £35,000 – is overwhelmingly popular. British voters subscribe to a strong idea of fairness, particularly when it comes to the idea that working should be more rewarding than not working, and they have been outraged by numerous reports of large families living at no cost to themselves in huge, overpriced houses in particular.

The critique of the proposals coming from the Left, notably from Lib Dem Guardianista Tim Leunig, is fatally flawed because socialist economics fails to recognise that the economy is dynamic. You can’t change one input to the system without others shifting in response – both when macro market forces and micro human behaviour are involved.

The flaw comes when they crunch the numbers. Leunig’s Guardian piece claims to calculate that the benefits cap would leave people living on 62p a day. The most crucial element of his workings is that a 4-bedroom house in Tolworth costs £400 a week. That’s true right now, but it wouldn’t be the case once a cap has been brought in.

The truth is that some of the main beneficiaries of overly high benefits are private landlords. They may not get payments from the DWP direct, but they reap the cash anyway through inflated rents, secure in the knowledge that every time they put the price up, benefits levels are raised to pay them. This is a racket, exploiting the foolishness of officials in pumping more and more money out and the absence of taxpayer power to rein in this behaviour.

Tim Leunig is right that if rents were fixed as they are now then his hypothetical family would pay£400 a week. But rents aren’t fixed, they are fluid. If you remove a large amount of cash from the system then prices will fall. By arguing for the system to remain as it currently is, rather than accept a cap, this supposed “progressive” is effectively fighting the corner of benefit-farming landlords.

There are knock-on benefits to removing the artificial inflation in rents, too. If renting property out becomes less profitable, the desire and the financial means to buy-to-let will be reduced, helping to address the shortage of affordable housing that is so often highlighted as a problem.

This is why we can expect IDS to be intensely relaxed about this fight gaining so much publicity. When it comes down to it, he has public opinion and solid economics on his side.

The undeclared vested interests of leading pro-EU Peers

Posted on December 16, 2011

We’ve heard a lot from pro-EU members of the House of Lords in the last week. Here are a few examples:

 

Lord Brittan: “In order to retain the goodwill which will continue to be needed in future, would my noble friend agree that it will be necessary-if not today, certainly soon-to make it clear that we are not going to try to stop the 26 going ahead by denying them the use of European Union institutions?”

Lord Mandelson: “My Lords, people will differ in their view about whether the Government’s negotiating position last week was tenable or realistic. Will the Government reflect on the utterly shambolic way in which they prepared their position and sought support for their proposals at the summit last week?”

Lord Clinton-Davis: “The Government have not been courageous but desperately cowardly and, most of all, barren of influence. Is that not the case?”

They seem happy to share their enthusiasm for giving up powers to the EU with us. But there’s something else they aren’t so happy about sharing – as ex-Commissioners each of them has to support EU integration or risk losing their generous, taxpayer-funded EU pension. Moreover, they don’t declare this financial interest when they speak in EU debates.

It sounds fanciful, but it’s true. The terms of employment for Commissioners are clear – the obligations of the role include the stipulation that a Commissioner

“shall carry out the duties assigned to him objectively, impartially and in keeping with the duty of loyalty to the [European] Communities

Importantly, these obligations must be followed

“both during and after their term of office”

The consequences of failing to express loyalty for the rest of their days are also clear, in black and white:

“In the event of any breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice may, on application by the Council or the Commission, rule that the Member concerned be, according to the circumstances, either compulsorily retired in accordance with Article 216 or deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits in its stead.”

That’s a clear conflict of interest. Any Peer or MP must declare their interest if they receive a pension from a company affected by a debate before they speak in it – and most companies don’t require undying loyalty even after retirement.

Bizarrely, though, these EU pensions – which are explicitly conditional on ongoing political support – are not currently declared by the Europhile former Commissioners during EU debates, and the House of Lords’ authorities are apparently happy for that secrecy to continue. Just as bad, the pensions are not declared in the online Register of Lords’ Interests.

How can it be right that a portion of our legislature are campaigning for an organisation which they have a financial vested interest in, and yet are not required to declare it?

Mandy’s McAvity memory loss on the origins of the Euro crisis

Posted on November 15, 2011

Peter Mandelson has been industriously digging himself a hole over the Eurozone crisis. Normally a fervent debater and a nimble performer when it comes to picking his words carefully, he got a bit of a shoeing from Paxo on Newsnight last night.

It can’t have been comfortable for the Prince of Darkness, but there are further troubles ahead if he sticks with the line of attack that he has chosen.

We’re choosing to be outside [the Eurozone] and not showing up at those Councils and bodies where the decision-making and economic discussions of the Eurozone are taking place

The problem he faces on this one is a curmudgeonly, sociopathic Scotsman called Gordon Brown. Back when Brown was Chancellor he was notorious for not bothering to attend the meetings of ECOFIN – the council of EU Finance Ministers. When the group met, McAvity Brown more often than not was nowhere to be seen.

As the FT reported in 2006:

Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, has not been to Brussels for a single meeting this year….Mr Brown has the worst attendance record, going to barely half the meetings since 1999. In 2004 he made it to a little over a third of meetings.

The difference between then and now is that while today’s Government are refusing – rightly – to take part in building a new Euro bailout package, which would be as expensive as it would be unpopular, back then Brown was skipping the very meetings which sowed the seeds of the current Eurozone crisis.

Around that table in the late 90s and the early years of the 21st Century a consensus developed that it was acceptable for the vast majority of Eurozone countries to brazenly breach the Stability and Growth pact, running huge deficits and piling up vast national debt mountains.

Now that is crashing down on all our heads leaving Britain, Europe and even the whole world to pay a heavy economic price.

Brown opted out of those meetings, passing up a chance to warn of the consequences of the Eurozone countries’ actions. Then, of course, Mandelson went on to help him limp on as Prime Minister for three miserable, costly years.

Does the good Lord really want to start this argument?

Singh doesn’t mean “lion” for nothing

Posted on August 10, 2011

For 312 years, Singh has been the surname almost universally adopted by baptised male Sikhs. It means “lion” and judging by last night’s events it’s no exaggeration.

Like many others following the riots last night I discovered Sangat TV, a Birmingham-based, rather obscure Sky channel which apparently normally broadcasts recitals of religious texts. When rioting began in Birmingham, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, though, they changed their content.

A presenter and several of his friends and colleagues piled into a car with a microphone and a camera to travel around the West Midlands reporting on the riots and the actions of many Sikh communities to defend temples, shops and houses from the rampaging thugs.

If it sounds a bit haphazard, it was – jumpy footage, live interviews out of the car window and the driver intermittently wandering across the shot during set-piece broadcasts – but it was quite remarkable for two reasons.

First, that it is now technologically and financially feasible for a couple of guys with a car and a camera to become frontline TV reporters apparently funded by advertising from a sofa shop and a ghee (butter) company. Thanks to the low costs of entry into the media market and the viral nature of Twitter, the channel, its presenter and his message were soon becoming famous in a way that would previously have become impossible.

Secondly it was remarkable for the scenes and messages Sangat TV was broadcasting. Time and again the car would pull up to hear from Sikhs who had left the safety of their homes to protect the religious sites, property and homes whole community, regardless of religion. These were people who felt a strong and deep responsibility to the communities they live in and a strong revulsion for crime, looting and carnage and were willing to risk their own safety to put those principles into action. They weren’t vigilantes – they message was overwhelmingly that their religion forbids striking the first blow, and the channel repeatedly broadcast safety messages and warnings not to carry weapons or provoke trouble. They were just brave, decent people.

Of course sadly we’ve seen the deaths of three men reportedly killed while trying to protect a mosque last night.The full facts will come out in due time but before anyone rushes to condemn them putting themselves in harm’s way, consider whether you would prefer people stood aside and did nothing to stop attacks on their community.

Where the police weren’t able to step in, I for one am glad and proud that others were willing to do so. The alternative of shrugging and doing nothing to help is the philosophy of the rioters, not the British public who are under attack.

In between these interview stops the presenter’s commentary was utterly opinionated and utterly inspiring, the highlight of the night for me being:

Whether you support Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, there is only one team to support-the Three Lions, Great Britain.

He also made the point that this crisis is the latest in a series of occasions when Sikhs have shown their self-sacrificing nature for the national good – not least during their long and loyal service in our Armed Forces.

Having set out to commentate on the night’s events, the Sangat team even put their money where their mouth was, helping police officers catch up with and arrest some looters:

You couldn’t imagine a better way to refute the racist bile that’s been flowing from Nick Griffin and chums over the last few days. It’s inspiring to see true British heroes do the right thing in a just cause for their country. Lions indeed.

Five lessons from the AV referendum

Posted on May 09, 2011

The dust has settled, the fog of war has dissipated, and every other introductory cliche in the book has been used. What have we really learned about British politics from the crushing victory of the No2AV campaign? There are five implications that I can see for the practice and principle of politics. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Combat Campaigning is here to stay. For several years now there have been signs that the methods and style of political campaigning have been evolving in Britain.As the old party system has become weaker, there were two voices vying to be its heir: on one side there was combative, streetfighting campaigning built on the belief that a proper dust-up interests people and produces the best ideas; on the other side was a consensus model, founded on the idea that no-one liked a nasty argument and it was much better to build a cosy centrist consensus.

Not only did the two sides in the AV referendum employ these two competing models – with No going combative and Yes opting for cuddles and herbal tea – but their beliefs aligned with them as well. AV is a system founded on the idea that politicians should share body warmth smack in the centre, whilst First Past the Post is about the battle of ideas.

The fact that No won bears out both the model of campaigning they employed and the belief that they were fighting for – people are more interested in a boxing match than a singalong. While Yes tried to argue that real life is preferential and consensual, voters thought otherwise. The campaigning style espoused by No, and pioneered in the UK by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, is successful and on that basis it here to stay.

2) The “Progressive Majority” doesn’t exist…except in the minds of Islingtonians who can’t bear to imagine that anyone might disagree with them. Whether it’s LeftFootForward, Laurie Penny, Polly Toynbee or Liberal Conspiracy there’s an in-built smug sense of virtue to the new British Left – they think something, they know they’re the most compassionate and sensible people on the block, so therefore everyone must think the same, right? I mean, almost every TV comedian does, so obviously the rest of the population are on board too? Nope. It turns out that only Islington, Camden, Hackney, Cambridge, Oxford and part of Glasgow supported AV, the “Progressive Majority’s” new favourite child – and nationally on 6.1 million people even support AV, never mind the Progressives’ supposed vision of Britain. The referendum proved that those who shout loudest are not automatically the most numerous.

3) There is no such thing as Progressive. Not only is there no majority in favour of it, there is actually no such thing as Progressivism. In effect it could be defined accurately as: Progressive, noun, Someone nice, ie in agreement with me.

The really notable thing about this referendum is the way that it split the Left. The Lib Dems and the self-declared “Progressive Majority” – a broadly young rump of Labour, the NUS and the SWP’s twitterati and commentariat – divided from the mass base that they normally assume they can ignore and still gain funding from.

I’m only an outsider looking in on the Left, but if you viewed yourself as “Progressive” before the referendum, only to be told that if you voted No then you weren’t in the club any more, you’d now be reassessing whether you’re a “Progressive” any more.

4) No-one likes a whinger. Someone – I can’t remember who – once said that “It isn’t fair” is the most powerful message in British politics.

They were right, but the Yes camp ably demonstrated that this is only true when your situation genuinely isn’t fair. It’s not fair that if you join the Army you end up buying your own kit. It’s not fair that if you save all your life and provide for your kids you get hammered with extra taxes while others get a subsidy at your expense. It’s not fair that the Gurkhas risked their lives for this nation then told them to do a running jump.

When your opponents in a referendum campaign starting hitting you hard by digging up quotes that prove you’ve done an about-face or talking about Nick Clegg, that certainly is fair. You’re not going to gain any fans by trying to get judges to enforce Marquess of Queensberry Rules – in fact, you’re going to make people think you’re a bit of a wet blanket and don’t deserve their vote. So don’t moan, fight back.

5) People want more power. In the run-up to the referendum, everyone was saying that turnout would be apocalyptically low, threatening the idea that people wanted to be allowed to vote on important matters. It’s understandable why they thought people might not turnout – AV was a proposal hardly anyone had heard of previously and even fewer people actually liked (including most of the Yes campaign).

But that’s not how it turned out. Even on a boring proposal which had been brought forward as a result of political shenanigans in Whitehall back-offices, more than 40% turned out. That’s not bad given the topic. Imagine how many would turn out to vote in a referendum on, say, EU membership?