Because biscuits aren't scary.


Spin Doctors lose the plot - hi di hi!

Cherie Blair didn't say "that's a lie" about Gordon Brown's speech. According to the spin doctors she said "I need to get by" or "my mouth is dry" or "hi di hi".

Hilarious. You just couldn't make this up.

Best cartoon of the year so far


Sexism in politics and centralisation

Positive discrimination isn't something that one would normally link with the centralisation of power. Yet this has been its strange partner.

In the name of making their parties 'look more like the Britain they represent' both Labour and now the Tories are going to enourmous lengths to force women and ethnic minorities into Parliament.

However, for both these parties, sexual or race equality was never their real agenda. They simply used this argument as cover from their primary goal: to centralise power and to strip if from local associations.

Thus when Tony Blair was seeking to reign in infamously indisciplined local labour branches, he removed all their power. Of course his reason for doing this was so that more women could be elected (something every ambitious politician in the party agreed with). It just happened to be a happy side effect of exactly the same party reform that local members lost almost all power over who they selected as their MP. If they made the 'right' decision then they were left alone but if they didn't agree or if an already elected MP disobeyed the leadership, then they were simply over-ruled. This new deselection process is the real reason Labour MPs have been so cowed for the last 9 years; and why they have stopped performing their constitution role of scrutinising the Executive. They know they have the freedom to speak out, but only at the expense of losing their seat at the next election. Especially for Labour MPs, this is a scary threat as most of them have never earned anything approaching an MPs salary or are likely to elsewhere.

Now the Tories jump on the centralising bandwagon too. The fact that there are two few women as candidates is used in true Stalinist style as proof of discrimination. Cameron now uses exactly the same logic to defend his centralisation of MP selection that Gordon Brown uses for his attacks on Oxford and Cambridge admissions. In both cases, the possibility that merit or other social factors might be contributing to the discrepancy is ignored. The local administrators are first slurred as racists/sexists/bigots and then this is used as an excuse for taking away their power.

Meanwhile the press looks on approvingly. Nobody seems to be pointing out that discrimination is wrong; that positive discrimination is still discrimination; and that two wrongs don't make a right.


Land mines

So why are the Taliban allowed to use land mines but our soldiers are not?

Roadside bombs are a favourite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan these days. These devices are also becomming increasingly sophisticated, with parts being supplied by Iran according to the British Army. Sometimes these devices are designed to go off when a vehicle passes but more often they are remote controlled. Either way these devices are land mines.

According to the BBC, land mines are the insurgents' most effective weapons. But why don't we hear the liberals in the media, the supporters of Princess Diana, lambasting the Muslims for using these them. Why also are our troops asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back?

In Hemland, Afghanistan, mines would be an invaluable complement to overstretched British troops in a defensive posture.

Contrary to popular belief, mines don't kill people any more than rifles, people do. Yes, many people in Africa and elsewhere die or are maimed from unmarked mines but this is not the fault of the mines, this is the fault of the people who were too lazy or incompetent to make the minefields properly. Why should British soldiers die because of the failings of evil African dictators on a different contintent? It's like banning cars in Britain because people in Nigeria drive irresponsibly.

If the convention against landmines had worked in reducing accidental deaths from mines then perhaps Blair and his European chums would have a point. But they haven't. All the peacenics have achieved is to make European armies, and the sacrifices of our soldiers, less potent.

So Gordon Brown's now a libertarian?

Can this really be true? Is it possible that the man who has spent the last 9 years micro-managing every department of state and even the lives of the poor (via means testing), is suddenly in favour or delegating power?

I think not. His talk of 'double delegation', devolving power to local government and then again to 'even more local government' is logically inconsistent. If you are truly in favour of delegation, you can only delegate to the layer below you. It's then up to that layer to decide how it's going to do the delegated job and whether to delegate further. By contrast, Gordon Brown's trailed ideas just sound like more control freakery.

He will strip councils of even their remaining powers and giving them to his nominees in the 'local community'. Rules for the operation of these mini-quangoes will no-doubt be very tight and we can expect more centralising regulations such as those Brown supported for the 'approval' of elected local councillors by an appointed committee in Whitehall.

If we are to expect more delegation on the model of Bank of England 'independence', as trumpeted by Ed Balls, then advocates of freedom are likely to be disappointed. Many people think that giving the Bank of England has resulted in great economic stability for this country. However, that is difficult to justify when economic stability has been a feature of all the Western economies for the last 12 years. All Mr Brown actually did was give the bank a very tight mandate to the bank to turn the handle on a set of economic rules developed by Thatcher and Howe 20 years earlier and since copied across the world to form the new economic othodoxy. If the bank hadn't been made independent it is hard to imagine that there would have been any difference in interest rates in the last 9 years. So all Brown really did was delegate something that had ceased to be of controversy. A true libertarian would have delegated important decisions too.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Brown's delegation turns out to be similar to the privatisation of the railways. Ostensibly, this was a delegation to the private sector. In practice, the Treasury tied the private companies up in so much red tape that they actually had less freedom of action than the old managers of nationalised British Rail. Rail privatisation actually failed because the Treasury refused to cede power and used the incompetence of John Major as cover for centralising its power still further. Despite all the deaths and commuter misery that followed, the Treasury was so pleased with this model that it has used it again for the London Underground and numerous PFI projects under Brown.

As we've come to expect from Blair and Brown, they'll be lots of spin but actions will fail to match expectations.


Power to the people

Give us back our country! This could be the slogan for the BNP but this article isn't about race. It's about giving the people of this country control over their own affairs again.

It's called freedom- things like giving parents the choice about how they bring their children up. It's the very opposite of Blair trying to micro-manage them and his most recent eugenics proposal for disposing of 'problem' children even before they are born.

In local government only 5% of the budget is discretionary. So what's the point of voting? Is it any surprise that only about 20-30% actually bother?

On the other hand, most of the government services we need ARE local: health, education, fire, police, the environment, transport. So why is most of this stuff decided by Whitehall rather than your local councillors?

The reason is that national politicians think they need to offer bribes to get elected. Then to deliver on these bribes they need at least to try to make them happen, which means taking powers away from local councils. The trouble is, that despite their best intentions, the bribes have rarely been paid - health and education and transport and crime are all slipping below the western average.

This is also despite the best efforts of huge numbers of talented Civil Servants. Every day they devise new metrics or measure against them, to try and force improvements on Whitehall's enormous empire. Likewise, local governments, schools and hospitals employ their own armies of clerks producing statistics for the centre to prove their meeting their targets.

Consider this as an alternative model: close the following departments of state: health, education, the environment, the regions, transport, culture, international development and social security. Give their functions to local councils instead. At the same time all the laws binding the councils to do this and that (apart from funding the police) would be abolished, as would the rate cap.

At the centre we would be left with the original outward looking functions that are rightly done at a national level: defence, foreign affairs, the treasury and the home office to deal with the few remaining internal matters that can't be done locally (criminal law, immigration, national transport).

This is a classic way of shaking up a company, just applied to a country. It's not a cut. All the local authorities would be accountable to their own electorates for the delivery of service, many of which would be less forgiving that in a General Election.

Another benefit of this structure is that it would make sense of having national political brands at the local level. At the moment what do you get from a Conservative council as opposed to a Labour one - precious little really because they have so little freedom. With a devolved structure, the party leaderships would effect social improvement not through Whitehall diktat and legislation but through the party franchise (much as Virgin records keeps all its stores offering a similar level of service and products, for example). Innovations developed by pioneering councils could then be more easily transferred to others.

Even in Opposition in Westiminster, party leaders would still have a big job to do in looking after their councils. With the local elections every year, this would increase their engagement with real people.

Finally, it would solve the West Lothian Question. Instead of Scottish MPs telling us English how to run our country, our hospitals, our schools, without having to answer to their constituents for the consequences, Parliament wouldn't be voting on any of these things at all because they'd be devolved to the councils.

Great Repeal Act

Nick Clegg has copied a great idea of mine. He must have been listening in my pub.

Basically, Labour have been wasting their time trooping obediently through the Parliamentary lobbies these last 9 years. They would have been better off with a second job.

A new government could just write one Great Repeal Act that undid all the damage they've done to our constitution in a single afternoon. All our civil liberties would be restored and a great mass of unnecessary, petty regulation would be lifted from businesses and individuals.

It's funny old world. Nobody voted for Labour because the criminal law was crying out for more legislation or because they wanted to reform the House of Lords. They voted Labour because they wanted better public services. Yet what has Blair spent almost all his time on?

Death becomes them

We must relearn the will to commit massacres if we are to live in peace. We must once more be prepared to wipe out whole cities, or even entire peoples if necessary. For as long as our enemies perceive that we cannot do this, they will continue to trespass against us: they will conquer once friendly people and turn them too against us; they will abuse us; and they will kill us at random in our office blocks or on the way to work. Slowly, these attacks will escalate until we lose our ability to defend ourselves: and then we will be annihilated instead.

Bizzarely, this is an argument in favour of saving lives. According to the Independent, 71,000 people have died since 9/11. 5,000 people have died in the Palestinian infatada. 3,009 were murdered, many tortured, last month alone in Baghdad.

Daily, allied soldiers try to bring stability to Iraq and Afghanistan and all that happens is that they are shot at one-by-one. And the instability just gets worse.

When Najaf, for example, defied the American's the American's attacked the outside of the city and lost many lives in street fighting. The also killed many of the Mehdi Army. They shrunk from destroying the mosque which was doubling as the enemies headquarters, however. They also shrunk from doing anything more than ineffectual killing. They blinked. The result was that this was a turning point in the reconstruction war and from this point onwards democracy has been losing. Najaf and Sadr City remain enemy bastions, impregnable to the American Army, from which the Iranian backed Shia militias go out to repeat the tactic across the rest of Iraq.

Fullujah is another example. Here the Americans let the militants know they were coming and, not wanting to kill civilians, let people leave... including the militants. Then America bombed an almost empty city and killed its remaining civilians. The US declared victory and city is now back under militant control. In Basra too, the British are confined to their barracks, leaving the residents to their fate under the militants, who have effectively captured the city from the British.

Consider this as an alternative post occupation plan: If a Shia, Jew, Christian, army squaddie or gay cannot walk down the high street of a Sunni Iraqi town without fear of his life, then a British or American Army full battalion rolls up. They ask the speak to the leader of the city and for him to guarantee the safety of the said walker and for the leadership of the city to reaffirm its loyalty to the Iraq government. If he refuses (either directly or by saying 'he cannot') then the Army lays seige to that town. Nobody is allowed in or out. The town is given time to think about it. If they still refuse to bend then the heavy artillary opens up and destroys the town and everybody in it. A lot of lives are lost.

The plus side of this approach is that there are no further problems from this particular town. Dead men don't plant roadside bombs. Another plus is that no allied lives are put at risk. The much bigger plus, however, is that when the army moves onto other towns and asks the same question, the liklihood of a favourable answer increases. Once the enemy is entirely convinced that we mean what we say, the killing reduces to zero as surrender is immediate. Thus, we leverage our superior fire-power to do good and bring peace. Conversely, without the will to use them, all the weapons in the world are useless.

While it is troubling directly to order thousands of deaths, we must rediscover the strength to do it. This way we can avoid the trap American and British forces in Iraq have fallen into, not to mention the Israelis in Lebanon: causing thousands of deaths anyway but without any progress.