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Trident: hubris or pragmatism?

Persisting with an American Trident replacement in order to retain a permanent Security Council seat, is to reject pragmatism in favour of la gloire . . .

So says a letter in the Financial Times today, pointing out that “The nearest thing nowadays to a Potemkin village is Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent”.

potemkin village

Blessed Wikipedia came to this writer’s aid: the phrase Potemkin Village was originally used to describe a fake portable village, built only to impress; it is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is.

The letter continues: “Yet it is potent enough to blow the Labour Party apart. To treat it as a job-preservation scheme — as do as do some trade unionists — is to go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

“Questions concerning control of Trident are inseparable from the decision to use a missile delivery system designed, manufactured and overhauled in the US.

“Even submarine-launched test firings are conducted in American waters near Cape Canaveral under, needless to say, US Navy supervision.

“It would have been irresponsible of President John F Kennedy to have agreed to supply missiles that didn’t incorporate an electronic lock mechanism. A desperate Harold Macmillan was easily fobbed off. It is inconceivable that Number 10 would fire Trident in anger without prior approval from the White House.

trident2

The writer ended: “Persisting with Trident and its proposed replacement in order to retain a permanent Security Council seat is to reject British pragmatism in favour of la gloire . . . “


Taken from letter written by Yugo Kovach: Winterborne Houghton, Dorset, UK

 

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Keep Trident as a job creation scheme?

“Just get the catchphrases correct and the masses will nod along”; today –

A reader emails: “Today’s Times has several vituperative comments on Jeremy Corbyn – questioning his patriotism, etc., including an editorial on Trident after the Scottish Labour Party vote”.

nuclear buttonAs most will have heard, at a conference in Perth, Scottish Labour Party members and union delegates both voted by 70% to 30% to abandon plans to maintain a “massively expensive” and “militarily useless” submarine-launched ballistic Trident nuclear missile system.

The FT’s Mure Dickie reports (so much more objectively than the paper’s Corbyn-bashing Jim Pickard) that delegate Stephen Low said scrapping nuclear weapons would free money to be spent in more economically productive ways.

FT blog: the problem with UK politics, however, is not that people are too cynical but that they are too gullible

Though union delegates overall voted substantially to abandon Trident, Gary Smith of union GMB Scotland, played the fear card, saying that the idea that Trident jobs could be replaced is “utterly disingenuous” and that scrapping Trident renewal would threaten members far beyond Scotland’s Faslane and Coulport submarine and nuclear missile bases. Elsewhere an estimate of up to 13,000 jobs was given.

Politicians and other vested interests realise that – as FT lawyer/analyst David Allen Green says: “Our politics is beset and bedevilled by the phenomenon of mass nodding along. Just get the catchphrases correct, and you will get all the audience applause you need. The trick is saying the right things at the right time”.

*

Twice as many – up to 25,000 worthwhile, constructive jobs in Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire are at risk as a result of in-plant losses at Tata Steel, it has been claimed – but apart from workers, unions and the current Labour Party, the fear of this far larger loss is not presented to the public as cause for concern by mainstream politicians and supportive media.

After reading my correspondent’s final words: “I suppose several people may well have lost their jobs after Hitler-Germany no longer built the gas-ovens”, two questions occurred to me:

Why have governments preferred to support and promote damaging nuclear and armaments industries?

And why not work to elect a government which will break the mould . . .?

See: Musing on the Trident issue – arms conversion: the transfer of resources from military to civil use.

Tim Farron – the second disappointment

 In 2008 Mr Farron appeared to be a doughty supporter of food producers who then, as now, are often paid below costs of production, endangering the country’s future food security.

As primary sponsor, he introduced the EDM 1067: Country Living magazine Fair Trade for British Farmers campaign.

Then he became silent and left all to his colleague Andrew George who never faltered in forming and backing the campaign for a Groceries Ombudsman, despite strong opposition from large retailers. The fact that this has proved of little help to farmers is due to the government’s emasculation of the original proposal.

Opportunist youth or principled maturity?

Now, in a politically understandable but ethically reprehensible move, he is not only courting former party members who left during their spell in coalition but making headlines for a delighted establishment media, with unsubstantiated claims that Labour Party members are contacting him – the implication being that they might join the party.

A formerly active Lib Dem member, who has joined the Labour Party under Corbyn, has forwarded Mr Farron’s claims in his e-letter – apparently referring to the Miliband administration:

“Labour shows no intention or desire to understand economic responsibility. They have given up challenging the Government on the economy, and given them the freedom to make punitive decisions against the most vulnerable”. This does not apply to Corbyn’s administration. And ends:

“We cannot let the Government go unchallenged, and it’s why the Liberal Democrats are now the only party of credible opposition. Liberal Democrats represent people in Britain who care about helping those in need, who believe that those with the broadest shoulders must carry the heaviest burden, who care about how free and fair our society is, and who believe we need to spend within our means to achieve it”.

If that sounds like you, I have one big offer to you: join the Liberal Democrats today and become a part of our movement – for only £1 a month.

jeremy corbyn (2)How much more logical and constructive it would have been for Farron to join the new politics being created by the current Labour administration and leaders of parties like NHAP, Plaid, the Greens and Mebyon Kernow. And many have welcomed the words of the SNP’s able Commons leader MP, Angus Robertson at the latest PMQs. In statesmanlike tones, and with an effective reproof after David Cameron’s lapse, he said that his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident”


Next: Times’ journalists: ignorant of John McDonnell’s work and alliances, economical with the truth, or under orders?

 

 

PMQs: Lutz in the Birmingham Press got it right. Corbyn impressed

A recent article by Richard Lutz in the Birmingham Press opened: “The Prime Minister will have to have change his upper class bully boy tactics once he faces new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

As Lutz recounted: “PMQs is hardly polite. In fact, it is so red in tooth and claw that the Speaker had to recently warn baying Parliamentarians to calm down as some of the more demure MPs said it just wasn’t worth showing up any more . . . but with the chance to perform for TV, it has become more and more nasty, personal, vindictive and, ultimately, void of any real content”. He referred to Cameron: “braying personalised attacks at those sitting across the House from him”.

Watching PMQs today – recorded here.

jc magisterial pmq firstElderly readers of the Times who have been voicing concerns about his appearance will be reassured by the fact that he was wearing a tie – a concern which also seems to loom large in the mainstream press.

Corbyn, with considerable gravitas, opened – to Labour applause and opposition silence – by referring to the public’s perception that conduct in ‘this place’ is too theatrical and out of touch. He remembered welcoming Cameron’s 2005 promise to end the “Punch and Judy” politics of PMQs, sadly unfulfilled.

Over 40,000 people sent in questions for Mr Corbyn’s consideration. Of the 2500 on housing he selected Marie’s focus on the chronic lack of affordable housing and thanked the PM for his polite, “more adult” reply. We learnt that the government’s July order to cut rents in social housing by1% for the next four years has already led to 150 job cuts in a Stevenage housing association and will mean less money will be available to spend on maintenance and housing. Elsewhere we read that it will also reduce housebuilding by housing associations.

Paul’s question, conveyed by the new Labour leader, doubted the wisdom of taking £1000 from each of 3 million working families in April through family tax credit cuts, as these credits were essential to avoid reliance on food banks.  

A relatively minor level of shouting from Labour benches (by PMQ standards a murmur) was reproved by the prime minister as not being in keeping with the new style advocated by Corbyn.

Cameron answered that employment is at an ‘all time high’ and wages are rising, and referred to those who choose to live on welfare payments rather than work. Corbyn answered gravely that many people don’t have the choice. He then cited the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that 8000 families would suffer a 26% loss.

Gail provided the next question, which opened with the dramatic statement that all accept that the mental health service is ‘on its knees’ and David Cameron appeared to agree. He said the parties should ’work together on this’ adding an oblique reference to the media fables about the Corbyn economic agenda: “there can be no strong NHS without a strong economy”.

The question from Angela, a mental health professional, referred to the lack of available beds which meant that patients were left without accommodation or moved far away from family and friends. Mr Cameron agreed: “We need to do more as a country; beds are important”, but then alleged that mental health issues are often not treated when patients go to their GP.

After fifteen minutes, Jeremy Corbyn’s questions ended and there was a change of tack, which could be described as indirect sniping – when questioners no longer had to face a Corbyn reply.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson says his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident” – but had to ask ‘What happened to the new PMQs?’ after Cameron asked him in a jeering manner if ‘the SNP is frit?’

Nigel Dodds (DUP) belligerently referred to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s remark that we should “honour” IRA members who died in the armed struggle – a remark set in full context in a careful report of the proceedings in the Independent.

Conservative bloomer, surely?

Julian Knight stressed the importance of Britain having an independent nuclear deterrent – which actually does not exist, as many point out, Alex Thomson for one: our “independent” Trident missiles in reality come from Lockheed Martin in the US and are maintained by the US Navy. So we are being asked to spend around  £100bn to maintain and replace an “independent” nuclear strike capability – which does not exist. David Morrison adds: “If Britain doesn’t maintain friendly relations with the US, then it won’t have a functional nuclear weapons system, despite having spent billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money on it – because the US would simply cease providing Britain with serviceable Trident missiles”.

Other MPs questions followed, making references – probably planted to provoke – to increased defence spending, NATO membership, traditional values and the national anthem.

Lutz was right on target:

david cameron pmqCameron did ‘play it cool’, not going for ‘the teenage nastiness that has sadly stained the current level of PMQ debate in the last years’.

He did stick to answering questions, and for the time being he appeared to be “growing up”.

My neighbour said drily, ”Only another 25,000 questions to go.”

Birmingham Press – Corbyn: a man of integrity with decades of experience outwith the political zeitgeist

Author and Birmingham Press contributor, Steve Beauchampé, assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances

Title & headings added:

My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without.

After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Miliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Miliband but without the geeky visage and voice.

That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second).

Corbyn has fended off the criticism and caricatures with ease

Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.

A politician with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’

However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).

A politician with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics

And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters.

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.

The Conservative agenda will be thrown into sharper definition

Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.

So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister?

Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.

If . . .

If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.

Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!    

 

Read the Press article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/the-john-peel-of-politics/

Steve Beauchampé, August 5th 2015, adds:

Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:

Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax

Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)

Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built

Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords

Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector

The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband

The minimum wage to apply to apprentices

Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS

Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership

Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities

Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed

Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)

Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum

An elected second chamber

 

On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.

 

‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public’

media lens header 2
David Edwards of Media Lens responds to a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee in which she suggests that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the electorate by quoting Ian Sinclair’s argument that in fact it is Toynbee, not Corbyn, who is out of touch with public opinion.

Sinclair noted that Corbyn supports a publicly run NHS, a position supported by 84 per cent of the public, according to a November 2013 YouGov poll.  In addition:

  • ‘He supports the nationalisation of the railways, a position backed by 66 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
  • ‘He supports the nationalisation of the energy companies, a position supported by 68 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
  • ‘He believes the Royal Mail should be publicly owned, a position supported by 67 percent of the public, according to the same poll.
  • ‘He supports rent controls, a position supported by 60% of the public, including 42% of Conservatives, according to an April 2015 YouGov poll.
  • ‘He opposes the retention of Trident nuclear weapons, a position John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, notes is supported by a “smallish plurality” in “the majority of polls”.
  • ‘He strongly opposed the 2003 Iraq War, which was also opposed by the more than one million people who marched through London on 15 February 2003.
  • ‘He has long pushed for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, a position favoured by 82 per cent of the public, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.’

Thus: ‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public.’

Edwards ends: “Like Blair and the rest of the establishment, the Guardian and other corporate media claim their motivation is to preserve Labour’s electability, rather than to attack any and all politics that stray off the ‘centrist’, ‘modernising’ path.

“In reality, it could hardly be more obvious that this collection of profit-seeking, corporate enterprises – grandly and laughably proclaiming themselves ‘the free press’ – is opposing a threat to their private and class interests”.

 

Arnie Gundersen: design of proposed nuclear reactors in Cumbria

Able Seaman William McNeilly released a lengthy dossier on the internet earlier this month in which he said Britain’s Trident nuclear defence system was vulnerable to its enemies and to potentially devastating accidents because of safety failures.

arne gundersen

But – in the mainstream – only the Independent and Japan Times covered news of another hazard, described by Arnie Gundersen, who was invited to speak at the House of Commons on March 11. He addressed the current status of Fukushima Daiichi four years after nuclear meltdown began in 2011, and presented his expert assessment of nuclear risk in regards to the proposed construction of three AP1000 reactors in Cumbria, England. He writes (abridged):

My week in the UK was exciting and full of surprises. I spoke to hundreds of people in London and Cumbria who are committed to a new energy future for Europe. They know that the dated model of big business centralized electricity production is ending, and they see a clean, disaster free viable alternative in locally distributed generation.

Still, it seems that the established British utilities are so fixated on nuclear power that they just offered to charge their customers twice the current market price for electricity for the next 35-years, so that a French nuclear company could build a fancy and untried new nuclear design at Hinkley Point. The United Kingdom is anything but united when it comes to how it will produce electricity in the 21st century!

windscale 1985The Windscale Piles in 1985: Chris Eaton

Britain has experienced the dangers of nuclear power first hand as the site of the world’s first major nuclear disaster at Windscale, receiving huge amounts of contamination from Chernobyl fallout in Wales, and contaminating the Irish Sea with plutonium at its waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield. With that background, I understand why the citizens of the UK embrace a nuclear free future.

When I spoke at the House of Commons, it was clear that only a minority of the MP’s (like US Representatives) could envision an energy future different than the past. Similar to the US, the financially influential electric power monopolies have convinced a majority of the MPs that there is no alternative to nuclear power. Thankfully, many people in the UK disagree and see a nuclear free future!

cockcroft follies

Surprisingly, it was in Cumbria that I saw the most poignant reminder of how dangerous nuclear power is. There in the fog and rain stood “Cockcroft’s Folly”, a ventilation stack on the old Windscale reactor. Filters on that stack, thankfully, captured most of the radiation released during the 1957 Windscale catastrophe.

When Windscale was under construction, Sir John Cockcroft, a great engineer and Nobel Prize winner, insisted that filters be added to the ventilation stack. The British nuclear establishment laughed at him, but he was unyielding and persisted in his cause until the filters were added to Windscale.

Naysayers nicknamed the filters “Cockcroft’s Folly”, and no one believed they were necessary. Then came the Windscale nuclear core fire and those “unnecessary” filters saved thousands of lives. Too contaminated even now to be removed, “Cockcroft’s Folly” stands in the middle of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, part of a more than $60billion cleanup planned for the neighboring stretch of coastline along the contaminated the Irish Sea.

Three new AP1000 reactors are proposed to be built in Cumbria within sight of “Cockcroft’s Folly”. Since 2010, I have repeatedly said that the AP1000 design suffers the same design flaw as the old Windscale reactor.

Like Sir John, I believe that filters must be added to the top of the AP1000 shield building to prevent huge amounts of radiation from being released during a meltdown. I call this problem “the chimney effect” and wrote a paper about it entitled “ Nuclear Containment Failures- Ramifications for the AP1000 Containment Design”.

Sir John Cockcroft must be spinning in his grave, wondering “When will they ever learn?”

So the ‘dream team’ was not elected – now, more of the same

At least, one writes, there will not be the heartache of watching such a team fail – as did the widely hailed Blair and Obama – beset by vested interest and failing to fulfil expectations. Instead on past record there will be:

  • more austerity for the ‘have-nots’, continuing as senior bankers flourish – despite causing the economic crash;
  • declining public services;
  • sub-standard education and training for the young from poorer families;
  • ‘aspirational’ housing built on green spaces as council housing lists grow;
  • the revolving door between big business and government continuing to spin, ensuring that decisions are made in favour of the rich;
  • courting of foreign investment
  • more poorly monitored, polluting incinerators;
  • permission given for fracking in the politically opposed north;
  • exploitation of smaller food producers, favouring food for export;
  • lavish expenditure on HS2 and Trident;
  • private companies entering the NHS and putting profit first;
  • increasing export of armaments, causing mayhem in other countries;
  • assistance for America’s military aggression.

And perhaps more:

broken britain 3 mps bankers


Iannucci: now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote – generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can

armando iannucciIn a January article Iannucci wrote: “They’ve had months, years even, to prepare and mighty budgets for media spend, and yet we feel so little the wiser. You get the impression they’d love their manifestos to go out encrypted. It’s easy to see then why the Brand mantra – “Don’t Vote” – has so much appeal. Post 2010, we all got austerity measures, bedroom taxes, NHS reforms and tuition fees that absolutely nobody voted for because absolutely no political manifesto mentioned them. So why shouldn’t we abandon our political masters and stay at home?

Extracts from a more recent article by Armando Iannucci in the Observer

Questions to David Cameron included:

  1. What are the further £10bn of welfare cuts you need to make but haven’t detailed?
  2. Do you accept that parliament will not vote on a possible replacement to Trident until next year?
  3. If so, can you explain why the Ministry of Defence has for the last two years spent £1.24bn on “getting ready” a replacement and preparing “long lead” parts of an as-yet unvoted for missile system?
  4. Is it true that for your first year in office you had no idea of the full scale and ambition of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms and were furious when you found out?
  5. Why did you push the TV companies to schedule as many of the TV debates as possible before the publication of the party manifestos?
  6. How can the electorate question you on your proposals if you’ll take questions only before you propose them?
  7. Do you feel responsible for a political culture in which more than a million benefit claimants were sanctioned and penalised in 2013 but only one HSBC tax evader has been prosecuted?
  8. How do you feel about the rise in suicides of people who have been denied disability benefit?
  9. Why do we have so many food banks? Why do Save the Children and the Red Cross, two organisations set up to work abroad, now work extensively in the UK?
  10. How do you square launching the “big society” with Iain Duncan Smith’s refusal to meet volunteers from the food bank charity the Trussell Trust in 2013 because he felt they were “scaremongerers” and “political”?
  11. Why did IDS refuse to speak in a 2013 Commons debate on the growing use of food banks? Indeed, why did he leave that debate early?

Questions to Ed Miliband included:

  1. Why do you not make a speech highlighting the benefits immigration has brought to this country?
  1. Why did your work and pensions spokeswoman, Rachel Reeves, say Labour “is not the party of people on benefits”?
  2. If you’re prepared to admit that New Labour made mistakes over wealth inequality and financial deregulation, will you go further?
  3. Will you also admit that many of the administrative problems in the NHS were caused by New Labour’s mission to inject private market forces into an organisation not built for that purpose?
  4. Will you admit that much of New Labour’s obsessional drive to impose targets on the NHS pushed staff to breaking point with, to cite one example, paramedics suffering from urinary tract infections because their bosses wouldn’t permit them toilet breaks?
  5. If you’re in favour of commissioning a replacement to Trident, will you or any of your team be making a speech defending the cost and outlining your clear reasons for prioritising a nuclear deterrent over other spending plans? Or is this an awkward subject?
  6. When so much of the first-, second- and third-generation immigrant community votes for your party, why do you still prefer to use the language of “restricting” immigrant numbers employed by Conservatives and Ukip?
  7. Do you like the unemployed? Or are you embarrassed by them? Do you take it for granted they vote for you? Are you fully aware many of them are turning to the Greens, Ukip and the SNP instead?
  8. Why do you feel the need to talk tough about welfare cuts and immigration levels without much prompting?
  9. You do realise that the slogan Vote Labour, We’re a Little Like Ukip is not going to bring out your base?

Iannucci reflects: “Now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote. With such a fragmented system on offer, nothing is inevitable. Uncertainty may create instability, but it can also generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can. The truth is, we haven’t been abandoning politicians – they’ve been abandoning us . . . The 45% who voted yes to independence in Scotland . . . is driving the agenda in Scottish politics as powerfully as if it had been on the winning side . . . Alternative answers such as Green, nationalist, pro-NHS, even the Pub Landlord (standing against Nigel Farage), no longer look like stupid also-rans”.

To read the March article go to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/28/questions-for-cameron-and-miliband-armando-iannucci

Simon Jenkins: “the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”

Today Donald sent round this valuable link to yet another gem of incisive thought and devastating mockery by national treasure, Simon Jenkins

trident submarine

Political Concern summarises points he made for reluctant or busy readers:

Jenkins “just cannot get enough of the Scottish referendum debate. On every side the unthinkable is thought, the unsayable said . . . revealing swamps of intellectual confusion our rulers would rather keep hidden . . . The murky covers are removed from:

  • North Sea oil,
  • the single currency,
  • the Barnett formula,
  • welfare dependency,
  • the West Lothian question
  • and the fate of Faslane and its Trident submarine base”.

Finance-driven:

No sensible defence expert Jenkins has ever encountered has any time for Trident. Its sole supporters are those with money in the project and lobbyists employed by them: “The world in which these people move is not one of soldiers, guns and bombs but of thinktanks, travel grants and seminars”.

gravy train

Faslane and its missiles will cost British taxpayers £100bn over the next 25 years, but Britain could invade a dozen countries and seize their terrorists for less.

The language is that of faded imperialists . . .

A BBC programme on the topic by Andrew Neil on Tuesday revealed a cast of gloom-laden defence pundits bewailing Britain’s “loss of influence” if Scotland were “lost” and Faslane closed. Our seat at the top table would be removed. Hardly anyone mentioned defence, just prestige . . . out of their time. The only power they know is PowerPoint.

Relocate to Devon or the United States?

american hubris2An intriguing insight into the politics of nuclear weapons is Rusi’s tangential dismissal of concerns over an “accidental ignition of one or all of a submarine’s Trident D5 missiles” and the resulting contamination of 260,000 Devonians. The ignition of the warheads would also make a dreadful mess of Truro . . . but the defence ministry has the right to “waive safety requirements” where it is “in the interests of urgent national security”. The Rusi report discusses basing Britain’s deterrent where it surely belongs, in the US (birthplace of its missiles), particularly as we are told that the Americans retain the secret warhead codes specifically to forestall independent British use.

The sight of a truly daft megaproject has Chancellor Osborne rolling on his back with his feet in the air, cash oozing from every pore

Osborne may be ruthless towards current government spending – he can guard a candle-end – but as soon as each multibillion-pound project – HS2, nuclear power stations, Heathrow runways, aircraft carriers – is announced in Whitehall, Jenkins watches the chancellor and a “rabble of salivating bankers and lobbyists (many of them paid parliamentarians) form a chorus to shout down any sceptic as variously killjoy or unpatriotic. The real victim is always the taxpayer”.

Was the Treasury once so effective?

Jenkins continues: “Not long ago, the Treasury was the one government institution prepared to call the bluff of such megaprojects and hold them to account. It showed lobbyists the door. It was the intellectual powerhouse of the public sector”.

Conclusion: “If the Scottish referendum does indeed force the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent out into the light of day, it is worth it for that alone. If it were to go further and kill Trident stone dead, it would be thank you, Salmond, thank you, Scotland”.

MLK live together smaller