Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The Quiet Man

Our leader, The Quiet Man, is getting ignored by the press these days. Even Charles Kennedy enjoys more coverage. In an attempt to rectify this is my own small way, and to spread what a jolly decent chap he is, I thought I would start an occasional series, The Wit & Wisdom of IDS, illuminating some of his key traits. First, from an interview on Newsnight last year.

His knowledge of his own front bench
PAXMAN:
So when we read that quote, "it's pretty obvious there have been dark forces at work taking advantage of his absence", do you recognise the quote?

DUNCAN SMITH:
I recognise the novels that you may ever want to read. It sounds like a novel.

PAXMAN:
It's the Shadow Leader of the House, your man Eric Forth.

His grasp of the media

DUNCAN SMITH:
I shouldn't believe everything you read. I'm telling you now, the truth is...

PAXMAN:
Have I misquoted Eric Forth?

DUNCAN SMITH:
I don't read that nonsense.

PAXMAN:
You don't read the Financial Times?

DUNCAN SMITH:
I don't read nonsense like that...

PAXMAN:
What papers do you read?


HIs knowledge of mid 1990s British political history

DUNCAN SMITH:
John Major and the Prime Minister had talked about bringing it to the middle 30s and I said that may be a good objective.

His ability to change his mind

PAXMAN:
You are prepared to countenance British people paying to see their GP?

DUNCAN SMITH:
No, I am not. I will look at the arguments and I will discount them if they don't work.

PAXMAN:
So you are looking at this?

DUNCAN SMITH:
Of course I've said I'm looking at it!

----

PAXMAN:
On the question of GPs, to be clear on this, you are considering whether or not people ought to pay to see a GP?

DUNCAN SMITH:
No, I am not considering whether people ought to see whether they should pay for their GPs.

PAXMAN:
You just said you were working out whether it was a good idea or not?

DUNCAN SMITH:
What I said was, we will look at all the possibilities there are for reform.

PAXMAN:
So you are considering it?

DUNCAN SMITH:
I am not considering doing it, but looking at what is viable.

Tabloids

The Independent goes tabloid. Well it remains as a broadsheet too, but if you want, as long as you live in Greater London, you can now have Britain's first ever 'quality' tabloid newspaper*.

Being an 'early-adopter' or whather the marketing men say, I decided on your behalf to spend 60p on a copy today. I must say I am very impressed. It's smaller. You can't say it's not.

Indeed if The Guardian or Telegraph followed suit I would buy it every day. It's much more convenient on the tube. However, it's still the Independent and ...well Johann Hari is still Johann Hari. Even if you made the newsprint the size of Texas you would still come away from reading him thinking 'and they pay you for that?!'.

ps It also has an opinion poll showing Labour on 38%, the Tories on 29% and the Libs on 27%. The Libs really have made some ground. Hopefully we can do the same next week.


* This is not strictly true. In the early 1990s the Sunday Correspondent, a struglling middle-of-the-road newspaper went tabloid for a few weeks in a desperate attempt to survive. It didn't. The Independent is at pains to point out there are no similarities here with their newspaper.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Opinion Polls

A quick roundup of this weekend's opinion polls that have asked about voting intention. Mori's, which I am pretty sure was based only on those certain to vote, is very different from ICM and YouGovs.

News of the World/ICM (not on their website)

Lab 31%
Con 31%
Libs 31%

Ft/Mori

Lab 40%
Con 31%
Libs 21%

Daily Telegraph/YouGov (courtesy of Nick Barlow)

Lab 31%
Con 32%
Lib 30%

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Iraq body count

There's an interesting debate going on over at Oliver Kamm's site (see here and elsewhere) between Kamm and Chris Brooke on the countring of Iraqi civilian deaths.

It's interesting and well-informed on both sides, so I suggest you read it whilst I'm away. In my opinion Chris has the better of it for various reasons. Kamm thinks 'smear' means 'to associate with' which sends him down a rather dead end, and furthermore concentrates on the rather red-herring of the Marc Herold survey, not the Iraq Body Count. At the end of the day though I think the real difference between them is that Kamm doesn't think any such survey could be legitimate, because he sees the war as legitimate, and because he trusts the US military to do its best to avoid civilian casualties, therefore any civilian casualties are an unfortunate, tragic, but unavoidable consequence.

Certainly there is some merit in this argument. The reason such projects, in addition to Marc Herold's in Afghanistan, are possible these days is because civilian casualties are so relatively low. It wouldn't have been possible even as recently as Vietnam, where best 'estimates' are usually in measured only to the nearest hundred thousand. Nevertheless is surely because a decision has been taken to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties that such a project is required.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Twice!

Another letter from Iain Duncan Smith welcoming to the Conservative Party, and another membership card. He's still looking forward to being in opposition for the next four years, in fact it's exactly the same as the last one -- except my membership now lasts until October 2004. Can I never be free of the party?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Away

I'll be away from Sunday to the following Saturday on holiday in Ibiza. In the meantime I suggest a) you go to Fistful of Euros, a great blog that can onlly get better in my absence, or b) rely on the Matthew Turner Replacement Service (MRTS) which follows...

MTRS

This latest post from Peter Cuthbertson/Olive Kamm/Natalie Solent/Steven Den Beste represents everything that is wrong with the Right today. Frankly it's racist, and I don't use the phrase very often. As a fully-paid up member of the Conservative Party I believe we don't have a chance of winning unless The Quiet Man is dumped. Can there ever be a decent right? Can I go to Ibiza now?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

More Brent

Well it looks like we've given up on coming second in Brent. A friend of a friend reports a senior Conservative Central Office official told him that CCO have been researching by-elections that the Lib Dems have won which they subsequently lost at the next general election. Clearly CCO knows something. I'm still forecasting the Tories home by 15,000, but William Hill prefer Liberal Democrat ( Sarah Teather ) at 8/11 over Labour's( Robert Evans ) at 1/1

Really?

Now I know the right-wing media used to say that the euro was never going to happen right up to the moment it was launched, but we've all agred to forget that and pretend it didn't happen. It's very difficult however when they insist on bringing the issue up again -- Monday's Daily Telegraph,

"Deep down, even the most fanatical supporters of the euro must now recognise that it isn't going to happen. "

It has happened guys! Time to move on -- have a go at the BBC or something.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Lib Dems to win Brent by-election?

A momentous day and sign that national success is on its way? No, not the Lib Dems in the Brent by-election, though I'll get on to them. It's that for the first time ever this blog actually has some news that isn't rekindled from the Guardian or merely snide comments in disguise.

It concerns the Brent by-election. It appears YouGov did some focus groups in
Brent and my source (a single source, but if it's good enough for the BBC/PM/White House it's good enough for me) tells me the general feeling was reflected by this story: "One group member commented that they'd had loads of leaflets from the Lib Dems and that Sarah Teather (the Lib Dem candidate) was a short, fat woman who has some something disingenous to say about every issue, but was still light years ahead of all the other candidates standing."

Furthermore the shift towards expecting a Lib Dem victory, reflected both at the bookies and in the generally negative view of my own party (see Howard refusing to answer questions from Newsnight, or May's downbeat assesment) came after the first and biggest batch of postal votes had arrived. Although these are not countable, party representatives do get to see them.

Another breakthrough for IDS then looks on the card. Can he last the Autumn?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Telegraph in hypocrisy shocker

The Daily Telegraph's City Comment page (registration required) today lays into the Office of Fair Trading's investigation into private school fees. The Telegraph believes the investigation is unfair because private schools aren't capitalist business, don't have shareholders, can't control their own costs etc. Essentially it is saying 'education is different'.

And so it is. But isn't this a curious argument from a newspaper that believes the only way in which State schools will get better is if they are run like businesses, with competition between them over getting the best pupils etc etc?

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Nice...

Euroscepticism's uglier side appears to be a man called Lance-Watkins who had this to say on the murder of the Swedish foreign minister last week --"Yes, I do support the execution of elected politicians when they seek to betray the electorate and their country," he said.

Friday, September 12, 2003

What can one say?

This is pretty devastating stuff. Blair may have won on the narrow grounds of the committee inquirty and probably will do the same in Hutton's, but on a more general question of trust and integrity he's pretty well finished.

"Yet just over five weeks before the American-led invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair was told secretly by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) that there was no evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Crucially, the JIC "assessed that al-Qa'ida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests and that threat would be heightened by military action".

The assessment, dated 10 February 2003 and titled "International Terrorism: War with Iraq", warned that the fall of Saddam would risk aiding the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. "The JIC assessed that any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists,"

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Yes, but...

Chris Brooke has an excellent post on why so many people's responses to the US Administrations' view of September 11th and the consequences thereof was, 'yes but'.

More Daily Mail madness

Our favourite newspaper today has an article showing -- shock, horror! -- that Marks & Spencer charge more for some items in their Liverpool Street (London) station branch than their Hull branch.

Now there are good reasons why certain things should cost the same across the country, but I'm not sure they apply to M&S House Red wine. Clearly the rents in Liverpool Street station are much higher than in Hull, and thus M&S's prices reflect that. This seems to bypass Patricia Grubb, 59, from Leigh on Sea, who says 'I don't see why we should subsidise Marks & Spencer for their rents. That is something they should absorb'.

Update (15.08.03) - The Mail has now found that Tesco do the same thing. And Sainsburys. In classic Tabloid fashion this does't make them question their earlier views, instead it reinforces them.

No hope

I was saddened just now whilst watching on tv Geoff Hoon's statement to the House of Commons to see that my party appears only capable of finding about 20-30 MPs. This was a great chance to get rid of that lying loon, and when our chap said he thought Hoon should resign there was only about two hear-hears. All you could see were green benches.

Sometimes I get the impression we just don't want to win the next election.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Apologies

Apologies to my loyal readership. Peter Cuthbertson's blog has been down for over a week and I've not brought you a PCRS. Anyway there's now no need because he is back, curiously on a new blogspot site rather than his old one, at http://concom.blogspot.com/ .

And what a return! The site is now red. It contains phrases such as 'ass raped'. But even more shocking is it's straight in with an article attacking and undermining our police force, accusing them of a 'cantine (sic) culture' of uselesness. As to be expected it's to do with The Guardian, though for no obvious reason, and in the end it boils down to the usual dig at the police for daring to do something about a mentally unstable killer.

It's a sad but not suprising reflection on today's right-wing that they feel it's ok from the comfort of their bedrooms to attack and undermine the police, who after all are just ordinary men and women braving their lives everyday to protect us. I would ask 'can there be a decent right?', but you all know the answer already.

Mugs?

Seeing the Bush Adminstrations sudden conversion to multilateralism in Iraq made me think about that hilarious definition of a neo-conservative so beloved by neo-conservatives, 'A liberal who has been mugged by reality'. The question now I suppose is what do you call a 'neo-conservative who has been been mugged by reality'. A liberal?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Lack of posts

Apologies for a lack of posts -- I am having internet problems. The last two have been written on a friend's computer, whcih is one of the advantages of blogging I guess!

There is a post from me on the joys of short working hours over at the world's greatest group blog

Neo-Conservatives and Lord Dacre

Looking arounda second-hand bookstore at Wimpole Hall In Cambridgeshire at the weekend I stumbled across a classic neo-Conservative rant from1979, 'Shall American be Defended?'. Written by a retired admiral Daniel O'Graham the book is the usual stuff -- how the USSR has millions more ships, planes, tanks and also has the will to fight a nuclear war and win it, whereas America only has the policy of MAD and no aggressive strategy. It has some brilliant discussion of the charcater of the average American and Soviet which I will bring you later.


However the other thing of note is the written dedication on the first page of the book, which says 'To Hugh and Alexandre Trever-Roper with warm regards and high opes that our countries shall recover from decades of foolish policy; signed by either Man, or Nan, or Mau, or Nau or something like that.

So was Trever-Roper, the Oxford-historian famous for chronicling Hitler's last days and infamous for authenticating Hitler's forged diaries, of the view the MAD policy was foolish, or the neo-conservative policy, or what? Perhaps it's just made up -- though he did have a wife called Alexandra, though spelt like that in his Guardian obituarynot as in the dedication..

ps It appears O'Graham was a member of President Bush Snr's infamous Team B which makes sense from his ludicrous over-estimate of Soviet military capacity in the above book.

pps It appears you can still buy this book from an American second-hand published for $19. I paid 1.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A fistful of Euros

With only two posts up it might seem a little early to recommend a new blog, but they're very good posts and the writing team look fantastic so please head off to A fistful of Euros. It aims to give English-language incisive and interesting dicussion on European affairs, as understood by David Weman, Jurjen Smies, Tobias Schwarz, Scott Martens, Iain J Coleman, Nick Barlow and, which is a great honour, yours truly. This blog will remain active playing its customary role of making trite comments and the occasional moment of genius.

Pensions again

Stephen Pollard joins the ranks of people who seem to believe that all demographic-related pensions problems could be solved by switching to a private system based on investments.

See Eatwell for a good primer on why this is nonsense, but if you need convincing now imagine all workers are farmers, and the only thing pensioners want to consume is food. The government can tax food off the farmers to give to pensioners, or pensioners can have built up claims to that food through say owning stocks and shares in the farms. Now imagine the number of pensioners is rising faster than the number of farmers (or worse the number of farmers is falling). Assuming constant productivity*, there is obviously less food to go around, whether or not pensions are based on taxes or based on financial claims**/***.

* Here of course lies the correct way in which to argue for fully-funded pensions, which is in the build-up period they would increase the capital stock and thus productivity. The theory is debateable, the evidence almost non-existent.
** One can escape demographic realities by increasing the number of immigrant farmers, or similarly having claims on foreign farmers. Clearly this is not a solution for the world, but does offer one (perhaps part of one) for an ageing country like the UK. However again it's not really germane to the state vs private debate, as it's essentially a similar argument to the above asterisk.
*** Pensioners can still enjoy higher incomes. They just need to convince the farmers to pay either higher taxes (in PAYG) or to save more. The first can be achieved by government force, the second is harder.

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