Friday, October 29, 2004

The Economist comes to its senses

The Economist, a right-wing UK-based but mainly US-selling magazine, joins the camp.
John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.

It's a pretty grudging endorsement, with a nasty line about his making his mind up only once, and that was 30 years' ago, but given how right-wing some members of the Economist's editorial team are it's still pretty amazing.

Naturally of course, The Economist is never wrong, so it wasn't wrong about Iraq, and it wasn't wrong about supporting Bush first time. Still welcome to the camp.

ps The Economist has another editorial on how things should be as simple as possible. This would have been good advice for its editorial. It also notes that

We know of no-one who is prepared to swear that he understands whether he is getting a good or bad deal from his mobile phone operator. One could build a spreadsheet to calculate the minutes talked off-peak, on-peak, in-plan, out-of-plan, and whatever other formulas consumers are forced to choose from. But then there would be no time left for talking

A friend, who is a regular reader of this site, actually once did this. Remarkably he has a social life, and a girlfriend.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Some blog roundup

Some interesting things on blogs this week

Johann Hari doesn't like George Bush (from a debate with Robert Fisk, which I have to say was rather good, and Johann came out of it well. Also he's had 300,000 hits on his site, which shows both the quality of some of his stuff, and the power of the national press):

[T]hat George Bush is a serial killer (he executed more than 100 people in Texas). That George Bush is an illegitimate President. That there was no link between the mass murder of 9/11 and Saddam. Aall that was true and right.

The purpose of using the term "Stopper", from Harry on the same site

"As long as it keeps annoying you it is a useful phrase" (comments to this post)

The American Right in full cry - burn New York and kill tens of millions people -- to show John Kerry who's boss!

Part of me hopes Kerry is elected and NY or other major cities are utterly devastated by terrorists. No tears then, you stupid bastards deserve it.

(Comment on Jeff Jarvis's site, via Backword Dave)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Ukip activity today

Kilroy about to lose whip

Now, the BBC says, "Kilroy resigns whip"

Now, does this mean he is no longer a member of Ukip? Or just no longer a member of the Ukip European Parliamentary party. Hopefully Mr Wells will provide some of the answers.

ps I wrote this yesterday as the news broke. Anthony Wells does indeed have a little bit of information, mainly that Kilroy is remaining in the party!

I was right objectively, possible wrong subjectively, and I really care ironically.

As I said he would a few days' ago, Christopher Hitchens appears to be supporting Kerry in the election, or at least he's not supporting Bush. A bit of a flip-flop.

I say appears as it would take an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of years typing away at typewriters to come up with something as tortured as his contribution to this piece by Slate writers.

Not perhaps that anyone cares.

Over in Britain, heading into an election with Hitchens appears to be getting confused with the American one, the Tories appear to be in all sorts of trouble. ICM's October Guardian poll has Labour six points clear on 37%, suggesting last month's poll wasn't a 'rogue' one, and according to Anthony, it appears that Blair's announcement of his plans to go on for another 5-6 years is responsible.

I would suggest it was time for Michael Howard to go quietly, but for the Tories changing leaders is probably as pointless as changing managers is for the Scottish football team.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Flypaper Strategy -- what did you expect?

So Bush Admnistration negligence has allowed vast quantities of high explosive to be looted from a site in Iraq, potentially arming thousands of murderous terrorists. And people are surprised?

We all know now that the main rationale for the Iraq war, at least if you read right-wing American blogs, is the 'flypaper strategy'. Essentially the argument is that it is safer for Americans if the US fights terrorists in the area of their choosing, with the forces of its choosing and that area was Iraq, not Iowa, and those forces were the US Army not the Firefighters.

Now how do you expect such a strategy to work if you don't give the terrorists weapons? They're hardly going to come out and fight unarmed! In other words this is another stroke of Bush genius, the bait so the flypaper works. An October surprise indeed.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Certainty and absurdity

Brad DeLong notes that Norman Geras appears to have no concept of probability. Geras says:

"The sole convincing moral case against the war would have had to demonstrate, either for a certainty or else as being highly probable, that the consequences of a regime-change war... must be a state of affairs even worse than the one the war was supposed to remedy...There was no persuasive moral case against the Iraq war."

Whereas De Long notes:

"The right standard is, "More likely than not to make things worse"

In other words he is saying that intervention requires that the expected outcome is better than the expected outcome of non-intervention, i.e it is 'more likely than not to make things' better. Geras however, I think, is arguing that the spread of outcomes is heavily skewed, such that the worst disaster under Saddam is much, much, worse than the worst disaster under the occupation forces. And it is not the expected outcome what matters, but the worst case outcome.

Aside from the worrying onus on those opposed to regime change, the major complaint I have though is that taking Geras's statement and adding a few words rather changes its whole nature:

"The sole convincing moral case against the war would have had to demonstrate, either for a certainty or else as being highly probable, that the consequences of a regime-change war by the Bush Administration... must be a state of affairs even worse than the one the war was supposed to remedy or one not as good as any other feasible option was as likely to deliver and there were no more as likely moral uses for the $200bn proposed cost"

That more Iraqi civilians are being killed per month by the occupation forces than in Saddam's final few years makes one wonder, to put it mildly, if there werent' better otpions.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Impeach George Bush

Christopher Hitchens comes out fighting:

The Kerry camp also rightly excoriates the President and his Cabinet for their near-impeachable irresponsibility in the matter of postwar planning in Iraq.

Impeachment in the American political process is a very serious thing. Hitchens believes Bush's behaviour is near-impeachable. The Hitch is back.

American politics in crisis

I think most of us would agree that fair and accurate opinion polling is an important component of democracy. Thus this post from Steven Den Beste is chilling. He believes that independently all of the major polling companies have deliberately been skewing their results to favour John Kerry.

The argument is slightly complex, so let me explain. They've not been deliberately boosting Kerry, as that (one presumes) would be too obvious. Instead they deliberately underplayed his chances after the Republican conference, in order to allow an October comeback.

You have to wonder about Amerian political culture sometimes...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Spectator

It's hard to disagree with this article in the FT about Boris Johnson's editorship of the Spectator, particularly this quote:

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the offending article, editors cannot put themselves at the beck and call of politicians. Are future editions of The Spectator to be pre-read by Conservative Central Office?

PS: THe more you think of it the more absurd it seems. It's one thing being a hands-off proprieter, but another the editor. What if its though Oliver Letwin wasn't doing his job well enough - how could the Spectator comment in its leader?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The case for voting for Bush

John Kay in today's FT makes what an interesting case for voting for Bush (aside from the amusement factor), which is the 'chickens coming home to roost' angle.

America is engaged in a bold, ideologically motivated experiment, in defiance of conventional wisdom about international affairs and economic policy. If it succeeds, its architects deserve their political success, and there will be important lessons for us all. If it fails, which seems to me much more likely, it is important that the connection between policy initiatives and their consequences should be obvious both to those who opposed this course of action and to those who favoured it. If there is a change of administration, there will certainly be another neo-conservative experiment, and the myth of Democratic betrayal will fuel it.

Where Kay errs I think is in believing that a 'neo-conservative' foreign-policy still has a chance of working. Much of the their beliefs have already been proven wrong - there were no flowers to greet the invasion force, there is not a major square named after President Bush, the Americans could not do it with a small number of troops, allies would have been useful, it has not set off a democratic revolution etc. If somehow everything turns out alright in the end it probably have little to do with them, instead it will have much to do with America's traditional foreign policy strengths, such as a effective diplomacy, a large army, international support, using the UN etc.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tabloid trash journalism

I don't really like giving it further coverage, but I think this story, in yesterday's Sunday Mirror, is such an awful example of British tabloid journalism that it needs pointing out.

Immigration = Crime...say Tories

That seems to be the Conservative Party's current message (ok...I know it's historically been their message too, but I thought things had changed).

How so? I was looking for their policy on immigration on their website, and in their Amazon style tabs at the top the one in which it features is the 'Crime' one, where the first story is 'UK immigration controls under threat'.

I have written to complain.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Pollard advocates invasion of Spain

(I'm keeping this near the top as it deserves the widest coverage)

by American (and presumably British) troops. Remember his column is ' things I think need to be said''s clearly not a joke.

The idea is repugnant.

Friday, October 15, 2004

When Mao meets Oakeshott...

is the title of another interestine essay in the LRB (this time online) reviewing Ferdinand Mount's new book, "Mind the Gap: The New Class Divide in Britain", which (according to the reviewer). IT's here.

an analysis of the ways the working class has been consistently denigrated, disempowered, and 'subjected to a sustained programme of social contempt and institutional erosion which has persisted through many different governments and several political fashions'. This has caused a 'kind of cultural impoverishment', accompanied by a 'hollowing out' of what Mount unflinchingly calls 'lower-class' life, leading to 'the sense that the worst-off in this country live impoverished lives, more so than the worst-off on the Continent or in the United States'.

In other words, as the reviewer (John Lanchester) ashamedly says, it's about "chavs", or what Mount calls, "Downers". He notes that it's an issue that is difficult to talk about without sounding insufferably snobbish (and rude and mean, I would think), but says that Mount, although being easy to disagree with, does at least present an interesting case.

The first stage in Mount's argument is to trace how 'the masses' were invented, or reified, as a consequence of the industrial revolution. Early modern England had a complex, highly stratified social structure. Mount quotes a 1688 classification of lords, baronets, knights, esquires, gentlemen, 'persons in greater and less offices and places, merchants and traders, lawyers, clergymen and freeholders, farmers, persons in liberal arts and scientists, shopkeepers and tradesmen, artisans and handicrafters, and naval and military officers . . . common seamen, labouring people and servants, cottagers and paupers, common soldiers and finally "Vagrants", as Gipsies, Thieves, Beggars etc'. All these groups had overlapping, conflicting and co-operating interests. But the Industrial Revolution, as interpreted by Marx with 'his ferocious rhetoric, his thundering certainties and his air of scientific infallibility' made it much simpler to divide society into two groups: Us and Them, the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie, ineluctably at war

This formed:

Once class simplification was set up, however, something very close to class war did take place. Mount sees this process as being driven by middle-class dislike of the proles. He draws extensively on John Carey's The Intellectuals and the Masses to evince a widespread contempt for the working classes on the part of their betters: Huxley, Shaw, Wells, Lawrence, Woolf, the usual suspects - 'the extraordinary thing remains that so many of the finest talents of their generation should have found the mere existence of millions of their fellow countrymen loathsome to the point of being intolerable.'

This told Mount makes the controversial argument that the bourgouise then declared war on the working-class with, "'a national system of education, a state system of welfare, public housing schemes and, later on, a state system of hospitals, a comprehensive system of National Insurance and much else besides".

Yikes! That sounds like current Conservative Party policy, admittedly, but I'm not sure they came up with the idea.

The state, he claims, by taking away the working classes' means of providing for themselves, and especially by creating catastrophic Downer ghettos in housing estates, has created a culture of dependency which, together with other cultural forces (increased ease of divorce, increased prevalence and stupidity of the mass media), has caused the famous 'hollowing out'.

Mount has specific suggestions about what to do: basically, school vouchers and a massive building programme to get the Downers out of their housing estates. But that in itself won't be enough, as Mount acknowledges in one of his engaging Mao-meets-Oakeshott moments: 'Only a wholehearted, even reckless opening up of genuine, substantial power to the bottom classes is likely to improve either their self-esteem or the view which the managing classes take of them - which is what makes the managing classes so reluctant to effect any such transfer.'

Anyway it's an interesting argument, and a spirited review, though Lanchester gets terrible muddled about poverty towards the end and I think perhaps a bit too impressed by what, if you think about it for a few minutes, can be pretty silly and offensive stuff* (how exactly has the NHS led to a culture of dependency unique to Britain?). But I'm sure it'll appeal (in parts) to our conservative friends.

* I haven't read the book, so make that usual blog proviso, 'he probably doesn't know what he's talking about'.

Global competitiveness

The World Economic Forum has a new set of 'global competitiveness indicators' out (warning - pdf). Finland, then the US, are top. The UK is in 11th. It's not worth taking them too seriously -- you'd need to find some from the early 1990s and see whether they had any predictive power above the obvious before doing that.

But the subsectors make some interesting reading.

Technoloy - US, Taiwan, Finland. The UK is in 18th.

In fact at this point it's worth taking it less seriously. To paraphrase what John Kay noted about an earlier version, how seriously can you take an index of technology in which France is behind Hungary and Slovakia?

Public institutions - Denmark, Iceland, Finland. UK does well here in 7th.

Economic environment - Singapore, Norway, Finland. UK in 8th.

Business Competitive Index (this is actually a separate index) - US, Finland and Germany. UK in 5th.

Americans - Europe gives its view

Interesting poll in the Guardian about people's attitudes to American and Americans. Most people can't stand the Administration, which seems fair enough given how many Americans aren't too keen on it either.

When discussing Americans personally, the balance of favourable to unfavarouable is as follows, with Russians the most favourable, and Mexican's the least. The Brits are actually less favourable than the French.

Russia 73%
Israel 71%
Japan 57%
Aust 51%
Canada 50%
France 48%
UK 41%
Korea 35%
Spain 15%
Mexico 8%

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Blair's conference speech

I said on Harry's place that Blair's view on terrorism makes no sense, and I'm glad that someone more intelligent, David Runciman, agrees with me.

In a piece in the LRB (not online I'm afraid) he notes that Blair's view of terrorism:

There are two views of what is happening in the world today. One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism. That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with. If you believe this, we carry on the same path as before 11th September. We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.

The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam; that's its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassehs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

As Runciman (and I) noted this is nonsense:

It does not follow from your believing that separate acts of terrorism can be isolated, that you must also believe either that they are the work of 'isolated individuals', or that the only thing to do is to avoid provoking the terrorists. You might equally believe that having isolated the causes of terrorism in different parts of the world, the only thing to do is to address them, as forcefully as possible

Second, Runciman notes that 'progressivism', which Blair claims to believe in:

If it means anything it means a readiness to unshackle the problems of politics from the apparent certainties of the past, in order to indentify where change is possible... it is an assualt on the conservative assumption that nothing can be made better without making something worse.

whereas Blair's view of the war is:

one where everthing is connected in a great chain of being, where it is not possible to sever the links between separate political challenges in order to identify what can be changed, and what our priorities should be.

Not for the first time Blair's actions must be a delight to terrorists. Their attempts to link their disaparate causes across the world in one global terrorist cause (which Blair believes they are doing) has only be helped by Blair's insistence of linking them thus with very little evidence. As Runciman notes he should have tried to sever the global links not build them up.

Long to reign over us...

It used to be the last desperate cry of Monarchists, when all the other justifications for the Royal Family were seen to be bogus,

"Would you rather X was president, then?"

When X would be Mrs Thatcher if you were left-wing, Tony Benn (or now Blair presumably) if you were right-wing, or Sir Elton John, if you were in the middle.

The reply was always of course, 'Perhaps not for 40 years', but by that point your Monarchist would have started telling you that Charles and Diana's marriage was strong.

Anyway these days the former argument carries no more weight than the latter. When the Queen passes away, we get Charles, assuming he is still in the country, not Switzerland. And I think most of us would prefer Mrs Thatcher. If he is in Switzrland, we'll get William, or heaven forbid anything nasty happens to him we get Harry, whose Eton education left him with a B and D, and perhaps not even that.

This is clearly the best system of government we can have.

Scarlett should resign...

says Timothy Garton-Ash, in an excellent Guardian column.

So here's how it went. This single unreliable source's claim was transmitted to the SIS, doubtless suitably exaggerated, by a politically motivated exile. The SIS's own caveats about the claim were, as the parliamentary intelligence and security committee noted last year, not adequately reflected in the JIC's summary assessment. That assessment was simplified and exaggerated in the Downing Street dossier, with Scarlett compromising the careful presentational rules of his trade to satisfy spin-doctor Alastair Campbell. It was yet further strengthened in Tony Blair's introduction, becoming the bald claim that Saddam's "military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".

On a rope made of such feeble, twisted thread, we were led to war. The man who could and should have cut this particular thread, and several others, was Scarlett.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Right in full cry

on Christopher Reeve.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

ICM poll

The detailed data from the shock Sunday Telegraph ICM poll is now up on their website (Found via Anthony Wells). If you recall (or look down a bit), you'll see it said Labour led the Tories by 39% to 30%.

It may have been a rogue poll. We'll never know (even if next month it goes back down to a more normal Labour lead we don't know whether that's how public opinion has changed -- remember the Tory conference gives exposure to the Tories, and this might be a bad thing).

Anyway what caught my eye was the 18-24 age group, and the 25-34 age group results. In the former the Tories are third on 14%, with Labour on 58% and the Lib Dems on 25%. It does not appear that the Tories' higher-education policy is winning votes from students.

The best age group, the 25-34 one, is even more interesting. Here the Tories are in 3rd place, on 28%, but Labour are in second, on 32%. The Lib Dems lead with 35%.

Modern Britain

Without wishing to sound too much like Peter Cuthbertson, modern Britain is rather depressing today.

The England football captain said he deliberately got booked to ensure his suspension was concomitant with his absence from the game through injury, and says this proves he has 'brains'.

The remains of a grandmother have been dug up by animal rights extremists because she was the mother-in-law of a brother who run a farm where guinea pigs are bred for medical research.

There is one cheering piece of news. For the first time the Telegraph has refused to run a Mark Steyn column, and a good decision it is too. The column, which I won't link to, was about how one should behave if kidnapped in Iraq. I won't tell you how Steyn says you should behave; I am sure you all have your own views on how Steyn would behave.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Australians AV an unproportional electoral system

For those confused by the Australian election, which you may have heard was close, but you now see is likely to see the coalition returned with 87 of the 150 seats, a majority of 24, which scaled up for British comparison would be over a 100.

However here are the forecast vote shares (with change on last time and seats as a % of the total). The coalition got 46.8% of the vote (including the Country Liberal Party) but took (assuming forecasts correct in both cases) 58% of the vote. At the party level with less than 1.07 times more votes than Labour, the Liberals will have 1.25 times more seats.

Liberal 40.7% 75 (50%)
National 5.9% 12 (8%)
Labor 38.2% 60 (40%)
Greens 7.0% 0 (0%)
Democrats 1.1% 0 (0%)
One Nation 1.1% 0 (0%)
Others 6.0% 3 (2%)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

And a little more...

Interestingly it says you could purchase insurance in London in the 1930s on Hitler's life. In 1935 you would pay 10 and 10 shillings per month, for every 200 if he died. This is around 125 a year! It seems either it was a bad deal, or the general view was the he hadn't much hope.

More British Politics in 1936

There is also a list of miscellanous notes on 'other forces, counter-forces, players and counter-players' in British politics. Some remain true today, some don't, and the first one shows the problems that can occur with long-range demographic forecasts.

* The decline in the birth rate, which, according to competent estimates, will reduce the population to thirty-three million by 1985.

* Letters to the Times

* The publishing house of Victor Gollancz

* The father-to-son tradition in british politics

* The rule of thumb

* Economists of various breeds: JM Keynes, Sir Arthur Salter, Sir Josiah Stamp, Sir Walter Layton

* The formidable severity of English Law.

* An ingrained pacifism in the younger men, who dislike their former military titles.

* The Countess of Oxford and Asquity

* Professor Harold J Laski

* The death duties

* The radicalism of Oxford and Cambridge graduates

* The habit of the Archbishop of Canterbury occasionally to write to The Times appealing for public prayer

* The Federation of British Industries

* The pacifism of Canon 'Dick' Sheppard

* The apparent disposition of women to have an Oedipus Comples on their fathers. Women wear mannish clothes, they hunt foxes, they are fierce parliamentarians

* The village pub

* Imperialism, which extends beyond the Empire. Portugal for instance.

* Punch

* The high salaries paid to judges, cabinet ministers and ambassadors.

British politics in 1936

I found a copy of (what I subsequently know to be) a 1936 classic on European politics, "Inside Europe", by John Gunther.

It has some interesting facts/quotes

Only 40,000 of London's 8 million inhabitants owned any land, whilst 20 men owned the vast majority, with one peer owning 270 acres in the West End.

There are 100,000 men and woman with incomes of over 2,000 (104,000 today), whilst 18 million have incomes under 250 a year (13,000).

"Geography has produced some magnifcent provincialism, Two or three winters ago a heavy storm completely blocked traffic across the Channel. "CONTINENT ISOLATED", the newspaper posters couldn't help saying"

"Britain is the richest country in Europe, it has 87 per capita in England, as against, for instance, 46 in Germany, 43 in France and 28 in Italy"

"A diplomat friend of mine said, 'England is the most dangerous country in the world because it is the only one capable of going to war on behalf of another country'".

"Even the poorest of the poor are loyal. Vistors from abroad to Tyneside of Durham are incredulous that poverty of such miserable proportions does not produce revolution.."

"The instruments of domination by the ruling class are several...the Admirality, which is a law unto itself...the Bank 'a most peculiar institution'...the public school...the country house...newspapers...but little attention is paid to Lords Rothmere and Beaverbrook...the civil service"

"London...the ugliest and most uncomfortable city in the world"

"The Tories...have the practice of lassoing the best brains in England"

ICM poll

There's a new ICM poll out in the Sunday Telegraph, taken after Michael Howard's speech.

It puts the Tories on 30%, Labour on 39%, and the Lib Dems on 23%. This is the largest Labour lead since May 2003, and on any reasonable assumption about how votes translate into seats would give Labour a large majority.

There is the possibility that it is a 'rogue' poll, or is at the extremes of the margin of error. If not then it's a pretty damning condemnation of Michael Howard's strategy.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

New Tory defence policy - let the French Cabinet decide Naval policy

The disagreement I outlined below between Nicholas Soames and Michael Howard has been resolved in Howard's favour, with the implication that Soames neither listens nor follows Howard's speeches.

Indeed you have to feel sorry for Nicholas Soames. Today another Tory has started making defence policy on the hoof. Dr Fox has committed the Conservative party to keeping the Royal Navy larger than the French Navy (same link as above).

"If you look at the wider picture, this Labour Government would leave us with a smaller Navy than France for the first time since the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 - that's a pretty appalling prospect."

Now we've had this debate on this site before. I personally am relaxed about the Royal Navy being smaller than the French Navy, just as I am relaxed about the Royal Navy being smaller than the United States Navy. But I understand many people aren't. Nevertheless does it make sense to base the size of the Royal Navy on what the French government does? And the Conservatives have the cheek to complain about giving away sovereignty!

Iraq Survey Group report

It's clear that the report from the Iraq Survey Group is going to change very few people's opinion on the invasion of Iraq. That the survey group found no evidence of weapons of mas destruction -- not even Blair's favourite ones that could be launched in 45 minutes - is remarkable, but old news. Outside of some of the more loopy parts of the blogosphere this has been known for over a year.

Even the pro-war lobby can take some comfort from the report in that their is some evidence that Saddam wanted to resume WMD research once the sanctions were lifted, though as very few written orders were given a lot appears to be of the 'the tone was unmistakeable' kind. Furthermore much of the declining threat from Saddam can be attributed to sanctions and increasing American pressure, which of course the loopier members of the anti-war lobby opposed.

Nevertheless it seems unarguable that their was no pressing need for an invasion of Iraq, and thus more time could have been spent preparing for a war and occupation tha would have been successful. This argument will hold no sway with much of the 'pro-war left', which actually wanted an earlier invasion of Iraq than actually happened, ie one that enjoyed less planning and preparation. But it should be enough for most people.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Howard must resign

Surely Howard must resign? I thought if leaders couldn't keep their promises they had to go? Any Tories who can explain why Howard isn't going pleae tell...

Tuesday: Michael Howard (2004 Tory leader)

That makes it possible for us to make this pledge to Scotland: if Labour cut one of the historic regiments in Scotland we will bring it back, he said.

Wednesday: Nicholas Soames (in Cabinet as Defence Spokesman)

But I mean if there isn't an election and we don't get in until later and it's all been done clearly we can't reverse them because we couldn't then undo the thing once it's been done.

Hitchens in chaos

It's pretty clear that the thinking of the Hitchens' part of the 'pro-war left', for want of a better term, is in almost as much chaos as their pet project in Iraq.

Last week we had his rant about an 'October Surprise', and how discussion of such is near treason, despite the fact that he was once the journalist most in favour of such thoughts.

Today we have Oliver Kamm delivering a typically forensic skewering (though to be fair it's in a piece promoting a book by David Horowitz, which is rather disappointing) of the view held by Noam Chomsky (and importantly of course Johann Hari and Christopher Hitchens) that Clinton's bombing of the Sudanese medicine plant killed 10,000 or more people.

I bumped into Paul Richards in Paris...

He appears to now be stuck in a garden on the left bank. What a fall from grace.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

How stupid does he think the British people are?

Michael Howard's rather dull speech (which received a standing ovation of 2 minutes -- is this a conference low?) was remarkable for display of contempt in which he clearly holds the British people.

It was my first experience of a politician's answer.

I don't believe in that kind of talk.

I'm going to give it to you straight.

Give it to you straight? Like perhaps he did in the House of Commons or the Newsnight studio back in 1995?

How stupid does he think we are? The sooner he goes back to being cited in divorce cases for stealing wooing other people's wives the better.

Good Bad week for Conservatives

So far they have a snazzy new website, Paul Sykes who is very rich is going back to them from Ukip, and the press are going easy on their tax and spending plans.

It appears William Hague is not at the conference, or he is not staying there, as he is -- for some unknown reason -- presenting a marketing awards ceremony at the Hilton in London tonight. The girlfriend is going, and I have instructed her to take photos and ask him why he is boycotting Bournemouth.

Update: Panic over. It appears he is only missing the evening's entertainment. Two commenters have revealed that William 'Save the Pound, Jeremy, Save the Pound' Hague is in Bournemouth.

Update Two: Actually Hague admitted it was strange he was not in Bournemouth, and explained it thus: he said he didn't believe ex party-leaders should hang around the conference as it made it hard for the current leader. He noted that he'd wished some of his predecessors had followed that policy when he was leader. I never knew he had it in for poor John Major so much...

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Blair to the rescue?

Juan Cole has this remarkable story:

Moreover, some of this zigzagging reflected very poorly on Bush's judgment. I have it from insiders that in April, 2003, Jay Garner let it slip to some of his staff that his charge was to turn Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi within six months. The staffers were shocked and some contacted the State Department to see if this was known there. It was not. So they blew the whistle on Bush with Colin Powell. I was told that Powell then made a coalition with Tony Blair and that the two of them went to Bush and got him to change his mind.