Bruno Prior's blog

Feeble NOTW/Tory spin

Well done to ConservativeHome for pointing out the story in today's News Of The World about the couple who are splitting up because they are financially better-off living apart.

Not so well done to both CH and the News of the Screws for their slant on this story. They both seem to think that this demonstrates (in the words of the Screws) the wisdom of "David Cameron's tax-break pledge to give married couples an extra £20 a week", or (in the more accurate words of CH) "the problem that Iain Duncan Smith's social justice report was attempting to begin to address".

So a £20/week tax-credit will make a difference to a couple who stand to lose £878/month if the man gets a job, will it? And is this related to whether they are married? Or would this couple face the same disadvantage if they were co-habiting? Is it only children of married couples who deserve to have their dad living at home?

Our broken welfare system needs a complete overhaul. A £20/week tax-credit to married couples is such an ineffectual and partial solution that it is an insult to anyone who genuinely cares about putting this right. It has nothing to do with a genuine desire to rebalance the system, and everything to do with appealing to traditionalists within the Tory party.

What does this story really tell us? Sean Ash is on disability benefit because of 'painful sciatica'. Chloe Ash is on disability benefit because of 'manic depression'. Between them, thanks to these debilitating medical conditions that have prevented them from taking employment of any kind and the generosity of the welfare system to non-workers, they have a disposable income of £1,702/month. That is £20,424/year. This puts their household income somewhere between the fifth and sixth decile in terms of income distribution (figures available for download from the ONS). In other words, around half of all households in the UK have a lower final income than Sean and Chloe. Not bad remuneration for doing nothing.

Now Sean has decided to take a job, his loss of benefits means that the household would be worse-off (£1,472/month) than if he stayed on disability. So they have split up, because, as Chloe says, staying together "meant my little boy would suffer". I bet their little boy is really glad that his mum and dad protected him from pain by splitting up.

And the answer to this is to give a £20/week tax break to married couples?

Digby, energy security and self-sufficiency

Lord Jones of Birmingham (try not to laugh) made his maiden speech in the House of Lords today, on the subject of the Energy White Paper. In a largely unremarkable spiel, most of which simply restated government position, the only comments that went beyond that position were the following:

"In the UK, we are used to being largely self-sufficient in terms of our electricity generation: the people are used to it. But times are changing, and they are changing at a time of rising demand and prices and at a time when energy supplies are becoming increasingly politicised. This is not a position anyone in this country will be comfortable with."

"If nuclear is not available to the energy market as an option, it is likely that in its place much of the new investment will be in gas or coal generation, which, of course, emits higher levels of carbon and leaves us increasingly dependent upon imports for this nation’s electricity generation."

So the argument is being warmed-up that nuclear power somehow reduces our dependence on imports and therefore increases our energy security. Let's have a look at that.

Firstly, nuclear power, as part of the portfolio alongside gas, coal and renewables, does contribute to the diversity of our electricity supplies. Diversity, it is widely recognised amongst energy-policy experts, is the key to security. I am not disputing that point.

But Lord Jones is going beyond that. He is slipping into the realms of autarky - the false economic notion that we are more secure if we are self-sufficient. Though it is a view that is slipping out increasingly often nowadays (I heard a Merrill Lynch energy analyst make the same error recently, before quickly retreating from it when challenged), it is a view that carries little weight amongst serious analysts. We were never more self-sufficient than when we produced most of our electricity from British coal. And our electricity supplies were never less secure, thanks to the dominant position in which this put the mining unions.

But even if it were a valid position, are Lord Jones's claims true? Are we "used to being largely self-sufficient"? And will we be less dependent on imports if we have nuclear rather than gas or coal?

The answer is "no" to both these questions. We import all our uranium for the nuclear power stations, and we have been importing a large proportion of the coal for our coal-fired power stations since the mid-1980s. We are not used to being self-sufficient, and importing uranium will not make us less dependent on imports than importing other fuels. And if it is "rising demand and prices" that Digby is worried about, he should have a look at uranium prices - a tenfold increase in the last few years makes the increases in fossil-fuel prices look insignificant.

This is not an argument against nuclear. This is only one small part of the issue. But it is an unfounded appeal to economic nationalism that ought not to be part of the debate. It makes one suspicious about the merits of the case for nuclear, if these are the tactics that Lord Jones and his political masters have decided to resort to.

Mark Thompson puts the case for carving up the BBC...

Indirectly, not intentionally, of course.

Mark Thompson today justified the BBC's licence fee on the basis that (in the words of the FT) "the quality of commercial broadcasters' news, current affairs and comedy output is declining". I agree (at least, that it isn't getting better). In fact, I have been saying that there is a case for supporting the BBC's news, current affairs, and innovative comedy for years.

But that could be achieved by funding BBC2, Radio 4, and the World Service, "tasked with the undemocratic job of producing high-quality, diverse, educational, public-service broadcasting", as I put it two years ago. At a fraction of the cost of the BBC's current £3bn.

You will notice that Mr Thompson did not try to make the same argument for soap operas and light entertainment. He did not say that commercial broadcasters are providing insufficient quality and choice in music radio and TV. He did not pretend that there is a shortage of sports (and particularly football) coverage in commercial circles. Because even a BBC executive would not have the balls to go out in public and try to make such a blatantly untrue argument.

It seems, then, that Mr Thompson has conceded the point, and that we can move on to discussing the details of the breakup. When even the Director-General of the BBC can see that 80% of its output is not justified by providing a necessary alternative to commercial services, it is time to discuss how, not whether, we are going to move that output properly into the commercial sector.

Strange bedfellows: Nikolai Yezhov and DTI Consultations

Having had a meeting today with civil servants at the "new" Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (i.e. the DTI with a bit chopped off and a bit stuck on), it is clear that their position on all issues is now that they (or their consultants) can predict the outcome of future developments with such precision that no uncertainty or dispute need be entertained (nor, logically, need free markets be utilised). It seems to me that a good test of this position (and an original objective of this blog) would be to see how accurate their past assumptions had been. I therefore went to the DBERR website (the DTI site no longer being accessible) to have a look at their old reports and consultations.

It seems that they are less than keen for people to review their past performance. Their archive holds only a motley collection of seven consultations - four from 2003, and one each from 2005, 2006 and 2007. This is a tiny fraction of the DTI's output. I wonder why these particular consultations merited preservation for public access? Are they the ones they got right (to within a tolerable level of error)?

For the other consultations by the DTI (and other departments, presumably), we are advised to find hard copy at the British Library (not enormously accessible to the majority of the population). Their website is to be your guide, but the search-term "DTI reports" yields very little, and nothing relevant online. Following a few link trails didn't do any better. Let me know if you have any more joy.

The slate has been wiped clean, records expunged, the history books tippexed. It's almost as though Uncle Gordo didn't want people to look back at how New Labour had performed over the past ten years. A bit like Uncle Joe and the NKVD.

Islington Tory says Dave may not be all that he seems

Paul Newman, an Islington Conservative, has admitted on his blog that Dave Cameron may not be being entirely frank with us. His response to my challenge that "You may buy the line that he can change the balance of the tax and welfare system to benefit married couples without disadvantaging unmarried couples" (based on DC's dance round the issue in his interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday AM) was:

"I do not.They will of course be relatively disadvantaged compared to the current position when they are absurdly favoured. How would you like him to put it. 'We're going to hand single mothers out to dry'. Be serious. Political language is artfully nuanced and you have to read the signs with some care."

What about the desirability, in my view, of "a politician who comes in talking about hard choices and being honest about (short-term) losers as well as winners":

"I think you entirely misunderstand the complexity of the relationship between words and the electorate. Possible losers set their antennae to detect any hints and these are in turn amplified by the opposition. Read the rhunes and he is offering a a softened Conservatism."

But, I believe, "we need a politician that is prepared to start being honest about that [i.e. the hard choices] to the public":

"How would you know when you see him. Isn`t this bordering on the childish ? I don`t wasnt to be rude but I think my mother would say( as she does) Oh for god`s sake their politicians ! Romantic would be a kinder way to describe your wishes."

To sum up: we, the electorate, couldn't tell an honest from a dishonest politician. It is childish (or romantic) to expect politicians to be honest, because that's just not how politicians are (for God's sake). What they are speaking is not normal English to be taken literally, but a political language whose symbols - words, signs (hieroglyphics?) or runes - provoke a complex reaction in the electorate, and which therefore need to be translated carefully by true believers to discover that it means what they want it to mean (e.g. softened Conservatism). The purpose of this language is to ensure that none of the electorate's antennae picks up the slightest signal that someone might lose out. That isn't going to give much of a mandate for reducing the size of government, nor to do much else for that matter, but never mind - it will get these cunning linguists elected to power, and that's the main thing.

The slow death of British rationalism

This isn't new or amusing, but it is important. We hear all the time about the lowering of educational standards (JG posted on it only yesterday), but it is rare to find it set out so clearly and chillingly as in an open letter to the AQA exams board and the Department for Education from Wellington Grey, a secondary-school physics teacher. You would have to have little understanding of the importance of scientific rigour to read the examples given of the obfuscation, subjectivization, dumbing-down and politicization of science exam questions and not fear for the future of science and scientific understanding in this country.

The complicity of those institutions, like the Institute of Physics, and quangos, like the QCA, who should be fighting this lowering of standards, is illustrated in the IoP's response to the consultation on the change of the KS4 curriculum that legitimized this sort of pseudo-science in the GCSE curriculum. The IoP agreed or strongly agreed with most of the proposals, disagreeing only with the timing. But then, we know that the scientific academic establishment has been increasingly politicized on pronouncements on issues like Global Warming, so it should be no surprise to find them supporting the education of children in a way that drums these political views into them as accepted science.

Wellington is asking for your help to publicize this terrible trend. Please give him all the support you can.

(Hat-tip to Freebornjohn who spotted Wellington's amusing example of the subjectivization of physics questions.)

Gordon's subtle corruption of our freedom

There are many things in Gordon Brown's statement of constitutional issues to be developed by his Government, The Governance of Britain, that are more dangerous than the flying of the Union Flag. For instance, take the statement that one of the ideas "at the heart of British citizenship" is "that there is an appropriate balance to be drawn between the individual’s right to freedom and the collective good of all" (para 204, p.60). At first glance, it doesn't sound controversial. Of course we do not have complete freedom to do what we like, and must constrain our behaviour to avoid harm to others. As Justice William O. Douglas put it: "My freedom to move my fist must be limited by the proximity of your chin."

But this statement subtly extends that consideration in a way that has significant ramifications. It is not harm to another that is the constraint in Gordon's scheme, but "the collective good of all". This offers much more scope for governments to decide that freedoms may be limited for the "general good". In fact, one would find that all authoritarian and totalitarian governments would argue that their measures had been justified because they were in the interests of the "collective good".

There is a long tradition of debate on this issue, and it will no doubt continue for a good deal longer. But Gordon is objectively wrong on one aspect - this is not an idea "at the heart of British citizenship". At the most, the question of whether the rights of the individual supersede those of the collective remains unresolved in Britain. I would argue further than that - that Gordon's approach is an (admittedly, well-established) European cuckoo in the British nest; an attempt to shoehorn continental, Rousseauian and Napoleonic collectivism, into British Lockean, common-law, Enlightenment individualism.

We should not conceed this starting-point to Gordon. If we do, it is just a question of the degree of state intervention that is justified in the collective interest, a subjectivity that will always be abused by governments wanting to inflict their views on us. We must argue over the principle, not the detail. Or we end up in the position of the attractive girl propositioned by George Bernard Shaw to sleep with him for a million pounds, who, upon indicating that she might, was asked if she would sleep with him for five pounds. Offended, she objected "Sir, what kind of woman do you think I am?" Shaw replied, "Madam, we have already established what kind of woman you are. Now all we have to do is haggle over the price."

Britannia is not that kind of woman, I hope.

Flagging a warning

Gordon Brown has played the jingoistic card, by promising to review the regulations governing the flying of the Union Flag on public buildings. The Sun's George Pascoe-Watson, not surprisingly, over-reacted with delight, proclaiming that Gordon wanted to see the flag "flutter in Whitehall and around the country every day", and offering free flags to readers who sent in a stamped, addressed envelope, or Union-Flag "screensavers" (actually background images, but we shouldn't expect accuracy from The Sun) to download. The document on which Mr Pascoe-Watson's reporting was based (The Governance of Britain, published by No.10 yesterday) says very much less than he claims, promising only to "consult on altering the current guidance that prohibits the flying of the Union Flag from Government buildings for more than 18 set days in the year".

Perhaps Mr Pascoe-Watson is projecting, or perhaps he was briefed. Whichever, the inflation of this modest proposal has ignited debate, for instance on BBC Radio 5Live today, about the merits of flying our national flag. People seem to focus on whether it is British to display our national pride in such a vulgar way, and whether they are inclined to fly the Union Flag, or the flag of their respective regions (England, Scotland, and Wales - the issue is altogether more tricky in Northern Ireland, as the Government's document notes). This seems to me to miss the point.

I could care less how you choose to display your national pride - proudly with a Flag of the Union, St George, St Andrew, the Red Dragon or whatever outside your window, or quietly through deployment of the British characteristics of understatement, scepticism, humour, stoicism and so on. (Actually, that's not entirely true - I'd prefer the latter, but it really is up to you.)

But I do care about the conflation of the nation and the state. These are our national flags, not our governments' flags. The state (pace Rousseau) is not the embodiment of the nation, though one can see how Gordon might find much in common with that other Chancellor (of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe):

The law is the true embodiment
Of everything that's excellent
It has no kind of fault or flaw
And I, my Lords, embody the law.

Too close association of nation and state has always been a mark of despotic government. If flying the Union Flag becomes an important symbol of patriotism, and a Union Flag waving by the front entrance becomes a hallmark of all government buildings, it is not a long step for some people to make the association that disrespect for and resistance to what is done within those buildings is unpatriotic. At the least, it gives spurious legitimacy to those activities.

Most people, being sceptical Brits, will not be that simple. But let's not give the idiots the excuse. Wrapping the state in nationalist garb is not very British.

And by the way, what happened to Gordon's incredible promise to put an end to spin?

The Government gets gold (Tories silver)

The results are in. As expected, the Government has won Gold, while the Conservatives have had to settle for Silver (Gilt). It's a creditable performance, but not quite competitive. Close, but no banana - is this a taste of things to come?

OK, the proxy battle being fought at Hampton Court Flower Show isn't a perfect test-bed for the political contest. But neither is it unrelated.

DfES Hampton Court GardenThe Department for Education and Skills garden won not only Gold but Best in Show with a celebrity- reinforced team of all the talents, fronted by Chris Beardshaw of Gardeners' World and Flying Gardener fame. They also threw money - £250,000 - at the project to ensure success. I am told that this is the going rate for a show-garden of this size, and that Chris and his team did very well to ensure a successful return on the "investment" (to use the Government's preferred term for spending). However, it was up to the Government to specify the size and budget, and once again they have shown a disinclination to cut their cloth to suit their means. Success, but at a price.

As a project that was intended to involve "the active and creative participation of the young people themselves", there was potential to save some of the cost through the involvement of those young people. Unfortunately, that participation was limited to design and growing the plants. Health & Safety regulations meant that the children could not be involved in the construction of the garden. A wasted opportunity to educate, enthuse and save money, thanks to red-tape.


Tory Hampton Court Garden

The Tory garden was built for The Conservative Foundation, whose purpose is to build a "secure capital fund" that will "safeguard the Party's finances for the longer term". In other words, the Tories have created a garden to attract the coffin-dodgers who make up a large part of the visitors to this sort of show and who might be prepared to leave them some money in their wills. This would be a more effective strategy if anyone was actually manning the garden, as was not the case (on occasions, at least) on the opening day. Cynicism and incompetence - what could be more Tory nowadays?

The LibDems were nowhere to be seen.

Very educational, these garden-shows.

God's judgment

The claims that this summer's unseasonal weather are the result of global warming continue. Whether you believe that global warming is the result of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions, like the majority, or of permissive attitudes to gay relationships, like the Bishop of Carlisle, you are supposed to believe that the recent floods are nature or God's judgment on our wicked ways.

Contrary to earlier claims, the Met. Office have started to whisper that this weather is not, in fact, the result of global warming, but is more likely caused by the impacts of a La Niña weather system. If so, it also gives the lie to the claims that this weather was unpredictable. It wasn't, it was just unpredicted by the "experts" to whom the government and the media listen.

Let's be clear. No one who knew anything about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory should ever have been claiming that heavy summer rainfall was the result of AGW. Below is a graph produced by the Governments' UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) in cooperation with DEFRA, the Met. Office's Hadley Centre, and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, showing predicted changes in precipitation under two climate-change scenarios (Top row = Low emissions, Bottom row = High emissions). It is missing one vital piece of information, which is what each column portrays. The three columns for each block (Winter and Summer) are predictions for how the precipitation will have changed, respectively (left to right) by the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. As you can see, even under low-emissions scenarios, by the 2020s, summer precipitation is expected to have fallen by upto 20% in most of England, including most of the flood-hit areas. Heavy rainfall that delivers in the space of a few days an amount of rain equal to the total rainfall in an average summer is ABSOLUTELY INCONSISTENT with this, however much pundits might like to claim airily that the models predict more extremes.

Now it's the Armed Forces that are having a great year

Taking a leaf out of Patricia "best year ever" Hewitt's book, Defence Minister Derek Twigg has responded to a critical Public Accounts Committee report on recruitment and retention in the Armed Forces by claiming that:

"Recent independently verified manning statistics show that recruitment into the Armed Forces remains strong against a buoyant economy, particularly for the Army Infantry. The latest Army figures show a 12 per cent increase in Army recruits since last year. The National Audit Office report last year highlighted that the Armed Forces have recruited 98% of their target since 2000. It is not the case that there are increasing shortages of personnel. In 1997 there was a 4.2% shortage compared with today's figure of 3%. It is also inaccurate to say that more people are leaving and that we are experiencing a "peak" in outflow. The number of people leaving has remained broadly stable and compares favourably with the retention rates in the public and private sector."

That's alright then. So long as we're hitting the recruiting targets, there must be no problem (obviously, the Government couldn't possibly have set too low a target relative to current commitments). Don't know what these soldiers and sailors are whingeing about. Overstretch must just be in their imagination.

No news is good news?

This is a screenshot of the Conservative party's home page at around 1:30am on the day after the Tory reshuffle.

Tory party website screenshot

Do you think their website will be catching on any time soon to their own news? Most of the blogs have had it for hours. I thought Dave's team were supposed to be new-media-savvy.

Time for an SDP moment

The tensions that have been festering in the Conservative Party since the end of Dave Cameron's brief honeymoon (and, indeed, much longer than that) are breaking out into open sores (again), following the unfortunate coincidence of Tory cock-up (on grammar schools) and Brown bounce. Tim Montgomerie's ToryDiary, usually the most loyal of the high-readership Tory blogs, offered measured criticism of a piece by Michael Gove in The Observer, and the response from Tim's readership has been all-out warfare between the "don't rock the boat" crowd and the "where are our principles" crowd. The same debate occurs in response to most posts on the future of the Tory party.

It's time for an SDP moment. The Tory party isn't a broad church any more, it's schizophrenic. The comments in the Tory blogs make that clear. There are (at least) three separate philosophies within the Conservative party, which I cannot see being reconciled - conservative, social-democrat, and (for want of a better word since "liberal" got hijacked) libertarian. Being part of the same tribe isn't enough to hold them together any more.

What has made the current discontent so strong and persistent is that it's not clear (for lack of policy) where Dave Cameron stands philosophically, but most of the "mood music" is social-democrat, which has got both the conservatives and the libertarians up-in-arms. To alienate one branch of the party is unfortunate. To alienate two could be considered careless.

Social-democrats and conservatives have managed to compromise in the past, in the One Nation tradition. Libertarians and conservatives cooperated in the form of Thatcherism. It is not clear that there has ever been a successful alliance of social-democrats and libertarians within the Tory party (if one deletes the word "successful", that is more the domain of the LibDems), let alone of all three.

Before Lady Thatcher, the libertarian wing was sufficiently insignificant (and without alternative home) for the party to pursue the One-Nation approach for decades without widespread discontent. After Lady T, the libertarian wing was so numerous that it could no longer be ignored. But finding a policy framework that could satisfy all three seems to be very difficult, which explains the essential vacuity of the Major years. The response to these impossible tensions has either been to say as little as possible about principle (Major and Cameron so far) or to position oneself between two of the philosophies (Hague, IDS and Howard). The choice seems to be to alienate the party or the electorate - usually both. Dave Cameron's strategy of "moving to the centre-ground" has no more addressed this problem than did any of his predecessors.

The tuber of a water-lily can outgrow the resources of its environment, at which point the plant begins to atrophy. The solution is occasionally to lift the tuber, divide it, and replant the separate pieces in their own space. Each new water-lily will, after a year or two, prosper more than the overgrown original.

It is time for the Tories to give their various philosophical strands the space to grow.

Big Business Council for Britain

Life just got worse for the little guy. Gordon has always believed that "business" = "the major corporates and City institutions". His understanding of the impact of his policies, and therefore the policies themselves, have been conditioned by the advice he has been given by the bosses of these businesses. Never ones to look a gift-horse in the mouth, these leaders have not been averse to steering their advice in the direction that suits their businesses. Hence the Government's support for failed and partial policies that favour the big incumbents, like the EU-ETS.

This biased and blinkered attitude to business in the nation of shopkeepers (by which Smith and Napoleon did not mean Tesco and Sainsbury) has now been institutionalized, with the creation of the Business Council for Britain, and its proposed close relationship to the rump of the DTI, now known as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Add to that the appointment of another ex-CBI, corporatist, third-way poodle - Sir Digby Jones - as Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and you have a government that is going to be run on the advice of and in the interests of big business, whatever Sir Digby might claim.

The BCB, populated exclusively and deliberately by corporate leaders, will have great influence over commercial and regulatory policy direction, and preferential access to No.10. Expect to see policies, mechanisms, incentives, and regulations change over time to further favour big businesses - for example, through imposition of costs that can be spread more effectively by larger corporations, but loosening of constraints that prevent them abusing their market power.

The balance of power and responsibility is revealing. DBERR/DTI's home-page tells us that "DBERR will provide support to the new Business Council for Britain. The Council, made up of senior business leaders, will assist the Government in putting in place the right strategy to promote the long-term health of the UK economy." DBERR will support the Council, not the other way round. And the Council will assist the Government, not the DBERR. What this means is that Gordon ("the Government") will run the economy on the advice of his City pals, and John Denham and the DBERR will be their gophers.

We knew that corporate capture of government would be escalated by Brown's arrival at No.10, but even to pessimists like myself, the speed of the takeover is breathtaking and depressing. The corruption and sell-out of Britain continues.

Rosie Boycott: Labour have made a hash of things

Rosie Boycott has just said on This Week that "in 1997 we were elated but actually we didn't have that many great big problems. And there are a lot of big problems: there is the war, there is the environment, there is the huge gap between the rich and the poor, you know we've had nine murders of young men in recent weeks, we've had gun crime, we've had all sorts of things that are awful." In anyone else's mouth, this would mean that the Tories left things in a pretty good state in 1997 and Labour have made a hash of things since then.


JG has posted on the subject of Tony's legacy. This post started as a comment, and grew so large that I decided to post it separately.

I must see things through an inverting lens.

  • Reagan: Never a buffoon in the eyes of those old enough to see through the Spitting Image caricature, and intelligent enough to understand the mess the Western economies were in in 1980. Heard an excellent example recently of how well Reagan "got it", better than any American president for a century, from a woman who worked in his administration. Her husband also worked for him, in the Department of Agriculture. Invited to see the President, he told Reagan how efficient he was going to make the Department. Reagan's reply: "Now listen, don't make it too efficient. Can you imagine if we got all the government we pay for?" That's a smart cookie.
  • Thatcher: Cruel to whom? The British government had spent decades being cruel to those who wanted to improve their lot, and generous to those who just wanted a wage for a day's attendance or better still a wage for no attendance, regardless of whether they contributed to the economy. She reversed that, and although far more people benefited (then and now) than suffered at the time, all people talk about is how hard it was on the people who had been screwing the British economy for decades. I'm sorry, but they had it coming to them. And as for megalomania, her biggest mistakes were when she left people like Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson (and her European counterparts) to lead her up the garden path on the Single European Act and the ERM. I bet she regrets being too soft, not too hard.
  • George W Bush: The good part - lower taxes. The bad part: bigger government. If he had managed to rein-in government spending to match the tax-cuts, he could have been remembered as another Reagan (domestically). Instead, he will be remembered as a contributor to one of the biggest economic imbalances the world has ever seen. Unless, that is, the intellectuals find a way to rewrite history to blame the coming collapse on something else (that better suits their view of the world, e.g. it was nothing to do with fiscal irresponsibility). Combine that with his failure in the clash with Islam (let's not call it a clash of civilizations, that is too good a word for the state of modern Islam), and he ought to go down as one of the worst presidents in their history. Not for what he wanted to do, a lot of which wasn't too bad, but for what he actually did, which was a lot worse.
  • Blair: His principal legacy is the bureaucratization and re-socialization of Britain; the restoration and extension of the leviathan state - more layers, more powers, more employees and sub-contractors, more welfare-dependency, more intervention in business and charity, more intrusion into personal and family affairs, more central-planning and micro-management, more regulation, more taxation....

Howard Davies, Europe, Brown and the politicization of our institutions

Howard Davies is reported in Le Figaro as saying:

"On Europe, we do not yet know if Sarkozy is a friend or an enemy.... Selling the Brussels result will be arduous for Brown… It is crucial for him that Sarkozy continues to defend the idea that the new treaty does not mean much. The slightest suspicion that this treaty is the first step on a new federal adventure will be blown up out of all proportion. Any triumphalism about the withdrawal of the reference to competition will make Brown’s life very difficult. For the first time since the rejection by de Gaulle of our request for accession to the common market, a British government finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being liable to a French president. One false move, one word too many from the Elysée, and Prime Minister Brown will have big problems. Brown, who has waited so long and impatiently for his moment, is particularly frustrated at not being in charge on the European agenda. That means that he is condemned, whether he likes it or not, to keeping close relations with Sarkozy. Brown cannot let him leave his sight." (Hat-tip to OpenEurope for spotting this and translating it.)

Howard Davies is Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), before which he was Chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), before which he was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, before which he was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industries (CBI). All roles in which he should have eschewed political partisanship. And all organizations (with the possible exception of the Bank) of which there is a strong whiff of Third-Way politicization. Now look at that statement again.