Sunday, May 24, 2015

Take responsibility for Iraq, it may be time for war sooner rather than later

Regardless of the position you might have taken over the Iraqi war, it happened and in essence, the "coalition of the willing" took upon itself the responsibility of governing Iraq.   It did so because Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq was seen as being a threat to its neighbours and more generally. Removing the regime was to enable Iraq to become a friendly and stable friend to Western interests.

However, although it essentially let the Kurds govern themselves, it failed - utterly miserably - to establish law and order in the rest of Iraq, with a government that represented and granted rights and rule of law across all Iraqis.  Over 90% of those killed since the original invasion were at the hands of sectarian militia groups.  The sectarian Shi'a administration now in Iraq, is relatively weak and is one reason why some Sunnis have embraced ISIS in resistance to that government.

Iraqi President at the time, Nouri al-Maliki, bears some responsibility for the disaster, but the overwhelming responsibility lies with the US State Department, British Foreign Office and those of the "coalition of the willing", for simply they were the coalition of the unwilling.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein created a vacuum, that the "coalition of the willing" were unwilling to fill - that is of strict law and order, border control and to establish a government that would apply the rule of law, objectively, and defend the rights of all citizens.  It's hardly surprising, for the sheer volume of forces needed to do that were beyond the willingness of any governments to provide (or afford).  Unlike Japan, which culturally was in a sense of shock and fear after its defeat, and Germany which saw occupation by powers already spending vast proportions of their GDP (and were near neighbours), Iraq was flooded with weapons, full of thugs who lost their power after the fall of Hussein, and had porous borders with a neighbour that sought to make it compliant.  

Iraqi Kurdistan is the shining exception.

The United States and its allies let Iraq down.  After the success of the late surge, it let a bigoted corrupt sectarian leader take over the country, and as a result those who he was bigoted against, and excluded, turned on the regime, and found allies, and the genesis of ISIS was created.

It is very easy to be introspective, and say the original war was a mistake, and to blame Iran for its remarkable efforts at destabilising Iraq (notice how the anti-war movement in the West has absolutely no issue with Iranian imperialism, as the anti-war movement is, in fact, a movement against Western civilisation and capitalism).  That effort is for academics, what policy makers need to consider is what to do now, particularly as ISIS is spreading, virus like across Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan is far from perfect, but there is a reasonable degree of rule of law, peace and governance that is far from disagreeable in the region.  It effectively is part of a separate federal unit from the rest of Iraq, and deserves to be defended, particularly given the relative acquiescence of the world after Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon attacks upon them in the 1988. 

However, the case for Western military intervention is much greater than being "nice" to the Kurds, there is a case of self interest here.  A failure to take on ISIS and defeat it has the very real chance of being dangerous not only to those the West once called its allies, and many thousands (and millions) of innocent civilians, but a base for terrorist action in Europe.

If ISIS captures Baghdad, with no significant Western military effort, it presents the possibility that Iraq will see genocidal actions against Kurds and Iraqi Shi'a, that ISIS will turn on Kuwait and use the oil wealth of Iraq to fund further expansionism.  It presents the possibility of Iran invading Iraq to prevent this, and without a doubt, such a takeover would be a clear indication that the West not only has abandoned the Middle East, but is willing to let ISIS have virtually free reign in its holy mission to establish a totalitarian Islamist Caliphate in the Middle East.

Some will say so what?  They'll say so what until an ISIS bomb explodes in the Coliseum, or maybe St. Paul's Cathedral in London, or Notre Dame in Paris.

ISIS has clear intent to go beyond Iraq and Syria.  It has embraced eliminationism with its conquests, demanding that people convert and submit, or get killed.  It has murdered children, taken women and young girls to be sex slaves and beheaded and otherwise executed men for any form of dissent, including being gay.  It seeks to eliminate Israel, to eliminate all of the hereditary monarchies in the Middle East, to make every Muslim dominated country into a dictatorial caliphate, and to expand this wherever it can.

So this is a terrorist group, seeking to establish governments, as a death cult, that celebrates when it commits genocide, that seeks to wipe out liberal secular democracy and wipe out civilisation in favour of its misogynistic Islamist pre-enlightenment nightmare.  It has access to oil as a source of revenue and is unafraid of using the technology developed under civilisation to turn against it.   It is the Taliban, with oil, with the expansionist interest of Nazi Germany.

The question is not if, but when there is inevitable conflict and if there is to be conflict, whether it will be with Arab and non-Arab allies, or whether the continued near isolationism of the West means that the Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians and others are just to be left to be slaughtered.

So what should be done?

ISIS should be attacked, first in Iraq, with the Iraqi military, as part of a concerted effort to recapture all territory from ISIS, attack bases inside Syria and secure Iraq from ISIS - which must also include the borders and ensure Iraq's government is of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.  However, once Iraq is secured, the decision must be made to go into Syria and eliminate ISIS.  Yes, it will help the Assad regime, but it is not for that regime - and indeed a no-fly zone should be established to stop the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs.  It is to remove the virus of ISIS, it is to lance this boil before it establishes itself with power to project itself more than across immediate borders.

The US should lead this, with NATO and the Arab League, and Iran - yes, Iran. For Iran is positively moderate in comparison. For ISIS is a common foe, including a foe for Russia and I suspect eventually, China.  Defence of Iraq does not need a UN Security Council resolution, just support from the Iraqi government, but beyond that attempts should be made to get multilateral endorsement. Yet that should not be considered a barrier to intervening by whatever means is necessary, to wipe out ISIS.

For if this is not done, there will be innocent victims, not just in Iraq or Syria, but in Europe and the United States and beyond.  The Western leaders who are in charge if or when that happens, can hardly have been surprised, but should it take such a loss for action to be taken?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Make me a cake or I'll call the Police

Before I start, for the avoidance of doubt, let's get three things clear:

1. I'm not a Christian, and I find some elements of Christianity to be not only irrational but also immoral.

2. I'm not gay.

3. I fully support two people of the same sex being able to get married, just like two of the opposite sex, and I find fear or hatred of people because they are homosexual/lesbian/bisexual to be both irrational and immoral.

So from a libertarian perspective, the Asher's Bakery case in Northern Ireland is an interesting one.

The long and the short of it is that a gay rights activist in Northern Ireland asked a bakery to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it, and the bakery objected because the owners oppose gay marriage, because of their religious beliefs.

The court has ruled that refusing to bake the cake is illegal "discrimination".  What this ruling represents is a fundamental infringement on two rights:

1. Freedom of trade;
2. Freedom of speech.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Losers in the UK election

Well before I pontificate about the reasons to fear the new Conservative Government (and David Cameron has already given us one having said:
 "For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone".

Yep, just contemplate that one, alongside:

It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance...Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality. "We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe in these things"

However, isn't rule of law about the point that if you obey the law, the state WILL leave you alone?

More on that later, but what of the losers of the election?

Labour: 256 seats in 2010 to 232 in 2015.  When you remove the 40 lost in Scotland, Labour gained 16 seats in England and Wales, mostly from Liberal Democrats. To hell with them.  An atrocious result, losing seats in England and Scotland, with gains really only seen in London (albeit fewer than hoped).  Labour did not win the bulk of the Liberal Democrat voters it sought, it lost some voters to UKIP and a lot to the SNP in Scotland.  It was too leftwing for England, and although some say it wasn't leftwing enough for Scotland, what it actually lost on, was not being nationalist enough.  Nationalism taps into deeply held prejudices and fears, and the SNP milked that in a way Labour couldn't.  Labour now faces inexplicably trying to move away from class war in England, but tackling fears of globalisation and immigration in the north, whilst outflanking the SNP in Scotland.  If it can't take on the SNP successfully, then every single general election will see the Tories saying "Labour = SNP" as it is difficult to see Labour getting a majority without it, especially after the long delayed boundary changes that will remove the demographic bias that has emerged in Labour's favour.  Add the infighting over leadership in the coming months, and it's easy to see Labour looking rather forlorn.  Rising from 29% to 30.4% in the popular vote is not a reason to celebrate.

Liberal Democrats:  56 seats in 2010, 8 in 2015, the worst result since the Liberal Party merged with the SDP, and before that since 1970.  In popular vote it is a cull from 23% to 7.9%. The contradictions of a party that was once of the centre, that swung left, then propped up the Conservatives in government have come to swallow it up.  Those who swung left went to Labour.  The environmentalist misanthrope vote, went Green.  The residue of genuine small government liberals, went various places (or stayed home), and the Liberal Democrats who won, did so because the alternatives were thought of as much worse.  Good. There should be space in British politics for a party that is both socially liberal and economically liberal, and defends civil liberties. However, none of the main three parties are socially liberal when it comes to confronting Islamism, the Conservatives are mildly economically liberal, and the Liberal Democrats mildly defend civil liberties.  Either the Liberal Democrats drop the "Democrats" become the Liberal Party of old, shed the Green anti-scientific anti-reason authoritarianism and the corporatist/welfarist instincts, or it's time to bury the party.   However, there is little reason to think that the rump of the Liberal Democrats has the instincts to move that way, rather it seems like, once again, being the non-union party of the left.   Meanwhile, Nick Clegg is political history and likely doomed to limp on as the MP for Sheffield Hallam, for the fear that if he resigned causing a by-election, the Liberal Democrats would likely lose, culling the total from 8 to 7 seats.  Expect not a lot out of Liberal Democrats for a while.  

UKIP: 2 seats entering the election, 1 after. The "People's Army" voted and came second in over 100 seats, the majority of which are Conservative held ones.  With one MP, it was not a triumph as it would appear that in the three other most likely winnable seats, voters rallied behind the Conservative candidate to defeat the UKIP one. That polarisation, largely driven by the rhetoric around immigration, means it is difficult to see how UKIP can break through when Labour supporters would rather back a Conservative over UKIP. Clearly, campaigning from the Conservatives, supported by Conservative backing newspapers, saw UKIP sympathising voters switching Conservative to stop Ed Miliband.  Such is how First Past the Post works.  As an aside, Nigel Farage resigned as leader because he didn't win South Thanet, he apparently is now leader again from acclamation by the party Executive.  It clearly believe he is the party's greatest asset.  He may well be, but he is also its greatest polariser.  The single MP, Douglas Carswell, may find his own, admirable, libertarian credentials stretched to breaking point, as he battles the egos behind the scenes buoyed up by UKIP coming third in the popular vote with 12.6%.

SNP:  From 6 seats in 2010 to 56 today, only one MP lasts from Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to stop the SNP from making Scotland a one-party state.  Its nationalist socialist agenda wont go far though, as it has little power in the absence of backing up a Labour government, although it will be consulted on further devolution (which it has a strong interest in).  Expect the SNP to use its seats as a platform to moan about the "hated Tories" not representing the will of the Scottish people, even though again First Past the Post delivered so many MPs (56 out of 59) due to plurality, given 50% of the popular vote in Scotland was not for the SNP.   The SNP will see the next five years as feeding its campaign for another referendum, which it dishonestly says is "up to the Scottish people", code for "if they vote for us in the Scottish elections, we will say they have chosen one".   My expectation is that within these 56 MPs are some right lunatics or rent-seekers, who will prove themselves to be embarrassing and thus temper the overall support.  Bear in mind, with the third largest group of MPs in the House of Commons, they appear formidable, yet only gained 4.7% of the popular vote (up from 1.7% in 2010), reflecting its decision, of course, to only stand candidates in Scotland (where it got 50% of the popular vote).

Greens: 1 MP in 2010 and 1 MP now, the Green surge was seen in membership (over 50,000), and its vote went up from 1% to 3.8% of the popular vote.  The true anti-capitalist, misanthropic lunatic left continue to have a voice, although the Green leader, Natalie Bennett came a distant third in the seat she contested (Holborn & St Pancras) and the sole MP, Caroline Lucas increased her majority.  Of course, this doesn't stop the misanthropic enviro-left from polluting the policies of Labour or the Conservatives.  Both supported a law that binds the government to emissions targets (who is going to enforce this?).  Both embrace raising the cost of energy to meet such goals.  

Of the others, the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru won the same number of seats as it did in 2010, despite record television coverage for its leader, Leanne Wood (who touted the same lunatic nationalist socialism as the SNP, with a bit less hysterical passion).  The same proportion of vote was obtained.  In Northern Ireland, unionists/protestants gained a seat at the expense of the Marxist nationalist/catholic Sinn Fein, and the secularist/liberal Alliance.  However, Northern Irish MPs will still have little influence at Westminster.   George Galloway's RESPECT Marxist/Islamist party finally got defeated as he was unseated by a large margin.  Whilst the once feared white supremacist BNP collapsed as it went from around 564,000 votes in 2010 (5th largest popular vote) to less than 1,700 votes, Monster Raving Loony Party gained more than twice that.  One guess where the BNP vote largely ended up.

So the UK voted against socialism, but it hardly voted for much less government.  Labour fondly told the public that "extreme Tory cuts" would see state spending shrink to around 35% of GDP, as if people should fear that.  Hopefully this will come to pass as a bare minimum, but it's not that which I fear from the Conservatives.

It's the approach to  national security, law and order and free speech - which, by the way, would have been worse under Labour...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It wasn't a jump to the left

Hell yeah. 

What a relief.  All but one of the opinion polls indicated a dead heat between the two main parties. The bookies saw a Labour minority government (propped up by the SNP and Liberal Democrats) as most likely.  The broadcasters were convinced that the odds of the Conservatives forming a government, a minority government, with the Liberal Democrats and maybe UKIP and the DUP, were not good.

Meanwhile, the hated Lynton Crosby had kept David Cameron on one message, and Cameron kept saying that the Tories only needed to win 23 more seats to govern alone.   Yet, with all of Labour's rhetoric about how awful the economic recovery had been for so many, and calling itself the "party of the many not the privileged few", it seemed inconceivable that with the sinking lid of spending cuts, that the government wouldn't lose seats.   325 seats is a majority, and it was thought that if the Conservatives got 290 seats it would be a good night for them.

Then it came at 10.02pm on Thursday night.  Exit polls predicted not only that the Conservatives would be the largest party, but would be two seats short of a majority.  So it was to be that this was too "conservative", and an overall majority would be won with 331 seats.  Why?

1. Ed Miliband, even those his net negative poll ratings improved in recent weeks, never remotely came close to David Cameron as preferred Prime Minister.   Cameron may be a professional spin doctor, he may have no strong philosophy, he may be (as Labour didn't tire of pointing out) a posh boy who went to Eton and belonged to the Bullingdon Club, but then Miliband was not so different. With the exception of a short guest lectureship at Harvard, his entire career had been to work for the Labour Party or be an MP.  He is a millionaire, who inherited an expensive home in one of the most upmarket parts of London (Primrose Hill), and was a Marxist academic.   Any accusations of Cameron not being "in touch" were easily redirected onto Miliband.

2. The economy, stupid:  With a drop in unemployment of 2 million, inflation at around zero, average wages growing above inflation, and the economy having grown faster than any economy in Europe in the past five years, the story the Conservatives could sell was positive.  By contrast, Labour had remained far behind in credibility on the economy.  Yes, the crash was a banking crash, but when Ed Miliband said that Labour hadn't spent too much when it was last in government, on BBC Question Time, the audience laughed at and ridiculed him.   If Labour couldn't show contrition for wasting money before, how could it be trusted now?  By contrast, the Conservatives had cut spending, albeit modestly, and the economy grew, rather than flatlined (as Labour said it would).  The state had shrunk from 45% of GDP to 40%, and Conservative plans to cut further, which Labour scaremongered over, didn't scare many voters.  

3. Classwar? No thanks:  Labour went on about a recovery that worked only for the wealthy, but for the 2 million who got jobs that wouldn't ring true.  Labour's rhetoric was constantly a refrain that was against wealth-producers, that rarely talked positively about business, that claimed the Tories were supporting the "privileged" few, unlike Labour, didn't wash.  After all, if the Tories were only for the rich, how could they attract support of at least a third of voters.

4. SNP: Polling for months had increasingly indicated Labour was going to lose a lot of its seats in Scotland, as a result a key plank of the Tory campaign was "vote Labour get SNP" given it was difficult to envisage Labour winning enough seats elsewhere in the UK to make up for the Scottish losses AND gain a majority.  As the SNP's policies were so clearly Scottish focused, and to the left of even leftwing Labour.  Even though Ed Miliband said "no deals" with the SNP, and at one point said he'd prefer a Tory government to doing a deal with it (which didn't help him in Scotland), nobody believed him that if the numbers stacked up, he'd do it and English voters saw a vision of a government beholden to handing Scotland more money, or another independence referendum.  The pro-Tory press (Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Times) all supported this.  Of course, with Labour losing all but one of its seats in Scotland to the SNP (and the Conservatives keeping their sole MP), it helped, but Labour + SNP is still only 288 seats.

5. End of the Liberal Democrats:  While the Liberal Democrats lost a significant number of its voters to Labour and the Greens (Labour had counted on winning the majority of them), the Conservatives hoovered up a fair share of the Liberal Democrat seats as well, including all of those in the southwest. Whilst the Liberal Democrats argued they would give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain, voters who leaned one way or the other simply decided to vote for one of the main parties.  Whilst Labour did gain from this, it lost due to...

6.  UKIP took from Labour.  The conventional view of Labour (and the Conservatives) was that UKIP would largely hurt the Conservatives, being, by and large, a mix of old fashioned Conservative resistance to the EU and immigration, and a scepticism of nanny state type solutions.  However, in the final weeks, the Conservatives successfully campaigned in their heartland to convince many UKIP voters to vote Conservative to keep Labour out.  This is what cost UKIP Rochester and Strood (which it had won in a by election), and stopped Nigel Farage winning South Thanet. This didn't work on UKIP supporters who had come from Labour in the north, who saw a party that talked to them in the way the Conservatives never could.  Labour lost seats due to UKIP, because its class war "metropolitan elite" rhetoric and narrative seemed fake, unlike the gaffe prone but straightforward talk of UKIP.

7. The polls worked for the Tories:  With almost all polls showing a very close race, there was genuine fear of a Labour government (not really a genuine fear of a Tory government) causing economic disruption.  Turnout was higher this time than in 2010.

8.  The shy-right:  One theory is that a reason polling looked low for the Conservatives compared to the actual result, was that many who hold "right wing" views keep them to themselves.  They are not activists, and those who are leftwing activists make it very clear how much they hate those who may support the Conservatives or UKIP, and are willing to vandalise, occupy or otherwise do violence or threaten those who disagree with them.  People are more hesitant to publicly support the right, than support the left, understating the views of the right.

So, a sigh of relief?  Yes.  Joy? Not really, except for the schadenfreude of the demise of multiple politicians, which is ALWAYS a joy.

To see Ed Miliband discover his party is more of the few than the many.  To see Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (and former right hand man of Gordon Brown when in government), Ed Balls removed from office, after his predictions of a flatlining economy, and that the Conservatives cut "too far and too fast", was glorious.  To see the odious felcher of dictatorships, George Galloway, ousted by a large margin, was delicious, as was removal of the anti-Jewish Liberal Democrat David Ward in the neighbouring seat in Bradford East.  To see oodles of green religion worshipping Liberal Democrats disappear, especially the arch-interventionist "Business Secretary" Vince Cable and subsidised renewables fanatic, Ed Davey, was wonderful.

Of course there is the claim that the Conservatives didn't win because the proportion of the vote won was far short of 50%.  This is true, but then had the UK had a form of proportional representation (noting voters rejected 3-2 a shift to a moderately more proportional system in 2011, by referendum) much would have been different.  Parties would have campaigned everywhere, not just the marginals. The SNP would have become much less relevant a factor.  More voters might have gone for smaller parties, and who knows how many voters it would wake up in "safe seats" who finally thought their votes would matter.  Regardless, adding the Conservative and UKIP vote would reach around 50% of seats, and adding a few Ulster unionists of both stripes would create a majority.   The left can't claim a majority.

In NZ the great fear of the "right" (I use the word liberally) was that MMP would mean permanent leftwing government.  In fact it has, but not by leftwing parties, rather the National Party moving towards the statist centre to occupy the majority ground.

So yes, there is a Conservative majority, it was won by a mix of sheer economic results, and fear of the left spending too much, interfering too much and wanting to take from some to give to others. There is reason to have some hope for the UK, but what of the parties that lost?

Friday, May 08, 2015

UK General Election 2015

Well I did what one has to do in the UK, I stayed up till 10pm for the exit polls and have just woken up four hours later, because by now there are few results, just maintenance of the exit polls that predict a result the polls did not - a poor result for Labour, a massive wipeout for the Liberal Democrats, a huge gain for the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives coming much closer to an overall majority.

However....

that may yet change.

To follow my thoughts, I'll be live blogging on my largely quiescent UK blog http://libertyscottuk.blogspot.com and on Twitter @libertyscottuk for the rest of the night

All I can say for now, is that it is looking like the UK, once again, shows it wont elect a solidly leftwing Labour government.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Socialism for the UK: Ed Miliband will do it for his dad

Yes, Ed Miliband is trying to lead an elected socialist revolution in the UK because he didn't think his elder brother was being true to their communist dad, Ralph Miliband.  So said BBC Newsnight last night.

Their communist dad who had supported the USSR, who turned a blind eye to the executions, the slavery, the lies, the cold dark grey oppression of the Soviet system, who Ed adored.

Ralph Miliband died in 1994 when Ed was only in his mid 20s, an event which deeply affected him. He read his dad's books, looked up to him, admired and adored him, and missed him.  I understand that: the pain, the loss, the emptiness.  Ed Miliband's mission is not so much about a sober assessment of what objectively will work for the UK, but an emotional grab at ensuring his father's legacy lives on.  Ed is no communist, but he carried and directly expresses the principles and philosophy of his father.  As the younger brother of the more successful (academically and politically) David, he saw in David's more centrist Blairite approach to both economics and foreign policy, as a sell-out, a betrayal of the socialism and anti-Western anti-imperialism his father so forthrightly promoted.

Ed Miliband is seeking to be Prime Minister so he can get over grieving his father.

He's attacking capitalism in the form of banks, energy companies and the private media companies that don't support him, for his dad.  He's supporting socialism in the form of trade unions, the world's largest civilian bureaucracy (NHS), state sector schools, with a tinge of his own green evangelism, for his dad.  He's increasing taxes, for his dad, and he opposed using force to stop the socialist Ba'athist totalitarian dictatorship of Assad barrel bombing and using chemical weapons against civilians, for his dad.

Ed is trying to live up to his dad's distress that the post-war Labour Party wasn't radical enough.  You know, the one that nationalised railways, coal mines, airlines, broadcasting, healthcare, steelmaking, and bus services.  Unfortunately, it allied itself with the United States and NATO in opposing Stalin's rolling of the iron curtain over Europe.  

So today, millions of Britons will vote for a party that has (well through its union affiliates) decided Ed Miliband is its candidate for Prime Minister.

He isn't approaching politics with a consistent philosophy gained through critical thinking and debate, but through familial admiration and adoration of his father.

He isn't approaching politics with a pragmatism considering competing evidence and analysis from multiple sources, but with ideology blinkers that "must be right" because his beloved father told him so.

Of course we know Ed is not seeking to implement communism, but what he is promoting is class war, containing and controlling the free market, and with the philosophy of his father, he's more than willing to introduce new taxes and laws to fix perceived problems (obesity, offended Muslims, newspapers that disagree with him).

Should the government of the UK be left in the hands of a man who's mission is, in essence, to prove to his deceased father that he is a better, more loyal son than his elder brother?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

What's wrong with an Ed Miliband led government?

As I wrote before, it is difficult to get enthusiasm for the past five years of Conservative led coalition government.  Yes, the economy has rebounded, but this is largely been a smoke and mirrors exercise that, if the Tories are honest, may well have been implemented by a Brown or Blair led government.  

It's what the Tories wont do that is the relief
It is based on two foundations.  

The economy is fixed?

One is just barely getting public finances into sufficient order, with a series of tax cuts, that bond markets are content and money that was once being transferred into largely wasteful public sector administration, and welfare handouts, are now in the form of tax cuts (notwithstanding the very damaging increase in VAT at the beginning). Public debt is still rising, the budget deficit is still £90 billion per annum, but the state sector as a proportion of GDP has shrunk from 45% to around 40% and the private sector has more than matched any cuts in state sector "jobs". The Conservatives promise to balance the budget next term (they promised to balance it this past term), but without tax increases.  This means the private sector growing to fill a net shrinking state sector.

The second foundation is printing money.  The Bank of England has maintained its base rate at 0.5% throughout the term, and credit is cheap.  The money is flowing into property, stocks and shares and other investments.  Few in politics question this, those who do point out that one cause of the last crash was the availability of cheap money, because low/virtually non-existent consumer price inflation doesn't reflect the asset price inflation that is part of the bubble of growth.

The boom and bust cycle has recommenced, so let's not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is a genius, he is merely following Treasury advice and tinkering over priorities.  

If you want reasons to have a modicum of enthusiasm for the Conservatives there really are only two areas of policy where there is hope for those of us wanting a future of more freedom and less government.  Education and the European Union.

Setting the poor free from the council run education factories

2.2 million pupils are now educated in what are essentially independent "free" schools albeit within the state sector, but completely outside the dead-hand of council control.  They are established by enthusiastic educational social-entrepreneurs, whose focus is on excellence, diversity and choice in education.  They can hire "unqualified" teachers.  You know the ones: the scientists, historians, musicians, writers who can inspire through experience and who are excellent communicators.  Not the BA graduates who can pontificate about "white privilege", "equality", "sustainability" and get children all excited about voting to make decisions as a group, but also tell the brightest to "share their gifts" with others.  The Conservatives offer more of this, and to extend it further, as they pour funding into supporting new free schools according to what parents want, enabling them to remove their kids from the mediocre council schools that are emptying.  This offers a great opportunity to break education away from the deadweight failure of post-war progressive state education teacher union dominated conformity and mediocrity.

Brexit

For the European Union, that club once of free trade and open borders, balancing blatant protectionist rent seeking for agriculture and vanity construction projects.  I once hoped the new eastern European Member States would provide enough influence to drive it more towards the former, but the lure of billions of Euros in structural adjustment transfers has kept them mostly mute.  Moreover, Hungary own government has slipped back into a mode of xenophobia, state property confiscation and corruption of the media and judiciary, and the politicians and bureaucrats at Brussels do little about it. Yes, David Cameron wants the UK to remain in the EU, but the offer of a referendum on EU membership is a chance to change the UK's relationship with it.  It's a chance to leave and have a formal free trade agreement, and to leave behind the subsidies, the customs union and the ever growing regulatory burden of a bureaucracy that is fundamentally unaccountable.  The European Union represents increasingly the decline of Europe, as it remains impotent to demand the structural reforms needed of the sclerotic Italy (which has not had net economic growth for nearly 20 years) and France, whilst seeking ever more states to bring under its umbrella, primarily by offering subsidies from northern Europe including the UK.  It remains notable that neither the Norwegians nor the Swiss or Icelanders have decided to join (although between them they make some financial contributions to it and agree to follow some regulations)

Free schools and freedom from the deadweight bureaucrat behemoth of the European Union are all there is, besides a handful of tax cuts (which are too few).

However, on their own they aren't enough, but there is a reason to vote, in some cases Conservative, but not always, to do something more negative - to keep Labour and the Scottish National Party out.

Had Labour been led by David Miliband, and been a rehash of the previous government, there wouldn't have been much between it and the Cameron-led Conservatives.  However, his brother Red Ed has taken Labour and swung it to the left, with a manifesto and rhetoric that are the most statist, most anti-free market and more disturbingly, anti-personal freedom since the 1983 Marxist manifesto of Michael Foot.

Workers of the UK unite, you have nothing to lose but your private sector jobs

It has harnessed the class war that the trade unions, who backed Ed Miliband (and outvoted both the party members and the Parliamentary caucus to make him leader), never abandoned.  It's the class war of his late communist father, that Ed - the younger brother - couldn't let go of, and it's fundamentally deceitful, toxic and disturbing.

It's not just that he will end the free schools programme, meaning only wealthy parents can afford choice of schools for their kids, leaving the poorest stuck with the lottery of whatever monopoly school their council offers (but all teachers will have to be "qualified" and unionised you can bet). It's not just that he will introduce new taxes on owning expensive homes, on earning more than £150,000 and abolish the non-domicile tax status that encourages thousands of the best, brightest and wealthiest to live in the UK (and each pay in average income tax on UK earnings 2.5 times the average wage). It's not that he wants to ban household energy price increases, and require all new power generating capacity to be renewable (and so much more expensive).  It's not that he spreads the perennial (and always disappointing) rumour that the Tories are going to dismantle the NHS (they aren't, they're increasing spending).  

Profit is evil

It's that he is at best suspicious, and at worst hostile to entrepreneurship and free enterprise. His agenda includes making employment tribunals free to employees wanting to bring claims, which with his class warrior hat on (purely theoretical mind you, he's never worked in the private sector) couldn't possibly mean employees would invent grievances against employers for personal gain.  His readiness to establish new regulations for the energy, banking, property rental and railway sectors (including helpfully setting up a new state rail operator to compete with private ones), is based on a belief that there isn't a problem that can't be regulated away.  He wants laws to cap profits in the health sector, he wants laws to force energy companies to lower prices when wholesale prices drop.

Your land is our land

Yet it more intrusive than that.  He has said he wants the power to confiscate private land if a property owner obtains planning permission, but doesn't build the approved development within a fixed time.  You need council permission to develop, which can take months if not years, then if they grant permission (at your expense), you lose your land if the market conditions that prevailed when you applied no longer exist.  Not only did Miliband not think what impact this would have on new applications, he didn't think it was morally wrong to confiscate someone else's land.  He didn't think that maybe the problem of housing supply in the UK is because the planning system effectively nationalises land development in the hands of local authorities.

Yet this is all economics, par for the course socialism.  The entrenchment of the NHS and public sector school monopolies are to be expected, as is renewed growth of the welfare state.

Newspapers that oppose the Labour Party are bad

It's Miliband's views on free speech that chill me.  He embraced the findings of the Leveson inquiry and will seek to institute statutory press regulation if industry self regulation does not work.  Given how often he has rallied against Rupert Murdoch (who to Labour, made the sin of once supporting it, then turning its back on it), there is every chance Miliband will require newspapers to be licenced. The mere fact that Labour friendly newspapers, like the Mirror, also engaged in phone hacking and other illegal practices is not acknowledged.  Labour wants to "take on" the "vested interests" of newspapers that disagree with it.

Hating speech
Under Labour men and women are "equal" but separate in Islam

Moreover, Miliband's willingness to appease Islamists is more chilling too.  It's not the image of a Labour Party campaign meeting in Birmingham above, which segregates men and women of Islamic faith so much, but his commitment to outlaw "Islamophobia". 


There is no such thing as Islamophobia, of course. There are people who dislike Islam and will continue to dislike it no matter what fatuous legislation is enacted by the forthcoming Labour/SNP coalition from hell. And they dislike it for perfectly good, rational, reasons.

Islamophobia? That seems to me an entirely rational response to an illiberal, vindictive and frankly fascistic creed. I am not a Muslimophobe — I am well aware that enormous numbers of Muslims do not subscribe to all of the particularly unpleasant tenets of Islam as it is practised and preached today. 

So it is, but Ed Miliband, as he seeks to woo intolerant Muslim voters, has decided to erode a bit more freedom of speech.  Expect Police to treat this as a form of Islamic blasphemy law, all the time he blames the government for not passing tough enough legislation on surveillance of personal communications to fight terrorism.

I'm sure Ed believes he opposes Islamist terrorism, it's just that his appeasement of those who expound it, and opposition to those who criticise it, says something else.

Bye bye Scotland

It goes further of course.  Polling indicates that Labour is likely to lose between half and all of its seats in Scotland, primarily because when the 45% who voted for Scottish independence cast their votes for one party in a first past the post general election, it's enough to sweep aside those who believe in the union, since they are split between four parties. 

What this means is that it is almost certain that for Labour to form a government, it will rely on support from the SNP (despite Ed Miliband's protestations).  What does this really mean?

Let's be clear, despite the claims of the SNP, its primary interest is in getting a majority of Scots to vote for it at the Scottish elections, get another referendum and to win it.  It wants independence.

To achieve independence it needs there to be Scottish disenchantment with the Westminster government, not a comfortable arrangement that delivers what it promises.  Its ideal outcome is a Conservative led government, for then it can shout on the sidelines, finger point and say "look, we never voted for the Tories, we must get ooot".  However, what if it, and Labour can form a "progressive coalition", which is what its Marxist leader Nicola Salmond claims?

The SNP says it will push Labour to the left and wont agree on any legislation or budgets that don't meet its demands.  Either Labour will surrender to it, and face disenchantment from voters from elsewhere in the UK that they are subsidising Scotland (more), or Labour will say no, and call the SNP's bluff and say "go on, bring us down and risk a Tory government".  For the SNP, either works.

If Labour gives it what it wants, involving much more money being transferred north of the border, the (mostly) English disenchantment will make it easier for another Scottish independence referendum to be held, because English voters will express a similar antipathy towards Scotland as the SNP has promoted against England.  Much better to get both sides to resent each other.  However, Labour may hope that it gets credit for supporting Scotland. 

If Labour calls its bluff, the SNP will revert to the "Red Tories" line and say that Scotland doesn't get what it wants from the Union.  It can abstain from supporting a Labour budget or indeed a Conservative confidence and supply motion, and claim the moral highground, although it is undoubtedly the risker line to take.  Labour wouldn't mind this of course. 

What it all means, is that any Labour option lies within it the seeds to break up the United Kingdom. Yes, that might seem like lancing a socialist boil, but it is my ancestral homeland and also the land which brought us Adam Smith, David Hume and Francis Hutcheson, as part of the Scottish Enlightenment.  Did the descendants of all of that really all emigrate?  I don't want the union to break up, and I don't want the Labour Party to facilitate it.  Labour did create Scottish devolution, after all.

Hold your nose

There is a lot to loathe about the Cameron government, but a Miliband one will not only steal from the productive and kneecap the most promising reform in education since the war, but will further limit freedom of speech, and will further erode property rights.  

If you're in a safe seat everywhere but Scotland (which has no such seats anymore), you can do whatever you wish, it wont matter.  That's roughly two thirds of all seats that wont change sides. Beyond that, if you think you'd rather not sit by and let a government emerge from the election muddle without ticking a box, here are some ideas.

1. Positively vote for a few Tories.  Steve Davis, Kwasi Kwarteng and David Davis positively deserve your vote, they are positive, proven friends of liberty.  
2.  Positively vote the one libertarian UKIPper likely to win.  Douglas Carswell. 
3.  In Conservative/Labour or Liberal Democrat marginals, consider voting Conservative, except in Hampstead and Kilburn, where Lib Dem Maajid Nawaz will be a formidable battler against Islamism.
4.  In Labour/Liberal Democrat marginals, consider voting Liberal Democrat except Bradford East (to oust the vile David Ward).
5.  In Labour/UKIP marginals, vote UKIP.
6.  In Scotland, vote Conservative, to hell with the two cheeks of the arse of socialism and nationalist socialism.
7.  In Bradford West, vote Labour to oust George Galloway. 
8.  In Ulster, vote Conservative or the Alliance.  To hell with the sectarianism.
9.  In Wales, it doesn't matter.
10. Have a long bath, consider your strategy to protect your investments and assets and watch the circus.

What's going to happen?

You're going to pay more, you're going to get more of your life regulated, and a lot of people are going to lose their jobs (and a bunch of others will be eager to do stuff to affect your life).

It's grim and depressing, but it truly is the case that David Cameron is better than Ed Miliband, because of what he wont do.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Most exciting UK election in ages? Other minor parties are banal (Part Five)

Having run through the Conservatives (who want to shrink the state a little, just wont say how), Labour (who want to grow the state, and balance the budget, except the latter doesn't add up) and UKIP (who want to shrink the state a little more, except for healthcare, education and immigration), what about the others?

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are the other party of government, who have taken a schizophrenic approach over the years since the Liberal Party merged with the breakaway Social Democrat Party in the 1980s. It was in the centre, then when Blair led the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (and the green political religion was in ascendancy) it moved left.  Now, it has spent five years supporting a Conservative government in coalition, and has been severely hammered by its voters, used to feeling morally superior by supporting policies that they knew would be highly unlikely to be tested with reality.

Given Labour's swing off to the left under Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrats are playing the only logical card they have, by claiming to be more fiscally responsible than Labour, and more "caring" than the Conservatives.  For a libertarian this doesn't mean a lot.  The Liberal Democrats are happy to support some lower taxes, but also support new taxes on the "rich" including a mansion tax.  Beyond that it is much of the same, except for a commitment to five new environmental laws, and the Liberal Democrats are solid supporters of retaining EU membership.  What sliver of liberty remains is a belief in a slightly less criminalised approach to cannabis, solid opposition to further state surveillance powers on communications (which both Labour and the Conservatives battle to support), and a handful of candidates (such as Jeremy Browne) who are more "classical liberal").

Or indeed neither

The one thing the Liberal Democrats do have is bargaining power. This is the largest minor party that would credibly help support either major party to be in government.   The avowedly leftwing parties wont, so it is difficult to see how they can have that much bargaining power.   Yet, what really can be said of it?  It is so plagued with the disease of environmentalist unilateralism that it is difficult to see it, on economic policy, as being anything more than a hindrance.  Yet it's rather fractured approach to personal liberties is better than the two main parties (although UKIP may end up being better, it wont have the 20-30 or so MPs the Liberal Democrats are likely to have).

With few exceptions, there is no good reason to vote for a Liberal Democrat candidate.  They are, after all, usually moderate socialist politicians with a deep green tinge.  It's a shame.  The old Liberal Party, while it did have a mixed centre-leftish tinge on the welfare state, it also has a strong commitment to personal liberty, a position not comfortably held by the "tough on crime" two main parties.  The Liberal Democrats have found identity only because Labour swung off to the left, if Labour loses and returns closer to the centre, it's hard to see what the point of the Liberal Democrats is.  Yet, it is the first time one can say that the Liberal Democrats are the most likely of any of those standing, to be in government after the election.  It is difficult to see how either major party could govern without its acquiescence.

Scottish National Party

Shrill, nationalist socialism with two key motives.  First and foremost, engineer a path towards a second referendum on Scottish independence, and secondly to implement an almost Bennite approach to policy.  In the first instance, polling indicates that it could go from 6 to the majority of the 56 Scottish constituencies, if not most or all (some polls suggest all but one), and so making itself essential in propping up a Labour government (it has vowed not to ever support a "Tory" government, which it treats as poison).  So, is a price of keeping Labour in power, a path to another referendum?  Of course, if the Conservatives form a government, it feeds the absurd narrative that, yet again, Scotland is led by a government it "didn't elect".  It's absurd, because:

1. The SNP doesn't stand candidates outside Scotland, so could never be a government to lead Scotland in the absence of independence.
2. A plurality of voters in every safe seat in the country can claim they never get the government they elect half the time.  Indeed, given the majority of voters never change their vote, they can say the same thing.  

However, the SNP is riding on the back of nationalist hysteria and scapegoating, which, given it is on the far left, it claims isn't racist, but is incredibly intolerant.  Other parties in Scotland have noted that it is much more difficult than it used to be to get supporters to put placards or billboard up on their properties, because SNP supporters may vandalise them or throw bricks through their windows.  Now it's clear most wont do that, but a handful of incidents have made Scots "feardies" for good reason.  As such, it might be that the SNP "surge" isn't quite what is seemed, as many Scots quietly think they've had enough of the intolerance of the nationalist socialists.

The fact the SNP actually runs the devolved Scottish government now, but blames Westminster for any ills in Scotland, and once campaigned on all the "oil wealth" that could shower Scotland with a generous welfare state, but low oil prices have knocked that idea away.  However, it is nationalism, a psychological disorder based on pure tribalism.  Driven moreover by an utter delusion that there can be an end to so-called "austerity", because debt and deficits can be willed away.  See Greece's current state to check out that fib.

So no.  The SNP offers nothing but an anti-thesis to reason and a smaller state.  It is led by an unreconstructed fan of Michael Foot, who remains committed to the far-left foreign policy position he held.   Conservatives will delight in its evisceration of Labour in Scotland, but the SNP is far more dangerous than Labour - it seeks to use its presence in Westminster to machinate the break up of the UK, and in the meantime to demand more socialism for it.  The only bright hope for Scotland is that the Conservative leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, is head and shoulders above most of the Westminster Tory front bench.  However, given many of the best and brightest Scots left the country already, she will feel lucky for the Conservatives to hang onto their sole seat there.

Greens

Think Green Party and think more mad, led by a poorly prepared Australian, who is standing in a seat that she has no chance of winning.  The party that said membership of ISIS shouldn't be considered a crime or a reason to keep someone from immigrating to the UK.  A party that wants everyone to have a guaranteed welfare cheque, and engage in a spending programme the Institute for Fiscal Studies described as:


This sense that there is free money out there just waiting to flow into the Treasury’s coffers without anyone noticing reached new levels in the Green party manifesto, which claims to have identified a truly staggering £200 billion worth of tax revenue from tax avoidance, financial transactions, the rich and the wealthy.

That would be laughable if it weren’t playing into a wider narrative that there is a magic money tree that we can pluck at will. There isn’t. All these taxes, if collectable at all, are paid in the end by individuals. Many of them, especially when layered one upon the other, will have damaging economic effects.

The Greens will be lucky to retain their single seat.

Plaid Cymru

SNP in Welsh, with much less chance of winning many seats.

Ulster

In Northern Ireland, politics is mostly about which sectarian side you identify with.  On the Protestant/Unionist side it is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)  for the hardline, and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) as more moderate.  On the Catholic/Nationalist side it is Sinn Fein for the hardline (which also takes the salary but never turns up to Westminster) and the SDLP for the moderates.  For the unaligned, the Alliance, the Conservatives and UKIP are standing.  What does it all mean?  Well the Conservatives may try to get DUP and UUP support to form a minority government.  Labour is aligned with the SDLP.  Rarely do the MPs from Northern Ireland become part of any government, it might matter more than it has for a generation this time.  Sinn Fein may be incredibly vile, but it does have the record of doing the least harm in Westminster in recent years, having never voted for any taxes or new laws (or anything).

Respect

Catholic communist appeaser of Islamism and supporter of Scottish Unionism, George Galloway, is the MP for Bradford West.  This is one seat I hope Labour snatches.

Conclusion

Nothing to see here, except people who want more of your money, who mostly want more control of your life, property or business. Beyond a handful of Liberal Democrats (one-hand), there is no reason to consider supporting any of this lot,