Tuesday, March 29, 2011
What would Bastiat say about that?
Several thoughts pirouetted across my mind as I watched the coverage of Saturday’s protest and riots.
I wondered why anti-capitalists were wearing clothing with prominent labels (don’t they know their Naomi Klein?); I wondered why defenders of the public sector were attacking publicly owned banks; I wondered how one protester could say, when interviewed, “Of course, we all know there need to be cuts” while a sea of people drifted past her waving signs saying ‘No cuts’; I wondered why Ed Miliband, a bloke without an alternative, was addressing the March for an Alternative.
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Monday, March 28, 2011
Turning up at the March for the Alternative without an alternative
In 217BC the Roman army was wiped out by Hannibal’s Carthaginians at Lake Trasimene. The Roman general appointed in the aftermath, Quintus Fabius Maximus, reckoned, quite reasonably, that his army would be destroyed in a similar fashion if he fought Hannibal so he settled on a different strategy; he did nothing. He would wait the Carthaginian out. The strategy worked and was named in his honour, the Fabian strategy.
Fabianism, such a vital part of the history of the Labour party, takes its name from the Roman general; the Fabian Society, founded in 1884, eschewed violent revolution in favour of the gradual democratic evolution of socialism, hence its name.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Still warming up
A little while ago I wrote that Ed Balls was the Peter Ridsdale of economics thanks to his free spending ‘living the dream’ ways. Now I’m reconsidering
When Ed Miliband was forced to settle for his third choice as Shadow Chancellor (after Alan Johnson and, apparently, his brother) and appoint Ed Balls back in January Labourites were cock a hoop. The denizens of Labourlist cooed “We have some one who both understands and has a command of economic policy AND who has a far more Keynesian approach...an alternative to the Tories”, “Ed Balls, whilst more divisive and an easier target for the Tories, is the right choice because he is a big hitter who knows what's talking about” (sic) and “Ed Balls will really take the fight to Gideon”. This was, after all, the man who had, er, designed the regulatory structure for banks and advised, um, Gordon Brown.
Never mind. The chronically moronic Sally Bercow tweeted “Osborne is toast!” and predicted “Ed Balls will be *fantastic* Shad Chancellor :))))”, perhaps indicating just what a daunting job Balls successor at education will have.
Sadly it’s not worked out like that. The lack of absolutely anything emerging from the Labour party which could usefully be called an economic policy has reduced Balls to the role of some sort of reverse cheerleader for coalition policy, popping up like the old Harry Enfield character to say “You don’t wanna do that!”
And when he does do something it is rubbish. Or worse, not even legal. He was at it again on BBC Breakfast this morning having a go at George Osborne for not cutting VAT on petrol in yesterday’s budget. But Osborne can’t do this, and neither could Balls because its illegal under EU law!
Indeed, a recent poll poll by Ipsos MORI, reported by Total Politics, found that
“Finally, on the head-to-heads, Osborne is equal with shadow chancellor Ed Balls when the public are asked who would make the most capable Chancellor. Considering the spending cuts that are starting to bite, and the poll makes it clear that the public believe recovery will be a long haul, Osborne could be happy with this”
A big name signing, welcomed excitedly at the time, but who has flopped – Ed Balls is the Fernando Torres of economics.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Every now and then in the flotsam and jetsam of the internet you happen across a defunct webpage. It could belong to a vanished football club or, as in one case I know, it could be the MySpace page of someone who has passed away. Frozen, like a digital Pompeii, is the last moment someone logged on, whether they were preparing for a league match or a night out. Tethered to a server some God knows where these moments are out there waiting in the ether to offer a welcome to their rare visitors, waiting in vain for a continuation of existence.
So it will be for anyone who now visits simplekid.com. They will be greeted by “Simple Kid RIP” and informed
AS MANY OF YOU WILL HAVE GUESSED BY NOW, THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER MUSIC, TOURS, RELEASES ETC BY SIMPLE KID… DONE N DUSTED.
THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO JOINED IN OVER THE YEARS AND THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO SENT EMAILS OF ENCOURAGEMENT ETC.
IT’S BEEN FUN…
NOW I’M OFF TO DO SOMETHING ELSE
That may still be up there 100 years from now. My great grandchildren may come across it one day, one page among trillions, and wonder who this Simple Kid was.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011
"All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure" - Enoch Powell
I have probably written as much about Clare Solomon as I have about anyone else over the last couple of years. She was just another leftie student talking rubbish when I first noticed her. Within a few months she had been elected President of the University of London Union, a role which, when student discontent with the proposals of the Browne Review boiled over into violence, saw her emerge as some sort of spokesperson for the loonier fringe of the movement.
This was when hubris met nemesis; a spokesperson has to be articulate and Ms Solomon could barely string a sentence together. She put in an embarrassingly weird performance on Newsnight the evening of the Millbank riot and was at it again when interviewed by the Guardian this weekend
“I …” she says, thinking hard, “I want a world where… people have a say in the everyday running of their lives. To do that, we need to fundamentally change the way the world is organised, so that things are produced according to what we need, not the needs of the market. The world…we know how so many wasteful, disgraceful and unnecessary…products…. products” – she whispers to herself, testing the word out, knowing she's going awry “…that's not quite the right way of putting it. There are so many things that are so unnecessary! I can't explain it, but you know… everything'…done…for profit, regardless of who it hurts and who's affected by it”
Her cack handedness made her enemies. When she stated on her Facebook page that “The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians. To paint the picture that all Jews have always had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate” Jewish students across campus gasped. Ms Solomon was forced to mumble some half apology, saying the “badly worded comment was something that I wrote in haste on Facebook”. Perhaps Ms Solomon is not an anti Semite, but the incident was just another example of the fact that her brain and her mouth were only passing acquaintances.
It was fun while it lasted but the students have spoken and last week Ms Solomon was voted out of office, defeated by a guy who’s manifesto promised “I will be the voice for all students, not just the already vocal minority”, a clear rebuke for Ms Solomon’s antics. Elected with just 750 votes from an electorate of 120,000 last year she received 1,004 this time but her opponent got 1,182. Ms Solomon was indeed, as her supporters said, inspirational. She inspired a massive swing against herself.
This came as a shock to her supporters and to Ms Solomon herself who blamed her defeat on “a right-wing alliance against her”. This alliance seemed to involve people who disagreed with her voting for another candidate. That this isn’t some underhand conspiracy but exactly how elections are supposed to work seems to have gone right over her head.
But Clare Solomon was emblematic, just not in the way that her supporters thought. In that brief period of exhilarating notoriety last year Ms Solomon was the subject of profiles from national newspapers like the Telegraph and Daily Mail as well as more sympathetic outlets such as Counterfire. From these it emerged that Ms Solomon, in the course of a colourful life, had been involved with an organization called the Kings Cross Community Development Trust, a tax payer funded body which went bust owing thousands; I know, I worked at one of the companies it owed. She took another slice of taxpayers cash to open a café which also went bust. She receives a large amount of taxpayer support every month in the form of a council flat in the OXO Tower on London’s south bank, one of the most desirable locations in London with its view over the Thames. And her opposition to any cut in public spending whatsoever shows that she wants this taxpayer largesse to continue indefinitely.
So yes, Ms Solomon is an icon. She is an icon for people who believe that they should get everything they want whenever they want, that others should be forced to pay for it and that there should be no limit whatsoever to the amount of other people’s money they should be entitled to under the cover of ‘social justice’.
Thinking like this has to change now that the country is broke. Ms Solomon and her kind have yet to realize that there will be no more visits from the money fairy depositing wedges of taxpayers cash under their pillows. The students of ULU have woken up to this reality which is why they voted her out. “This is not the end” she has said since her defeat. Indeed, she will remain relevant. I will write no more about her but as long as she continues to subsist on taxpayers money and to loudly defend her right to your wallet she will remain an iconic symbol of entitlement Britain.
The slum your taxes pay for Ms Solomon to live in, the very taxes she wants to raise
Monday, March 14, 2011
Not useful, just idiots
When my uncle was a young boy in Hungary in the late 1940’s his dad went to work one day and came home two years later. He had been scooped off the street and sent to a Soviet labour camp. He was just one of the millions to have their lives blighted by communism.
This miserable ideology has slaughtered millions and immiserated millions more. It is an ideology of conflict as laid out in the first line of the first chapter of its founding manifesto. It strips people of their individuality and brands them as members of a class. From this it views people as incapable of individual human action but only of acting as their class nature dictates, any that don’t are summarily diagnosed with “false consciousness”. This allows communism to build a supposedly scientific theory of history which usefully predicts, with “historical inevitability”, communism’s eventual victory. When this is shown to be the rubbish it clearly is communism becomes an ideology of violence. It aims to build a ‘new man’ free from the egoism engendered by capitalism. When it becomes apparent that egoism is inherent in human nature rather than being a peculiar property of capitalism, communism tries to force it out of them in the gulag or the killing field.
This perverse communist thinking led to the deaths, at one estimate, of 94 million human beings in the twentieth century. And yet, while student representatives claim to be alive to fascism on campus, they do nothing to combat campus communism.
And we ought to be combating it. Mark Bergfeld, a decent shout to be next NUS president, is a member of the Marxist Socialist Workers Party, a small group which even in coalition with other parties managed just 12,275 votes at the last general election. Clare Solomon, gaffe prone ULU president, was a member of the SWP but was expelled for ‘factionalism’, the sort of obscurity that could only be a crime on the far left.
But we need to be wary of our administrators too. The grand old man of communist history and president of Birkbeck College, Eric Hobsbawm, recently released a book on the history of Marxism. He writes that “the most difficult part of Marx's legacy for his successors [is that] all actual attempts to realise socialism along Marxian lines so far have found themselves strengthening an independent state apparatus”. “Strengthening an independent state apparatus” might seem a weirdly anodyne way of describing a system which killed over 90 million people but then, when it was once put to Hobsbawm that “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?”, Hobsbawm unhesitatingly replied “Yes”
The standard riposte is that ‘Marx is no more responsible for the crimes committed in his name than Jesus was responsible for the crimes committed in his’, indeed, Ms Solomon said something similar on her blog until recently. This is dishonest. The division, conflict and pseudo scientific history come from Marx, the violence comes from Lenin and the murderous New Man theory comes from Trotsky, all heroes to communists and the SWP.
One of the posts currently up for election at Professor Hobsbawm’s college is Anti Racism and Anti fascism. Rightly, we wouldn’t let apologists and supporters of fascism to go unchallenged on campus and we must challenge the apologists and supporters of communism also. Surely it’s time for an Anti communism officer on campus?
London Student, 14/03/2011
Saturday, March 05, 2011
So long Soldiers of Destiny
Fourteen months ago Fianna Fáil were in a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. The PD’s no longer exist and on 25th February Fianna Fáil was wiped out at the ballot box.
The defeat was seismic. Going into the election Fianna Fáil had 70 seats out of 166 in the Dáil Éireann ruling in coalition with 6 Green Party members. Afterwards the Party was reduced to 20 seats having lost 24% of their vote, the worst result in the party’s history. The Green Party lost all its seats.
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Friday, March 04, 2011
A message yes, but a "strong" one?
There's an old saying back up north; you could pin a red rosette on a pig and people would vote for it. At last years general election the voters of Barnsley Central proved this to be almost literally true when they re-elected Eric Illsley, already mired in controversy over his expenses, now jailed over them.
If the judgment of the voters of Barnsley Central is suspect so is that of their new MP Dan Jarvis, elected last night. His acceptance speech, uncertainly delivered, was a carbon copy of that given by Debbie Abrahams when she was elected to another safe Labour seat, Oldham East and Saddleworth, in January. He declared that "The people of Barnsley Central are sending the strongest possible message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Your reckless policies, your broken promises and your unfair cuts are letting our country down"
But it's difficult to see how Jarivs can come out with this rubbish. This 'strong message' took the form of nearly 3,000 fewer people voting for the photogenic ex Para than voted for the decidedly non-photogenic ex NUM employee and fraudster back in May last year.
What appears to have happened is that the Labour vote held up as you'd expect it to in any other year while Lib Dem voters stayed home and Conservatives voted for UKIP. Obviously this is not ideal for the coalition but no one ever thanks the doctor for perfoming neccessary surgery while he is fiddling about in their intestines. Given how doubtful it is that these voters will carry this apathy and protest into a general election where the stakes are higher, the coalition can be fairly happy to have generated nothing more than a bit of grumpiness among its own supporters.
Labour, on the other hand, for all their rhetoric of strong messages from angry voters about unfair cuts have seen their vote flatline in two seats they already held. But then how can a party who's leader describes its beliefs as "a blank sheet of paper" expect to inspire anything but indifference?
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Nobody is listening
When Clare Solomon was elected ULU President in March 2010 the website counterfire.org proclaimed it a “Mandate for resistance” and told us that Ms Solomon planned “to use her victory as a springboard for a mass anti-cuts campaign”
However the figures told a different story to one of ‘mandates’ and ‘mass’. The University of London Union represents over 120,000 students and fewer than 750 of them voted for Ms Solomon. That’s less than 0.6% of those eligible to vote.
This pitiful result wasn’t a one off. In its celebratory missive counterfire identified four other recently elected members of a left wing “awkward squad”; Michael Chessum at UCL (540 votes out of about 20,000 UCLU members, or 3% of eligible voters), Louis Hartnoll at UAL (396 votes out of about 28,000 students, or 1%), Ashok Kumar at LSE (805 votes out of 9,900, or a relatively respectable 8% of eligible voters) and James Haywood at Goldsmiths (figures not available despite requests). These are the people who have the gall to question the democratic mandate of the coalition government (17.5 million votes from an electorate of 46 million, or 38%).
The consequence of student apathy towards these elections is that their representatives, elected by a bare handful of them, do not actually represent their views. A London Student poll, for example, found that two thirds of students opposed violent protest but the ‘awkward squad’ simply ignored this view. Chessum and Kumar signed a declaration supporting the Millbank rioters. Solomon refused to condemn them. Haywood, arrested at the scene, said “The occupation of Tory HQ was completely justified” Should we be surprised that people elected by a minority of students reflect a minority opinion?
But why is it that only left wing extremists seek to skip into the void left by apathy? They devote a disproportionate amount of time and effort to these campaigns as they are the only elections they have any chance of ever winning. At the last general election parties to the left of Labour got less than 70,000 votes, not enough to fill Wembley Stadium. The British electorate is not interested in anything as left wing as what the ‘awkward squad’ and their like have to offer. Neither are students.
Sadly the presence of the ‘awkward squad’ encourages student apathy. Lots of students get motivated about an issue like tuition fees that directly effects them but they start to turn off when the ‘awkward squad’ types start prattling on about overthrowing capitalism. As the left wing journalist Nick Cohen wrote recently, “The pattern of British protest is set. Good causes draw hundreds of thousands of people into left-wing politics. After a brief period of exhilaration, they find themselves harangued by pinched-faced, spit-flecked demagogues who insist they must embrace violence and hate. They realise that the far-left is not interested in the issue at hand but only wants to entice new blood into its various cults so it can exploit their energies and empty their bank accounts. Disgusted and demoralised, they drift away”
So we end up in a downward spiral; minority interest, ‘awkward squad’ leaders furthering their own agendas put people off participating which makes it easier for them to get elected and push their agendas. It’s a disappointing prospect, but most students wont care.
London Student, 28/02/2011