Thursday, June 23, 2005
Lee Harris writes:
Marriage was [. . . .]defined as between a man and a woman? Well, yes, but only in the sense that a cheese omelet is defined as an egg and some cheese — without the least intention of insulting either orange juice or toast by their omission from this definition. Orange juice and toast are fine things in themselves — you just can’t make an omelet out of them.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
There’s been some eyebrows raised because of a senior German diplomat’s observation on the preferability of the Gulag to Camp X-ray. And actually, he’s right. Not in regards to the prisoners, but in regards to the international image of those running the facilities. The Gulag was never used as effectively to tarnish the Soviet Union, Stalin and communism as the Gitmo detention facilities are used to slander the US. So, yes, from that perspective, Gitmo is worse. I’ve got a feeling though, that’s not how he meant it . . .
Sunday, June 19, 2005
There is a strong belief amongst the so-called “modernisers” that the Tories need to shift leftward, because that’s where Britain and its problems are. Despite seeing a need for some changes in the Conservatives, I tend to disagree quite a lot with this approach because it’s an abandonment of things we know to be right purely for the sake of appearing “nice” and passing the “dinner party test”. But there can be another way. I’ll take today’s story on nurses being priced out of their profession in London as a case in point.
Well, basically the problem is that the amount of money needed for living in London is higher than what a nurse’s salary provides. There are two ways of fixing this situation: lower the living costs or raise the salaries.
The Government’s reaction will undoubtedly be its usual mixture of regulating around in the housing market and otherwise closing their eyes and hoping that somehow some more (illegal) migrant labour will fix the problem. They are lowering the costs of living, in this case housing.
Conservatives meanwhile should advocate raising nurses’ salaries. To avoid this becoming unaffordable the pay rises should be restricted to London and might be complemented by pay cuts in less expensive areas. This would be a sound conservative approach by being realistic about market forces, by limiting red tape and by taking on the redundant pseudo-egalitarian doctrine that prevents Labour and LibDems from advocating such flexible salary arrangements.
Such an approach would solve a public service problem and be recognisably Conservative at the same time. Rather than aping the centre-left, the Tories should argue for such policies that will appeal to voters concerned about public services but that avoid the follies of the centre-left. The Tories don’t need to mimic their opponents, but instead need some confidence that their message can be both right and popular.
And above all they do need to argue this continuously.
This may not be the issue that most Conservatives are thinking of at the moment in terms of making themselves electable again, but it deserves the greatest attention. Charles Moore raised the key points in this respect in yesterday’s Telegraph namely that parties/politicians who don’t seem to have an idea of where to put this country in this world are unelectable, and rightly so too.
I’m not going to go into detail of what I think this should look like, partly because I’m still working on it, but I think in terms of the debate’s dynamics there are xx options on foreign policy for the Conservatives to consider:
Isolationist: This would be a rejection of all international engagement, spurning the relationship with the US, European integration, multi-lateral frameworks, alliance agreements and sceptical about maintaining and defending overseas territories. Sean Gabb is the only bigger name I can think of who fits this bill.
Unilateralist / Isolationist-Plus: Carrying with it a whiff of Empire nostalgia, this sort of approach would retain some elements of the pure isolationist view, but would in constrast be committed to maintaining bilateral support deals with smaller countries such as Belize and to defending overseas territories such as the Falklands. Peter Oborne would fit the bill, for example by opposing European integration, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, while favouring intervention in Zimbabwe.
America-First: This strand of Tory foreign policy thinking is the one that is currently most widespread in the debate. This approach sees our close relationship to the US as the most important foreign policy goal, and tends to subordinate other issues such as European intregration to maintaining this.
Semi-“neocons”: I definitely used to be one of these, right up from my childhood, but I had a bit of a rethink in late 2000/early 2001 (a story for another day). This is the kind of approach that fuses together the promotion of democracy and human rights with military force and confident Western hegemony. This is strongly interventionist. The signatories of the UK Scoop Jackson fan club would certainly meet the criteria.
Transatlantic bridge: In some respects this would be Blairite world politics in blue. This approach would be a rhetorically hardened and overall more cautious version of Tony Blair’s foreign policy of international engagement.
EUrofederast / Anti-American: I remain to be convinced that this approach, of turning the Tories into dedicated Euroderalists and anti-Americans would work either inside the party or with the potential centre-right electorate the Tories need to win back. The British swing voters may be anti-Bush, but they his intentions to stand as a future Tory leader the most relevant.
(There are a number of options I don’t deal with as they are incompatibly with being a Tory; Pacifism would be an example of that.)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Just a random observation, but the video to James Blunt‘s song `Beautiful´, looks uncannily like this painting. I wonder if the videomakers used this imagery accidentally, whether they were inspired by Friedrich’s painting or whether they referred to 1920s German silent films, especially Nosferatu, which in turn drew on Romantic painting. Fun to see the way culture can occasionally recycle itself in different ways. Endlessly fascinating. At least to me.
Violent homophobic attacks have been on the rise so undoubtedly it’s good to see that the police is doing something about it and getting to grips with it, right? Well, yes and no. No I’m not normally inclined to be in much agreement with these fellows on domestic policy, but I can’t help but wonder whether Laban Tall and the English Castleman are perhaps on to something here.
I mean, what to make of this story:
A student at Balliol College was arrested and detained in custody for a night after he verbally abused a police horse early on Monday morning . . . Brown was fined for “causing harassment, harm or distress”, after he repeatedly called the officer’s horse “gay”. . . The arrest was made at 2.20am on Monday morning, and Brown was in a state which he described as “pissed out of my head”.
He had tried to escape the police by hiding in a doorway in Ship Street, but was found after back up had been called for. A total of six policemen were involved in making the arrest.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
DumbJon hits it on the head again:
One of the defining characteristics of the Liberal is that he is plagued by the constant fear that someone, somewhere is outside the reach of government.
No politics this time, Jools Oliver:
It’s natural to put on weight when you’re pregnant for goodness sake. Since having the girls , I have to tuck my tummy into my jeans. But it just reminds me of them, so it’s fine.
Monday, June 06, 2005
The Government’s decision that Britain will not proceed with a referendum on the EU constitution. This is bad news. The Government is squirming away from the defeat that would inevitably result from it. There is no sign that they have seen the light that this is an EU project too far and one that is as good as dead already.
That means it isn’t quite dead yet. While some may scoff at the suggestion that it will be resurrected, that seems to be the direction we’re heading in. By cancelling the vote now, the Government is keeping open the prospect of running it at a later date. Undoubtedly a date at which they hope the rest of Europe, including France and the Netherlands, will have ratified it and thus be able to exert pressure on public opinion by the favoured argument of the spoil-sport and the fear of being branded unclubbable.
On the other hand, if Britain decides to go ahead with a referendum, other countries, such as Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic will decide to hold theirs too. By my current reckoning these will all vote no, with opinion riding on the impetus generated by the Non and the Nee. If these referenda are delayed however, the EUrocrats will have far too much time on their hands to find alternative ways of getting their agenda through.
The time to put a serious damper on the misguided form of European integration we are witnessing is now. A continuing string of lost referenda is the best way to destroy this faulty treaty. If we really want to see the backs of the leaders that are messing Europe up, the best way to proceed now is to hit them running.
And for that, there is no substitute for regular thumping by the people.
PS: To give you an oddity in line with real favour of the pan-European scepticism being revealed at the moment, when I spell-checked the above entry, my computer got confused and said it couldn’t spell-check Spanish, then Polish and finally Dutch. Many languages, one argument, I reckon. And isn’t that soooo European?!
Rather amusingly too, it suggested I replace `EUrocrat´ with `Euro rat´.
Friday, June 03, 2005
To dispel any fears amongst readers in regards to my sanity I should perhaps point out right at the beginning that I find this Crazy Frog thing quite irritating.
However, my real problem is with the alternative no1, Coldplay’s `Speed of Sound´. It is an ok song. Unfortunately though it is a clear rip-off of the glorious `Clocks´. Normally this wouldn’t bother me personally but it has spoilt my enjoyment of `Clocks´, and that is unforgiveable.
So cheers to the Crazy Frog.
Yep, it’s fairly happy times for us Eurosceptics at the moment which doesn’t happen very often it must be said. And thanks to the Dutch for making my week. No reason to go slack however.
The other day on the telly I saw a broadcast from the Dutch yes-campaign, which wasn’t in the end screened in the Netherlands due to protests. Well deserved protests. It suggested that to prevent repeats of the Holocaust, the Srebrenica massacre and the Madrid train bombings it was necessary to vote yes to the silly treaty on the Euro-constitution. The invocation of this sort of thing may be becoming routine and its moral stupidity is rather too obvious to point out again.
But is there perhaps some other point in these crass comparisons? Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Madrid? Well what they all have in common is that they were directly or indirectly caused by supra-nationalism. The Nazis were animated to the Holocaust by racism which by definition is not restricted to borders and they were quite eager to kill the “undesireables”not just in Germany but all over their pan-European polity. The Madrid bombers were motivated by some form of extremist Islamism, which again is not about territory or borders but instead dedicated to a universal idea. Ok, so Srebrenica doesn’t quite fit the bill so far as the perpetrators were motivated by a very narrow hatred and territorial ambitions. But the violence that erupted there was a partial consequence of the creation of a state which did not have a nation as a foundation on which to rest. Yugoslavia was probably doomed to fail and it is just the circumstance of creating artifical borders that made possible the wars of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.
All these, pan-Yugoslavism, Islamism and Nazism are supra-national ideas.
So is Eurofederalism.