Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cameron's Goats

It is, in a way, unsurprising that the Labour Goats should join up with the Coalition: Blunkett (to help in the assault on welfare claimants), Field (to help attack the poor generally as "poverty Tsar"), Hutton (to review pensions), and Milburn (to help privatise the NHS). They have been attacked in fairly robust terms - most notably by the good Lord Prescott (who does have a point - these are people who owe a great deal in terms of their own career development to the Labour Party and a little loyalty might not go amiss). But the reality is that politically there is very little to choose between Blunkett/Hutton/Milburn/Field and Cameron/Clegg. Indeed, there are quite a few others who could just as easily have signed up to the Coalition: Byers, Hoon, Hewitt, Purnell - even Mandelson. What it really shows is how little choice the voters have been given over the last couple of decades. It brings to mind the old anarchist aphorism: "No matter who you vote for, the government gets in". One small point: as I understand it Blunkett and Field are still Labour MP's (and Hutton is a Labour peer). Shouldn't joining up with the Coalition be something that must be cleared with the Whips/party Leadership first? Shouldn't these three have the whip withdrawn? Not that they would care that much.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nat West Plonkers

I have recently returned from holiday (cycling in Denmark). On the ferry back I changed Kroners into Pounds. I am given a few fifty quid notes (I haven't seen many of these before, they are not something I encounter every day.

Monday afternoon. Nat West bank on the corner of Dover Street/Oxford Road. I have 3 fifty pound notes. Conversation with bank clerk goes roughly as follows:

Me: Oh hi, could you change these three fifty pound notes into twenties and tens?
Clerk: Do you have an account with Nat West?
Me: No, my account is with Abbey National (or Santander as they are now).
Clerk (with smug smile): Then you will have to go to Abbey National to change those.
Me (with a little sarcasm): Thank you very much.

NatWest is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group which has recieved squillions in public money.

Blair's Sqillions

Blair is to donate the proceeds from his "Journey" to the British Legion. I wonder how he got that one past Cherie? John Harris in The Guardian reports that Blair has 5 homes (including the one in Connaught square worth £3.7 million and a £5.75 million "home county seat"). The two sprogs - Nicky and Euan - each have "high end London pads". Blair is estimated to be worth about £60 million. Maybe even Cherie thinks that's enough but I wouldn't bet on it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drugs and the cowardice of the politicians

The outgoing head of the Royal College of Surgeons (Ian Gilmore) has called for decriminalising illicit drugs. This follows on the furore a few months back when the then Labour Government's drugs advisor Professor David Nutt said much the same thing. The response from the political class has been the usual moral posturing. I suspect three things:

1. There are a lot of people (like Gilmore) in important public positions (lawyers, doctors, politicians, even policemen) who hold these views in private but are reluctant to say so in public (it is interesting that Gilmore waited until his resignation before "coming out").
2. The politicians believe that public opinion will not tolerate liberalisation of the drug laws and are panic-stricken at the idea that they might be depicted as "pro-drug"; as an irrational knee-jerk reaction they resort to primitive denounciation of "drugs". It is partly electoral calculation, partly stupidity, and partly simple cowardice.
3. Public opinion is moving very slowly but is ahead of the politicians on this (A recent NOP poll showed 37% in favour of cannabis legalisation with 12% "don't know". The % of MP's prepared to say they favour cannabis legalisation is far short of 37%). Eventually in a decade or so the politicians will follow public opinion...

The argument is not about whether drugs are "good" or "bad". It's simple economics. If there is a demand for them, and they are illegal, criminals will supply (an often dangerously adulterated) product on the black market.