Monday, November 30, 2015

Quote of the day 30th November 2015

Robert Harris wrote in the Sunday Times yesterday of the attempt by "Momentum" supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to put pressure on Labour MPs to vote against military action against DA'ESH in Syria, that if they were successful it would be a disaster both for Labour and for the country. He added that he wrote not as a fan of armchair warriors but as someone who opposed both the Iraq war of 2003 and the previous proposal to bomb Assad's forces in Syria. He went on

"Labour MPs, understandably still bitter over the way their loyalty was abused by Tony Blair in 2003, need to be clear about the differences between then and now.

This is not the pre-emptive invasion of a country which, for all the vileness of its regime, posed no direct and imminent threat to the British people.

This is a proposal to extend existing airstrikes 100 or so miles to the West in order to hit the headquarters of a movement that enslaves women and young girls, that hurls suspected homosexuals from high buildings, that tortures to death captured prisoners, that publicly slits the throats of aid workers and captured journalists, that blows up civilian airliners and that recruits and sponsors terrorism across the world, including in Britain.

Now it controls territory the size of the UK and has some of the oil-rich resources and infrastructure of a state. This so-called 'Caliphate' is dedicated to our destruction: its' very existence acts as a call to arms to young sympathisers around the world.

If the British left cannot support military action against such a barbaric theocracy, one wonders at what point it ever would be prepared to fight.

And this is action, incidentally, endorsed by the United Nations, taken in conjunction with a French Socialist government that is well to the left of anything seen in Britain for a generation and supported by a Democratic US president who ahs proved notably cautious of overseas entanglements. The allied coalition even includes that stalwart of left-wing anti-western dreams, Russia."

His article concluded

"Let us hope then, that enough Labour MPs have the courage to defy their leader and his virtual army and ensure that Britain plays its part in the UN coalition against Isis. Because if the vote goes the other way it won't only be the Labour party that has been revealed as supine, unreliable and irrelevant in the teeth of this crisis - it will be the entire country."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday reflection - as it is now officially the run-up to Christmas

As usual, when Advent Sunday finally arrives and we finally officially enter the run-up to Christmas, it seems to have been going on unofficially for weeks.

This year there is the added irony that the period when we look forward to the coming of the Prince of Peace has been characterised by the beating of the drums of war as the terrorists of DA'ESH have shown their willingness to try to kill people around the world and a vote is likely in the near future on whether Britain should take military action against them.

The archbishop of Canterbury himself has said he found the evil of the attacks on Paris a challenge to his faith and I can certainly understand that.

Yet it seems to me that despair or terror on the one hand, and complacency or inactivity on the other, would equally be wrong.

The Jihadi warlords who have taken over a patch of Syria and Iraq and are using it to spread murder and terror around the world are a threat and one which has to be dealt with. We won't manage that by passing resolutions or going on demonstrations.

Yet by comparison with the existential threat to civilisation which was posed by, for example. Hitler these people have no chance whatsoever of winning. They have murdered thousands of innocent people, and will murder many more, and need to be stopped. Yet in comparison with the millions if people murdered by Hitler, by Stalin, or for that matter Mr McDonnell, by Chairman Mao, they will not merit much more than a footnote in the pages of history.

We should mourn the victims of DA'ESH, the so-called Islamic State. We should work with our NATO allies, the other UN Security council powers, and local non-Jihadi forces to curb them. But we should not let them turn our free societies into police state or fall into the trap of doing what the terrorists themselves hope we will do, and blame all muslims for their crimes.

The people of Britain can enjoy a happy Christmas, and although it is not given to any of us to know the future, I suspect that the people of Britain will enjoy many more happy Christmas celebrations in in years to come, while the time on earth of the so-called "Islamic State" will not be nearly as long.

Congratulations to Andy Murray and Britain's Davis cup team

Congratulations to all Britain's David Cup tennis players on a magnificent victory

Advent Sunday music spot: "The VIrgin Mary had a baby boy"

The "Christmas goes Baroque" version ...



A wintry start to Advent

Really filthy weather in Whitehaven this morning and early afternoon.

I note that the Met office has issued a number of warnings of rain, snow and high winds today which can be read on the BBC website at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/2635167#extra-uk-content

A Tale of Two Parties

Both the Conservative and Labour parties have had problems in the past few weeks.

But what is being done about it is instructive.

Following the suicide of a young activist, it has come out that something had gone very wrong with a Conservative campaigning initiative called "Road Trip 2015"

Nevertheless it is clear that things are being done about it; the  main culprit has been expelled from the party for life, the former party co-chairman who appointed him to an important position has fallen on his sword, the national leadership of the party's youth wing has been suspended.

Both the Conservative party and other political parties would do well to read and think about the points made in an article published at the weekend by Tim Montgomerie here: I don't believe all his criticism of the "Cameroons" are fair but he is absolutely right about how they are perceived by most of the party grassroots and we do indeed need to do more to build a culture in which ordinary members of the party are listened to and seen to be listened to. But at least it seems to me that the party has woken up and stopped ignoring the issue.

Other parties also have serious problems with bullying and also need to think about how they deal with it. And anyone who doubts that it would be far better to have the Conservatives' problems at the moment than those of the Labour party would do well to read Andrew Rawnsley's piece,

There is no obvious escape route for Labour from the party's agonies.

As he puts

 "... the Labour party is making such a first-class job of eviscerating itself."

"In the short history of the Corbyn experiment, the past seven days have been the most spectacularly disastrous yet."

“We can’t go on like this.” That’s the cry now to be heard from all points of the Labour spectrum, left, right and centre.

"Yet it seems most probable that Labour will go on exactly like this. For there is no obvious escape route from the party’s agonies."

"Labour is trapped. Trapped with a leader incapable of commanding the confidence and loyalty of his MPs. Trapped because Labour’s aghast parliamentarians are powerless to do anything about it. Trapped with a leader who can’t win the trust of the public but is strongly protected by the support of his members. This is the Corbyn catch-22. This is the Gordian knot that binds the Labour party. There is no sign yet of someone bearing a sword powerful enough to cut through it."

Quote of the day for Advent Sunday, 29th November 2015


Saturday, November 28, 2015

A sixth mass grave of DA'ESH victims has been found near Sindar

MPs deciding whether to vote for military action against DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") might like to consider the fact that six mass graves, apparently containing the bodies of victims of genocide by DA'ESH fighters, has been found near the village of Sindar in Iraq.

The area was recently recaptured by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters supported by Yazidi fighters and with assistance from US and British air power.

One grave contained the bodies of 78 women aged between 40 and 80, apparently Yazidi women killed by DA'ESH because they were not young and pretty enough to rape and take as sex slaves.

A number of other mass graves have been found. The largest was described today as having been booby trapped, but on the basis of the testimony of witnesses who saw the execution of the victims - mostly young women who had been enslaved by DA'ESH fighters and later escaped - it is believed to contain the bodies of a further 110 Yazidis who were killed because their religion differs from the extreme and perverted form of Islam which DA'ESH follows.

Yes, we need to be careful to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and minimise the number of new victims we create. But the luckless victims of DA'ESH genocide near Sindar were not killed in retaliation for anything the Western powers did. They were killed because the so-called "Islamic State" intends to kill anyone who does not accept their warped and murderous perversion of Islam.

These people have made a charnel house of every part of Iraq and Syria they conquered. They have beheaded aid workers and journalists as well as those who fought against them. On the basis of their own claims of responsibility they have killed tourists on the beach, blown a passenger airliner out of the sky, and gunned down people eating in restaurants or listening to a rock concert in Paris.

We will not make ourselves safe from these murderous extremists by hiding away from them: we are already on their target list because they hate happiness, freedom, and letting women have education and healthcare, not because of anything we have done to them.

Make no mistake - if DA'ESH could repeat the carnage they recently inflicted on the streets of Paris on the streets of London, Manchester, Carlisle or Whitehaven they would do so. And they are actively plotting to do precisely that.

The United Nations security council has unanimously passed Resolution 2249, which unequivocally condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL — also known as Da’esh — on 26 June in Sousse, on 10 October in Ankara, on 31 October over the Sina├» Peninsula, on 12 November in Beirut and on 13 November in Paris, among others. 

It has condemned in the strongest terms ISIL’s gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights, as well as its destruction and looting of cultural heritage.  And the UN security council has called upon Member States with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress terrorist acts by DA'ESH.

We have made mistakes in the military inventions we have made in the Middle East in the past. We need to learn from those mistakes and try to avoid repeating them. But taking action against ISIL/DA'ESH is not one.

Grant Shapps resigns as a minister

I've never met Mark Clarke: I did campaign in Carlisle on one of the days there was supposed to be a "Road Trip 2015" in the constituency and we had a very strong team of Conservatives campaigning  in the seat that day but all the people who turned up were from Carlisle itself or the rest of Cumbria.

I have however met Grant Shapps on many occasions: he was PPC and then MP for the neighbouring constituency to me when I lived and campaigned in St Albans. He also came to support me when he was shadow housing minister and I was Conservative candidate for Copeland.

He is a tireless and hard-working constituency campaigner and an exceptionally nice person.

I cannot believe for one moment that Grant would knowingly have tolerated the sort of bullying and misconduct which allegedly has been going on around Roadtrip 2015 and encompassed some of the national leadership of Conservative Future.

I presume however that the party would not have expelled Mark Clarke and suspended the national executive of Conservative Future, and Grant would not have resigned, unless the ongoing investigation had found evidence in support of the view that some of the allegations were true.

In his resignation letter, Grant said that he could not find any record that allegations of bullying, sexual abuse or blackmail had been made to him prior to the 2015 general election, but however, he said,

"I cannot help but feel that the steady stream of those who raised smaller, more nuanced, objections should have perhaps set alarm bells ringing sooner.

"In the end, I signed that letter appointing Mark Clarke 'director of RoadTrip' and I firmly believe that whatever the rights and wrongs of a serious case like this, responsibility should rest somewhere.

"Over the past few weeks - as individual allegations have come to light - I have come to the conclusion that the buck should stop with me."

He said he was "deeply shocked and saddened" by Elliott Johnson's death.

All political parties have occasionally had problems with bullying and misconduct, and the youth wings of all parties have been particularly prone to this, as I blogged a fortnight ago. I certainly had a gutful of it as a student and YC activist, through the problems at that time were more driven by ideology and misplaced fanatical idealism than appears to have been the case this time.

Labour has predictably seized on the story as a welcome distraction from the chaos in their own party. They might do better to try to put their own house in order as the bullying of people who express different opinions in the Labour party is as bad or worse than anything which exists in the Conservative party.

It is particularly tragic that Elliott Johnson died in such circumstances. If, as they should, all political parties learn a lesson from recent travails that reports of abuse or bullying need to be taken more seriously at an early stage, perhaps his death will not be entirely in vain.

Bristol University Court 2015 meeting

I attended the 2015 meeting of Bristol University court yesterday.

Like many redbrick universities, Bristol has three governing bodies: Senate, which is the main academic governing body, Council which used to be the main administrative one but,  as part of a series of organisational changes forced on Universities by various Higher Education quangos under successive govermnents in the name of good governance, has increasingly been the supreme governing body; and University Court, a very large body which meets once or twice a year, and used in theory to be the most powerful authority in the University but at increasingly surrendered that role to University Council.

One of the things we learned yesterday is that University Council is probably going to change it's name to the "Bristol University Board of Trustees"  as that name is considered easier for people to understand.

The meeting opened with three breakout sessions on different aspects of the University plan for the future. Other things debated included the possible impact on British Universities if the UK leaves the European union (the Vice Chancellor and other academics have a very high opinion of the EU's programmes to support Higher Education) and whether the University should disinvest from companies involved in extracting fossil fuels (a motion to that effect was narrowly defeated).

Quote of the day 28th November 2015


Friday, November 27, 2015

North West Region Conservative election result

The election results were announced this afternoon for the Conservative voluntary party regional co-ordinators for the North West Region.

For Regional Chairman:

Sir Robert Atkins


For Regional Deputy Chairman, Political and Campaigns

Pam Hall


For Regional Deputy Chairman, membership and finance

John Cunliffe



Congratulations to Robert, Pam and John on their election and all the best for the coming three years.

Ruth Davidson on the collapse of the SNP's economic model

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, had a superb piece at Conservative Home this week about the fact that the economic prospectus on which the SNP fought the independence referendum has been exposed as delusional.

She begins by describing trying to pin down Alex Salmond during the referendum about how exactly the economics of SNP proposals for Independence would work as like "nailing custard to a wall" and continued:

"Time after time, our erstwhile First Minister would endeavour to dodge, weave, bluster and bluff his way past fair questions. Projections on Scotland’s oil revenues were hopelessly optimistic – wouldn’t it be a good idea if he took actual receipts into account? Salmond would pop up on his hindquarters and trot out the usual lines about how his opponents were doing Scotland down. By contrast, his numbers were “reasonable” and “sensible”. Move along – nothing to see here.

"Thankfully, the majority of Scottish voters opted for us to remain part of the UK last year. Salmond lost. But, remarkably, the SNP managed to skip free from that defeat without having to conduct a post mortem. Immediately after the referendum, the debate in Scotland moved onto a plan to deliver more devolution to the Holyrood parliament. Then the general election occupied everyone’s attention.

"The SNP lost the battle – but it has never been forced to examine the fundamental reasons why. Salmond and his team have never really been put on the spot."

The whole article is well worth a read here.

Quote of the day 27th November 2015

“The SNP’s model of independence is broken beyond repair. The party should either build a new one or stop offering it as an alternative to Tory cuts.”

Alex Bell, the SNP Government’s head of policy in the run-up to the independence referendum. He continued:

“The campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death. The idea that you could have a Scotland with high public spending, low taxes, a stable economy and reasonable government debt was wishful a year ago – now it is deluded.”

He also said that it was debatable” whether a separate Scotland could maintain UK levels of spending.

We must assume, he added, that leading SNP figures – including Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney – now know that “the old model, once optimistic, is now dead”.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Come back John Major, all is forgiven

John Major took a lot of flak when he was Prime Minister for the "cones hotline" which was seen as an example of government looking too much about trivialities rather than looking at the big picture.

But just at the moment I would welcome a number I could ring to inquire about the number of cones which have been put out on roads in West Cumbria for no apparent reason and are exacerbating traffic congestion.

Come back John, all is forgiven !

Brown's Poison Pills part 6: PFI Hospitals

I'm all in favour of making intelligent use of the private sector to help deliver public services. But you have to do it properly and make sure you get value for money.

In my experience, private delivery of public services can work very well if the relevant public authority has a strong "client" organisation to ensure that the wishes and needs of the public are taken into account in negotiating contracts, that the public do get value for money, and that the supplier actually delivers what has been promised.

Without that strong client organisation the potential benefits usually fail to materialise and the public can sometimes be very badly ripped off.

I cannot think of a better example than the way the "Public Finance Initiative" was extended by Blair and Brown, and particularly the 73 PFI hospital building schemes approved under Labour's 1997 legislation, of which the first was the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with the idea of using private money to improve public services, but the execution has been absolutely lamentable.

It has been suggested that the PFI scheme can cost the taxpayer £300 to change a lightbulb or install a plus socket, and the ratio of money eventually charged to the taxpayer per pound actually spent building hospitals can be as bad as 12 to 1.

The Guardian found in July that 717 PFI contracts currently under way across the UK are funding new schools, hospitals and other public facilities with a total capital value of £54.7bn, but the overall ultimate cost will reach £301bn by the time they have been paid off over the coming decades.

The really annoying thing is that if this scheme had been used properly it could have meant a better deal for the taxpayer. But they didn't put that strong client side in place, didn't have the right penalty clauses, and consequently the taxpayer has had a dreadful deal.

Thanks to the incompetence of Blair and Brown PFI has meant lots of building projects which looked great while they were in power - and massive bills to pay after they had left office.

The Labour party makes out that "austerity" is happening because the Conservatives like cutting things. Actually, the gross incompetence with which Labour managed PFI is yet another reason why cuts would be happening now whoever had won the 2010 and 2015 elections because of bad decisions taken by the last Labour government. And again, it will take years to pay off.

Further reading: 

Channel 4 factcheck, "No value for money."

Daily Telegraph: "PFI hospitals are costing the NHS £2 billion a year."

More quotes of the day 26th November 2015

"I always think it's important to know what your political opponents are thinking"

George Osborne, on why he's keeping the copy of Chairman Mao's little red book which shadow chancellor tossed to him over the despatch box during the Autumn statement debate. He also said

“The shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao's Little Red Book.”

He then opened it and said, “Oh look, it’s his personal signed copy,”

and added

"The problem is half the shadow cabinet have been sent off to re-education."


Some more quotes on the same issue:

"What a pity that, when Chairman Mao explained to his Communist Party colleagues how ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’, it did not occur to him to mention that the idea is not to point it at your own face and then pull the trigger."

(Tom Peck's sketch in the Independent)


"A century ago yesterday Albert Einstein set out a general theory of relativity that identified parts of the universe where space and time have become so distorted that all light has been swallowed up. This is what it must feel like to be a moderate Labour MP.

"Let's quote from Mao" John McDonnell said in his response to George Osborne's Autumn  statement.

"But he didn't seem to have considered the symbolism of quoting from a brutal dictator. Imagine the uproar if a Tory had embellished his speech with a spot of Mein Kampf. He then chucked the book across the table at Mr Osborne, who could not believe his luck.

"This was not what Labour supporters meant when they called on Mr McDonnell to throw the book at the chancellor."

(Patrick Kidd in The Times)

Quote of the day 26th November 2015

"If I went to Brent Cross to buy a new sweater and decided not to get one because it was too expensive, would I be making an ideological statement about shopping?

Or Society?

Or the future of Mankind?

Or would I just be, like, putting up with my old sweater for the time being while I saved up for a new one?

In the past few years, whenever there has been a budget, or an autumn statement, I have been astonished to discover how ideological I am. Apparently my innocent view that it is a good idea to be able to pay for the goods you purchase makes me a small-state neo-liberal Tory free market fundamentalist. Which seems quite a complicated description for just wanting things to add up.

Austerity, apparently, is a philosophy, and you can be anti-it. But, really, who wants to be austere? We all like "stuff" and prefer not to be without it. We are all anti-austerity when the finances mean that we don't have to make difficult choices.

Today the Chancellor will announce the latest measures necessary for us to stop spending more than we are willing to pay for.

Already, in advance, this has been described as a vicious and unnecessary ideological attack on the state and our sense of communal obligation. Preposterously, one normally insightful columnist produced a piece of analysis headed 'Everything we hold dear is being cut to the bone. Weep for our country.' Blimey."

"The spearhead of this attack is the accusation (it is always made as an accusation) that the proportion of GDP spent by the sate will come down to something like 36 per cent whereas before 2010 it was more like 47 per cent. This call is supposed to show that the extremists (me for instance)are advancing the destruction of society through an ideological aversion to the state."

"Let's leave to one side the fact that 36 per cent of national income is quite a lot ... and consider the link being made between the 36 per cent figure and the size of the state. A moment's though reveals the attack as a confused mess.

First the proportion of national income spent by the state depends on two things. One of them, obviously, is the amount of government spending. the other - easy to miss, this one - is the amount of national income. When national income rises, a given amount of state spending will form a smaller proportion of GDP. But something else happens at the same time When national income rises, there are things that the government used to spend money on that it doesn't need to spend as much on. Benefits for unemployed people, for instance.

So the proportion of national income spent by the state is not a good measure of ideology."

"Tony Blair fought the 2001 election with his government spending a proportion of national income that was roughly 36 per cent, or perhaps a little less. Was this an ideological attempt to destroy the state?"

"The social structure wasn't collapsing in 2001 ... Yet now public spending will be the same proportion of a larger sum. We know, in other words, that we can afford reasonable services for the available sum because we had reasonable services in the past for less money."

"Yet clearly the autumn statement will involve choices. Between 2000 and 2006, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair engaged in a structural increase in public spending without a matching increase in taxation. You cannot do this for ever."

"Whatever the choice, one thing is clear. Two plus two has to equal four. However unpopular that is."

(Extracts from an article in The Times yesterday by Danny Finkelstein called "If you're anti-austerity, you can't do 2 + 2 = 4")

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Police Budgets protected in real terms

A little early to break out the champagne given that we still do not know exactly how the budget will be allocated between different police forces.

But on the face of it, the announcement in today's Autumn Statement that the overall police budget will be maintained in real terms should make it an awful lot more likely that the police forces in Cumbria and the rest of the North West will have enough money to maintain a first-class service to protect the public.

Obviously the government has decided that after what happened in Paris the other week this is not the time to be making big cuts in policing.

I welcome this and am sure that the thousands of residents of Cumbria who signed the petition to protect our police funding will feel the same way.

Of Trident Submarines, Robots and Cybernats ...

From the pages of Hansard reporting a debate which took place in the House of Commons yesterday on a motion about Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent proposed by the Scottish National Party.

The SNP, like the Leader of the Labour party although many of his MPs disagree, do not want Britain to have a nuclear deterrent. They want to scrap Trident, leaving Britain less effectively defended and with serious consequences for the jobs of many people in both Cumbria and Scotland.

The SNP had with incompetence which is wholly characteristic, proposed the motion that

"That this House believes that Trident should not be removed."

This turned out to be a typo, and they actually meant to propose

"That this House believes that Trident should not be renewed."

and argued that the nuclear deterrent should be scrapped. The Defence secretary replied and what he had to say included the following:

Michael Fallon:

"Successive Labour and Conservative Governments have judged that a minimum credible nuclear deterrent is critical to our national security—that a nuclear deterrent is the only assured way of deterring nuclear threats and blackmail by nuclear states. For more than 60 years, it has done that job.

Whatever side of the argument we are on, let us pay tribute to the crews of HMS Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious and Vigilant, their families and all those who ensure, and have ensured, that one of those boats is on patrol 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

"The Government were elected on a manifesto commitment to replace the Vanguard submarines, and it takes over a decade to build and trial a nuclear submarine, so we have to take that decision in 2016. Design work is already far advanced, and in yesterday’s review we announced further investment of £600 million, which takes the assessment phase cost from £3.3 billion to £3.9 billion."

"I want to make three basic points about why renewal is vital. First, this is about realism. We are of course committed to creating the conditions where nuclear weapons will no longer be necessary. We have reduced our nuclear forces by well over half since the height of the cold war; this very year, I cut the number of deployed warheads on each submarine from 48 to 40, and by the mid-2020s, we will have reduced our overall stockpile of nuclear weapons to no more than 180 warheads."

"Unfortunately, those actions have not been matched by any other nuclear nation or stopped unstable nations seeking to acquire or develop nuclear weapons."

"My second point is about the practical effect of the deterrent. Our nuclear deterrent works. It deters aggression every single day. There have been many conflicts in the last six decades, and not one of them has involved a direct conflict between nuclear states. Not one country under the protection of an extended nuclear umbrella has been invaded. Our nuclear deterrent is operationally independent" ...  "and its command and control system as well as its decision-making apparatus are ours, and ours alone. It offers, of course, a second centre of decision making within NATO that will complicate an adversary’s plans. It is worth reminding ourselves that NATO is a nuclear alliance. One of the absurdities, if I may say so, of the Scottish National party’s position is that while opposing Trident it would—if voters had not rejected its separatism last year—have sought NATO membership and would then have benefited from its nuclear umbrella."

"The third reason we must renew our nuclear submarines is that there is no alternative at the moment. How do we know that? We commissioned the Trident alternatives review in 2013. Having looked at all the alternatives; non-submarine alternatives, other submarine alternatives, non-continuous deterrent; it demonstrated that no alternative system is as capable or cost-effective as the Trident-based deterrent. If we accept that there is a threat - perhaps the SNP does not - that needs to be deterred, and if we accept that our enemies work nights and weekends, we must also accept that there can be no half-measures. A four-boat continuous at-sea posture is the minimum way to offer the security we need."

"It is scarcely believable that other nations, hearing the news from 4 o’clock today in the House of Commons, will suddenly decide to disarm or stop seeking nuclear weapons. There are 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. We wish there were not, but there are. Anybody voting in the Division tonight has to answer who, after we had got rid of our nuclear weapons, would continue to provide the deterrent."

"There have been some wild reports, accentuated today, suggesting that the Trident replacement will cost £167 billion."

"Let us look at the facts. We estimate that four new submarines would cost £31 billion—a cost spread over 35 years, which amounts to an insurance policy of less than 0.2% per year of total Government spending for a capability that will remain in service until 2060."

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab) asked him:

"Does the Secretary of State agree that, if we want to keep Britain safe, it is not a question of choosing between renewing our nuclear deterrent and taking the necessary action against ISIL—given that both are vital—and that it would be foolhardy, not to say arrogant, to believe that anyone in the House can predict the risks and threats that Britain will face in the next 30 or 40 years?"

Michael Fallon: "I could not have put it better. In our latest assessment, which is contained in the document that was published yesterday, we tried to estimate the threats to our country. We should be honest and humble about the fact that the 2010 review did not predict the resurgence of Russia and the action that it took in Crimea and Ukraine; nor did it predict the rise of ISIL. We try to predict, but we cannot be sure further ahead."

"This is not a time to gamble with our security; on the contrary, it is a time to safeguard this generation and generations to come. Let me put it as simply as the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) just put it to me. If Members on either side of the House can be absolutely sure that no nuclear threat to this country will emerge throughout the 2030s, the 2040s and the 2050s, they should vote for the motion. I cannot be sure of that, and Conservative Members are not prepared to gamble with our nation’s security."

Later it was noted that the SNP had not set out how they would deal with the costs in jobs or disposal of axing Trident but appeared to have tried to spend the money to be saved by axing Trident in several different ways:

Liz Kendall: "Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment that even though the SNP called this debate, it has failed to set out its position either on how it would replace jobs or how it would dispose of the weapons? Should not the debate have been about its policy, as it called this debate today?"

Toby Perkins: "For the second time today, my hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. There is, of course, a whole series of inconsistencies in the SNP position. Today we were hearing that a decision to go forward with Trident would be choosing to buy nuclear capability on the backs of the poor, yet only half an hour before that we had heard SNP Members saying all the money being spent on Trident would instead be spent on conventional weapons. Either the money they are saving from Trident is going to be spent on hospitals, schools and transport, or it is going to be spent on conventional forces."

"No one can blame the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute" (the proposer of the SNP motion) "for being so confused, however, because if we look back through the history of the SNP, we see that this confusion is very long standing.

In 2012, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) was saying all the savings would be spent on conventional defence, then he and Nicola Sturgeon were saying in 2014 that they would be spending the money saved on Trident on childcare, then on “Good Morning Scotland” it was instead going to be spent on tackling youth unemployment and on colleges, and the Scottish Parliament motion in 2012 said it should be spent on welfare. So there is a long history of the SNP being utterly baffled about what this money is going to be spent on.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): "Would the hon. Gentleman be interested to hear that only a couple of weeks back I was being heckled that this magic money-tree could be spent on tax credits as well? That is another example to add to his long list."

Toby Perkins: "If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will put that on the end of my list."

Those were perhaps some  of the most important of the many serious contributions to the debate from all sides.

But a little later, while one of Cumbria's Labour MPs was speaking, lots of Scottish National Party MPs tried to intervene, which prompting this exchange which I repeat without comment:

John Woodcock: "You see, Madam Deputy Speaker, SNP Members do not like people holding them to account for their terrible failure. I was just explaining the disgraceful mess that they are making of schools in Scotland, where the poorest children are being left behind"

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) rose
  
John Woodcock: "If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I am not giving way. I would have been happy to take an intervention from every single one of you robots—you are getting your instruction—but the proposer of the motion refused point blank to take my intervention, so I am not taking any from a single one of you."

John Nicolson: "On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May we have some clarification on whether the charming expression “robot” is parliamentary language or not?"
  
Madam Deputy Speaker: "Yes, Mr Nicolson, I was just turning over in my mind whether the description “robot” for a Member of this House would be considered derogatory. I have come to the conclusion that in some circumstances it might, and in some it might not. For the moment, I am concluding, for my own peace of mind, that the hon. Gentleman was thinking of a high-functioning, intelligent robot. Therefore, for the moment, I will not call him to order for the use of the word, but I am sure the House will be warned that we should be very careful in our use of language."
  
Ian Paisley (Junior): "Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification: I thought the hon. Gentleman called the hon. Members “Roberts”, and anyone from Scotland should not mind that reference, bearing in mind Robbie the Bruce."
  
Madam Deputy Speaker: "No, on the contrary. As to Mr Paisley’s point of order, every eldest male member of my family for the past 100 years has been called Robert; it must be a good thing."
  
Mr Jamie Reed: "Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that colleagues from the SNP will misreport this debate on Twitter, would the use of the term “cybernat” be acceptable?"
  
Madam Deputy Speaker: "We will have no more points of order on this issue. Any term that is considered to be in any way derogatory towards an honourable Member of this House will not be allowed, and I will be listening very carefully for the rest of the debate."
  
John Woodcock: "Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am very happy to refer to SNP Members as honourable robots if that is any help, but robots they are, following their instructions in an extraordinary unity almost never seen before in this place.

I was making a point about the failure on hospitals over which the SNP is presiding—there is failure on waiting times, intolerable pressure on nurses and so on. Instead of addressing those points, the SNP seeks this parliamentary distraction of a debate on Trident, and we will not fall for it."


Later, winding up the debate, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Philip Dunne, said

"I say to those Labour Members who share my concern to maintain continuous at-sea deterrence, Let your conscience guide you into the right Division Lobby this afternoon. I urge Members of both sides of the House to do the right thing for the whole of the UK, not just for today but for tomorrow, and restore the consensus that has kept us safe for decades."

George Osborne writes about today's Autumn Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer writes:


 
"The Autumn Statement I gave today delivers on the promise we made to the British people that we would put their security first:
  • To protect our economic security, by taking the difficult decisions to live within our means and bring our debts down. The public spending plans I set out today mean we will reach a surplus of £10.1 billion in 2019/20 – that’s higher than was forecast at the Budget and means Britain will be out of the red and into the black.
  • To protect our national security, by defending our country’s interests abroad and keeping our citizens safe at home. There will be no cuts in the police budget with real terms protection for police funding and we deliver on our commitment to spend 2 per cent of our national income on defence.
But this Spending Review does not just ensure the economic and national security of our country, it builds on that with:
  • Full funding for the Five Year Forward View that the NHS itself put forward as the plan for its future with the first £6 billion delivered up-front next year.
  • The biggest real terms increase to the basic State Pension in 15 years. Thanks to our commitment to the triple lock, next year the basic state pension will rise by £3.35 to £119.30 a week.
  • The biggest housebuilding programme by any government since the 1970s with a doubling of the housing budget to over £2 billion a year. Our bold plan to back families who aspire to buy their own home will deliver 400,000 new homes by the end of the decade.
  • The phasing out entirely of the local government grant. By the end of the parliament local government will keep all of the revenue from business rates. We will abolish the uniform business rate so councils will be able to cut rates to attract a new business to their area, but because the amount the government raises in business rates is much greater than the amount we give to local councils through the local government grant we will phase that grant out entirely and devolve additional responsibilities.
  • A new apprenticeship levy to deliver 3 million apprenticeships. This will ensure large businesses share the cost of training people, but no business with a pay bill below £3 million will have to pay. We will also increase the funding for each apprenticeship to make sure these are high quality apprenticeships.
  • Real terms protection of schools budget. We will maintain funding for free infant school meals, protect rates for the pupil premium, and increase the cash in the dedicated schools grant. We’re also going to open 500 new free schools and University Technical Colleges, and invest £23 billion in school buildings and 600,000 new school places.
  • The largest ever investment in free childcare so working families get the help they need. From 2017, we will fund 30 hours of free childcare for working families with 3 and 4 year olds. We’ll support £10,000 of childcare costs tax free and to support nurseries delivering more free places for parents we’ll increase the funding for the sector by £300 million.
  • The improvement in the nation’s finances used to help on tax credits. Because of the improvement in the public finances, the simplest thing to do is not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether. Tax credits are being phased out anyway as we introduce universal credit.
  • An average saving of £30 from the projected energy bills of 24 million households by introducing a cheaper domestic energy efficiency scheme.
Five years ago, when I presented our first Spending Review, our economy was in crisis and as the letter Labour left behind said: there was no money left. Our job then was to rescue Britain. Today, our job is to rebuild Britain. Build our finances. Build our defences. Build our society.

 
Thank you,
George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer"

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Brown's Poison Pills part 5: The Banking Crash

One of the mistakes which probably helped to cost Ed Miliband the 2015 election was when he was asked on TV “Do you accept that when Labour was last in power, it overspent?” and began his answer with the basically incredible response "No, I don't."

Cue gasps in the studio and headlines about how this showed Labour had not learned their lesson.

Ironically, that question had been anticipated by Labour's team and they had agreed a vastly more credible response - which although it would not have got them totally off the hook would have both demonstrated ability to learn and understand what went wrong while still minimising (and in my opinion understating) their responsibility for the recession.

According to  Patrick Wintour in The Guardian, the prepared response to that question had been along the following lines:

“I don’t think every penny was well spent. I can give you plenty of examples where the last Labour government did not spend money well and, as someone who believes that spending on health and education can change lives, it is incumbent on me to make sure that every pound is well spent. But if you are asking me, ‘Did that spending actually cause the crash?’, the answer is ‘No.’ The answer lies in failure to regulate the banks.”

Labour did overspend: that overspending made the recession much more painful than it would otherwise have been and was the main reason that the painful decisions usually described as "austerity" would have been pretty much unavoidable for whoever had won the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

Labour's prepared answer which Miliband was supposed to give was correct in that the actual trigger for the crash was a banking crisis following the failure of poor investments by a number of  banks, particularly in Britain and America, and a failure by government to properly regulate them.

However, this really does not exculpate the previous Labour government in general, or Gordon Brown in particular, of responsibility for a major share of blame for the recession.

Were Miliband's team hoping that the British electorate had forgotten who introduced the system of bank regulation which was in place at the time the decisions were made which led to the banking crisis?

They probably were, and some people probably had, but here is the answer in two words.

GORDON BROWN.

At almost exactly the time he gave the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England control over interest rates (one of the very few decisions by Gordon Brown which I strongly support) he also decided that, not wanting the Bank to have too much power, it should lose it's powers to regulate the banks.

So the very experienced and effective team at the Bank of England which had done an extremely good job of regulating the banks for decades was disbanded, and a set of new institutions set up.

To what extent the fact that this new system abysmally failed was due to mistakes by the new set of regulators, and to what extent it was due to the steer towards light regulation combined with institutional framework and the set of powers and resources they were given by the UK government (e.g. Gordon Brown) is beyond my expertise to judge. What is not in dispute, and certainly cannot be disputed by the Labour party given their view referred to above that it was the failure of bank regulation and not overspending which caused the crash, is that the system of bank regulation introduced by Gordon Brown was a catastrophic failure.

The recession was of course a global one, and Britain was not the only country which had failed to adequately regulate it's financial institutions, or the only one to suffer the consequences. Even if the British government and British banks had managed everything perfectly we would probably still have been affected, though possibly not as severely. The major part of the debt which results from the bank bailouts would not have been necessary, for a start.

But the British government and British banks did not manage everything perfectly and "it started in America" is up there with "The dog ate my homework" in the litany of pathetic excuses.

Insofar as any one person bears the primary responsibility for the specifically British mistakes which contributed to the crash, the recession, and all the pain which has resulted over the past few years - including the build up of debt and the "austerity" required to bring that under control - that person was Gordon Brown.

It is often said that the careers of chancellors careers end in failure, the rest get out in time. There is a certain amount of poetic justice that the reputation of Gordon Brown's premiership was largely destroyed because the mistakes he had made as chancellor came back to haunt him. What a pity that all the rest of the population of the UK also had to bear the consequences.

Dan Jarvis on Syria

Labour's leader appears to be unable to move out of his 70's hard left revival comfort zone, but there are some opposition MPs who are showing signs that a cross-party consensus may be available to take action against DA'ESH.

Labour MP and former soldier Dan Jarvis has an article in the Guardian, "My five tests for backing military action in Syria" which unlike his party's leader, makes sense. His article begins

"What heightens our grief and horror over the atrocities in Paris is the knowledge that they could easily have happened to us here in the UK. Our country experienced its own pain a few months ago when 30 British holidaymakers were murdered on the beaches of Tunisia. Both were strikes against all decent and civilised people.

  "They underline how Islamic State hates us for who we are, not for what we do. Any idea that these fanatical terrorists will leave us alone if we leave them alone is misguided. We must confront Isis and its poisonous ideology wherever we find them. That’s why I was one of 524 MPs who voted a year ago to support airstrikes targeting Isis’s strongholds in Iraq – at the invitation of the Iraqi government. There is no logic, however, in opposing the jihadists only in Iraq – especially when they do not recognise any border between their bases in Iraq and Syria."

After noting that

"the resolution unanimously agreed at the UN security council on Friday gives us a compelling mandate to act – legally and morally."

Jarvis sets out the basis on which he could support intervention - which appeared reasonable to my non-expert opinion - and concludes

"Much has been said in recent days of the importance of learning the lessons of recent conflicts. As someone who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones, memories weigh heavily on my mind. Of course we must learn from the past, but we must not become prisoners of it either.

"This is a moment when we should put party politics aside in the national interest. We have a duty to stand together and confront as one this common enemy. If the prime minister can show he has a wider strategy to do that, he will have my support."

Quote of the day 25th November 2015



(J.K.Rowling - quote from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone")

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

David Cameron writes



 
At the election, Britain voted for strong leadership, a clear economic plan and a brighter, more secure future – I will not let you down.

 
It is thanks to your support that we are able to put Conservative policies into action: a clear plan to reduce the deficit, lower taxes for hardworking people, strong defence, and dignity and security in old age.
 
In contrast, the Labour Party have moved even further to the left. In just two months they have confirmed that if given the chance to govern again they would borrow more money, spend more on welfare, and even print money to pay for it.
 
Meanwhile, we are getting on with the job of delivering what we said we would do at the election: providing security at every stage of people’s lives.
 
We simply cannot let Labour back into power. Please donate today and let’s protect our country now and into the future.
 
Whatever you give will make a real and lasting difference to our campaign to secure Britain’s future.
With thanks and best wishes,
David Cameron
PS Thank you very much if you have already donated – your contribution will be a huge help to our campaign.

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

The Times repeats the same trick that the Sun pulled yesterday:

Today The Times repeats the same misleading misrepresentation of an opinion poll to give an exaggerated impression of support among British Muslims for DA'ESH, (the so-called "Islamic State,") which The Sun published yesterday.

I suppose we should be grateful that this time the misleading headline appeared on page 11 and not the front page. However, like The Sun, they referred to the results of a Survation polling question which did not mention "ISIS" under that name or "IS," "ISIL," "DA'ESH" or any other of the names by which the organisation has been described, and misrepresented those results as suggesting that nearly a fifth of British Muslims has "sympathy for ISIS", which is not a safe inference from that poll.

It's just possible that the Sun's conduct could have been foolish rather than irresponsible. I can't believe whoever decided to repeat the story in The Times did not see any of the justified criticism which their sister paper's front page attracted. Shame on them.

No apology for repeating the link I used last night to a classic "Yes Prime Minister" clip on exactly this sort of opinion poll trick  ...



No apology either for repeating this graphic which shows how similar the views of British Muslims on the subject are to those of the rest of us:

Quote of the day 24th November

Interview on the Today programme yesterday about Jeremy Corbyn's leadership

Ed Miliband: “I’m not gonna be a back-seat driver.”
Jim Naughtie: “Well having crashed the car it’s difficult to do that.”
Ed Miliband: “Thanks.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Did the Cinemas move the goalposts on the Church of England advert?

Taking this blog and facebook together, the majority of comments here and Facebook to my posts about the Church of England adverts have been from people supportive of the idea of banning political and religious adverts.

Though I am also told that there have been a lot of people including moderate atheists and representatives of other religions who have complained in no uncertain terms about the ban and said that they do not find the banned Church of England advert showing people reading the Lord's Prayer in any way offensive.

Both sides are entitled to their opinion and the cinemas are entitled to set their own policy, but on at least one important point, it is beginning to look very much as though the supporters of the cinema and critics of the Church were wrong on a point of fact, and one of posts on my blog supportive of the advert and against the DCM decision was right.

Several people have said there was a "pre-existing policy" to ban such adverts. Digital Cinema Media (DCM) certainly appeared to give that impression but in fact it would appear that this is not the case.

According to the Daily Telegraph,

"Email correspondence between the Church and DCM shows that in July a member of the company’s sales team offered the Church a 55 per cent discount if they signed a deal for the ad campaign, which it is understood would then have cost in the region of £250,000."

It was only a month later that the Church was told the cinemas could not carry the advertisement after all because they could not “carry any ads of a religious nature”.

The Church of England says that when their Director of Communications asked for a copy of the policy as recently as September 17 he was told by DCM’s finance director that “there is no formal policy document”.

This week DCM were pointing journalists to a policy which is now available on their website, but a company spokesman did not respond to requests from the Daily Telegraph to clarify when the policy had been drawn up.

I do not think Digital Cinema Media come very well out of this affair.

Classic "Yes Prime Minister" - Sir Humphrey on how to rig an opinion poll

Further to my previous post on the poll quoted on the front page of today's Sun newspaper, here is a brilliant piece from "Yes Prime Minister" in which Sir Humphrey demonstrates to Bernard how you get an opinion  poll to give whichever result you want ...



How not to help community relations and the fight against terrorism ...

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with terrorist threats like Al Qaeda and DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") is to effectively get over the message that because these murderous extremists are our enemy does not make ordinary decent Muslims our enemy.

One way to think of this, though the gulf is even wider, is to point out the parallel with the communal violence in Northern Ireland in our recent history. That conflict had a religious element and a political element although it was really a struggle between two communities. But one side was normally identified as Catholic and the other as Protestant.

Just as a few days ago at the Radison Blu in Mali, the Jihadi killers selected some of their potential victims on religions grounds - they asked them to recite the Shahada, a statement of Islamic beliefs, and spared those who could - there were instances during the troubles when gunmen asked people they were holding questions like "Are any of you Catholics?" and it could be fatal to give the wrong answer.

What is truly tragic about both those instances is that in both cases if the killers had tried to understand the religious statements concerned instead of checking whether people could give the right answer, they would not have been killing anybody.

I doubt if any Christians reading this blog would agree that the violence carried out by the IRA, or by so-called "loyalist" terrorists was supported in any way, shape or form in the bible or in the teaching of either the Roman Catholic Church or the protestant churches (whose priests and ministers in both cases regularly and unequivocally begged them to stop their campaigns of violence.)

Similarly, none of my Muslim friends and colleagues, none of the community leaders I have ever met, and none if the Imams, support the Jihadis. The Islamic Community in the West is much vigorous than they are often given credit for in disavowing Jihadi atrocities like the Paris attacks.

I'm afraid the media have a lot to answer for in not giving enough prominence to statements by Islamic citizens and representatives of the Muslim community and churches disavowing the crimes of the so-called "Islamic State" and other Jihadi murderers, and sometimes they are guilty of stoking problems not just by omission but by commission. "The Sun" front page this morning was an example.

Where you often get a contentious headline over a reasonable article, this one was the other way round. The headline reads

"1 in 5 Brit Muslim's sympathy for Jihadis"

which is more than a little inflammatory but the first line of the article was worse: it said

"Nearly one in five British Muslims has some sympathy for those who have fled the UK to fight for IS in Syria."

The reason this was a highly irresponsible things to write is that the opinion poll question which this allegation is based on did not mention IS - under that name or any other.

It asked respondents whether they had any sympathy for Brits who went to fight in Syria but did not specify whether they were talking about people who went to fight for the so-called "Islamic State" or any of the other groups in Syria such as our allies in the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

To avoid any confusion, the British government strongly advises all UK citizens not to go to Syria to join any of the factions there, even our allies, and I share that opinion, and even on the basis of the poll in the Sun this morning, so do more than 80% of British Muslims.

And it is really misleading to write a headline and an article starting with a first line which appears to suggest that a significant proportion of British Muslims sympathise with "IS" Jihadis when the polling question asked could equally have indicated sympathy for people who had gone to fight for one of the non-Jihadi factions in Syria such as the FSA.

The situation in Syria is extremely confused and complex, and there are more than two sides. Both the UK government and most non-Muslim Brits strongly disapprove of Bashir Assad's Syrian government who have used barrel bombs and poison gas against his own citizens.

I am grateful to Mike Smithson for sharing this graphic from Number Cruncher Politics which shows that the opinions of British Muslims quoted in the opinion poll on the front page of this morning's Sun are not very different at all from those of British non-Muslims when asked a similar question:


 
It's a difficult challenge to fight Jihadi extremism while maintaining good community cohesion. A responsible press should be trying to help, not making the problem harder.

Quote of the day 23rd November 2015




Many a true word ...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A summary of how things have been going for Labour ...

Thanks to Robert Barnes for sharing this picture which rather shows how things have been going for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Can they manage an even worse week in the coming seven days than they've had over the last week?

After the Ed stone, the Jez stone !



Brown's poison pills part 4: Tax Credits

Of all the dire legacies which Gordon Brown as Chancellor and then PM left behind, the Tax Credits mess is the most currently controversial, the most difficult and the hardest to resolve.

In theory tax credits would be a good idea if they made it possible to integrate tax and benefits in a way which ensured a seamless progress from receiving state help to paying tax in which the citizen always received an appropriate level of assistance, and which were withdrawn at a consistent and moderate rate as he or she grew better off so that there was always an incentive to earn more.

Unfortunately we are nowhere remotely near being able to implement that in practice and the existing Tax Credits system certainly does not achieve that.

So the problem we have is that people who are doing the right thing and trying to support themselves and their families are being made clients of the state through the tax credits system. Instead of being allowed to be independent they are made to pay tax, and then the government makes a performance of paying it back.

It is a classic example of the worst kind of political activism in which politicians try to make themselves look good in the eyes of the voters by handing their own money back to them as if it was a gift.

This was always going to be a particularly difficult landmine for whoever succeeded Gordon Brown as PM to defuse because the sheer sums of money involved make it very difficult to ignore given the challenge of getting the national finances straight, but the trouble is that the people who get hit if you cut tax credits are the very people - those who are working but on low incomes - who a sensible government would least want to hurt.

Clearly the issue of tax credits will have to be addressed but it has to be done in a way which does not harm the most vulnerable working people. The least worst solution may be to phase in a gradual reduction in tax credits which takes effect sufficiently slowly that the increase in tax thresholds and the impact of the higher minimum wage which the government is also pursuing offset the impact on working people with low incomes of reducing tax credits.

Church of England advert which has been banned from cinemas

In the interests of promoting debate and information, this is the Church of England advert featuring the Lord's prayer which has been banned from cinemas. Apparently the company which manages adverts in cinema has a policy of not running any adverts which feature religious material.

It says something interesting and in my opinion mildly alarming that something like this could be banned as potentially offensive.

And before you ask how I would react if Richard Dawkins' pals produced a cinema advert which in equally polite language argued for atheism - perhaps a cinematic version of the advert they put on the side of buses a while back - my answer is there has to be a level playing field but I would prefer for it to be possible to show either.



Sunday music slot: Bach's "Air on a G string" adapted for boy's voices

A haunting version of JS Bach's air from Suite No 3 in D sung by Libera





Sunday Reflection spot - Peace on Earth

Today is the last Sunday of the church's year. Next week is Advent Sunday which starts the countdown to Christmas - the coming of the Prince of Peace.

And therefore an appropriate time to reflect on how you manage your response to an organisation like DA'ESH or Nazi Germany to which the only response is to fight or to surrender to evil. As Thomas Sowell put it in one of my recent quotes of the day,



I was one of many people who was very impressed with Antoine Leiris's response, repeated below as my quote of the day for today, to the authors of the murderous attack in Paris in which his wife was one of the victims.

Some of the comments, however, when he appeared on Youtube reading it out were less supportive.

My impression is that the people who posted those comments had jumped to the conclusion that, because Leiris refused to respond to the murderous hatred of the murderers of his wife by hating them back, he was therefore not supporting any action being taken against them.

I did not take it that way. The open letter said nothing at all about what France or the West should do about DA'ESH and it neither called for not opposed any particular strategy. He simply said that he was not going to let hate poison his life.

I admire Mr Leiris because if some terrorist follower of a perverted version of any religion, or for that matter a terrorist killing in the name of any perverted political philosophy, were to murder my wife, son or daughter I doubt very much if I could have responded as calmly as he did or resist the temptation to hate those responsible. But although it is necessary to respond, it is not necessary to hate. I'm going to recycle another of my past quotes of the day, this one from Mark Twain:



To me it is perfectly possible to believe that both Thomas Sowell and Mark Twain were right. The fact that you have to defend civilisation and those you love does not mean you have to allow yourself to become ruled by anger and hatred.

As I have previously written, if any of the great powers whose citizens have been slaughtered by the movement which calls itself "Islamic State" shared their total disregard both for the value of human life and for normal limits to acceptable conduct and what other people think, Raqqa and the rest of their so-called Caliphate would now be a dead, radioactive wasteland which glowed in the dark.

I know that Britain, the USA and France have a whole series of safeguards in place to stop any one person, even the head of government, unleashing nuclear fire in a fit of rage or anger, and I presume (and hope!) that the Russian Federation and China have similar checks and balances.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am entirely in favour of the existence of such safeguards and believe that using nuclear weapons to incinerate the territory DA'ESH controls would be a grossly disproportionate response to their crimes because it would kill many thousands of innocent people along with the guilty. I cite the fact that any of the five great powers has the military capability to kill every living thing in the territory of the so-called "Islamic State" but none of them has been stupid or morally bankrupt enough to do such a thing, as evidence of the difference between the butchers of DA'ESH and the civilisations they have attacked, but also as an illustration of how horrendous the conflict could become if we allow ourselves to be blinded by hate and anger.

William Shakespeare once put into the mouths of one of his characters a very disturbing line which encapsulates how the world can become if we give in to those emotions:



We must respond to protect our people from the menace of DA'ESH. I don't see a way to do that without using force, but the West must use that force in a way which minimises the loss of innocent life and the number of fresh martyrs and injustices created. And the strategies we build to defend innocent people must be guided by reason, not the search for vengeance.

Chaos in the Labour party


John Rentoul:
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/jeremy-corbyn-has-had-a-disastrous-week-but-the-labour-leader-will-not-be-easy-to-oust-a6742536.html

Dan Hodges' latest piece on the travails of the Labour Leadership
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/12009705/If-Labour-MPs-dont-do-something-about-Jeremy-Corbyn-the-voters-will.html

They really have not had a good week.

John McDonnell's one-dimensional view of major businesses

Andrew Marr interviewed the real chancellor and shadow chancellor this morning ahead of the autumn statement.

John McDonnell had an interesting and rather one-dimensional view of the largest businesses operating in Britain which I do not recognise.

He criticised George Osborne for reducing Corporation Tax, saying that this will give millions to big business (it is, of course, being done in a way which takes some smaller businesses out of the net and also reduces tax paid by the slightly smaller ones.)

McDonnell did not identify the businesses he was talking about beyond indicating that they were the largest ones, particularly FT top 100 businesses. He appeared to accept Andrew Marr's characterisation that he was talking about businesses like Amazon and Google: whoever he was talking about, he said that the chancellor's corporation tax cuts were giving those companies millions but they were not investing in the UK.

Now of course, reality is much more complex than this. Some large companies pay a lot of corporation tax: some don't. Some large companies are investing billions in Britain: some are not.

But here's the thing. Those companies which arrange their affairs so as to pay very little tax are not the ones which benefit hugely from cutting tax rates: as they are not paying much in the first place there is not much less to pay. The companies which get to keep much more lots of money from the chancellor's corporation tax changes are the ones which have been paying up.

And funnily enough, like the company I work for which pays hundreds of millions in  tax,  they are also often the ones who are spending billions investing in Britain - in BT's case for instance, expanding high speed broadband.

Not everything which big businesses do is right: not everything they do is wrong either. A one-dimensional view of the matter is not how to run a successful global economy.

Quote of the day 22nd November 2015: "You will not have my hatred."

Antoine Leiris, a French journalist whose wife was murdered in Paris in the DA'ESH atrocity, wrote a moving open letter to his killers which includes the following.

“On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.

“I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife is a wound in his heart.

“So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.”

“You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost.

“I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago.

“Of course I am devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will be with us every day and we will find each other in heaven with free souls which you will never have.

“Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back to [my son] who has just woken from his sleep. He is only just 17 months old, he is going to eat his snack just like every other day, then we are going to play like every other day and all his life this little boy will be happy and free. Because you will never have his hatred either.”

Here he reads his open letter.