Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Regeneration ahoy

So David Tennant has announced he'll be leaving Doctor Who after next year's specials. (BBC News: David Tennant quits as Doctor Who) Well it had to happen at some point and by the time we reach the last one he will have been playing the role longer than seven of his predecessors (give or take but I'll leave the debate about how long Sylvester McCoy was in the role to other Who fans).

Doctor Who has always been about more than any individual actor and so has survived such changes before and I have no doubt it will do so again. The idea that the series is so fragile that one wrong move and it will be "Ruined FOREVER" is more laughable today than it has ever been. The series has come a long way, outlasted so much and even converted its greatest enemy. (See Michael Grade admits he was wrong) It has become a modern myth, reinventing itself for each successive generation, and I have no doubt that we will see many further adventures of the Doctor in years, decades and centuries to come.

As for David Tennant himself, he's had a good innings and some of his adventures have been astounding. But as Disraeli once said, it is better to leave people wondering why you did not go on for longer than leave wondering why you did.

Here's to the next Doctor, whoever he or she may be.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The end for elected Mayors?

I've just seen the news that voters in Stoke-on-Trent have voted to end having a directly elected Mayor. (BBC News: City's mayor to go following vote)

Now I don't know much about the politics of Stoke-on-Trent and it seems that they have a unique set-up for running the authority, so this may just be a local matter. But the actual question is interesting:

Are you in favour of the proposal for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be run in a new way, which includes a councillor, who will be elected by the councillors of Stoke-on-Trent to lead the Council and the community which it serves?
Whatever the details this question is effectively describing a standard councillor led system. I wonder what the results would be if Newham held a fresh referendum on whether or not to keep its elected Mayor?

Of other note the turnout was just 19.23%. One has to wonder if there shouldn't be a threshold for referendums that carry major changes.

No end of Liberal leadership elections!

Someone for me to back!It's happened. The Liberal leader has accepted that he will never be Prime Minister and thrown in the towel. Now there's another leadership election on. Already you can hear Lembit Öpik rushing to destroy a candidate by giving them his endorsement.

But Lembit will have to cross an ocean this time. For the resigner is Stéphane Dion, outgoing leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. (Remember my last post Liberal woes?) And the election won't take place until May - and we thought the US left us asking How long do elections last?!

There's more information on that one at Liberal Party of Canada leadership convention, 2009.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Economics, schnomics?

Far too many years ago I took Economics at A-Level. I can't pretend to remember too much from it now, other than the details of the Hogg Cycle, reasons why we should never adopt the Euro, a vague outline of the Keynesian and Monetarist theories and a sense that all economic theories were considered bust and that "muddling along" was about as good a method of economic management as any other. (Oh and that Keynes is pronounced "canes" not "keens", but that was only really useful at the University of Kent where the name one of the colleges is frequently mispronounced.) Ah the 1990s was such an innocent era.

Flash forward many years and we're almost now at the point where arguments about what economic theory of management should be followed are about to become a live political issue again. Alastair Darling, the Minister for Invisibility who is apparently also Chancellor of the Exchequer, has recently praised John Maynard Keynes. So too has the Daily Mail. (ConservativeHome: CentreRight: Daily Mail now calling for Keynesian borrowing-funded tax cuts) And it's even been suggested that "The debate is now between two forms of Keynesianism" so we even see the debate skipped altogether!

It's partially because my business knowledge has rusted that I haven't commented much on the current economic troubles. At times some of the figures quoted have seemed fantastic, whilst the markets all appear to be yo-yoing, changing direction with every government announcement. The main role for government has to be to create the conditions for the markets to strengthen and protect the ordinary public from problems beyond their control. If we had back into too much control and planning in the economy then long term prospects for growth will be stifled, to the detriment of us all.

Debates on economic theory will often go over the heads of many - I still have problems understanding what the US Presidential election of 1896 was about with a battle over the Republicans advocating Gold vs the Democrats advocating Silver (now there's an interesting thought about how to change political colours in the US!) - but can ultimately determine whether there are jobs, whether one can get an essential loan, if one is able to invest and so forth. I hope that the next such debate will come in terms people can understand.

Friday, October 17, 2008

God - a law unto Himself

I've never seen the film The Man Who Sued God but it would seem that former US state senator Ernie Chambers has and has decided to bring a real life case against God 'to prevent the "death, destruction and terrorisation" caused by God'. However the case has been thrown out because God does not have an address and cannot be served noticed of the case. (BBC News: Legal case against God dismissed) Well He is aware of everything, but doesn't exactly interact the way other defendants in lawsuits do. So a judge has ruled that God cannot be sued, and He remains above the law and above us all. Attempts to force Him to conform to mortal procedures and bureaucracy will always fail and rightly so.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The latest attempt to update the links

I'm going to have another bash at clearing up the links on this blog, removing all blogs that haven't been updated in six months, changing to new sites where appropriate and rearranging the sub-headers.

If anyone's blog is currently under the wrong header please leave a comment on this thread and I'll adjust it as I go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yet another Liberal Democrat leadership election

Hordes of MuppetsFor those who just can't get enough of these, another one has started. This time it's for the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats (and, if I understand rule changes correctly, they will automatically be leader in the Welsh Assembly). (Liberal Democrat Voice: Race officially starts for Welsh Lib Dem leadership and Peter Black AM: Mike German stands down as leader) The candidates declared are Kirsty Williams and Jenny Randerson. Whoever wins will succeed Mike German and become the latest in a list of leaders that includes none other than Lembit Öpik.

The next President?!Speaking of Lembit, he's aiming for another position - President of the Liberal Democrats. And despite being the only well known name in the race (the others are Baroness Scott and Chandila Fernando) it's telling that very few people seem willing to support him - see for instance the comments at Peter Black AM: In which I declare my support for Ros Scott - and some are even conspiring to block him, as I previously noted in President Lembit?. Yes the latter plot has been officially denied but remember the Yes Minister adage about that...

So can anyone tell me if any Liberal Democrats have ever stood for anything other than election?

Bye bye forty-two days(?)

I haven't blogged for a while as various other concerns have been occupying my time, but back to the fore with the vote last night in the House of Lords overwhelmingly rejecting the proposals for forty-two days' detention and the subsequent government announcement that they are not going to try to force things through with the Parliament Act. The top politics story on the BBC News website is Davis 'vindicated' over 42 days and indeed he is.

However the reports that the government will not abandon the plan completely but instead keep a one page bill in reserve for emergencies are a little worrying, especially the suggestion that at the time they will declare they could have had the measure in place sooner "but for the unelected Lords". (BBC News: A tactical retreat on 42 days) This is posturing for the sake of it. And the government has been in power for eleven years - it's had all the time it could have wanted to change the composition of the Lords. But on the only actual public test of opinion Labour declined to defend its position (though others stepped forward to the task) and the public overwhelmingly rejected it. On this the Lords have shown themselves more in tune with public opinion than the Commons.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Gordon and Peter - what aren't we being told?

The headline of thelondonpaper tonight reads "Brown: I need you today, oh Mandy". - Westminster Blog: The hatred between Brown and Mandelson reports:
Tom Bower's biography of Gordon Brown (yes it is somewhat sensationalist) described difficult relations between the chancellor and Mr Mandelson: "Their conversations were fraught... Their conversations ranged repeatedly over the same ground: loyalty, dependability and trust. 'I love you, but I can destroy you,' Mandelson frequently screamed, threatening to marshal his black arts against Brown."
It's a story repeated in The Guardian: How the feud between Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson thawed and The Daily Telegraph: Peter Mandelson's rift with Gordon Brown: In quotes.

Now there could be nothing in this. Nor in the past rumours about Brown's sexuality. Nor in the rumours from fifteen years ago about two leading Labour figures being caught in the showers together in the Commons. Nor in much more. It could just be an odd choice of headline. Couldn't it?

There must always be a voice in government singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

The latest piece of news about the reshuffle that I've heard is that the proposal to merge the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into a single "Secretary of State for the Nations" (so those three are and England isn't?!) has been put on hold for the time being. And here's hoping that it stays on hold forever.

Devolution may have reduced some of the workload for the posts, but there is one key role that each holds. They are the voice of the respective nations in government, lobbying for funds, projects and so forth. They are a voice for each at the Cabinet table, ensuring that no part of the United Kingdom is pushed aside to the margins. Under devolution the posts become more, not less, important than before.

A single "Secretary of State for the Nations" would diminish this. It would diminish the voices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in government and set them against each other. The individual appointed would inevitably face accusations of being biased towards their own patch. None would be well served by this arrangement.

The retention of the three separate posts (and, if necessary, their restoration) must be essential in future reshuffles and changes of government.

Devolved power - or half power?

The news of Sir Ian Blair's departure has provoked a political row over who can "hire and fire" the head of the Metropolitan Police. I don't want to rehash the arguments both ways about Blair himself but there are some wider problems.

The biggest problem is that a lot of political power has been devolved (and yes, the Greater London Authority is a form of devolved power even though it is a metropolitan wide authority and not a "regional assembly" of the type devised as a sop to the English question) in a bad manner, with the result that in many areas power is now wielded by a hydra of national and devolved politicians. It's also a poorly kept secret that when the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Greater London Authority were set up the widespread expectation was that they would almost permanently be controlled by Labour politicians and that Westminster-devolved conflicts would be between non-Labour Westminster governments and Labour devolved ones, not the other way round. The result is that the executives have quite significant powers in their own right and are not so vulnerable to the problems of minorities in the assemblies or even an opposition majority as on the London Assembly.

But they are also probe to following a different path from Westminster. Now this is a natural consequence of devolving power and localism (although I wish the UK media would more accurately report the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly rather than just focusing on the supposed benefits of spending, stoking English jealousy). However when there are both local and national concerns - and the Metropolitan Police is not exclusively a police force for London but has various national duties as well. So it's not terribly easy to carve up accountability between the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary. It can work if they're cut from the same political cloth, but when they're not (and this applied as much to Ken Livingstone as to Boris Johnson) then clashes and divided confidence are inevitable. It's not a terribly workable arrangement in the long run.

Is there an obvious solution? It's a lot harder to separate out overlap services than is often thought (a problem that also comes up with Welsh devolution because of large numbers in the borders) or to arrange things so that the same party always controls all the relevant posts (and, as Ken Livingstone demonstrated and Boris Johnson will soon do as well, just being from the same party as the Westminster government does not guarantee unity), especially when so many elections are contested as a chance to make a mid-term protest against the Westminster government. It is often forgotten that the 2004 Mayoral election was the only time a London authority election was won by the party in power at Westminster since 1949. And even that was down to Livingstone returning to Labour rather than running again as an Independent. Whether this pattern will change remains to be seen, but it is not an encouraging precedent. So what is the solution?

All these new names

So far in the reshuffle news I've heard of returns to Cabinet for Peter Mandelson, Nick Brown and Margaret Beckett. So where's the new blood?

So when's the next resignation?

I have just heard the news of Peter Mandelson potentially returning to the Cabinet. (Evening Standard: Mandelson is poised for amazing Cabinet return) Of all the moves that Gordon Brown could have made this is one I don't think anyone could have predicted. Who would have thought he'd want to get back together with him?

Does this mean Gordon Brown is hoping to complete Tony Blair's project and make the Labour Party "learn to love Peter Mandelson"? I am somewhat sceptical of success, though the Prince of Darkness will not be as close to the Prime Minister this time as in the past.

Of course this will mean Peter Mandelson has to resign for the third time in a decade, although for once for political reasons rather than sleaze, but he proved one of the most resignation prone of Blair's ministers. How long will he last this time round?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...