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Lords reform – now where?

July 11, 2012

First the positive bit.  A vote of 462 – 124 in favour of a Bill that has a second chamber predominately elected by a proportional voting system is a major step forward.  This confirms the fact that there is a substantial majority of MPs who favour radical House of Lords reform.

But…the Bill may now be tripped up by petty party political games in the Commons.  The Bill will get nowhere without a timetable for consideration of 60 clauses and 11 schedules.  Rebel backbench Tory MPs colluded with opposition MPs to say that the Bill needed more than the ten days proposed by the government.  But apart from lone Green MP Caroline Lucas, who suggested thirteen days was enough,  none of  them said how long they wanted.  The truth of course, is that opponents really want the Bill to get stuck in the mud of endless filibustering and procedural devices to drag out consideration until the government gets fed up and withdraws the Bill.

The debate over the last couple of  days has shown two things.  First, a large number of Tory MPs oppose an elected second chamber. Some of them say they are in favour of a tidying up exercise, allowing “life” peers to retire.  But their heart is not really in it.  Despite their sabotage of a clear commitment in the Coalition Agreement I am not that angry with Tory coalition colleagues.  The Conservative Party has a long and dishonourable tradition of opposing constitutional reform.  But that’s what the Tory party is for – opposing change.  From 1688 to 2012 it is quite hard for even a constitutional nerd like me to to think of any reform positively supported by Tories.  Only the 1867 Reform Act, giving the vote to male urban heads of household, was promoted by a Tory PM, the politically mercurial Disraeli.  Their opposition to reform earlier in the century caused riots in Bristol in 1831.  They opposed further extensions of the male franchise in 1884 and were the most vociferous enemies of the Suffragettes. The in built Conservative majority in the House of Lords was used to obstruct all sorts of social reform, leading to the Liberal government of Asquith, Lloyd George and Churchill to pass the 1911 Parliament Act, curtailing their Lordships’ power to delay legislation.  In the intervening century it was indeed MacMillan’s government that introduced Life Peers to sit with the dukes and barons. But this reform has not stood the test of time.

But all reformers should be really fed up with Labour.  The Blair government made significant progress on constitutional reform.  Power has been devolved to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London.  PR, albeit the least radical version, was introduced in these devolved assemblies and  for the European Parliament.  But they botched Lords reform in 1999, abolishing the right of many but not all, hereditary peers to sit in the Lords.  In 2007 the Commons voted for a fully elected second chamber but the Brown government left the issue to rot. For Labour, Lords reform should be seen as unfinished business.

I’ve no doubt that most current Labour MPs would prefer an elected second chamber.  So why don’t they want to work with reformers on the government benches?  Is it more important for them to sit back and watch an intra-coalition row?  Or do they want, as Peter Hain has apparently suggested, to gum up government business for months, even if Lords reform dies in the process?

There’s a glimmer of hope, offered by some of the speakers in the debates.  Both David Miliband and Alan Johnson made good speeches in favour of reform, warning their front bench not to squander the best chance in a generation of seeing it achieved.  It must surely be possible for the government and Labour to come to an agreement over the summer, allowing plenty of time for the Bill to be scrutinised.  Some pro reform Labour MPs that I have spoken to say that their price is a referendum.  I’m not afraid of a referendum – the case for an elected second chamber is much easier to make than the case for AV in the Commons.  But if they want a referendum, we need to be clear that they are going to throw their weight behind a Yes campaign.

Those who definitely oppose an elected second chamber think they have now killed the issue.  I think we are far from that position.  It’s clear that most MPs want reform.  And with some grown up political cooperation we can achieve it by next year.

NOTEif you are interested in Lords reform, you may want to read my blog of 28th June 2011, on the day that Parliament first discussed the Coalition Government’s early draft proposals, “Time for a British Senate”

77 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012 8:03 pm

    Good post, Stephen. It is Labour who infuriates me on this issue – why can’t they just stand for reform and just stand for reform?

    We know the Tories’ hearts and minds.

    Thanks for mentioning Caroline’s valuable contribution. What is the Lib Dem position on how long it should be debated?

    • July 11, 2012 8:49 pm

      Thanks. Personally I think ten days is enough – it’s not as if it’s a new issue. Everything that needs to be said has been said many times in the last 101 years since my antecedents started Lords reform! But we need Labour to give a number. If it’s 20 days so be it, worth it to settle this issue at last. At least Caroline made a suggestion.

  2. smoothsilk permalink
    July 11, 2012 8:13 pm

    Thanks for your interesting Blog Stephen.

    There seems to be so many hidden agenda’s judging by the actions of the parties.

    Two thoughts occur to me about the Lords Reform.

    Do we actually need a Second Chamber, as our elected representatives are all in the Commons, working on the Voters behalf. Does it merely complicate things having 2 separate committees, making one decision.

    If we do need a Second Chamber, could not the existing Lords & Ladies, regardless of being hereditary or otherwise be allowed to wither on the vine & new elected ones be created to fill the gaps as they occur. Also the numbers overall to be reduced eventually.

    Either way I am sure it needs reforming to re-gain some respect from the UK Voters in our parliamentary system.

    • July 11, 2012 8:54 pm

      We definitely need a second chamber – the Commons gives us an extremely powerful executive, based on a fraudulent voting system. A second chamber is needed to give time for more reflection on legislation. An elected Lords would be a stronger voice and I think that would be a good thing as the Commons would have to raise its game.

      The Bill as currently drafted basically does what you suggest – phasing in the elected people and phasing out the existing peers over 15 years.

      • August 4, 2012 6:04 pm

        Out of interest, how many days of those 10 were given to debate in the HoC?

      • August 4, 2012 6:35 pm

        waronfreedom – none as yet! The Bill has not entered the Committee Stage as there is no agreement on the number of days.

  3. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    July 12, 2012 12:47 pm

    Hi Stephen. If we had an elected second chamber, which seems the only fair way, how would this be carried out. My concern is it will be a mirror of Parliament. I would like to see people without party connections, perhaps a number without previous political history, but also people with expertize, often missing in our present politicians. Most of all though, people who represent all points of view, sadly missing at the moment.

    • smoothsilk permalink
      July 12, 2012 5:34 pm

      I agree with you Paul, the wider base of experienced persons, from all walks of life, must be a good thing in both Chambers of Parliament.

  4. Steve Way permalink
    July 12, 2012 5:36 pm

    Interesting that no attempt was made to offer the referendum prior to last week. It seems that you were banking on the Tories coming through and neglected to keep a plan b on the table. Also interesting that Laws flatly refused to countenance a referendum on Newsnight. Keep blaming Labour but it appears to me this could have been avoided by seeking a consensus prior to the defeat.

  5. Denis Cooper permalink
    July 13, 2012 12:57 pm

    Here is my quick and simple and inexpensive solution to the present multiple dilemmas, which would restore harmony to the coalition so that it could be a strong and united government focused on the economic problems we face and no longer divided and distracted by this issue, which would provide a reform for the interim that could easily be reversed if on the basis of experience during the trial period the people later voted against it in a referendum, which would make sure that the Tories got the boundary changes they want for the next election, and which (cynically) might also have its attractions for both Tory and LibDem MPs who stand to lose their seats when the sins of Labour are visited on their heads at the next general election.

    First, abandon the present over-complex and contentious Lords reform Bill.

    Second, introduce a much simpler Bill which only arranged that:

    When this Parliament is dissolved, all the present members of the House of Lords are required to take leave of absence for the next two Parliaments.

    The general election is held in the normal away, with each elector having one vote to cast in the normal way, and all the candidates who come second in their constituency polls are summoned to serve in the Lords for the duration of the next Parliament.

    (Present members of the Lords who were keen to continue could find constituencies where they had no chance of winning but a good chance of coming second, and in that event their leave of absence would be cancelled.)

    The same happens at the following general election, by which time constituents have got some idea of how well their own “Second Member of Parliament” has performed, as well as some idea of how well the new system as a whole has worked.

    During that second Parliament there is a referendum to ask the people whether they want to continue with the new system, having seen it in operation for one and a half Parliaments, or they would prefer to revert to the previous system.

    If the referendum approves the new system then a new Bill is passed to confirm its indefinite continuation; if the referendum rejects the new system then all the present members of the Lords are told that they’ll be invited back after the following general election, and as appropriate the existing arrangements are used to replace those who have died, or want to retire for reasons of age or health or loss of interest, etc.

    Otherwise, you might as well forget the whole idea and leave things as they are.

    • July 16, 2012 4:16 pm

      an interesting idea! As we have been discussing Lords reform ever since the temporary 1911 Parliament Act, there are lots of ideas about what we could do. There is very little new to be said on this issue so we don’t need vast amounts of time to rehearse the debates all over again. We just need to get on with it. No solution is perfect but almost anything is better than the current absurd set up.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 2, 2012 3:19 pm

        Why the fashionable assumption that only election confers legitimacy?

        Where does that leave the monarchy, the judiciary, the police, the armed forces, the bishops, the JPs, the lords lieutenant and sheriffs, to say nothing of all those pompous chairmen and members of Parliamentary select committees? And what about the all powerful, invisible, unanswerable cabinet secretary, with the hierarchy of permanent mandarins under him, right down to our very own superannuated Bristol bureaucracy?

        The most glaring unelected power is that of the broadcasters – who are often hereditary and unrepresentative as well.

        I should say it is the elected House of Commons which most urgently needs reform, as it fails to hold the executive to account, and never more so than under the Blair/Brown administration. When it is at its best, as it was during the debate on Lords Reform
        Bill, it is when it follows the manners and independent ways of the Lords.

        The chief function of the Lords is to revise the legislation sent up to it by the Commons, not to “make” it. For this you need patient, elderly, professionally minded people who are past ambition and in nobody’s pocket. Freedom from election and party patronage confers an integrity that is missing in the majority of the members of the Commons, and this integrity is most often to be found in the hereditaries.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 2, 2012 3:25 pm

        PS the surviving hereditaries are now elected after a fashion, which is more than can be said for the likes of Lord Callaghan’s imperious daughter.

  6. Mrs Danuta Kellett and family permalink
    August 2, 2012 5:56 pm

    Thank you for writting to us. This is all very difficult to understand, but it is very interesting.

  7. August 3, 2012 4:39 pm

    “Why the fashionable assumption that only election confers legitimacy?”

    Indeed. When all it takes to get elected is standing for the most popular party in any constituency there is no legitimacy. This is both for FPtP and the list system snuck into the Bill under the pro-electionists’ noses.

    What they don’t realise is that the only practical difference this dog’s dinner of a Bill makes is that appointments will now be proportional.

    It is doubtful even STV confers legitimacy — given that the electorate pay a lot more attention to the likes of Big Brother and X-Factor.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 3, 2012 5:09 pm

      Quite. For me the most acceptable administration is good administration, carried out by those fittest to do it, uncorruptly, economically, and in the national interest.

      I really don’t mind by what historic quirks it is arrived at. Furthermore, historic quirks have a habit of producing desirable checks and balances, and should not be sneered at by would-be rationalists.

    • August 3, 2012 8:28 pm

      Well if you don’t think the legitimacy of election is important, which of the alternatives from Asia and Africa would you prefer?
      The BB and X-Factor point is a silly but oft repeated canard. You can only vote once (as yourself) in an election for the House of Commons. You can vote as many times as you like for these silly “reality tv” programmes. About 27 million people voted in the 2010 general election. Do you really think that many people watch a Channel 4 programme, let alone take part in its votes?

      • rosemary permalink
        August 3, 2012 10:09 pm

        Think about how well administered – and how minimally and uncorruptly – Hong Kong was, when it was ruled direct from London. Think about Kuwait and Qatar. Try to be open-minded about Singapore. These countries are now the future.

        Then look where Western European democracy is heading, as its societies fragment into competing and conflicting communities, crime and unemployment proliferate, terrorism threatens liberties, national identities are lost, and the welfare states and infrastructures collapse. How much longer will they be able to jet in everything they need, from skilled labour to food?

        I would love to say with Churchill that parliamentary democracy is the least bad. But the irresponsibility of the electorates in recent years, and of the political classes which dance to their tune, have left me wondering.

        In the end, every civilization destroys itself from within, and ours is no exception. We have enjoyed good administration in the past, but the state is so huge and out of control now that I doubt anyone can manage its decline democratically. Perhaps we should face up to that and not keep tinkering with the constitution.

  8. August 3, 2012 9:50 pm

    The point is simply this: effectiveness of election depends ENTIRELY on the effectiveness of the electorate.

    STV does not make our EU Parliamentary representatives legitimate. Why should Lords (whether elected for 15 years or a more reasonable 5) be taken any more seriously by the electorate?

    STV would however be a significant improvement on the status quo and it’s always possible that the electorate could learn to take it seriously.

    My solution is to increase the effectiveness of the electorate. Use the jury system to pick 12 random electors, have a judge preside over interviews with the candidates, allow expert witnesses and use STV to elect the cream of the crop.

    In this context, you can expect electors to make a vastly more informed choice. Furthermore, independent applicants will have a level playing field.

    • August 3, 2012 10:13 pm

      Sounds a bit like rotten boroughs pre 1832! But also terribly elitist. When faced with a smoothy chops from a nice private school and a miner – who would they select (not elect) as a result of their interviews?

      And the Euro Parliament electoral system is NOT STV! It’s a closed party list system.

      • August 4, 2012 12:47 am

        “When faced with a smoothy chops from a nice private school and a miner – who would they select (not elect) as a result of their interviews?”

        Such bias, of course, happens to some degree in every election. One difference under my system is that the miner genuinely gets to put (presumably) his case up against everyone else’s. So it works both ways. And peers do need to be able to speak well publicly.

        Unlike elections, under my system voters would be encouraged to call expert witnesses from a list. They might call one who states that the House of Lords has a bias towards privately educated, white, heterosexual males. This would cause voters to favour those who are state educated, black, gay and/or female.

        But the biggest advantage is that a miner who is dissuaded from standing because he doesn’t want to join Labour or any other party, has a fair chance whereas he’d be massively disadvantaged under STV and have absolutely no chance in the open list system currently in the Bill.

        Indeed, because the media don’t report on parties unlikely to win general elections, LibDems would be disadvantaged under an STV system.

  9. August 4, 2012 12:57 am

    The media are talking about the Bill being dropped.

    Rather than this, I suggest the contentious elections bit be dropped (along with the enabling clause). What will then remain is:
    1. Instead of the PM getting the final say on appointments, an independent commission will. The monarchy will be entrusted with ensuring independence. Not ideal but a VAST improvement on status quo.
    2. A reduction to 450 peers from the 830 or so there currently are.

    This will be framed as a step in the right direction. Demand for electing the Lords happened in the absence of LibDem power and with an impotent ERS. It will remain and could be addressed in the 2015 Parliament.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 4, 2012 10:07 am

      I am still seriously worried about the future of the monarchy in a country which, swept along by largely uneducated opinion formers, has made an uneducated decision that heredity is illegitimate.

      • August 4, 2012 11:25 am

        Rosemary – I think we’ve covered this elsewhere before, but this issue is about who makes our laws, not the person who serves as Head of State. I believe that all our law makers should be chosen by the people who have to obey the law. The Queen has no real role in forming legislation.

        I am not a republican while the Queen remains with us but when she is not, there ought to be a national debate on whether we have Charles III. I would probably keep the monarchy, I think Charles would be a good king.

    • August 4, 2012 11:19 am

      waronfreedom – rather depends whether in life you are easily satisfied with minimal, incremental baby steps…or whether you take the opportunity for fundamental change. I guess you’re from the former (Conservative?) viewpoint!

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 12:08 pm

        Dear Stephen

        We have covered this ground before because it is important and I hope you will therefore forgive the repetition.

        The House of Lords does not make the law any more than does the Queen. They are both there with their superior wisdom and experience to help the elected politicians to get things just right. They advise, they counsel, and they warn. The House of Lords also revises. They have no executive power, and all their advice can be ignored by the elected politicians.

      • August 4, 2012 6:39 pm

        Stephen, you know me but it is perhaps more interesting to interact with you as if you don’t. And no, I’m not a Tory.😛

        Making HoL appointments largely independent is no baby step. Having our representatives selected in an informed, unbiased way is the Holy Grail of representative democracy.

        It is the same system as that for the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee — a remarkably successful institution which has removed interest rate cuts as a tool for winning elections and thus flattened the economic cycle.

        The concerns are 1) that the lists given by the PM do not allow the best to be appointed and 2) that a future monarchy might abuse the system.

        However, I would rather all Lords appointed this way than with the party lists election in the current Bill. Electoral systems do not change very often and we would probably be stuck with it.

  10. rosemary permalink
    August 4, 2012 3:21 pm

    “Please Note: Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    This, for me unprecedented, has been attached to a post on FGM and the unlikelihood of an elected politician speaking out freely against it.

    Bristol, European Capital of Cruelty to Girls, once had a fearless MP called Edmund Burke – in the days when the franchise was vey much smaller. He would probably be able to explain more eloquently why the electoral process has unintended consequences and should therefore not be the sole means of deciding who runs the country.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 4, 2012 3:51 pm

      In the most recent parliamentary debate on this subject, it looks as if only the Minister for Equalities, who was really obliged to be present, took proper note of what the lone conservative MP said on this. Do please correct me if I am wrong, Stephen. I would be glad to have got this wrong. Her main response was:

      “Although there is not much time left before the summer holidays, I will encourage all MPs to write to their local schools, raising this issue and pointing out that schools should look for signs of potential risk, especially at this time of year.”

      Is this the best the elected chamber can come up with?

      The school summer holidays are in fact the time during which thousands of girls in the UK are most at risk, so this is not the time for this matter to be pushed under the moderating carpet.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 4:59 pm

        PS I see on looking again at Hansard that there appears to have been another Conservative MP who contributed to the discussion. Were there really only 2 Conservative backbenchers and one Liberal Democrat minister taking part?

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 5:55 pm

        In the House of Lords they are less coy about this subject. The peer who has been most active against it would be most unlikely to stand for election, and is also the biggest private donor to her party’s funds. Just the sort of person the proposed reforms would remove.

    • August 4, 2012 6:26 pm

      I removed it because FGM is obviously an area of enormous sensitivity. It has absolutely nothing to do with Lords reform and you made a speculative (and totally wrong) assumption about my record. Edmund Burke had to deal with a limited pre 1832 franchise of city freemen and property owners, all men, all white and probably all Christian. I have about 120,000 people of all races and religions to represent. If you want to know about FGM, mail me.

      As to the more general point you have made here about elected politicians not speaking out on FGM – you clearly haven’t been following the issue as my colleague Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister, who has been more vocal than any minister from previous govt. Without the date I can’t easily check your comment about Hansard, but it sounds like a question, not a debate. Lynne also took part in a Newsnight special on the issue about 2 weeks ago, which included women from Bristol with whom I have been in correspondence and am meeting at my advice surgery. I have also met with women campaigning against forced marriages.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 7:28 pm

        Thank you for replying, Stephen. The contrast you draw between your and Burke’s electorates confirms the predicament I suggested modern elected politicians are in.

        The remark you removed was not speculation, or wrong assumption, but simple observation: I observed that the original point I made under your EU post had been left unanswered by you. I added that this was understandable, I didn’t blame you for it, and that you were not alone.

        The fact that the Peers feel less inhibited from dicussing FGM than the Commons has everything to do with moving to an elected House of Lords. I am sorry you have missed the point and instead taken it as a personal criticism.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 8:27 pm

        Here is a link to the contributions of those 3 brave women in the House of Commons:

        http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-07-05a.1180.0

      • August 4, 2012 8:27 pm

        Rosemary – I hadn’t seen your comment on the EU article. I have now looked for it and commented. Hopefully, you will find the statement there emphatic enough! There are lots of comments on various articles and I sometimes miss some…

        Re Hansard – Thanks for the link. It’s a half hour adjournment debate. Usually the MP who is raising an issue and the Minister who responds. This is normal procedure. It in no way means other MPs are indifferent to the issue.

        Can we get back to Lords reform in these comments now please?

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 8:43 pm

        I wasn’t suggesting indifference, but fear. Your removing the remark so speedily appeared to confirm that.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 4, 2012 10:29 pm

        I thought I was discussing Lords Reform with you.

        A further disqualifying characteristic of the fearless and independent-minded Lady Rendell, who is rich and successful enough to be in nobody’s pocket, is that besides being a lavish party donor, she is also rather old. Booting her out on both counts won’t end her career, but it would be a great loss to the upper house.

        There are many other such valuable peers, most of them, but not all, rather old, who would be despatched under the proposed reforms; and none of them would stand for election – or be returned.

        On your point about discussing whether or not to have Charles III – or whatever name he takes on accession, should he survive the Queen – do you not think it would be destabilising? The death of the Queen will be traumatic enough for the country, and to propose a discussion on possibly changing to an elected politician as head of state in its wake would not I think be wise.

        Monarchies have a unifying, stabilising effect on their countries on the whole, and this was well understood by the republican Americans when they retained the Imperial Family while reconstructing Japan after the war.

  11. rosemary permalink
    August 7, 2012 6:02 am

    Perhaps the most valuable peer of all is the crossbencher Lord Armstrong, the last properly behaved cabinet secretary. Together with the Queen, he is one of the very few remaining formidable individuals who still understands how everything works. Our ancient and liberty-preserving constitution is a bit like the Eastern Question in that respect. Even if he is booted out (he was born in 1927) any would-be statesman should be dining with him once a week. If Messrs Clegg and Hughes had taken that precaution, they would not be making such a sorry spectacle of themselves now.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 7, 2012 6:18 am

      Or was it the Schleswig-Holstein Question, Stephen? I have forgotten!

      • August 7, 2012 10:05 am

        Well at least you’re not “mad” or “dead”! From your trenchant comments I always had you down as a Palmerston, so “forgotten” is about right…

      • rosemary permalink
        August 7, 2012 12:46 pm

        Well, he wore makeup, and cried. But there the comparison must end.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 9, 2012 9:03 am

        By which I mean he wore stays and stockings and I don’t. And I haven’t been cited for adultery in my dotage.

  12. Crow permalink
    August 7, 2012 9:14 pm

    Time to break the coalition now. How much longer must the Liberals be reamed out in public before a bit of resistance begins. If you ride with the devil, the only reason to wait until the end is to be virtually massless when he throws you from his horse, but by then you’re already dead, sans soul, so saving pain is saving nothing. Get off while you have something, ANYTHING, to defend. They have all but used you up, you might at least jump now, before you are pushed. You don’t have long now to do it.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 8, 2012 7:28 pm

      I am not a party person myself, though I think of myself as a liberal.

      I think the Liberal Democrats would do well to stay in the Coalition until they have achieved what they and the Conservatives set out together to do for the country. That way they will win our respect and our gratitude. Undermining the coalition with immature pique won’t.

      They had always said coalitions are the way to go. Surely they must have realized what coalition is like in practice – if they were that interested in it as a principle?

      • Crow permalink
        August 8, 2012 11:34 pm

        Immature fit of pique? You’re as quick to judge with reckless prejudice as any, so I suggest you stop and look at some facts. Most of the undermining of communities in this nation occurred under Tory rule, where several groups, miners, travellers, and maybe others I don’t know of, were physically beaten into submission. This isn’t a party thing, at least not of my making. I was a child then, and saw some of it, and you do not blame the children for the acts of the adults before them. I think you want to steer some naive middle ground, in wilfull ignorance of some truly disturbing erosions of liberty, and also of distortions of truth, like those smears the Tories made of Labour, when the whole world economy went into recession. This wasn’t a thing Labour made, regardless of how they handled it. Don’t be too fast to ‘respect’ the Tories! Don’t ignore some brutal realities in the name of the Holy Coalition. Many people rightly got a sinking feeling that day the decision was made, and many dreads have turned into real life for many, and things are NOT getting better, are they?

        A better move would have been to recognise Labour’s efforts to spread the wealth a bit, despite the misguided spending spree that resulted, tell them to get right back on the horse and ride with some restraint, as a liberal and labour alliance, which at least had some precedent to learn from. Instead of assuming some ultra-mature moral high ground, and attempting to dismiss me as a fool, I think you should be considering the possibility that you were wrong! It is this kind of complancency on the part of Liberals that has resulted in them being used as sock puppets. I should say ‘us’, because until recently I voted Liberal too, but right now things are serious, revolutions have exploded out of less trouble than we’re in now, so start THINKING, instead of assuming you’re comfortably right. That’s a dangerous attitude, and an unhelpful one. Better a bit of honest angst than that..

      • Crow permalink
        August 9, 2012 12:19 am

        Some more to think about… I am not lashing out like someone shouting from the rooftops at every chance that arises. I always thought this coalition was a bad move, but rarely make public statements about it, the idea of coalition is great, better than that a majority by a dangerous single party. The question is WHAT coalition?

        If the Tories undermine the Liberals any more. (Yes, do NOT blame me for that, if the coalition can be undermined by my utterances then it really IS too weak to survive. My point is that this isn’t about party politics, at root, and there we maybe have some common thinking ground. What matters to me is that the political ground of the entire nation has been driven very right wing, from the moment Thatcher got power, and Labour’s biggest error was in failing to properly correct this. Never mind ‘growth’, that’s just the prize, we should have stopped worrying about that long ago and started watching the ball! Fortunately for us, France, where the risk is even greater, realised this and voted in a socialist. It doesn’t matter that he is a socialist, as such, what matters is that he is France’s safety net, it prevented a very dangerous right wing surge. Their voters it seems are wiser than ours! The Tory back benchers (more than enough of them, at any rate), want to push for some very illiberal restrictions on national life, a winner takes all state, that takes from the rest, then does nothing to defend them. They act as if they want a human cull, in some indeterminate future time, and want to build their castles against what happens to the rest. Labour talked of restrictions like ID cards and such, but in reality left us with more freedom, perhaps too much given how we spent it. The Tories may talk of freedom, but look at what they do, not at what they say. Their ‘Big Society’ is like turning out people’s [pockets, pushing them into the wilderness, and saying ‘go forth and multiply’, and then taking credit for bringing about a change in social life. They are more intent on supporting only those they consider worthy, and they are predators, more than helpers. If they render the Liberals any more irrelevant than they are now, the public might be bamboozled into voting for them as a single party, hoping that by sitting under the wing of a predator, they themselves may somehow be safer. Where then is your precious coalition? The Tories are striving to take power from all. If the Liberals cannot resist that, then our best hope is to do what France did, and make a strong surge to the political left by choosing whoever represents it. As in many things, a balance is in danger of being lost, and England seems to be making mistakes instead of reacting accordingly, as France is, and no doubt this risk of serious instability may also be behind Scotland’s drive to get unhitched from our fate as swiftly as possible, too.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 9, 2012 9:17 am

        I hope you didn’t think, Crow, that “immature pique” referred to your thoughtful comments? A lot more for us to think about here.

        Actually, I think Mr Clegg and Mr Browne are faking their immature pique. Mr Hughes too, but in a different way, and with a different intention. It is conference time, and the boundaries business is a whole year off.

  13. Crow permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:11 am

    I did, because I was already annoyed with the whole doings and my annoyance probably looks like pique.. Never mind though, my misreaction helped me to think, goaded me to write what I usually keep to myself. My own efforts, such as walking for years where others drive, putting up solar panels in a St Pauls back yard, seem so futile, but we’re in a world where people seem eager to shout ‘we want beans’ and deride those who put their few beans into the dirt to grow. There are few frustrations greater than seeing this and not having any way to make it mean anything as it should.

    Anyway, my troubles aside, I’m wondering if there is any way that the coalition may be broken without what looks like animosity or sour grapes, especially given that if the only way to stop the Tories acting as if they have a majority rule is to do exactly that, no matter how it looks. I imagine the Liberal leadership is concerned that to do it makes them look bad, and that the voters will go to the Tories anyway. I suspect this won’t happen, we’d more likely get another hung parliament and a shot at a different coalition. Whether the Liberals would be in any position to make a deal as before is anyone’s guess. I doubt it though, I think it would be a more even split between the two main parties, or perhaps if enough people recognise what France did, Labour will get in, but not with enough clout to be anything more than a true administration, they won’t have a blank cheque for reforming zeal like last time. Right now I think reforming zeal is way to dangerous, too destabilising. What we need to do is build things, no matter how costly it is. Give the farmers a break, and assistance to cope with changing climate. Forget about ‘growth’ and go for stability and adaptation. Make sure that as in old feudal days, ‘noblesse’ actually ‘obliges’. Coherence of the nation will depend on more than a few well-earned medals. If the ship is sinking, and the crew is hungry, we should be pumping, not throwing pumps overboard to lose weight. The Torie’s cuts are very much the latter course. They deride ‘borrowing’ but that’s what people DO, in emergencies! The real question is: what do we do with the money? I imagine that most of the country is now aware that we’re in dire trouble, and should now be trusted to use it wisely. I still see people outside bars in Clifton as I walk by to go running at Ashton Court, sitting drinking under patio heaters on cool evenings, but I have managed to reign in some of my contempt and imagine that maybe they’re not all fools profligately swilling cocktails on the deck of the Titanic instead of paying to help pump water out, or at least save the energy they waste so that others may use it better. Anyway, to end it, what I worry about is that given that the thinking of the nation, and my own, is so flawed that moments of lucidity are the best we can hope for, we may fail outright to solve this, ever. Maybe what we need isn’t a democracy, but a meritocracy based on well regulated engineering. Efficiency drives still leave some room for fun. But that’s only if we can co-operate instead of turning one group against another, as the Tories seem to do so well. If socialism is the price of some honest co-operation, bring it on… Whatever it takes.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 11:01 am

      Crow, I would say to you, if you will forgive the impertinence,
      carry on with your responsible behaviour. Go on walking everywhere. Persuade your motoring friends and relations to cycle rather than drive. Keep preaching the benefits of a solar panel in times of inflation and falling incomes. Tell people about heat pumps too. Carry on not having the heating on, and turning down the temperature of the hot water. Carry on composting. Carry on recycling. Keep on picking up other people’s rubbish, and tidying away their bins. Go to meetings and urge others to do likewise. Clean off the graffiti that disfigures and ghettoises your beautiful and historic neighbourhood. Do a bit of guerilla gardening as well as litter picking. Tell the officers and managers in the Council departments, and your councillors, that you are doing all this for nothing, and won’t be getting an inflation-proofed pension at the end of it. Keep on buying organic food. Eat less of it than you would supermarket food to save the extra spending, because you need less. It goes further.

      Wear blinkers and a clothes peg over your nose when going past the carousing and smoking youth. But carry on clearing up their cigarette ends, and their broken glass and vomit.

      If just one young boy joins you in your healthy and helpful activities, then you have scored. If not, then no matter. You will feel better for the exercise, and far less frustrated.

      If you wait for the politicians to sort it all out, you will go mad.

      All we can do is to improve our own little patch, our own little environment, in whatever way we can. We can’t save the world. Worse, every time we blog, we are contributing to yet more gobbling up of virgin land by giant polluting sheds in the American wilderness, and boosting their energy consumption. So really we should stick to reading Candide in hard copy, and acting according to its moral: “One should cultivate one’s own garden.” But that is hard to do exclusively when we like engaging with other people.

      When it comes to voting, this is so complex – I mean how people come to choose who they think is the least awful – that I will just say to you that if the Coalition fails, I expect a majority Labour government next time, and therefore no constitutional change – other than one which guarantees permanent majority Labour rule. The Liberal dream of for ever wagging the dog will be over.

      But do vote, Crow, whenever you are entitled to.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 11:18 am

        PS I expect majority Labour government because of the electoral swings that will take place in unreformed constituencies. There is already a built in Labour bias, because the Boundary Commission has only ever been able, according to its rules laid down by Parliament, to address well known predicted demographic shifts in retrospect, not in educated anticipation. Under Blair, Mandelson, and Brown, this bias got worse, because they chose to make it so, and who would expect otherwise? Ed Miliband will be no less unscrupulous – if you think about how he came to be leader. But in the meantime he will be honey sweet to the straying Liberals.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 11:33 am

        PPS on growth: I don’t like it, and don’t see why we always have to have it. Nature always dies back, before growing again, and so does the economic cycle. And the land is finite, then so should the development be. But if the politicians wantonly import millions of extra people to get cheap and compliant labour in the short term, no nmatter what the social and environmental consequences 3 or 4 generations on, then we are going to need their beloved growth, with all its attendant pollution and ugliness, to stay a democracy.

      • Crow permalink
        August 10, 2012 11:36 am

        I’m too much of a recluse for most of that, but I agree, keeping our own patch in order counts for a lot. I managed to restrain a bit of excess in a neighbour by politely returning a used syringe I found in my garden, and the rot seems to have stopped, maybe because I told him that the last outbreak was ended by some gang-related attack that involved a shotgun blast through an upstairs front door. Information like that tends to make people wary of drawing the lightning by their own reckless actions. But this is why I don’t make a large effort. Here, it seems that the moment there is any real need, the risks are great, and the support very low. It’s like a long chess game where the few moves made are those that prevent the need for other risky moves.

        Re politicians, it’s not so much the sorting out I want, because that’s exactly the reforming zeal that causes so much bother in the end. All I really want is to be left alone. I have already chosen my limits, well before the current crisese compelled most to even begin to accept that they themselves might have to limit. All I want is not to be further punished. If the Tory dream of winner takes all becomes a dominant norm, then there will be a lot more elderly people fearful of dying alone in their own shit. I know that’s a distasteful phrase, but that’s pretty much what at least two have said, on Radio 4 at one time or another in the last year. Given that privatised ‘services’ seem to be where this kind of neglect and abuse tends to grow unseen like something nasty under a stone, this IS something politicians can do, all it takes is some honest administration, spread the load, don’t make people suffer in secret so much. This is why the Tories divide-and-rule politics is so corrosive, it encourages that the way months of rain encourage slugs, and very poor harvests. Too much sun might equally be analogised by too much wealth spread to all, and a resulting drought. Either way is bad, we need a balance, and a political administration is what is best able to manage that. It’s either that or the scientists and engineers and farmers. Even they need some co-ordination because they can’t be all things at once. They all recognise some need to centrally manage things like distribution of supplies and products. We’ve seen that business divorced real values from money, and we’d now be better off trying to figure out ways to use the SI units (those that measure storage, anyway) as a unit of international currency! Maybe science will bring this about in the end, with or without politicians, because it may be the only way to make money ‘real’ again, and fit to be trusted. But we need the politicians. Not just them, every large institution that locks antlers in diplomatic engagement leaves us that bit more real freedom to live. The danger right now is that if the nation gets any more right wing, the stability of that entire state my collapse suddenly. This is what France feared, rightly, hence it voted left. We can all do our small bit, but it won’t help a lot if we ignore the bigger details, because if we lose that, we get swept away like ants in a flood.

        Politics should be like a science, but one that specialises in generality, a rare thing these days in science. That fact alone might partly explain why valuations such as money have become so unreal, and dangerously flawed. The LAST thing we need is further exploitation of that scary mess, which is why I think the Tories are so damaging. They will exploit it far more than they’ll help. They live for their internal connections, but deny those connections to all outside, to the point where the moment they do it by taking money outside the nation and hiding it (apparently 21 TRILLION dollars or so has been amassed in this way by various rich people worldwide), they might be validly accused of treason given the damaging effects of this on the nations they claim to serve. We can leave these imaginary cases of treason to some imaginary court in the sky, but we DO need out politicians to stop this damage getting any worse. Blaming the sins of the rich on the poor is a baseless and debased thing that can only cause mass dissent that is already strong, and will only grow if nothing is done.

      • Crow permalink
        August 10, 2012 11:50 am

        On ‘growth’, I agree with you, renewal isn’t some idle hippy dream, lost to all but 60’s fashion victims, it’s real, primal, and as any scientist knows, scales easily to use available space whether that space itself shrinks or grows. ‘Growth’ as politicians and economists sell it to us, is a fashion not that much older, I think maybe a little after the turn of the last century. It seems that every refreshing new word gets soured and rejected by over-use in public discourse, but however we put it, we need to let stuff go when we don’t need it. It’s easy to want to hoard stuff against predation and loss, but when the rich do it, what’s their excuse? Sure, we are all subject to loss, and fear of it, but where’s their sense of perspective?! They urge us to get one, to accept less, and the only way that’s going to work is if they go FIRST, as this is what leadership means. Monkey see, monkey do…🙂

        Now I’m not suggesting that all politicians are rich, I don’t think Stephen is for a start, but if you’re going to be a politician. you might start by speaking truth to power. Good careers have been built on that.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 12:47 pm

        I was going to add a PPPS: that you might tell your councillors, and the officers and police, that you don’t like their espousing “street art”, which is spreading like a cancer across the city, and says to us all: the council and the police are too spineless to stop this aggressive gang behaviour which tells the rest of us in the ghetto: this patch is ours, a no-go area. We rule it, first with our fists and our boots, then with our knives, and now with our guns. With our firebombs too. Carbombs will be next.

        What you say about the rich, etc is part of that very complex thing I touched on earlier, when mentioning how people vote personally, and what makes them choose the candidate they choose.

        For me, a rich politician like Boris, who arrests degradation in a city – he outlawed drinking on the London tube for example in his very first week as mayor though everyone said he wouldn’t be able to stop it in practice – is preferable to a poor one who wrings his hands in impotence.

        We can all speak truth to power; we don’t need poor politicians to do that for us. The ones which have the power, whether elected or not, are the ones who can make the big changes, and we should be writing to them, not in pre-fabricated emails and PCs, but in our own words.

        Stephen has it in his power to help stop the Coalition breaking up, and to insist the crippling debt comes first; but you may not agree that is what he should be doing.

  14. Crow permalink
    August 10, 2012 1:38 pm

    Debt should be quantified properly. I remember a BBC web page that showed broad curved arrows between nations, arrayed on a circular diagram. I forget the details, but I saw stuff like the US owing the UK, and vice versa. The general take on this seems to be that if one state owes 4 units to another, and that other owes 5 units to the first, then there are 9 units of debt there. This is hard to accept when there is really only one unit, the other four being effectively owed internally by part of one state to another part of itself. People might more easily accept what they’re told about debts and deficits when this is properly handled. If nations react with protectionism everyone loses, and they’ll have to settle it internally anyway, so they might as well come clean about it to start with. If state B settles its 4 unit internal debt, no doubt state A will be entirely willing and grateful and hand over its remaining 1 unit payment because this is fair, it never really owed 5 units to the other state. But to do this means that one rich entity in state B is going to have to hand over those 4 units to a less rich entity in its own state! Question is: are they willing to do that? This is why I think it’s important that the rich go first in this matter, as they are the ones most able to take the strain. And it will then be that much harder for others to justify doing nothing.

    About street art, it varies a lot. Some is great, I like the ‘Telepathic Heights’ building, and purple and gold one in Jamaica Street, and the red and white and black one of some Doctor Seuss type characters eyeballing the sky through some wonky telescope is awesome, makes me feel a bit better every time I see it. But there are limits, I don’t like long meaningless stretches of ugly turf-marking. There was some big mural in Ashton Court that I might have liked but not there. I can see more than I want to see just walking out of St. Pauls, once I get to Ashton Court I want to see hills, grass, trees, etc. But even the mural I could live with if the choice had been between the effects of common ownership, and some gated community being built there on land taken from the public and sold to the rich. For a while I think there was a serious risk of that loss, but fortunately the lottery, while I don’t like it or use it, has granted some tenure for public ownership and access there. I’d like at least one less golf course up there if I had my way, but if that’s the price of open access then I’ll live with it.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 5:15 pm

      Good evening, Crow. The thing I worry about internationally is not so much the debt handling that you describe, as the race to the bottom in lowering interest rates and debasing the currency. This means no-one is going to save any more. Their savings are just wiped out – by inflation and no returns, and any remaining stability, civic trust, and long term planning, will go out of the window. John Humphrys said he couldnt’t see why this was a problem – if people have money in the bank, they have nothing to worry about; they must be rich, he argued, so, without actually sayiang so, he implied savers are the enemy and deserve all that is coming to them. Only an-out-of touch, over-remunerated, inflation-proofed media chieftain with life tenure and all expenses paid opportunities for world travel, could come out with that one!

      On graffiti and “street art”, I suppose there is a difference (as with so much else) between the sexes. Have you ever come across a girl spraying a wall or door, however “artistically”? Human males do it in the same spirit that male animals spray things – to mark their territory. This is exactly what we women object to, just as we object to the stinking real thing when it is done after a few pints.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 5:21 pm

        PS I got hit by a golf ball up there, but it wasn’t as bad as when I was hit by a car.

  15. Crow permalink
    August 10, 2012 5:42 pm

    Ouch, to put it mildly.. I have escaped both, bar one near-miss of a tyre across the back of a boot, with only a bit of abrasion and contusion where there might easily have been an amputated foot. In that regard I know when I’m well off, I’ve been very lucky in encounters with vehicles and fast objects.

    About the race to the bottom, agreed, in all its forms. No matter which party does it, this is the thing we have to avoid. If any minister whose policy were to lower the baseline for all, was then made to pay the price by being compelled to live at the new low he created for so many, it would soon stop happening!🙂

    Got to stop here, I begin to wonder if I may be abusing Stephen William’s hospitality…

    I’ll end with just one point, to close the circle and end up where I came it:
    I think that so long as the coalition is such that the Liberals are like graphite moderators in a reactor, then great, let it continue, but if their role ceases to be like a moderator or catalyst, if they begin to be used up in the reaction, as I think is really happening, then the Tories become dangerous, dictating terms with no mandate to do so. If this is to be stopped, then the coalition must also be called to an end, and a new election held. Never mind who we agree with politically, this is the only fair conclusion. If the Liberals really are being pushed into accepting things that were not on the table, they should blow the whistle loudly, call time, then stand clear to let the public decide.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 6:03 pm

      I’m sure if Stephen didn’t like political discussion amongst his constituents on his constituency blog, he’d say so. No-one else has to read it, and they can just read the bits they want to read, when they do. It is all clearly arranged for finding what one is interested in.

      I have never seen the Liberals as a moderating influence on the Coalition, but rather as a constituent part of it, a joint force, albeit a minor one, to tackle the country’s dire problems left by the last government. Although they are the minor part, they have more ministerial positons proportionally speaking, and this has made real diifuculty for the PM. He has nothing to offer his much more numerous backbenchers but blood, sweat, and tears, figuratively speaking. He can’t sack them when they rebel, because he hasn’t given them jobs in the first place. This needs to be recognized.

      It isn’t popular work for either party, and it wasn’t ever going to be. So much easier to be generous with other people’s money, including the money of future generations, and bribe the electorate without a thought for the consequences.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 6:15 pm

        A point I should like to finish on is yours: things aren’t getting any better.

        I never expected them to, and nor should anyone else. The politicians of yesteryear have made our bed and we must lie in it – together with all the new arrivals and their descendants.

      • Crow permalink
        August 10, 2012 7:18 pm

        My dad was born in 1909, and while he was alive, for as long as I could remember, he voted Liberal. The Liberals really did have a moderating influence. For a long time the other parties were basically about the working class, and the ruling class, with little to unify them. The Liberals managed to span that gap to a large extent, and despite not having power for decades, have influenced the moderation of both the other parties, and national life in general, for the last few decades. In short, they ARE a moderating influence, and if they squander that in their pursuit of some persistent place at the side of either party, they may lose that. This may be the main flaw if the ‘Lib/Lab pact’, and it certainly won’t help if they can’t keep their independent vision alive now. It’s never been more important.

      • August 10, 2012 10:42 pm

        Rosemary and Crow – I am delighted that people use my blog to debate issues with each other as well as raise points with me! I read everyone’s comments but don’t react to each point. Sometimes the debate just takes on a life of its own.

  16. Crow permalink
    August 10, 2012 7:03 pm

    Well, to get better just by reducing debt, I don’t expect things to get better either, it takes building and extra food growing to do that, none of which can come fast. I think that creating real stuff to answer real needs is the safest answer to these problems, and saving money become faster than if saving alone were the goal. Either way, slowing down is good, it gives time to think, and time for plants and animals around us to recover. No matter how we slice up the detail, it comes down to a choice of two options: we co-operate to preserve an increasing base level of quality of life worldwide, or we compete to win and eradicate all threat to our choice. As far as I’m concerned, those who take the second choice should be compelled to die by the sword they live by. In the past that may have happened more often than not, but the cannon fodder, the drones, the death by proxy, these seem to be a newer method than the other, older ways of war and division of territory. Economics seems to have become yet another proxy for war, in which the victor claims the spoils, and the first casualty is truth. If people didn’t think that somehow the enemy wasn’t going to come for them, they wouldn’t be so willing to risk allowing ruthless imposition to be placed on others. Always the debtors, the poor, the travellers, immigrants, the disabled, the jobless, just as once it was the Jews and the blacks. If we don’t fit the role of the despised, are we to feel safe? Very bad idea. I chose not to take that line not because I am some enlightened citizen, but because I really can’t see what separates me from all those others, and I don’t intend to become a victim of someone else’s convenience. I saw this kind of ruthlessness inflicted on many by the Tories, and not by Labour. They all seem to break promises, but I never saw Labour do anything like the systematic cruelty that I have seen done under Tory rule. It’s easy to argue that they were profligate with leniency, but that beats cruelty, every time.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 8:34 pm

      My family have always been liberals too, Crow. My grandmother would vote nothing else. She would explain it thus: “They used to be a very great party. They aren’t any more, but I still vote for them because of what they used to stand for.” She was loyal, my Grannie, and she had her principles, if not much money.

      On reflection, the Liberals, besides having the best name, are the party most associated with unrestrained growth. Conservatives in the past hated growth, and tried to stop it. But they couldn’t, just as they can’t start it now they want to start it. Liberals were proud of growth, and identified themselves with it. They saw themselves as the modern, middle class party of industry and manufacture. Mrs Thatcher wasn’t a Conservative; she was a radical forward looking Gladstonian Liberal, governing in unhappy coalition with patrician Conservatives who restrained her in what she wished to achieve – including social and other reform. She only achieved what they agreed with: the end of the Cold War, the defeat of the unions, and ultimately, after a long battle in cabinet and the country, the defeat of inflation – but that last was only temporary, because Lawson let it back in again, and that was why the coalition finally broke asunder – over their disagreement on his shadowing of the D Mark, the forerunner to the policy of espousing the single currency. She was ultimately dumped by the Conservatives, chiefly over the EU; just as Lloyd George was dumped when he was in coalition with them, and in the same cowardly conspiratorial way – when she was at the height of her national and international stature, and they were thinking of their seats, as well as the EU. From your previous comments I don’t expect you to agree with much of this!

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 9:28 pm

        I left out the sale of council houses – a massive redistribution of wealth, the like of which has never been seen in this country, before or since – and various denationalisations. The deregulation of various areas of national life too.

      • Crow permalink
        August 10, 2012 10:31 pm

        Got to admit that’;s interesting.. I knew that ‘conservative’ meant something, but like something in physics, we need to look carefully to see whether a thing that looks different really is so. The Liberals, as I said, helped span the gap between workers and the wealthy landowners. They wanted growth as a means to help social mobility. It’s not needed though, it can happen anyway, if resources are not hoarded mercilessly as they have been for centuries. Originally, the wealthy recognised that poor people living on their lands made everyone safer. They didn’t dictate who worked, or even if anyone did, it was assumed that the land provided enough for those who would take what they needed, and no more. In turn for that improved life, those people would defend the landowner in times of trouble. This old ;feudal’ way worked, for all its flaws, and arguably those old landowners were so willing to share the wealth that many of them lost all their money and houses, and remnants are seen now in the House of Lords defending the lives of others as much as their own while a new class of greedy rich take all they can get caring nothing for the rest of us, perhaps imagining that they can buy all the machines they need to do the work when they can no longer find people willing to work for the rates they’ll pay. No wonder they’re turning to ‘outsourcing; in India! Not much left to turn to after that, so perhaps the rot will stop when they realise no-one will take their money, and would rather find their own way in a limited world. We;re far from a natural resolution to that problem, but ‘market forces’ sure as hell won’t be the fix. NEED will be, somehow, but not want.

        I suspect the Conservatives didn’t want growth because they saw it a a means to undermine their power, as it favoured a ‘middle class’. Once the Conservatives (Tories, I use the words interchangeably) had seized control of it, they played a very different tune! Now it has become a means by which the rich can skim cream off the top of a mass of working people. No wonder they want us all to work till we drop in old age, slaving away because it’s no longer possible to get slaves abroad anymore, or at least, not as easily. There is still a little evidence that it happens, seen in suicides in overworked staff in Chinese factories, building Apple iPods or whatever their parts were destined for. If we are to ever teach the world a thing as powerful as the industrial revolution, or intensive farming, it now has to be this: self-restraint. Given the predations around us, it’s going to take a lot of courage. And it won’t work if we don’t share the load.

  17. Crow permalink
    August 10, 2012 10:09 pm

    Council houses belonged to the nation, until they were sold off. It wasn’t so much a redistribution, as a lockdown. This should be obvious given the near destruction of a safe rented housing market, and the increase in homelessness. Recently, the nation’s forests looked like going the same way, until a few hundred thousand of us rightly gave that notion the bum’s rush.

    Whatever the words used to describe parties and stances are, be careful of revisionism, it’s a dangerously compelling habit that has been used badly in recent years, it likely accounted for the Labour party’s weird failure to negotiate a credible course, and if they’d retained one they’d not have needed to appeal to people’s pockets so much.

    Two interesting words to consider: liberal, and libertarian. Often confused, but not at all the same. Like I said, we ultimately chose between settling on a good baseline standard for all instead of picking and choosing only according to who we deem ‘worthy’, or we take for ourselves, make a virtue of strength, and tell the rest to go —- themselves for not complying with our notions of how to live. Libertarians are great at that second course, and Thatcher was a great libertarian. But don’t confuse that with liberal, it’s not the same. Libertarianism is often extremely cruel, and not liberal. Choosing such a similar word seems like a sinister flag of convenience to me, the same kind of self-sanitising that Marie Le Pen engages in. There may be a difference in degree but it’s the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. When dealing with a ruthless aggregating of human culture into a single block of exploited people such as those in extremes of communism, it’s a useful tool to free others, but even then it can only work when it leads to liberal activity, live and let live. None of which is our problem right now, it’s the wrong tool for the job when people are left alone in poverty and fear in a culture that is rich, and allows this while hectoring others to get their houses in order. Whether it’s in Chile or the UK, the reason is the same, a divide, defended by the most disingenuous and selfish motives. The rich see selfish laziness, because that’s what they breed. It sets a standard. Fortunately not all do this, there are a few philanthropists unfashionable appearing in a VERY unphilanthropic age, but those are a minority, and the balance of social and financial power is grossly wrong, favouring those powerful enough to take it. Hell, with 21 TRILLION, the uber-rich could fund Spectre and enact Moonraker for real if they wanted to! Maybe it’s time we think the unthinkable and start to steer a safer course before we’re all blindsided by something so far beyond us that we fall victim to a terror greater than anything imagined outside of science fiction. A lot of the means, and the money, are out there now, this is not a drill, it’s time we started to react to a risk we soon may be unable to stop. Without a strong government that systematically aims to spread wealth instead of hoarding it, we will eventually lose any chance of safety. The world, and solar system, is a dangerous place, even without having to fear our own kind.

    I will never make gentle allowances for the rich. I am not lazy, I just choose to live with small limits because although there are things I’d like to do, like own a boat, there are more needs to start accepting limits, rather than always insist that OTHERS do it for us! If the rich keep hoarding, of course everyone else is going to do the same, as they know their position is weaker. I accept limits, but in this society that makes me a fool. I even choose to not have children. I am not a fool. It could be argued that it is heroic self-sacrifice, but I am definitely not a hero either. I just think that if all we do is BREED and GREED ourselves to death, we all win ourselves a very fine Darwin award, so we should at least TRY to self-regulate, so that we don’t have to accept it being imposed on us so hard.

    No rich man ever really earned that wealth. Measure the value of a man, in all the moves and molecules in his body over 80 years, at an average market rate, and he’ll NEVER earn what some of them claim to be their right. This isn’t ‘communism’ or any other form of political dissent, it’s basic physics, there is only so much a person can do, or harvest from land, sunlight, or sea, and when we see a few do better than the wildest dreams of an ancient Roman senator, and the majority strive in vain for the same privilege, represented in empty consumption and bling, then it’s obvious that stuff has gone badly wrong. Whether religion can fix it, rather than cause more harm, is anyone;s guess, but we must fix it, by steering as soon as possible in an appropriate direction. Right now we aren’t doing it. We have a few rich boys in power telling us to tighten our belts. That’s so obviously wrong they should KNOW it ain’t going to work.

    Loyalty to one party sounds great, but what if that party appears to neglect a greater cause?! If I wasn’t willing to consider that the Liberals were a proper force for good I wouldn’t even be here, posting this, but I will NOT blindly hand over my power, in the form of a vote, it has to MEAN something, it isn’t there to be taken like a blank cheque.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 11:29 pm

      I’m going to sleep on all of this.

      • Crow permalink
        August 10, 2012 11:34 pm

        Wise. I should. I really think I’ve said a lot now. I’m no oracle, and may be in danger of repeating myself too much.

  18. Crow permalink
    August 18, 2012 1:42 pm

    Stephen, does this cause you any concern at all?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051

    What are they up to, trying to provoke a revolution?
    I haven’t commented on that site, and I am being careful not to rush to judgment over this despite my anger, because it seems weirder than superficial impressions suggest. It does seem to back up what I said, that the Tories really are determined to divide and rule, to turn this nation against itself in ways that foreign terrorists and exploiters surely look on and admire in silent awe, but I still have no real idea why they do this, given that it will likely cost them power for at least a decade once they have the majority public feeling as they did the last time the Tories got booted out.

    I’m not asking you to agree that it is time to cut loose (but I’d like it if you did), but please say what you think about it, I think it’s important for you to make a public stand, wherever that ground may be. It will be very hard to trust politicians of any kind if they do not take a clear position when stuff like this is going on.

  19. Crow permalink
    August 21, 2012 9:12 pm

    Stephen, I imagine you’re reading this, even if you won’t comment… So here’s something to consider:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19328105

    There are a couple of comments there that seem t\o imply that others are seeing a pattern I suspected in my last post here, of systematic undermining of national interest by a government that isn’t really interested in doing anything, but scuppering the ship before fleeing it so that some other party has to fix it.

    Look at the comments sorted by highest score, then look for a few that are not ‘editor’s picks’. The common connection is that a few people now suspect that the Tories are basically raping the nation, with no intent to stay in office but merely to keep power for themselves and their rich and powerful friends. Given that some of their recent conduct is most easily explained by assuming this is true, no matter how unpalatable or melodramatic it seems to claim such, shouldn’t you be questioning the dangerous stance the Liberals have taken in enabling this?

    This steady erosion of national systems is the lowest and most dangerous form of treason the nation has seen since the two world wars, if not longer, and it’s happening in peacetime, on your watch! Please don’t stand by making us helpless, with nothing to do but watch it happen. If the Liberals call a halt to the coalition as it stands, the Tories will be forced to either call an election, or attempt to rule without authority. I think the public should be given the chance to decide before further damage is done. if people really think this is the way the country should go, so be it, but let it be DECIDED, not sneakily forced upon us.

  20. rosemary permalink
    August 26, 2012 10:26 pm

    On a slightly different tack, Crow, have you seen this link, which relates back to Lords Reform? (I’m still turning over all your thoughts in my mind.)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01m19p7

    The argument is that more democracy doesn’t necessarily lead to more freedom. On the contrary, it can set it back. (Though it doesn’t cite Iran in 1979.)

    So Stephen, is more democracy – in this context extending elections to include the upper house – a good thing in itself, regardless of the consequences for our liberty and prosperity? Or is there some higher purpose to it?

    • Crow permalink
      August 29, 2012 12:18 am

      Yes I did.🙂 It’s something I’ve wondered about for a long time too. It’s why I mentioned a ‘meritocracy’ in at least one earlier post here, though exactly what that should be, or if it will be any better in practise, I don’t know. While we have a democracy, freedom IS being eroded, dangerously. On the other hand, what use is freedom if it is not shared? If liberals all transmute into libertarians, they will deserve oblivion. About people at large, the difference between a mob and a democracy is basically this: how well informed is it? Good info is what keeps people level-headed, not losing their own heads even when all about them are losing theirs. This seems to be true in combat as well as in more settled living. The trouble may be that science, our best source of any info or meritocratic leadership, has lost a lot of public trust, by focusing on the ‘application’ rather than the core principles that scale to most stuff, enabling us to understand it all that much better, and also by pandering to want more than need. Greed is NOT good, despite the recent near-religious status it got, and while I’m not religious, I think that what we sorely need is to understand the basic demands made when everyone wants a TV, or a 1GHz or better computer to do what a 40 MHz machine used to do just as well. It is these huge, silent demands for power that are causing most of the drain on resources, and a lack of engineering taught at a basic level to help people understand what power they really need to help them do work using machines, is vital. If we don’t solve this, they will not be able to make good choices with their freedom, and they won’t easily accept coercion from ‘those who know better’ either.

      On the subject of links to stuff, here’s one:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19406022
      It tempts me to think that somewhere some Liberals Democrats might be reading my posts here, given some of what is attributed to them in that article.🙂 Truth is, I’m not the only one calling for a bit of realism at the top these days. If noblesse really cannot oblige when things get tough, we’re all scuppered.

    • Crow permalink
      August 29, 2012 1:03 am

      Got another link…
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19400140
      It applies to honours rather than appointments to the House of Lords, but it suggests a mechanism for clearing up some reputational damage with a real method to improve the house, not just cosmetic, and perhaps one that can work with less dramatic reform than going for elections. Note that the article seems to agree with my assertion that if a thing is not democratic, it is more likely to have real merit if its process is transparent, and people are properly informed of what is happening. And I think there must still be some way to modify the process or resist it if it is obviously failing, it cannot be entirely closed. Elected or not, the public need to have some control of it. Thatcher’s time got rid of the ‘closed shop’ and a whole heap of other union methods, so it will not improve national morale or security if one closed shop is forced to replace another, by whichever partisan group happens to have power at the time.

  21. August 29, 2014 9:54 am

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