Wednesday, March 29, 2006

He comes round eventually!

Just a short note. Glad Tony agrees with me: "The fallout from Blair's 'mistake'"

Friday, March 17, 2006

The worst decision of Tony Blair’s career

Not the decision to invade Iraq, nor the lack of remorse to do same. It’s not introducing top-up fees, taking out loans for Lords, or giving Peter Mandelson his job back … twice… and Blunkett.

No. The worst decision that Tony Blair has made during his personal political career was to make public his intention to stand down at the end of the next election. There are obvious advantages in making this move. He was trying to make a distinction between him and his natural predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, who wanted to go ‘on and on’, a move to make himself seem humble and not affected by his time in power. Also, he could be attempting to head off a backbench rebellion, and govern without the fear of an impending vote of no confidence. Finally, it allows him to engineer the successor for his dynasty, and thus ensure his influence continues beyond the end of his tenure.

The reality however, has been quite different. It means that with every stumble, a lost Parliamentary vote, the latest Ministerial scandal, an undercurrent of whisperings, ‘lame duck’; ‘timetable for removal’, goes through the media, and presumably Westminister. Also, the patience of Gordon Brown with this situation is moreorless unknown, yet it has created strong divisions within Labour and has reduced his overall effectiveness as a PM. By setting a deadline on his tenure, he will either lie (and continue), or currently, he is paralysed against making clear decisions, or perhaps more importantly, getting the legislation through that he wishes. Having thought about it, perhaps that isn't such a bad thing!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why the EU needs a Written Constitution

The European Union offers it's countries an opportunity to take part in a genuinely new form of governance, moving beyond an international organisation, yet also not a federal Europe, nor United States of Europe as fearmongers might suggest. It proffers a new form of political geography that moves decision making to the smallest appropriate level, be it supranational, national or regional. This adds an extra dimension to the political process, making it more intricate, and thus is in constant danger of collapsing as each interest party is satisfied.

Why a Constitution?
Britain's 'unwritten' Constitution is based on the rule of law dating back at least 750 years, building an evolving statute that dictates the behaviour of its' citizens. The EU does not, however have that luxury. Currently, decisions made within the EU are made on a case-by-case basis, and as they arise are delegated to an internal agency. This means the decision making process is subject to constant haggling by individual Members, trying to protect their own immediate national interests, or prevent other Members from doing the same. The resulting legislation is therefore created in such a way to please no-one, and the subject of numerous revisions. A clear Constitution would give each EU decision making body (the Commission; Council of Ministers; and Parliament) a task and purpose, and would divide decisions between the three. This would take out unnecessary haggling and make the EU a more effective decision making body.

A Lumbering Anachronism?
The decision making process for the EU was created in the 1950's when there were six members. Since then, the EU has swollen to 25 members, with the prospect of growing to over 30 within the next 5-10 years. The machinery that makes the EU 'tick over' is starting to look archaic indeed, and as the EU grows larger, is in danger of ossifying. Rather than set in stone an outdated system, the Constitution needs to update internal systems to make allowances for an increased number of decision makers, and create an effective system for governing half a billion people.

Caveats: the need for reform
In creating a new Constitution, the EU has the ability to create a "Europe of regions", where decisions are not made autocratically from Brussels, but at the local level if appropriate. For this to occur however, the way that European Union bodies needs to be made more democratically in line with their stated liberal ideals. Currently, only one out of the three bodies are democratically elected, the European Parliament, yet it is the European Commission that makes the majority of the decisions that affect the public. The public need to be made aware of what each of the organs do, and should be allowed to make a decision of who should represent them: the current system of the Government making decisions on our behalf is not sufficient.

Also, there is a need to make the Constitution accessible to the voting public, in language we understand. People are not going to agree on something that is distant to their everyday concerns, nor will they vote for something they understand. Awareness of the positive effects the EU plays is necessary, as is the necessity of having a Constitution. The more transparency the EU allows, the less able it's opponents will be to create an atmosphere of fear, leading to a more informed debate on the subject.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Political World View of a 14 Year old

When I last visited home, I had a long discussion with my younger brother about politics, and possible future events. His ideas about the world were quite remarkable, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. The interesting point to be drawn out from his all suggestions was a new form of political geography, an altering of the decision-making process to more appropriate levels.

Iraq
My brother felt the Saddam Hussein will collapse, as less and less judges agree to work with him, and after being aquitted, he will flee to Iran, where some of his officials may have fled. This now looks unlikely, admitting to a level of violence but denying any crime. However, Nuremberg it ain't!

Amusingly, he postulated that Iran and Iraq would join together to create a new state of 'IraqIran', which though not exactly likely, it is an amusing aside. It would be an interesting response to the possibility of an increasingly powerful European Union.

UK
My brother tried to address the dilemma that the UK faces in terms of looking towards Europe or the US. The main challenge from the EU is the increased number of decision makers, (or as my brother saw it: the French!), and the unclear role that the EU is going to play in the future.
The US offers a more subservient role for the UK (metaphors of poodles, terriers and other dogs abound!), an opportunity to tag along with the world's superpower.

Whether the UK will move the British Isles to New York Harbour may be slightly beyond our grasp, or desire at present.

China/India
They may overtake the UK and Germany in the size of their economies, but their ability to go beyond their internal political machinery to make an impact internationally is unclear, and stabilise their demography is also unknown (the former for it's male/female imbalance, the latter for no signs of slowing). Their ability to achieve this will affect how they could craft a multipolar world. Whether my brother's prediction of Chinese domination comes true is tentative, depending on a culmination of different factors, and on the thoughts of many geopolitical scholars worldwide.

It was an enlightening conversation, a window to the world-view of a 14 year old!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Academic Dormouse Reaching Retirement

To enter the office, push past the bedding, into the inner sanctum. It's made up of the numerous books, journals, the sum of his original thought. Sound is muffled here, distorted into different shapes. The sun tries to shine through, but is blocked by a myriad of different terms, all competing for their moment in sunlight.

He sleeps most of the day now. He is kept comfortable by his bedding, which he wraps around himself in a cacoon of academia. His whiskers twitch, having another dream. Fore and back paws return to the foetal position, his spine arched, peeking through his fur. The fur itself, once glossy has dulled slightly, perhaps by excessive rubbing on newsprint. There is also a patch neglected in his last groom, sticking at different angles, a tarnished crown.

His pouches are slack, hanging off his cheeks, and his ears flatten against his skull. He fears no predators now, they are of no interest to him. He rolls over in his sleep, quite undisturbed as people enter and exit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Divorce Proceedings between Nation and State.

I am here to report the necessary divorce of the nation and the state. The split can be described as amicable, with both parties agreeing to see each other on a regular basis.

Parties Present:
  • Nation: a homogenous personality, very media friendly and photogenic
  • State: where the real power lies, 'thoughtful', used to treading the corridors of power
  • Sub-State: the offspring of Nation and State, sub-states are often young, staying near to their parents. As they grow, they take on elements of both their parents, but still like to remain within their influence. Occassionally, relations can be fractious between parent and child, but this is resolved with time and maturity.
  • Supra-state: the matriarch of the family, supra-state oversees all that goes on and often makes her own contributions to proceedings.

Future action:

State shall still need to convene with Nation, helping to formulate the development of sub-state. As the latter matures, they shall both need to concede decision-making to sub-state, in recognition of it's increased abilities.

Now uncoupled, State shall also have to consider the contributions of supra-state, as she will have strong links with both nation and sub-state, and in so doing, consultation meetings shall be set up to maintain these proceedings. If relations become fractious, counselling exercises will be initiated to improve proceedings.

Concluding Remarks:

It has been recognised that this shall, in the long term, create a stronger family unit, with a more equitable and appropriate power-sharing decision making process. This concludes the report, next consultation due 12 months hence.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The (mis) Adventures of the Three Blairs

One day, the three Blairs went out for a walk, to the newly-opened waterfront of their local town. Unfortunately, they forgot to activate their burglar alarm, and whilst they were out, a young yob, banned from the local shopping centre, came in and maliciously destroyed some of their property.

When they returned to have their property so defaced, they were all so upset, that they all split up to make sure it didn't happen again. Daddy Blair installed the latest technology to protect what is theirs. He bought CCTV cameras and put them up round the neighbourhood, electronic gates on his driveway, an intercom system, and organised a Neighbourhood Watch to round up any deliquents lounging on the streets, and drive them home.

Mummy Blair went to the police, and gave a full report. She gave a press conference about the scourge of the youth today, and persuaded her local shopping centre to ban juveniles after 9pm, so they could go home and have a nice home cooked meal and not go out bothering people on the streets.

Grandfather Blair got very upset that his worst nightmares could be coming true. He remembers when he was a child, and something very similar happened to him. He reflects on the cyclic nature of the Blair condition, and goes back to his newspaper.

The Three Blairs starred:

The Right Honourable, Tony Blair as.......... Daddy Blair

Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as........... Mummy Blair

Eric Blair, aka George Orwell as........... Grandfather Blair

and reprising her role:

A generic be-hoodied blonde yob as........... Goldilocks