Tag Archives: we’re all in this together – my arse

We’re all in this together…

I have been trying to get my head round what happened in Europe this past week—particularly with regard to what our Prime Minister David Cameron has managed to achieve.

Events in Euroland are just too big for me to assimilate. I am unable to find words to express my thoughts rationally. Bombarded by news and comment from all parts of the media, I simply put up my hands in resignation and switch off.

Part of me is chuckling at headless chickens running around trying to save a failing system. Part of me slips into deep despair at the total lack of vision of our global leaders, and worries where it will all end. 

One reason why I have not been blogging about this whole ongoing farce is that I promised myself I would try to be more positive in outlook. However, the lunacy going on around us will insist on encroaching into my life. As Harold Macmillan famously said, when asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, “Events, my dear boy, events.”

I’ll leave any acerbic comment about lightweight leaders of the 21st century Conservative Party hanging at that point. Any British political party for that matter.

The lie of the land

I am an unreconstructed and unrepentant liberal. I make no apologies for that. I sit firmly in the centre, perhaps even on the proverbial fence. Those of the “left” and “right” have managed to sidle their way into my centre ground so well that it is impossible to squeeze a fag paper between us. When the Liberal-Democrats got into bed with the Conservatives, after the 2010 general election failed to let anyone win sufficient seats to claim a mandate, I was sceptical but hopeful the coalition agreement would temper the excesses of the right. I blogged about it here. Perhaps the liberal tendencies would temper the rabid Conservatism of the Bullingdon Club elites.

I was so wrong. Nick Clegg has let me—us—down. So far, the fact there are Lib-Dem members of the Cabinet has had little effect or no effect on what can now be seen as an utterly out-of-touch and rabidly right-wing Tory government obviously bent on destroying decades of social good, yet all the while blaming it on the previous administration. Let’s just leave it that. As far as I am concerned, the “ConDem” coalition has made everything infinitely worse over the past year or so.

Keep on course

Where are we going with this? It’s a question that has vexed many liberals for some time, I suspect.

As I mentioned, I have been avoiding putting into words what I think about events in the wider world because I simply cannot find the words to explain how I feel. I began to see the European “project” being moved in a direction I was not comfortable with, a direction that would lead to individual member states effectively giving up sovereign rights to become part of a United States of Europe. I found I was not in favour of ever greater European integration. To me that was not something I wanted a part in. Yet I have literally no say. In referendums to approve treaties, a country votes “no”, only to be told to vote again and this time vote “yes”. How is that democratic?

No, Europe is heading in a direction I am not happy with. I am all for economic co-operation, borderless travel, even a single currency (at first), but not a superstate. 

So, being outside Europe—as we now find ourselves thanks to inept leadership—must be a good thing, right? Well, no. Britain needs to be in Europe at a level where we can make a difference. What Cameron and his lack of statesmanship has done is to isolate the United Kingdom even more than it was before. We won’t be listened to at the European level, even where we still have a voice.

This is where understanding and words fail me once more. I admit the following is still liberal in scope, but Andrew Rawnsley, Nick Cohen and Will Hutton in today’s Observer explain it so well I urge you to read them whatever your own political views. The Observer and Guardian are about the only publications that give a liberal view of the world: the rest of our media is so polarised it makes it all but impossible to get a balanced view, as far as I can tell.

(Don’t read the comments, though. Never read comments to online opinion—that way madness lies.)

Andrew Rawnsley:

The rest of the European Union simply shrugged at his “veto” and will now proceed to try to fashion a new regime for the eurozone without a British voice in the room. The prime minister’s agenda is left in shreds. He did not get the protocol he wanted to exempt the UK from European regulation of financial services and Britain’s exclusion from the negotiations means that he is now even less likely to secure one in the future. He may get a hero’s welcome from some of the Tory Eurosceptics who are exulting in Britain’s isolation and celebrating this as the most magnificent performance since Margaret Thatcher wielded the handbag. But that is likely to prove to be very short-lived. They forget that Mrs T never made the mistake of leaving an empty chair where Britain ought to be sitting. Once their initial euphoria has worn off, Tory sceptics will discover that this outcome does not advance their ambition to repatriate powers from Brussels—it has made it even harder to achieve.

Nick Cohen:

The weekend’s headlines about David Cameron isolating Britain or bravely standing up for Britain’s independence, depending on which newspaper you read, may be irrelevant in a fortnight. The best reason for treating them with suspicion is that political actors are enjoying playing their familiar roles and reciting their old lines. British Eurosceptics are thrilled that David Cameron has reignited the passions of the Thatcher era. European leaders are again boasting of their commitment to the European ideal.

When you look at what that commitment means in practice, however, you see it is more of the same. Germany, Holland and the other northern countries are still refusing to spend the money or allow the inflation that would stop southern Europe descending into depression and dragging down the over-leveraged banking system with it. Trade imbalances and an uncompetitive exchange rate still crush Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Will Hutton:

There might have been a case for David Cameron to veto the use of the EU treaties for the eurozone bailout if Britain’s national interests had really been threatened. But they were not. Much of British finance in whose name Cameron exercised his veto—routine banking, insurance and accounting—was wholly unaffected by any treaty change. The financial services industry in Britain constitutes 7.5% of GDP and employs a million people; the City represents perhaps a third of that and, in turn, that part threatened—if it was threatened at all—some fraction of that. This is a tiny economic interest. If the coalition is serious about rebalancing the British economy, it is preposterous to place a fragment of the City at the forefront of our national priorities.

Moreover, any tax, such as the financial transaction tax about which Cameron was so exercised (and which is, in any case, a good idea if done right as recommended by the IMF), has to be agreed by all. Which means that the threat was nil. Even regulatory proposals, although proceeding by qualified majority voting, have in financial services proceeded, in reality, by unanimity.

 

Austerity needs a purpose, a crisis needs solutions. I’ve got a few | Deborah Orr | CiF | The Guardian

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, goes the old adage. Quite. And if it is broke, then do. Austerity needs to be given a purpose; society needs to have a clear idea of where the lost decade is taking us. It seems hard to know what the future holds. But some things are easy to predict. There will, for example, still be 24 hours in a day in the years to come, seven days in a week, 12 months in a year. So, time is a constant, something to plan around.

There are some very good ideas in this article. It’s a crying shame that they won’t even be considered in passing by most of the Westminster Village.

Yes, defaulting on debts is an option | Jon Witterick | CiF | guardian.co.uk

Any child knows that if you put 10 marbles in a bag, you can only get 10 marbles out. No amount of searching will produce the 11th marble – it doesn’t exist. But it’s exactly what the banks do. They create money as necessary with a few clicks of a computer keyboard, but then charge us interest. Two things have to happen as a result of this. The money supply has to be continually and exponentially inflated and individuals, companies – and, of course, countries – default. That the economy will collapse is a mathematical certainty. Like any ponzi scheme, it has to.

At last, someone attempts an answer to the question I have been asking since the whole financial and Eurozone crisis started: what would happen if we just defaulted on our debt?

The answer, it seems, would be that it would royally piss off the banksters, but mean the economy might just recover.

The elite still can’t face up to it: Europe’s model has failed | Seumas Milne | CiF | The Guardian

But the controversy goes to the heart of Europe’s problem with democracy. It’s not just fear of the risks of delay on febrile bond markets that has caused apoplexy, but the danger that Greeks might vote the wrong way. Voting is not how things are done in the EU. And whenever a state does actually consult its people – Denmark and Ireland had a go – they are made to vote again until they get it right.

But the democratic deficit has now tipped over into a democratic crisis. To protect the banks that lent to Greece and protected its elite from unwelcome tax demands, the country is being systematically stripped of its sovereignty, as EU and IMF officials swarm over its ministries drafting budgets, setting policy deadlines, “advising” on tax and pushing through state selloffs.

No wonder nationalist anger is growing. And all this to deliver a death spiral of spending cuts and tax increases that are sending Greece ever deeper into slump and debt. It makes no sense. Unless it’s understood that it’s not the Greek economy that’s being rescued, but European and US banks exposed to Greek debt. To protect the rentiers and prevent their own failures from seizing up the European credit system, Greece has undergone the deepest ever fiscal squeeze in a developed state without the possibility of any compensating monetary stimulus or devaluation – because of its euro membership.

I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I am sitting here with a smile on my face. The first card, probably a joker if the truth be told, is about to be removed from the house of cards Brussels built.

I used to be a pro-European. I was all for closer integration, economic ties and so forth. However, since the single European currency arrived, it’s become obvious that the “elites”, as Milne rightly puts it, really wanted a pure United States of Europe all along.

That was never going to work. The various referenda held on treaties, where a country’s population voted “no” only to be told to vote again but choose the right answer this time, were the first signs that all was not well.

I applaud Papandreou for suggesting his electorate should have a say in whether the solution to the Greek debt crisis should be accepted or not. Why should outside agencies have any say in how a sovereign country is run? The fact it annoyed Sarkozy and Merkel is icing on the cake.

The point here is it’s not Europe that’s in crisis, it’s the financial system itself. If a country cannot repay debts it has accrued in order to remain a functioning country at all, then why not simply write off those debts. Clear the debit sheet. Start over again. Yes, it’ll mean some heavy financial institutions, and perhaps even a couple of governments, will come crashing down—but that’s only for the best in my opinion.

The whole global financial system is broken, and blaming everything on one or two countries isn’t going to fix it.

The biggest lie in British politics : Johann Hari

British politics today is dominated by a lie. This lie is making it significantly more likely you will lose your job, your business, or your home. The lie gives a false explanation for how we came to be in this crisis, and prescribes a medicine that will worsen our disease. Yet it is hardly being challenged.

Here’s the lie. We are in a debt crisis. Our national debt is dangerously and historically high. We are being threatened by the international bond markets. The way out is to pay off our debt rapidly. Only that will restore “confidence”, and therefore economic growth. Every step of this program is false, and endangers you.

Let’s start with a fact that should be on billboards across the land. As a proportion of GDP, Britain’s national debt has been higher than it is now for 200 of the past 250 years. Read that sentence again. Check it on any graph by any historian. Since 1750, there have only been two brief 30-year periods when our debt has been lower than it is now. If we are “bust” today, as George Osborne has claimed, then we have almost always been bust. We were bust when we pioneered the Industrial Revolution. We were bust when we ruled a quarter of the world. We were bust when we beat the Nazis. We were bust when we built the NHS. Or is it George Osborne’s economics that are bust?

We’re all in this together, my arse.

David Cameron has even less grasp of how government works than I’d thought | Comment is free | The Observer

He [Cameron] said he was “taking on… the bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible for small firms”. On the face of it, this is simple crowd-pleasing stuff. It’s easy to slag off the faceless bureaucrats, who supposedly waste our time and money with all their stupid rules. It’s convenient to forget that bureaucrats, or civil servants as they’re called when they’re not being victimised, don’t actually make rules, they just enforce them. Maybe, sometimes, they enforce them officiously. Maybe, sometimes, the processes they “concoct” for enforcing them are unnecessarily time-consuming. Maybe fewer of them could enforce the rules just as effectively. But they don’t make the rules, Parliament does.

I think that sums things up nicely.

BBC – Newsbeat – Fuel prices: Survey says drivers slow down to save cash

Drivers are willing to slow down on the motorway to cut fuel costs, a survey by the AA has suggested.

Of 15,000 drivers who took part, 59% said they would think about slowing down if it saved them money.

I’m afraid I don’t believe them. On a road trip last Saturday, which encompassed a couple of hundred miles of motorway driving all told, I was consistently the slowest car on the road. Only lorries were slower than me.

I was driving at an indicated 65mph, with cars and vans of all shapes and sizes whizzing past me at stupid speeds. Either the drivers don’t have to pay for their fuel, or they simply are too stupid to realise the cost.

I fear this survey may be a case of “yes, I would slow down, but I’d prefer everyone else to first so I can continue to drive like a prat and sod the rest of you, suckers”.

Stripped Bare | George Monbiot

To understand its position, you must first understand that the government is not managing the economy for the people of this nation. It is managing it for a tiny transnational elite, a kind of global gated community. To the people inside the gates, who fund the Conservative party, who own our politics, the media and the banks, the rest of us are an inconvenience, to be bribed, threatened or fooled.

I can make no coherent comment. There is just anger welling up in me.

Via Twitter @UKuncut

Related post: To us it’s an obscure shift in the tax law