Lord Ashcroft

Seems a bit odd that The Telegraph is dissing Lord Ashcroft. Still, I think the anger from the Labour side over his role can be found here:

But Lord Ashcroft is far more than a donor. "He\’s really about management not money," one frontbencher said.

Lord Ashcroft has by his own admission never liked being a "passive investor" in business or politics.

"I much prefer to be involved – to make sure that my investment is wisely placed and where I can to help," he wrote, shortly after the 2005 election.

All politicians are infested with the idea that they know how to run things best. It\’s the definition of the beast if you wish. Now someone has turned up and shown how business actually works: not the fantasy that so many have, of grinding the faces of the workers ino the dust, but actually looking at what is happening on the ground and then organising scarce resources so they can be used to best effect. And given the noises being made about this marginal seats operation they are indeed being used to good effect.

The furore is not actually anything to do with the money (as is noted, his donations are lower than Lord Sainsbury\’s to Labour) nor his residence, but the fact that he\’s showing up the pretentions of the policial class as a whole: businessmen really do know how to run things better than politicians.

They\’ll never forgive him for that, never.

Describing the Labour Party

Mr. Dillow:

Instead, the party has become, at best, just another consumer good provided by big business, and, at worst, a cabal of megalomaniacs clinging to office for its own sake.

I\’d argue slightly. At best "a cabal of magalomaniacs…."

At worst would be "a cabal of competent megalomaniacs…"

There\’s an awful lot of ruin in a nation and one of our best defences against those limits being breached is that those who put themselves forward to try and rule it are inevitably dipstick third raters.

Laying it on Thickly


Were I a senior Labour politician this weekend, much of the shame I\’d feel would be because people in my party had behaved like crooks; but a little, secret bit of it would be because they\’ve proved such incompetent crooks. We\’re not talking the Old Bailey here; not even Crown Court. We\’re talking Woking Magistrates\’ Court on a wet winter Tuesday; a shuffling line of dysfunctional miscreants in soiled shell-suits, struggling to read the oath, let alone to understand the charges against them.

Well, Quite

If we want democratic political parties, democracy should pay for them.

Absolutely so. And there\’s nothing quite so democratic as asking someone directly to open their wallet for you. If they don\’t wish to do so you don\’t get the money and you can bugger off.

We\’re Ruled By The Insane!

Britain\’s biggest retailers are planning to ask the Government to extend opening times by four hours on the last Sunday before Christmas.

Shops – except for the very smallest – are allowed to open their tills for no more than six hours on a Sunday, a law which came into force in 1994 after a long struggle by the business community.

What in fuck is the government of 60 million people doing interfering in something as minor as shop opening hours for? We can handle that ourselves.

State Funding of Parties

Lord McAlpine:

As for state funding of political parties, however you frame this the effect will be like pouring petrol in a living room fireplace where the fire is burning merrily. For in politics, the more money that parties have, the more money those parties will need.

Those Donations

Hmm, anyone want to comment on this?

Mr Abrahams used four go-betweens to hide his identity, in contravention of Labour Party donation rules on transparency.

That\’s a nice little get out, don\’t you think? We only broke our own rules, not the law? But, erm, aren\’t the rules on disclosure actually set by the Electoral Commission, ie, they are the law, not Labour Party rules?

Disclosure laws state that anyone donating money to a party on behalf of someone else must make it clear where the money comes from.

Ah, quite so.

Mr Brown – who admitted a donation on behalf of Mr Abrahams for his leadership campaign had been rejected by his team – said Labour would return all of the £673,975 involved in the scandal.

Erm, shouldn\’t it be forfeit, as the UKIP money was? And anyway, now that the planning permissions has been granted, what are they returning the fee for?

Reinventing Welfare

So El Gordo has decided to have another stab at reinventing welfare.

Under the proposals, the detail of which was unveiled by Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, those out of work and claiming benefits will be forced to undertake a"skills health check" after six months claiming Jobseekers Allowance to identify deficiencies in their basic numeracy, literacy or language needs.

Those who need further training but refuse to undertake it will face cuts in benefits.

The Government will also remove disincentives for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to study more than 16 hours a week. The so-called 16-hour rule – which restricts people over the age of 19 from claiming housing benefit if they study for more than 16 hours a week – will be scrapped.

I\’m not sure it\’s been all that carefully thought through. That last, for example, seems to open up housing benefit to university students once again, something abolished (from memory, at least) back in the early 80s.

But I have a feeling that the biggest wails will come from the likes of Polly T. How could anyone be so cruel as to reduce benefits?

At which point I would suggest she goes and talks to her mate, Richard Layard. When I emailed her about this a few weeks back she insisted that he couldn\’t be involved with anything as hurtful and cruel as the Wisconsin Reforms (which this quite closely parallels). The only problem here is that the entire idea of restructuring welfare in this manner, of forcing people back into the potential labour force, if not actually back into work, comes directly from Richard Layard\’s work in the 1980s.

People should not be allowed to fester on the scrapheap of long term unemployment: they need, with a mixture of carrots and sticks, to at least attempt to re-engage with the world of work and or training.

Now I agree that you and I, along with many others, would be a great deal more radical. But if Polly does start to criticise all of this it\’s going to be really rather fun. The social democrat criticising a social democratic (both Polly and Layard were SDP members) proposal to remove some of the disincentives of a welfare system with an unlimited times span for benefits.

I await developments with interest!

Update. Christ, that didn\’t take long. Polly:

This time his peace offerings were a third runway for Heathrow, nuclear power stations and docking the benefits of the recalcitrant.


Labour and Newcastle

There\’s been earlier problems for Labour in Newcastle you know.

Gordon Brown has been plunged into a damaging sleaze row as the party donations scandal threatened to engulf two Cabinet ministers.

Political donations in return for planning permissions (allegedly)?

Anyone remember T Dan Smith? John Poulson?

One of the echoes of this current scandal is that the father of David Abrahams, Bernie Abrahams, would certainly have known at least the former.

No, not massively important, just interesting.


The Peter Principle

A note for Matthew Parris:

At the highest levels of our City and business world, it is not uncommon for chief executives to be appointed then dropped within a matter of months. The same goes for sport, as Steve McClaren can testify. Leadership is all about chemistry, and sometimes the chemistry just doesn\’t work. “It didn\’t gel,” can be an honest explanation beyond which it may be pointless to go.

Why should politics be different? After a dreadful week, following a dreadful month, crowning a disappointing season, Britain should be mulling over a very simple possibility: that the Prime Minister isn\’t up to the job. In the cliché of management consultancy, Gordon Brown is finding his new post more challenging than had been expected, and it may soon be time to draw a line, let him go, and move on.

There\’s a name for this. Called The Peter Principle, after Laurence J Peters who first enunciated it. Formally, it runs like this:

Everyone is promoted to their own level of incompetence.

Nothing surprising about it, nothing odd about it. People are promoted up hierarchies because they do a good job at a lower level. But doing a good job at a lower level is no assurance that the higher level tasks will also be well undertaken. And you only find out about a person\’s level of incompetence, about their inability to undertake the higher level tasks, when they have been promoted above their level of competence.

Of course, I insist that every politician is above their level of competence: what they attempt to do in micro-managing us all is not actually achievable by any group of human beings, but that\’s another matter.

But within Parris\’ argument, is Brown above his Peter Point?


But that has been the story of post-colonial Africa and, although this week\’s obituaries will largely dismiss Smith as a colonial caricature, a novelty politician from another age, if you were to go to Harare today and ask ordinary black Zimbabweans who they would rather have as their leader – Smith or Mugabe – the answer would be almost unanimous. And it would not be Mugabe.

Who could argue with that?

The Tories



He’s similarly enthused about David Cameron. “You know, he’s 39 years old, he can moderate the party, and he’s not getting caught masturbating in public parks like half the Tories. They get caught with a stocking around their neck, poppers, and gay porn. What kind of party is that? It’s like an Evelyn Waugh novel.”

Sensible Politicians?

Good Grief! Who ever would have thought it? A sensible idea seriously being considered by politicians?

THE Dutch health minister, Ab Klink, is considering a recommendation to offer free health insurance for life to anyone who donates a kidney for transplant.

A leak of the proposal last week sparked a debate in the Dutch press as to whether it represented the first step towards a trade in human organs. Critics warned that it may put pressure on poorer people to give up their organs.

The scheme was welcomed by transplant campaigners. Bernadette Haase, the director of the Dutch Transplant Foundation, said: “If it is properly run and well organised, it could be a solution.”

A survey commissioned by the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam suggested that the idea would enjoy significant support. It found that up to 15% of the public said they would probably be willing to donate a kidney if they received compensation.

Professor Willem Weimar, who helped to conduct the survey, said potential donors were asked whether they would prefer €50,000 or free health insurance. Up to 80% chose the insurance.

Others called for more radical ways of ending the donor shortage. Andries Hoitsma, a professor of surgery, called for a regulated free market in kidneys with prices of up to €50,000.

As I\’ve noted before, there\’s one country in the world without a kidney shortage. Iran. There\’s also one country in the world with a paid and regulated market in human kidneys. It isn\’t a coincidence.

But don\’t cheer too loudly for this outbreak of common sense. They are, after all, only reversing the previous bad policy. For it is the ban on the trading of organs that the politicians themselves imposed which has led to the problem in the first place.

Polly\’s Politics

This is interesting. The Lib Dems are only important when:

But here\’s the paradox. Despite plunging as low as 11% in recent polls, politically this is their best opportunity for years. They are only needed when the other parties fail too many voters. Last time this happened in the early 1980s, when the choice presented to the voters was Michael Foot\’s catastrophically unelectable Labour party versus Margaret Thatcher\’s slashing and burning of jobs, lives and public services from which the social fabric has not yet recovered. Between that Scylla and Charybdis there was a genuine need for a sane, moderate alternative. This time they are needed because the other two have moved too close together.

Of course, back then they were the Liberal Party. And in that hour of need Polly helped the SDP, the one that split that necessary alternative vote and made sure that Thatcher and Foot were the only viable alternatives. Well done there.

Whatever your view, voters deserve a choice on the big issues where the other parties merge: Lib Dems are strongly pro-European, seeing a closer future across the Channel than the Atlantic.

All parties other than UKIP are strongly pro-EU. So the choice is, here, between UKIP and everyone else.

There rest of it seems to a pean to the virtues of PR: the one way of ensuring that people never actually have a proper choice ever again.

Was Reagan a Bigot?

From the Corner:

I\’m getting a lot of emails pointing out that of course people believe Reagan was a bigot. Let me clarify what I meant — nobody who has seriously examined the man and his political career believes that Reagan is a bigot.

OK, and Paul Krugman responds:

That is, of course, not the question. Reagan’s personal attitude is of no consequence. The question is whether he deliberately appealed to bigots, as a political tactic. And he did.

OK, fair enough all round I\’d say. Reagan appealed to bigots in the same way that Jesse Jackson did (Hymietown) and Al Sharpton did (Tamara Brawley).

Or is it that only southern whites are bigots who politicians should not attempt to attract while other kinds of bigots are good clean voters?