The European institutions have adopted the very policy positions that spell out the doom that came to Madrid (and Rome, and so on). Incompetence is wedded to demands for greater austerity and banking capital at a time of economic collapse. The Commission twists the touniquet to ensure that more blood spurts out.
Yet as more countries are taken down for the good of the whole, one does wonder at the strength of the European ideology. An outsider, aware of its flaws and irrationality, expects that the politicians will come to their senses, return to rationality and plot a course that could start to reduce these risks. Yet, they are enchanted by the irreversibility of the project: go forward, never back; except the road has almost run its course and they are out of time.
The allegiance of all centre parties to Europe will invite extremes. The Greek election was an early example. Other elections will prove more radical in the years to come. If the Europeans prove as competent here as they have in currency union, then we must view democracy in danger, from extremist illiberals and technocrats. Will Europe engineer technocratic suspensions to foil Eurosceptic takeovers; elections on ice until people have again proved their fitness to vote?
Apologies for the hiatus. I am now the proud owner of a house, finally, taken the plunge, taken the oath, joined the PODcast. That's property owning democracy for now.
But for how long? This is shaping up to be one of the most tedious and dirtiest election campaigns for a while: and this tells us that there is a strong connection between boredom and turn-off. It is in Labour's interest to run a mendacious campaign without debate or policy. Slogans and fear will reduce turn-out and ensure that they retain a greater number of seats. Cancer leaflets and scare-mongering are two of the stronger tools in their campaign.
But is the same true of the Liberal Democrats? No, and yet, they appear to have adopted the same approach: slogans, attack dogs and policy incoherence.
The Conservatives are determined to be metrosexual and end up Janus-faced: an incoherence and disjointed performance that presages a transvestite cross-dressing government that founders under the burden of debt.
None intice, Brown bread is slowly succumbing to ergot; Clegg may prove a fallow leader and Cameron hasn't convinced.
There is a huge reservoir of undecideds that have the potential to upset all three parties. But will they be too bored to act?
Labour's performance appeared self-assured and sure-footed only days ago. The mines primed to detonate in their path had been swerved with some swagger and to the mounting incredulity of witnesses. Despite the gaps in their presentation, Mandelson and Campbell appeared to have presented Labour as the underdog, humanised Brown, erased a thirteen year record and turned the attention of the media on to Tory policies. However, this elaborate ruse required strong roots if it was to be sustained until election day. It also depended upon continued Tory disarray.
The problem is that Labour can only rely upon presentation as they have run out of time to take the initiative. They are at the mercy of the economic and social forces that they unleashed: an iron pincer tattooed with taxes and cuts. That pincer is closing and no longer can the presentation be sustained without one eye on the markets. Hence Liam Byrne rowing back on his Bush impression of 'no new taxes':
But on Tuesday Mr Byrne attempted to dramatically row back from that position, fearing he had tied the Chancellor's hands just days before the vital pre election Budget is delivered.
When he was asked by the BBC about whether he stood by his comments about ruling out a Vat rise, he said: “No, I mean Chancellors reserve the right to come back to tax matters at every budget.”
U-turns and disarray commit the same sin as the accusations they cast against their opponents. Now the union revenant, Unite, under Charlie Whelan is bringing further discord and division into the arena:
Privately, however, Downing Street acknowledges that the rows, which have erupted in recent weeks over the selection of Labour parliamentary candidates, are evidence of a battle for ascendancy within both the union and the party.
Cashcroft may have provided a soft libel, but Mandelson and Campbell must be hoping things do not get worse.
The Budget has been set for March 24th. The lack of notice over the date and unwillingness to divulge the macroeconomic direction infers that there are strong debates at the heart of the government over the timing of the election and the content of the Budget.
The media report that the strong division with the Cabinet lies between the realists who wish set out concrete measures for deficit reduction and the spendthrifts, led by G Broon, who wish to use government expenditure to buy the election. This is an artificial division. I doubt that Darling or Brown differ over much of the content. Both support a fiscal stimulus based upon debt and subscribe to economic growth kickstarted by public expenditure.
They differ in signals and presentation. Gordon Brown wishes to strengthen the political spin and ignore market pressure, with his defence of frontline services and delusional emphasis upon saving the economy. He hasn't and he didn't. Alistair Darling and Mandelson are aware that the markets hold the whiphand, especially after QE has halted. They wish to pretend that they will do the markets bidding at a later day: putting off till judgment day the reckoning of their policies.
At such a delicate balance within the markets, will the Budget prove the trigger for further economic meltdown?
The European leaders recognise that there is a crisis brewing. The debt concerns of the markets are having a material effect upon the budget deficits of the countries concerned. To call them PIGS is insulting, even if they have pigged out at the trough of debt. Yet, now the biggest debtor is wallowing in his hypocrisy:
The Prime Minister will preach a “tough love” message for Greece and along with the other major leaders will urge the country to slash its spending over the next three years.
They will be presented with an agreed plan which will demand that the deficit has to be cut from 13 per cent to 2 per cent by 2013.
That will mean large scale cuts in spending and a new drive to take on the public sector unions that many hold responsible for many of the country’s problems. The unions are planning to strike over the level of cuts planned.
If the problem is
not tackled the International Monetary Fund could be called in to
bail out the stricken economy.
There is a crisis brewing...and let us hope that Brown faces the same crisis that he failed to recognise. Then his tough love will be self-abuse for us all.
Labour are going to produce the most radical manifesto in Britain...ever. Channelling popular CD titles may strike a chord with the electorate but the chances of cobbled swansongs and chansons to the electorate from the 70s, 80s and 90s are very high. It is doubtful that Labour have struck radio gold.
The lodestar that they follow to woo back support is constitutional reform.
The need for a radical offering to put before the electorate also throws into doubt on Mr Brown’s record as Prime Minister. His critics argue that he has not been radical enough to convince voters that Labour should be given a fourth term.
Among the measures likely to be included is constitutional reform. The fall-out from the expenses scandal has shaken Parliament and called into question the way the Commons works.
Like every party, Labour is trying to disguise honesty and honour (individual values) with institutional reform. Good luck when their earlier opportunities have resulted in a dilution of the tightening required to prevent abuse.
Their other flag is long term care. This is an impossibility under current fiscal circumstances. If you want the most radical manifesto in the world ever...vote libertarian.
The Times today reports that the Tory high command are unsure how to deal with the narrowing of their lead in the polls. The narrative (and how accurate is that?) tells us that Labour is focusing on their core vote, whilst the Tories have not 'sealed the deal'. But is it clear that a lack of confidence in the Tories is turning voters away from them? Do we know that Labour is just appealing to its core voters?
The dip in the Tory lead commenced when they dropped their promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Whilst the Eurosceptic wing within the party was disciplined and remained quiet, wider commentary portrayed this decision as a betrayal of trust. The advantage that the Tories had over Labour was one of honesty; whether that was true of not is immaterial, that was the perception. Cameron squandered that advantage with his 'realist' withdrawal from the pledge.
The belief that they are all the same is corroded further with the accusations over Lord Ashcroft and Coulson's reheating of policy announcements:
Andy Coulson, the party’s director of communications, has asked Shadow Cabinet ministers to “find new angles” on existing policies to generate media coverage, according to insiders.
How does this differ from Labour? Tory handicaps aside, the leading party may face another hurdle. Whilst the leaders of the Liberal democrats may entertain a coalition with the Tories, their activists lean leftwards and dislike this trend. Rightwards at the top may be countered by activist co-operation with Labour at the bottom: Liberal Democrat support countering Labour's collapse in membership.
There is no deal to seal: there is only fractious squabbling as political parties battle over the crumbs. The election that will set the seal on Britain in the first half of the twentieth century is still some years away.
There are few alternatives for a governing party at the last conference before the election. Behind in the opinion polls, they have to galvanise their activists, support their leader and prepare for a tilt at victory. Otherwise, the accusations of defeatism will haunt their candidacies after Brown falls on his sword.
This was the motivation behind the orchestrated shelling of the mainstream newspapers with a Labour blitz on why going over the top is the latest strategy. However, the problem for Labour is that their leader remains wedded to an unconvincing score.
If you listen to Brown, he is adamant about his role in the financial crisis. Whilst "saving the world" was a slip of the tongue at PMQs months back, it has now become part of his armour and self-belief. We have returned to the monologue of last auturm where Brown is not only the saviour of the world but the architect of Britain's rescue:
have led the way around the world, spent night and day persuading my
colleagues what is necessary."
This is bolstered by a sense of infallibility and a contempt for his opponents. Every choice was "right" and this is juxtaposed with the "slogans" of the opposition. For if they were thinking about the crisis, they would see that Brown was correct and support him in everything he did. (Why then would we need an official Opposition?)
The interview also brings us a useful window onto Brown's thinking about the expenses crisis. The anger, the disillusionment, tha plague upon all your houses is dissipated. Instead, we have an anodyne observation: that the electorate has "suspended judgement".
This is Brown's greatest error: that he was too convinced of his own intellectual rigor and infallibility, too unwilling to listen to the message that his employers kept telling him. He is truly the first Presbyterian Pope.
Should one be unimpressed by the rhetoric of the Liberal Democrats? There seems to be an ironic foolishness about a leader who repositions his party by attacking the other two leaders. By this very act he becomes part of the problem, a continuation of the political culture that we have suffered from for the last few years.
The Liberal Democrats could always afford to be more honest than other parties because they knew that they would never gain power, thus enjoying the fruits of honesty in opposition to accountability. Does the list of public expenditure cuts that Clegg and Cable now put forward demonstrate the fundamental dishonesty of their position? Nick Clegg promotes himself as a potential heir to progressive politics and replacement to Labour, as all of his predecessors before him, yet sets out a policy stall that indicates psychological impotence: an awareness that power remains out of their reach. If they ever did get a whiff of the power, it would surprise them even more than the electorate.
So, on the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference, Clegg understands the hunger for change and ensures that he will have no part of it, making the same claims and with the same honesty that have tormented all other leaders of his party. Strutting their self-importance, signalling their impotence.