Thursday, February 11, 2016

Marco Rubio's rejection of the world outside the United States is athrowback to "America First"

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio made a fool of himself in the latest Republican Party debate but in repeating his soundbite (as above) he revealed what is a key part of his pitch - America is not like the rest of the world. This bizarre and nationalistic claim was not a random accidental cry. It was pre-scripted and rehearsed as his opponents were quick to claim. It is also, in the minds of many Americans, not just true but a good thing.

American politicians like Rubio (he's far from alone) reflect the dominant American belief that America is Beautiful and the rest of the world dangerous. Probably full of Muslims and other dangerous and heathen non-Christian folk. A minority of Americans travels beyond their shores and an even smaller minority knows much about the world outside the home of the American Dream. Which means that in key areas where the rest of the Western world has moved on (Gun laws or Capital Punishment for example) America is stuck in the past. But reference the rest of the Western world and the response is likely to be, as Mr Rubio puts it, "We don't want to be like the rest of the world".

The most significant change in the post WW2 world has been the internationalisation of the planet. Fuelled by the transport and communications revolutions we are, if we choose to, able to travel almost anywhere we want. And when we travel we learn - often subliminally - about other cultures and other ways of doing things. Some of us are luckier than others in this respect of course. I once had a job in Shell which in the course of a year or two took me to around 50 different countries. Whilst doing this I read a book "Riding the Waves of Culture" which has become, rightly, essential reading for anyone engaged in an international enterprise. The core message is that countries and cultures are different and that if you want to be successful you better try and understand that! An obvious message you might think - but add to it the opportunity to learn as you travel and you will not only be more sensitive but better at what you do.

The problem with Mr Rubio and all the others who peddle "America is the greatest country on Earth" meme is that if you think that you will never either understand or learn. The "American Way" becomes the only way. The great hotelier Conrad Hilton created his international chain based on the principle that each hotel, from Paris to Peru, would be an American oasis in a strange and hostile land. Cruise ships today do the same. Whatever your port of call you return at night to the cultural comfort of your ship! Better than not traveling at all you might think, and I agree. And if as a result of a day in Naples or Nagasaki you see things which challenge your established assumptions then all to the good.

I love the United States of America and can quite understand that its extraordinary physical diversity offers such variety that many Americans will not feel the need to leave its shores. Many of the world's greatest cities and National Parks (etc.) are in the US and they are unmissable travel destinations. But the overriding culture and attitudes are American everywhere. Watch a News programme on the television and if there is any news from abroad it will come long after the traffic reports or the sports update. Only a third of Americans have a passport which means that the perception of other countries of the majority of non-travellers is conditioned substantially by the media. How else could Donald Trump’s mad call to ban Muslims from entering the United States be supported by at least half of American adults?

America could have a world role which extends beyond their economic and military clout – which is, of course, considerable. But their at best ambivalent attitude to the United Nations shows that at the heart of the American psyche is an indifference to the rest of the world, unless they perceive it to be a threat. Over the past twenty years the United States is more known for its bellicosity that for its role as a peacemaker. There was historically always for some an “America First” mentality which eschewed the case for the world’s most prosperous nation to play a world role. Mario Rubio’s comments are consistent with this. If you are so certain that what the United States does is right that you don’t want in any way to be “like” the rest of the world then you are unlikely to be open to new ideas – if they are foreign.   

Addendum

This graphic helps illustrate my point about the lack of an international perspective of US citizens:









Monday, February 08, 2016

The EU referendum–the Devil has the better Communications tunes

If I was running a Communications agency pitching for a brief in the EU Referendum Campaign – and was indifferent to the issue – I would far prefer to get the brief from the “Leave” campaign than from the “Remain”.

All mass communications relies on the creation of clear, simple messages which can be rapidly absorbed and which relate to needs of the target group. A political campaign is archetypical “mass communications” – especially when the suffrage is universal as it is with the referendum. And the “needs” need not be physical needs but can be, and in this case are, purely emotional in character. Placing an X on a ballot paper is a powerful act and whilst self-interest plays a part it is primarily an act of commitment, support, rebellion, protest, backing for a particular candidate or choice.

In the referendum the choice is binary (spoilt ballot papers or abstentions apart). And emotions will rule for many. There are complexities in the In/Out choice which even those with the time to do so will be reluctant to explore. For the vast majority of the electorate there can be no expectation that the minutiae of the Common Agricultural Policy or the extent of the implementation of the principle of Subsidiarity will be explored. The hand hovering over the ballot paper will be driven to Remain or Leave by strong, but far from necessarily well-informed opinions, prejudices and emotions.

For the “Leave” campaign it is possible to break down what they believe to be the benefits of the UK leaving the UK into a few simple messages. Messages which are indeed clear, simple and easily absorbable. As hard-core Europhobe Tim Montgomerie put it in The Times:

  • I want Britain to be a free nation again – as free as America, Japan, Australia and other great nations
  • We need unfettered control over our borders and it is up to us, nobody else, to choose who has the right to live in the United Kingdom.
  • The Great Britain of Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill has become not much more than a supplicant county council… the British people did not choose to subjugate themselves [in this way]
  • It’s Europe rather than Britain that is weak… an ageing, heavily regulated and welfare dependent Europe is the world’s only regional economy not to have enjoyed any kind of sustained recovery
  • The single currency has condemned millions of young Europeans to unemployment…

And so on! The communications positioning and potential slogans which emerge from this (and elsewhere) are something thing like:

  • We are a big successful Nation we should take our own decisions
  • We must control our own borders
  • Europe is failing, the UK is recovering
  • Our net contribution to the EU is the second highest of any nation – what do we get for these costs?

clip_image008

That four bullet point summary of the seminal messages of the “No” campaign is enough - triggering as it does powerful visual images like the one above . To register these messages in the minds of the voters is all they need to do. This can be done with all the usual communications tools and imagery.

The rational case for Britain in Europe is strong but the no campaign has the advantage in respect of imagery and emotional appeal. Never underestimate the power of patriotism and the inherent fear of the foreigner in the British psyche!

 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

So what actually is Englishness ?



I'm sitting wearing my England rugby shirt as I write this and later today I will be off to Murrayfield to cheer on the England rugby team against the Scots. No ambivalence about the importance of my Englishness there ! In sport to be English means two things. Support for England and also support for Britain (eg in the Olympics). But what about away from the sporting arena? Do I feel a distinctive "Englishness" which is distinct from my "Britishness". If I was Scottish or Welsh (Northern Ireland is more complicated!) there would be no problem. Scots are Scottish first and foremost and then British (or 55% of them anyway!). For the English it's different.

How is "Englishness" distinct from "Britishness" ? Only by exception, I would argue. Obviously "Englishness" excludes the Celts. But that's about it. Take a sample of English people and ask them to define what being "English" means. And take a matched sample of English people and ask them to define what being "British" means. The results would be identical except that the latter group might emphasise that being British means having the Celts as our compatriots. But as far as values are concerned I doubt that you would find any difference. Does the "British" bit of me have different values from the "English" bit ? Of course not.

Obviously English history prior to the Union was not British history. It couldn't be, Britain as a Nation did not exist. Similarly Shakespeare was not British, except in retrospect. He is as English as Robbie Burns is Scots. Actually Burns is an interesting case. He died in 1796 a few years before the Act of Union. He is no more British than Shakespeare was. And roll forward to, say, Edward Elgar. Was he distinctly an English rather than a British composer? You could argue that either way I guess and it doesn't really matter. Like me he was both English and British.

Our cultural heritage for the last 215 years is British and the way we are as a United Kingdom has evolved over that time. It was the "British Empire", it is the "British Broadcasting Corporation" - we talk about "British values" and "British Food" and "British weather" and so on. It was the "British Spirit" which won us the war. We have "British institutions" , and, of course, a "British Parliament". The Pound is "British" , as is the weather!

If the Scots break away from us formally Britain will start to disappear and gradually we English will revert to being the country of "Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Harry Potter and David Beckham's right foot" as Hugh Grant's Prime Minister put it in "Love Actually" - though we'd have to drop Sean Connery. Mind you he's dropped us hasn't he ? 


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why pay tax you don't have to? If it's legal it's what transnational businesses do all the time.

Let's say I run a Transnational corporation which produces minerals in Harrovia. One of them is called "Slytherin" which costs me £4 a tonne to produce. In the UK Slythern has a value of £10 a tonne. It costs me £1 to transport. So my actual profit delivered in the UK is £5 a tonne. With Corporation tax at 20% I pay £1 in tax. But in Harrovia I have a long-standing tax holiday. The Harrovian Government wants me there. So my operations are tax free. Better to make a profit in Harrovia than the UK. So I assess the value of my Slytherin at £9 a tonne as it is loaded on the ship in Harrovia. When it is sold in the UK I make no profit (having paid my £1 a tonne transport cost). 

The above is a (very) simplistic example of how Corporations avoid Tax by manipulating transfer prices. Obviously the subject is very complex but the basic rule that it pays to make your money where the taxes are lowest applies to them all. This includes putting offices in lower tax jurisdictions - often quite nominally. Look at the brass plates outside buildings in Bermuda or the Channel Islands (etc.) ! 

To tackle this requires international cooperation. In my fictional example the UK would need an agreement with the Harrovian Government to change what happens. Why would the latter do this? It's in their interests to keep me in their country. And why would I voluntarily change my modus operandi and voluntarily pay tax I don't have to? What I do is legal. Period! 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Even for a Europhile like me there are some dodgy goings on in the "Remain" cause which I don't like.

For this Europhile, whilst I fervently want the unnecessary referendum on Britain's membership of the EU to be successfully out of the way, the means don't necessarily justify the ends. Open borders is a key principle of the EU. There is no way around this. If you're a member you accept that your citizens have the right to live and work anywhere across the 28 member countries. And vice versa of course. The refugees in Calais have nothing to do with this. They are not EU citizens and have no rights of residence anywhere in the EU. They do have the human right to be referred to less contemptuously by our Prime Minister. But they have nothing to do with Britain's membership of the Union.

Dog Whistle politics bring the whole political class into disrepute. The EU Referendum  campaign is already in the gutter before it has really started. The very premise that the UK is renegotiating the terms of its EU membership is a lie. A few minor adjustments on the edges of our obligations as an EU member do not a successful renegotiation make! It's the old marketers game - find something of high perceived value and make it seem more valuable than it really is. Hence all the nonsense over non British EU citizens right to benefits if resident in the UK. It's a very minor issue indeed. But Cameron is focusing on it because he thinks it has high communications value and will prove the pseudo-negotiations have succeeded. Baloney!

Membership of the EU as I say brings wth it free movement of Labour (and Capital of course). This free movement may also mean migration, but the two things are not synonymous. Your Polish plumber is unlikely to be a migrant, he's far more likely to be a GastArbeider who will eventually return to his home Country. The actual number of EU citizens who actually want to make permanent homes in Britain is far less than the number who are presently working here. 

"Immigration" is a code word for "multiculturalism" for many and it's this that UKIP and others seek to exploit in the EU debate.  Some people don't like our multicultural cities (a status which has little to do with the EU of course) and unscrupulous politicians seek to exploit this. "Immigration" becomes important in the EU debate even though in reality it is a subject that is in principle non-negotiable and in fact fairly unimportant! 

As I said I want Britain to remain a member of the European Union and I hope that we will choose to do so. But I don't welcome the lies and obfuscation creeping into the "Remain" campaign's rhetoric and communications. The case for membership is strong. We don't need to play dog whistle politics to win the argument. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ideology from the Left and Right does not help us find a solution to the problem of the railways - we need a third way.


An independent study has found Britain's railways to be the worst in Europe. No surprise there then. The problem with much of the debate about the Railways is that it assumes that there are only two models - Franchising or Nationalisation. There is woolly and conventional doctrinaire thinking behind both alternatives. We need a third way and if we start with the passenger we might actually find a way of getting there! (I refuse to use the generic “customer” by the way. We are passengers and if we acknowledge that from the start there is a better chance of finding a solution.) 

We need a “solution” because there’s a problem, and that problem is a direct consequence of the botching of privatisation, compounded by further botching in the decades since. The first utterly demented failure was the spouting of the shibboleth that “competition would improve services”. With a few minor exceptions the Railway franchisees are private sector monopolies. This is the worst operational model known to man. There is, by definition, no competition. Equally the driver for the business being profit the monopolist will so finesse pricing and service to maximise it. Then the regulator, or Government, will try and constrain that operator. It leads to shambles and bureaucracy. It has. 

When the private sector monopoly Railtrack collapsed into a mess of its own making it showed that the “Private Sector good, Public Sector bad” war cry was so much baloney. Now, as Network Rail, it does much better what it should be doing. Not because it’s publicly owned, but because its publicly accountable. And there’s the model for you. It applies also to the London Underground which, a few employee relations issues aside, provides a very good publicly accountable service. 

Back to the railways. On the successful model of Network Rail or the “Tube” let’s create a network of train services that fulfils the following criteria: 

1. Service levels that make the Train the preferred option for most travel. The Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA) of this overwhelmingly positive. The train is green when the alternatives are not. Every rail passenger who would otherwise take a car (especially) helps our environmental goals. 

2. Offers total connectivity across the network. Trains and train times driven by a comprehensive network plan, not the commercial imperatives of individual franchisees. 

3. A transparent and understandable fares policy and one that is designed to attract passengers not put them off and drive them to alternative forms of transport. 

4. Absolute consistency in brand and offer across the network. Obviously consistency predicated on high standards but not skewed by the serendipity of what we have now. 

5. A commercially driven price and service structure which is designed to generate returns, but one that is comprehensible as well as fair. 

6. No overt “subsidies” but an acceptance that some services will have operational losses (see CBA in (1) above) 

7. Reinvestment of operating margins in the network and services. As the London Underground puts it: “We don't make a profit because we reinvest all our income to run and improve your services. We are a public body, with no shareholders or parent companies, which means we can reinvest every pound of income in the transport network” 

The railways should be a “public body” like the Tube but that does not necessarily that everything should be publicly owned and certainly does not mean that all employees should be public sector employees. As I have argued previously in respect of the NHS there should be no objection to the “contracting out” of some services to the private sector. Providing that this contracting out is done against competitive tenders and against agreed cost and service standards. In some cases this may mean a measure of franchising and various other models – including regional structures. But the guiding rule has to be creating integrated services that are accountable not to faceless shareholders but to we the people. 

Plain speaking on the NHS - a great Public/Private partnership



If we discount those self-regarding libertarians who want to dismantle the NHS, and those neo-Marxists who think it should have no commercial targets at all, there is the potential for a consensus on the Health Service. I believe that this enormous enterprise is one of the world’s great public/private partnerships. Its delivery costs are highly competitive compared with much of the Western world. And if we as a nation choose to provide healthcare that is (mostly) free at point of use (we do) then we presently do it pretty well.

Key, to me, is to accept that contracting out against competitive tender is not just desirable but essential for certain things that the NHS does. Similarly that there are some things which should only be entrusted to public employees and never contracted out. The challenge is to decide which parts of the NHS fall into the first, and which into the second category. And to stop perpetrating the lie that contacting out is “privatisation”. It isn’t. The assets used remain State property. There is no actual privatisation at all.

The NHS must meet agreed standards at an acceptable cost. That may seem obvious but how many people in the debate think that everything should be subject to commercial challenge (it shouldn’t) or that nothing should (wrong as well!). 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Corbyn is the polar opposite of Cameron–that can help him win !

“Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.”

So writes David Axelrod today in the “New York Times” in an article that argues that the appeal of Donald Trump is substantially because he is the polar opposite of Barack Obama – who himself was the opposite of his predecessor George W Bush. Axelrod goes back further – to young Kennedy (v old Eisenhower) in 1960 and indeed his model works pretty well in the UK as well. Thatcher v Callaghan. Blair v Major. Wilson v Home…

And now we have some good news for Jeremy Corbyn at last. Whether its David Cameron or another Etonian (Boris) or an Old Pauline, George Osborne, his Tory opponent in 2020 will be more of the same. Corbyn can position himself in policy and style not to be the  “replica of what they have”. Not the establishment. Not Oxbridge. Not corrupted by Office. Not in hock to Rupert Murdoch or the BBC or anyone else. More Nigel Farage in appeal than Ed Miliband! (See how Farage also fits the Axelrod model, or did)?

So Corbyn needs to emphasise those of his personal qualities that distinguish him from Cameron – the personality traits which make him, with his long record as an outsider, not the replica of the Prime Minister. Will it work? Well he doesn't have to convince all the people, just enough to build on his hard core (30%?) support. its far from impossible.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There's more democracy in the EU than there is in Britain!



I suppose "Democracy" means different things to different people - certainly each of the 28 member States of the European Union has a different system. Different cameral arrangements, voting systems, subsidiarity etc. There is no right and wrong template, no "more democratic" nor "less democratic" - except subjectively of course. This variety brings with it an interesting test. If the EU was really "undemocratic", as many advocating "Brexit" claim, then from these various perspectives surely at least one member would challenge the system and demand change? But they don't and I'll explain why. 

Over the decades the EU and its predecessors has become ever more democratic as it has pursued ever closer union. Above all, the European Parliament, has evolved into a fully-fledged democratic Assembly. Not perfect, of course, but a solid symbol of the democratic principles that underpin the EU. The Parliament has changed over the years and will continue to do so. At the same time the Commision, the civil servants who make the EU work, have become ever more democratically accountable. It's work in progress and not everything that has to be achieved has been achieved. But Europe has not just a coherent Union but one fit for modern times and one that the 28 members can be proud of.

The concept of "subsidiarity" is key to the EU. Take decisions at the lowest level possible. Ensure that decisions taken in Brussels are taken there because it is right to do so - not to reinforce the EU's power. The U.K. is not in a position to lecture the 27 other EU members on this, nor much else in respect of democracy. We do not delegate to the lowest level possible in Britain anywhere nearly enough. Indeed we don't even have the democratic institutions to do so - other than in the Celtic fringe. Similarly our Governance system is no model for any other State. An unelected Head of State. And unelected Upper House. A voting system which utterly distorts election results in respect of Party representation. And so on.

In the modern world crucial decisions which impact on our lives are taken all the time by those who are not accountable to us. By the Boards of multinational corporations. By the leaders of big countries such as the United States, China or Russia. By often unaccountable non Governmental and transnational bodies of various types from the UN to FIFA (etc.). Are we more likely to be in a position to challenge these processes together with 27 other nations or on our own? Obvious isn't it? So the EU, as well as being increasingly democratic as an institution, has the power to act together and make a difference. It protects our democracy rather better than we do! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

“Even the Band was white”– thoughts on a visit to the “New” South Africa

Even the Band was white

[Above: New Year’s Eve at the Kelvin Grove Club, Cape Town]

 

At our guest house in Franschhoek the proprietor made a couple of references to the "New South Africa" in explaining things to us. The things she was explaining were mostly things that didn't work very well, or at all, as she saw it. She was an Afrikaner - a comfortably off and successful one. We didn't talk politics and my impression that she was a decent as well as an able person. But over 20 years since the Republic entered the civilised world clearly not everything is rosy. The hideous Shanty Town close to Cape Town Airport is still there and the poverty gap between the have’s and the have not’s seems as wide as ever. And with the Rand hovering around 25 to the pound (it was 12 six years when we were last there) South Africans struggle to import the commodities they need (though the tourists and some of the exporters are happy).

The most positive development is the continued rise of the Black middle class. The children who at last got a decent education after apartheid was dismantled are arriving in the workforce - many with good schooling and University. They along with their White, Coloured and Indian compatriots inherit a situation of which the memory of Nelson Mandela can be proud.

"Apartheid" is an Afrikaans word meaning "separate development" a concept that institutionalised and exploited South Africa's racial differences. Of course it did not mean "separate but equal development" - it reinforced and passed into law privilege on racial grounds. In "Cry the Beloved Country" (which I re-read during this trip) written and set in 1947 Alan Paton held a mirror up to the reality of that privilege. The white characters are mostly good people many of whom are concerned about the "natives" but only one, the (ironically) murdered by a Black criminal Jarvis, sees the need for a moral crusade and for change. Within a year of this great book's publication Apartheid was formalised - including the hideous "petty apartheid" of separate park benches and the like.

So 65 years on from "Beloved Country" and 25 from Mandela's release where is South Africa now? My first conclusion is that, awkward though they may have been, quotas have worked. Shell South Africa when I used to visit it was an 80% white company - it is now 80% black. A black man scored a fine century at Newlands. Neither of these things would have happened without "positive discrimination". And countless other changes of course. There is also a sense of confidence that the outside world, like me, is comfortable with visiting a society that is so much more equal (though some of that equality is superficial and/or artificial). But there is a long way to go to achieve genuine equality of opportunity.

The weakness of the Rand is a measure of the weakness of the economy as a whole and of the failure of Zuma's Government. In the early days of Mandela's presidency the great man tried to ensure that he had the best people in top Government jobs irrespective of race. This is no longer the case and Zuma is accused of cronyism, or worse. The emergence of better educated blacks in the coming years should mean a broader pool of good people across the races. But to institutionalise a different form of privilege, as Zuma has done, in place of the old one is hardly progress!

At the social level I saw few signs of real progress towards an unselfconsciously multiracial society. Apartheid might have gone but separate development and social barriers are still very much present. An extreme example was the Kelvin Grove Club in Newlands where I had reciprocal membership. This has all the appearances of the expatriate clubs of Hong Kong and elsewhere very familiar to me. At these the Brits (mostly) were the members and the local Chinese served at table (etc.) But Kelvin Grove is not an expatriate club at all. It's members are South African citizens from the white English speaking Cape Town tribe. Not even Afrikaners let alone coloureds or Blacks or Indians. The non whites do the work though. On New Years' Eve not one guest at the dinner dance was non-white. Even the band was white!

In writing about Kelvin Grove I am observing not criticising. I can't see any reason why so long as there is no colour bar (there isn't) a club can't operate broadly as it always did and make an offer that is more likely to appeal to one tribe than others.

Another book I read during my visit was "A racist's guide to the people of South Africa". This very funny and irreverent book describes the English White, Afrikaner, Black and Indian racial groups in terms of their behaviour and aspirations. They are very different - no surprise there then. The author discusses the rising Black middle class - "Black Diamonds" they are called. A subset of this group are those Blacks who don't speak like blacks - the "Coconuts" (brown on the outside, white inside). Unsurprisingly it is this group that the Whites find it easiest to relate to because they are intentionally or not aping the whites in speech and behaviour. But the overwhelming majority of Black South Africans are not Coconuts and have no wish to be. They have no more intention of changing their cultural norms than the Members of Kelvin Grove or the Voortrekkers of Natal!

I remember visiting Nairobi a few times some years ago where a senior Board director of Shell Kenya was Black. He was almost schizophrenic in his lifestyle. During the week he was besuited, spoke educated English and was a highly skilled senior manager. At the weekend he travelled to his “native” village, wore traditional dress and spoke his tribal language. I don't know whether this is common in the “New” South Africa, but it wouldn't surprise me. And, let me stress again, it seems a perfectly acceptable and rational behaviour.

In his “I have a dream” speech Martin Luther King said this:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

This was not a “Melting pot” argument. It acknowledged differences and argued for respect of them. But even if massive progress has been made in the “New” South Africa there is a still a way to go. Within the last few weeks some prominent members of the White communities (including broadcasters and Government employees) have been, as the “Cape Times” put it “…embroiled in racism allegations”. This has, they say,  prompted Government to “…include  hate speech and racist behaviour in the Hate Crimes Bill”.

Multiculturalism (and there is nowhere on Earth more multicultural than South Africa) does not need to be changed so that the Blacks all become Coconuts or Kelvin Grove makes their dinner dances wider in their cultural content. What it requires is respect and when that respect is absent then Government needs to act – as it appears to be doing in this one respect at least. On the other hand whilst “Positive discrimination” and quotas was uncomfortable for many it was a necessary thing. But now there needs, it would seem, to be an acknowledgment that there is a sub-optimum situation in some crucial areas of Government (etc.) with able people not being given a chance because of their (white) colour. Far worse than this there is compelling evidence of Afrikaners being murdered on their farms - a scandal of such horrific proportions that it is extraordinary that it is not more in the public eye both within and outside South Africa.

I only go to South Africa every few years and I always enjoy it and marvel at it because of its variety of geography, lifestyle and people. This time I saw nothing that troubled me particularly but old friends I met, and new ones I made, were worried. There is evidence that White administered Apartheid has been replaced by a Black-administered structure which in some respects is not that different. It may be too early to cry again for the beloved country – but it may come to that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Scotland's oil? It's a red herring in the Independence debate.


The issue of the oil price is something of a red herring and Nicola Sturgeon and Ales Salmond should say so. The decision as to whether Scotland stays part of the UK far transcends economics. It's an emotional and patriotic choice - do the Scots want to be an independent self-governing nation or not? Does their Scottish patriotism/nationalism trump their Britishness?  

Ireland has only limited hydrocarbon resources and few other exploitable natural resources. Yet it has a viable and successful economy (the overheating of the first part of the century aside!). The Irish benefit from their EU membership and, yes, from their use of the Euro. That is the model for Scotland.  

I don't want Scotland to leave the UK - the country to me is as much a part of my Britishness as England is. But if the rest of the U.K. is insane enough to vote to push us out of the EU then the Scots case for independence would be greatly strengthened. And if that happens and they become an independent State within the EU and adopt the Euro as well (end of silly currency issue which bedevilled the Referendum campaign in 2014) then not only would it work but I might move north of the border! Better a proud European in Scotland than a cut-adrift Little Englander!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

How to deal with a problem like Jeremy...



Jeremy Corbyn is a problem. A problem, that is, if you are more concerned with his sometimes murky past than was he says and does in his current position as Leader of the Opposition. Yes Corbyn mixed at times with a ragbag collection of terrorists and anti-Semites. He, of course, was neither and a case can be made that his motives in what he did were sincere - though he was surely foolish in some of these associations. But this was the Corbyn who never stopped bring an activist and a protestor. The ever-present on a march and the go-to man of the Left for any organiser of a Left wing protest. He occupied a position on the political spectrum in Parliament (though not in the country) on the extreme Left rather as (for example) Conservatve Peter Bone does on the extreme Right.  But Corbyn was no more a Marxist than Bone is a Fascist. He was a good parliamentarian and a democrat, a good constituency MP and a Labour loyalist. "Loyalist" you cry, "a man who was a serial voter against the Blair/Brown Governments" ? I would say so yes because loyalty is about more than being lobby fodder - it is, or ought to be, about being loyal to your socialist principles - especially when you see that your Party in government appears to have abandoned theirs - if they ever had them.

Jeremy Corbyn never sought preferment or office - he was content in his role, as he no doubt saw it, of being a conscience of the Labour Party. But cometh the hour cometh the man. That hour was the 2015 General Election debacle. Corbyn believed that this defeat was because Labour was reverting to its "New Labour" posture and that the voters turned away from this "grey men of the centre" positioning. There is some evidence of this - especially in Scotland where the SNP was elected on the grounds that it was more socialist than Labour. Although some in the media and the Conservatives spread the "Red Ed" jibe constantly it was never true. Ed Miliband was a classic product of the modern political career politician Oxbridge machine. A bit redder than David Cameron for sure, but hardly the mad man of the Left he was portrayed as.  Corbyn, on the other hand, is as "Red" as they come. The Labour Party has a socialist as leader, shock horror!

Those in the Labour Party opposed to Corbyn constantly shout "Boo" - or worse - from the sidelines. The Tories have no need to do anything, just let Labour carry on tearing itself apart and an election win in 2020 is certain. Let's be clear on this. Corbyn's position is likely to be increasingly untenable not because the Conservatives beat him but because those in his own Party who don't like him destroy him - which they are determined to do. This group is often referred to as "Blairite" and certainly their anger is because the New Labour positioning has been overturned by the more authentic Labour positions favoured by the new leadership. But virtually all of their criticism is about the Jeremy Corbyn of the past - the man who opposed not just Blair's wars but much of what Blair and Gordon Brown did over their thirteen years in power. Understandably if you could stomach the barely even Social Democratic positioning of New Labour - a positioning which made the Liberal Democrats the more left of centre Party on many issues - you won't support a Labour leader who is a genuine socialist!

Since becoming leader Corbyn has made some mistakes - especially if you judge him by the establishment norms of a Blair or a Brown. The former was ideology Lite - throughout his career pragmatism ruled and it worked, at least for him. Brown was more principled and did have a sounder connection with Labour values than his middle-class and more privileged Public School educated rival. But neither of them had the value set of the Labour left. But it is that value set which led Labour members overwhelmingly to choose Jeremy Corbyn last year. They were saying that at last there was a way to get traditional Labour policies onto the agenda under a leader whose track record was consistently over his entire political life rooted in democratic socialism. This had never happened before. At least not in the post war era after Attlee. A few policy nuances aside Labour leaders from Gaitskell through Wilson and Kinnock to Smith and Blair have been pragmatic pursuers of power and as a consequence centrist in their politics. Michael Foot was the only exception to this - though actually Foot was a more establishment figure than many think and certainly more of one than Corbyn. 

So in short Corbyn actually reflects the views of those who elected him and therefore of the overwhelming majority of Labour members as well, I suspect, of hard core (not floating) Labour voters. The problem is that you can't win elections from this postion. Wilson and Blair won elections by marshalling votes from those who were not automatically Labour voters. Floating voters. Including many who had previously voted Conservative. It is inconceivable that Corbyn can do this. And when it comes to the crunch that is the problem with Jeremy. Not his murky past. Not his rather ham-fisted attempts to marginalise those who don't share his ideology. Not his anti-establishment past and present. No. The problem with Jeremy is that he cannot appeal to sufficient numbers of the electorate to win an election. 



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An analysis of the Oliver Letwin "apology"



In his apology Oliver Letwin said as follows:
 "I want to make clear that some parts of a private memo I wrote nearly 30 years ago were both badly worded and wrong.
"I apologise unreservedly for any offence these comments have caused and I wish to make clear that none was intended" 
Let's just analyse this because it is in many ways a classic of its type.
Sentence one:
"Private memo"    Is very bad. The explicit presumption is that because the memo was "private" therefore it mattered less what was in it. So what you say in private is allowably different from what you say in public. This may be true - the whole idea of "on the record" and "off the record" relies on it. But consider whether Mr Letwin was more likely to say what he really believed in private or in public. See what I mean? Conclusion: these were (are?) his true opinions.
"I wrote nearly 30 years ago" - very bad again. The presumption here is that things said three decades ago were in a different time and therefore should not be judged by the standards of today. Bad in two ways. Firstly it denies the idea of core principle. His memo offends against a premise that such opinions are unacceptable anywhere any time. Also there is no statute of limitations on what you say. If you were offensive 30 years ago you are still offensive today. Indeed it matters not whether you said it decades ago or yesterday. When you said it is irrelevant.
"Badly worded and wrong". Very good. He could have just said "badly worded" which would have implied it was a drafting error. He didn't. He says what he wrote was "wrong" - good.
Sentence Two
"apologise unreservedly" is good. Unequivocal and clear.
"...for any offence these comments have caused." Oh dear! The apology breaks down at this point and the key word is "any". This gratuitous word suggests that there might be some doubt as to whether or not offence has been caused. Take out "any" and replace it with "the" and you have something that appears sincere. Letwin is apologising and he is doing this because he HAS caused offence. There is no doubt about this. But the "any" tries to suggest that there may be some doubt in the matter or that those who are offended are in the minority. Again this may be true, but it is cheap to suggest so. The "wrong" in the first sentence is good. The "any" in the second seeks to qualify this. It shouldn't .
"... wish to make clear that none was intended"  here Letwin falls off the rails entirely. Why would anyone, let alone a senior politician, seek to cause offence? Is anyone suggesting that Letwin's objective was to cause offence? Not that I've seen. It was, after all, a "private memo" which is hardly the medium you would choose if your intention was to cause offence ! So Letwin is here apologising (sort of) here for something nobody is accusing him of !
Apologising for mistakes is an honourable thing to do. But this "apology" is an ill-drafted mix of the good, the bad and the dismissive. Is it sincere in any way? I very much doubt it. 



Monday, December 07, 2015

We know the "way" - but do we have the "will" to invest this time ?




I love my country otherwise I wouldn't live here. I don't have to - there are plenty of other, warmer, less introspective and divisive and more efficient places to live. And most would cost a lot less too! But I am British and there are British things that I love and would miss (I know, I've lived abroad a lot and I missed them). The magnificent BBC. Our Arts scene generally. Our media for all its warts. Our politics (God help me). The countryside. The sport. Real Ale. (Sorry getting a bit John Major now...). 

But one thing about Britain that annoys me a lot is our indecision. Each generation has a duty to create infrastructure for its successor generations. We must do it right - but we MUST do it. In the 1950s a series of complacent ill-lead Conservative  Governments relegated Britain to an also-ran status in respect of our industrial infrastructure. Our oh so recent enemies Germany and Japan established the capacity and the brands to lead the world. Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, AEG, Canon. And later the Amercans also innovated whilst we did nothing. Apple, McDonalds, Microsoft. Even the French without indigenous energy invested in a sustainable power generation sector when we faffed about and largely squandered our North Sea Oil inheritance. 

And here we go again. London is a great asset. The Olympics were symbolic of its global capital status. Indeed London is at the heart of our economic present and our future. But it won't be if we don't invest in it. Air travel is the key to this - we must have more capacity. I would expand Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted AND City. But let's get off the fence and get on with Heathrow as soon as possible. 

An expanded Heathrow, linked by CrossRail to the City in the East, is essential. So is HS2 linking London to the rapidly developing Birmingham and the North West. None of this is easy but we know the way. Do we have the "will"? This time let's hope we do! 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

We should celebrate Britain's multicultural society not berate it.




The idea that multiculturalism, as Mr Altaf Ussain claims today on the Conservative Home website, has "guided so much of our policy for decades " is just plain wrong and there is not a scintilla of evidence for it. A multicultural society was never, ever a goal of any political Party or Government. Yes we have such a society and benefit hugely from it. But it is a consequence of a host of actions and circumstances never a goal.

I don't know whether Mr Hussain was around in Britain in the early 1950s but I was and a very dull place it was. Homogenous, unicultutal, introspective, ignorant, suspicious, antisemitic, xenophobic. It was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant world, There weren't many people of colour around so the WASP established order had to be rude about the Catholics, or the Jews or the Irish. There will always be someone to blame if you feel the need to. Now, for Mr Hussain, it's those of ethnic minority heritage who don't "integrate". Well I've news for him. It was ever thus. There are Jewish families living in London from the faith's orthodox outer reaches who haven't "integrated' for 100 years or more. And it hasn't mattered a bit. They obey the law. That is all we require them to do. How they live, worship, eat and which festivals they observe or what clothes they wear doesn't matter a fig, and never did.

The extent of our integration into the predominant Unicultural norms of the majority British culture is a matter of choice. When I lived in Hong Kong some of my friends called themselves "Bananas" - they looked Chinese but in fact they were as British as I was. They were yellow on the outside, but white inside. That was their choice (or had been that of their parents). Similarly I have met many West Indians who call themselves "Coconuts"! There is nothing offensive about these self-imposed descriptors, and nothing superior either. 

Mr Hussain is a "Melting Pot" man. He seems to want to make us all conform to some bland norm which has eliminated our differences. Well I've been there 60 plus years ago and I don't recommend it. There are more challenges living in a pluralist society - but it is far, far richer. I celebrate our differences, the variety of our  cites, the range of our cultures and people. I don't thnk my norm is better than anyone else's. It's mine and I'm not going to change it. And I'm not going to presume to ask anyone else to change theirs either. 

Deselection of MPs should be allowed - but only in very rare cases

I have been following the "debate" (if that's what it is) about deselection of Labour MPs by their Constituency parties from the City that once was Leningrad! Appropriate because there is a 1984 element to it all and Orwell's chilling satire was all about the need for conformity of thought. That, for 70 years was the Soviet way - to the Gulag (or worse) for those who disagree.

The idea that Members of Parliament should be accountable to their constituents is uncontroversial, and right. The notion that this means that local Parties should tell them how to vote and think is unconstitutional and wrong. Offensively so. If an MP is corrupt or incompetent there should be a process to deselect him or her. But if an MPs only "offence" is that they differ in their views of policy from the Party leadership then that is not a reason to remove them. (It is sad that this very obvious democratic principle needs restating, but it does).

MPs are not delegates mandated to do in Parliament exactly what they are told - by anybody! The whipping system is perhaps necessary to make democracy function - but to punish a Member for voting against a three-line-whip strikes me as very much a last resort. And to deselect them for being a serial rebel ? Well Jeremy Corbyn would long since have been booted out of the House if that had been the way!

Political opinions are disconnected at their core from Parties. Take Kate Hoey. She is a Eurosceptic in a Party that mostly isn't. Or Ken Clarke. He is a Europhile in a Party that mostly isn't. They both provide challenges to the mainstream and add value by doing so. There are hundreds of other examples. Some Tories spoke against the bombing of Syria, some Labour members supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Tax Credits. And so on. They were pursuing the long established (and very British) principle that nobody tells them what to think !

We the people elect our members of Parliament and if it turns out we've elected a crook we should be able to kick them out. But if an MPs views and voting behaviour are contrary to my views or to how I would vote is that grounds for concern? Not at all. At the next election I can put my cross against somebody else. But for now let's celebrate the awkward squad, the dissidents, the doubters, the sceptics and the rest. Democracies need them - indeed often they are the only Agents of change we have. 


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Sorry Tim but its Europe and our place in it that matters, notthe "Special Relationship"


Political commentator, Eurosceptic and (mainly !) liberal Conservative Tim Montgomerie is spending a year living and studying and writing in the United States. His article in The Times today is premised on the idea that the Americans will be relieved that with the Syria bombing vote the UK is back in the fold. Tim finishes his article as above. 

A key element of conservative Eurosceptism of whatever Party is the idea that the "Special Relationship" (along with the bizarre notion of the existence of an "Anglosphere") will be there to comfort and protect us when we flee the warm embrace of the European Union. It's a nostalgic look back to a time around 70 years ago when arguably it was true - at least Churchill thought so. He said when he postulated the idea of a "United States of Europe" that Britain would not be part of it because of the Special Relationship and because of our Empire/Commonwealth. Well the latter has gone (as significant anyway) and the former is just a bit of nostalgia. We may be, as Tim says, "admired" and "loved" by our cousins across the pond but that is more "Downton Abbey" and Queen Elizabeth than any sort of basis for constructive political partnership.

America knows that what Dean Acheson said  back in 1962 that "Britain had lost an Empire  and not yet found a role" was true when he said it and it has been increasingly true since. The "decline" of Britain as a "Great Power" was inevitable and, many of us would thnk, desirable. The twentieth century saw power move from the old European Empires to the new ones based on political/military/economic strength (America, USSR/ Russia, China, Japan) or partnerships of nations (especially the European Union but also ASEAN and other pan-national groups). In this world none of the "old" powers can operate on its own - not even the economic powerhouse of Germany, and certainly not Britain.

Britain's relationship with the United States is not really bilateral anymore. We may have, as Tim puts it, "common enemies" but these are not peculiar to Britain. The fight against Islamic terrorism is not an Anglo-Saxon imperative but one shared by most nations, and certainly all European ones. So Britain's decision  now to bomb ISIS across the border in Syria rather than just in Iraq is of marginal significance militarily and politically. We were already part of the anti-ISIS military coalition. That it is now the R.A.F. which is (also) bombing targets in Syria is no big deal - if they weren't doing it one of our other partners would be. Britian's decision does not increase the effort against ISIS, it just refocuses it a bit.

I have no doubt that the Americans and our other partners in the ISIS fight are pleased to see us extending our commitment. But despite what the British media is saying we are not really significantly more "at war" than we already were - it is a marginal change at best. And the reality of Britain's place in the world is only as a major part of European alliances - the EU and NATO especially. Our relationship with America is through our participation within these alliances not as a bipartite partner is some nostalic special relationship. 


Thursday, November 05, 2015

The UN is far from "ineffectual and hopeless" . Let's support it and make it better.



For some reason Tory Councillor, Dr Teck Khong drifted on to my Twitter timeline today with a little burst of invective about the United Nations (see above, and my reply). Now 140 characters don't allow us much space to develop complex points and no doubt Dr Khong could back up his burst of bile with a more substantive argument if he wanted to. And equally I can support my "No" with reasons as well. Here they are.

1. History teaches that "Jaw Jaw" is better than "War War". There is plenty of the former at the UN and in nearly 70 years they haven't eliminated the latter. But the UN is supported by all the Nations of the world and without doubt the presence of a forum for debate helps mutual understanding. If it wasn't  there we would have to invent it.

2. The UN sometimes takes positive action on the ground. UN peacekeeping missions have helped in the world's trouble spots for decades. They have stopped conflict and bought time for peace to follow. Not always. And not always successfully. But they do it, courageously and especially when nobody else can play the role. Which is nearly always.

3. UN bodies like UNICEF, UNHCR and the many agencies controlled by or linked to the UN do amazing work around the world. That they operate under the UN umbrella and with the UN's guidance gives them a mandate for this work which would be simply unachievable without it.

4. The modern world is interdependent, and increasingly so. This is a good thing. If we work together for mutual advantage with other nations we need bodies to maximise the benefits of this cooperation. And the UN plays a key role. History is sullied by the evil scourge of Nationalism and Imperialism. Part of the role of the UN is to find areas where we can cooperate and set the conditions for the post Imperial world. When the UN's wishes are ignored (Iraq, Afghanistan...) it is common that chaos and resurgent Nationalism is the result.

5. The UN's educational Programmes help give our children a world view.  They will learn that "No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main...I am involved in mankind..." 

The charter of the United Nations has lofty goals:
  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

Does it always achieve these goals - of course not. Are they goals worth striving for? They are. Is the UN with all its Nation state members the best body to do it? Indisputably. 




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Now is the winter of our discontent approaching ...






Hard to avoid the conclusion that the issue of Tax Credits  is being used as a weapon for those with ambition to be Cameron's successor or to be a Warwick the Kingmaker. Indeed the whole affair reminds me of the "War of the Roses" which I saw recently at The Rose Theatre, Kingston. Cameron has damaged his status by saying, as Blair also did, that he will go before the next Election. So the Knights and Lords, the lickspittles and the sycophants, the useful fools and the conniving courtiers are playing complex games to position themselves either to succeed him or to profit by aligning themselves with the winner. Theresa's May's speech on immigration only makes sense if seen in this context. Osborne's gamble that he could get the Tax Credits reform through without a House of Commons vote likewise. Boris's manoeuvring is so Shakespearian as to be worthy of a place on a Drama or English Lit study programme. 

In this world of intrigue and back-stabbing the management of policy fades into the background and everything is about who's up, who's down and who's blown it. We on the sidelines watch with incomprehension at times. It's quite amusing and deserves a "House of Cards" treatment - though I suspect the truth is stranger than even that fiction. Identifying the various camps (as with York and Lancaster) is not always easy. Tim Montgomerie makes common cause with James Forsyth. My enemy's enemy...? Michael Ashcroft (whom God preserve) times a broadside to coincide with a jolly Pageant in Manchester. Toby Young moves from bring a quizzical commentator on the sideline to being a defender of all things Tory. Louise Mensch, the Queen over the water, trumps even Toby in her sycophancy. Meanwhile the official Opposition has opted out to set up a rival war on a different battlefield far away. And the foot soldiers? Running around in ever decreasing circles...

Friday, October 16, 2015

The "Fiscal charter" is about as meaningful as John Major's "Cones hotline"

Do you remember when John Major as Prime Minister introduced a "Cones hotline" for motorists to call when they thought that there were too many cones on the road? It was ridiculed because we could all see that it was a silly, political stunt. George Osborne's "Fiscal Chareter" is more of the same. And equally silly.

Party politics in our kind of democracy are important. We cannot hold our noses and say that in the national interest Governments should eschew the game of securing Party advantage. If they want to be re-elected they have to do some of this. But passing a Law to create fiscal rules that are intended not just to apply during this Parliament not in subsequent ones is both politically and fiscally illiterate. 

Politically it's nonsense because it refers to future events and politics is only played in the past and present tenses. To say that you are by doing this to ensure that a Government in ten years time will be prudent is poppycock. And won't win you one vote. As far as the realities that apply to national and (especially) international economics are concerned the unexpected always happens and you have to react. Ask Gordon Brown! When the Black Swan arrives you have to have all the levers available. No Chancellor would wish to have his freedom to act limited - let alone by a rule established by a Chancellor of another Party ten years ago! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

If the IRA allegations are true Corbyn and McDonnell’s positions are untenable

corbyn_952720c

The allegations in today’s Sunday Telegraph are the most serious made in modern times against a leading political figure. If Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were as close to the Irish Republican Army as Andrew Gilligan suggests then their current positions are untenable. With the important proviso that neither the Telegraph nor Gilligan can always be seen as balanced observers and that further independent verification is necessary. To understand the position we need to track back over 20th Century Irish history a bit and to place relations with Great Britain and the UK in focus.  

I have always been in favour of a united Ireland. The treatment of the Irish in the first half of the 19th Century by Great Britain was an affront and it was this that led to the failure of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" to survive. Ireland was technically not a Colony and, of course, there were Irish MPs and Peers at Westminster. But the rule of Ireland by the British was imperial in the extreme and Irish independence was a cause no less justified than the cause of (say) India. But as with India when it came (and equally bloodily) there was division. Northern Ireland, with its then Protestant majority, would not join the rest of Ireland as the Republic was formed. But the Irish of the North are no less Irish than the Irish of the South. The Union Flag waving is much more religious in its basis than it is political.

Come the dawn the island of Ireland will be, must be, one State. But how to get there? There is only one way and that is for the peoples of the South and the peoples of the North to want it. Separate referenda (obviously) will be held in the Republic and in the North and if both agree that Union should happen then it will. The time when this event occurs is anyone's guess but the changing demography of the North suggests it will be sooner rather than later.

I am not diminishing the struggle ahead nor the grievances that will be felt by the "Loyalist" community in the North. If they or (I would argue) any other Irish people would like to hold dual citizenship (Irish and British) that might be a way forward. We are very close, notwithstanding the past, and our cultures overlap. We all live in the British Isles after all! (For the avoidance of doubt I use "British" as a geographical and cultural descriptor, not a political one!).

The armed struggle against British (political this time) colonial rule in Ireland in the first decades of the twentieth century was (sadly) justified. The end result was a fudge but the Loyalists in the North had a right to protection in those uncertain times. Eighty years on and the Republic of Ireland is a successful European State and (in my view) the residents of Northern Ireland have nothing to fear, and much to gain, from being part of it. Great Britain does not have a case to hold on to Northern Ireland if the majority of its citizens want to become part of the Republic. Indeed I don't think many of us would try and make that case.

Which brings me to the IRA not in the time when it led the struggle in the early part of the 20th Century but in the post WW2 era when it sought to unite Ireland with violence. This was an obscenity and those years of the "troubles" shameful. The IRA spawned the paramilitary Protestant militia (equally vile) and a military response from the UK Government which at times was heavy-handed and excessive. Violence bred violence. My support for a united Ireland never for one second led me to sympathise with the IRA. I just despaired until the peace process under Tony Blair and Mo Mowlem finally moved things forward and an Agreement was reached.

It seems from the latest stories that the now Leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Chancellor were if not IRA sympathisers as close to that as makes no difference. They gave comfort to the men of violence and openly identified with them. This is not about supporting the principle of a United Ireland (many of us did that). It was about the means by which it was achieved. Remember we are not talking about 1916 here; we are talking about the late 1960s. We are not talking about a time when the resort to armed struggle had some basis in natural justice. Yes in the 1960s there were institutionalised divisions in Northern Ireland and there was discrimination and injustices. But was that in any sense justification to start terrorist attacks. Of course not.

The post-war IRA was an evil construct and they did untold damage to the fabric of civilised society. Their violence spawned violence. That the Blair Government was to come to an accommodation with them (via their “legitimate” wing Sinn Fein) was Real Politick and uncomfortable though it must have been to sit down with terrorists or their apologists sometimes, pragmatically, that is what leaders have to do. But before the Peace Process to have identified with the IRA, as it is alleged Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell did, was an outrage. At the time it could have been shrugged off as the “Looney Left”. But no more. If the allegations are true there is no way that these two can continue their current roles. No way.