Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Scrap Trident and save a lot of taxpayers' money

I have all along been one of those who believes that renewing the Trident missile system would be completely without purpose and a huge waste of public money.

For the UK to go on having its own supposedly "independent" nuclear weapon is just idiotic macho posturing. This would have been so even were it not going to cost us £20 billion or more. It's a particularly expensive example of hollow gesture politics.

Everybody knows perfectly well that the thing would never be used independently of the US, and would be useless in the face of the kind of threat nowadays potentially facing us.

It is excellent news that the Liberal Democrats have come round to my view on this, with Nick Clegg now announcing a clear policy of opposition to Trident, replacing their previous fudged approach.

As previously on the Iraq war, the LibDems are adopting a progressive, commonsense line in sharp contrast to the two backward-looking conservative parties, Lab and Con.

I was already in very little doubt that I was going to vote LibDem when the general election comes round, and now I am in even less doubt. I'm sure I am not alone in this.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The uphill struggle for sensible debate on reform

It is a measure of the desperately low level of debate on constitutional issues that this from yesterday's BBC Daily Politics is the nearest thing on TV I have seen for a long time that comes even faintly near to a sensible discussion on electoral systems.

Notice how Brillo Pad takes it as read that the whole subject is sleep-inducingly boring, and the implication that any debate, even the very idea of a debate, on the relative merits of different voting systems is hilariously abstruse and something only for nerdy anoraks.

Interestingly, only the man from the SNP -- where they already have some experience of these things -- seems to know what he is talking about.

Later in the day, a studio guest on the BBC News channel brought the issue up, and the anchor rushed to change the subject, saying oh dear, let's not go there, ha ha ha. This dumbed-down attitude towards an important political question is a major dereliction of duty by the BBC, in my view.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Good riddance!

Good riddance to:

(1) Jacqui Smith, who was quite happy to abandon all sorts of ancient liberties and move us towards even more of a totalitarian police state. And quite happy also to send Iranian homosexual men back to Iran where they are likely to be publicly hanged.

(2) Caroline Flint, who has made herself completely ridiculous. That this gormless slut (described by Alan Watkins at the weekend as "a person of the utmost insignificance") could ever have been thought a suitable person to be in government can be explained only by a desperate attempt to include more women, just for the sake of it, however useless and stupid they might be.

(3) John Hutton, a man who apparently believes in all seriousness that we should be building more coal-fired power stations.

(4) Geoff Hoon, a timeserving lackey who appeared to have no particular beliefs but was prepared to do anything he was asked to do in furtherance of his career, now mercifully brought to an end.

(5) Hazel Blears. It is pleasing to learn that her constituents in Salford, noting her attempts to evade paying a large amount of tax, have seen her prattling on about her working-class roots for the self-serving humbug that it is.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK, from Tony Benn: "When people are losing their jobs or worrying about whether they can pay their mortgage, the last thing in the world they want to know about is whether or not James Purnell is in the Cabinet".

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Railway electrification and the Tories

Like (it seems) practically everyone else in the country, I wish Gordon Brown would go. It now looks as if that might happen next week, if some commentators are to be believed.

But there is a problem. If somebody (say, Alan Johnson) replaces Brown as PM, there will soon have to be a general election. Or so runs the conventional wisdom at the moment. There is no constitutional necessity for this; but in practice, we are told, the public would not tolerate another PM without a "popular mandate". On this view, the new regime would have to commit itself immediately to holding an election no later than the autumn (in fact, as soon as the parliamentary reforms to be proposed by Sir C. Kelly can be completed).

(UPDATE: That conventional wisdom has now been challenged by Steve Richards and Matthew Parris, both of whom think that if the new leader quickly set a definite date for an election, that date could be some time off.)

And if there is a general election, Labour will lose and the Tories will come into power. One of those who would then be out of power is the Railway Minister, Andrew Adonis.

Lord Adonis is probably the only minister left in the present regime who is doing any good at all. He wants to get on with electrifying the main lines out of St Pancras and Paddington. This is long overdue. It is an urgent and essential project if we are to have any claim to a sustainable transport system.

But the plans aren't going to be ready until the autumn. The incoming Tory government might abandon the plan on the usual short-sighted "public expenditure cuts" grounds. Whereas if the election were held off till next spring, the project could be under way, some of the major contracts already let, and it would be more difficult for the new regime to cancel it.

The best solution would be if Adonis could carry on under the Conservatives. He can stay in the House of Lords and does not have to worry about being re-elected. Peers can cross the floor more easily than MPs. He is, arguably, more of a technocrat than a politician. His allegiance to the Labour Party per se does not appear to be particularly visceral: he was previously a member of the LibDems, and having changed party once, he could do so again. But sadly he has categorically ruled this out. It is all very unfortunate.

Our only hope, it seems, is that the Tories turn out to be as green as David Cameron claims. This seems highly unlikely.