About that North-South divide


Dividing lines
The Institute for Public Policy Research’s northern branch put out a press release on Monday, trailing research to be published in an upcoming report (The Northern Economic Agenda by Howard Reed, Olga Mrinska and Michael Johnson), and berating the government for being in denial about the North-South divide:

[S]ince 1997, the North East, the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside and the Midlands have all moved further away from the national average, on the Government’s favoured measure of output per head (known to economists as ‘Gross Value Added’). Over the same period, London has out paced the rest of Britain.

[T]he Government’s target (which was set by Gordon Brown in 2002) has only been to reduce the average rate of growth between two groups of regions:

• on the one hand, the North East, the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside the East and West Midlands and the South West, and;
• on the other hand, London, the South East and the East of England.

At first I thought it odd that a think tank aligned to New Labour would be so critical. But it appears that this is cheerleading in disguise.

The IPPR North’s director, Sue Stirling says:

“The Government needs to get real on the north-south divide. At the moment, it is in denial. The Government has not explicitly targeted the gap between rich and poor, nor the gap between north and south. As a result, the work of Labour’s Regional Development Agencies has only succeeded in reducing the north’s relative decline.

“The standard Government line on the north-south divide is that inequalities within regions are as dramatic as those between regions. This is true but just because you deal with inequalities within regions it does not mean you should ignore inequalities between regions.

“This October’s Comprehensive Spending Review will almost certainly scrap the Government’s current target, and not before time. But we need a proper target to replace it that explicitly focuses on the gap between north and south.”

Don’t answer the question!
The electoral importance of the south east of England for governing UK does not explain Labour’s failure to tackle the North-South divide. Rather, the changes in British capitalism necessitated the continuation of the managed decline of manufacturing: the financialisation of the UK economy has continued in the last decade, moving north and south further along the road of uneven development.

Regionalisation was a way for Labour to sidestep the English question, which is a necessity for both the party and the capitalist class. The argument that a North East Assembly would help develop the region’s economy was rejected by the voters, and the plan for elected regional assemblies was halted, though the assemblies themselves did not cease to function as unelected bodies.

Brown has signalled that there is to be a revival of the elected regional assembly plan, the existing assemblies are to be disbanded, and the Tories might counter regionalisation with support for an English Parliament, if they can get over the Union. In the past, Tory talk of an English Parliament resulted in the solution currently proffered by Dangerous Dave: English votes on English matters. Will there be a change?

Tories and signatories
Tory MP Mark Field has come out in favour of an English Parliament:

I must confess I am wary of the Party adopting an ‘English votes for English Bills’ policy and playing to English nationalism. There is obvious inequity in our current constitutional arrangements as a result of devolution, and there is increasing disquiet from many in England who are concerned about the imbalances left by Labour’s political settlement. But attacking Scottish MPs comes across as partisan and negative. Our mission should be to maintain and strengthen the Union and avoid promoting a solution that could be portrayed by our opponents as putting that Union at risk. This would play badly not only in Scotland (which many Conservatives too easily regard as a lost cause) but also amongst middle class, Middle England voters who continue to value the Union and all it has meant for us. It also runs directly counter to the positive, optimistic messages that the Party is trying to cultivate elsewhere.


Since the expulsion of most of the hereditary peers, I have, in principle, favoured the option of a fully or largely-elected House of Lords. However, I recognise that such an outcome is unlikely to be within the realms of practical politics, not least as the House of Lords as currently constituted is likely to be hostile and there would be little agreement as to the timing or form of elections. I would prefer to see the creation of a completely new federal parliament. Four, full, national parliaments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with most of the existing powers of the House of Commons and over them a federal United Kingdom parliament, which would debate defence and foreign affairs, make treaties and administer a cohesion fund for the poorer parts of the UK. It would be funded by a per GDP levy on the national parliaments. There would be no need for extra politicians, as the national parliaments would send representatives to the UK parliament and meet together for its debates, which could be held in the old House of Lords chamber. [Emphasis added.]

Labour MP Frank Field initiated an Early Day Motion on the English question in January, which has so far been signed by only nineteen parliamentarians:

this House notes that those polls that have questioned the English report a clear majority in favour of an English parliament; and further notes that it is this issue, and not Scottish independence or even House of Lords reform, that is the issue that voters now put at the top of their priorities for constitutional reform.

Gordon Brown obviously doesn’t care for Scottish independence and has opted for the House of Lords as his focus for constitutional reform. It is not just because it’s the only option left; there is some political expediency in reforming the Lords. The cash for honours scandal further eroded confidence in political representation, a loss of legitimacy that the political elite can ill afford.

Reformed character
The heredity of political preferences which benefited Labour no longer exists – the party is no longer viewed in class terms and this has resulted in millions of traditional Labour voters giving up on the ballot box. Voting for Labour is no longer something that is learned – as abstention rises, so Labour’s turnout declines.

From the perspective of the ruling class, this means that New Labour has helped kill off class politics, though the party is still seen in class terms – only this time it is representing the interests of the super rich.

This positive development for the British capitalist class is offset by the damage in legitimacy that comes with millions of people dropping out of political participation – be it as party members or as loyal voters.

An English parliament with a fair voting system and recallable MPs on the wages of the average worker, would accelerate the independence struggles in Wales and Scotland, advance self-government in Cornwall, and give positive nationhood to working class people in England. All of this would be a blow to British and US imperialism, the military conquest of the Middle East, the European Union, and the privatisation agenda.

The establishment of an English Parliament will be the last choice for the ruling class in answering the English question, for all of the positive points I listed. There is no reworking the Union, it died when Ireland left.

This is not to say that they won’t try. Yet again the corpse of the British Empire will be reheated.

38 years to go in Afghanistan?


After Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles told the BBC in June that the Brits would occupy Afghanistan for decades – ‘to help rebuild the country’, several times, presumably – I thought discussion of the length of the operation would be taboo and that all officials would be ordered on pain of death not to enter into dialogue on the question with members of the press.

But no, here it comes:

Afghan victory ‘could take 38 years’

Mark Townsend in Sangin, Afghanistan
Sunday August 5, 2007
The Observer

British troops could remain in Afghanistan for more than the 38 years it took them to pull out of Northern Ireland. That is the bleak assessment by Army commanders on the ground in Helmand province.

In an interview with The Observer at HQ in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, Brigadier John Lorimer, commander of UK forces in Helmand, said: ‘If you look at the insurgency then it could take maybe 10 years. Counter-narcotics, it’s 30 years. If you’re looking at governance and so on, it looks a little longer. If you look at other counter-insurgency operations over the last 100 years then it has taken time.’

His scenario is the starkest assessment yet from a senior officer tasked with defeating the Taliban, tackling the heroin trade and rebuilding the war-ravaged country. Last week troops pulled out of Northern Ireland after 38 years, the longest operation in UK military history. Afghanistan, commanders fear, may take longer.

Lorimer said he could visualise UK forces staying in Helmand after the Taliban and a growing counter-insurgency was defeated. His comments came as British infantry, often fighting for hours in temperatures of up to 50C, pushed north against well-defended Taliban positions.

Scores of soldiers have succumbed to heatstroke while hundreds have battled on despite dehabilitating illness. Almost 50 out of 160 forward troops reported severe sickness and diarrhoea in the forward base at Sangin last month. A number of troops have lost limbs during firefights in the upper Gereshk valley, south of Sangin.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglians, with 650 soldiers in Afghanistan, has used 480,100 rounds since the start of April. Former defence secretary John Reid envisaged operations could be conducted without firing a single bullet.

I wonder if Lorimer’s candour is anything to do with troop morale and the notion, expressed by many within the higher echelons of the armed forces, that the mission in Afghanistan could be the occupation that broke the imperial army.

The mission in Northern Ireland was not publicly supported in the UK and in the end did not achieve its objectives – it has merely put off the inevitable (if you will excuse the word).

The actions of Nato have been to turn the population towards the resistance – the most recent report was that they were planning to use smaller bombs as the ones being dropped were killing an indecent number of civilians. In future, less civilians will be killed – though it is accepted that this will go on, it is of course, regrettable. Just who are the terrorists, here?

What do the Afghan people want? Certainly not four decades of occupation with nothing to show for it except for piles of corpses and bumper opium crops and the high levels of addiction that follow.

And that is exactly what people in the nations of the UK will get out of the whole experience: thousands of dead or wounded service-personnel and dirt cheap heroin…

So what will happen next? I expect that there will be more unsubstantiated claims that Iran is arming the Afghan resistance, though since these claims have not held water in Iraq I doubt if the imperialists can convince world public opinion that it is Iran dropping bombs on Iraqi and Afghan civilians…

Gordy goes to Washington


Don’t call me Dave
Forget about David Cameron. Okay, he’s trailing in the polls by eight or nine points, his own MPs are mouthing off about him – Graham Brady, who quit the frontbench over Cameron’s stance on grammar schools, for one – and columnist Peter Oborne has raised the possibility that it could be game over for the Tories if Cameron leads them into a fourth consecutive election defeat.

So, the man who was built up by the corporate media now finds himself the subject of ridicule. No ideas, no direction, and no hope. Cameron has an uphill struggle: to convert his party, to beat Brown as a leader. See, Brown has a head start – he’s been crowned without an electoral test. As the current PM, he just has to keep his place at Number Ten, Cameron must prove himself – this is the expectation.

Cameron says he won’t waver, despite criticism he lacks appeal in Midlands and North of England. He is now compromised. If he does another U-turn and obeys the wishes of his party, he looks weak because he swore against it; yet if he soldiers on, more and more detractors will speak against him, and the perception will be of a party in disarray.

The discourse for Cameron is proving that his party has changed. Will Brown be held to his change of relations with US? No, not likely – here we are in realpolitik mode and the media won’t be pressing him on this “change”.

Most unwanted!
We know who Gordy is, don’t we? He tells us often enough. He is change. Well, he doesn’t smile as easily as Blair. He’s a bit awkward, a tad scruffy. It is a change of style, but not substance because nothing has really changed.

No change in relations with the US: we should be grateful for the most powerful empire ever to exist, says Brown. No change in government attitudes towards industrial disputes: the posties – and all other workers – must accept a pay cut to hold off inflation, says Brown. (Presumably he doesn’t want the bosses to accept lower profits and reduced bonuses…)

Why isn’t Brown trailing in the polls? Are they meaningless? How can a man to take over as PM with no election, change only one or two of hundreds of massively unpopular policies, invite generals, coppers, and bosses into government and remain popular?

The answer is, of course, that he is not popular. Remember – these opinion polls are of voters. People who say they will vote in a general election. Not exactly a supermajority of the population; of which, a few thousand are asked to give their opinion. So taking an opinion poll is not the same as taking the pulse of the nation(s).

Severe flooding causing billions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses; an ongoing postal strike; deaths and casualties of troops fighting illegal and immoral wars in the Middle East – Brown doesn’t want to talk about this.

No, the flag! The Union flag is Brown’s priority (he’s British, you know!). The butcher’s apron is to be flown all year round from government buildings – but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

And terror – Brown is set on doubling the 28 day internment to 56 days, insisting it is needed despite the lack of evidence. It’s partly party political, it lets him out-tough the Tories, but for the most part it serves the interests of the ruling class, who will need such laws on the books should the tide turn on a mass scale.

Right now, Brown’s meeting with George Bush is in the news. What did he mean by “full and frank”? Was he displeased at Bush’s lap of honour in the golf cart? My big talking point is this: considering UK service-personnel are dying in immoral, illegal, and unpopular wars of occupation in the Middle East, what impact will Brown’s commitment to the “special relationship” have on his own reputation?

Independence thirst?
On Scotland, Brown’s abandoned homeland, the head of the Scottish government intends to publish a white paper on an independence referendum within the next two weeks, to mark the SNP’s first hundred days in power.

It won’t be easy to bring forward a referendum: the Scottish Parliament is packed with members of the Westminster parties, and the unionists are dead against giving the Scottish people a say on the future of their nation. If it is true that over a third of MSPs are in favour of independence and that there is not sufficient public support for an independent Scottish state, then the unionists should call Salmond’s bluff and back a referendum wholeheartedly.

Scottish independence is a big deal for socialists in England; we cannot let English national identity become purely defined by feelings of antagonism towards Scotland. The asymmetrical devolution carried out by New Labour is resulting in a resurgence of the English national identity, discrete from that of British “national” identity offered by the ruling class. Socialists should support the Campaign for an English Parliament and socialist bloggers should join the Witanagemot Club.

There is one other factor besides the issue of national self-determination, it must be said. For if it is true that Britain is the most important ally of the US, the world’s number one imperialist power, then it is our duty to break the Union into its component parts, thus weakening Anglo-American imperialism and at the same time fighting for change in the interest of the working class.

On the slide?

Consider the following:

Stock markets have fallen worldwide amid concerns about the effect of higher global interest rates on company profits, takeovers and loan defaults.

The US Dow Jones index lost 311.5 points, or 2.3%, to 13,473.57, while the S&P 500 shed 2.3% to 1482.66.

In London, the FTSE 100 closed 203.1 points, or 3.2%, lower at 6251.20.

Many indexes have been trading at their highest levels in recent years, buoyed by low rates that fuelled high levels of consumer and corporate spending.

The concerns are nothing new, and analysts and investors have been warning that a number of factors are combining to create worrying conditions for equity and credit markets.


Over the past few years there has been a boom in company profits, house price increases, and mergers and acquisitions.

Driving this have been low interest rates that have made it cheap for companies and consumers to borrow cash and finance purchases.

That period of cheap cash now seems to been coming to an end with central banks worldwide, including the Bank of England, raising their main rates to slow stubbornly high inflation.

At the same time, oil prices have climbed raising fears that inflation could also pick up again because of the higher energy costs.

Everyone is looking anxiously at the US economy, in particular the housing market.

Sales of existing homes in the US during June fell to the slowest pace since November 2002, giving no sign of an end to the housing slump.

Sales fell 3.8% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million homes.

Figures from the National Association of Realtors also showed that the median price paid for a home rose 0.3% compared with June 2006 to $230,100.

It is the first such increase in average prices for 11 months.

“The past few months have indicated that a bottom has not been reached, which is negative for the economy,” said Richard Dekaser, chief economist at National City Corp in Cleveland.

Workers World has a good article on the crisis:

On July 24 the largest mortgage company in the U.S., Countrywide Financial Corp., reported that its second-quarter losses were much worse than expected and that problems in the subprime mortgage sector reported earlier were now spreading into the prime mortgage market.

Prime mortgages are those loans made to borrowers with solid credit histories. Delinquencies in this area are rising, indicating that the much-discussed problems in the subprime sector were just the first phase of a larger capitalist crisis.

I am reluctant to predict anything from this latest news, like the total collapse of the US economy, as we have been here before. Recall that in 2002, plans were afoot to invade Iraq. And now, five years later, with Blair gone and Bush at his least popular, what chance another war in the Middle East?

Perhaps the prostpects of war are becoming less likely:

Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would consider meeting the US at deputy foreign minister level, if the US suggested it.

The US and Iranian ambassadors to Baghdad met on Tuesday.

It was only the second direct meeting between officials of this level in almost three decades.

At the meeting, both sides blamed each other for the violence in Iraq.

The US accused Iran of increasing its support for militia groups in Iraq in recent months, but Iran has denied this and said Iraqis were “victimised by terror and the presence of foreign forces”.

However, the two sides did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents.

It would be hard to justify an attack on Iran, let alone a full-scale invasion, so the Empire will stick with rhetoric. What chance a well-timed terrorist attack in the US, with Iran being blamed?

Just asking…

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Too oily to tell


The Russian government is to expel four British diplomats, mirroring the actions of the British government on Monday, when fresh-faced Foreign Secretary David Miliband made his controversial decision to eject four Russian diplomats from the UK. In addition to this tit-for-tat measure, the Russian authorities will no longer co-operate with the British government on anti-terrorism – though since there is not thought to be much of this, it is more a symbolic measure. So what is really behind the recent conflict between the UK and the Russian Federation?

The UK government would have us believe that their only interest is in extradicting Andrei Lugovoi, who is supposedly the prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder case. You might recall that Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning – the most ostentatious hit ever carried out, and a little bit suspicious. If, as it is alleged, Lugovoi murdered Litvinenko, why poison him with polonium-210?

Meanwhile, Boris Berezovsky – a billionaire and ‘exile’ who has sought refuge and a modest lifestyle in Mayfair – has reluctantly held a press conference to announce that he was almost killed on the orders of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. The foresight of the British intelligence services averted this alleged assassination.

How courageous of this brave ‘dissident’ to speak out – and how strange that the police did not charge the suspected assassin, but rather deported him to Russia. And was that Lord Bell, Thatcher’s PR man, at his side during the press conference?

It’s a case of the warring band of brothers falling out – Boris got rich during the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and is wanted by the Russian authorities, where is has been charged for corruption and fraud. Despite being sought by Brazil over claims of money laundering and his involvement in the illegal funding of political campaigns in the Ukraine, he remains in the UK.

Why is he guarded so closely by the British state? Well, he’s a capitalist opposed the Putin: the Russian government is no longer performing the wishes Anglo-American imperialism. Europe is dependent on Russia for oil and gas and the oligarchy is ousting Big Oil, taking a bigger share of the revenues for itself, and using the energy monopoly to bribe neighboring countries (such as Belarus and the Ukraine).

The UK and US are irked by Russia’s position over Kosovo, the opposition to the presence of NATO in Eastern Europe, and a host of other matters, including Iran’s nuclear programme.

Berezovsky has told reporters that he is plotting a Russian Revolution, though this probably does not involve workers’ councils or the expropriation of the oligarchy. Ironically, he makes it easier for the oligarchy to tar all political opposition with the same brush. Would it be heretical to compare him to the capitalist version of Trotsky? He puts me in mind of a younger Mohammad Al-Fayed: both men are driven attention-seekers.

This “mini-crisis” should rumble on for a good while yet. But don’t expect open warfare, British capital is still the biggest investor in Russia, and the delay in responding to Miliband’s provocation suggests Putin doesn’t want the row to get out of hand.

This whole affair is surely timed to prelude whatever interference Western imperialism is planning for next year’s presidential elections in Russia, in which Putin will not participate. By the way, I am heartened by news that there are deepening cultural and political ties between Venezuela and Russia – we all need a bit of the Bolivarian spirit, after all.

I’ve run out of steam, so I’ll end here.

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A close distance


Douglas Alexander, the man who brought you the 100,000 disenfranchised Scottish voters, has made a speech in Washington, ahead of a visit by Gordon Brown, which has been interpreted as a criticism of the Bush administration.

This reading of the speech was immediately denied by Number Ten, but since there was prior hype – some might say “spin” – about the significance of what Alexander was to say, it would appear that this denial is a sign that the story is to be believed. Such is the way with New Labour, that nothing can be believed until it has been denied. (Anyone else remember the denials that there would be pre-emptive military action against Iraq?)

The two offending paragraphs are far from a denunciation of the Bush regime and the support given by Blair to the invasion and occupation of Iraq:

We need to demonstrate by our word and our actions that we are: internationalist not isolationist; multilateralist not unilateralist; active not passive; and driven by core values consistently applied, not special interests.

Isolationism simply does not work in an interdependent world. There is no security or prosperity at home unless we deal with the global challenges of security, globalization, climate change, disease and poverty. We must recognise these challenges and champion an internationalist approach – seeking shared solutions to the problems we face.

The usual airy-fairy bullshit, no?

No. Supposedly this is at the same time a signal that nothing’s changed and a sign that something has changed. Confused? You should be – that’s whole the point of the exercise.

Alexander, who was recently made Labour’s election co-ordinator, is not what you’d call a critic of US imperialism. Would the Council on Foreign Relations entertain the views of someone who was not an Atlanticist? Would Brown allow dissent on the war issue from members of his cabinet? In both cases, I think not.

So this was yet another cynical media stunt. The news flashed around the world that a British government minister had distanced the new administration from Bush’s foreign policy. The views of Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN official who was critical of the Iraq war, were also aired – for he has recently been appointed to a post at the foreign office.

Perhaps in future Brown will adhere to the “international” consensus, which will slow things down in future. Certainly, it is the US that is leading the overt intervention of Western imperialism in the Middle East, and the drive to withdraw from Iraq that is coming from within the American ruling class does not foreshadow future passivity.

The possibility of military intervention in Iran cannot be ruled out – no matter how much Tehran co-operates with the UN energy watchdog. Empires on the slide do not act rationally.

It is just as likely that US withdrawal from Iraq will mean renewed focus on Afghanistan. I doubt this would mean a “surge” in Afghanistan – the “Iraq syndrome” has hit recruitment and retention rates, and unless the draft is re-introduced, the Afghan resistance will be countered by almost exclusively by aerial bombardment.

Britain’s “special relationship” has been revealed as a junior partnership in imperial aggression, whatever Alexander might say about fighting international terrorism. Repairing the damage is beyond the best PR guru, but the UK might experience the Brown bounce internationally as the change of leader is understood as a change of strategy. I expect this is not something Brown will be impressing upon his American counterpart…

Marrying old and new forms of deception


Is marriage good or bad?

Your answer depends upon your own experiences, I suppose. Hey, if it makes people happy, go for it. If not, don’t.

Will poverty be reduced if the government promotes marriage by providing financial incentives?

The question is worth answering. Naturally, it should not be better to be married than not, to be unmarried than married; I don’t think it is the business of the government to interfere in the private lives of citizens. But there’s more to it than that…

Why has this come up then? Oh yes, it’s Dave the Chameleon again. The UK’s tax and benefits system must lose its anti-marriage bias if poverty is to be reduced, he says.

The subtext to the debate is that state provision of public services – the welfare state – makes poverty worse, and there should be greater provision by the voluntary sector. The argument is that more privatisation will glue together the “Broken Society”.

Forgive me, then, if I am incredulous when I hear policy wonks blathering on about reforming the tax system. The real agenda is twofold – winning support for Cameron’s New Tories with voters, whilst at the same time assuring the capitalist class that the Old Tories haven’t gone away.

He welcomed predecessor Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice policy group report proposing 190 measures including tax breaks for some married couples.

He would not be “instantly picking and choosing” policies but wanted to hold a “serious debate” on the ideas.

Labour says the plans will discriminate against lone and unmarried parents.

Government ministers have nothing substantive to say on the “Breakthrough Britain” report by the Tories’ Social Justice Policy Group, led by Iain Duncan Smith. Brown has advised them not to be led into a debate on the pros and cons of marriage, and so the focus has been on the detail of the policy recommendations.

I note that Cameron won’t make up his mind now, but wants a “debate”. They all say that, though…

“Stand up, speak up” Cameron will ask of us, as he throws open (or throws away) the Tory policy review and invites members of the public to suggest policies for the Tories. It’s either the height of democracy or total lack of inspiration, and it will annoy the people who have spent months conducting research for the party.

Your starter for ten
Here’s a better question:

Is Cameron talking about marriage because he has nowhere left to go?

Having run out of controversial things to say, he has started appeasing the right wing of his party, whilst appearing shiny-happy at the same time. That the poor have got poorer in the last ten years in indisputable, but does anyone believe that tackling poverty will be Cameron’s first priority?

One of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy recommendations was to make lone parents work by the time their child is five years old. So much for the Tories wanting to force women back into the kitchen – they apparently would like to push them into low-paid employment. (Not that I am saying all lone parents are women, though they make up the majority.)

Perhaps it would be better for kids if they had their parents at home more often? How’s about a 35 hour week Dave?

There’s no chance of economic issues coming to the fore, however. Certainly not radical reforms which would benefit the working class!

Oliver Letwin, whose theoretical musings I have blogged on before, wrote a book called Privatising the World back in the late eighties. A “how-to” guide to flogging off public property, the Privatisation Revolution was lauded, but the role of western imperialism was not mentioned. Ah, historical idealism…

Nasty once more?
At PMQs last Wednesday, Cameron jumped on the anti-terror bandwagon by calling on the government to ban Hizb-ut- Tahrir, a radical Islamic organisation. Blair signalled he would ban the group after the July 7 attacks two years ago – despite no linkage between the group and the bombers.

Sure they’re against democracy, but it’d be ironic to ban them for that, wouldn’t it?

No, this was Cameron using the failed attacks on Glasgow to look hard on terror, and make Gordon look like a moron. Brown doesn’t need help in this department…

Personally, I’m pleased that Cameron’s making a right turn. It’s more honest than waffling on about how the Tories will save the NHS, or don’t care about grammar schools, etc.

He’s already come out in favour of a war in Iran, something which has not been given much attention by the media, who love the ridiculous antics of the New Tories. Does anyone believe that they will get tough on private equity firms and make them pay tax? No, but it makes good copy. It’s only a matter of time before the Tories drop the whole act, but whether this will be before or after the next general election remains to be seen.

Crass opportunism and enmity towards Gordon Brown? Maybe Cameron’s right; he is the heir to Blair. Whereas Tony fooled many people a decade ago, will Dave be able to work the trick again?