Oh, who to get into bed with?

Will Hutton writes in the Observer:

Much of what is wrong in Britain springs from the dysfunctionality of its state and the way that spills over into its financial system. Conservatives in both principal parties warmly approve of British democracy as delivering strong, decisive and stable government. It does no such thing. It delivers strong, one-party government, which is very different. It produces half-baked ideological policies, clumsy implementation and makes government susceptible to the lobbying of interest groups. Governments say yes because they don't have the broad political base to say no. The key to unlocking change is a fairer voting system.

Fairness is also the value that keeps capitalism honest and more productive rather than collapsing into a world of rigged markets and Del Boy spivvery. The more profits and high salaries are fairly earned by diligence, effort, innovation and investment the stronger the economy that results. The heart of the financial crisis was that bankers dispensed with such concerns and built a financial system grounded in looting.

What is it with this curious idea – held, supposedly, by “the markets” as well as the electorate – that only an irresistible one-party government can provide strong decision and actions? In my experience, consensus always provides better results than sectional views or interests. The rest of Europe has worked with coalition governments for at least the last 50 years (ah, but that’s the problem – we have to be and be seen to be different from Johnny Foreigner). Our broken politics can surely only be improved by a new way of doing things that requires consensus-building.

If it’s Saturday night, the weasels must be screaming

– So, I said, we went to listen to my son-in-law’s mother’s rock band at the Bricklayers’ Arms last night….

– Run that by me again? said the server at the 8 o’clock.

It’s true: Rufus’ mother plays keyboard for the Screaming Weasels. If you’re anywhere near Oxford and want to book them for a gig, just say you read about them on Sun’s dad’s blog.

After the Election

Overheard by Li, who lives in the Speaker’s constituency*.

I had thought about spoiling my ballot paper, but instead I voted Monster Raving Loony.


* For overseas readers: The convention is that in a General Election the Speaker of the House of Commons is not opposed by either of the other major parties. This year, a number of minor parties and independents stood against him by way of protest, including the leader of UKIP.

Big, open and comprehensive

Already we can see that in the mouth of Conservative politicians who get anywhere close to power, words mean the opposite of what they commonly mean to everyone else. David Cameron’s big open and comprehensive offer to the Lib Dems really means, “Come and support us, and we’ll go on and do exactly what we plan to do, none of what you want: no compromise on Europe, no scrapping Trident, no electoral reform.

Tell you what, Nick: have another look at Matthew chapter 4, verses 8 and 9; and Just Say No.

Blood Knots

It’s a very weird thing, when people you were at college with – or at least, were at college at the same time as – turn up as heroes in someone else’s memoirs.

This is Blood Knots, by Luke Jennings – a memoir of angling, so maybe not a book I will be rushing out to buy and read. But right now it’s making a bit of a splash in the reviews, and being read as Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Jennings was at Ampleforth with Robert Nairac, who as an assistant master was an inspirational mentor and guide, and taught him how to fish.

Robert Nairac read Medieval and Military History at Lincoln College, at the same time as I was there. He joined the Grenadier Guards and served in Northern Ireland as an undercover intelligence officer. In 1977 he was captured by the IRA, tortured and murdered. One of his killers later bore witness to his courage: “He never told us anything.”

When I was at Lincoln, Nairac was one of the gods. I don’t think I ever spoke to him, and he was probably not even aware I existed. He excelled at sports, played rugby, was a boxing blue – so probably didn’t know any of the people I knew.

Two years after his death he was awarded the George Cross for bravery. His body has never been found.

Labour hold Oxford East

Oxford East was the Lib Dems’ 4th target seat to win from Labour. In the event, Andrew Smith held it with an increased majority, and a 4.1% swing to Labour.

What’s this all about, in light of the national swing from Labour?

My hunch is that in 2005 a lot of the Labour faithful voted Lib Dem, or not at all, to give the Government a kicking over the Iraq War. When the fat was in the fire this time, they came back to the fold. Plus, Andrew is a really good and well-respected constituency MP. That still counts for something.

Damned lies and politicians

Suddenly all the Labour spokesmen are trying to persuade us they really really believe in electoral reform, and a fairer system than our despicable first-past-the-post stitch-up.

I might find that easier to believe, if they had done anything at all about it in the last 13 years.