The Great Debate UK
from Anatole Kaletsky:
Astonishing as it was to contemplate the breakup of Europe’s most stable nation-state threatened by last week’s Scottish referendum, we now have an even more extraordinary possibility. In the days since the Scottish voters rejected secession 55 percent to 45 percent, a new threat has suddenly appeared to blight Britain’s political and economic prospects for years ahead. It now looks like Britain may be dissolved by one rogue opinion poll.
The YouGov survey, released shortly before the referendum, found nationalists overtaking the unionists for the first time. (And, as it turned out, the last time.) This triggered total panic among Britain’s establishment politicians.
The outcome was a signed statement on the front page of the Scottish Daily Record by Prime Minister David Cameron, along with the leaders of Britain’s Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, promising immediate legislation to give the Scottish Parliament almost complete control over income tax, health and welfare policies -- on top of the autonomy it already enjoys. They also issued a permanent commitment to channel £1,700 more per head in government spending to Scotland than to England, despite per-capita incomes that are approximately the same.
By signing the statement, Cameron and the other party leaders opened a Pandora’s Box of political and economic controversies that are certain to destabilize British politics. Businesses and investors who have viewed Britain as the most politically predictable and stable nation in Europe are in for a shock.
The second budget presented to Parliament by Chancellor George Osborne is likely to be less talking and more doing when it comes to bringing the UK’s public finances under control.
This won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Some argue that the UK is in less financial danger than Europe’s financially troubled states, yet Osborne is embracing deficit reduction plans with as much gusto as Ireland or Greece.
from Afghan Journal:
What is a worse prospect for an Afghanistan election – election fraud on an industrial scale or a quiet campaign of intimidation that keeps voters away from the polls, or forces them to vote for the most powerful candidate?
That seems to be the choice facing many Afghan voters ahead of the Sept. 18 parliamentary election, particularly those in the Pashtun tribal belt in the south and east where so much of the fraud that marred last year’s presidential ballot was committed.
Afghan voters can be excused for feeling ballot fatigue. The September vote will be their fourth in six years.
There have been some improvements but the key questions of poor governance, corruption and security remain unanswered despite the number of ballots they have cast. To turn out again will be a real test of their commitment to democracy, a right taken for granted by many in the West and grumbled about when they are asked to exercise it. It would hardly be surprising, given the risks, if many decided not to vote.
- Paul Henderson Scott has written numerous books on Scottish history, literature and affairs, including ‘A 20th Century Life’ and its sequel, ‘The New Scotland’. He has been Rector of Dundee University, President of the Saltire Society and of Scottish PEN and a Vice-President of the Scottish National Party. The opinions expressed are his own -
The recent election has revealed more clearly than before the profound divide between Scottish and English opinion. The Conservatives have 297 seats in England but only one in Scotland (plus eight in Wales). As Joyce McMillan said in The Scotsman, “Our pattern of voting increasingly marks us out as a nation apart”.
– Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School and a co-author of “Verdict on the Crash” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own. -
“The most exciting race in years”. “It’s going to go down to the line.” “The old order has truly been upset.”
from Matt Falloon:
If a car slams into a bus stop just yards away as you launch a last-ditch election offensive, you might be forgiven for thinking that the gods are
not on your side.
But even after the nightmare week British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had, such portents of doom have little visible effect on the self-proclaimed underdog in this, one of Britain's most closely fought parliamentary elections for 25 years.
from UK News:
The latest opinion poll in Britain showing the opposition Conservatives six points ahead of the ruling Labour party has raised the possibility of a hung parliament with no one party having an overall majority and a return to the kind of political uncertainty not seen since the 1970s.
Kenneth Clarke, the Conservatives' business spokesman, said earlier this month that a hung parliament at this point in the economic cycle would be a disaster, an assertion his boss David Cameron was quick to try to play down after the latest survey.
-Clara Gutteridge, Renditions Investigator at legal charity Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-
I welcome the Lithuanian parliament’s announcement that it will investigate allegations that a secret CIA prison operated on its territory from early 2004 to late 2005.
from UK News:
Fury, resentment and a general feeling of being hard done-by is reported to be the prevailing mood amongst MPs as they reconvene after the Summer break to find brown envelopes of an unwelcome sort waiting for them.
These are the already infamous "Legg letters," the latest symbol along with duck houses, moats and mole-catchers of the expenses scandal which did so much damage to all parties earlier this year.
from Matt Falloon:
The Conservatives might be wishing they could have held their party conference before Labour.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's address to his party conference in Brighton on Tuesday has thrown down a flood of new ideas, policies and initiatives from faster cancer diagnosis to choosing how Britain votes in what read more like an mini-election manifesto than a speech.
Brown played to his strengths (policy) and avoided trying to overcome his well-known weaknesses (not much of a political entertainer) in public. Trying to be someone else could have been a disaster for a man way behind in the polls to the Conservatives.
Whether it will be enough to make any difference to the polls remains to be seen -- Labour needs a miracle there after all.
But, for now, going for the policy jugular seems to have done the trick -- giving his browbeaten party something to get excited about and hitting the Conservatives where it hurts.
David Cameron's Conservatives have been accused of not giving enough detail on how they would govern the country if the polls are correct and they are to win power next year.
They will have to start showing their hand soon if they are going to convince voters that they have the ideas to run the country and aren't just a vote for change for the sake of it.