Saturday, February 21, 2009

Brown Meets Obama Posted Here Feb 6!

Downing Street has confirmed Brown will meet Obama early next month. Nothing new there. The Orange Party reported this was on the cards back on February 6.

The beleaguered prime minister is pinning his hopes on some of the Obama magic rubbing off on him. 

Brown's mountain goes to Obama's muhammad on March 3. The prime minister hopes that by dropping in at the White House he can steal a march on his rivals and a few votes back home. 

Following a tip from the Westminster Mole, the Orange Party posted earlier, a Washington meeting makes sense for Downing Street and Brown, who lives and breathes the election and how to wrong foot the Tories.

Both Downing Street and Brown are obsessed with the G20 London summit and hope an April 2 London get together of "world leaders" would cash in on some of the Obamashine ahead of the elections.  

But Obama's star is starting to fade and the administration has enough worries over the domestic economy. Obama may drop by but only out of common courtesy.

With Brown now in the death throes of the "fag-end of a government in collapse", the Washington Obama meeting could be the last throw of the dice. That begs the question how hard did Downing Street push for the meeting and what's the trade-off deal?

A White House statement said the US and UK had a "special partnership" and the president wanted to work closely with Brown on "common global challenges". The leaders are expected to discuss the global financial crisis and strategy in Afghanistan, among other issues, according to the BBC.

With that kind of overarching statement, there's a danger the actual purpose of the meeting gets lost in translation. 

Brown has staked his shredded reputation on saving the world, pressing Obama to sign up to an anti-protectionism global trade deal ahead of G20. 

Also at stake is that 'special relationship', after revelations of an apparent CIA threat  to suspend intelligence-sharing between the two allies, amid allegations of torture at Gitmo, with the complicity of UK intelligence. Foreign secretary Miliband is being urged to come clean about the whole sordid affair. 

The vexed issue of Gitmo detainees has to be resolved, particularly the continued rendition flights and secret US use of the Crown island of Diego Garcia. 

But more importantly Obama has already committed 17,000 new US troops to the hopeless and unwinnable war in Afghanistan. He'll be urging his new poodle Brown to follow suit. 

These pressing issues can only be discussed face-to-face.

With the credibility of the prime minister in ruins both at home and abroad, best to get in quick for the photo-op for the BBC and Downing Street album. In politics, April 2 is a very long way off.   


Looming Threat Of The English Mob

More than a fifth of the population of Dublin has taken to the streets in a huge protest against the government's handling of the recession. That should be a wake up call to ministers here.

The threat to stability may come from the traditional lurking menace - the English mob.

In Dublin officially 100,000 people protested in the city centre over the Irish government's handling of economy and pension cutbacks. Unofficially it's put at double that. But that belies the anger and frustration beneath. Ordinary workers did not cause the economic collapse but they were being forced to pay for it.

Protesters, reported by the BBC, were "sick and tired of the way this government conducts itself and what it's doing to this country ... I've worked all my life, never walked out on strike. Instead I've went to work and done my job ... I've a mortgage to pay, I've children to put through school, and now I'm being told I have to take cut back, after cut back, after cut back."

How those views chime with many here.

Here the first signs of a national protest became crystal clear during the construction workers BJ4BW protests which rapidly spread to sympathy walkouts before they fizzled out. That was a relief for a beleaguered government which could order back the riot police and plastic bullet rounds to the arsenal, ready for the next round of civil unrest.

It doesn't take much of a spark to ignite a fire. On the continent and the Irish Republic it's ordinary placid folk who'll take to the streets - farm workers, fishermen, teachers and public servants.

Continental Europe expects and accepts street demonstrations as a way of life. After the Paris riots and those in Germany, president Sarkozy and chancellor Merkel will listen - they do not have a choice.

Here some political commentators and politicians have been quick to seize on recent BNP victories in minor local government by-elections as an apparent rise in nationalism.

But raising the spectre of a nationalist upsurge whether it's from the fascist right or socialist left, however abhorrent that may seem, masks the true threat to stability which always rears its head at times of economic hardship.

An that's the traditional enemy of the State - the English mob - the one thing past governments have put in place overbearing measures to prevent and stamp on.

It's often called the English mob - but now more accurately it should be termed the P*ssed Off Party.

It takes a long while for the normally reserved English temperament to kick in but kick in it can and has done in the past.

During the refinery workers dispute the Orange Party could see these were ordinary working lads worried sick about jobs and how to make ends meet. Any whiff of the BNP was swiftly sent packing.

Take a snap shot of protests in Dublin or on the UK picket lines during the recent protest and you'd be hard pressed to find a hard-liner from the right or left among them. But the constant fear is that the far right and far left will always try to jump on the bandwagon and try to whip up support.

But it isn't a nationalist movement which government fears. It is civil unrest from ordinary folk. The plans for civil disorder were there at the refineries with police dogs, mounted police, riot police and masked officers using the excuse of the appalling weather to hid their true identity from prying eyes.

Those with long enough memories will remember in shame the days when police officers with white shirts suddenly appeared at the pit villages during the miners strike. In those days PC plod wore a blue shirt with white reserved for the Met. The London boys were being bussed up north for a pitched battle.

Then the nation was divided between sympathy for the miners and Thatcher's government.

Today's Dublin protest shows starkly that any such outburst of public anger and frustration is not so clearly polarised and that would make it far more difficult to control, in what is still a long winter of discontent.

Picture: Dublin protest (BBC)


Tory Campaign Gimmicks Might Just Work

The Tories have announced the latest populist gimmick to latch onto the public mood, with a campaign to save our pubs. The leftish Orange Party has signed up to all of them!

'Save The Great British Pub' is part of a whole raft of campaigns tapping into public issues. Scratch away the cynicism and these campaigns are a stroke of genius.

A campaign to Save the Great British Pub is just the latest mini campaign to feature on now with a round-up of campaigns in a convenient portal to sign up and have a rant about saving post offices, scrapping ID cards, honest food labelling. All the old favourites are there. Indeed the portal box even has space for a couple more. 

Save the Great British Pub. What sensible person wouldn't agree with that?  But joining a campaign and feeling part of a movement is one thing. Having hard realistic policies to back up the fine words is quite another. 

Dig deeper and each campaign is linked to a reasoned background argument and more importantly with what the Tories would do about it. 

That's the really clever bit. They are drawing attention to the problems. Bringing them all together in one campaign portal is a stroke of genius. This is the key - it's part of an election manifesto and of course your email address can be used for future political marketing. Remember it's all in the database. 

There is a danger this could degenerate into a LibDem local government issues-style politics of cracked pavements and dog shit. But what and where is the alternative? 

Only the death throes of a discredited New Labour government riddled with sleaze and in-fighting in what Oborne today acidly and accuracy describes as the fag-end of a government in collapse

The crisis facing the British pub is indeed serious with pubs closing at a rate of knots. But the Tory campaign is dead in the water unless someone has the guts to tackle the real reason why pubs are falling by the wayside - the blanket smoking ban. Fat chance the Tories will raise their heads above the parapet on that issue so close to elections.   

What's needed is a political heavyweight to champion the cause, someone with a penchant for the occasional cigar and Real Ale. 

Whatever happened to the politically-correct misleading bleatings  about a massive increase in the pub trade as a result of the smoking ban? 

The smoking ban, supermarkets selling cheep beer and wine, high rents and price increase from suppliers, greedy shareholders in the breweries, 24 hour opening. It's all part of the pub shambles as the glorious vices of pint, a fag and packet of crisps are eroded away. 

A hell of a lot of radial policies are needed if the Tories are serious about saving pubs. 

The right way forward on any of the issues chosen by the Conservatives, from saving GPs' surgeries to pubs and Post Offices can be argued until you are blue or red in the face. 

But isn't that what politics should be all about, rather than the arrogant top down diktat imposed without a popular mandate which voters have to suffer at the moment? 

What the Tories are doing is singling out some of  the national issues that capture a public mood and at one time would be chewed over in the pub. 

How ironic then that the very place for a relaxing pint and a fag, to have a moan and put the world to right is now under threat. It's almost as if an Orwellian nanny knows best State has crept up by stealth to keep us all in our box. The Orange Party feels another issues campaign coming on. 


Friday, February 20, 2009

Time For A US-Style Debt Ticker

Eye-watering national debt has been laid bare with headlines screaming the cost. What's needed is a US-style debt ticker in the capital to drive home the point and force deluded ministers to face up to reality. 

Statisticians at the ONS are continuing to square up to Downing Street spinners with yesterday's stark warning that national debt is set to rise to around  £2 trillion, insisting taxpayer-funded bank liabilities are added in. That's around £33,0000 for every man woman and child. 

But that's still a drop in the ocean as the smoke and mirrors of Brown's accounting craftily ignores the massive PFI debt which has been building up over the years. 

Over at the Spectator, Peter Hoskin reckons a copy of the Mail front page showing a mind boggling number of noughts should be stuck up on the wall of every MPs office at Westminster.

The Orange Party has a neater solution - just copy the US example and instal a bloody big debt ticker overlooking parliament. 

There are national billboard-sized debt clocks in several cities around the US, showing the amount of money owed by the government, the most famous close to New York's Times Square. That constantly updates to show the current US public debt and each American family's share of it. 

The Times Square debt ticker was stopped for a few years after Bill Clinton got the debt down but it's been ticking along quite merrily apart from a few hiccups since 1989. When the debt surpassed $10 trillion, the clock's dollar sign had to be replaced by the extra digit. 

At tad too radical, a tad too party political? Well that hasn't stopped the privately-owned US clocks where there's open warfare between Republicans and Democrats. 

Talking down the economy and bad for tourism? The biggest US clock is near Times Square. You can't get more touristy than that. Besides it would be nice for the public to be reminded of the truth every now and again.

Planning permission? With Boris at City Hall that shouldn't be a problem. 

Watching the numbers race along at brake-neck speed is breathtaking. Some websites already include a cute little widget showing our debt to Brown (side bar opposite). 

But at the end of the day it's not the debt that's the problem. The killer for the economy is the ratio of debt to GNP - how rich we are - and that's where it really gets scary. 

Prudence Brown's false boom years, when even with the spin national debt stood at around 46 per cent of gross national product (GNP), now belongs in the joke shop.

Debt of at least 147 percent or up to 200 per cent is here today and far worse than countries such Italy, despite what Brown and Darling try to spin.

For this hapless duo, the only solution is unprecedented borrowing and a spending spree made easy by printing money. The debt ticker will blow a fuse trying to keep up. 

The country's finances are now out of control, yet still Brown and his useless chancellor claim borrowing is under control and the economy is built on ‘sound fundamentals’.

Both live in their own little deluded world. Both need a kick up the backside - a national debt ticker may be the only way to knock some sense into them. 

Picture: US debt ticker, off Times Square, New York


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicago Traders Revolt Over Obama

The mood of US traders took a rebellious turn today over Obama's $275 billion plan to tackle the housing crisis. The Obamaland shine faded on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange as CNBC's Rick Santelli took the prize for 'rant of the year'.

Italian-Americans sure know how to let rip in the Windy City. The traders were revolting, openly mocking Obama's plan, with CNBC's TV host leading the pack and calling for a new Chicago Tea Party. 

The housing plan came the day after President Obama signed off a $787 billion economic 'stimulus' package, derided by Republicans as nothing short of a wasteful debt-fuelled spending spree for pet Democrat policies. 

It was all too much for Santelli as he used the squawk box trading floor buzz, on whether Obama's plans to save the economy will actually help the markets, to capture the mood.    

Hat Tip: Drudge


Brown's The New Poodle In Obama's War

Obama's pseudo-liberal luvvies have been sent in a spin with their idol sending 17,000 more US troops for the bloody, hopeless war in Afghanistan. That raises the vexed question of how many more UK troops will be sent to their deaths in this unwinnable war. War mongering Bush and his poodle Blair, will live with their legacy but will Brown come over all lovey-dovey for Obama's war?

Normally an announcement from the US and the UK on troops would go hand in hand. But not in this case.  

Ministers were quick to point out today that the US hasn't made a request for more troops. But that begs the question exactly who is calling the shots? 

Doesn't the UK government have the guts to decide its own foreign policy when the lives of our troops are at stake. 

But Obama's war has found a new poodle in Brown and his war-mongering ministers as the government is poised to send more troops to their deaths. What is unclear is what deals are being struck and what trade-offs are happening behind the scenes. 

The reticence reveals a rift between the gungo-ho MoD and its band of ministers and the foreign office and ministers who take a more sanguine approach. And with troops holed up in Iraq, the country doesn't have the capacity to increase troop numbers.  

Gradually it has dawned on politicians and generals that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Obamaland was supposed to see beyond the superficially muscular policies of the Bush era. But nothing changes. 

Predator drone attacks on the Pakistan border have been increasing since Obama's presidency, softening up for a spring offensive when an even larger influx of US forces is expected,  ahead of the warmer weather and national elections in August.

But we are fighting a war with no winners, only casualties, reduced to reporting deaths by numbers. 

Few politicians speak out. Instead they prefer to sit back and take the lead and the line from the US. 

It's difficult to get a true picture of the scale of fighting and even more difficult to get a rational idea of the legality and purpose of the war. 

Reporters are stuck embedded with troops and pushing the agenda set by the MoD and newsdesks back home. Reduced to reporting without rocking the boat. 

Images of well-equipped foot soldiers on urban street patrols don't tell the real story. The real war is a hard, dirty, dangerous, hopeless war, happening well out of sight of these staged publicity stunts. 

It's a war fought by the elite regiments and special forces, operating from lightly defended forward bases and easy targets to pick off. Soldiers call them them the 'invisible' enemy,  who strike and then melt into the hills. 

But the MoD, politicians and generals don't want to admit that the new Vietnam is happening now in Afghanistan. 

It took a long time for the US to come round to the harsh reality that the Vietnam war could never be won. We should heed that lesson now.

The Afghans swap allegiances to suit the circumstances. The mountainous terrain makes a mockery of any idea that an Iraq-style troop surge can succeed. As in Vietnam, tanks are useless in the terrain, so what's left is target bombing and special forces patrols and elite forces, operating from lightly defended forward bases.  

In Afghanistan, there are powerful tribal loyalties, a strong culture and centuries of tradition of non-urban guerilla warfare.  

The 'enemy' come from the north and transcend the meaningless borders between Afghanistan and the modern state of Pakistan. People with those tribal loyalties and centuries of tradition fighting invaders, don't recognise an artificial border drawn on a map.

The UN said the number of civilians killed in the conflict in Afghanistan rose last year with US, Nato and Afghan forces responsible for 39% - the highest number since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

Behind the scenes, the Obama administration is putting intense pressure on the UK to reinforce failure and send yet more troops.

But there has been no public debate about this. Not a single mainstream politician has questioned why so many of our soldiers are being sent to their deaths, or what purpose is being served by  the war. 

While defence secretary Hutton, is pushing for the extra troops, foreign secretary Miliband  seems sceptical. 

As with Iraq, the Orange Party has made no secret of its distaste for these wars and firmly believes that a war can never be won in Afghanistan. UK troops should be pulled out now before it's too late. 

The war has alienated the very people we need on our side - the Afghan people while targeting Muslim rebels plays into the hands of Al Qaeda propaganda.

Obama wants only one thing from the UK: more of our troops. 

At the moment the UK is on the verge of what is likely to be an additional military deployment without any public debate or parliamentary approval. 

The lessons and legacies of the Bush and Blair partnership are set to repeat themselves with Brown firmly embroiling the country in Obama's war.


Printing Money Is A Recipe For Disaster

Conflicting inflation figures left some confused. The borrowing debt is set to run into trillions of pounds. The government is set to start 'printing money'. Brown is a victim of his own economic spin. His past false boom years are coming back to haunt him. 

Lies, deceit and spin go hand in hand with the New Labour project but it's in the death throes of the disaster of the economy where the public feel it most. 

Brown and Downing Street have tried every trick in the book to play down the crisis because to admit the truth is to admit past mistakes. There are signs the 'narrative' is changing but it's too late for all that now. 

The real economy is already deflating. Printing money will just make matters worse.

The Retail Price Index (RPI) which includes housing costs is at a 49-year low of 0.1%. But the government's preferred Consumer Price Index (CPI) is stuck at 3%. The RPI has taken a dive because of falling property prices and sinking mortgage interest payments. 

Grave misjudgements were made in the past over which inflation figure to use. Now the Bank is being forced to target CPI to dig the country out of a hole. 

But CPI will catch up later in the year with heavy discounting which is likely to put both measures of inflation into negative deflation territory. 

Back in 2003 as chancellor, Brown switched the inflation target from RPI to the more accommodating CPI.

With house prices soaring, it made sense to spin a measure of inflation that excluded property. And that would allow the Bank of England to cut interest rates.

If the Bank had been allowed to target RPI then interest rates would have remained higher.

Either way, the inflation slump leaves the country dangerously close to outright deflation, with reports the Bank of England is to begin the abhorrent and disreputable method of 'printing money' within weeks, as a quick fix. 

Any government which has to resort to 'printing money' is on its beam ends, with the threat of a new bout of inflation always lurking round the corner.

Inflation will rise while the economy continues to stagnate. The toxic mix of high inflation and near-zero growth leads to 'stagflation'. Brown's government will be the laughing stock of the world. 

The country is hopelessly in debt and borrowing is at a record high. But the government still wants to 'print money' to fund a reckless borrowing binge and ludicrous public spending spree. Sooner or later a new government will have to confront the underlying problems in the economy.

The Orange Party believes the route out of this economic mess is easy to see but because of its past record, impossible for this government to follow. 

There's must be an end to reckless borrowing which will saddle people with debt for decades to come. Hugely expensive white elephants, vanity and legacy projects must be scrapped. UK manufacturing, which is the key survival, must be boosted and supported to kick start the economy, with proper jobs, not the New Deal sham. 

A recent C4 documentary, Dispatches, saw Brown's former trade minister, Lord Digby Jones, despair at the dire state of fiddled jobs figures and blatant, totally meaningless jobs propaganda, while the manufacturing heart of the country is being ripped out. 

Jones is in no doubt: "Brown borrows billions to bail out the banks, he is letting manufacturing fall into an abyss." 

While other countries were protecting their manufacturing skills base, here the New Labour project saw the future wealth in creative and emerging technologies - and the City. Oh dear. 

The recession depression will last for a decade or more. A government, any government, has to  take steps now to preserve jobs, skills and factories or, as Jones warns, "we could blight an entire generation with long-term unemployment and the economic balance of Britain will not be sustainable."

Instead, the government flounders and flannels around printing money and borrowing more as its only escape route, trying to make a shiny silk purse out of an old sow's ear.  


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sleazy Mills Puts Jowell On The Spot

Sleazy Silvio Berlusconi got away scot-free but no such luck for corrupt estranged husband of Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, with an Italian court finding him guilty of taking a bribe and locking him up for four and a half years.

Nice 'n sleazy doesn't do it anymore. Tax lawyer David Mills has been found guilty of accepting the bribe of around £400,000 from Blair's favourite holiday chum, Italian prime minister, Berlusconi.

The court was told Mills used the money to help pay off a joint mortgage he held with his wife of the time, Olympics minister Jowell.

Jowell was cleared of any wrongdoing after an investigation by parliamentary officials but with a Italian court now clear the cash came from a pay-off for a bribe, the question is can a government minister use a bribery pay-off to help pay off her mortgage? 

As the Guardian points out, Jowell "signed a document crucial to the receipt of what a foreign court has now decided was a bribe."

As for Sleazy Silvio - he'd got it all sewn up. Mills and Berlusconi had been jointly accused in the case, but in the spirit of all good corrupt dictators Silvio passed a law making himself immune from any prosecution.

Mills is expected to appeal. But while any focus is on whether Jowell can survive, the issue remains that here we have an Italian prime minister paying a bribe to Jowell’s now estranged husband. 

The media tycoon turned politician was very close to Blair and hosted him and his family at his Sardinian mansion for their summer vacation but the close personal links have never really become a big political issue.

It would be ironic if Berlusconi’s financial dealings with the spouse of one of Brown's cabinet ministers eventually causes Brown more damage than Blair's close relationship with the smooth talking Italian leader who paid the cash.

Picture: Happy Days. The Blairs on holiday with nice 'n easy, nice 'n sleazy Silvio.