A short piece on Gordon Brown’s management of the economy by the Renegade Economist Fred Harrison somewhat brings the Prime Minister’s policies into focus.
Newspapers have been quoting the survey by the World Economic Forum in which business leaders have been rating the solvency of world banks.
The rankings however were compiled just before the recent £50 billion bail-out by the UK, the nationalisation of the Icelandic banks and the larger US bail-out.
8. New Zealand
11. Hong Kong
15. South Africa
23. Slovak Republic
31. United Arab Emirates
32. Trinidad and Tobago
40. United States
43. El Salvador
44. United Kingdom
47. Costa Rica
52. Puerto Rico
53. The Gambia
57. Czech Republic
61. Brunei Darussalam
63. Saudi Arabia
68. Burkina Faso
70. Sri Lanka
73. Republic of Korea
78. Cote d’Ivoire
90. Dominican Republic
96. Bosnia and Herzegovina
102. FYR Macedonia
107. Russian Federation
117. Taiwan, China
130. East Timor
131. Kyrgyz Republic
Yes. That’s right.
The UK lies behind Peru and El Salvador.
Now given this report was a survey of the world’s economists whose advice our banks were no doubt taking; should we believe it?
Are the UK’s banks really behind Peru, El Salvador and Senegal?
Or is it an accurate representation that is slightly out of date, compiled as it was slightly before the bail-outs?
That must depend on whether you believe the bail-outs will work.
If reports are to be believed the Royal Bank of Scotland is next in line to be nationalised tomorrow. If that happens then there will be further pressure on the remaining UK bank’s to be nationalised too. The banking sector could be picked off one by one by the market and the taxpayer forced to pick up the tab.
On that Iain Dale post there have already been comments about the English taxpayer bailing out the Scottish bank.
It must be a pity, to all those who carp, that Scotland is not already independent.
An independent Scotland with a similar oil fund like our neighbour Norway could be similarly insulated from these turbulent times.
It would also have the economic levers to maintain its economy best, not just for the South-East of England as remains the case today. Remember Eddie George, the former Governor of the Bank of England: Unemployment in the north is a price worth paying for affluence in the South!
Although the credit crunch is global, take a look back at those rankings.
Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands. All small countries lying in the top 10.
Even Ireland, who have recently guaranteed all deposits in their banks, are sitting 9th.
The argument that Scotland is too small to be financially unstable is farcical! I don’t hear anyone saying that Denmark is too small and should be run from Berlin. (Not since the days of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War anyway!)
As countries large and small struggle with the credit credit crunch from the U.S. and Russia down to Iceland with its 300 000 population, this population argument of independence must be seen to be invalid. Iceland, with a population slightly smaller than North Lanarkshire, isn’t exactly Miramont Gardens in Pimlico!
What matters now is that we take the right decisions to get out this mess.
Those decisions may be different for each country. They may even be different for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
That’s why its important key economic levers are devolved away from Westminster.
Otherwise the Eddie George syndrome will hamper ‘the North’ recovering for years.
So Gordon Brown has took a trip back in time in his new cabinet reshuffle.
And the shock recall has been the EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson as Business Secretary.
Peter Mandelson, a serial resigner from Cabinet in the past, will become a Lord to take the role.
Just how desperate is Gordon Brown? Appointing a controversial arch-Blairite with a history of trouble to his cabinet. Why??
Is Mandelson to become the new fall guy in the Cabinet, taking the heat from the Prime Minister?
How long will he last this time? And how will the public react?
Jim Murphy is appointed the new Scottish Secretary, taking over from Des Browne who was also relieved of his Defence portfolio. Des Browne was offered the Scottish Secretary job after sacked from Defence but felt the job was an ‘insult’.
So once again the Scottish Secretary is a full time job, as it was in the past.
Although it had been rumoured that the job was to be merged with the Northern Ireland and Wales job, as I hinted at in a previous article it would have been better for the Unionists to keep the jobs separate to try and thwart the nationalist advance in Scotland and Wales.
Definitely a case of the Labour Cabinet’s man in Scotland, not Scotland’s man in the Labour Cabinet.
Just in time to preside over the Glenrothes by-election and Motherwell and Wishaw by-election then.
To me, Jim Murphy’s voice just sounds like the Rev I.M. Jolly; especially when the minister had been partaking on the whisky. Its not what I would call upbeat!
So I look forward to hearing him explaining away the forthcoming by-election results.
“Ah’ve had a helluva year!”
Even if Labour somehow manage to win them both, his voice would send Labour activists jumping off the Erskine Bridge.
In another reshuffle, Alistair Campbell, former Press Officer for Tony Blair, returns to the Labour Government as external advisor.
So its back with Campbell and Mandelson then. The only person missing is Tony Blair and we’d be right back in the Nineties again. Of course, regular readers will recall I pointed out that Labour activists were calling for his return only just recently.
We couldn’t get any more ‘Back to the Future’ if Gordon Brown had arrived at 10 Downing Street in a De Lorean.
He must feel like Marty McFly fading away on stage, awaiting for the public to embrace the New Labour message.
Its a pity for him that we’re on the same trip as he is. Lightning won’t strike that clock tower twice!
The Campaign for an English Parliament has handily printed off Lord Coe’s outburst regarding his attempts to create a British National Football Team at the 2012 Olympics.
(Its just as well because the online version of The London Paper it seems has removed the story. If anyone has the printed edition its on Page 5.)
The key quote is:
But he said the BOA, which selects teams for the Games, has decided to press ahead with a football squad despite the opposition.
When asked last night about the opposition from the Welsh and Scots, Coe replied bluntly: “F*** em!”
How much are the Scots and Welsh taxpayers paying into the London Olympics bid again?
As I mentioned in a previous post, a joint GB football team would endanger the survival of all the Home Nation football teams. That’s precisely why Lord Coe’s plans have met with such opposition.
Lord Coe also confirmed that Alex Ferguson, the current Manchester United manager, has assured him he will be managing the side.
The London Paper reports that Lord Coe has obviously now changed Ferguson’s mind on the matter, who was initially reluctant.
He might be even more reluctant now.
As for Sebastian Coe? Can’t say I’m surprised. I always preferred Ovett anyway.
“This is no time for a novice” said Gordon Brown in his conference speech.
Those words came back to me when Ann McKechin, the new Scotland Office minister – having taken over from David Cairns, was trying to explain – on Radio Scotland’s Scotland at Ten – why Gordon Brown was talking about implementing policies in England, that are SNP policies in Scotland. It didn’t sound like she convinced interviewer Derek Bateman, nor anyone else listening I suspect.
Gordon Brown’s SNP-lite policies:-
“So our plan is next year to abolish all prescription charges for everyone with cancer.” That’s in April 2009. By that time, the SNP Prescription charge will be £4 to everyone, and those on extended care with PPCs will pay £38 per year. The scheme will further reduce costs in 2010 and be free to all in 2011. I think the SNP are ahead of the game here. Although everyone is playing catchup with Wales, where they are already free.
“Greater visibility for people doing community payback” That means offenders working in the community. Something that Kenny McAskill, SNP Justice Minister, has championed.
And the SNP have pointed out that Gordon Brown’s flexible GP surgeries are already done in Scotland under this SNP Government.
Likewise his carbon emission target.
And his financial help for the elderly. Its already free in Scotland. That was brought in by the previous executive, and maintained by the SNP Government.
Well they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Or is Gordon Brown just trying to steal the SNP’s clothes?
One thing is for sure. How Gordon Brown can come out and say that this will be a ‘British century’ with devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is extraordinary!
The SNP are in power in Scotland. Their popularity shows no signs of ending, and look favourites for the coming Glenrothes byelection.
They also plan to hold an independence referendum in 2010. Hardly a sign that Britain is united!
Plaid Cymru are jointly in control in Wales. A recent poll shows 70% favour devolution, with the majority of those wanting more powers.
Both Scotland and Wales provide powerful arguments to why Brown’s Britishness agenda is dated. Not to mention the demand for an English Parliament in England. Even Cornwall has a political party advocating self-government.
If the 21st century is to be a ‘British century’ it will surely mean that each nation will finally have its own voice.
In fact, as The Telegraph reported earlier this month, even his ‘British century’ idea is not new. Brown used it in the 2007 TUC conference as well.
No wonder I was bored with the speech.
And more especially here, for a nice picture of one of the Labour delegates at conference!
All in all, even the standing ovations reminded me of Iain Duncan Smith’s last Conservative conference in charge. He managed 17 in total then was hurled out on his ear!.
I don’t think Gordon Brown is fooling anyone. At best he has bought some time.
Even the Labour Party must realise it.
So it seems that Gordon Brown will unveil an internet connection programme that will apply in England but not in the rest of the UK?
Is this part of the plan to get the UK higher up the world broadband league table where the UK sits 13th?
But its strange that this programme will take place only in England. Not Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.
Because England leads the UK in broadband takeup!
So because the UK Government is refusing to give Barnett consequentials to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the rest of the UK misses out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather Barnett was scrapped and Scotland had full fiscal responsibility instead (I’m sure the Northern Irish and Welsh have their own ideas) – but while we’ve got the system, it should be seen to be operating.
Otherwise it can only fuel Plaid Cymru and the SNP in their bid for independent nations.
So the nation with the highest broadband takeup in the UK gets all the money, and the rest of us gets nothing! Wasn’t Barnett supposedly based on need?
Broadband takeup in Glasgow is 32%. I have already posted a blog comparing Glasgow’s internet reach with the Glasgow circulation of the Daily Record and found the newspaper is marginally ahead of those that read news on the internet.
What that means of course is that more people get exposed to the Daily Record’s Labour propaganda than get their news from the internet.
Indeed the whole Internet Connection Programme can be seen as politically motivated in Labour’s interest. It keeps Labour strongholds like Wales and Scotland’s public free of any dissenting Labour voice and also in England promotes freedom of expression where Labour is weak and also tries to quell any demand for an English Parliament at the same time.
Of course, some Labour bloggers may find this a good idea, given they say a leaning on the internet of nationalist blogs in Scotland.
They fail to realise that its precisely because the public have little newspaper or media support backing their aspirations of independence, that they have had to take to the internet to try and get their views heard! Again, that’s something I have blogged about before.
Incidentally, this blog has just had over 25 000 page views since I started at the end of May. (Thanks to everyone that reads!)
I think that’s not bad, since I still don’t know what I’m doing!
Thanks to Gordon Brown’s ‘not Scotland’ policy, I guess all the Scottish bloggers will be disappointed that the Scottish internet take-up will remain stagnant. (The same goes for Wales and Northern Ireland.)
Another Union dividend.
I see that Westminster is about to scrap the role of Scottish Secretary. The role of the Scottish Secretary dates back to 1703, before the Treaty of the Union between Scotland and England.
What possible advantage is there to Westminster’s unionist ambitions to doing that? As someone who is pro-independence I can only see disadvantage for the unionist cause in Scotland.
The proposed Secretary of State for the Nations – combining the roles of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland ministers – effectively takes three ministers away that fought for the Union and replaces them all with one member.
It takes away what should be Scotland’s voice in Westminster. (Admittedly in the last few years the post has become Westminster’s voice in Scotland instead.)
Similarly in Wales and Northern Ireland.
It must be seen as a move that recognises that the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland represent the people of their countries not the Secretary of State; and hence not Westminster.
But it also weakens the bond between the devolved nations and Westminster. Each devolved nation no longer has a single voice to speak for it at Westminster cabinet for all those reserved issues.
The question must be then ‘What is the point of our continuing union with Westminster?’
The situations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are all different.
At times they might provide competing interests. How could one minister cope with that?
I don’t think anyone could, but I doubt that will be the main focus of the new position.
It does clarify the intent of the role as a mouthpiece for the promotion of the Union.
I also doubt English nationalists will be happy with the new title: ‘Secretary of State for the Nations’.
Is England not a nation now?
The idea is a unionist loser on so many levels.
As someone who is pro-independence, I say ‘Bring it on!’
Team GB took 311 athletes to the 2008 Olympic Games according to the Team GB website.
Yet the IOC only provides each country a limited number of slots for their athletes.
That meant for instance Hayley Haining couldn’t go to Beijing when Paula Radcliffe declared herself fit.
Now there are always going to be losers in any qualifying system for the limited slot placement in the Olympics.
But separate Olympic teams for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would widen the opportunities for our athletes, and ensure that as many athletes as possible fill each countries slots.
The UK with a population of around 60 million sent 311 athletes.
England’s population of around 50 million is slightly higher than Spain’s 46 million. Spain sent 312 athletes to Beijing. (These and other countries figures obtained from the Yahoo Olympic site.) You’d probably be talking at least the 311 athletes in a English Olympic team. (The Team GB breaks down England by region but subtracting the other countries totals from the 311 Team GB total gives an English total of 268 athletes.)
Scotland’s population is around 5 million. Slightly higher than Croatia’s 4.6 million. Croatia sent 110 athletes to Beijing. Probably the same numbers as a possible Scottish team, although New Zealand with 4.2 million sent 209 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 26 athletes at the 2008 Olympics.)
Wales’ population is around 3 million. Just slightly smaller than Lithuania. They sent 74 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 14 Welsh athletes in the Beijing Olympics.)
Northern Ireland’s population is around 1.8 million. Not far off Slovenia’s 2 million. They sent 62 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 3 athletes, although Northern Irish athletes are also eligible for the Irish Olympic squad.)
Let’s add that up:-
Northern Ireland 62
Thats a rough estimate of 557. That’s an increase in athletes for each country from their 2008 totals.
Might even be more if the Home Nations can begin to emulate the New Zealand population density rate. The UK – as four countries – could possibly send about 700 athletes, more than double the present number; a number that would never be possible for the single British Olympic Committee given the UK’s population.
The key here is widening participation in sport for our top athletes.
Athletes that have experience in the Olympics generally do better in the next one. They know what the Olympics is all about, they have seen what it takes to compete at that level, and work that bit harder to achieve their Olympic dreams next time.
Athletes that don’t make the slot places may just give up altogether.
With 4 different Olympic committees, sport all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could flourish.
And of course, there’s no reason for the IOC to object to four different IOC bodies in the UK. There were 12 territories represented at the 2008 Olympics that are not recognised countries.
Bermuda has its own representation. Britain own those islands; Bermuda is not independent or have a seat at the UN. Bermuda sent 6 athletes to the Olympics. And for a population of 66 000 people that’s simply staggering.
Thats almost 1 in 10000 people there being Olympic athletes.
Or England sending 5000 athletes to Beijing.
My previous post described how the 1908 Great Britain Olympic football squad was in fact the English national amateur team.
One other thing of interest in that Olympics was that the Home Nations representated themselves in some sports.
For example, in Hockey there was a English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh side. (This before before the independence of Ireland and the partition of Northern Ireland.)
They competed with France and Germany to get the medals.
England won gold. Ireland won the silver. Scotland and Wales shared the bronze, as there was no 3rd place play-off.
England and Ireland representated themselves at Polo.
The IOC rules about countries competing only if they have an IOC committee in place where enforced at these London games.
This was a British ploy to prevent the situation that had happened two years previous in the 1906 Intercalated Olympics – basically a mid term Olympics between 1904 and 1908.
Peter O’Connor, an Irish long jumper, high jumper and triple jumper, was sent to Athens by the GAA and the IAAA, Irish sport authorities. Of course, Ireland at the time was not independent from Britain and hence Peter and other Irish atheletes found themselves listed as representing Britain.
In a controversial long jump competition, Peter came second, but as the Union flag was raised to represent his silver, Peter climbed the flagpole and waved his Irish flag instead.
He later won the gold medal in the triple jump.
That’s why the IOC ruling was enforced in 1908 by the London Olympics, to try and stop any such political statements. However to primarily appease the Irish they allowed the Home Nations to represent themselves at some sports; particularly in those sports where Ireland had a good chance to win a gold medal.
A knock-on effect of this ruling was that Finland – at the time ruled by Russia – was listed as Russian. This was particularly upsetting for the Finns as Russia had not even bothered to send a team.
They decided to have no flag instead.
The official report on the London games stated “it might on another occasion be better to consider separate entries from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales…as well as from both New Zealand and Australia”
Even in the imperial mood of 1908 came the realisation that separate teams were the way forward.
One hundred years later and we’re still having the debate in the UK!
There have been UK football olympic teams in the past. Indeed the UK team won gold in the first football tournament in 1908 – the UK also won when football was a demonstration sport in the 1900 Olympics in Paris – although only five countries competed at the time. This UK team however was the England national amateur team. The UK won again in 1912 and again the team entered was the England national amateur team.
In fact all the subsequent entries of the UK team were amateur teams predominately based on the English national amateur team.
The politics of football is completely different today than it was in the early 20th century with few teams taking part, and even in the early seventies when an English based UK amateur side was competing in the 1972 Olympics.
The UK has not fielded an joint footballing team since 1974 when the English Football Association scrapped the distinction between professional and amateur.
As football has grown around the world, becoming a truly global game, other nations having been looking at the UK and asking why have they four teams representating the UK, each with a vote in FIFA.
So any suggestion of a UK Football Olympic team would only provide weight to their argument and threaten the existence of the Home Nations teams.
That is why it seems that there is a remarkable weight of opinion that the UK should not enter a joint football team in the 2012 Olympic Games:-
Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA:
“If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympic Games, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team.
If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency?
This will put into question all the privileges that the British associations were given by the Congress in 1946.”.
Gordon Smith, Scottish Football Association chief executive:
“We don’t want anything to do with a British team and made that clear from very early on.
“I have met Gordon Brown, but our position remains the same. A Team UK would raise questions in terms of our future as an autonomous footballing nation.
“Right now we have our own association, league and national team and that is not something we are willing to compromise.
“I don’t see a change of heart on this. There’s no backing for this from our administration or our supporters.”
Alan Duncan, from the Association of Tartan Army Clubs:
“When is Gordon Brown going to realise that nobody wants a Team UK, a position that could threaten our own independent national side?
“To be honest, nobody up here takes anything that Brown says seriously anymore.
“He has proven time and time again that he is more interested in being English than Scottish. He even admitted to supporting the England team.
“Scotland is focussed on trying to qualify for World Cups and European championships.”
Craig Brown, former Scotland manager:
“In my opinion, it would be axiomatic that such a ‘temporary’ merger could lead to the eventual permanent combination of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales into a single footballing entity in future major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships.”
Malcolm Clarke, Football Supporters Federation of Engand:
“The FSF is opposed to a single UK team in the Olympics.
We believe that such a team would be an entirely artificial entity given the existence of separate teams from each of the 4 countries in the UK in all other forms of International football, which is a tradition of very long standing which fans from the 4 countries wish to retain.
We share the fears of fans from the other UK countries that this precedent might be used to challenge the separate existence of those teams in the future, notwithstanding the assurances given by FIFA that this will not happen.”
Philip Smyth, Amalgamation of Official NI Fans Clubs :
“The Amalgamation of Official NISCs is opposed to the concept of a United Kingdom representative team participating in the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament.
We feel that such a move would undoubtedly lead to increased lobbying for an end to the present individual representative status of the four British Associations, a scenario which International fans throughout the Home Nations would be opposed to.”
Paul Corkrey, Football Supporters Federation Cymru :
“The Olympic side has our best wishes but it could mean the death of a country’s football team and the Welsh should not have to pay that price.”
Why then does Gordon Brown seem ‘determined’ to have a UK Olympic football team in the 2012 Olympic Games?
Only the government and the English FA are in favour.
Now it seems the Prime Minister is having talks with Sepp Blatter on the matter.
Is he mad???
Is his Britishness agenda so important that he risks the national teams of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Sepp Blatter has taken the view that if the UK was insistent on entering then:
“They should enter only a team composed of players from England”
That view is probably why the English Football Association itself seems in favour of a UK Football Olympic team.
As in the past, any UK team will be an English team, in all but name.
If Gordon Brown is really serious about a UK Olympic football team, I suggest the Home Nations play off for the right to represent the UK.
A joint team will be the beginning of the end for the Home Nations. The other nations just won’t stand four separate teams in FIFA if a UK team was submitted.
Wouldn’t the best way forward be the Home Nations representating themselves at the Olympics?
That makes much more sense.