Posted by: secretperson | May 27, 2010

Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed my Children

Funny. I was just listening today to the Manic Street Preachers’ song entitled ‘Freedom of speech won’t feed my children’ and thinking, yeah, it’s probably not number one priority if you’re starving in Africa, but countries with freedom of speech tend to do better at feeding people too.

And what should I see on an Englishman’s Castle this evening? Not one, not two, but three quotes pointing out the benefits of free speech and democracy to feeding people.

A 1 percent increase in newspaper circulation is associated with a 2.4 percent increase in public food distribution and a 5.5 percent increase in calamity relief expenditures. Greater political competition is associated with higher levels of public food distribution. Public food distribution is also higher in election and pre-election years. In addition, government is also more responsive to a given shock when newspaper circulation is higher. That is, when food production falls or flood damage occurs governments increase food distribution and calamity relief more in states where newspaper circulation is higher.

T Besley, R Burgess, The political economy of government responsiveness: Theory and evidence from India

…no famine has taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy – be it economically rich (as in Western Europe or North America) or relatively poor (as in post independence India, or Botswana or Zimbabwe.

Amartya Sen. 2001. Development as Freedom. p.16

Perhaps the most important reform that can contribute to the elimination of famines, in Africa as well as in Asia, is the enhancement of democratic practice, unfettered newspapers and – more generally – adversarial politics.

Amartya Sen. 1990. Public Action to Remedy Hunger.

Well said, and well selected Englishman.

Posted by: secretperson | May 11, 2010

Congratulations, Prime Minister Cameron

So, at last, David Cameron is our Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown was dignified in defeat. Despite his last minute attempts yesterday to rescue a ‘progressive’ coalition, he seemed today to have come to terms with defeat. Brown’s smile looked genuine for the first time in years. I suspect he will be happier having resigned, as will the country.

And that means David Cameron will be Prime Minister, the youngest since Lord Liverpool in 1812. In a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats, his actions will not be unconstrained, but he is a flexible, pragmatic, character who, although I personally would prefer someone more to the right, is probably well suited to a coalition government.

The details of the coalition are yet to be confirmed. It sounds like the Lib Dems have done very well in terms of cabinet seats. The Tory right, most likely to object to a deal can probably be reasonably happy with agreement on the debt, red lines on the EU, immigration and Trident and a Lib Dem tax policy (raising the income tax threshold) that many right wing think tanks have been plugging for years.

The Lib Dems will I’m sure take the deal on the grounds of the seats, although there may be a few objectors on left-right grounds (though all three main parties are so central I think these classifications are outdated).

From this blog’s particular point of view, it will be interesting to see if the Tory policy of English votes on English laws is passed. The Tories already have a massive English majority, and the Lib Dems are only third in Scotland and Wales so there will still be issues with legitimacy in the devolved nations.

Still I feel moderately optimistic as another interest of mine, civil liberties, is an area in which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are in most agreement. I am also a big fan of the Tory school vouchers/ free schools policy – so hope for Michael Gove to keep his job and this to be pushed through, a pupil premium should seal the deal. And there seems to be agreement on the debt. Watching the markets at work, Lib-Con rumours got positive reactions, Lib-Lab poor ones, so it should be well set.

All in all, I feel a lot more optimistic about the country than I did last night when a Labour government looked more likely.

Congratulations once more to Prime Minister Cameron, let us hope he does a good job.

Posted by: secretperson | May 7, 2010

Lib Dem Collapse – Union not PR could be issue

I previously predicted PR would be the major issue given the Lib Dem gains and a possible hung parliament. But now it looks like the differences between England, Scotland and Wales could be vastly different, in particular between a Tory-free Scotland and the rest.

Could UK national tension be the big story?

Posted by: secretperson | May 5, 2010

Final Polls Point to Tory Win

But do they point to a majority? The final polls before voting are out. The next ones we see will be exit polls, then final results.

C LD L
Yougov 35 28 28
Angus Reid 36 29 24
Populus 37 27 28
Opinium 35 26 27
Harris 35 27 29
ICM 36 26 28
ComRes 37 28 28

Know that won’t point to a majority on the Uniform National Swing models, but fivethirtyeight.com‘s more sophisticated model had the Conservatives on 308 seats on 35.2%. Not sure how these new polls should be weighted to combine them, but a simple average of polls gives the Tories 35.9%. That’s got to be right on the line for a majority, and if not certainly enough to attempt a minority government, perhaps with Unionist support. And polls have historically underestimated Tory votes.

Of course it all gets finalised tomorrow. Get out and vote for anyone but Brown!

Posted by: secretperson | May 4, 2010

Lisbon Treaty – Dave’s Big Chance?

Rumour has it the EU may be asking for a re-ratification of the Lisbon treaty. Cameron told us he would have had a Lisbon referendum, but couldn’t as it wasn’t ratified. This could be his chance. I doubt he really wants to, given some of our neighbours might be upset (although they have bigger worries), but this could be the commitment that wins the election.

If the front pages tomorrow all stated Conservatives commit to EU referendum, it’d put Labour and the Lib Dems who reneged on similar commitments on the back foot. It’d be one of the few things to get out all the real Conservatives who’ve been disenfranchised by Dave’s ‘progressive’ nonsense. It could be just enough to push that extra percent or so needed to win a majority.

Posted by: secretperson | May 4, 2010

Watch This and Vote Against Labour

This Tory election video makes a good case for why we should not be voting for Labour. I am sure I could add some more complaints to it! Also, vote for Nigel Farage if you live in Buckingham.

A few days ago, the Guardian asked its readers online for input as to who they should support in the election. The response was overwhelmingly for the Liberal Democrats. The response was to suggest a Lib/Lab anti-Tory line. Since then a few articles have been published, pushing the possibility of a Lib/Con pact, and the more cynical amongst the readers decided that the Guardian was still backing Labour deep down, me included (I am not a ‘Guardian reader’, but I read online, know your enemy!)

However today they have come out with an editorial headlined General election 2010: The liberal moment has come.

It is not a complete endorsement of a Lib Dem vote. The standfirst reads

If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

The tactical aspect is still a plug for Labour, but the headline is no doubt the message many will take. I have to say, while I disagree with many of their arguments, it is a fair assessment from a left-wing view of the situation in the country. It contains praise for David Cameron as well as condemnation. It recognises Labour achievements and lists their many mistakes. It doesn’t claim the Lib Dems are perfect, and bases much of its support on PR.

Many liberal Guardian readers will be pleased, many Labour tribalists will be angry. Mind you they were angry when the Guardian dared to suggest that Cameron won the third debate (poll of polls Cameron 38%, Clegg 32%, Brown 26%), even when the report said Brown had the substance but not the style!

The Guardian doesn’t have a huge circulation, though is probably read online a bit more. However it is thought of as a serious paper. The Mirror would support Labour if its main policy was stabbing every person in Britain in the eye with a fish fork. But they are the only Labour paper left. The Sun has switched to the Tories, the Economist came out for the Tories yesterday and now the Guardian is backing the Liberal Democrats. It is looking all over for Labour. (update: Letters from a Tory points out the Times has also come out for the Tories today.)

Posted by: secretperson | April 29, 2010

Leaders’ Debate Thoughts

The polls are saying Cameron wins by a few points from Clegg, Brown well down. Sounds fair to me.

Cameron did well to be positive. He did well not to rise to Brown’s tactic (taken from PMQs) of asking questions of the other leaders. When will Brown understand that the questions come from the public? Even the defence of the inheritance tax cut (which could easily have been dropped or scaled back given the recession) on grounds of aspiration painted a positive note that I think will have gone down well.

Clegg was close behind. His main problem is the ‘old parties’ line is starting to wear thin. He repeated himself on raising the tax threshold, but as I support that policy, he’s probably right to make sure its heard. Clegg finished with an appeal to vote for who you want, aware that the Lib Dems could lose if people don’t believe they could win. Steady, will not lose many new voters he’s won since week one.

Brown was terrible, as always. His presentation is just not as good as the others, but everyone is used to that now – the bizarrely timed smiles, the constant shaking of the head as others speak. But considering the economy is supposedly his strong point? All I learned was that he is obsessed with tax credits. Clegg pointed out, twice, that he only planned to remove Child Tax Credits for those earning over £50,000 (Cameron didn’t rise to the bait so much). But still Brown couldn’t adapt and kept banging on about Child Tax Credits. It’s not just presentation, it’s also the issues that are an, ummm, issue.

As I predicted, (so did everyone else though!) no real answers on the cuts, but Brown was most evasive of all.

I think Labour are bottomed out in the polls, but certainly no revival will happen on this basis. I’d expect a few undecideds to move to the Tories, and maybe a slight drift from the LDs, depending on local issues.

One thing I am sure of though is that Brown is doomed. Even with the dodgy voting system, I think there’d be an outcry if he ended up back in number 10. Can’t wait to see the back of him next week! My postal vote goes out tomorrow.

Posted by: secretperson | April 29, 2010

My Economic Debate Predictions

Lots of soundbites, no substance. No-one will address the debt. Gordon Brown will repeat “£6 billion” over and over again. David Cameron will repeat “jobs tax” and “waste” over and over again. Nick Clegg will repeat “old parties” over and over again, and possibly capitalise on his party having spelt out a whole 20-odd per cent of their cuts! There will be a joke about bigotgate. It won’t be funny.

And all the time another £30 million will be added to the national debt. And who-ever wins will have to make cuts. Lots of cuts. Listen to Mervyn King. Chances of anyone addressing his points tonight? Nil.

Depressing really

Posted by: secretperson | April 28, 2010

Brown’s Attitude to Ordinary Voters Exposed

Oh dear, Gordon Brown. I’m sure you’ve all heard about ‘bigotgate’ (really another bloody gate!). It really sums up for me Gordon Brown’s attitude. Most people who have seen Gillian Duffy’s initial questioning of Brown thought he handled it well. She was happy to say to reporters that he had her vote, little did she know in his car (microphone left on) Gordon dismissed her as a ‘bigotted woman’.

It wasn’t quite the angry Gordon Brown we’d heard about. Although his first question, having had to meet a member of the public rather than a party plant, was to ask who amongst his staff was to blame! But when asked what went wrong he simply dismissed Mrs Duffy, and dismissed is really the word. She dared to question him, so in his mind she was simply some ‘bigotted woman’. For bringing up the issue of EU immigration!

It’s not the linking of questioning immigration with bigotry that really shocks, all the parties did that in the debate, but only for non-EU immigration. It’s Gordon’s whole attitude to anything other than carefully stage-managed interviews with adoring fans! The man is simply unable to cope with anyone questioning him, simply dismissing them as bigots or Tories, as though only the wrong could disagree with him.

And the sheer hypocrisy of his attitude towards Mrs Duffy before he got into the car. “You’re from a good family”, “Good to meet you”. Yeah I know all politicians have to be like that a bit in public, but I’m not sure that they’re all so nasty the moment they think they’re alone. And his apologies have been nauseating (although he has admitted a mistake!)

Can we really have a leader so threatened by a simple set of questions, so convinced of his own opinion he dismisses all that disagree? Not a recipe for good government, I think.

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