UK Policy


Uncharitable Thoughts

Central Asian friends of ours thought that all their dreams had come true when they won a green card and went to live in Florida. But reality soon caught up – living in a cramped room, and no work. Their baby soon got seriously ill, but they were turned away from hospital as they had no money. The baby got worse. Eventually they were seen at a charity clinic but by that stage the baby needed urgent hospital admission. In desperation they turned to us; we were having a hard time ourselves, but I scraped together some money.

The wife – who is well qualified and fluent in English – told me she had applied for many jobs. Even for toilet cleaning and dishwashing she had been turned down flat. She said that she had, on almost every occasion, been asked straight out whether she was a Muslim. They had chosen Florida because of the Disneyland posters.

The baby is now fine and their financial situation is improving because the husband has joined the US Army. Think of that next time you hear of US troops in Afghanistan; some of them are there from deepest despair.

Of course, many poor children die in the US every year because of inadequate healthcare. But should British taxpayers fund their healthcare? No, of course not. It will be plain to you I am using that sad but quite true story to introduce a reductio ad absurdum to try to counter the knee jerk liberal/left reaction that it would be wrong to stop giving aid to India.

Last week India tested its missile interceptor shield – a US $11 billion programme. That was the moment that did it for me. Of course, there is nowhere in the world that there are not people who need help. But if India taxed people earning over US $50,000 per year at the same rate that the UK does, that would bring in extra revenue approximately 70 times the amount the UK gives India in aid.

I don’t suggest that as a formal test, but it is an increasing indicator. If Ghana for example charged those earning over US $50,000 at the same rate the UK does, that would not amount in extra income to as much as just once the amount the UK gives Ghana in aid.

I am only suggesting an indicator, not advocating those tax increases. And I don’t think that our aid plans should be cut -merely given only to countries that really can’t help themselves.

On the subject of misuse of funds in BRIC countries, here is a quite astonishing statistic that indicates monumental corruption on a scale it is hard to get the mind around – there are 67 dollar billionaires who are members of China’s People’s Assembly. That is a great many more than there are in the whole of the UK.

But a fascinating thing is that I learnt that from China’s atate broadcaster, CCTV, where it was discussed quite openly as an example of “Misuse of influence”. A few hours of CCTV is rewarding viewing. You will certainly learn the point of view of the Chinese government, but discussion both of China and of world affairs really is surprisingly free, and the overall level of bias is much less, and certianly much less shrill, than Fox News. Presumably as it is in English, the authorities are much more relaxed about it than they are about internal media.

CCTV is in large part aimed at Africa. In Ghana, for example, BBC, CNN, Sky and Al Jazeera are all available by satellite with a subscription, but the Chinese Government pays the South African satellite provider (covering all sub-Saharan Africa) to make CCTV available without subscription to anyone with a satellite receiver. Possession of a receiver and old dish but no subscription is very common, especially in local bars and other communal spaces where many watch their TV.

SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

More teething problems on new site this morning, it won’t let me add any new posts. If it doesn’t get cleared in a couple of hours I’ll add the new article to the bottom of this one as a temporary fix.

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Berlusconi’s Cut

A very senior diplomatic source told me yesterday that Berlusconi is frantic lest Gadaffi falls and the channels are revealed by which Berlusconi gets a cut on the huge amounts of Libyan oil and gas lifted to Italy. Just at the moment that would be too much even for Berlusconi to survive.

This morning I see the Italian foreign minister is warning 300.000 Libyan refugees will fly to Europe if Gadaffi falls – as though there will be none if he stays. I have checked with other diplomatic sources, and they confirm that Italy is using the refugee warning to argue that Europe should back Gadaffi, and not impose sanctions. That point is not coming over in the mainstream media.

This blog will be back up completely revamped next week. But I thought this snippet was important. If someone wants to repost it somewhere comments are possible…

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Ludicrous Attack on Assange

The decision to put Julian Assange in a cell over ludicrous sexual offence allegations is a politically motivated act that must be resisted. Assange has never been in hiding from the police, and there is no reason at all to believe he would abscond if granted bail.

This is kompromat – the use of sexual allegations to denigrate a person perceived as a threat to the state. They did it to Charles Parnell and Roger Casement and, a lowlier case, to me. This is an article I wrote on August 25:

The Russians call it Kompromat – the use by the state of sexual accusations to destroy a public figure. When I was attacked in this way by the government I worked for, Uzbek dissidents smiled at me, shook their heads and said “Kompromat”. They were used to it from the Soviet and Uzbek governments. They found it rather amusing to find that Western governments did it too.

Well, Julian Assange has been getting the bog standard Kompromat. I had imagined he would get something rather more spectacular, like being framed for murder and found hanging with an orange in his mouth. He deserves a better class of kompromat. If I am a whistleblower, then Julian is a veritable mighty pipe organ. Yet we just have the normal sex stuff, and very weak.

Bizarrely the offence for which Julian is wanted for questioning in Sweden was dropped from rape to sexual harassment, and then from sexual harassment to just harassment. The precise law in Swedish, as translated for me and other Sam Adams alumni by our colleague Major Frank Grevil, reads:

“He who lays hands on or by means of shooting from a firearm, throwing of stones, noise or in any other way harasses another person will be sentenced for harassment to fines or imprisonment for up to one year.”

So from rape to non-sexual something. Actually I rather like that law – if we had it here, I could have had Jack Straw locked up for a year.

Julian tells us that the first woman accuser and prime mover had worked in the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC and had been expelled from Cuba for anti-Cuban government activity, as well as the rather different persona of being a feminist lesbian who owns lesbian night clubs.

Scott Ritter and I are well known whistleblowers subsequently accused of sexual offences. A less well known whistleblower is James Cameron, another FCO employee. Almost simultaneous with my case, a number of the sexual allegations the FCO made against Cameron were identical even in wording to those the FCO initially threw at me.

Another fascinating point about kompromat is that being cleared of the allegations – as happens in virtually every case – doesn’t help, as the blackening of reputation has taken effect. In my own case I was formerly cleared of all allegations of both misconduct and gross misconduct, except for the Kafkaesque charge of having told defence witnesses of the existence of the allegations. The allegations were officially a state secret, even though it was the government who leaked them to the tabloids.

Yet, even to this day, the FCO has refused to acknowledge in public that I was in fact cleared of all charges. This is even true of the new government. A letter I wrote for my MP to pass to William Hague, complaining that the FCO was obscuring the fact that I was cleared on all charges, received a reply from a junior Conservative minister stating that the allegations were serious and had needed to be properly investigated – but still failing to acknowledge the result of the process. Nor has there been any official revelation of who originated these “serious allegations”.

Governments operate in the blackest of ways, especially when it comes to big war money and big oil money. I can see what they are doing to Julian Assange, I know what they did to me and others (another recent example – Brigadier Janis Karpinski was framed for shoplifting). In a very real sense, it makes little difference if they murdered David Kelly or terrified him into doing it himself. Telling the truth is hazardous in today’s Western political system.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/08/julian_assange_1.html

There are a couple of things to add. The lead complainant is a serial crier of rape who made allegations against someone else which were found groundless, and has published a guide to sexual revenge over men. She consulted with the second complainant before the second complainant went to the police; these are not two unrelated complaints. The second one relates to a Swedish offence of not wearing a condom.

This from Danish WMD whistelblower – jailed for two years for whistleblowing – Major Frank Grevil:

Comparison of crime statistics between the three Scandinavian countries,

which have historically a highly similar societal structure, gives the

remarkable result that the incidence of sexual crimes is about ten times

higher in Sweden than in Denmark or Norway. Usually Sweden’s higher

proportion of unassimilated immigrants from first and foremost islamic

countries is blamed, but it would seem to be only a minor part of the

explanation. Rather, political instructions to the police seem to be the

major reason!

Critics maintain that Sweden has turned into a gynocracy, with some of the

most hateful female politicians – front figures for a party called

“Feministiskt initiativ”* – having publicly declared that male fetuses

should be selectively aborted, and all adult males castrated!

In such an atmosphere of hate, the Swedish police has been instructed to put

all alleged crimes of even the most remotely sexual character under the

statistical heading “rape”. This includes consenting intercourse between

teenagers with the female part being slightly under-age. It also includes

consenting intercourse where the female part was drunk.

So whoever initiated the plot to go for Assange on Swedish sexual charges knew what they were doing.

I am not a fan of radical feminists. They are hate filled individuals whose very souls are ugly. They seem particularly fixated with causing trouble to political radicals. Anyone who knows the real story of the Tommy Sheridan debacle knows that. They succeeded in alienating me from the Stop the War movement

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/04/warning_this_po.html

Now, very much more importantly, they are gunning for Julian Assange at a crucial time for democracy. Silly little girls.

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While I Was Away

Here are some brief comments on events while I was busy biographing:

Prince William to wed Kate Middleton

I really don’t give a fuck. Have you noticed he is strangely getting less bald? They’ll both be middle aged and ugly before they come to the throne. Or hopefully not.

Coalition launch “Starve the feckless” scheme

Multiple orgasms at the Mail, Express and Telegraph at launch of amusingly impossible policy guaranteed to increase crime rate.

Demonstrators trash Tory Party HQ

I don’t really approve of riot as people get hurt. But the only thing that makes me angrier than the tuition fee increases, are the NUS leadership hacks who support New Labour who brought in tuition fees in the first place.

Interesting moral conundrum as to whether pre-emptive murder of NUS executives can be justified. Looking at Straw, Clarke and Aaronovitch, it is certainly a debate worth having.

Possible voluntary reduction in London bankers’ bonuses from £7 billion to £4 billion and then £3 billion later. Anyone remember why the public finances are bankrupt? The bonuses are justified by record profits based on funding and administering government debt, which was incurred by governments borrowing to give to the bankers. What?

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The Stew of Corruption

British democracy has lost its meaning. The political and economic system has come to serve the interests of a tiny elite, vastly wealthier than the run of the population, operating through corporate control. The state itself exists to serve the interests of these corporations, guided by a political class largely devoid of ideological belief and preoccupied with building their own careers and securing their own finances.

A bloated state sector is abused and mikled by a new class of massively overpaid public secotr managers in every area of public provision – university, school and hospital administration, all executive branches of local government, housing associations and other arms length bodies. All provide high six figure salaries to those at the top of a bloated bureaucratic establishment. The “left”, insofar as it exists, represents only these state sector vested interests.

These people decide where the cuts fall, and they will not fall where they should – on them. They will fall largely on the services ordinary people need.

Meanwhile we are not all in this together. The Vodafone saga only lifts the lid for the merest peek at the way the corporate sector avoids paying its share, hiding behind Luxembourg or Cayman tax loopholes and conflicts between international jurisdictions – with which our well provided politicians are very happy. The often excellent Sunny Hundal provides a calm analysis of the Vodafone case here:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/01/why-are-there-protests-against-vodafone-a-simple-guide/#more-18963

Let me tell you something else about Vodafone. Vodafone took over Ghana Telecom three years ago. They paid an astonishingly low price for it – 1.2 billion dollars, which is less than the value of just the real estate GT owned. The value of the business was much higher than that, and there was a substantively higher opening bid from France Telecom.

The extraordinary thing was the enormous pressure which the British government put on Ghana to sell this valuable asset to Vodafone so cheaply. High Commissioner Nick Westcott and Deputy High Commissioner Menna Rawlings were both actively involved, with FCO minister Lord Malloch Brown pressurising President Kuffour directly, with all the weight of DFID’s substantial annual subvention to Ghana behind him.

What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?

And why exactly was it a major British interest that Vodafone – whose Board meets in Germany and which pays its meagre taxes in Luxembourg – should get Ghana Telecom, as opposed to France Telecom or another company? Was privatisation at this time the best thing for Ghana at all?

This Vodafone episode offers another little glimpse into the way that corporations like Vodafone twist politicians like Mark Malloch Brown around their little fingers. It mioght be interesting to look at his consultancies and commercial interests now he is out of office.

BAE is of course the example of this par excellence. Massive corruption and paying of bribes in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania end elsewhere, but prosecution was halted by Tony Blair “In the National Interest”. BAE of course was funnelling money straight into New Labour bagmen’s pockets, as well as offering positions to senior civil servants through the revolving door. Doubtless they are now doing the same for the Tories – perhaps even some Lib Dems.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/01/jack_straws_cor.html

It is therefore unsurprising the BAE were able to write themselves contracts for aircraft carriers which were impossible to cancel and that their New Labour acolytes were prepared to sign such contracts. It is, nonetheless, disgusting. Just as it is disgusting that there is no attempt whatever by the coaliton to query or remedy the situation. There is no contract in the UK which cannot be cancelled by primary legislation.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23894666-bae-letter-was-gun-to-head-of-ministers-over-aircraft-carriers-deal.do

Meanwhile, bankers’ bonus season is upon us again and these facilitators of trade and manufacture are again set to award themselves tens of billions of pounds to swell the already huge bank accounts of a select few, whose lifestyle and continued employment is being subsidised by every single person in the UK with 8% of their income. This was because the system which rewards those bankers so vastly is fundamentally unsound and largely unnecessary. Money unlinked to trade or manufacture cannot create infinite value; that should have been known since the South Sea Bubble.

Yet even this most extreme example of government being used to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else, has not been enough to stir any substantial response from a stupoured, x-factored population, dreaming only of easy routes to personal riches, which they have a chance in a million of achieving.

Conventional politics appears to have become irretrievably part pf the malaise rather than offering any hope for a cure. But political activity outwith the mainstream is stifled by a bought media.

I see no hope.

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Not So Radical Spending Cuts

The Comprehansive Spending Review announced today is designed to bring public spending back to the same level in real terms that it was in 2006/2007.

I am going to write that again.

The Comprehansive Spending Review announced today is designed to bring public spending back to the same level in real terms that it was in 2006/2007.

It is not radical. It is not nearly radical enough. The state sector is much.much too large in this country. We could have a much smaller public sector which at the same time was much more effective at wealth redistribution. 500,000 public sector job cuts hardly scratches the surface of needed reductions in our ludicrous bureaucracies. The Pivate Finance Initiative, Internal Market mechanisms, feee nd academy schools and their hordes of accountatns and administrators should all go and be replaced bysimple direct provision of necessary services. Local incometax should fun over half of public spending, decided upon and provided close to the point of delivery. Andthe UK should be broken up anyway.

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A Defence Review

The defence review is admitting the bleeding obvious – that there is no real danger of armed invasion of the UK, and that terrorism does not pose an “existential threat” to the UK and our way of life. That is a real advance, because Blair, Reid and Blunkett were determined to convince us that it was an existential threat, “on the scale of the Second World War” as Reid once ludicrously opined of a menace that killed under 70 people inthe UK. What did become a threat to our way of life was New Labour’s hyping of that threat to impose unprecedented authoritarianism.

By contrast the current review is almost rational. Everyone seems very pleased at the highlighting of cyber attack, though I tend to think this too is ramped up a la swine flu. But at least nobody is suggesting drone attacks on weddings to take out laptops – at least yet. I like the whole Dr Who sound of “Cyber attack”. We should prioritise Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in defence spending (sorry, that will mean nothing to anyone under 50. I was 52 on Sunday).

But do not expect any further rationality. Trident missiles are no use against any actual threat, but we will be told we still need them, in reality because they make British politicians feel they are more powerful and important than German and Japanese ones.

The aircraft carriers are important to our ability to support US invasions abroad.They have no other purpose. The big question so far ducked is whether we have abandoned the disastrous “Blair doctrine” of liberal interventionism. or bombing foreigners to make them better people. The unspoken presumption isthat we are still maintaining this option.

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NATO – What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

Hillary Clinton is concerned that defence cuts in the UK will jeopardise our ability to carry out our NATO obligations.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/14/hillary-clinton-uk-defence-cuts

Now NATO was founded to defend the North Atlantic region against advances by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. The danger of armed invasion by Russia is now minimal, and it is all of 14 years since I had the pleasure of organising a deliciously extravagant, indeed decadent, British Embassy ball in the grand military building in Warsaw where the Pact was signed – an episode I have just been writing up for my next volume of memoirs, Romance Without Chopin.

If Russia wished to take over Europe now, they would just need to turn off the gas supply in winter. But the Russian elite have discovered much easier ways to lead a fantasy lifestyle.

So, with no threat to the North Atlantic, NATO is occupying Afghanistan and making contingency plans to invade Somalia and Yemen. If you take the view that organisations acquire self-interest and behave to maximise it, this makes sense as NATO will provoke more Islamic militancy by occupying Muslim lands, and NATO needs to posit an enemy to continue to exist.

The Secretary General of NATO is the really horrible Anders Fogh Rasmussen. As PM of Denmark he did a Tony Blair and knowingly lied to parliament over the content of intelligence reports on Iraqi WMD. He actively pursued the jailing of Major Frank Grevil for leaking that he had lied. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Grevil

The fact that a reptile like Rasmussen is the Secretary General is itself a sign that something is rotten about NATO.

The government claims we cannot even afford any substantial public funding for the university tuition of our young people. For Hillary Clinton to opine that we need to spend still more on obscene weapons of destruction to support US invasions abroad – and the inextricably linked UK and US arms manufacturers – is pretty sick. Fascinating as well to see New Labour join in and attack the government from the right again.

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Still No Liberty

My unease at the Lib Dem coalition with the Conservatives is crystallising into real alarm. We hear today from Theresa May that the 28 day detention without charge is to be extended. Apparantly is being renewed six months at a time under the coalition as opposed to a year at a time under NuLab.

That is supposed to be progress? Bollocks. It appears that the government has predictably been captured by the security services already.

Every Lib Dem MP who votes for 28 day detention without charge has forfeited forever the right to call themselves a liberal.

Anyone remember what the coalition agreement said about civil liberties? As I said at the time, my concern was that the Lib Dems had negotiated a fine sounding piece of paper while the Tories had got all the key ministries and the practical levers of power. This seems a prime example.

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Liberals and the VAT Question

I remember having a passionate argument with John Pardoe about VAT in a pub during the Cambridge City by-election. Pardoe enjoyed Vince Cable levels of popularity as a liberal economic spokesman in those days – his flagship policy proposal was reducing income tax and increasing sales tax (sorry, too lazy to check if it was already called VAT then). He characterised it as switching from tax on income to tax on consumption. I was 17. I took myself very seriously in those days; it was with retrospect kind of him to do so.

I argued VAT was regressive – the rich and the poor pay at the same rate. As the poor save less, it means a higher proportion of their income will go on tax. Pardoe said the rich buy more expensive luxury goods, so will pay more tax.

I haven’t changed my mind in the intervening 35 years. I would much rather the extra 13 billion pounds had been raised by increasing income tax on incomes over the higher rate threshold.

I very much welcome the curtailment of housing allowances, which have boosted both private sector rents and property prices and contributed to Britain’s still overheated housing market.

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Budget Day

We all wait to see what the budget has in store. This is less fun than it used to be, as it has been heavily trailed that the personal tax allowance will be raised by £1,000 as a first stage towards lifting a very significant number of people out of tax altogether, and improving the work/benefit incentive. That is a good thing.

The banking levy will be another good thing, but far better would be a transaction tax that penalises continual speculative trades. Capital Gains Tax increases are likely to be watered down to protect wealthy tories with second homes. I fear we will see punitive duty increases on alcohol; only the wealthy are to be allowed to get drunk. But I am uncertain where the tax rise required is going to come from, if neither the basic rate of income tax nor the rate of VAT is to be increased.

I fear we may not get a great deal of detail on the cuts until the public spending round in the autumn, though we should get headline figures today, which will be helpful.

I very much favour public spending cuts. I am unabashedly ideologically committed to a major reduction in a role of the state. So I am more than happy to see an early hack at it. Of course the things I would immediately cut are not going to be cut. My main concern is that the legitimate redistributive role of the state is not weakened.

Some ideas of what I would do:

Cut Trident, aricraft carriers, nuclear submarines, end the Afghan War immediately.

Cut all local government salaries over £28,000 by 15%, with a phase in mechanism at the margin.

Make everybody in local government earning over £50,000 immediately redundant.

Freeze all civil service incremental pay scales.

Set an automatic civil service pay mechanism: annual salary increase = rate of economic growth plus inflation minus 0.25%. Backdate the formula to January 2007 and adjust salaries accordingly.

Cancel all PFI projects immediately without compensation. Pay only assessed construction cost to date.

Cancel all operating PFI schemes without compensation. Pay assessed construction costs plus interest minus PFI payments made.

End all government arts spending and close the British Council.

Replace incapacity benefit with a single needs assessed welfare payment to all unemployed people, regardless of why they are unemployed.

End all internal market procedures within the NHS and the rest of the public sector.

Institute a civil service and local authority recruitment freeze for three years.

Means test all state payments including basic old age pensions and child benefit.

Sadly the budget won’t be nearly this exciting. What would you like to see?

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The 4.45pm Link

While live-blogging the party leaders’ debates during the election I noted my suprise that Cameron was so firm on the banks, and particularly the need to split off casino banking from retail banking. I wondered if he really meant it.

Well, yesterday’s Mansion House by Geore Osborne speech showed that Cameron didn’t mean it. Knocking the bankers was just to gain votes. Proposals to split casino banking and retail banking are now to be shuffled off to a commission, kicked far into the long grass, never to be seriously heard of again.

It is the worst betrayal of election rhetoric by the Tories so far, and the biggest kick in the bollocks for we Lib Dems. Yet strangely neither media nor bloggers seem to have noticed it much, distracted succesfully by the much less important proposal to give the FSA’s powers to the Bank of England.

Here is Michael Meacher:

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2010/06/in-merv-we-trust/

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For William Hague: How To Cut the Foreign Ofiice

With all government departments having to look at huge cuts, I thought I would write about what I know. These are the steps I would take to cut back radically on the FCO budget.

1) Make all Directors-General and Heads of Department Redundant

Diplomats alternate in their careers between Whitehall and postings to Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates abroad. In the FCO in Whitehall, the chain of command goes like this.

Ministers

PUS

Directors General

Directors

Heads of Department

Assistant Heads of Department

Heads of Section

Desk Officers

Assistant Desk Officers

Clerks

The nomenclature changed several times when I was in the FCO, and may well have changed since from the above, but the structure remains the same.

That is many more layers of bureaucracy than is necessary. “Submissions” going to ministers work their way up every link of the chain, leading to duplication and second guessing. The official view is that more and more senior officials bring increased wieght and experience. The counter view is that, as you go up the chain, you are moving further and further away from expertise on the particular subject.

On top of which, at every leve,l you have varying degrees of budget management responsibility and the whole accompanying New Labour paraphernalia of target management, measurement, internal market and performance indication. The layers spend much of their time in internal administration of the interfaces grinding between each other. Savings from losing layers would be much greater than the considerable employment costs of the individuals involved.

There are two too many layers here. I can see varying arguments for which levels you cut and there is a sense in which it does not make too much difference. But on close consideration I would cut Heads of Department (assistants then becoming Heads at a lower grade, with some big departments with more than one assistant split up) and Directors General.

Remember it isn’t a saving unless you actually make the individuals redundant.

Full cost saving £25 miilion pa

2 Slash Embassies in EU States

The world has changed. In particular, the way that the UK interrelates with other EU members has changed dramatically. Huge areas of foreign and security policy are “coordinated” with the EU, while most trade and economic questions are under direct EU control or “competence”. The coordination of all this between states takes place to a small extent in capitals, but to a massive extent in Brussels.

The FCO has become marginal to the process to the point of irrelevance. This is an absolutely key point.

Thirty years ago a British official dealing with fisheries conservation or with environmental policy would almost never, in the course of their entire career, meet their French or Spanish counterpart. If a question on environmental policy arose, the British official would send a memo to the Foreign Office. If the FCO agreed, it would send an instruction to the diplomat whose portfolio included environmental policy in the Embassy in Paris or Madrid. He would make an appointment and go and see the officer in the French or Spanish foreign ministry who dealt with the question. He would leave him a copy of a memorandum. In due course, he would relay back to the FCO the answer from the French or Spanish ministry, who would send it on to the British environmental official we started with.

This world has changed completely. Now our British environmental of fisheries conservation official will meet his French and Spanish counterparts six times a year in Brussels at EU meetings on his subject, and now and then at international conferences. He will be on first name terms with them, have their mobile and telephone numbers. The chances that anyone in the FCO has a clue what he is doing are slim indeed. If he needs to cabal with the French, Pole and German to influence an EU decision, he will do it himself in the corridors of a meeting, not ask the FCO.

Yet our Embassies in EU countries remain among the biggest and grandest we possess, reflecting the days when our shifting bilateral relationships with European nations were literally matters of life and death, war and peace. They are magnificent and madly over-staffed by crazily over senior people. They are a great relic of a bygone age, institutions so grand that their overwhelming presence masks their lack of purpose.

Be radical. Large Embassies in EU member states should be cut to eight diplomats (Paris, Bonn) small Embassies to four diplomats (Copenhagen, Dublin). Let’s move into the 21st century.

This would bring not only a great regular saving, but a very large one off lump sum indeed. We have an owned estate of massive value in houses and offices in Europe’s capitals. Selling off most of it would net at least 300 million

Cash Gain From Property Sales 300 million

Annual Full Cost Saving £200 million

3 Close Consulates in First World Countries

We have a network of consulates (posts subsidiary to embassies) in places like Nice and Vancouver. They are there primarily to offer market advice to British businessmen and passport and consular services to British nationals. This is outmoded in this globalised age. France or Canada are no longer part of some scarey “abroad” in which British businessmen cannot operate without their hand being held by some bureaucrat who has never sold anything in their life. These are countries where tourists in trouble should not need their hand held by the government. Close all first world consulates, and deploy half the savings into opening new consulates and embassies outside the first world where they are actually needed. Again this would bring an annual saving and a big capital benefit from property sales.

Net Cash Gain From Property Sales 50 million

Net Full Cost Saving £60 million pa

4 Reduce the Dipomatic Housing Estate

Diplomats, especially senior ones, live in housing which is much grander than civil servants of their grade could possibly aff0rd in London. There used to be a reason for this. Official entertaining at home had to impress your foreign visitor.

But the real truth is that our diplomats nowadays very seldom use their grand houses for entertainng at home. There has been a measured and major trend towards entertaining in restaurants. Actually I think this is an awful shame. I had literally thousands of visitors a year through my home throughout my entire diplomatic career. But my breed is now extinct. Diplomats see their grand home as their private space, and many senior diplomats do not entertain at home.

Why should diplomats therefore live in houses and apartments often worth £2 million up?

I do not propose we get rid of our Ambassadorial residences, which are an important diplomatic tool and often woth £10 million up. But these assets need to be sweated much more. Every Ambassadorial residence has its de facto public and private rooms – who wants to eat their breakfast alone at a table for 36? The public/private areas should be formalised, and the public areas be available to any diplomat in the post to use for entertaining purposes, and possibly available to rent for British companies. Official use of the public areas is probably below 20% at the moment, if you take lunch, dinner and weekend afternoons as the possible entertaining opportunities. Let’s get that up over 90%.

Our diplomats can then be asked to live in the kind of accommodation that their salary would afford in London – ie very much smaller than they get now. Many very expensive properties could be sold off.

Cash Gain From Property Sales 150 miilion

Annual Full Cost Saving (Rent) 20 million

The savings figures are estimates and designed to give no more than a rough feel for the sums involved. The beauty of this scheme is that the capital gains from property sales would more than cover the cost of compulsory redundancies.

The FCO bureaucrats will take the opposite view of any cuts. They will not want to give up their expensive houses or any London jobs with access to ministers and political power. They will certainly not want to cut any postings to easy countries with access to Aspen or St Moritz. They will propose a series of closures of posts in third world countries – pretty well the only place the FCO actually is any use. They will propose cuts to the BBC World Service.

My key piece of advice to William Hague: do not get captured by your senior officials.

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UNESCO Shame

I am truly sorry to say it, but UNESCO really is an appalling organisation. Good article here by Liberal Vision.

http://www.liberal-vision.org/2010/06/07/shameful-un-need-reprimanding-by-the-coalition/

The links to Global Witness are well worth following up, too. I have a lot of time for Global Witness.

UNESCO have put millions of UN money into “reconstruction” of Tamerlane monumental architecture in Uzbekistan. Astonishingly, the process often involves demolition of the original remains being “reconstructed”. The entire purpose of these Disneyland reconstructions is to host Karimov regime spectaculars featuring singing soldiers and massed ranks of dancers celebrating the cotton harvest.

UNESCO seems devoid of moral sense – indeed any sense. I remember, as an internationalist, being appalled when Thatcher withdrew Britain from UNESCO for a while. But she was right.

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The 4.45pm Link

Iain Dale deserves applause and support for taking on the appalling rich man’s thugs, Schillings, and publishing John Sweeney’s Rooney’s Gold.

http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2010/06/rooneys-gold-publishing-tale.html

You will recall it was Schillings who had this blog – and several others – taken down temporarily (permanently if they had their way) at the behest of convicted gangster and racketeer Alisher Usmanov.

Just as Schillings had Rooney’s Gold cancelled by Random House on behalf of Wayne Rooney, so they had The Catholic Orangemen of Togo cancelled by Mainstream (50% owned by Random House) on behalf of mercenary killer Tim Spicer. Yet not a word of libel appears in either book.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/01/buy_the_catholi.html

Rooney’s Gold is written by my mate John Sweeney. It should be a good read – the extraordinary things he was telling me about the relationship between football agents and organised crime were a real revelation.

I am going to contact other bloggers to see if we can’t organise a day of campaigning by all major British bloggers against the UK’s notoriously oppressive libel laws, which put nil value on freedom of speech – literally – and are designed for the express purpose of protecting the rich from the revelation of truth.

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Time to Legalise Prostitution – and Drugs

Prostitutes have to get murdered before they get treated by the media with any dignity. We need to consider carefully the lessons from the cruel exposure, yet again, of their vulnerability.

Prostitution is massive in the UK. Estimates of the number of prostitutes varies, but the lowest serious estimate I can find is 30,000, while the figure most commonly quoted is 80,000.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/sex-industry/sex-for-sale-the-truth-about-prostitution-in-britain-1035038.html

What is beyond doubt is that the number of customers for these prostitutes runs into millions – a significant proportion of the adult male population of the UK. Yet this massive industry operates entirely in the shadows. It is not actually illegal, but it is hedged in by legislation that forces it to operate secretly. Means of granting discretion to customers without the need for initially meeting up in dark dangerous abandoned streets, are likely to lead quickly to prosecution.

Our current laws on prostitution are the product of Victorian prudery, and have been reinforced by the still narrower zeal of political feminists who wiish to restrict the uses of female sexuality.

The semi-legal status leaves prostitutes lurking in the dark, and often subject to the attention of pimps, traffickers – and sometimes murderers.

Of course, we need economic policies which provide good opportunities for everyone, so that prostitution is a choice. But for women who wish to be prostitutes, they should be free to work openly, in good conditions, at home or in safe establishments, in security and with access to medical services. Sex workers should be able to pay tax like anybody else.

But the other thing which is plain is that the sex workers of Bradford are often in the industry to fuel their drug habit. Here there are stark parallels in the legal position on drugs and prostitution, born of the inevitable counter-productivity of legislating for personal morality. The legal classification of drugs has very little relationship to the harmfulness of the drugs themselves, but are rather a strange inheritance of historical social factors. The last government was continually in conflict with its own scientific advisers who pointed this out.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6474053.stm

It is the blanket and unnecessary illegality of drugs that provides the criminal world with its main source of revenue, destabilises entire producer countries and denies society the benefits of quality control, hygiene and taxation.

It would take a politician of rare courage and vision to take on the tabloid press on these issues. Unfortunately we don’t have any of those.

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The Lords Mire Must Be Drained

It is very difficult to look at the dissolution honours list for the Lords without retching. Lord Prescott, Lord Reid, Lord Blair of Stockwell Tube Station? Then there are the Tory donors. Floella Benjamin is the only redeeming feature. Indeed, I hope someone can find Brian Cant and put him in there too.

But seriously, surely this lot, with so many of Gordon Brown’s backroom chums as well, stretch to breaking point the credibility of the Lords? It beggars belief that we still have this ancient stench-pit of corruption and patronage as an integral part of our legislature.

Nick Clegg has promised Lords Reform from this coalition, but Clegg deferred to the Tories by mentioning “grandfather rights”. The Tories are insisting that existing peers – or at least a large number of them – should remain members of the Lords until they die. So no democratic upper chamber until Ian Blair, John Prescott and John Reid peg it? Not to mention the new Tory peer 33 year old Oxford graduate Nat Wei? It is ludicrous.

Grandfather rights are unacceptable. The Lords must be swept away, and replaced by a democratic upper chamber with no unelected grandparents invited. Preferably elections should be by PR, but a fully elected upper chamber by 2015 will be over a hundred years overdue.

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