Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia):The collapse of the financial markets, industries and associated ‘businesses’ presents us with a great opportunity as a world society. As the veil is lifted revealing the reality behind the fictional economy on which our lives are dependent, a number of compelling options emerge.
The first, and most appealing is to continue as if nothing has happened, perhaps offering some minor regulatory tweaks, some admonitions to a few naughty individuals and ‘move on’. This is the systemic response. This is business as usual, and is the most likely, though the least credible outcome. Almost everyone at a UK level, Tory-Labour, Liberal, minus a few squawks here and there is coalescing around this brutally inadequate consensus.
"Partly, I'm angry that there is so little anger around me at what is being done to our society, supposedly in order to protect it," said the 76-year-old in an interview in Waterstone's magazine.
"We have been taken to war under false pretences, and stripped of our civil rights in an atmosphere of panic. Our lawyers don't take to the streets as they have done in Pakistan.
"Our MPs allow themselves to be deluded by their own spin doctors, and end up believing their own propaganda."
He added: "We haul our Foreign Secretary back from a mission to the Middle East so he can vote for 42 days' detention.
"People call me an angry old man. Screw them. You don't have to be old to be angry about that. We've sacrificed our sovereignty to a so-called 'special relationship' which has nothing special about it except to ourselves."
Hat-tip Craig Murray.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Next week's Tory conference in Birmingham will no doubt have the special buzz associated with what many see as a party on the path back to power. The new e-book Is the Future Conservative? (pdf) edited by Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford provides some timely insights into where the party might take the country.
Alan Finlayson's interview with Oliver Letwin, From economic revolution to social revolution, highlights an interesting difference of emphasis with the Thatcher era.
Ruth Sheldon (ippr): Returning to my home town of Manchester this week, I've found little I recognise. The Labour Party Conference is once again dominating the city centre, complete with the associated security, the highly visible yellow plastic barriers which mark the ‘secure zone' behind which hurried-looking delegates and politicians rush between hotels and the GMEX conference centre. Interestingly enough, just down the road, freshers' week is in full swing too. Yet Mancunians are left to look on as students and politicians alike set about frantic and sometimes alcohol-fuelled networking, apparently oblivious to each other and the impact they're having on the city.
Manchester City Council and the Labour Party have been at pains to emphasise what they believe to be a mutual benefit of the conference coming to the city. But a poll in the Manchester Evening News suggests that Mancunians don't share the same view. Just over 75 per cent of respondents said they believed the conference would not benefit Manchester. This in itself demonstrates that there is a disconnect between politicians and the public.
Ippr north organised an event at conference that sought to redress the balance, by focusing solely on the public's views. With no ministers, no speakers and no pre-determined discussion topic it handed over the agenda to the participants. Terry Christian hosted the event which involved residents from across the North West, including those involved in community groups as well as some local labour party activists.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): There is a short article worth reading on the relationship between "Britishness" and "Muslimness" which appears in this month's edition of emel, the "muslim lifestyle magazine". It is written by oD author and former director of City Circle, Yahya Birt. As someone who converted to Islam in later life, Birt is well-placed to offer a unique perspective on the relationship between these two sources of identity and allegiance, so often thought to be in tension with each other.
Birt notes that, contrary to popular belief, a large majority of British muslims self-identify as "British" even though patriotism in general is in decline. But recent attempts to define and re-assert "Britishness" in terms of values and institutions are inadequate, he argues. They are too vague and insubstantial and do not speak to our "sense of duty, or emotional attachment, to fellow citizens.
Tony Curzon Price (London, oD): Gamekeeper Hank Paulson has asked taxpayers to put up $700bn
of risk capital to spend on his erstwhile and future colleagues on Wall
Street. He has given permission to his previous employer, Goldman
Sachs, to become a deposit-taking institution. (I am no financial
adviser, but I would caution anyone to think twice before transferring
their balances to Goldman Sachs today). Are the Democrats right to be resisting the blank cheque, or are they playing loose with the world economy?
The dilemma is clear: crises require flexibility, rapid action and leadership; but the power of flexibility can be abused. Paulson, who rose to the top in the macho culture of "take no prisoners'' Wall Street is not the man the taxpayer should trust. Worse, the Bush administration's systematic capture by energy, military and religious interests does not suggest a culture that can be trusted with huge power.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): There are rare occasions when opinion columns become reporting and break a story. Is today's Nick Cohen 'Comment' one such? It is well worth a read. If what it seems to be saying is true then the Observer should have put more journalists onto it and given it a front page link as it signals all the 'deep state' developments that seem to have accellerated under New Labour. The implications seem to be this: enraged by police sergeant Mark Kearney warning his fellow officers not to illegally bug an MP and lawyer when he was talking to a terrorist suspect, the authorities are doing everything they can to harrass Kearney incuding at getting at those who have loved him, thus making an example of him and deterring any other equally law-abiding police officer who might object to the improper use of surveillance. To this end they have strip-searched and held in custody for 24 hours a 50 year old part-time reporter Sally Murrer, who has a disabled child, and who works for the nobly named Milton Keynes Citizen. She is now facing ridiculous charges for which she will be tried with Kearney next month. Cohen says that it is a "sinister assault on press freedom". If Murrer is found guilty,
there will be a precedent for imprisoning reporters for talking to contacts in the police, local authorities or central government without official approval.
But even if she isn't it seems that the warning will have been made: question the improper use of police powers if you are a junior police officer and your life will be made hell. There are important implications for the growth of the database state. It is only as good as those who run it.
He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself: and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee.
Friedrich von Nietzsche, quoted in George Orwell, ‘As I Please', September 8th 1944.
The Labour Party to put it mildly is in crisis. It does not know what it stands for, who it represents or what vision of society it has. Many now pore opprobrium onto the shoulders of Gordon Brown, while others blame ‘the legacy' of Tony Blair, or the actions of uber-Blairite outriders.
Sadly, for all concerned Labour's travails go much deeper than Brownite and Blairite factionalism, and touch the core of what a modern ‘centre-left' party is about. It is no accident that Labour's problems and the end of New Labour has coincided with similar problems of leadership, identity and electoral appeal for the German SPD and French Socialists (PS). This is because changes in society, and the prognosis offered by mainstream centre-left parties has in these last two decades proven so inadequate.
This essay, written as Labour gathers in a mood of depression at Manchester for its Annual Conference, attempts to put Labour's problems into a longer-term perspective. It looks at the arc of Labour's experience post-war and draws on the possible futures post-Blair to assess where we are now. It will look at the nature of social class change in the UK and the current crisis in the financial markets to assess where Labour and the centre-left should go now and use the writings of Michael Young and George Orwell to understand where we are and what future directions we might take.
Hassan Akram (Cambridge): The search for a replacement for Gordon Brown is slowly becoming public. Last week Brown lost a second member of his Government after David Cairns followed Siobhan McDonagh in openly demanding that Labour look for a new leader. McDonagh said she wanted to start the party thinking about who should replace Brown and refused to be drawn on who she thought might do the job best. But Cairns went further, hinting that he “had someone in mind” although he refused to say who it was. Of course, it is an open secret that a large group of MPs, worried about losing their seats in the next election, want to replace Brown with David Miliband. Miliband is seen as the only candidate youthful and vigorous enough to challenge David Cameron’s slick new Tory brand. The Party Conference is likely to put this on hold, but there can be little doubt that Milliband is hoping to be rewarded for "good behaviour".
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Fascinating post by occasional OK contributor James Graham over on his Quaequam blog about his growing ennui and disengagement from the Lib-Dems. Even the party conference has not boosted his steroids and he might leave the Party - well, the thought is there. It's an almost poetic description of how people get fed up with the routines of party political life, its lack of imagination and inspiration. Can this be the rest of his life? If I was Nick Clegg I'd be worried, but it is about more than just the Liberal Democrats losing the mood of one of their bloggers of the year. It's also a tale of the fate of how politica activism - including blogging NB - just not giving food for the soul and the heart and the brain not to speak of other parts. (hat tip Iain Dale)
Tom Griffin (London, OK): One of Britain's leading political thinkers offered a fresh new analysis of the history of British democracy yesterday, one which may explain the country's current fin de siècle political mood, and offer a way beyond it.
In a speech to the IPPR, David Marquand delivered a precis of the argument of his new book, Britain after 1918: The Strange Career of British Democracy, which interprets the history of the past 90 years as the product of four main strands of political tradition, each of them distinctive, but all of them deeply interwoven with each other.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): The Government has decided to sign up in full to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to the BBC. The Convention requires that in dealing with under 18s, states must make their "best interests" their primary consideration (rather than some social goal, say, like "national security"). For the past 17 years the UK has retained an opt-out allowing child migrants and asylum seekers to be locked up for months on end without any judicial scrutiny. This led to some very serious criticisms of the UK by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The decision by Government to change its mind on the issue comes after ministers reached the view that making the "best interests" rule apply to immigrant children would not compromise the UK's control of its borders. It is a welcome step towards a more just and humane immigration policy and - we can only hope - towards the understanding that human rights are universal and not simply a privilige of citizenship.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Said Business School has the week released a report based on the Broadcasting Britishness conference, which looked at the role of television and radio in shaping national identity back in June.
As historian Linda Colley noted in her keynote speech at the time, "the reasons why Britishness has come to seem more problematic are in fact many and various." The report's recommendations mainly focus on the need to help ethnic minorities 'strengthen their emotional bond with Britain.' One reason for this is a concern with social cohesion in a post 7/7 environment that was reflected in the contrasting experiences of two Muslim broadcasters at the conference:
John K. Hill (London): Passing my local shop last night and seeing a policeman with a handgun on his belt browsing the fruit was quite unsettling. Routinely arming the police is something I'm very strongly against, but feel powerless to resist (he, after all, had a gun). This situation brought together a few ideas that have been written about on OurKingdom in the last week.
Compared to the French, the British (or perhaps just the English) can be pretty passive when it comes to resisting the ever-encroaching police state. The lack of a public arena where people feel they can effectively resist the actions of the government means that people either become apathetic or find other ways to vent their discontent.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): You may recall Anthony Barnett having some fun over the summer with a peculiar pamphlet on Britishness written by Liam Byrne, our Minister of State for Borders and Immigration. Byrne's description of his encounter with an "eloquent of lady of Edgbaston", who convinced him that we can learn to live together if only "we put our minds to it", provided the theme for OK's summer limerick competition, which attracted some eloquent entries of its own.
The Minister was clearly impressed with her words as they also form the springboard for the discussion of Britishness in his latest pamphlet, A More United Kingdom (pdf), published this week by Demos (it's quite long - you can also hear Byrne talk about the report in this Demos podcast). "In this remark", he says, "you hear captured the strong sense that the time is right for Britain as a country to do more to celebrate the things that we do have in common. A national day would be the perfect way."
The idea of a Britishness day was first touted by Byrne in a pamphlet (pdf) for the Fabian Society which he produced with Ruth Kelly. Published as Brown took power last year, it provided an early indication of what one of the central themes of his Governance of Britain agenda - and indeed his premiership - would be. Today, as the Brown agenda crumbles amidst economic disaster and backbench plotting, we have Byrne's latest proposals. They are the product of an eight-week-long journey around the country with his Home Office cohort in which he discussed with the public questions of immigration, identity and belonging.