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01.09.10

Cameron’s House Party and public servant bashing

Philip Stephens makes a striking observation in the FT noting the harshness of the coalition’s rhetoric on the public sector and public servants:

“The government’s tone of voice is one that suggests all public spending is wasteful, and all those working in central or local government are on the make or take. Perhaps, given his goal of a smaller state, this is Mr Cameron’s intention. If so, it is neither sensible nor politically astute. It also happens to be unfair.”

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29.07.10

Sorting the economics from the ideology

I had the piece below published on Labour Uncut on 16 June 2010:

The Daily Telegraph isn’t normally essential reading for Labourites. But yesterday it should have been, especially for Harriet Harman. Fraser Nelson set the backdrop to the politics of the deficit and the “emergency” Budget, to which she, as acting leader, will respond. This week’s report from the new Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) dramatically changes this political context. Nelson has been quick to realise this and, while our instincts differ markedly from his, we need to be equally fleet-footed.

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09.02.10

The consequences of the EU's "enlargement fatigue"

Philip Stephens has previously written in the FT that “Turkey has turned east as Europe clings to the past“. Today Gideon Rachman writes in the FT:

“It was Ukraine’s misfortune that the Orange Revolution took place just as the European Union was succumbing to “enlargement fatigue” – following the shock of moving from 12 members in 1995 to 27 members today. As a result, the EU has given Ukraine an almost criminal lack of encouragement, as the country attempts to secure simultaneously its independence, its democracy and its prosperity. Everybody knows that actually joining the Union is a long and arduous process – since it involves transforming the laws and economies of the applicant countries. But it would have cost the EU very little to give Ukraine the encouragement of holding out the prospect of eventual membership.”

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09.02.10

The consequences of the EU’s “enlargement fatigue”

Philip Stephens has previously written in the FT that “Turkey has turned east as Europe clings to the past“. Today Gideon Rachman writes in the FT:

“It was Ukraine’s misfortune that the Orange Revolution took place just as the European Union was succumbing to “enlargement fatigue” – following the shock of moving from 12 members in 1995 to 27 members today. As a result, the EU has given Ukraine an almost criminal lack of encouragement, as the country attempts to secure simultaneously its independence, its democracy and its prosperity. Everybody knows that actually joining the Union is a long and arduous process – since it involves transforming the laws and economies of the applicant countries. But it would have cost the EU very little to give Ukraine the encouragement of holding out the prospect of eventual membership.”

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27.10.09

Nick Clegg either doesn’t believe in the EU or isn’t really a politician

It is difficult to overstate the strategic importance to the EU of Turkey. So, a sense of regret and concern should be felt across the union when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister, says of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s Holocaust denying President, that “there is no doubt he is our friend.” But Europe has not been awash with such sentiment in recent days because, as Philip Stephens argues, Europe has clung to the past as Turkey has turned east.

Must Europe wither? It surely shall if we do not wake up and smell the coffee and move on from the navel gazing and introversion that have marked recent years. Tony Blair suggested three years ago that the big distinction in politics was between open societies and those which were closed. “If you take any of the big motivating debates in politics today”, argued Blair, “each essentially has, at its core, this question: ‘Do we open up? Albeit with rules and controls, or do we hunker down, do we close ourselves off and wait till the danger has passed? Is globalisation a threat or an opportunity?'” The EU has chosen to hunker down, to close itself off, not just to Turkey but to a world that is hurtling towards a G2 in which there is no place at the top table for Europeans.

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27.07.09

Wake up and smell the coffee, Europe

 I have previously asked: Must Europe wither? And now one of the most articulate and leading pro-European voices in the UK, Charles Grant, has had cause to ask: Is Europe doomed to fail as a power? Today seems a particularly sobering day for Europeans to reflect on such questions as the US and China this morning began a two-day “Strategic and Economic Dialogue” in Washington DC, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their Chinese counterparts. This illustrates the “obvious danger” identified by Philip Stephens “that the US and China will bypass Europe by creating a G2”. The New Republic ask: “Which China will be sitting across the table from Clinton and Geithner today?” But Europe is an after thought and tomorrow it may be even more so. Europe needs to much more urgently wake up and smell the coffee than the scant coverage of these debates in the mainstream of European media suggests.

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21.07.09

What Ofcom tells us about Cameron

Some good points from Philip Stephens in the FT today:

“In promising to transfer Ofcom’s work to Whitehall so it is more directly accountable to ministers and parliament, Mr Cameron has shown he has no clear idea of what it does. The central charge seems to be that Ofcom’s views on public service broadcasting have strayed too far into realms better reserved for ministers … Broadcasting policy accounts for only about 5 per cent of Ofcom’s workload. Moving it to Whitehall would scarcely mean “that Ofcom, as we know it, will cease to exist”. Some 90 per cent of Ofcom’s remit comprises unglamorous work such as telecommunications regulation, upholding broadcasting standards, allocating spectrum, and, crucially, policing competition. All this can properly be done only at arms length from civil servants and ministers … The Ofcom proposal is another salutary reminder of how much of the Conservative prospectus is still about grabbing a headline rather than setting a framework for effective government”.

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06.05.09

Why is the UK attitude towards Thatcher so different from the US attitude to Reagan?

30 years since Margaret Thatcher’s election as PM. I enjoyed BBC Parliament’s coverage. But David Willetts is a Thatcherite no more. Boris Johnson is. Maybe, if he is to find the ambition for London that Philip Stephens says he still lacks, it will be a Thatcherite ambition. This at a time when The Spectator, the magazine that Johnson used to edit, of course, is urging David Cameron to live up to what they see as Thatcher’s legacy:

“The challenge for David Cameron is huge. If, as seems likely, he becomes Prime Minister next year, it will be his task to ensure that future generations do not look back on the years 1979-2009 as a blip — an aberrant resurgence — in the otherwise steady decay of a once great nation”.

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03.03.09

Washington via Brussels

There is a big, fat hint on today’s FT comment page for Gordon Brown.

Philip Stephens concludes his piece, thus:

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