Thursday, 23 July 2009

(By) election day

So all eyes on Norwich North later today as they decide who will replace Ian Gibson who resigned after he was deselected. The polls are suggesting a good win for the Conservative candidate Chloe Smith, but I think it'll be close and interesting - a good marker will be the turnout.

I'm not expecting minority parties to do too well, but I'm interested to see how well they do.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The House of Lords and constitutional reform

So while we are in the worst recession in living memory, the government attempts to create a distraction by going for some populist and traditional-voter-appeasing policies - Lords reform - removing the remaining hereditary peers.

The hereditary peers should never have been removed in the first place - they provided a good check on illiberal policies and the executive, something seriously lacking since Blair's gerrymandering of the late 90s. Now they have been shown to be the least sleazy - the bad Lords are generally appointed Labour lords.

The problem here is that the Lords has become a glorified quango - a means of elected dictatorship, a bit of window dressing. There's no accountability when the people you are meant to hold to account appoint you!

However I don't see the hereditary peers returning, so we have to look one way - to democracy. I don't want to see a carbon copy of the Commons. The Lords has to be a chamber of experts and local politicians - I'd like to see elected mayors sitting in the Lords, as well as other elected "experts" - although how an "expert" is determined for election is difficult, since you have the regulating the regulator problem.

It really is an open-ended question, but whatever happens, it must be more accountable. At least there's one good speck in this bill - the ban on protests outside Parliament that have been affront to British liberty for too long would be ended. However it's just a small part of the bill, and not one everything else should rest on.

Britain constitutionally needs a renegotiation of the EU arrangement and a localist agenda to devolve power as locally as possible, with each budget-setting authority raising its own funds. This is more important than the issue of the Lords.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Blocking Andreason is a disgrace

Marta Andreason, the former EU chief accountant (and whistleblower) turned UKIP MEP has been blocked from becoming the Vice President of the Budgetary Committee by EPP and PES MEPs who fear "scandal". Or more to the point, they fear the horrific budget being exposed by Andreason (again) and have taken to political, unaccountable means (secret ballot) to do so.

Andreason, regardless of political affiliation, is the perfect candidate for the role - she has experience and knows about, well, accounting and budgetary. She would also take the role of a committee vice president properly, holding the executive to account, the whole point of a committee. The EPP and PES, being Europhile nonsensists, want to further the EU integration and federalisation, so naturally oppose the Commission being shown up for what it is - an utterly hopeless organisation. They are also enemies of accountability - they blocked her on political lines, not meritocratic lines - a real disgrace to democracy, which again is seriously lacking in the EU, even its supposedly democratic chamber.

Banking regulation

First of all, I apologise for not posting in a while - although exams are over, life has been hectic.

David Cameron hits the right notes with the briefing for his speech on regulatory reform. Having already been told by Osborne that the FSA would be scrapped, we have an idea of how banks would be regulated.

It makes sense for the central bank to regulate - it knows how much banks are borrowing, knows what the economy is doing, and so on - after all it has to set interest rates every month. Not only this, but we are told that the Bank of England warned the FSA about the risks taken, but the FSA took no action - incompetence.

Breaking up RBS/HBOS is a welcome step too - no bank should become too big to fail, and no bank should be bailed out by the government - the economy is better off without bad banks.

However the MPC especially has to look at the prime cause of the financial crash - keeping interest rates too low for too long and encouraging over-borrowing. The only viable solution would be to allow the market to set interest rates, since it is more efficient than nine central bankers. That way, as demand for borrowing increases, interest rates are raised by banks to get a greater return and to encourage saving to build up a capital base; in the same way interest rates will fall if banks want to encourage borrowing. I know it isn't a perfect theory, but should be more efficient than the current macroeconomic consensus we have today.