Monday, 29 May 2017

General election 8 June 2017: the Liberal Democrat Party manifesto

I have skim-reviewed the Liberal Democrat Party manifesto.

I had hoped to have analysed it in the same way as I did for the Conservative Party manifesto, but it turns out this is impossible, for three main reasons:
  • the presentation and style of the LibDem manifesto does not open itself to quasi-numeric analysis.
  • Whereas the Conservative manifesto is generally (but not always) strategic (occasionally blue-sky delusional), the LibDem manifesto is much more up-close-and-personal to middling details, reactionary and, crucially, devoid of overall steer and strategy.

The LibDem manifesto also engages in negative campaigning; the Conservative manifesto didn’t.

So the net result is typical of a left-wing document: it tells me more about what it’s not, and less about what it is.  So there is less to vote for in the LibDem manifesto than there to vote against.

The opening headline says pretty much says it all: "Your chance to change Britain’s future by changing the opposition".  It might just as well have said, “Vote for us to come second!”  I really can’t see how that works in any constituency voting on a first-past-the-post electoral system.

The lack of strategy also comes across in the manifesto’s contents.  Whether the LibDems intended as such, the contents represent the Party’s strange priorities and defensive attitude.

  • Your chance to change Britain’s future by changing the opposition
  • Protect Britain’s Place in Europe
  • Save our NHS and Social Care Services
  • Put Children First
  • Build an Economy that Works for You
  • Keep our Country Green
  • Support Families and Communities
  • Defend Rights, Promote Justice and Equalities
  • Make a Better World
  • Fix a Broken System

This contrasts to the Conservative manifesto’s contents, which start from a stratospheric position and is openly aspirational than defensive:

  • Five giant challenges
  • A strong economy that works for everyone
  • A strong and united nation in a changing world
  • The world’s great meritocracy
  • A restored contract between the generations
  • Prosperity and security in a digital age

Why do I refer to the LibDem’s priorities as strange?

Because, objectively, the number issue for Britain today is the sustainability of the state’s precarious finances.  Brexit is in second place; Brexit would have been much lower down the list had the government not already bollocksed up both referendum (Project Fear) and its opening pre-negotiation position on 17Jan2017.

Yet, for the LibDems, reacting against Brexit (still!!!) is the number one red hot issue of the day (“Remainiac”).  Only one, vague, glib reference to living within the state’s means appears in the LibDem manifesto.  Section 4.1 includes:

“Liberal Democrats will therefore commit to eliminating the deficit in day-to-day spending by 2020. This means we will be able to keep debt as a share of national wealth falling through the parliament, unless there is a recession. Once we have brought current expenditure into balance we will ensure that overall public spending grows roughly in line with the economy.”

So, a reference to the deficit (the cash shortfall), but nothing useful about the debt (cumulative cash shortfalls, currently funded by bondholders, to whom we pay interest, the cash of which is part of the deficit…).  But the rest of section 4 - just like all-but-two other sections - is all about spend-spend-spend.

Worse is the depth of ignorance and political naïvety that pervades the LibDems on their number one red hot issue of Remainiacism (section 1.2 “Fighting a hard Brexit”).  Time doesn’t permit a comprehensive list of errors, but here is a sample:

The manifesto says:
The problems therein:
We will press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty.
That would need to be exchanged for precisely the same right offered by UK nationals in EU countries. Where is the evidence to date that the EU is absolutely certainly going to offer it?
We will urge the government, and use our influence with Liberal leaders in European countries, to secure the same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries.
This makes no sense.  The EU will negotiate for the EU and none of the EU27 appear ready (as at today) to by-pass it.

Your friends in the EU27 shall have a lot less influence than you want them to have!  This is the EU we’re talking about, not the school playground!
We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border, and must maintain membership of the single market, which smooths trade between the UK and the continent by providing a common ‘rule book’ for businesses and a common mechanism to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.
The EU cannot change its treaties unilaterally, so for this manifesto, the only position is for the UK to join EFTA.

But the LibDems have never publicly stated that.  They’ve only ever said “remain in the Single Market”.

So one must presume that the LibDems do not understand the differences between EU, EEA, EFA, CEJU, EHCR, etc.

Even then, the manifesto does not recognise that EFTA membership is the least-worst position, so suitable only as a short-term position.  The manifesto does not recognise that EFTA is part of the “Fortress Europe” that imperils future extra-EU trade, and thus the EU’s ability to grow its trade.  The manifesto does not recognise the value of the extra-EU world.  The manifesto does not even question the origin of most of the EU’s directives & regulations.

The manifesto appears completely ignorant of how the Canadians cannot export freely to the EU in spite of their “free trade agreement”, yet you’d have thought a party keen on being the official opposition would have grasped onto that fact big time and walloped the Conservative Party repeatedly on the proverbial head again and again and again.  But, no.
In an increasingly globalised and complex world, it is vital that our young people are afforded the same opportunities their parents enjoyed to work, study and travel abroad. To that end we will do everything we can to protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes which increase opportunities for young people.
There is no evidence from government programmes to date that undermines any such opportunities.

Of more concern is that European employment law creates long-term unemployment amongst the young, precisely because the law protects economically-indefensible, obsolete/historic jobs.

Beyond that, the economic basis for travel-for-the-sake-of-travel has long gone.  The 1960s dream of travel freedom has now met its nemesis: the bill.  Only that the bill has been passed to the kids, instead of (now retiring) generation who racked it up.

And this manifesto policy from a party that abandoned the abolition of student fees when in coalition government in 2010!
We must protect support for domestic industries such as farming, tourism and the creative industries, as well as regional support for deprived areas.
This pursues the myth that government spending magics up economic growth.

New Zealand scrapped farm subsidies.  It was a painful process to scrap them, but today, no-body in the New Zealand industry wants them back, because the subsidy ended up being a lure to unsustainability, a corporate opium.

Sections 1.1 and 1.2 confirm to me that the ulterior motive of the LibDems is to sabotage Brexit to the maximum extent possible, paving the way for as many referenda as it takes to (re-)join the EU and even join the Eurozone.

I perceive the LibDem view to be that the issue is clearly not whether the EU is measurably good for its members (including the UK), but that the issue is a matter of ideological purity, of Europeanness for the sake of Europeanness, and the only way to show one’s Europeanness is to belong to a corrupt club of governments called the European Union, hell-bent on its neo-Soviet project of deepening political integration.

Reflection on prior speculation

On 18Apr2017, I speculated that the general election’s real battleground would be Conservatives v LibDems in the South East of England.

Having reviewed both manifestos, I believe that this might be reasonably possibly, but a lot less likely than I had expected on 18Apr2017.

The LibDem manifesto looks and feels much like the legacy media’s portrayal of the party: detailed, tangential, pedantic, completely incapable of seeing the wood for the trees, missing really major issues of governance, focussing on the popular issues as if magic can deliver the promises.  The LibDem manifesto is weak on how to ensure public sector financial sustainability.  As manifestos are the script from which parliamentary candidates read, this script will not play well to a mainly Conservative electorate (in the South East of England outside of London).  So in those Remain constituencies where the Tories have fielded a Remainer (or Remainiac), the LibDems probably have a low chance of winning that seat.

General election 8 June 2017: the Conservative Party manifesto

I have reviewed part of the Conservative Party manifesto, up to page 40.  This covered most of my interests.

I noted 67 points within my scope of interests, of which:
  • 21 were statements which were so comprehensively misleading and/or depended upon deep ignorance to sustain, i.e. bullshit;
  • 14 were just plain wrong or unacceptable;
  • 11 were acceptable, even if they slightly missed a viable (measurable) policy objective;
  • 11 gave rise to more questions (which, in the absence of further data, would fall into the “bullshit” category above)
  • 6 voids, i.e. matters where there should have been a policy, but which there are no policies at all;
  • 4 contradictions.

I shall not review the remaining 48 pages before the election: I won’t have the time to do so (except for the paragraphs relating to the “fake news” story of the “dementia tax”).

Relating to Brexit-related policy choices, there were:
  • 2 questions relating to strategy, both of which should have been answered long before now.
  • 5 statements of bullshit.

On balance, the manifesto gives me no confidence that Brexit is actually going to complete in a manner conducive to the interests of both UK and EU.

The manifesto confirms the current strategy of “no plan, no deal”.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

CJEU re EU's exclusive competences re Singaporean free trade agreement

On 16May2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union has confirmed that the European Union has exclusive competence in the matter of its free trade agreement with Singapore, except for the two topics of non-direct foreign investment and investor state dispute settlement.

The article maps out why the Canadian free trade deal with the EU went to member nations for ratification.  The article opines that the judgement enables a free trade agreement between UK and EU, or at least a slightly easier strategy thereof.   But the article recognises that trade deals are seldom only legal; politics gets in the way, so overall, this judgement might end up being a technicality with no useful, political purpose.

However, that the investor state dispute settlement procedure (ISDSP) is held to be outside the competence of the European Union is an interesting decision by the Court.  If I recall correctly, ISDSP was a cause célèbre for the European Parliament in the matter of TTIP, because Europe’s left-wing resented the prospect of governments being held to account for any vandalism they performed on private persons’ economic interests.  Europe’s left-wing recognised that ISDSP would impede protectionism and nationalisations.

That the ISDSP is said to have been a standard clause in many free trade agreements already signed  appears not to have made a difference.  Hence why I refer to it as a cause célèbre.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Tories’ alleged U-turn on “dementia tax” is fake news

A slight deviation from the issue of Brexit to take a justified sideswipe at the continuously misleading legacy media, continuing its tricks of “fake news” in matters beyond Brexit.

In the Conservative Party manifesto, page 64 (pdf page 66 out of 88), headed “An Ageing Society”, sets out the Party’s policies to tweak the methods of self-funding old age care.

The manifesto does not spell out the current and future costs of the status quo, or the manifesto’s proposals.  However, it proposes to increase a limit (a cap?) known as the “residual capital floor”.  This is the value of the patient’s estate - assets, including property, chattels, life insurance policies, etc - that the patient is allowed to keep after having co-paid for their health care costs.  The present limit is £23,250; the proposal is to lift it to £100,000.  The state will continue to expect the patient to co-pay their healthcare costs until the value of their estate falls to the “residual capital floor”.  The state will continue to pay for further costs directly and without limitation.

Two other proposals are:
  • to end the senseless discrimination of the means-test between care locations, i.e. the means-test would apply equally to care provided at home, or care provided elsewhere.
  • To end the senseless discrimination of deferred payments between care locations.  At present, those receiving care at home must pay up-front, which can mean selling their home (or releasing equity) to fund healthcare, whereas patients receiving care at other locations may defer their co-payments.

I think the manifesto’s proposals are rather timid, rather modest, too incremental and phased in too slowly.  They don’t address the fundamental problem that today’s generation of elderly chose not to save anything like enough for their own future healthcare costs while they were of working age, to say nothing of the few who retired early (aged 55 or younger) then blew their pensions on luxury cruises.  But, that aside, the proposals look reasonable enough.  Certainly nothing to justify scaremongering horror stories.

But, of course, the Labour Party is in the horror business.  And it is election season.  The Conservative’s proposals rather naïvely give Labour an opportunity to create its own mini-Project Fear for healthcare costs.

The Conservative manifesto fails to mention anything about a cap (an “absolute limit”) on the amount that the patient would need to co-pay.  An intelligent person might have already realised that an “absolute limit” would be, at best, fatuous.  But, of course, the Labour Party doesn’t really speak to intelligent people: any deliberate missing-of-the-point, presented convincingly, will do!   It went on the attack because there was no “absolute limit”.  The Labour Party needed two attempts to deliver such a soundbite - oh, the days of Blair & Campbell are soooo definitely over! - and successfully disinformed anybody stupid enough to listen.

The mass media listened.

Cue mass stupidity from the mass media.

Cue an intervention from Theresa “StrongAndStable” May, who then told the world that a consultation would include a question about the absolute cap.  And apparently, that’s a U-turn.

Cue even more stupidity from the mass media.

Even Business Insider jumped onto the bandwagon that the manifesto proposal was poorly planned, poorly chosen and poorly presented.  Of course, the left-wing BBC recycled the disinformation as much as it could, even within one programme! (Daily Politics, 22May2017).  Only one media outlet (Chronicle Live) sought to explain what had actually happened.

And here’s the punchline: it’s all fake news!

The horrible truth is that today’s elderly are very much MacMillan’s molly-coddled generation: they’ve never had it so good.  While they worked, they paid virtually nothing into properly-funded pension or welfare schemes to fund their longer-term retired life, but a few did pay a pittance into defined benefit pension schemes (and then expected miracles to happen).  At the same time, they voted for governments who dodged imposing any individual obligation to save for one’s own future healthcare (to protect overall social welfare), and who instead proposed a hand-to-mouth funding of the welfare state apparently free at the point of delivery, and without restriction (precisely to imperil social welfare).  These governments of the 1940s-2010s continued to kick the can down the road, gambling that the cost of the national welfare and health states could be deferred forever.  But, the fall in the birth-rate revealed the gamble as a ponzi scheme.  Inward migration appeared to have no noticeable effect on the relative affordability of the welfare state, any more than it might have had an impact upon the overall taxable base.  And worse than that, inward migration simply increased the demands on the welfare & health states!  Whilst the likes of Bernie Madoff got done for running a ponzi scheme, no British politician or civil servant has been jailed for “running” the British welfare state.  Funny that.

So instead of universally slamming both Conservatives and Labour by exposing deeply (and childishly) flawed policies to co-pay old age healthcare, the media circus whitters on about U-turns.  It’s all back to Westminster tittle-tattle, to hell with the policies that we, the taxpayers, are going to fund, largely to our own disservice and detriment.

We’ve seen it all before, though.  Just as the legacy mass media has set out to mislead us on Brexit, on Europe and on basic economics, it continues to mislead us in a general election campaign.  How much more deceit from the mass media should we taxpayers put up with?

Monday, 22 May 2017

To read, or not to read, a manifesto (or two). That is the question.

Well, I was about to download and skim-read the party election manifestos for the Conservatives [direct link], the Liberal Democrats [direct link] and the UK Independence Party [direct link].

I’ve only ever read a Labour Party manifesto once [direct link], and that was morbid fascination than genuine interest in the party’s policy choices.  It horrified me.  The party always picks dysfunctional policies - the most economically illiterate it can think of - then, when given the chance, botches their implementation.  The party supposedly of (and for) Robin Hood always seems to do a better job for (and of) the Sheriff of Nottingham, and an ever better job covering it up.  So I’ll not waste my time skim-reading the Labour Party manifesto: I would expect it to be a blatant con-trick from start to finish, deploying a sinister combination of carefully crafted omissions, manipulation, emotional blackmail and neurolinguistic programming.

In any event, the manifestos mean nothing.  Political parties will say anything to get elected, and nothing in the manifesto is likely to be sufficiently specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or time-based to hold the mafia to proper account.

I dread to think how deeply issue-illiterate the manifestos are regarding Brexit policy, and related choices/strategies..

It seems that the Conservatives have done some sort of U-turn on bits of their manifesto within four days of publishing it.

My thanks to European “colleagues”, who have been politely quiet (so far) about their disdain for any democracy, but particularly the unique form of disinformed democracy in which Britain specialises.

Still, at least when we have Brexited, it would then be worth engaging more in national politics.  It might begin to mean something for the first time in nearly 50 years.  We might actually get some half-decent politicians!  Gotta hope, because one alternative is looking like civil war.  It’s just the short-term pain we have to endure…

Friday, 12 May 2017

Hitchin & Harpenden: the Conservative Party selects Parliamentary candidate Bim Afolami

Late at night on Sat 06May2017, while I was in Lincolnshire, I heard that the local Conservative party had selected Bim Afolami to replace Peter Lilley in the “safe” Conservative seat of Hitchin & Harpenden.

I was at the laptop at the time, so I Googled Mr Afolami’s name to find out more about him.

His website is  Having loaded normally on 06May2017, as at 22:25BST on 10May2017, Google Chrome blocked access to the site because the site’s security certificate expired yesterday.

I found Mr Afolami on LinkedIn,  Two days later, the LinkedIn page had disappeared.  A search for Bim Afolami returns no results.

From that LinkedIn page, I recall:
  • His current role as “Senior Executive” with HSBC Bank plc (complete with the bank’s corporate logo);
  • A series of corporatey-sounding law-and-banking companies;
  • Some sort of Vice Treasurership at Oxford University;
  • Some sort of internship or research position for George Osborne.

I found Mr Afolami’s Twitter feed at the same time.  Four observations:
  • The overwhelming majority of the content is re-tweets of journalists.  I saw no useful original content.
  • The majority of his re-tweets appear to endorse the social democratic narrative of the political centre.
  • As at Sat 06May2017, his Twitter feed disclosed that he had chosen to follow the Evening Standard, roughly at the time that George Osborne had announced he was taking the editor’s role.  As at 10May2017, the disclosure has disappeared.
  • On 22-23Mar2017, he followed the New European on Twitter.

Little new information arises from other sources, including, a local newspaper the Herts Advertiser, a local newspaper Hertfordshire Mercury.

The outgoing parliamentarian Peter Lilley always polled more than 45% of votes in prior elections.  Lilley is a Brexiteer (a stronger, more ideological version of a leaver: see Lilley’s generally negative response to Dr Richard North), yet the St Albans counting district returned 62.7% in favour of remain at the referendum.  By constituency, Hitchin & Harpenden voted 60.3% to remain.

To the extent that it is remotely believable - and it probably isn’t - an on-line poll mounted by the Herts Advertiser reports that 50% of the readers that participated in the survey said they would vote LibDem, with Labour in second place at 23% and Conservatives in third place at 21%.  As at 22:20BST 10May2017, the survey had 4.4k participants.

For the constituency alone, it makes sense for the Conservative party to field a remainer as candidate, to stave off a credible threat from any other party, especially the LibDems.  The constituency has never tolerated independent candidates or UKIP.

On the evidence found so far, I would expect Mr Afolami to be a remainer.

However, it is his publicly-stated affection for George Osborne that really worries me.  Mr Afolami’s choice to hide his publicly-stated affection with George Osborne within the past two days worries me even more.  I suspect that many people recognised Osbo as toxic when he threatened us with an emergency budget if we voted to leave (LibDem leader Tim Wossisface said as much to his party’s conference in 2016).  So why did Mr Afolami appear to wait until after he became a Parliamentary candidate?  Did he need to be told by a party official/local why Osbo isn’t a good marketing ploy?  Or has Mr Afolami belatedly realised what supporting Osbo might mean to his political career while Theresa May leads the party?  My worry is whether Mr Afolami has the basic political antennae to survive a Parliamentary career, let alone a ministerial career.

What image he might project to the constituency during his campaign remains to be seen.

Until then, I sense big trouble before 29Mar2019.  Project Sabotage continues to mobilise.