A right royal cock-up

CNN is leading on “McCain takes hit from bailout collapse”. After 10 days of incoherence on the economic crisis, McCain probably had no alternative but to try something dramatic – his return to Washington.

But his impulsive action has brilliantly served to show up McCain’s major fault. He makes “grand gestures” which are, in fact, impulsive and ill-judged. He has also been shown not to be a team player.

As Michael Tomasky said at the weekend in the Guardian in an article entitled “How McCain made a drama out of a crisis“:

Behind the scenes, Obama was apparently trying to play a constructive role. The New York Times reported of the meeting that “participants said Mr Obama peppered [treasury secretary] Henry Paulson with questions, while Mr McCain said little”.

By contrast, McCain has been almost entirely about the theatrics – trying to swoop into town and finagle it so he could either take credit for any deal or (more likely) grandly announce he would regretfully have to “put country first” and oppose it.

He certainly hasn’t been engaged on a substantive level. He acknowledged to a Cleveland reporter on Tuesday he hadn’t read Paulson’s proposal, released two days earlier and running to all of three pages. Back in Washington, he clearly allied himself with the Republican intransigents.

Even McCain supporters will acknowledge high finance is not his strong suit. But in this matter, which will clearly consume a great deal of the next president’s time, McCain was concerned wholly with how to gain political advantage. He stood before the mirror, awaiting his close-up.

Presidential campaigns (and their coverage) can be vacuous enough that it just may work in the short term. Americans able to think longer-term saw that experience and judgment don’t always walk hand-in-hand.

Two soups

Julie Walters is all over the shop at the moment, promoting her autobiography.

Regardless of Oscar nominations or any awards or accolades Ms Walters achieves, as far as I am concerned, her apotheosis is this sketch. It has me in stitches just thinking about it.

The implosion of the US Republican party

I am now a proud new shareholder of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Call it contrarianism, call it bloody-mindedness, call it recklessness but a new and proud RBOS shareholder I am.

Today’s “get it into perspective” statistic: The Dow fell 42% in the month of the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Since the end of August 2008, the Dow has now fallen 11%.

Today’s bonus “get it into perspective” statistic: If 12 Representatives in the US House had voted “yea” instead of “nay”, the vote on the bail-out would have got through.

We appear to have shifted from a economic crisis to a crisis centred on politics. Specifically, it is centred on the breathtaking implosion of the Republican party in the the US.

Imagine a reasonably popular mid-term President A of Party A on reasonable terms with his own party and with the Treasury secretary appointed by President A and the head of the Federal Reserve appointed during Party A’s term of office. A package to sort out the banking mess would have got through Congress with no problems.

But look at what happened yesterday. Bush is not a lame duck President. He has now become a Dead Man Walking.

Yesterday, President Bush’s Bill, although passionately urged upon congress by a respected Treasury Secretary Paulson and an equally respected Chair of the Federal Reserve Bernanke (both Republican appointees), was only supported by 33% of his own party in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Republican Presidential nominee is unable to do anything except make things worse.

That is just a stagegring breakdown of leadership in the Republican party. A complete dislocation between leadership and party. And all it needed for 12 carrots to be offered or 12 arms to be twisted!

And throw into the mix John Boner Boehner. It seems unbelievable that he was incapable of getting just 39% of his members (that is all it would have taken) through the same lobby as him.

A note about Nancy Pelosi. As Rep Franks bluntly put it, 12 Republicans thought she hurt their feelings so didn’t vote for what was best for America – because she hurt their feelings. Franks offered to speak “uncharacteristically nicely” to those 12 if it would make them do what is best for America.

Ex-Tory Staffer: ‘David Cameron’s liberal lie’

Ashish Prashar has worked for the last two and a half years in and around the Conservative Party. He’s spent the last 11 months within the press office, serving as a spokesman for the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Leader of the House and the Conservative Head of Policy.

Ashish has written an article in the New Statesman saying that he spent those two and a half years believing in Cameron’s “liberal Conservativism”, but that he now realises that this is a “lie” and the Conservative party remains basically “white, rich and elitist”.

When I started working for the Tories I was convinced that because they had no idealistic anchor they could adapt, becoming what they needed to be to suit the age. So when Cameron claimed he is a ‘Liberal Conservative’, like many others I fell for it, and I was so wrong.

I’m sceptical of the idea that you can be both socially liberal and politically conservative. With the economy facing recession, a Tory government will have to rely more on its politically conservative instincts at the expense of any liberal agenda.

The Tories talk about social mobility and opportunity for all. This is hard to believe when the party itself hasn’t changed at the core.

Firstly, the Conservative parliamentary party is unrepresentative of modern Britain. In the two and a half years that I worked in and around Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters, I encountered only a handful of staff from black minority ethnic backgrounds.
Cameron’s top table is even more elitist, looking like something out of a 1960s American boardroom, pre-civil rights movement.

As for Cameron’s credentials as a ‘Liberal Conservative’, it was he who authored the Conservative manifesto at the last election, with its dubious undertones of “are you thinking what we’re thinking?” on immigration.

A bitter pill – and a violent tremor on Wall Street!

This is incredible – live blog – updates at the bottom
They’re just approaching the vote on the bail-out/buy-in in the US House of Representatives.

I was much entertained at watching the Dow Jones Industrial Average as Rep. John Boehner was speaking. He’s minority leader of the Republicans in the House. When he started, the Dow was down about 2.67% on the day. His preoration was somewhat gloomy – and the Dow sank a bit more. He then started speaking all the more powerfully in favour of the plan – and the Dow was at only (!) 2.35% down on the day when he finished.

Rep Hoyer is now quoting Spiro Agnew. Not the Democrats quotee of of choice normally….

Update: With 1 minute to go it’s a real nail biter with 86 representatives still to vote and the nays are ahead. But apparently they can go on for hours.

Update 2: The initial vote has timed out and there are 27 still to vote. The Nays have reached 220 which is past the halfway marked. The Dow is absolutely gone through the floor! A 600 point loss on the day! Incredible!

Update 3: The Dow is down more than 5% on the day! Commentators are saying that this hasn’t happened in at least 20 years. 227 Nays.

Update 4: On 9-11, the Dow dropped 684 points. So far today, the drop was, at one point, starting to clumb above 600. Apparently there has been some calming down talks going on, so now it’s recovered a tad to 466 points down since opening.

Update 5: The voting is stuck at 207 yeas against 227 noes. There are 434 members, so once you go past 218, you’ve won a vote. Apparently there is arm twisting going on. Could go on for four hours until Nancy decides to kill it. Looks like the no vote will take some shifting. So far, two nay votes have shifted to yea. At this rate it could go on for hours.

Update 6 at 19:05: Crikey. The gavel has come down at 206 yeas amd 227 nays. Dow Jones down 4.7%. The plan is at least temporarily dead.

Update 7: There’s now lot of procedural discussion going on, about a reconsideration.

A bracht bricht moonlit nicht

With all this talk of Sarah Palin and her Alaskan roots (‘people being outnumbered by Moose’ and ‘The only time she gets awoken at 3am is when there’s a moose going through the garbage can’ etc etc), I thought that a blast of Lord Rockingham’s XI’s “Hoots Mon” was well overdue….

The lyrics are extensive, as follows:

Hoots mon, there’s a moose loose aboot this hoose
Hoots mon it’s a bracht bricht moonlit nicht.

Contender for "nit wit of the year"

Domnic Grieve makes some comments about multi-culturalism in the Guardian today. He says: “We’ve done something terrible to ourselves in Britain”.

Breathe in….count to ten….breathe out.

First of all I would say that Mr Grieve represents Beaconsfield, a town with a 4% non-white ethnic population, about a third of the national rate.

So, let’s just say that Mr Grieve may lack day-to-day experience of what he speaks of.

In passing, I would also point out that Dominic Grieve spoke French as a child before he spoke English. I’m not sure what that has got to do with this, but it must have some relevance.

The key flaw in his attack on multi-culturalism, as with all attacks on it, is that he seems to assume that a group of woolly lefty academics sat down and drew up a plan called “multi-culturalism”.

Of course they didn’t. It just happened, for goodness sake! If there is any one word which defines Britishness it is “tolerance”. We have had a tolerant immigration policy over the last hundred years. We have welcomed Empire and Commonwealth citizens and we have been a haven for people fleeing dictatorships.

People have lived where they felt like it. In this country people are free to rent or buy houses where they want to. So if they choose to live with people who have a similar ethnic origin to themselves then – fair enough. It happens.

If they choose to eat certain food and wear certain clothes then – fair enough. It happens. The only duty of a British citizen is to obey the law. Not deny their origins and culture.

Grieve says:

In the name of trying to prepare people for some new multicultural society we’ve told people, particularly long-term inhabitants, ‘Well your cultural background isn’t really very important, or it’s flawed, or you shouldn’t be worrying about it’

Has someone actually said this to anyone? Of course not. Is there any government pronouncement over the last hundred years that could be characterised as such? Of course not. He is making it up. No one has said “Your cultural background isn’t really very important” to anyone. It is total and complete cobblers.

Is this ad the biggest waste of money ever?

This ad (below) really is the most bizarre thing. It was the rapid response from the McCain campaign after the Presidential debate last night. But for the end voice-over, I suspect it would qualify for Obama to say “I approve this message”. It basically shows clips of Obama saying he agreed with Senator McCain. And that’s meant to make him unqualified to be President? How bonkers is that as a line of logic? It actually emphasises how reasonable Obama is and contradicts the point about him being partisan in his approach.

This McCain ad is more likely to decrease McCain’s popularity, not increase it. That is underlined by watching the tape of the CNN broadcast of the debate which had an audience reaction line at the bottom. Whenever McCain said “Senator Obama doesn’t understand” (which he said repeatedly), the graph dropped right down.

Despite being asked several times to address Obama directly, McCain didn’t look at him once and only once addressed a remark to him. Most of the time he looked away or at the monitor, even when meeting Obama at the beginning.

The cut-aways of McCain’s reactions showed him bristling and smirking. He looked like an angry old man – his body language and demeanour seemed to be saying “It’s obvious that I have vast experience and I know best – why on earth is this whippersnapper even allowed on the same stage as me?”

One answer which McCain gave ought to make Americans very afraid. When asked what he would do about the extra spending caused by the bank bailout, he suggested a government spending freeze on everything except defence, veteran affairs and entitlements. This once again underlines the impulsive, overly gung-ho character of John McCain. As Obama said, perhaps a scapel is needed, rather than a hatchet.