Down Under: Gillard set to continue as PM?

Bob Katter of the Three Haystack Amigos - Big tent or Big hat?

Well, that’s the way I read the situation in Australia. The (Non)Liberals have 72, so do Labour. There’s one Green and the three “Haystack Amigos” (Independents). There’s one seat left to declare, which is too close to call.

So, assuming the worst case for Gillard – i.e. that she loses the last seat to declare – she’ll still be equal with the Liberals when you count in the Green, who will align with her.

So it’s down to the Three Haystack Amigos, one of whom, Bob Katter (see photo above), often wears a hat almost as big as those worn by the original “Three Amigos”. They’ve clubbed together (which means they are probably not technically independent) and come up with seven demands for coalition talks with the two big parties.

Number one on their list is access to confidential Treasury documents. Labour, under Gillard, say they can have that. The Liberals say “no” and loudly criticise Gillard for conceding this.

So that’s that then. Game, set and executive jet to Gillard. It might seem.

But, then again:

a) there will no doubt be more surprises


b) goodness only knows how long Gillard will survive by the strength of three rural independents.

The whole thing is hilarious.

…And to think that Kevin Rudd was riding high only a few months ago!

Advice to Nick Clegg: Quit while you're behind

Nick Clegg writes an excellent article in today’s FT but I think he ought to quit while he’s behind in this debate with the IFS. (The article is here and requires free registration to read) He makes two important points:

If fairness was a simple matter of benefits and taxes, it would be easy to achieve.

…A bit of an own goal, that. If it’s so easy, why didn’t you achieve it in the first budget then ?!

Imagine a workless couple living on £5,000 a year in benefits, currently categorised in the bottom decile. If we increase their benefits by £5 a week, they are £5 a week better off. In the language of the IFS, this counts as fairness, because overall the bottom decile has a little more money, and clearly it is a good thing that the couple have an extra £260 a year.

But imagine the government helps that couple find work. Now they have a shared income of £20,000 a year and fit into the fourth decile. This, in IFS-speak, is not fairness, because the government has not changed anyone’s taxes or benefits.

While this is fine as it stands, the problem with this line of argument is that I am not aware that legions of people on £5,000 a year have found jobs since May 6th, and it seems that their chances of finding work with this government are going to be less than they were on May 4th, given that, with the Osborne cuts “medicine” in progress, it seems unavoidable that public sector workers will be made unemployed in droves and hiring rates slashed.

So yes, this second Clegg point is a fair one, but there is no evidence that we are seeing, or have any reason to expect, squadrons of bottom decile people suddenly finding work. Quite the opposite. It seems likely that their ranks will be considerably swollen with redundant public service workers axed by Osborne.

So, Nick Clegg’s second point is completely redundant. The whole edifice of his defence is hollow.

Following Betjeman, the Camerons put St Endellion on the map

It’s a great delight that the Cameron family have put the wonderful community of St Endellion, Cornwall well and truly on the map, by giving their daughter the third name of “Endellion”.

After a long stint at Bude, Cornwall, our much loved priest, Canon Walter Prest went to be priest at St Endellion. It’s got a wonderful church and holds famous annual music festivals.

And of course, we ought to remember the words of Sir John Betjeman:

St. Endellion! St. Endellion! The name is like a ring of bells. I travelled late one summer evening to Cornwall in a motor car. The road was growing familiar, Delabole, with its slate quarry past, then Pendoggett.  Gateways in the high fern-stuffed hedges showed sudden glimpses of the sea.  Port Isaac Bay with its sweep of shadowy cliffs stretched all along to Tintagel.  The wrinkled Atlantic Ocean had the evening light upon it.  The stone and granite manor house of Tresungers with its tower and battlements was tucked away out of the wind on the slope of a valley and there, on the top of the hill was the old church of Saint Endellion.

Come on, let's face it: The first budget was a categoric, gimungous FAIL for the Liberal Democrats

The Institute of Fiscal Studies have certainly had time to do their spreadsheets. And they have said the last budget hit the poorest the most.

That’s “end of” as far as I’m concerned. Let’s stop messing around with nerdish jiggery-pokery. You can’t argue with the IFS. You might try. But you’re wasting your energy.

Nick Clegg rejected the IFS analysis and ‘complained that the IFS report didn’t take into account other changes the government plans to make which he claimed would increase fairness’.

That is Alice in Wonderland stuff. How the heck can you take into changes that haven’t been properly announced yet? It’s cloud cuckoo land.

Let’s stop messing around and just accept that the first budget was a total and utter FAIL for the Liberal Democrats. Draw a line, draw breath and quickly work to correct the blunder.

I can’t help thinking that we wouldn’t be in this mess if David Laws hadn’t fallen under a Telegraph story.

I can’t help thinking that Danny Alexander is making diddly squat difference to curtail the idiotic stupidity of George Osbourne.

We don’t need to cut spending as much as the government is intending and we don’t need to hit the poorest more than the rich and well-off. It’s profoundly unfair and illiberal. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Another place of worship just a stone's throw away from Ground Zero

…But you’d have to be a very good thrower. And yes, this is just an excuse to wheel out some of my photies from New York.

This is the 18th century James Watson House, dwarfed by neighbouring sky scrapers at the end of the Lower Manhattan financial area, and part of a Roman Catholic Shrine.

As I went through my photos again, I discovered I had, after all, taken a half-decent photo of the Statue of Liberty, via zoom from Battery Park. I thought I’d messed them all up.

Also in Battery park I admired this superb monument to the international troops who died in the Korean War:

Or is it better with trees behind it? I can’t decide…

Leading Republican feeds "Obama is a Muslim" myth

I really think that the Republicans are going down an enormous blind alley with their campaign against the Lower Manhattan mosque and, now, their feeding of the rumour/myth that Obama is a Muslim.

How’s this for brain dead? Republican National Commitee member Kim Lehman tweeted:

BTW he personally told the muslims that he IS a muslim. Read his lips.

When asked for further comment she alluded to a speech that Obama made in Cairo:

…going back to his speech… he would have said I’m a Christian and I’m from the Christian religion and we can work together. It didn’t appear to me he said Christianity was part of his religion.

There is one slight snag with this. If you read Obama’s Cairo speech he actually says:

I’m a Christian

Following the hung parliament down under, is the "Westminster model" now effectively dead?

On the LSE blog, Patrick Dunleavy has an fascinating post entitled “Every key ‘Westminster model’ country now has a hung Parliament, following Australia’s ‘dead heat’ election

Dunleavy defines the “Westminster model” as follows:

For the first time in history, the Australian outcome means that every key ‘Westminster model’ country in the world now has a hung Parliament. These are the former British empire countries that according to decades of political science orthodoxy are supposed to produce strong, single party government. Following Duverger’s Law their allegedly ‘majoritarian’ electoral systems (first past the post and AV) will typically produce reinforced majorities for one of the top two parties.

Dunleavy points to some lessons from this, with the UK’s forthcoming AV referendum in mind:

…although ‘Westminster model’ countries continue to share a powerful institutional heritage, it seems doubtful that the electoral aspects of the model can ever be the same again. For the UK’s forthcoming referendum on adopting the Alternative Vote, this recognition that the world as a whole is changing towards more complex and multi-party politics may sway some more voters and politicians towards backing reform.

Then again, since the Australian system, like ‘first past the post’ elections, has now failed to produce a clear electoral outcome, those who hanker after artificial majorities may take it as further reason for opposing change.

What the Sam Hill is going on in Australia?

I’d love to know. But, for me, the situation is summed up by this little straw in the wind from

Labor leader and caretaker prime minister Julia Gillard said she had opened negotiations with the Greens and independents and claimed a swing to the former was an endorsement of centre-Left government.

I see. So they managed to get rid of Howard and brought in Rudd on a wave of euphoria just three years ago. But now we have a leek brandisher desperately clinging to power based on a swing to the Greens who got all of one seat!

As someone who expired in the great land of Aussie once said:

Stone me!

The success of the ban on killing with hounds

One you may have missed from December 29th 2006

Before the ban on hunting with hounds, we were told the law was illiberal because it would destroy hunts, put people out of work and take away the liberty of people to enjoy hunting.

Now we are told that the law has failed because it has not destroyed hunts, not put people out of work and has not taken away the liberty of people to enjoy hunting.

Huh?! Have I missed something?!

Could it be that the law is actually successful because it has precisely excised the one practice which was objectionable – specifically the tearing apart of foxes by hounds – while leaving untouched the unobjectionable elements such as riding out with hounds, following scents etc etc?


So all those people who said that the campaign for a ban was a class prejudice thing, are actually left with rather a denuded argument, are they not? The social activity of hunting has been left untouched, save for the actual tearing apart of the fox by hounds.

All those who said that the ban would allow a conversion of hunts to drag or trail hunting have been proved right.