Danny Bermant's blog
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
Europe's leaders have buried their head in the sand
One thing is clear from the recent Munich Summit, Europe's leaders have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to dealing with their declining population.
To anyone willing to face the facts, it's clear that within a few decades, there will be a huge number of retired baby boomers, but with only a small and declining workforce to support them. Europe's generous cradle to crave welfare system just isn't sustainable. At the summit, various solutions have been put forward, mainly to encourage more immigration, but no one it seems is willing to state the obvious.....that Europeans need to have more children.
In many respects, the European Union has never got over World War II. Not just that it confuses patriotism with nationalism, but the fact that any government policy intended to promote higher birth rates is seen as a "Nazi" policy and thus beyond the pale.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Damned if we engage with Hamas, damned if we don't
Lately, it has become fashionable to argue, as Jonathan Freedland does, that by supporting Fatah and shunning Hamas, the West is only further radicalising the Palestinians. This is all based on the assumption that the alternative scenario, engaging Hamas is a better idea. It isn't.
There are many who like to fantasise that Hamas are some kind of Palestinian Sinn Fein: Negotiate with them the argument goes, and in a few years time, Hamas and the Israeli Prime Minister will be shaking hands on the White House lawn. If Hamas were a secular terrorist movement like Sinn Fein/IRA, that might be true, but here were dealing with people whose only aspiration is an Islamist state. Hamas are more interested in paradise in the next world than the wellbeing of their fellow citizens in this one. They are quite literally living on another planet.
There is some truth in what Jonathan Freedland says: Many in the Arab world will indeed look suspiciously at any regime the West supports...
"...the more generous the west is to Abbas, the more his credibility will be destroyed. Every dollar or euro he takes will confirm him as the lackey of foreign powers, casting him alongside Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq and Fuad Siniora of Lebanon as a mere western proxy. Each bouquet from Israel will tarnish him further, establishing him as the servant of the enemy. Already the Arab press is comparing Abbas with Antoine Lahad, the strongman whose hated South Lebanon Army served as Israel's policeman..."But that doesn't make it wrong to support the Lebanese, Iraqi or Afghan governments. It just means that those governments will have to work hard to win their voters trust. Would Jonathan Freedland prefer the alternative? Should we let Lebanon fall to Hezbollah? Or Afghanistan fall to the Taliban? It doesn't bear thinking about.
Blairs last days
A correspondent from The Times Magazine has been spending time with Blair on his farewell tour. What comes across again and again is that Tony Blair is a conviction politician, more interested in policies that than he is in ideology.
On accusations that he is "right-wing":
“I think it is a radical-left proposition to say someone should have choice within the NHS in the same way as if they had the money they could buy private healthcare,” he says. “The reason why Labour was out of power for so long,” he warns, “and will go back out of power if it doesn’t understand this, is if you end up regarding greater choice as right-wing, even though you have that choice irrespective of wealth, then you are on the wrong side of history.”On George Bush:
“...I’m not going to apologise for having a relationship with someone I’ve found to be straight and true to his word.” Isn’t Bush fantastically right-wing? “Look,” says Blair, “I wouldn’t agree with most American politicians on the death penalty. I think gay rights are a big deal. I introduced a law banning handguns. But I can’t understand how removing the Taleban and Saddam Hussein, who stood for the most repressive reactionary values imaginable, I can’t see how that’s right-wing. And when people say to me, ‘Bush is a bog-standard ultra-right-wing Republican’, I say, ‘Well, who’s got a black woman as Secretary of State?’...”Tony Blair has never been wedded to the Labour party. For him, it has been a vehicle for delivering the policies he believes in, nothing more. It's clear why so many in his party hate him.
Why do so many Labourites admire Sweden?
If you want to see proof of how much of the Labour party is living in the past, look at their admiration of Sweden.
They of course admire its high taxation, its welfare state, and its egalitarianism, except that their view of Sweden is rooted in the 1970s rather than the real world.
How many of them are aware of the fact that the so called "Swedish model" isn't working. Whereas it was once fourth-richest country in the world in 1970, it has now it has fallen to 14th.
As for equality, the Swedes are all for it, but it is a very different equality to the one that Labour MPs believe in. In Sweden, it's the parents who get to choose where their children are educated, not the State. Whilst Labour struggles to get even the mildest education reform past its MPs, the Swedes who have unleashed the widest ranging school voucher policy in the Western world, one that all parties and even the teaching unions support. Milton Friedman would have been proud. Along with school vouchers, there has also been a huge growth in private schools.
And would Labour MPs approve of Sweden's drug policies, which criminalise possession of even the smallest amounts of soft drugs? Their zero-tolerance stance has more in common with the United States than with the Netherlands (another country the Labourites admire).
Its about time that Labour MPs actually travelled to Sweden and got a dose of reality. These days, the Tories have more in common with the Swedes than Labour does.