Wednesday, June 11, 2003

What a morning! The sun was shining, the world not much worse than the day before, and Ian Duncan Smith was flopping about the floor of the Commons like some sort of horrible laboratory mutant fish fallen from its test tank. He made a frantic attempt to trap Blair on European policy, trying to make him admit to having a policy of "wait and see". For those without long memories and deep knowledge of British politics, the last PM (John Major) declared that "wait and see" was his Europe policy. Anybody not knowing that would have found the session utterly incomprehensible. Of course, Major's wait-and-see really meant never - because the Tory mass led by Mr. Duncan Smith would not allow anything stronger. And that was what Blair stuck on him. IDS had trodden on his own landmine. He got up, though - pushing the point that when Blair joined the Commons, the Labour manifesto included withdrawal from the EC as it then was. (We are speaking of 1983 here..) Blair then produced a bomb from his briefcase - declaring that IDS is a member of CAFE, Conservatives Against Federal Europe, an organisation advocating UK withdrawal whose website now says that they have closed down "while IDS is party leader". Flip! Flop! Choke! A (non-mutant) fish for that researcher!

It was a big show from the PM - just a terrible pity that he's far too unprincipled to face up to Britain's big problems and try to look like a socialist. But, on the other hand - the govt supposedly wants to create an insurance system for company pensions rather like the US Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. The business press have been savagely opposed to this sensible and yes! goddammit socialist scheme on one of finance's favourite excuses, the wondrous concept or maybe even immaculate conception of MORAL HAZARD. This may not be what you think it is - haven't we all met people who could be called moral hazards? In this sense it means that, if pension payouts were guaranteed, then company bosses would be more likely to run off with the cash. Great. So - it's so much better now, when they do it and leave workers with nothing, because whatever morals they might have are all right? It's a power issue, like all issues worth discussing. While the powerful have ownership control of pensions, and only "independent trustees" - read other dodgy City cash grabbers - can counter this, it is very clear and evident that pension theft will always happen. Better still than the proposed insurance would be to separate the pension scheme from the firm, and give the members a large majority on its board. That way no boss however vicious could nick a penny. Too simple.....

Speaking of Prime Minister's Questions, as we were, I've just started reading Nigel West's book on the VENONA codebreak. Here is a description by a defector of one way the Soviet Union had of producing random numbers: "A room full of women calling out numbers constantly"

Apart from being a vision of hell on earth, who would say this could not be a description of our democracy in action? "3. 457! 78.9465!......0. Mr Speaker! Mr Speaker! 3.697! 0.0021! Will the Prime Minister admit that the treatment of my constituent's leylandii dispute by Tiresome Borough Council..The situation in Palestine..Why do we not have a statue of Gerry Adams/Ian Paisley(delete according to prejudice) in the Queen's bedchamber...In my view, anyone advocating the Common Market is a terrorist...21.6!"

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