Saturday, March 10, 2007

LSE Open

Posting will be slow to non-existent this weekend I'm afraid as I'm playing Deputy Chief Adjudicator at the LSE Open.

It's a funny competition as the small university that is the LSE hosts the second largest debating competition in the UK. Our relatively low number of students for the size of the competition we're running means that debating institutions like crash (sleeping on someone's floor during the competition) become quite a challenge to provide. Last night there were fourteen people sleeping in our two bedroom flat...

If I survive posting will pick up again on Monday.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Please leave now... please?

How exactly informing people about what is going to happen constitutes 'getting tough' I do not know:

"People visiting Britain on visas are to be sent text messages warning them that their “time is running out” as part of John Reid’s get-tough policy towards illegal immigrants."

It is so far from sensible that it's somewhat staggering. Firstly, as Mr. Eugenides (the title to his post is inspired) notes there is no duty for visitors to provide mobile phone numbers, secondly there is no monitoring of whether people leave so even if we could let all of them know all we'd be saying is "in three days we'll have no idea what's going on" and even if there was telling people how informed we are is the worst possible strategy for law enforcement; it seems better that asymettries of information are in law enforcement's favour.

David Davis is exactly right:

"David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the policy was a serious admission of defeat. He said: “John Reid is effectively giving up on trying to deport the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in this country, preferring instead to spam them with text messages.

As for removing driving licences, does he really believe that a person who is prepared to live in a country illegally is that concerned about having the correct qualifications to drive in that country?”"

After Blair...

I'm currently reading Kieron O'Hara's book After Blair. This feels like something of an admission because it was written before the last election and is such an indispensable guide to the philosophy of the new Conservatives. There is a new edition, released this February, to reflect the extent to which Cameron's Conservative Party has adopted his recommendations. It is an important read as it makes clear how wrong the charge that there is no substance to Cameron's Conservatives is. Whether you agree or disagree with how Cameron is changing the party this book should give you a decent start in working out what you are agreeing or disagreeing with.

I'm going to work up a review pretty soon and some other posts it has inspired. However, for now it seemed important just to note how important the book is to the understanding of Project Cameron.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Giuliani and the Rest

In the US Presidential Race Giuliani is increasingly leaving the other Republicans behind. Unfortunately, this seems to have a lot to do with weak competition.

Romney, despite the rather suspect CPAC poll quoted by BritainandAmerica, is attempting to cover over the history of left leaning activity he has had to engage in as a Republican in a Democrat state. He is doing this in a rather disingenuous way as leaked campaign documents show. For example, he will apparently be noisily feigning dislike for France, a country he lived in with no obvious signs of discomfort for many years.

It feels terribly harsh to say it but McCain is looking very old and not terribly sharp. He is no longer the candidate he was in 2000 and is the most associated with an unpopular 'surge' strategy in Iraq.

This lack of competition is unfortunate for Giuliani because it is leading to him being decidedly unadventurous. Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam draw attention in the Weekly Standard to his shifting steadily towards the orthodox, 'government doesn't work', conservative position of Bush or Norquist and away from the rarer 'make government work for you' style which has more resonance with voters, particularly tax-paying strivers, and was his focus in his successful periods as Mayor. This lack of innovation, sticking with a programme which looks exhaustend and performed poorly at the 2006 elections, is a weakness that might be exposed once he comes up against the more 'in form' Clinton or Obama campaigns.

Student Politics and Foolishness

Their student days are the closest most radical lefties will come to actual power without selling out. Students have a tolerance for radicalism and are generally well to the left of the population as a whole. Moderate lefties can, of course, attain power in later life but for them it is an opportunity to get started in building their reputation and skills as a campaigner for the various designated victim groups which are the suffering unfortunates required by the modern, post-working class, left.

As such, it is a bigger problem than it might seem, for this small but important group, when things go as wrong as they have this year for the LSE left. The right at LSE is currently at rather a low ebb and an alliance of the socialists and the Islamic society (the LSE is a very international university) have swept most of the elected positions. They should be celebrating their victory, such as it is. However, instead those with any comprehension of the wider picture will be lamenting that all those officers will be able to achieve little even by the low standards of student politicians.

The campus left managed to pressure the LSE into holding a poll of students on the subject of whether Howard Davies, the school's Director, should be reappointed. The result of this poll came back quite clear: 932 in favour of his remaining, 311 against and 360 spoilt ballots or no votes. What this tells us, and the school will notice, is that Howard Davies is rather popular among LSE students. When all these new socialist officers try to tell Davies that he is trampling over the wishes of students he can tell them, with good justification, that the students trust his judgement. All of their election success has only won them the right to frustrating failure trying to convince the school of anything.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The British public are wonderful...

"When the 'if Gordon Brown was leader' question is asked the Tory lead grows to 42% to 29%. More reassuring for the Chancellor is that the Tory lead widens still further - 48% to 28% - if David Miliband was leader."

Of course, that result isn't exactly solid as the answers to these questions are highly unstable and the 'new face' factor isn't necessarily captured.

However, the relative position to Brown suggests that the public know that wearing glasses doesn't make you an intellectual and Miliband is actually a deeply conventional and uninspiring Social Democrat.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Angry right-wingers?

Comment is Free carries a piece by Kevin Baker about how right-wingers are reverting to some kind of primal state thanks to an inability to adjust to the questions Iraq raises about their lust for war. Now, I'm not going to deny that Iraq raises some serious questions about the assumptions and analysis of many right-wingers and the right is doing some serious thinking about what went wrong; was it purely incompetence, was it a problem with nation building, was it a more general problem with the deployment of military power? However, it clearly does not invalidate the entire right-wing project and has not seriously changed the right's tone (Ann Coulter said plenty of angry things before Iraq).

The evidence in this article is laughable. Ann Coulter is about as representative, possibly less, of right-wingers as Michael Moore or George Galloway are of the left and about as angry. Dinesh D'Sousza has been emphatically denounced from across the right-wing movement in the strongest of terms; "appeaser". Extreme opinions are often angry as they are further from the centrism that usually rules.

The analysis is just as weak. The mainstream right has had plenty of power in the twentieth century and yet curiously enough none of the policies Baker holds up as the essence of conservatism have been implemented. Reagan is about as close as it comes to the right's favourite President and his policy was to face down the Soviet Union. This isn't the simplistic jingoist enthusiasm for war which Kevin Baker describes. It is a recognition that Western military power is often important to the defence of the interests of ourselves and the rest of the world.


I watched Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis for the first time last night and it set me thinking on a few topics.

Firstly, it seems another example of how utterly brilliant the generations Germany lost to the madness of two world wars were; Lang, for example, left Germany rather than accept Hitler's incredible offer to make him head of the German film industry. Fritz Stern focusses upon scientists as his book is centred around Einstein but the artistic output of Germans of that era whenever given a chance was equally impressive. In so many fields it could, in Raymond Aron's words, "have been Germany's century"

Secondly, I really liked the impressionistic style. I've seen another Iranian film, Bashu/Little Stranger, since I saw Kimia and it was a more emotive affair but I'm still not sold on the realist style. The visual splendour and allegorical approach of Metropolis seems to me to carry far more meaning.