Sunday, 27 July 2008

Our unpopular prime Minister

Once again popular euphoria has been replaces by popular discontent. Were the pattern not familiar it would seem strange.

In 1997 I welcomed a change of government, and was glad that the Labour party that took power seemed to have shed the some of the innumerate stupidity and thuggish envy that had characterised that party in the past. However I still had reservations, especially about the self righteous moralising of the new leaders, who seemed to get on disturbingly well with Rupert Murdock, and received from various business men sums of money orders of magnitude greater than the puny donations in brown envelopes with which Mr. Al Fayed had persuaded Conservative back-benchers to ask question in the Commons.

I considered Brown discredited by his first budget with it's removal of tax concessions from pension funds.

Even in the light of those considerations, our electorate returned Labour to power with a huge majority in 2001, and again, though with a smaller majority, in 2005, after they had taken us into an unnecessary war on the basis of false intelligence.

Since then, little has changed that may reasonably be attributed to any change on the part of the Government, yet there has been a great change in popular sentiment. The state of the economy does indeed give cause for concern, but insofar as government policies have contributed to those problems, those policies date back to the days of Labour popularity.

The swing in popular sentiment seems to consist partly of people who supported the policies, objecting to their consequences, and partly of people greatly exaggerating the power of the government to control the economy. My first reaction was to feel depressed that I live among such stupid people, but I console myself with the thought that the stupidity of collective decisions may be much greater than that of most of the participating individuals.

During the last three decades the share of the vote won by each of the major parties has varied between about 28% (Labour in 1983) and the mid forties, a variation of about 17%, or about one sixth of those voting, so the ranks of those voting against the results of their own policies may be relatively small. In a way that is just as depressing as my first conclusion, if not more so. Collective folly is particularly irritating because it is hard to anyone in particular to blame, and I like having someone to blame !!!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Other people's governments

I'm very dubious about attempts to reform other governments simply on the grounds that they mismanage their own affairs inside their own borders.

I recall saying something of the sort to a gaggle of self righteous people picketing Sainsbury's because it sold goods from South Africa, though I think the only item of South African origin on sale at that particular branch was tinned pineapple.

When Apartheid came to a largely peaceful end a few years later, I wondered if I'd been wrong in the case of sanctions against South Africa, but as one intervention followed another (Yugoslavia, Iraq) my doubts revived.

It's most interesting that in the recent argument about sanctions against Zimbabwe, even the government of South Africa, an apparent beneficiary of a sanctions campaign in the 1980's, seems to have lost faith in the process and now opposes action against Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Schools may become prisons.

I notice that a minister called Kevin Brennan has suggested that schoolchildren should be prevented from leaving school during lunch hours lest they buy food thought to be unhealthy.

Critics have argued that such a ban would be unenforceable. I suspect that that would be true in the case of most schools, but that does not mean that imposing the ban would just be harmless folly.

It would damage relationships between teachers and pupils by giving the latter yet another excuse to resent the authority of the former, so that it would be even harder to persuade children to study hard, which is what I thought they were supposed to be doing at school.

Children who managed to smuggle into school those derided snacks high in fat and salt would enjoy them all the more because the enjoyment would be illicit, and combined with a chance to laugh at the ineffectual efforts of those teachers foolish enough to try to enforce the ban.

Who's Who tells me that Brennan taught (Economics and Business Studies) in a school for nine years; unless he is exceptionally unobservant he should know what children are like !