Wait – When I Said That Gordon Brown Should Be Sent To Coventry…

With this intervention by Gordon Brown, the Remain campaign scrapes rock bottom

The worst thing you’ll see all day: Gordon Brown sullying the grounds of the beautiful Coventry Cathedral (my favourite modern cathedral – I used to attend choral evensong while studying at nearby Warwick University) with his latest tawdry intervention in the EU referendum campaign.

Sebastian Mallaby, a Washington Post opinions contributor (and not coincidentally in this case a paid up Remainer) thinks that this is just brilliant:

A few days ago, former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown offered a glimpse of what Britain can be. He paced the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, a medieval gem destroyed by Hitler’s bombs, and praised “a Europe where the only battle is the battle of ideas; a Europe where we fight with arguments and not with armaments.” Staring into the camera, Brown appealed to his countrymen to lead, not leave. “What message would we send to the rest of the world if we, the British people, the most internationally minded of all, were to walk away from our nearest neighbors?”

The best news from this desultory referendum campaign is that Brown’s video has gone viral.

In the video, which I watched while literally shaking with rage, Brown roams around the beautiful ruins, heaping praise on the European Union for ushering in “a Europe where decisions are made by dialogue, discussion and debate”.

But those decisions are not made democratically, are they, Mr. Brown? At least not by any serious definition of the word. Or is the mere existence of the European Parliament supposed to make up for the fact that the only EU institution with even a tenuous claim to the word “democracy” can neither propose new legislation or strike down the bad, and represents an utterly non-existent European demos (hence the abysmally turnout in European elections)?

Until now, I thought the succession of intellectually tepid interventions by the misguided pro-EU bishops were the worst thing to be done to (and by) the Church during this EU referendum. But Gordon Brown has gone and outdone himself, making the hand-wringing apologetics of John Sentamu and Rowan Williams seem positively devout.

Standing in the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral, and in the shadow of the new – a magnificent and unique British contribution to architecture, conceived and built to the glory of God long before we joined the European Economic Community – Gordon Brown propagated the Remain campaign’s fatuous assertion that the EU single-handedly kept the peace in Europe and is still needed today for this purpose.

Back on planet Earth, anybody with a brain, a television and an internet connection can see for themselves that the European Union is doing far more to foster resentment and discord between the European countries than sowing peace. Whether it is the promise of young lives being permanently snuffed out or curtailed by 50% youth unemployment or the utter ruin of a small country which ought never to have been allowed to join the calamitous euro experiment in the first place, the last thing the EU is doing is promoting peace, cooperation, tolerance or understanding. I’ve been to Athens. I have seen the anti-German graffiti on every street corner.

Exactly how bad would it have to get for Gordon Brown and his allies in the Remain campaign to feel a twinge of shame or doubt about using Coventry Cathedral, an international emblem of peace and reconciliation, to drum up support for a European Union which has drifted far from the lofty goals of its own mythology, and which only now manages to function at all to the extent that it suppresses democracy and the popular will of the various member states?

I happened to be in Coventry Cathedral on April 21st this year, the Queen’s birthday. And after choral evensong was over, as a tribute the organist played “Orb and Sceptre”, William Walton’s coronation march written for the Queen’s coronation in 1955. In the music echoed centuries of history and independence which Gordon Brown and many in the Remain campaign are apparently willing to cast aside gladly and without a second thought, enthralled instead by a creaking and dysfunctional supranational political union, a mid-century relic which will almost certainly not live to see its hundredth birthday.

But as magnificent as the organ sounded that day, and speaking from a purely personal perspective, it will take a long time to stop the echo of Gordon Brown’s nauseating hymn of praise to the European Union from reverberating around that beautiful cathedral.

 

Coventry Cathedral - The Latter Glory Of This House Shall Be Greater Than The Former

Coventry Cathedral - Sculpture of Reconciliation

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

Images: Semi-Partisan Politics

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Gordon Brown Joins The Anti-Corbyn Fray, With Lecture On Electability

Labour’s vote-losing ex prime minister offers his thoughts on electability

Since leaving office, Gordon Brown seems to have gotten it into his head that he is an inspiring, motivational speaker with political opinions that people are clamouring to hear.

Watch any of the former prime minister’s recent speeches, and regardless of the venue or topic he acts like he is delivering a TED talk, roaming the stage and sawing the air with his hands as though he were proposing an end to world poverty or recounting the time he founded a global software firm working out of his garage.

Unfortunately, in reality it is just the same, tedious old Gordon Brown whom the voters were so pleased to be rid of back in 2010. But this hasn’t stopped Labour Party chiefs from drafting him to give a speech on electability, the latest desperate attempt to pour water on Jeremy Corbyn’s inferno.

And yesterday, on a stage overlooking the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament, Gordon Brown duly delivered, pacing the platform like a caged animal as he imparted his wisdom to a grateful nation.

The Spectator nods its approval:

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The Fiscal Profligacy Of The Labour Party Is Not A Myth

Tony Blair Gordon Brown - Labour Party

 

By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.

The Labour Party did not cause the economic crash or the recession, this is undeniable. Still, it is becoming a great diversion technique for those who are attempting to abdicate the previous government of all responsibility to focus entirely on this simple fact, and to exaggerate the extent to which people actually believe that they directly caused the crash.

Often those who deny that Labour were at fault at all for their economic policies then, in turn, completely oversimplify the actual causes by saying “it was the bankers”.  Clearly the global crisis was multi-layered and had may root causes including irresponsible and amoral behaviour from the financiers themselves, the central bankers and regulators who allowed them to behave in such a way and poor government policy and supervision of the whole debacle. It may make it easier to understand to simply blame one entity, but that does not make it true, or reasonable.

Still, Ed Miliband continues to deny that the previous government over spent and makes no apologies for its economic policy. This is deeply concerning because he and Ed Balls worked in the treasury and now want to run the country. The recent Question Time audience were not impressed by Miliband’s refusal to accept that Labour overspent, it may transpire that the wider electorate are equally unimpressed. I used to think it was spin, pure politics, but now I think he genuinely believes that the debt and deficit crisis we are now suffering has absolutely no connection to his own actions, or those of his chancellor Gordon Brown.

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Labour Reveal Their Priorities

Miss me yet?

 

It was heavily trailed, but now we know for sure – Labour, who have been feeling the heat as a result of their total lack of credibility on the economy and the fact that the Tories are finally starting to benefit from the fruits of economic recovery, have been forced into revealing some of their plans for the future. And what plans they are. They can best be summarised as “let’s return to how things were in the final days of Gordon Brown’s premiership”.

Whether this makes you want to get out or chequebook and make a huge contribution to the Labour Party or scream and and fall down on the floor in absolute incredulity depends entirely on your political leaning.

The Telegraph reports on Ed Ball’s major policy speech:

[Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls] said it was wrong for the Coalition government to have decided to cut the 50p top rate of tax to 45p from April last year.

“When the deficit is still high, when tough times are now set to last well into the next parliament, when for ordinary families their real incomes are falling and taxes have risen, it cannot be right for David Cameron and George Osborne to have chosen to give the richest people in the country a huge tax cut,” Mr Balls said.

“That’s why for the next parliament the next Labour government will reverse this government’s top rate tax cut, so we can finish the job of getting the deficit down and do it fairly.

“For the next Parliament, we will restore the 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 – reversing this unfair tax cut for the richest one per cent of people in the country and cutting the deficit in a fairer way.”

Ed Balls calls cutting the top rate of income tax from 50 to 45% a “huge tax cut”. Let us leave aside for a moment the ludicrous presumption on Balls’ part that taking a full half of the incremental pound that someone earns in income tax alone (never mind National Insurance, indirect taxes and VAT) could ever be proposed in a sentence together with the word “fair” and be taken seriously. I am more interested in what Ed Balls and the Labour Party had to say when Gordon Brown decided to raise the top rate of income tax from 40% to 50%. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t call it a “huge tax increase”. In fact, I know that they didn’t sell it to the country that way. So if increasing the top rate of income tax by ten pence in the pound is not a huge increase, how can a partial rollback of five pence be considered a huge tax cut? The answer, of course, is that it cannot.

So a friend of mine had this great idea on tax...
So a friend of mine had this great idea on tax…

 

In what was doubtless intended as a ringing statement designed to assure us of Labour’s new-found commitment to sensible economic management, Balls also committed to eliminating the budget deficit by the end of the next Parliament, in 2020:

Mr Balls announced what Labour said would be a binding commitment to balance the books, deliver a surplus on the current budget and get the national debt falling in the next Parliament.

Quite why we would want to exchange a government that tried and failed to manage this feat in the lifetime of the current Parliament for one that never displayed an interest in doing so until now but which suddenly claims to be able to achieve it in the next Parliament if only they are given the keys to power is never fully explained.

Neither does Balls acknowledge the fact that even when the budget deficit is eliminated, the national debt will remain intact and ominously large – he makes no proposals about running a future surplus to begin paying down this debt and lowering the nation’s interest payments. Neither, of course, does George Osborne devote much of his time to that niggling fact – but if Ed Balls really wants to seize the mantle of economic trustworthiness from Osborne he needs to aim higher and show that he has a better grasp of the longer term picture than his counterpart.

The reaction to Balls’ speech from the business community – who Labour like to malign, but are actually the ones who create the jobs and pay corporation tax and National Insurance contributions – was predictably scornful. Words and phrases such as “absurd”, “disaster”, “unmitigated disaster”, “putting our economic security at risk”, “unhelpful” and “political posturing” were often deployed.

By contrast, the Unite trade union saw Balls’ announcement as a fantastic development, and urged Labour to ever more destructive heights of foolishness and irresponsibility:

However, the Unite trade union, Labour’s biggest donor, welcomed the policy but warned it was only “a beginning”.

A Unite spokesman said: “The commitment to restore the 50p top rate of tax is a sign that a future Labour government understands the need for a fairer taxation system in this country.

“This is a beginning; we would urge Labour to also tackle the disgraceful abuse of the system by the evaders and avoiders too.

You know what would make tax avoidance really difficult, unnecessary and socially unacceptable? A flat tax. But somehow I don’t see Unite advocating for that any time in the near future. Because, though they do not like to admit it in public, high taxes are not a regrettable but necessary evil to people like Ed Balls and his cheerleaders on the left. For Ed Balls, higher taxes are a desirable end in themselves, a last line of defence to ensnare anyone who defies the odds and manages to break through Labour’s dragnet legacy of mediocre standardised education, burdensome regulations and big government and succeed in spite of themselves.

With regard to Labour’s brave new economic stance, the British electorate will cast the only verdict that matters in May of 2015. But I think David Cameron and George Osborne will be sleeping a little more easily in their beds from now on, warm in the knowledge that Ed Balls has set Labour on a firm course back to 2010.

Gordon Brown To The Rescue

He's back.
He’s back.

 

Just as the momentum behind the Scottish independence campaign well and truly faltered and we all started to rest easier in our expectation that the Kingdom will remain United after the people of Scotland hold their referendum later this year, Gordon Brown felt the need to re-emerge from the shadows and weigh into the debate.

I’m sure that in his mind, a person of his “stature” breaking their self-imposed political silence to speak in favour of Scotland’s continued participation in the Union would only ever be a good thing, a final coup de grâce drawing a line under the debate. Unfortunately, Brown could not resist digressing from his original point and sharing his thoughts on the purpose and ideal future structure of our United Kingdom, and in so doing he managed, in his own inimitable way, to muddy the waters and raise more questions than he resolved.

The Telegraph reports:

The Scottish Parliament should be made more powerful, Gordon Brown will say on Saturday as he urges people not to break up the Union.

In his most significant policy intervention since leaving Downing Street, the former prime minister will call for major constitutional changes which he believes could keep Scotland in the Union.

The confusion begins right away. According to the most recent polling, two thirds of Scottish people want Scotland to remain a part of the UK as we currently stand under the terms of the referendum questions. When the unionist side is already making such a convincing case and steadily holding a majority of public opinion, why come out proposing “major constitutional changes” as a deal-sweetener? Not only does it reek of panic and desperation, it is a cast-iron certainty that the constitutional changes being proposed will be of a narrow, specific and non-universal nature, designed to bribe voters but carrying with them the unintended consequence of making the architecture of the UK’s political governance even more complex and inequitable than it is today. But more on that later.

Brown rightly criticises some of the wishful thinking underpinning the SNP’s economic forecasts and predictions for a hypothetical independent Scotland:

He will say: “First, they calculate oil and gas revenues as at least £6.8  billion in 2016-2017 when all formal and independent forecasts suggest the correct figure is likely to be around £3.5 billion, leaving a £3.3 billion shortfall. To make this up requires a rise in income tax of 10p.

“Second, they have failed to calculate the cost of European Union membership without the British rebate, which Scotland would not benefit from. In consequence, Scotland’s net membership costs could be as high as £500  million that the SNP have not budgeted for.

However, it is in The Guardian’s reporting where Brown’s higher aspirations for the future of the UK are fully revealed:

Brown said Scotland would be strengthened by his proposed constitutional changes while remaining within the union. The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP wants the Scottish parliament to be made irreversible, with “maximum devolution of powers in training, transport, health, the Crown Estates Commission and the running of elections”.

This is all well and good. As an instinctive conservative with a strong libertarian and small government streak, I strongly support devolving power to the lowest and most sensible level possible. To my mind, having Scotland make its own policy in terms of education, transport (to the degree which it can reasonably differ from the rest of the UK), healthcare and other matters is perfectly sensible. Some will doubtless bleat about the iniquities of the overly-discussed “postcode lottery”, but to me such an approach is the only right thing to do.

The problem is that Gordon Brown proposes this devolution of power only for Scotland, and only as a means of persuading reluctant Scots to swing their support behind continued membership of the UK. One gets the strong feeling that in an ideal world, Gordon Brown would like nothing more to centralise each and every one of these areas of policy and governance, and run them all from Whitehall, and that it is only through urgent necessity and the pursuit of an even more important objective (maintaining the Union) that he is willing to permit these giveaways.

But what of the other nations of the United Kingdom? Why should Scotland be free to attune her education and transport policy more closely to the needs of her citizens, but not Wales, Northern Ireland or England?

I cannot repeat often enough my firm belief that this piecemeal devolving of powers on an on-demand basis whenever one of the home nations becomes a bit restless or we have a referendum to win is damaging to the integrity of the UK, and ensures that as a country we limp on, united still (just about) but burdened ever more heavily by arcane and inexplicable rules determining which decisions get made at what level in each constituent part of the country.

I call once again for a proper constitutional convention in the UK, to decide once and for all the powers and functions that we the people should rightly and properly give to Westminster, and those which should be devolved to the four individual home nations to be exercised equally by each.

Such a convention would also allow us to determine what should be the “shared purpose of our union”, which apparently if left unaddressed, will be defined by Gordon Brown along the specious and redistributionist lines of “social justice”. The Guardian makes explicit Brown’s view of our common purpose:

He has proposed UK legislation to state the shared purpose of the union, “namely the pooling and sharing of resources for social justice”.

I’m all for having a debate about the purpose of the country, but I would much rather frame it around providing liberty and freedom for the United Kingdom’s citizens than Gordon Brown’s vision of us coming together to to pool and share our national resources. Human beings are inclined to do this anyway of their own accord, and don’t need prompting from government to get them started. And now, for some reason, I cannot purge from my mind the image of Gordon Brown sitting at a desk in front of a huge warehouse, assigning barrels of North Sea oil to each man, woman and child in the UK – every barrel filled equally to the last drop, of course.

It is kind of Gordon Brown to re-emerge from semi-retirement and deign to give a speech on the future of our country. But his long-awaited contribution is not, unfortunately, of great use to anyone. The last thing that the United Kingdom needs is more piecemeal constitutional reform while the bigger picture goes unaddressed. And I am certainly not about to sign up to a national mission statement based on all of us coming together to enact his distinctly New Labour vision of a “just” society.

Until next time, Gordon.