Sunday, January 01, 2006

I've seen the Future

In the last big edition of the Observer, Nick Cohen issues an apposite "Prophet warning" against making predictions. Unfortunately few other columnists or bloggers heed his advice to desist from fortune telling as our new-year rolls in. Michael Portillo in the Sunday Times joins the tedious band of those hastening to write off Tony Blair and his achievements. In my Alternative History of Britain Labour wins the 1992 election but is booted out for economic incompetence following our exit from the ERM. Michael Portillo is now halfway through his third term as Prime Minister. Tony Blair has probably returned to the law and is quietly earning a fortune as a successful barrister; certainly not grubbing around TV studios and writing embittered articles for the Sunday Times….. Elsewhere in the paper it’s reported that “David Cameron today launches a withering personal attack on Gordon Brown”. Gosh, are we bothered? Do we look bothered?

Marie Woolf, Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday demonstrates a degree of paranoia declaring that the great John Prescott is planning to use scary sounding "spy in the sky" technology to detect home improvements such as conservatories or garages. Hooray, something else for the timid lace-curtained bungalowed mob to fret about. Is it me or are the Independent and its Sunday sister getting ever more Mail like? The level of hysteria in what used to be my favourite daily is now quite distressing.

The New York Times declares that "Officials of the United Nations....have decided they must act within weeks to produce an alternative to its widely discredited Human Rights Commission". This is "because participation has been open to countries like Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe, current members who are themselves accused of gross rights abuses". They quote Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "If you're a thug, you want to be on the committee that tries to condemn thugs." Let's hope that the UN can retrieve its reputation and stop providing ammunition to the neo-cons who would see it further neutered. My view is that, like liberal-democracy, the UN is pretty awful but is so much better than the alternatives.

I was rather pleased to learn (but not from the gloomy Independent) that the RMT strike on the Tube had failed to stop the free overnight trains running. Even though I now live a hundred miles away, part of my soul remains in London and I still like to check how the tubes are running. I got especially excited when Greenwich first appeared on the map because I lived there decades ago – sad isn’t it? I’ve nothing particularly against the RMT but they do seem to have selected some numpties with zero PR skills to lead them. Britain invests far too little in public transport even under Labour and the last thing needed is a reminder of how vulnerable systems can be to “industrial action”. Read Christian Wolmar’s book ‘The Subterranean Railway’ for insights into the price we pay for British obsession with the free market and lack of faith in central planning.

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