27 May 2012

On holiday

Hope blog readers are enjoying the thoughts of Van Patten... I'm currently in the middle of a 3-week holiday in the US and will hope to post some thoughts from this side of the Atlantic soon but to be honest, after a very strenuous start to 2012, I'm really trying to recharge the batteries at the moment. Stay calm and normal service will be resumed soon.

25 May 2012

Shades of Grey

Which was the 48th episode, and the final episode of the Second Season of Star Trek: The Next Generation,  and essentially consists of about 10 minutes of new footage involving one of the actors lying on a bed in a set interspersed with Clips from previous episodes. It's widely considered one of, if not the worst episode in the entire Star Trek pantheon. I was moved to write by the latest offering from the already mentioned Owen Jones, who, having left the sanctity of the Guardian to move across to the other fount of predictable idiocy The Independent has, in the face of strong competition, produced what has to be the most idiotic article I think I have ever read in any supposedly 'respectable' newspaper.

The articles byline is 'If Socialists really did run the show then working people would benefit' and as already stated the sheer number of inaccuracies and calumnies within an article is, I think unsurpassed in the history of 'quality' journalism. There's probably too many to list not to make this the longest article in the site's history, but I'll do my best:

'When I glanced at the Telegraph's front page later that day – which revealed that multi-millionaire Tory donor Adrian Beecroft had accused Vince Cable of being a socialist – I realised it must have been Karl Marx spinning violently in his Highgate Cemetery grave. The great man shouldn't take it to heart:'

In fairness, it's questionable whether a man should be held to account for crimes committed in his names after his death but I am moved to quote the late Lewis Namier, who was moved to inquire of the brilliant philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, when informed that the latter intended to compose a treatise on Marx as to why he was studying such a Poor thinker and one so blinded by class and racial hatred. However, given how influential (Disastrously) his ideas have been, to describe him as a 'Great man' (in the sense that Possibly Hitler and Stalin were 'Great men') is not beyond the realms of possibility.

'....it does demonstrate how "socialist" is regarded as the ultimate insult by much of our wealthy elite, who have been in a virtually uninterrupted triumphalist mood since Margaret Thatcher defeated their political opponents in the 1980s'

From reading this you might think (as indeed my co-blogger might well argue) that Thatcher gained her victory through franchise restriction and use, possibly of paramilitary forces to vanquish her and, by definition 'The elite's political opponents'. Never mind she won thumping victories both in 1983 and 1987, winning a majority of voters in the C1 and C2 Sociological demographics,two strata referred to quite frequently (and witheringly, for the most part) by The Guardian as 'Thatcher's children'. I can only assume that from Jones' perspective, these people, often amongst the early self-employed, small businessmen or employees in parts of the Public Sector where Union Leadership had had their restrictive practices curtailed by the Employment reforms of Norman Tebbit , would not be classified according to his eccentric world-view as 'Working people'

'In what was fortunate timing for Thatcher's acolytes, the Soviet empire began disintegrating as her project reached its climax. Although almost all socialists abhorred Stalinist totalitarianism (by the 1980s, at least), these were regimes that described themselves as "actually existing socialism". Their collapse was portrayed as the final discrediting of socialism, and the ultimate vindication of capitalism.'

Given that even the most Conservative estimates of the extent of Warsaw Pact influence within the Public Sector, Civil Service and other prominent parts of British civic life puits the number of COMECON country agents at around 15,000, it is something of a stretch to make the statement that 'Almost all Socialists abhorred Stalinist totalitarianism'. Besides which 'Uncle Joe' had been dead for almost three decades by the time Thatcher came to power. If my blanket use of the terms 'Soviet sympathiser' and 'Sino/north Korean agent' is to be disproved (and I apologise to readers as they have been over-used) then at least one should distinguish between the Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev eras. As is so often the case with Journalists of the Left, the absence of historical context is truly shaming and shocking.

'Beecroft's use of "socialism", then, relates to a theory called the "Overton window", which describes what is seen as politically acceptable at a given time. Rather than having to engage in a debate over the merits of bosses being able to dismiss their workers at will, an opponent can be dismissed as a "socialist", which – for Beecroft – is code for "extremist" or "someone with views outside of what is politically acceptable".'

A theory which is used regulaly in debates by (not Jones himself, curiously, which is to his credit) journalists of the Left to circumscribe debate on a whole raft of issues, most prominently race or sexual orientation - almost any mainstream politician daring to question the status quo that we need to do something to put limits in immigration into the UK has to lace such a statement with caveats and platitudes about ' the contribution diversity has made to the country' lest he be branded 'racist'. Similarly on the issue of Climate Change (Or Anthropogenic Global Warming), currently under severe pressure, the term 'Climate Change denier' is regularly bandied about. The issue being that unlike Socialism, neither 'Racism' nor 'Climate Change Denial' can put 90 million dead across two countries in their debit column. Forget Al Gore's vapid meanderings on the state of the planet. This is the real 'Inconvenient truth' that the Left would like airbrushed out of history.

'If socialists really were running the show in Britain, they would be building a society run by, and in the interests of, working people. Our banks – propped by the British people – would be taken under genuine democratic control, forcing them to operate in the interests of society as a whole. Our booming wealthy elite would be forced to pay a fair share of tax (or, in some cases, any tax whatsoever)....'

Again here, he hits on a partial truth - the banks shouldn't have been baled out by the taxpayer, for if markets are to work, however imperfectly, then there has to be the possibility of failure. Sadly it was the previous administration, by firstly propping up Northern Rock for heavily political reasons, then intervening in the difficulties of HBOS and RBS who set in tow the kowtowing to the Banks, who know that whatever their misjudgements, the taxpayer will now act as backstop.

I also like the idea that the Banks under state control would 'act in the interests of society as a whole' - And just who decides what that interest is? Are we going to have referenda on interest rates (for example?) Which well-paid coterie of bureaucrats will decide 'the popular interest'?

'After the disastrous failures of market economics, real socialists would be taking our utilities – such as the railways and rip-off energy companies – into social ownership: not old-style, statist nationalisation, but democratically run by workers and consumers. They would bring down welfare spending, not by kicking people at the bottom, but by building social housing, introducing a living wage, and creating jobs. And they would be reversing the scandalous lack of rights that workers have in the workplace, which is what ensured that wages were declining for many before the crash had even happened...'

What I find amusing here is that Jones (I suspect) is too young to remember the situation in the 1970s, and certainly too young to remember the 1945 to 51 government - which was a genuinely impressive administration, easy to knock with the benefit of hindsight but filled with ministers who had served patriotically during the warf, and with a genuine concern for working conditions and familiar with pre-war deprivation which the modern LEft have, frankly zero familiarity with. The Industries were taken into Public ownership with the intention of running them 'democratically'. That was quickly hijacked by the Unions themselves, who took over acting in the interests of producers, rather than consumers. A quick look at the scene today sees (for example) the London Underground, which is already partly in Public ownership, and under 'Workers control' - a scenario meaning a job that for the most part mechanisation should already have removed is paid a base salary of £59K. Is Jones saying that's the kind of wage levels he wants across the economy? It sounds like a rekindling of Tony Benn's laudable but ludicrous idea of a 'siege economy' to prevent Britain being battered by the then relatively nascent Capital markets, or at worst, something like the reaction of Apartheid South Africa in the face of global economic sanctions - Build up our own industries heedless of what is going in the outside world.

As I said in the previous post on Murphy, I wouldn't normally consider either party worthy of such detailed comment, but as these are two intellectual scions of the Ed Miliband Labour Party, I think it's worth seeing the level of intellectual rigour and total failure to understand historical context or even take a cursory look at history before coming out with suggestions. Ironically one thing both contributors lack is the realisation that things aren't always black and white - and in between, there are many Shades of Grey....

24 May 2012

Mr. Murphy's Greenhouse Stone throwing

In my 10 months or so on Twitter, which is arguably responsible, at least in part for the paucity of posts here which I am forever seeking to rectify, I have encountered a myriad group of 'Twitterati': the Good, the learned, the Bad and the downright offensive. However, aside from a spate of so -called 'Pornbots', I have never felt it necessary to Block anyone who has cause to disagree with me. Nor have I had much cause, despite some strong words at times, to be blocked by anyone bar two Leading Tweeters, the baby-faced (and, sorry to say, Rather immature, at least in terms of his real-world experience) Owen Jones and the almost megalomaniac self-styled 'Number 1 economics blogger in the UK', the Norfolk - based former tax accountant, Richard Murphy, author of the tome 'The Courageous State', and rumoured to be one of the Leading advisors on Tax policy and overall economic outlook of the (potential) incoming Ed Miliband Administration in 2015. I think my jibe at Jones when he made a reference that with the death of North Korea's Kim Jong-il, 'Robert Mugabe's Christmas Card list was getting a bit shorter' to the effect that I'm sure he was still on it probably rankled but I know for a fact I am not the first to get the 'blocking treatment' from Murphy. This very cocksure blogger likes to boast about his advocacy of a 'Courageous State' but his courage doesn't seem to extend to allowing dissenting voices to post on his blog or indeed even follow his Twitter feed, thus rendering his credibility immediately suspect.

Arguably his most prominent and incisive critic, is Tax exile and ASI writer, Tim Worstall, disparagingly referred to on Murphy's blog as 'Tim Worstofall' (Such cutting edge humour..) who regularly blows holes in Murphy's master plan, much to the chagrin of my fellow blogger (who collaborated on the Courageous State) . Unlike Murphy, Tim operates a fairly open access policy on his blog and critical comments there don't tend to be banned or silenced, a policy I'd argue is far more courageous than Murphy's almost medieval inquisition-like 'silencing' of counter-voices.

Anyhow, ranting aside, I wouldn't normally pass comment on anything Murphy has to say, only that to anyone taking a passing interest in Global economic news of late, the situation in Greece is becoming increasingly desperate. Mired in a downward spiral of falling demand, cuts in expenditure and prisoners of a massively overvalued currency, rumours persist of people foraging through bins for food, together with reports Many businesses have folded with many more on the brink and of children being abandoned to churches due to their parents being unable to afford to feed them. With the situation in Greece being so intrinsically linked to Europe, and a perfectly titled episode of Star Trek (Plato's Stepchildren) available, a more lengthy post on Greece is surely in the offing, but what took my eye on the 'Tax Research UK' blog was this almost unbelievable piece by Murphy on how Greece can effect recovery.

A few choice examples of how misguided the man is:

'The present emphasis on export-led growth as a key solution to the Euro crisis, whilst benefiting successful economies like Germany and China, will not be enough to enable the rest of Europe to deal with its collapsing effective demand.'

Which obviously begs the question as to where the money to pay for anything is going to come from for Greece in the First instance, with other potential 'Exit nations' (Spain, Italy and Portugal waiting by the door) - But, wait, here's the answer....

'the European Central Bank (ECB) should immediately announce a Green Quantitative Easing (QE) Emergency Programme for Greece. It has been estimated that there are more than 4 million households in Greece and so its first investment should be 9 billion Euros spent on fitting free solar panels for the occupants of one million south facing roofs in Greece, and a further 4 billion Euros to train a ‘carbon army’ to install energy saving measures in all Greek homes'

And where exactly is the skilled Labour going to come from, Richard? who is going to be training them? and more importantly who is going to be controlling them? Murphy appears to be advocating, in effect that the EU continue its policy of treating Greece like some satrapy from the Middle-Ages. Arguably the most shocking incident thus far seen in Greece was 77 year old Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in Athens' Syntagma Square, with a strongly-worded letter condemning the austerity pursued by the 'Tsolkagolou' government - a reference I needed to look up to explain. Georgios Tsolkagolou was a Colonel in the Greek Army who signed the surrender of Greece to NSDAP forces in World War II and was tried after the war for treason. Is Murphy suggesting that another government programme imposed (or seen as being imposed) from Berlin will be acceptable to the Greek people. I cannot read Greek but those of my correspondents that can warn the language being used to describe both the former Papademos government and the EU itself by the Greek press is inflammatory and laced with references to the German Occupation of 1941 - 45.

Also, Murphy displays his profound ignorance of the EU, which for ordinary Greeks has become synonymous with a cosy coterie of Private businessmen (who, to give him credit he will condemn) and CRUCIALLY, senior Bureaucrats, both within the Greek State and at EU level (which, due to some misguided belief shared by my fellow blogger that all Public servants have a saint-like lack of self -interest and all Public expenditure is axiomatically good he won't) who have carved up the contracts and much of the resultant money that Greece has received since joining the EOK (Greek for EEC) in 1988. The money for his solar panels will simply disappear into the same well of corruption and nepotism that it has done over those intervening two decades.

'Of course, a Green New Deal is only part of the picture to regenerate Europe. Face to face caring and wider infrastructural renewal such as housing, schools, hospitals, water and sewers systems and maintaining the local road networks will provide the backbone for a labour intensive transition for most countries. The personal care can be paid for by the state, particularly once domestic and international tax dodging are tackled. With some modest state pump priming, the majority of the funding for the rest of the infrastructure programmes can be provided by pension and insurance funds and from personal savings via bonds. The secure returns that can be earned from such investments are just what such funding sources need. The local jobs and business opportunities provided will help rebuild the tax base and allow for an eventual reduction in public debt.'

Despite Murphy's insistence that tax havens are the problem, Greeks facing down the consequences of refusing to leave the euro have been piling their money OUT of the country. Even former Communist neighbour Bulgaria, itself no paragon of economic and bureaucratic virtue is seen as a relative safe haven, with huge deposits flowing in to those unable to afford to deposit in one of Richard's prime Bete noires, Switzerland (prosperous, DEMOCRATIC and with a limited state that seems to work quite nicely for them - no wonder he dislikes them so much) Again, the infrastructure projects thus far funded by the EU have been in many cases catastrophic(Visit the Parthenon if you want evidence of this), and Good luck using either Greek bureaucrats themselves or more likely, foreign 'Independent' Tax experts to chase down tax evasion, which in Greece, due to corruption is seen as a National Sport.

In short the article completely misses the point on almost every level. It show almost zero knowledge of Greece or the Greek psyche, no respect for national boundaries or Freedom of choice and overweaning arrogance characteristic both of the Man's blog and his Twitter feed (what I can discern of it since being banned) I have said that the state most like the 'Courageous State' that I can see in historical terms is the now -defunct USSR. In advocating a key rule for that unlamented behemoth's Spiritual successor, the EU, Murphy has unwittingly (or more likely unashamedly) showed his totalitarian side. Lord help us if he has any influence over an incoming Ed Miliband administration

06 May 2012

Enjoying the post-election fall-out

For a left sympathiser such as myself there was much to cheer in the local election results and things have only got better in the couple of days since... I'll just pick out a few bits and pieces that struck me in particular:

  • For the first time in living memory I actually underestimated how well Labour would do. I thought they'd get about 500 seats, lose Glasgow and Ken would lose to Boris narrowly. In the end they picked up over 800 seats - which led to the hilarious spectacle of Baroness Warsi saying Labour needed to win 700 seats to be credible, then upping the figure to 1000 when she was informed that Labour had already gone over 700. Ho ho. And they held Glasgow. 
  • Ken lost to Boris, but not by much. Considering the number of own goals he'd scored, the massive bias of the press against him, and the attacks on him by his own side, being only 3% down after 2nd preferences was a pretty good effort. The fact that it was much tighter than the opinion polls suggested made it harder for the Tories (or indeed the Blairites) to spin the result as a disaster for Labour. 
  • Ed Miliband emerges immensely strengthened from these elections and is now almost certainly safe until 2015. It may even be that some of the Labour right stops thinking about ways to get rid of him and starts trying to think about ways to win an election. He can but hope. 
  • The fall-out from the results in the Tory camp has been hilarious. Badge of honour has to go to Nadine Dorres who is a total loose cannon, making the anti-Blair plotters of 2005-06 look completely tame. Did any Brownite Labour MP give an interview as incendiary as this at that time? 
More on Dorres: I agree that the Tories could probably find 46 signatures for a leadership election quite easily. Just look at some of the right-wing wackos on the backbenches and that's obvious. Whether an alternative candidate could actually beat Cameron is another matter. I don't really feel qualified to pronounce on that as I don't know what the average Tory activist thinks about Cameron nowadays (and remember the Tory leader is chosen by a run-off vote among party members, not MPs). It's possible, I suppose, although as Cameron has only really hit a bad patch in the last 2 months or so, I would be surprised if the party didn't give him more time to turn it around. If I were a Tory right-winger I'd be tempted to bide my time - if Cameron loses in 2015 then the right-wing would have a clear run at taking over, either through a fresh-faced hard right winger like my MP Priti Patel (god help us) or through the proven populist right-wing Trojan horse that is Boris Johnson. If Cameron wins in 2015, the right also has leverage - they can basically turf him out if he doesn't sign up for a hard-right programme. In fact my guess is they won't need to - Cameron is basically a right-winger on most issues (except gay marriage) and is currently operating concessions to the Lib Dems only because the parliamentary arithmetic means he has to. 

Turfing Cameron out this side of Christmas would present the new right-wing Tory leader with a problem; assuming the Lib Dems abandon the coalition at that point (which they surely would - they're spineless collaborators but they're not (mostly) fascist assholes), how is this new model Tory govt going to pass any policies? It would be a minority govt. The PM couldn't dissolve parliament early because he/she needs a 2/3rds majority under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011. So you see, there really is no viable right-wing alternative to the Coalition. What would probably happen is that after a few months of stasis, the Lib Dems and Labour would unite to pull the plug on the whole sorry affair... pass a no-confidence vote, refuse to form a govt for 14 days and then there would be a dissolution and an early election. 

So my prediction is that Cameron will survive until 2015 whatever the right thinks. But it's great fun to watch the Tory party tearing itself apart (or bits of it anyway). Meanwhile, Labour looks more at ease with itself than at any time since about 2001. Not an outcome many of us would predicted even a few months ago. 

04 May 2012

Tomorrow is Yesterday

My fellow Blogger has posted his thoughts on yesterday's Local Elections in the UK, and has unsurprisingly focused on the London Mayoral Elections, which seem to be the single bright spot in an otherwise fairly dismal picture for the Coalition. More on the wider ramifications, which are a direct result of the questionable Budget on which I posted what seems like an eon ago, later in the week, but it's perhaps worth considering the scale of the Johnson achievement, which comes in the shadow of A:/ A pretty dire performance by the Conservatives within London even in the 2010 Elections where they were the largest party and B:/ In the face of National polling data which has seen even the much-maligned Ed Miliband presiding over a 13 point (at maximum) poll Lead, which has led even Erstwhile and somewhat tiresome Former Statesman blogger Dan Hodges to damn him with faint praise. ( 9.30pm London time: Warning - Lest I speak too soon - It appears the result is considerably tighter than predicted - it looks like it will go right to the wire. However, the basic critique remains valid although were Livingstone to win the ramifications for those unfortunate enough to live in London would require a separate post)

As my colleague has pointed out, anyone wanting to see the scale of Ken's achievement in managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of what would have seemed certain victory need only follow Andrew Gilligan's blog in the Telegraph which gives an almost daily dose of bile for those able to stomach it. This has been derided on the Left as a 'smear campaign' which given the outrageous calumnies against Boris seen almost Daily on Twitter suggests either a distinct lack of Irony or failure to take account of the phrase beloved of the late Peter Cook, 'Mote and Beam , sir, Mote and Beam' (Based on the Biblical quotation from Matthew 7:3)

'Why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye'

A quote the increasingly desperate bloggers such as Owen Jones  and Sunny Hundal  (who appear willing to forgive almost any outrage if it gets a Labour victory) would do well to bear in mind.  One can only imagine the reaction had Johnson made some of the verbal gaffes that Ken had. Who can forget this classic piece from the Ultra Left Compass think tank which would have touched the heart of the Late Joseph Goebbels with its use of selective quotations, dissimulation, out of context quotations and innuendoes back when Johnson first became a mayoral candidate in 2007? Given the state of the election, I'm surprised this wasn't used as a Bible for journalists to attack him!

As Hal points out, Livingstone's failure will have almost zero ramifications for Ed Miliband - he's considered as much a maverick by many across the political spectrum as was George Galloway, and if anything, I think Miliband will benefit from having, as far as possible kept a discreet distance from his candidate's antics.

So, what is the secret to Johnson's success?:

1/ He has kept a relatively Low profile throughout the campaign - A Savvy campaigner who since an unsuccessful bid for Parliament back in 1997 has an excellent track record, I think he quickly evaluated that Ken would do himself enough damage that his best bet was to keep quiet and leave discussion until the debate, where the visceral mutual loathing would do as much damage to Ken's campaign as to his. This lack of gaffes (and he has a track record here in terms of putting his foot in his mouth as anyone from the Liverpool area will testify) served only to magnify Ken's errors.

2/ The Labour Party managed to hang itself with a singularly unsuccessful and arguably the weakest candidate they could possibly have put in the field. Anyone who has lived under Ken and who worked in the Private Sector would have had no difficulty remembering Ken's record, which was to introduce huge tax rises with almost nothing in return except for a regular diet of Political propaganda, and procure contracts for his political cronies at, again , great expense to the taxpayer. His much-vaunted congestion charge merely had the effect of shifting commuter traffic outside the zone and made private motor transport the preserve of the rich. It is very hard to conceive of a single positive aspect to his period as mayor and suffice it to say, although I had fled London to the West of England by that point, the celebrations which followed Johnson's victory led to a less than productive Friday. Had Oona King been selected as candidate, given here popularity with Ethnic minorities and women, it would have been a tall order for Boris, even with a considerable cult 'Personal' following to overcome her.

3/ Although Boris has arguably been less effective than many hoped, he does possess a certain charm that sets him apart from the Coalition - various appearances on Have I Got News for You  combined with a carefully cultivated image as a shambling , quasi-cartoonish character has done much to negate the 'Tory contamination' that has affected almost the entire rest of the coalition and gives him a certain cachet amongst the apolitical voters especially. This, combined with his relatively calm persona in the face of quite vicious hatchet jobs from the Left has done a great deal to provide a personal bounce factor which has negated the otherwise dire Poll ratings for the Tories. By contrast, as I have pointed out to Hal, Ken's ruthless 'coalition-building' and effective use of Private Sector workers as cash cows for his political projects has led to an 'Anti-Ken' coalition (No prizes for guessing I was a member) of people who vote for anyone but Ken. Although many have left London for pastures new, I'd say only the BNP has a more polarising impact than that man.

(Update 10pm London Time - the last few thousand ballots are having to be counted by hand due to a failure of the counting machines, Don't you just love modern technology?)

03 May 2012

Updated thoughts on today's elections

With many people going to the polls today for the local elections, I thought I'd update my previous advice on the London mayoral race, as well as offering a few predictions of what's going to happen on Friday.

It seems to me that Ken is probably going to lose - which has very little to do with his policy platform, but is rather a combination of two personality-based factors: (1) Boris Johnson appears to have a certain buffoonish appeal to a swathe of voters that disconnects him from national dislike of the Tories, and (2) a proportion of (people who would otherwise be) Labour voters are turned off by Ken to the extent that they won't vote for him.

The 'Boris factor' would probably give Boris a certain boost no matter who he was running against, while the 'Ken factor' would depress Ken's ratings no matter who he was running against. But it's the combination of the two that proves deadly to Ken's chances.

This suggests that Labour would be doing better with another candidate - one with less baggage - and I think that's the case. Oona King, for example, would probably have been in front at this stage, and Boris contemplating a return to Westminster.

The "tax avoider" slur, in particular, has hit Ken really hard. There is some truth in it - to the extent that everyone who sets up a company and pays themselves partially in dividends (which don't attract National Insurance liabilities in the way earnings do) is a tax avoider. In other words Ken is doing the same thing that millions of other people who are self-employed do - paying a lower tax rate than employed people. It's worth noting that even if he were registered as a self-employed sole trader rather than a company, he'd still be paying less tax than if he were an employee, because self-employed National Insurance is considerably lower than employee plus employer rates. In his current employment situation, the only way Ken could pay tax rates equal to what he'd pay as an employee is if he paid out all the income from his company (Silveta) as his earnings rather than dividends. But this logic would suggest that anyone who takes dividends rather than earnings is a tax avoider - so the Tories are left arguing the Marxist line that the return to capital from the production process should essentially be zero, and the return to labour should be 100%. It's a funny old world. Of course, if we had a system which was neutral between the taxation of earnings and dividends, then this issue wouldn't arise. But there you go.

My previous post indicated that if I were in London I wouldn't vote Ken. That's still true on first preferences, but on second preferences, with the race so close, I think I'd have to put him second, despite my misgivings. The guy is severely flawed, but at the end of the day, the priority is to keep Boris out. My first preference would be for Jenny Jones of the Greens.

My predictions overall are for Labour to get around 500 seats, for Ken to lose, and for Labour to lose Glasgow council to the SNP. The latter two will be treated as calamitous by the Blairites in the media (Wintour and Watt, Rentoul, Dan Hodges etc.) who have had thin pickings for their "Ed is crap" campaign of late; but the fallout from London and Glasgow is unlikely to damage Ed, simply because he's had little to do with either fiasco. Ken Livingstone was chosen as the London mayoral candidate before Ed even became Labour leader, and his poll slide is the result largely of unforced errors by Ken himself, coupled with a hugely hostile media - nothing to do with Ed. Similiarly, although I am no expert on Scottish local politics, as far as I can tell the Glasgow problem is also a result of serious problems in the local Glasgow Labour party which are very much below Ed's pay grade. I mean, if the loss to the SNP in the Scottish Parliamentary elections last year didn't result in a putsch against Ed - at a point where Labour was doing much worse in the polls than it is now - it's hardly likely that Glasgow council elections are going to precipitate some kind of uprising now, is it?

I also predict that any fillip to Cameron from a Johnson win will be short-lived - the Johnson/Livingstone duel is a one-off, with no real relevance to national politics except that it establishes Johnson as a formidable operator and campaigner who will move one step closer to being the next leader. But that factor could weaken Cameron in the long run a lot more than it helps him. If Dave looks like a surefire loser in 2015 we can expect to see Boris campaign for a parliamentary seat in the May 2015 election (amazingly, the Mayor is allowed to serve as an MP at the same time, as long as it's for no more than 6 months), get elected and then resign the mayoralty to stand for Tory leader. And given the collection of duffers currently jockeying for position in the Cabinet, it seems unlikely he won't get it, should he want it. Interesting times indeed.