2012 – leadership wanted, not followership

2012 is a year crying out for leadership.

2011 saw dreadful drift in the West. The EU politicians proved incapable of deciding whether to press on to create a single country called Euroland or not. Would they take the necessary powers to tax, spend, send money to troubled regions and print money on the scale needed to shepherd through their chaotic union? Would the voters let them? Could they do so by stealth, without referenda?

As a result they fell between the two schools of thought. Some wanted to avoid spending and borrowing collectively, thinking they could have a currency union without the usual systems for using budgets to ease the problems in the less successful parts of the zone. Others wanted more transfers and common borrowing, but were unable to convince Germany fully, as she feared she would be paying a lot of the bills.

The US politicians ended up in stalemate. US politics is polarised between those who want to spend and tax less, and those who want to tax more. It is split between proponents of Obama’s health care reforms, and those who want them reversed as soon as possible. Major deficit reduction has been delayed. The US wants to pull out of its Middle Eastern wars, but has sounded an uncertain note over how and when.

In the UK there is clear leadership from two parties in favour of deficit reduction, but the latest figures shows the early plans have been overtaken by slow growth and a slowing world economy. They needed to revise them substantially last autumn, allowing much more borrowing. They have decided to take two more years to get there, as the strategy relies heavily on rising tax revenue.

Politics has been living through a long period of followership. In the US and the UK it has been the fashion to spend large sums on focus groups and polls, allowing the senior politicians to craft messages they know will play well. The aim is to tell people what they already know, what they want to hear, or what they half believe. Whilst in a democracy the people are often more savvy than the politicians and capable of good commonsense, public opinion can be both volatile and contradictory, depending on how it is polled. Trying to make policy and govern by the guiding lights of polls is not a good model.

The worst kind of such approaches could best be called followership. It is unlikely to generate policy that will tackle difficult problems strongly and in a way likely to solve them. All too often politicians duck the issue because the solution polls so badly. Many of the successful Thatcher reforms polled badly when undertaken, but have not been reversed as the country and the Opposition came to see the sense of them.
Today we need leadership. The west needs leaders who will explain that we have to change our ways. The west is too debt soaked. The public sector needs to be transformed, to do what it needs to do for less, and to confine its actions to the those most needed. The Euro area needs to settle its intentions quickly – do they want to pay the massive bills needed to complete their union? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and wiser to cut the membership down now, before more economic damage is done? The US needs to accept that borrowing one dollar in every five that the Federal government spends is not a sustainable model. The UK needs to redouble its efforts to carry through a working plan to eliminate the structural deficit. Getting more people back to work through welfare reform and a growth strategy are crucial to success. It needs to develop a looser relationship with the EU to avoid the collateral damage the Euro’s tribulations will bring.

Enjoy seeing in the New Year – the west needs a new approach.

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98 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    You say “All too often politicians duck the issue because the solution polls so badly”. Indeed this is far too common and Cameron is after all PR person. So we get daft policies like Huhne’s green wash, house bling subsidies, delays over the expansion of nuclear power (and its abandonment in Germany) and other policies such as endless “tax and waste” that defy science, economics and logic. The public will vote for what works when they see working it in action. Alas Cameron has wasted so much time already he has little time left to get any real results before the next election.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      We certainly do need to develop “a looser relationship with the EU to avoid the collateral damage the Euro’s tribulations will bring”. Self inflicted and pointless damage & tribulations too. All this unnecessary damage will doubtless cheered loudly on by Clegg, Huhne and all (but one?) of the Libdems, the BBC, Ken Clark and over half of the Tory party it seems.

      Which way will Cameron jump the omens are not good. Do we know what, if anything in reality, he actually did veto as yet? From Daniel Hannan’s blog:-

      “So far, David Cameron has been absolutely clear that there is no question of the other countries making use of EU institutions unless they pay his original price – that is, an abandonment of majority voting in the field of financial services regulation. Nick Clegg, however, is saying the opposite. Far more alarmingly, the British officials who attended the initial meeting were said to have raised no objection to the proposed use of EU mechanisms and procedures.”

      Where does the government stand on this?

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Spot on. Leadership is a word often used but not synonymous with politicians. Politicians do not have the courage to sort out their own MPs after a large scale fraud scandal regarding their expenses. The people of this country feel disgusted that no substantive change has occurred and only a tiny proportion have faced criminal charges. 302 MPs fiddled their expenses or were overpaid. Clegg sneaked out his proposals about the right to recall during the EU debate. Interpreted by most as an underhand act in itself. No leadership on this issue where both claimed they would clean up politics. I also did not hear Clegg protest about MPs or EU commissioner pensions in the same light as he and his party did about public sector workers pensions here, UK tax payers still pick up the bill- so why was he silent?

      Cameron is not a leader. He is a PR man full of hot air and no substance. He likes one line quips that grab a news headlines. When is he going to fulfil one of his policy issues that the people elected him to do? Namely, budget- stop spending and taxing, EU- repatriate powers or renegotiate the Uk’s relationship with the EU, immigration- totally out of control affecting other policy issues like spending in the public sector, welfare, housing, jobs etc.

      Clegg is worse he says one thing and has acted in contrast on so many occasions no right minded person could believe a word he says. LibDems might be right to think he had his eye on a EU job rather than party leader at the next election.

      No John, leadership does not exist in the Coalition and I would not hold my breath that Cameron will not give the EU the 25 billion they want to save the wretched Euro. The ECB has already acted by the backdoor to allow banks to borrow to lend to countries to help their sovereign debt because it was not allowed to lend direct to the countries. Let us hope one country is forced to hold an election or referendum to force the hand of EU fanatics like Clegg, Mandelson etc.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Reported in the telegraph “Culture Secretary” Mr Jeremy Hunt says voters will never forgive the Government if it does not “make the most” of an unprecedented opportunity. “You can take two attitudes to the Olympics,” he says. “You can say: these are times of austerity and therefore we should pare them down as much as possible. Or, you can say: because these are times of austerity we need to do everything we possibly can to harness the opportunity of the Olympics.

      Needless to say he wants to do the latter:- tax (and thus handicap, or even put out of business) some real businesses and destroy jobs in order to tip money into the loss making, jumped up school sports day (and large potential target for terrorism too).

      Doubtless it will be as worthwhile and “profitable” as John Major’s absurd millennium dome was and we will all have to live with the expensive white elephant building, the huge bill and reduced economic growth as a direct result. The wrong buildings in the wrong places at the wrong time – as pointless as Huhne’s PV cells and wind farms.

      • BobE
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        I know nobody that watches athletics. The odd final is watched, but thats all. It is just a corpoprate jolly? Its time the Olympics was housed in Greece for allways.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

          Indeed and funded not by tax payers and Londoners but by participants, sponsors, sports equipment manufacturers and ticket buyers – Tax payers and politicians should have nothing to do with funding it.

      • A different Simon
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        How many millions of pounds of taxpayer money ostensibly going towards the Olympics will just be flowing indirectly to quango’s and fake charities which want to see the UK absorbed into the EU ?

        How many millions will be appropriated by the big management consultancies ?

        There will be quite enough money used to provide jobs for the boys as it is without trying to “harness the opportunity of the Olympics” .

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          Indeed there probably will be.

  2. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Although leadership and vision is needed, democracies cannot move as fast as markets do. To convince Italian, French or German people of the need to move forward quickly with fiscal integration takes time, even the leaders themselves needed time to realise this, as I witnessed in the Netherlands. If Britain hadn’t just vetoed at the December summit (a “no-policy” is no policy, even though it may boost the ego) it would be in a much stronger position to plead/advise the eurozone to cut down its membership.
    Embracing the EU as a friend would offer the UK an opportunity for leadership at G20 talks, like the EU seemed to take its cue from the UK in 2008. Embracing the EU would have offered the UK the possibility of EU leadership in foreign affairs. Standing apart or being a spanner in the works is no way forward, just like standing on the breaks is no way to drive a car, even when the weather has made the road slippery.
    Although independent states have their use the future is moving towards larger blocks. Size matters: For the UK to be the EU carries more weight than being Switzerland, just like being India or China carries more weight than Bangladesh or Malaysia. Being Switzerland may work for a while, but as it slowly but surely loses its banking secrecy, it shows that being separate in a globalized world is not that sustainable. The EU has just about the size to make decisions stick, as shown in the policies towards Microsoft in the past or currently the tax on flights to Europe. For leadership, size matters. Of course the UK also has size. But will it show leadership behavior or is it too divided and unable to unify within its coalition? And will it be a partner rather than a country running for the exit?

    • MickC
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      What? “the future is moving towards larger blocks”?

      Yes, of course it is! The Soviet Union collapsed, Czechoslovakia split, the UK is moving towards seperation….

      Looks to me like the future is moving towards smaller nation states which will co-operate with others where it is mutually beneficial to do so.

      It is NOT moving towards massive “top down” political entities telling the people what to do. That was yesterdays vision of tomorrow.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        @MickC: We see maybe what we want to see, but for me, I see larger entities, whether they are banks, airlines, governments or Tescos. “Top-down” sometimes has to come with leadership but I’d agree with you that effective ways of connecting with and involving voters have to be found as a matter of urgency.

    • Tedgo
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      The problem for Swiss banks is their desire to continue having banking operations in the USA. The USA is threatening to close those facilities down if the Swiss do not disclose the names. The Swiss should threaten to close USA banks down in Switzerland and remind the USA that their tax collecting powers stop at the 12 mile limit.

      Did the EU achieved anything with Microsoft, I recently reinstalled Windows XP on my computer and had to answer infuriating questions about which browser I wished to use. Its always been possible to install any number of browsers on your computer, just a big waste of money on the part of the EU.

      As to tax on flights to Europe, the matter is not yet settled, I expect the USA and others to impose large punitive taxes on EU airlines in retaliation.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Nothing is perfect but half a billion to one billion fine for Microsoft to pay is not exactly wasting EU money.

    • Boudicca
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      The EU isn’t a friend. It is a parasitic leech on our Sovereignty and our economy. It has destroyed our Constitution to the point that our Parliament no longer represents the people, it represents the unelected and unaccountable Commissars and apparatchiks of Brussels.

      We gain nothing from membership of the EU and should get out, whilst we still can.

      • Disaffected
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Spot on. These fanatics will promise everything and deliver nothing to get their own way- a bit like LibDems. We need out of Europe ASAP. I hope the New Year brings a surge of courage to the Tory Eurosceptics to get rid of Cameron.

        I read more good news about cleaning up politics today. The HoL is full of dubious characters who were ennobled from association to politicians, including disgraced ministers who were forced to resign from office. Now former convicts are on the honours list. What a disreputable bunch they have become in government, no shame. It discredits the Lords and those who actually deserve to be honoured by the country. Scrap both the Lords and the honours list they are an embarrassment to the country.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        @Bouddica: All you need is a majority in your parliament. May be 2012 will bring this majority?

        • Boudicca
          Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          Unlikely as we won’t have a General Election until 2015. Even then it is unlikely as the 3 main parties are all in favour of the EU and under our First Past the Post electoral system it is very difficult for a small party to break through. But all the polls says that the British people want out of the EU and our MPs will continue to defy the people at their peril.

    • Robert Christopher
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      “Embracing the EU would have offered the UK the possibility of EU leadership in foreign affairs. ”

      As in: Giving up some of our rebate would have offered the possibility of CAP reform? Well it didn’t happen, it still hasn’t happened, and there is no date yet for it to happen!!! Empty words mon ami!

      What we want is leadership IN OUR OWN affairs, internal and external.

      The demise of the Euro has been inevitable, for over 15 years, and still those on the Continent cannot see it! It is the Euro that has been the “spanner in the works”, especially for those countries that gave the wrong response in their referenda. Do you remember them?

      India and China might carry more weight but they are countries, with a demos, while the EU is just obese! It wouldn’t pass a health check.
      Where are it’s audited accounts???
      Where is its democracy ???
      Where are all the new jobs in Ireland?? That’s why they voted for the Euro!!! Now they are emigrating to the UK.

      • Robert Christopher
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        I have just seen Mike Stallard’s post (Dec 31, 2011 at 7:48 am) below, and it does look as though those across the Channel keep moving the goal posts.

        An embrace from them does “offer the possibility” of a knife in the back!

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        @Robert Christopher: The CAP has actually been reformed, is still being reformed further. It just hasn’t been scrapped nor has it been enough for many Brits. Still, (IMHO) the UK has more influence in the EU than an American state has in the USA. And leaving is possible as well, so just make sure you get your majority for that in your H.o.C and it will become for you a happy new year indeed.

    • Michel d'Anjou
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Peter,

      Good post but I still don’t know why the EU will be successful. Its banks are bust; many of its nations are insolvent and its leaders don’t lead. Its demographics, read a decade ago and more, have suggested low growth and high costs of capital. It seems destined to exist behind trade barriers (and in due course exchange controls). Why would we wish to remain committed to a social and democratic model that doesn’t appeal to many, perhaps most, Brits? How does continued membership (on the basis of the present social model) enhance and promote Britain in a world that is leaving Europe behind? I’m not suggesting that we suddenly gain global success and increased influence; rather we might stand still where we are, while Europe slowly submerges under the weight of its own lack of foresight, leadership and influence.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        @Michel d’Anjou: You may be right that the EU doesn’t so attractive (debt, banks, demographics, etc.) but perspective is also a choice: If the eurozone were one country now, its financial position wouldn’t be worse than either the US or UK but better. Also, sofar a crisis usually has brought the EU forward. If the UK doesn’t feel at home in “the heart of the EU” it could still maneuvre to get an a la carte arrangement with the EU (I think better than just leaving).
        I don’t believe that “the world is leaving the Europe behind” as you say. I think that leadership will come (late but still in time). Am I too optimistic or you too pessimistic?

    • Antisthenes
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      The UK at or not at the top EU table is an irrelevance as in both circumstances the UK is completely ignored CAP and fisheries reform to cite just two examples and to retain some of it’s sovereign powers yet another. As for a need to attach itself to the EU to maintain it’s voice and clout in the world that is completely spurious the EU by the fact that it is dominated by France and Germany negates it and so being part of a group of 26 soon to be 27 other competing voices is another negation. On it’s own the UK can align itself with any powerful block it agrees with even China if it is in it’s interests to do so. On it’s own the UK can trade just as well even better with the world and the EU than it does now. On it’s own the UK can order it’s economy and society along policies that the UK citizen determine and not that imposed by other foreign nationals. On its own the UK can make treaties and agreements that are of mutual benefit to the UK and the partner or partners party to those contracts. The on it’s own list is long and full of advantages for the UK the disadvantages list I believe to be short and inconsequential. For other countries in the EU the same lists may not apply but it is up to them to decide on that however my belief is that for most it would be the same conclusion. However I would insert this proviso that if the EU was very differently structured then my lists may not apply but what that structure should be is for a comment on another day.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        The UK won’t be able to dictate terms if it negotiates by itself. Especially if the EU or USA restrict the deals their trade partners can make.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        @Antisthenes: Of course, what you state would be possible. It reminds me a little of 1955, when the Uk had very good reasons to stay apart from the to be formed “ever closer union” on the continent. Time will tell . . . whether the UK will enjoy its new “go it alone” status if and when it will happen. Last time it was the UK coming back on an earlier strategy.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Our influence on the EU is limited to the rapidly diminishing areas where we retain the veto. Before every major EU meeting there is a meeting of the Franco-German alliance at which policy is decided. You must also know that within every EU country there is a substantial part of the electorate that is unhappy with the EU.

      I like your choice of the EU tax on airlines flying into the EU. Did the UK really support this idea? When the USA, China etc will take counter-action.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        @backofanenvelope: I know that the media report about France and Germany, but there are quite a few more meetings beforehand. Germany and France have their allies by which they are influenced. Whatever the UK wants, I imagine that a United UK could play its cards more cleverly. (I’m not against the UK seeking a looser relationship within/with the EU if that is what it really wants).

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Peter you write : “democracies cannot move as fast as markets do. ”
      Is that why those you admire in the EU are in the process of dismantling democracy in the Eurozone?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        No, and who are they?
        Democracies generally cannot move fast. That is just stating a fact. Many democracies having to agree and compromise is an even slower process.

    • oldtimer
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      On the contrary, a `no` policy is a policy. It is just one that you disagree with. I agree with JR that the EU is on a wrong course with respect to the euro. If the UK stance is indeed perceived to be that of putting a spanner in the works, then the UK would be better off out of the EU and in a different relationship with the EU, as it is with other countries and regions of the world.

      As for influence in the world, that depends, among other things, on having a strong economy. The UK does not have that right now and it will take several years to achieve one. I am unconvinced that the EU model of over regulation and one size fits all is the best for the UK in this respect.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        @oldtimer: breaking instead of steering with a united vision can be called a policy if you really want it. It would be better though if, after a good public debate in the UK a united vision or strategy would emerge which would guide the UK vis-a-vis the EU. You’re correct that a stronger economy would give more influence. The large EU contribution already reflects the strength of the UK economy. Will it be stronger outside the EU? (sorry for responding late, but I hadn’t realised that a new-year eating party in France would last until 5 a.m. and upset my sleeping pattern)

    • Bob
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      @Peter van Leeuwen
      I find your repeated references to “friendship” a little sinister.
      Good fences make for good neighbours. Would you share a bank account with your “friends”?

      Why does does the UK want to carry more weight? Sounds like hangers-on in a school playground sucking up to the bully to avoid being a victim?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        @Bob: Maybe as a foreigner I use the word friendship wrongly. Of course it would still include serving one’s own national interest. I often read that the UK feels overruled, doesn’t carrying more weight gives more power?

        • Bob
          Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          We don’t want more power, we just want to left to run our own country without interference from the EU bureaucracy. Everything else is up for negotiation, trading arrangements, immigration, law and order etc. etc., but it should be a negotiated arrangement that is mutually acceptable.

          Under those conditions I believe that friendship will follow, in time, no need to rush.

    • Timaction
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I disagree that size matters. Why? The EU has shrinking influence in the world and its GDP reducing quickly against the BRICS and other nations that aren’t shackled by its bureaucracy, debts and lack of democratic control. The UK is better off out so we can save our £10 billion net costs and £9 billion annual administrative burden. We can regain our fishing industry and reduce our food costs by being out of the unreformed CAP. We can still trade with the EU and call those nations our friends with a £50 billion deficit last year and £262 billions over the last 10 years. We can regain control of our borders and ensure that the 1000,000 young people who are unemployed get the starter jobs that are currently going to Eastern Europeans who contribute little to the public services (Health, Housing and education) that is picked up by other taxpayers, not employers!

      • uanime5
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        Give that the UK’s economy is £140 trillion the £4 billion it costs to be part of the EU (after the rebates) is a minor cost in exchange for having access to a huge market.

        The trade deficit will exist whether we are in the EU or not as the UK is a net importer, so its trade deficit will always be negative.

        The problem with so many Eastern Europeans getting jobs is mainly because employers want to pay their employees as little as possible. If minimum wage was a living wage there would be far more young people able to compete with Eastern Europeans.

        Reply: Really! The UK annual GDP is around £1.5 trillion. World GDP is around 65 trillion. The UK gross contribution to the EU is several times £4 billion.

        • Bob
          Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          @Uanime5
          You must have had a good night!

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        @Timaction: You have a point that size (or share of world gdp) isn’t the only thing that matters. I’m still optimistic that over time the bureacracy within the EU is largely a consequence of the diversity in national regulations and may successfully be slimmed down over time. If many countries suffer from this “bureacracy” they will join to reduce it (it’s already happening a little).

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      The first paragraph could have been copied from the BBC. By the way you forgot the phrase “in the room”.
      The second paragraph is getting out of date as the EU slips as a total trading area down to handling a fraction of the world’s trade.
      Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, even Australia, have a much higher standard of living than we in England do, you know.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        @Mike Stallard: you appear to contribute the UK’s lower living standard (compared with Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, even Australia) to the UK’s entanglement with the EU, but you forget that Norway has huge energy reserves and Singapore is boud to profit from its proximity to the awaking Chinese economy. You may a point for the moment but are comparing apples to apples? Uk versus Germany might be a better comparison. (sorry for responding late)

    • forthurst
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      This is all wishful thinking and in many cases, demonstrably untrue.

      When Cameron suggested that the UK be involved with the 27 in the future of the EZ, he was told by Sarkozy to MYOB.

      The suggestion that the UK might lead on foreign policy presupposes that the UK leads the UK on foreign policy which is untrue: the UK invades where it is told to invade and destabilises where it is told to destabilise.

      As to Microsoft, it has suffered rather more from competitive advances in the marketplace for both hardware and software compared to the EU’s taking sides on behalf of Novell. In fact the subsequent major developments in computer technology have thankfully bypassed Brussels’ meddling.

      Europhiles hate the independence and success of Switzerland. Implying that their entire economy is predicated on secret numbered Bank a/cs is quite fatuous. Recently, Switzerland has had to take special measures to fend off hot money from the very not vey financially stable EZ. What Switzerland has which is the secret of their success are world class industries. Being a member of large grouping without having world class industries helps in no way; it hinders, as Club Med are finding with the EZ greatly damaging their tourism.

      The larger a grouping becomes the less democratic it becomes and the more important its politicians become with the greater capacity for creating great turmoil. With large groupings any external conflicts become by definition world wars. Is that what you want, or would you like to go the whole hog with one world government run by the banksters?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        @forthurst: Again =, it’s a matter of perspective. When Sarkozy once made an over the top criticism about Mrs Kroes (commisioner who told him not to protect Renault) she preceived this as a sign that she was making sense (borne out by later events, Sarkozy had to back-track).
        The UK is recognized for having a lot of experience in foreign policy and diplomacy (I’m not flattering), but its approach to the EU foreing policy has mainly be to protect the British embassies and diplomatic channels in a rather small-minded manner. That’s not “embracing”. Compare that to Sakozy taking the plane to Geogia (2008) and claiming “he was Europe”. It may have been grandstanding but at least he embraced the EU in that moment.
        I don’t agree that the EU was taking sides against microsoft, it just applied its trewaties to protect consumers. No reason either for me to hate Switzerland’s (or Norway’s) success. Why would anyone hate that? The only difference is that I would want to swap with Switzerland. (sorry but couldn’t respond earlier)

        • forthurst
          Posted January 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

          “Compare that to Sakozy taking the plane to Geogia (2008) and claiming “he was Europe”. It may have been grandstanding but at least he embraced the EU in that moment.”

          You, can’t be serious, surely?

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

            @forthurst: note even today (5/1) – Hague talking for UK in Birma, French foreign minister talking about EU sanctions against Iran. Subtle differences showing a world of difference in thinking and attitude.

    • Willy Wireworm
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      Peter van Leeuwen: states/nations are organic, rather frightening entities. There is a widespread liberal illusion that they can be assembled like an IKEA flatpack and will persist by virtue of their structural properties. The truth is that even democratic states are ultimately held together by force. It doesn’t have to be used but everyone knows it is real. Individuals accept this because they benefit from belonging to a coherent social unit (whose government, in a proper democracy, has their consent). The EU has not changed this deep fact. In its case force is empty, since it would involve brutality on the streets of southern cities either by local, potentially mutinous police/soldiery or by ‘invaders’ from the North. The same problem would eventually surface in a smaller union containing Germany and the Netherlands.

      So the EU will inevitably revert to a loose association of sovereign states with their own currencies. It could retain many of the advantages of size, since its members could agree to take unitary stances in respect of global issues.

      Let’s hope it happens with as little acrimony as possible.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        @Willy Wireworm: I probably agree with you, but I see the EU as organic as well (I don’t know how it will develop in the longer term). The EU is NOT held together by force though, and countries have article 50 (Lisbon Treaty) to help them leave. At the national level, there is also the force of democratic institutions which may act to prevent revolution or bloodshed. There haven’t been many civil wars in Europe over the last 60 years, at least not within the EU. Once the Balkan countries manage to join I wouldn’t expect new civil wars there either. Maybe that in the end the EU will develop (or revert) into a looser arrangement, time will tell. (sorry, couldn’t respond earlier)

        • Willy Wireworm
          Posted January 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          @Peter: I guess my point is that yes, the EU at present appears to be benign and liberal, benefits from the stability of its members and may even mollify conflicts inside individual member countries. But the logic of a successful single currency leads inevitably to a unitary polity, which to survive will have to acquire the normal apparatus of a state, including a willingness to exercise force, both internally and externally. Libya showed how difficult it will be for the EU to project force unanimously. The USSR collapsed when the will to exercise internal force failed. The UK was put together at a time when liberal scruples about force hardly existed. The EU is trying to pull off the same trick, but is itself the embodiment of liberal theory. The contradiction is too great.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            Willy Wireworm: Thank you for responding – I accept that there are design flaws in the single currency – but I’m not convinced that it lead to such a unitary polity that the EU would become a kind of USSR which was held together by force. The future doesn’t need to be like the past and we may simply have moved on. For a long time now I have regarded the EU as a hybrid between intergovernmental and supranational, in which the smaller countries more often prefer the supranational (the “community method”). Against French resistance the financial sector will be moved more to the supranational level. Subsidiarity may yet be used to reclaim certain areas to a national or local level, as history shows that centralization is often followed by decentralization.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    And a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you too!
    Dan Hannan’s blog is quite upsetting at the moment: the EU machinery, he says, is about to be adapted so that the ECJ can be used to support the EZ. Mr Cameron’s veto, in other words, is about to be overturned.
    We all know that the Civil Service needs reform very badly. Not only is it expensive, it is rapidly becoming inefficient and it puts forward policies which have little or nothing to do with the promises made by the Ministers. (Free Schools, Tax Collection, Europe, Military Procurement, IDS and Welfare Reform).
    Thos two things are enough to give the government a year’s serious work, quite apart from standing firm against Iran and all the lobbies representing the Vulnerable.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      On the one hand it’s quite simple, but on the other hand it’s very complex.

      It’s quite simple in the sense that each of the 27 EU member states is tightly bound to the others through the EU treaties, which are held to be legally superior to any other treaty or international agreement that it may make – with some exceptions, such as the NATO treaty, which are expressly recognised in the EU treaties.

      So a group of EU member states cannot escape the legal constraints of the existing EU treaties by making a separate agreement among themselves, no matter whether that group comprises just 2 EU member states or it comprises 26 EU member states.

      On the other hand as EU member states that group of states each has rights as well as obligations under the EU treaties, and they cannot be deprived of those legitimate EU treaty rights even if they choose to exercise them in the context of a separate agreement made among themselves.

      We’ve only seen a draft of the intergovernmental agreement:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8961812/EU-fiscal-agreement-draft-in-full.html

      but Article 2 acknowledges the legal superiority of the existing EU treaties and laws, effectively putting an end to the misleading propaganda that if the UK didn’t agree to EU treaty changes demanded by other EU states then they could and would go ahead and make those changes anyway.

      As far as recourse to the ECJ is concerned, that is in Article 8 of the agreement and it relies on an existing but rarely used right of EU member states under Article 273 TFEU, by which that they may agree between themselves that a dispute over the subject matter of the EU treaties may be submitted to the ECJ for a decision; but that is restricted to whether a member state has installed an adequate national law to implement the “Balanced Budget rule”, and under Article 126(10) the ECJ is still excluded from the excessive deficit procedure.

      There is an interesting commentary on the draft intergovernmental agreement here:

      http://euobserver.com/843/114698

      “Doubts increase over usefulness of new fiscal treaty”

      “Just a few days into the making of a new intergovernmental treaty on fiscal discipline, serious questions are being raised about whether the slight draft offered to date is either useful or necessary.”

      “Following the first day of negotiation on the proposed 14-article treaty, first circulated at the end of last week, the three MEPs at the table noted that virtually all the provisions could be done using the current EU treaties.”

  4. Mick Anderson
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Yes, we need leaders with purpose and vision. Competence would be nice, too.

    However, these leaders need to take notice of which direction that the electorate wishes to be led. Messrs Cameron and Clegg should listen to us when we say that we want a referendum on the EU, or lower taxes in a proper growth strategy, and allow us to give them that guide.

    Focus groups, lobbyists and faux polls are no substitute for actually discussing things with the general public. We don’t need or want lectures about how wonderful the politicians are, as we look at the evidence that shows us how poorly they are really performing.

  5. David B
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Happy new year John

    Government’s also need to learn to do less. Politicians and civil servants don’t know best.

    Politicians (especially our opposition) need to stop talking about the economy as being like a train line where direction can be changed like changing points in a signal box. Our economy is like a big ball of wool. Pull on one string and the law of unintended consequences means we don’t know what will really happen. We need politicians to be honest about policy and a realism that goverment act at a macro level and can only influence the micro level (were we work and live) indirecctly

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      They can influence on the micro level very effectively – just by reducing regulation, government interference/control, and taxation and taking the brakes off – rather than taxing, regulating and periodic kicking in the teeth.

      • David B
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Tax is a macro economic action. Anyone who say the 10p tax mess can see how a simple political decision can go horribly wrong at a micro level.

        To cut tax properly government needs to look at itself. John has made many suggestions as to things government do that are not necessary. A review of activities should help cull unnecessary regulations as well. But tax must be cut in association with reduced spending otherwise the we replace borrowing for tax which also distorts the economy.

        The point is government is on the most part a drag on economic activity not a stimulus. There are a number of activities government must do (eg defence) but all activities must be carried out efficiently and in a way that minimises drag on the economy, meaning minimising tax and regulations

  6. Boudicca
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    We certainly do need better Leadership.

    We certainly don’t need, or want, the unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic leadership of the EU: but strangely enough our political class does. It rather makes you wonder why they bothered to climb the greasy pole to gain power when all they seem to want to do with it is give it away to others!

    In this country we need Leadership that respects the Will of the People. There is no point having focus groups to tell you what the country thinks about relatively minor issues, when the peoples opinion on the biggest issues of all are ignored: the EU, immigration, the warped ‘Human Rights’ agenda etc.

    None of the 3 main parties have Leaders. Cameron is a PR spiv – a poor copy of Blair; Clegg is simply the EU’s man in Government and Miliband comes across as a juvenile geek.

    The only British Party Leader principles, charisma and the necessary experience of life and business outside of politics, is Nigel Farage. He and UKIP are being proven right on a daily basis.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      I think some of the Europhile MPs act like enemies within. They got into politics to change our country and culture to be similar to where they came from. The same as first line immigrant politicians. it strikes me they ought to go back to where they from and leave us alone.

  7. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    To have leadership you need someone with a coherent vision for the journey the UK is to take within which the decisions they take make sense.

    Margaret Thatcher had such a vision because she clearly understood the reasons we were on the verge of bankruptcy – namely that far too much UK employment was subsidised and that this could not be resolved without fundamental reforms to the unions and a parallel culture shift to a more entrepreneurial society. It was fundamental that the had tremendous integrity and intelligence and could command personal respect.

    What’s the big vision now?
    A well manage country?
    For that we need a party which appoints MPs with a substantial track record of commanding respect in a wide variety of areas of society and substantial life experience (and a leader who wants respected and intelligent MPs rather than yes men).
    Time the SNP stood in England?

    A revolutionary vision for society?
    Ultimately Thatcher believed people would be happier if they were more free to be entrepreneurs rather than stuck in subsidised employment.
    A similar vision now would involve, perhaps, a vision of Britain where every person took responsibility for evaluating the contribution their work made to the economy and society and was encouraged to move on from that work that society would be better off without them doing. That’s essentially what Thatcher was doing but she imposed it. The difference would be that it should be roots up and personal.

    I agree with your post though John. It’s particularly obvious in education where Gove’s policies were created in a vacuum of spin – developing the headline which sells first and then assuming sensible policy will emerge behind that headline despite the views of all with experience in planning education and in the study of the economics of education and the interaction between education and the state.

    In the meantime is there anyway someone could persuade David Cameron just not to talk about education. I’m sure some people think that Eton would make a great job of running schools where most students have no positive vision of the future or coherent family life, a substantial proportions turn up in a state where they are not fit to study and a significant number are dealing with very serious issues or are primary carers at home. But lots of people are just watching him and cringing. Good leaders need time to develop and they need to be well advised on their weak points.

    By the way I also think we should look again as a country at death and perhaps sex as well. It would be good to do this over the life of one or even two parliaments – not with a strong view as to the outcome but with a focus on the development of intelligent policy.

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      But is it really the job of Govt to confront issues of death and sex ?

      I think not .

      If they sound silly and annoying when they talk about education they will sound ridiculous on death and sex .

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        I had in mind more them analysing and consulting on the legislation which surrounds death and perhaps sex as well to see if it can better allow intelligent freedom which does not inhibit the freedoms of others.

        I wasn’t think of having a load of MPs chanting death, sex, bring it on……

        Through history people have chosen to end their lives during times of terminally deteriorating heath to avoid extreme pain and suffering. Many people find it unsatisfactory that they are forced to endure long, lingering and very unpleasant deaths.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Hapy New Year John.

    You raise some interesting points this morning about followers, or it could be lemmings.

    We seem to be stuck in a circle at the moment, where lots of talk goes on, but little or no action akes place to change things.

    For all of our castigation of politicians, they are in the most part very intelligent people, which makes the conundrum even worse, why is it they seem to have a mental block on commonsense and anything to do with money management.

    Does the wish to be re-elected, for term after term, blind their brain to giving out bad news and adopting cost effective solutions to problems.

    Has the history/experience of the Poll Tax “U Turn” (which I thought a bad mistake, as it was a much fairer tax system than the present Council tax based on House values) after some civil unrest frightened them from taking action in case it all goes wrong, or protsets are made.

    Do they really think that they can continually borrow, borrow, borrow, and hope that growth from somewhere, will solve it all.

    Do they really think that they can continue to raise more and more tax on those who are working, and those companies who are trading, without those people thinking, what is the point.

    Do they really think that we can go on as before, continuing to pay perfectly able bodied people to sit and do nothing, simply because they choose to do so.

    Yes we need leadership, yes we need to find a new direction, yes we need to change the past way of thinking and doing things.

    Do we have such people, I am sure they are about, but perhaps they simply do not have enough media support.

    Yes, the so called free press and the BBC have a lot to answer for, as well as present and past politicians.

    I hope for change but will not hold my breath.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
    — T.S. Eliot

  10. Robert Christopher
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    A good summary of the situation, and it explains why leaders have not been welcome:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7ybR_OesyA

    Who thinks that this speech should be more widely known? I do.

    • J Smith
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      I agree this speech, and others by JR, should be better known.

      It’s always nice to see JR speaking to his usual high standard, using proper flowing sentences and without hesitations, going round in circles, etc., yet without the need for a note, let alone a written speech.

      Whether or not you agree with the point he made here (and I think it tends to be exaggerated), I do believe our parliament would be more successful if more MPs (of all parties) were up to his standard in debate.

      Unfortunately, I fear at present we are going in the reverse direction.

  11. NickW
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The BBC (and the other media which follows the BBC example), is standing squarely in the way of all the reforms needed to solve our problems.

    It is time for politicians to call a spade a spade and tackle the BBC bias which is slowly destroying our country.

    A state owned broadcaster whose actions are inimical to the State has been tolerated for far too long.

  12. Atlas
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Given the way politics happens in the UK, where ministers are drawn from a very limited gene-pool, one wonders whether a ‘technocratic’ government is actually a better way of doing things? Of course the next question is: “who chooses the technocrats?” So would we just replace one faulty system with another equally faulty one?

    The EU fancies itself as being Plato’s Republic on Earth, where Plato’s Guardians are the EU technocrats. I must say that I think Plato got this one wrong – big time.

  13. English Pensioner
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    No major countries seem to have any leaders that the public can instinctively trust, and the article in today’s Daily Mail comparing the situation in the world now with that in 1932 is quite scary.
    Both America and Europe had weak leaders who were unable or unwilling to get a grip on the situation. The political situation then was very similar in many respects to that now. Cameron has much in common with Baldwin and dabbles on the edge of the real crisis whilst preferring to play, like Blair, the international statesman. Milliband isn’t even a patch on the then pacifist Labour leader Arthur Henderson. In America, Obama seems as impotent as Hoover was in the thirties.
    Where are the real leaders who might take charge of this country or of America? Where is our Churchill or America’s Roosevelt?
    With total lack of real leadership and no prospective leaders capable of commanding public respect, the future, to me at least, if very frightening

  14. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    The weakness of an opinion poll is that it is just that, an opinion. Everyone can can have an opinion on everything, and why not. Sometimes opinions count for an awful lot, such as when casting a ballot at a general election. We call it democracy, and mostly think it a good thing.

    But how do we arrive at our opinions, and what weight should they have in directing the future? I expect we would all be far more impressed by the opinion of someone else if we knew them to be an expert on a particular issue. Or looked at the other way round, if we thought we knew quite a bit about an issue then we would feel rather miffed if our opinion was dismissed in derogatory terms, such as by being labelled a “NIMBY”.

    For most of us we can not as a result of our own studies possible know lots about everything, so our opinions are formed by listening to others.

    The big challenge for the interested non-expert is when confronted by equally plausible experts offered conflicting opinions. One possibility is rather than listen to the experts is to listen to the critics, sometimes known as correspondents and editors, but often they too have conflicting opinions.

    Another possibility is opt out, and leave the decisions to others, sometimes known as politicians. But they do not agree either, so who to choose. It may, in the end, come down to placing your trust in whoever it is most takes your fancy. And that is democracy too!

  15. Martin
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with your USA analysis. Both lots want to spend but on different things. Both lots want tax cuts but again different things. The USA was founded on a disagreement with Britain about a balanced budget (Boston Tea Party and all that) so nothing much has changed!

    As for closer to home 2011 has shown that none of us have got the trick of how to improve private sector employment and shrink the public sector.

    You continue to advocate devaluation – old Harold Wilson tried this in 1966. History hasn’t given him much of a right up. Was this because its difficult to get the public sector sensibly shrunk by trimming wage costs rather than crude employee numbers?

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Unless a call for leadership is explictly directed towards the UK government then by default it must be a call for the German government to establish the long-desired German hegemony in Europe.

    The government of Germany, confident in the economic and financial strength of its own territory and reinforced by the compulsory support of its vassal states, has now achieved an overwhelmingly predominant position within the eurozone.

    The weight of influence within the eurozone now being split something like this:

    Germany 70%
    France 20%
    The rest 10%

    The (now) five supplicant eurozone states will obediently follow Germany, not France, which is itself close to being on its uppers, and taken altogether the rest – including the “we can’t beat them so we’ll join them ” Benelux countries, plus Finland and odds and ends such as Slovenia and Estonia – count for next to nothing as independent voices within the eurozone.

    Is this what we want?

    A German dominated eurozone held together at huge economic cost, and with the systematic destruction of national democracy, so that it can subsequently continue its expansion across the face of the continent and eventually swallow us up as well?

    If not, it is the UK government which should be providing the leadership to form a coailtion to stop that happening.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Well said and logically written. That is exactly what Germany wants and what most other countries fought about in the WW2 to prevent.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      What’s wrong with German dominance? They’re the only country in the EU without a massive debt, high unemployment, and a weakly growing economy. There’s no better role model for EU countries.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      If the UK left the EU and promoted something “EFTA-like”, it would be interesting to see how many EU countries would follow that lead.

  17. Gary
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  18. Bernard Otway
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    To Peter Van Leeuwen
    So according to you to be large is the only way.
    Answer therefore this question, South Africa [Suid Afrika] has by far the majority of the world’s reserves of Platinum and Chrome,enough to cripple manufacturing nations were they to be at risk,what Bloc does it belong to [do not say the SA customs union,as SA is the Dog to the rest as Tail],is it at risk or actually in an incredibly powerful position,is it at risk of INVASION to secure these assets not to forget Gold,if so by whom ,China,Germany,the USA
    ????,maybe China will add it to it,s list of economic COLONIES in Africa.Secondly what about say Singapore,Australia,New Zealand. Who do they join with, actually THEY DO NOT.

  19. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Leadership wanted! But what is it that we want in a leader?

    First of all there needs to be vision. There has to be somewhere to go.

    Second there needs to be a plan. Vision is no good without a means of getting from here to there.

    Third there needs to be communication. Leaders are not a lot of use if they keep their ideas to themselves.

    And fourth, there needs to be charisma. The vision and the plan will not find an audience if they are communicated by a bore.

    So if the vision is appealing, the plan credible and the communication effective, when the leader boldly steps forth to go boldly where no man has boldly gone boldly before boldly (you get the idea), then like as not public opinion will be that “we want to come too”.

    And if ever there was an issue in desperate need of vision, plan, communication and charism it is the UK’s relationship with the EU.

    Since Heath, all the UK’s raft has had is a helmsman whose efforts, at best, avoid the worst of the choppy waters but can do nothing to alter the flow in which we are relentlessly being carried along. So I want a leader who will take me off the raft and onto a power boat heading somewhere far more appealing. Beam me up Scotty!

  20. Martyn
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Leadership? Those who would lead must have the ability to inspire trust in those whom they seek to lead. Usually this stems from their personal qualities such as presence, honesty, superior knowledge, experience, integrity, trustworthiness, competence, incisiveness and a concern for others – even if that concern has at times to be constrained by the need for the leader to sacrifice, if necessary, a minority for the good of the whole.

    For the ordinary people of Europe (who are far more perceptive than some politicians think) there is little to suggest that EU and EC leaders have the leadership qualities we instinctively expect of them; we are not inspired to trust them, either individually or collectively and can see that many of them are in place, not because of the will of the people, but by political maneuvering where leadership qualities are not necessary for success in climbing the greasy pole of politics.

    To stay in power these people must always work to remove the voter from having any real influence, but that cannot be sustained for ever and at some point they will be brought down, perhaps as seems likely at the moment by external forces over which they have no control.

    Only then might there be the chance for some real leaders to appear to sort out the ensuing chaos, but I have no idea where they might come from, for there are none on the horizon that I can see at the moment.

  21. Sue Doughty
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Merkel, Sarkozy et al live in places where it is dangerous to have ideas and as they cast around to find some you had better give them the list to choose from. Dismantling the euro need not be any more catastrophic than dismantling their old currencies was. It is like getting yourself down from a tree – repeat what you did to get there only in reverse. They think there will be civil unrest and martial law but tat didn’t happen when the old currencies went. The ECB is fighting for its own survival, though. Can we pull our government money out if needed?

  22. Neil Craig
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    The problem with describing it as leadership is that most of what we need is not for those in charge to do things but for them not to do things. We needc them not to raise taxes; not to spend money we don’t have; not to regulate the shale gas indistry out of existence; & a lot of other industries too; and most of all not to interfere with the free market in energy, preventing the development of nuclear and pouring 1-s of billions into the most expensive, unreliable, and politically approved method.

    The only place I would like leadership would be in promoting X-Prises for technology, particul;arly space, development but there does not appear to be anybody in the higher reaches of any major party even capable of thinking of such things. No doubt 20 years from now, when space industry has brought on a greater boom than any in human history, we wil be told by retired MPs, journalists & Sir Roger Peston that they personally always liked it but it was everybody else’s fault that Abu Dhabi has more invested in space than Britain (perhaps than the entire EU).

    • David Price
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Completely agree about X prizes. James Dyson should be applauded for establishing his design award but we need something that benefits the UK, operates on a larger scale and encourages anyone who has an idea to have a go, not just design students or professionals who have enormous amounts of funding and infrastructure available already.

      Spending £1m on an inspirational project would bring far greater returns to the principals, the economy and the general public than wasting it on civil service lunches or 2% increases in public sector executive salaries. Projects like RepRap (www.reprap.org) where a successor technology would likely be a key part of any eventual manned lunar activity but would have an immediate benefit in the shorter term. Or on a larger scale, if you doubled the investment into Beagle 2 and improved it’s success rate you could run a sustained programme with 15-20 such projects instead of the £32b+ estimated for the HS2 the bulk of which would likely go to Germany anyway.

      I’d push for two types – aspirational and economic. Aspriational projects would include the longer term areas such as space and oceanic or strategic subjects that would likely require 10-20 years to mature. Economic projects would be those that improve the economy in the short term through step changes. For example, establish a capability and leadership in recycling valuable and key materials – why pay China for literally the same materials they have recycled into different goods. Instead we should pay them the first time they mine and refine then we re-use the recycled materials ourselves. Spending humungous amounts on alternative energy is a complete waste if it simply involves buying finished systems from companies in Germany and China, why pay for them to perfect their products at the expensive part of the product cycle which they then make all the profit on?

      Any key IPR must be retained in the UK and defended with no foreign access or ownership and UK companies must be the ones to exploit the advances.

      A good start would be to reinvigorate interest in making stuff rather than just consuming it – where is the BBC micro equivalent (ie cost, quality and educational support) of desktop manufacturing? Try finding an adult course on design & technology in the South East for example.

      But above all, despite there needing to be initial seed sponsorship via public funds any programme should not be managed in any way by government or quango, which is where it all seems likely to come unstuck

  23. peter
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Happy new year JR

    This coming year is going to be an interesting one, I just hope there are no more massive economic train crashes at least until I have been able to clear all my mortgage/personal debts – but reading one or two comments to previous articles on this blog and other news sites the omens ar no’t good – I hope I’m wrong.

    As you rightly say with the US borrowing $1 extra out of every $5 is economic madness and may well come back to bite them then the rest of us, the EZ countries and banks running out of callateral to borrow against is equally if not more frightening, a bit like were I to finance my business against a mobile home worth nothing – none of this gives me a warm feeling of whats ahead of us in economic terms and its all going to come from our North American and European friends, I hope I’m wrong.

    I agree with David Bs comment above about unintended consquences of policy that politicians make, we saw it all to often with Neu Labour – so called Oxbridge (presumed) educated people (many of them lawyers) making huge policy changes with the unintended outcomes being felt for years to come – don’t they include common sense in their education? Indeed I recall Digby Jones’ comments when he went to work briefly for the Business Dept….

    Anyway Happy New Year!

  24. Tony Hills
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    2012 is crying out for leadership… transparency, plus honesty!

    People have to take more responsability for their communities, the government must be more frank…yes be positive but be honest to.

    We have so many major challengies coming towards us we have to put the brakes on harder. Time is not on our side!

  25. Phil Richmond
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    1) Leave the EU (control immigration, bin all worthless regualtions, fishing & agriculture back in UK control, TRADE ONLY agreement).
    2) Income tax cuts across the board – threshold 10K top rate 35%
    3) Abolish employers NI ( all paid for by money saved from EU membership)
    4) Join NAFTA
    5) Set up trade agreements with Anglosphere.
    6) Hiring freeze on Public Sector (non-frontline)
    7) Business friendly energy policy.

    John if you know any leaders in the Tory party who could implement the above I suggest you put in motion replacing the current incumbent who has forced me to leave the party in disgust.

    Happy New Year.
    Phil.

  26. Reaguns
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Good points. This is the 3rd time in three days I’ve seen this topic come up.

    I was reading Tony Benn’s book where he talks about politicians being either like signposts or weathercocks. The weathercocks point in the direction the wind blows, ie the direction of the pressure they feel from public opinion, the party, vested interests, or the media. The signposts point in the same direction no matter what. Benn spoke of his respect for Mrs Thatcher in that she believed in what she did and stuck to it, you knew where you stood with her. As you do with Tony Benn.

    And Peter Oborne’s latest article for the Telegraph is talking about how it could be time for conviction politicians like Thatcher and Benn again, rather than the focus-grouped Blairs and Camerons.

    I think John is a conviction politician, but also accepts the overwhelming will of the electorate when it goes against his convictions (I suspect) in terms of for example the NHS.

  27. Bill
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I want to put a word in for Cameron. I think we are fortunate to have him. Any politician who takes unpopular action is going to run into a wall of misinformed criticism, and this is because journalists by and large reflect old ideological positions or complete cynicism. Cameron has shown competence, pragmatism and courage and that is probably the most you can ask for at a time like this.

    Bear in mind that the best politicians can make a fortune in business or the city. Why should talented people bother to put up with daily personal abuse in the political arena?

  28. Barbara Stevens
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    It appears politicans say one thing and tell us, the public something different. Clegg talks differently from Cameron, who do we believe? I prefer to believe Cameron, he is after all the PM. What roll is Clegg taking? He talks silly, as taken the party down hill over the last 12months. Who cares any way, I certainly don’t. His party as never appealed to me and certainly not with him leading it. This coalition is awful and most of us don’t like it one bit. The coming New Year will be full of challenges, and the eurozone will be at the forefront, I just hope Cameron sees the chance to withdraw and takes it, fully. Will he or won’t he? Lets hope our New Year wishes come true. We are better with our backs against the wall, we fight back together, I’m ready for the fight, are you? Freedom is more important than anything, as our ancestors knew quite well, they fought for it, now it’s our turn, again.

  29. Dan Course
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Lovely post John, I’m enjoying the read in my inbox.

    In your opinion/eyes, who would you say is appearing like a political leader? Either in the UK, US or elsewhere?

    Thanks,

    DanC

    Reply: I am saying we need stronger leadership. If Mr Cameron moves on from the base of saying “No” to require a new and looser relationship with the EU, then that would be leadership

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      “who would you say is appearing like a political leader? ”

      – Merkel (though I don’t share her ideals)
      – the leadership in China and Turkey
      – going back about 5 years Dr Mahateer in Malaysia
      – Canada to a lesser extent over the last 15 years in daring to recognise and confront their problems .

      That’s about it .

  30. john w
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    John, i would like to say happy new year to you and the bloggers.

    Reply. Thanks. Happy 2012 to you too.

  31. Iain Gill
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    carnt we have the health system from belgium, italy, germany, or in fact anywhere else in europe? the joke of a health system here is no healthcare for most of us when we need it most.

  32. jon hughes
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I have read this fairly carefully and could not see anyone making the following point.

    An economic union has to be a partnership of people prepared to be seen as eco0nimic equals – viz, Necastle upon Tyne, Greater London.

    The Elephant in the room is Germany who is reluctant to give up the advantages that the pastiched exchange rate, the Euro, gives it means it can make and sell Mercedes Benzes at well below properly realistic prices.

    Remember the US bitching about China’s exchange rate recently.

    No wonder Angela is hard to deal with.

  33. davidb
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Few of those who would lead us appear to put the interests of their countries above everything else. ~Mr Salmond I think does in Scotland. He could have been Labour leader in Scotland forever on the shoo in vote, but campaigned for years for what he believed in. I suspect Mr Redwood, that you too, like Mrs T. before, care for your country more than for personal advancement. And that seems to me to be the nub.

    I see the regurgitated former heads of governments and parties as EU Commissioners. Messers Kinnock and Mandelson being typical examples. How, for instance, does the prospect of becoming rich influence one’s attitudes to the EU I ask myself.

  34. uanime5
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I feel that the Government will need a new plan to reduce the deficit as growth is likely to be poor in 2012, especially if the US and EU crisis aren’t promptly resolved. Hoping for high levels of growth is hoping in vain.

  35. electro-kevin
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    A blogger called Budgie has this to say:

    I have one serious prediction for 2012. I have written it before and elsewhere.

    The euro will not collapse.

    The EU has just replaced two democratically elected presidents by fiat. Yes, read that again. The EU has flexed its muscles and imposed two EU dictators. And there has been hardly a squeak of protest.

    I suspect the EU hardly dared believe it would get away with it. When it recovers from its surprise, the EU now has carte blanche to do anything to ensure the survival of the euro.

    So strong is the EU (and its euro) that it will brush the snide, weak, dim, delusional, inept Cameron aside with ease. There is much more danger that the UK will be sucked into the eurozone than that the euro will collapse.

    I sincerely hope I am wrong.

    Happy New Year

  36. Bernard Otway
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Did not think I would get an answer from Peter Van Leeuwen,because there is not one from his side,I will make one cast iron prediction in 2030 Australia will be in the G7 and by then only maybe Germany will also be from Europe,GB will be out of the top ten nations replaced by our CHILD, our population will be 75 million and we will be BEYOND saving.
    Australia meanwhile will have at least 30 million and guess what that means given that they are now No 10 in GDP per head to our 21 with a current population of 22 million,also 30 million in an area 30 times our size,the UK fits 12 times in the state of Queensland alone.
    Watch pick TV on Australian border control to see their seriousness compared to ours,AND Take Serious note that they have NO ECHR to HAMPER them which allows IMMEDIATE DEPORTATION TO ANYWHERE mostly within 2 days at most.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      @Bernard Otway: Sorry not to respond earlier (I was in France for some days) Your examples may all be fine economies, but if you talk about providing leadership or moving global affairs, I would think that China, India, USA etc. have a better chance. Of course this all may change over the course of the next 20 years. It’s not impossible but hardly probable that the UK would become a leader in that timeframe even of it were to go it alone and leave the EU.
      Why would Churchil have strived for an ECHR in Australia? Australia and the European continent are completely different environments with different histories.

  37. REPay
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    The task facing politicians is enormous. The electorates in the west are too addicted to easy living on government handouts and in the UK to cheap debt which fuelled the Balls/Brown boom and bust…many still talk about the boom years when the economy was doing well. In fact, since the millenium the real growth in the UK economy was well known to be zero when government and debt were stripped out. (I assume the able people at the Treasury were told to shut up on these matters and too many of our financial journalists are innumerate.) Too many people have public sector jobs or directly benefit from them. There needs to be a massive campaign of education about how much we owe collectively, who pays now, and the nature of the unfunded liabilities. That requires leadership to accept the flak for the incoming complaints from a media – whose largest player never gives a politician hard time for spending money but only for savings or the Cuts. (I think the BBC has waged a brilliant campaign against the Coalition – the latest installment being the cuts that never happened to Liverpool and linking back to the genral Labour narrative accepted by most people who weren’t there that the 80’s were a time of destruction rather than renemwal.) A strong leadership would provide a narrative and vision beyond a return to business as normal (i.e. lots of government expenditure/borrowing/taxing which is not a sustainable vision.) You blog is now my wish for 2012!

  38. theyenguy
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Yes indeed new leaders are needed. God has appointed these in eternity past.

    Germany will play the preeminent role in providing order out of the soon coming banking, credit, and governmental collapse, as Angela Merkel has heard and heeded the 1974 Clarion Call of the Club of Rome for regional global governance, as she and Nicolas Sarkozy called for a true European economic government in August 2011, as investors fled the stocks markets and currency traders sole world currencies and emerging market currencies on fears that a debt union had formed in the EU. Nelson D Schwartz of the NYT reports that Angela Merkel said in New Year’s speech that “Germany has mastered the crisis as no other”. Her blunt message was echoed in Italy, France and Greece, the epicenter of the debt crisis, where Prime Minister Lucas Papademos asked for resolve in seeing reforms through, “so that the sacrifices we have made up to now won’t be in vain.” Charles Wyplosz, a professor of economics at the Graduate Institute of Geneva said, “Every government in Europe with the exception of Germany is bending over backwards to prove to the market that they won’t hesitate to do what it takes.”

    Germany is the lead partner in the EU ECB Troika, which has been handed the baton of sovereign authority formerly held nation states, as God is pushing political and economic power of the UK and the US, the two iron legs of global hegemony which have ruled the world since the late 1700s, into the hands of ten kings, who will eventually come to rule, each in his own regional power base, Revelation 17:12. With this distribution of power to regions, we see the rising of the Ten Toed Kingdom of regional global governance as foretold in Daniel 2:31-33, which will be mired in the clay of democracy and the iron of diktat. This unstable mixture of governance will eventually crumble and a one world government, Daniel 7:7, will emerge, which will provide a one world currency and global seigniorage, Revelation 13:17-18.

    At the appointed time, fate, not any human action, will open the curtains, and onto the Europe’s stage will step the most credible leader, Europe’s New Charlemagne, Revelation 13:5-10, together with his banking partner, Revelation 13:11-18. They will not be elected; rather destiny will bring them forth in a Eurozone coup d etat, to provide order out of chaos, Revelation 6:1-2. These sovereigns will develop the Eurzone into a type of authoritarian revived Roman Empire. The word, will and way of these two will provide a new seigniorage, and the people will be amazed and follow after it, placing their confidence and trust in it, giving it their full allegiance, Revelation 13:3-4.

    David R Reagan writes that sovereignty will be sacrificed as a Federal Europe is formed. “German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer repeated his call for a European government in July, 2000, and said the European single currency, the Euro, was “the first step to a federation.” He added that he wanted a “powerful president.”1 Fischer said his aim was “nothing less than a European parliament and a European government, which really do exercise legal and executive power,” to operate under his powerful president. More sinisterly, he welcomed the progress made in removing the “sovereign rights” of nations which he defined as control of currency and control of internal and external security. In summary, Fischer said, “Political union is the challenge for this generation.”2 … (1 and 2 Ibid, “German Foreign Minister floats idea of elected EU president,” The Financial Times, July 7, 2000. This article was a report on a speech by Joschka Fischer to the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.)

  39. David Langley
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    The European Project is probably doomed, but the damage it has caused to members will take a long time to repair. Why can’t people see that the whole purpose of the projects is to create a superstate/federation run by a technocratic elite. The supranational model whereby individual countries have given away/lost their own democracy. The problem is we have already signed our sovereignty away and the plethora of treaties have slowly eaten away our unique abilities to forge new alliances and competitive models. The thousands of directives and rules we live by strangle us with their volume and give us all a sense of futility and despair. Our parliament is a pathetic bunch of stooges with some exceptions but where is the plan to break the Euro stranglehold? Are we waiting for it to implode and wreck us all, lets adopt sensible go it alone plans. There is no Euro Army to stop us and we can do what the French have always done start looking after number one. After all we would be a better role model and support for the emerging countries than the posturing adherents to Monnet, Spinelli et al. Our economy is capable with a renewal of our National spirit to recover and thrive.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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