Thursday, 19 April 2007

Thursday's Thoughts..

It's probably a continuation of midweek incoherence but I thought I'd have a look at what's been catching my eye around the blogsphere:

Economy: Tory bloggers such as Benedict White have been warning of economic disaster for ages and of course it's in their interests to weaken what is probably Labour's strongest asset. The doomsayers seem to take a perverse pleasure in every interest rate rise (ignoring the fact that savers welcome improved rates) or every scintilla of bad news.

The facts are that while the next 3-6 months will be difficult for the economy, there is plenty of cause for optimism. The previous rate rises are already cooling consumer demand and while the housing market in London (fuelled by supply) remains buoyant, there are signs of the steam running out of this one too.

The Conservatives are hoping that a bad economy will deliver them votes in 2009 or 2010. I think that on the contrary, the economy will be in a much stronger position with falling inflation, easing interest rates and some more tax cuts for the key middle-income suburban voters that Brown identified this year and will continue to assiduously court in the next two years.

London Mayoralty: Yesterday's story of the candidature (or non-candidature) of Greg Dyke has predictably caused hysteria in the Tory blogsphere and the fallout has continued today As I explained on politicalbetting yesterday, this is a non-story. Ken Livingstone cannot be beaten by a "suburban" Tory or Lib Dem candidate. He will lose only to a London-wide Independent candidate who can build a significant coalition against him. All those who stand simply on an anti-congestion charge platform are doomed to lose. It may be that we will have to wait until Livingstone steps down before party politics resumes in the London Mayoralty.

French Presidential Election: I can't get excited about this. Neither Nicholas Sarkozy nor Segolene Royal are particularly impressive candidates and I suspect Tony Blair will stand like a colossus beside either or indeed the equally hapless Angela Merkel. The thought of Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel as the three centre-right leaders of Britain, France and Germany worries me intensely. I suspect, however, that Gordon Brown will have few problems with either Sarkozy or Merkel and that the election of the next American President is of far more significance than whoever is Le President de la Republique Francaise.

Local Elections: Two weeks today, the biggest round of elections since 2005 will take place with Scottish and Welsh parliamentary and assembly elections coinciding with a swathe of English local council elections though of course London is not involved.

It's the first set of local elections in some twenty years that I will be sitting out. I wish all Liberal Democrat candidates well and I hope for a strong vote for the Party. Clearly, the Conservatives are set for gains though feverish downplaying of expectations makes me think it's not looking quite as good as some polls have indicated.

Turnout will doubtless be modest and the one thing that is clear is that while Conservative voters are far more motivated to come out and vote than Labour supporters (or Lib Dems), the wholesale sea change of opinion such as happened in 1993-95 hasn't yet occurred. In 1995, the Conservatives lost 2,000 seats in a single night. The next General Election may be three years away and a poor Labour performance this year doesn't make a Conservative Government inevitable.

Iraq: More senseless carnage yesterday and again today. It's now clear that we have only two options: 1) withdraw and leave the Iraqis and Iranians to sort it out for themselves or 2) stay, accept the casualties and recognise our futility. It may be that once Blair and Bush are out of office, saner heads will prevail and we can begin the process of re-building a coherent Anglo-American foreign policy.

Weather: It's hard to remember the last time it rained and it's another glorious day here in London. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about this summer. We can all enjoy today's temperatures and sunshine but in July and August, we could be looking at 35c+ (95+ in old money). At such temperatures, it's not just tempers that get frayed.

The Tube becomes a mobile sauna with internal carriage temperatures of 45c (equivalent to Kuwait, Phoenix or pre-monsoon Pakistan), rail lines and roads buckle and, combined with ambient pollution, a heatwave can cause real problems for the very young and the very old as witnessed in Paris in 2003.

It's quite possible that a 10-day heatwave in London could kill tens of thousands of people but are we prepared ? Do we even care ? "Phew, what a scorcher" may be a good headline but excessive summer heat will be fatal for many people. I would be fascinated to see what proposals Tories have for dealing with the increasing likelihood of summers dominated by extreme heat.


Icarus said...

We are all doomed, doomed....

Don't worry just appoint a minister with special responsibilities for hot weather and we will soon be on the way to the next ice age - when we really will be doomed...

Innocent Abroad said...

As you know very well from Another Blog we always turn up in pairs...

If the heatwave has the effects you predict, you can be sure that Benedict White will have the proof that it's all Gordon Brown's fault.