AS THE vote on Scotland’s independence edges closer, the battle over sterling gets ever more desperate and the ‘cream’ of Westminster’s finance whizzes recently united to see off the Pictish assault on the Treasury. The Lib Dems’ Danny Alexander insisted he “couldn’t recommend a currency union”, on behalf of a party which long campaigned pre-2008 for the UK’s adoption of the Euro, whilst Ed Balls, one of the chief architects of the crippling post-crash banking bailout, referred to Holyrood’s intended retention of the pound as placing “an unacceptable burden on the UK taxpayer”. Meanwhile George Osborne questioned the legitimacy of whether Scotland “could insist that taxpayers in a nation it had just voted to leave had to continue to back the currency of this new, foreign country?” Being a man of good Irish stock, Gideon is surely aware of the precedent established back in 1922, or did they not teach that on his History course at Oxford?
“NEVER interrupt your enemy when is making a mistake.” Having seen Osborne and co. make a better case for the “yes” campaign than the SNP has managed in months, Alex Salmond should’ve heeded Napoleon and encouraged them to carry on talking rather than attempting a counter. If Salmond’s any real back-up plan beyond ‘muddling through’ then he’s yet to show it, but here’s one he can have for free: if the pound does get pulled then why not look to Armenia for a fiscal tie-up? Locals in Yerevan are paid in ‘drams’ – a monetary union made in heaven, right there.
WHAT a difference a week makes. “Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent,” said David Cameron on February 11 in an attempt to temper public discontent that was rising as high as the flood waters. But by February 18, when the Prime Minister responded to criticism of his welfare reforms by Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, his government was working to a budget once more. “For me the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up: building a country where people aren’t trapped in a cycle of dependency but are able to get on, stand on their own two feet and build a better life for themselves and their family.” Quite where the Environment Agency’s river dredging budget sits in this “cycle of dependency” isn’t clear but one day, someone in government might be introduced to the concepts of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’.
TALK of morality brings us on to Tony Blair – he of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, no less – and his surprise appearance in the phone-hacking trial. If his ex-friend Rupert Murdoch himself had planned it, he couldn’t have done much better. Much outrage has followed this revelation of Blair’s closeness to News International as well as the implication of his alleged comments about a “Hutton style report”, but surely the real issues are i) what did he charge for this hour-long pep talk with Rebekah Brooks (the Daily Mail reported him receiving £6,000 per minute for speaking engagements of similar duration in 2009), and ii) what does Blair know about needing sleeping pills? Have the ghosts of Iraq finally caught up with him? Alastair Campbell as Lady Macbeth, anyone?
DAVID Blunkett is another old New Labour figure who’s cropped up in this week’s trial evidence. It turns out his old friend Sally Anderson is the person who tipped off the press (falsely) that the pair were having an affair, following which Blunkett subsequently won libel actions against both her and the People. Still, Anderson can console herself that Blunkett’s not one to hold a grudge, as evidenced by the fact that he was big enough to overlook News International’s disgraceful hacking of his own phone (resulting in a £300,000 settlement) when it came to signing up as their £50,000 p/a advisor on “social responsibility” in 2012.
“IN THE end we shall find that our liberties have all but disappeared. It might be possible to save more lives in Britain by this measure – and by countless other measures. But I do not see the virtue in saving more lives by legislation which will produce in the end a Britain where nobody wants to live.” So said Ivan Lawrence in a 1979 parliamentary debate about making seat belts compulsory. The recently-enacted Children and Families Bill that allows for the prohibition of smoking in cars containing children under the age of 18 attracted few such civil liberties concerns, but Nick Clegg did at least wonder about the practicality of police enforcing the new regulations. With smoking legal for over-16s, and driving for over-17s, youngsters could technically break the law by exposing themselves to smoke in a vehicle. Sort that one out officer!