October 2003

Some people never learn

The full text of Iain Duncan Smiths resignation statement.

I wasnt going to bother, but there are a couple of lines from the statement I couldnt resist

I will not publicly choose between the candidates in the coming election.

So so-ones campaign is going to get crippled by IDSs support.

But I am going to defend the policies that my shadow cabinet have developed.

How long before he starts undermining his replacement?

The end of IDS

Iain Duncan-Smith ousted in vision of hell vote

After six weeks which he described as a vision of hell Chingford MP Iain Duncan-Smith lost a confidence motion this evening and has announced his intention to resign as leader of the Conservative party - though he will stay on until a new leader is chosen.

Needing 83 votes to survive, and after several hours of last minute one-to-one meetings with waverers, IDS could only muster 75 votes from among Conservative party MPs.

So no surprises there, then.

IDS: An anatomy of failure

Iain Duncan Smiths statement in full

This is the text of Iain Duncan Smith�s statement outside Conservative Central Office today:

All of you gathered will know that yesterday I called on the parliamentary party to end this ludicrous leadership speculation that has been going on for the past few weeks. I said to end it by Wednesday.

I can therefore say today that I welcome and am pleased that we will have an opportunity to do that tomorrow.

Of course, IDSs desire to cling to the leadership of the Tory party means that resigning in order to force the issue was never an option.

I will absolutely submit my name for a renewed mandate to lead the party to the general election, to lead it to the general election and to win.

Nothing but complete and utter humiliation will stop this man. Im starting to think that he might have forgotten to set himself up with a few executive directorships for his retirement.

And I say to my colleagues who will be responsible for making this decision tomorrow that we have an unrivalled opportunity to take the fight to Labour at a time when they are failing and they are being seen to fail.

Its just a pity that the Tory leadership is too ineffectual to take advantage of this unrivalled opportunity. Its all well and good IDS moaning about sniping from his own benches, but the fact of the matter is that if he started to cause the Labour Party any real problems the sniping would stop. His own insistence on trying to make excuses for himself is the major cause of IDSs problems.

We should not now let the Government off the hook by giving them this opportunity, by plunging ourselves into a fractious leadership election that could last months and give the Government an opportunity to escape proper scrutiny.

Is this a retraction of IDSs previous threat to cling to the leadership until its prised from his cold, dead grasp?

Thought not.

Therefore, tomorrow I will address the 22 Committee, my colleagues, and urge them to renew that mandate for me to go forward, and to put an end once and for all to the speculation that has been sapping away at this party, so that we can as the Opposition deliver a blow the Government and support British people, who will be concerned if we do anything else.

We have a chance for them to take this Government to task and to win the next election.

Surely that last sentence should read: We had a chance for them to take this Government to task and to win the next election but we blew it.

Mr Duncan Smith also issued the following written statement through Conservative Central Office:

I am pleased that the Parliamentary party has responded to my call for a swift resolution. I welcome the fact that this matter will now be decided quickly, openly and in the clear light of day, and I look forward to addressing the 1922 Committee tomorrow to make the case for my continued leadership of this party.

Were all waiting for IDSs barrage of excuses with baited breath.

I believe that I have achieved a lot during the last two years. Following a second general election defeat and a divisive leadership contest, the Conservative Party was 20 points behind in the opinion polls. We are now equal with Labour in the polls, and we have become the largest party of local government.

Labour is the current governing party. Traditionally the government sees a drop in popularity around the middle of their term in office - the enthusiasm generated by their election campaigning has worn off and they havent started either cutting taxes or increasing expenditure to boost their popularity yet.

On top of this, Blair is still facing repercussions from the Iraq war, the Hutton Inquiry and spin fatigue.

The Tories should have a commanding lead at the moment. For the opposition to claim parity in the polls as an achievement simply reflects insufficient ambition.

But I do not seek a vote of confidence solely on my past record. I seek the approval of my colleagues for the campaign that is now beginning.

IDSs past record has gone unnoticed by the electorate. Any future campaigns are likely to suffer the same fate.

A vote of confidence in me will ensure we immediately start communicating to the British people the Conservative alternative to Labour.

If this was the case, why arent the Conservatives communicating already?

A vote of confidence in me can maintain the party unity on tax and Europe which we have achieved over the last two years � and ensure that we remain committed to the far-reaching set of policies in health, education, pensions, policing and asylum which we unveiled in Blackpool this month.

Unity through silence?

Even then, given that the Tories seem to be unable to agree whether to continue charging rightwards or try and take the central ground - which is a pretty fundamental decision as far as strategy goes - I have to say that IDS has a strange idea of what unity is.

I regard it as my duty to warn my party that a change of leadership at this stage will be regarded with despair and contempt by many loyal supporters, and gravely imperil the party�s prospects at the next election.

Given how out of touch IDSs supporters appear to be, Im less than convinced that their opinions are a useful guide to the Tories electoral prospects.

I know I have the confidence of the grass roots � and I look forward to their original election of me, and their continued support, being validated by my Parliamentary colleagues. Then, united behind my leadership, we can begin the campaign to win the next election.

Well united behind someones leadership.

The Conservative party really do seem to have lost their way at the moment. They are not coming up with any new ideas and instead are presenting a front that is divided and riven by factions. Its probably unfair to lay all the blame for this at the feet of Iain Duncan Smith, but he certainly hasnt done anything to resolve the partys problems.

What the Tories really need is a Neil Kinnock - someone who has both the ability and the courage to force the various factions to at least appear to be marching to the same beat.

Quote of the Day: Stay off the bleeding edge

You dont enter into leading-edge investment unless you feel its really targeted to levers that matter for you and unless you can couple the investment with other advantages like scale, tacit knowledge or some other capability that gives you reason to believe that what you do wont just be replicated by others or that even if others follow, they wont get the same bang for the buck. Otherwise, wait for the leading edge to be worked out by your competitors and then adopt it.
- Diana Farrell, director at the McKinsey Global Institute.

Murder for profit

Gaddafi behind wave of migrants to Italy, say refugees

The Gaddafi regime is tacitly encouraging a trade in illegal immigrants that transports thousands to Europe every year, and kills hundreds, according to survivors of the perilous sea voyage from Libya to Italy.

Its not hard to get a boat from Libya to Europe, said a young Sudanese man called Suleiman, squatting in a derelict railway shed in Rome. Just ask a Libyan policeman.

One week ago, Europe had another chilling reminder of the horrors that illegal immigrants go though trying to reach its shores, when 15 Somali immigrants perished off the remote Italian island of Lampedusa during a nightmarish 16-day voyage from the Libyan port of Zuwarah. Thousands have made the same journey this year, and untold hundreds have died in the attempt.

The cruel trade in hope and despair is thriving. Italian politicians are appealing for Europe to tackle the problem collectively. What is clear is that the man behind the trade - the man with the power to shut it down overnight but whom it suits to turn a blind eye - is Muamar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. Libya has replaced Turkey as the principal entrep�t for illegal immigrants bound for Europe. Criminal gangs run an elaborate migrant-smuggling industry generating millions of dollars a year, with agents in desperate countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Ghana funnelling migrants across the Sahara to Libya.

Despite Tripoli agreeing to a request by Rome to increase surveillance,the Libyans claim they cannot control the coastline without hi-tech items - such as radar, helicopters and binoculars. All such dual-use items are banned under a European Union embargo. Libya is demanding the embargo be scrapped as its price for compliance.

The dead and dying in their leaky little boats trying to cross the Sicily Channel are chips in the game.

The Libyan approach to human rights embargoes in a nutshell:
If we let enough people die, all embargoes can be scrapped and well get some free equipment into the bargain.

IDS asks nicely


Duncan Smith issues 48-hour ultimatum to rebels

Iain Duncan Smith raised the stakes yesterday in his battle to remain Tory leader by giving his critics 48 hours to force a vote of confidence or call a halt to plotting against him.

John Major: Put up or shut up.
IDS: Please shut up or nothing

In a seemingly final attempt to shore up his position, the Conservative leader declared he would appear before the backbench 1922 Committee tomorrow and make a direct appeal for his MPs support.

Its times like this that I wish Id become a Conservative MP. Ive never seen a senior politician beg.

A sport I never knew about

Extreme Sport Drumming

Advice to heroin addicts: Try wanking

Orgasm akin to a shot of heroin

According to Groningen professor Gert Holstege, an orgasm is akin to a shot of heroin.

The Happy Clappy Christian Church

Gay pastor employs bodyguards after threats

The Episcopalian pastor in the United States who is to become first openly gay man to serve as a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church next Sunday is receiving round-the-clock protection from bodyguards because of fears that his life might be in danger.

There is absolutely nothing I can add to this.

The Internet: A boon or a threat to democracy?

Perils of the World Wide Web

Is the internet a threat to democracy and can surfing the web lead to extremism and intolerance, asks Andy Clark of Radio Netherlands.

Experts in the US are warning that as the internet becomes increasingly sophisticated people are using it to create their own worlds. Using filtering techniques they can block out everything they dislike and hear only what they want to hear and see only what they want to see.

Im not convinced about this - while it probably is possible to use the internet to filter your news so that you only hear what you want to, it is easier to achieve the same effect with traditional media. If I only read the Daily Mail, for example, I may well end up believing the mean spirited racism that passes for that newspapers editorial line.

With the internet, Ive found that the opposite is true. While blogging, for example, I find that I encounter a diversity of opinions amongst the likes of Samzidata, Normblog and Quarsan. Some of these opinions I agree with, many I dont. The only criteria I use when adding blogs to my blogroll is that they are interesting to me in some way. It simply wouldnt be possible to find the same diversity by ploughing through all the available print and televised media available.

In [Republic.Com] [Professor] Sunstein stresses the need for public forums in which citizens mix and exchange ideas and learn to see things from different points of view.

Again, forums such as Internet Infidels, Channel 4, Rotten Tomatoes and even Pulpmovies already exist. On forums such as these, I can encounter people from a variety of backgrounds, hear a diversity of opinions and have my own opinions challenged in ways I hadnt even considered.

Compare this to my real life. Im a white middle class professional expat living in Holland. My social life revolves around the professionals with whom I work, the white middle class people amongst whom I live and the professional expats Ive met in the sort of bars that attract expats. These are all great people, but we have more commonality than diversity so that I tend to hear the same opinions from different people.

General interest publications like newspapers, national magazines and television news programmes, expose far-flung viewers to a relatively broad spectrum of viewpoints and social conditions.

The need for the mainstream media to make a profit means that far-flung viewers tend to be exposed to a relatively narrow and unchallenging spectrum of viewpoints and social conditions.

This is why films like Den dont get studio backing and why films like Battle Royale and The Passion of Christ struggle to find distributors.

Professor Sunstein is an expert on the US constitution and turned his attention to studying the Internet after he co-authored a report on jury behaviour which revealed that people serving on mock juries composed of like-minded people tended to come up with more extreme decisions.

He decided to try and find out if people who exclusively talked to like-minded people on the internet also became more extreme. He studied hate sites and found that people in these enclosed areas did indeed spur each other on to even more exaggerated positions.

He looked at sites of the Ku Klux Klan, skinhead groups and an organization called God Hates Fags.

He also looked at the National Rifle Association (NRA).

A group whose members lean against gun control will, in discussion, provide a wide range of arguments against gun control, and the arguments made for gun control will be both fewer and weaker. The groups members, to the extent that they shift, will shift toward a more extreme position against gun control, says the professor.

While I dont disagree that talking exclusively to like-minded people probably would lead to someone becoming more convinced of their position and possibly more extreme, I think it needs to be borne in mind that hate sites are the exception rather than the rule.

Also worth considering is whether the internet is making these people more extreme or whether it merely helps existing extremists find each other.

[Professor Sunstein] advocates government backed public websites, which would serve as debating chambers where different points of view would be put forward. He even goes so far as to suggest an icon linking to these sites should be placed on each PC.

Involving the government is, in my opinion, a bad idea. An independent forum has the advantage of being answerable only to those people that decide to visit it - any and all opinions can be posted, dissected, supported and refuted.

A government-backed forum would be seen to be part of the government. As such, the moderators of such a forum would have an interest in blocking any overly controversial points of view in order to avoid giving ammunition to the opponents of the governing party. Such a place would quickly become as expensive and ineffective as many other government backed Big Ideas.

He also says people who set up websites should be encouraged as a matter of course to set up links to sites with differing views and adds that government regulation of such a system is worth considering.

Again, a quick and very unscientific trawl of the internet seems to indicate that most sites link to each other on the basis of common interest rather than common opinion. Any system of government regulation would be either so loose as to be ineffective or so strict that it would stifle the very debate that Professor Sunstein would like to encourage.

I mean, does it really make sense for me to spend my time trying to find someone who didnt like Expiration.


On a side note, this article did prompt me to revisit my political compass

In February I scored:
Economic Left/Right: -2.38
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -5.49

This time around, my score was:
Economic Left/Right: -2.88
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.18

So Im still a lefty liberal.

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