Thursday, 22 September 2011

The continuing Eurozone crisis is an opportunity for LibDems to show leadership

There are only two possible results to the Euro-crisis: 1) collapse of intra-European trade, or 2) greater European integration.

The first has far-reaching negative implications for Britain, Europe and the world. The second indicates a massive area for future growth in our shared economy.

While the current political challenge remains to deliver stability and growth at the same time it's up to Britain to choose to find the political will and lead on the issue because continual continental dithering and endless domestic bickering will mean economic conditions stay in the doldrums until the Eurozone countries wake up to the fact there are no other options and they forge ahead on integration without us, leaving Britain scrabbling for crumbs from their table as per usual. If we want to set the terms of agreement and see the full benefits then we must resolve to fully commit to the process. Which means the real question is how much of the former are we prepared to accept before we move on to the latter.

As the only committed pro-European leader at Westminster, Nick Clegg is smart enough and sensible enough to understand this, but his frankness in offering regular reminders won't help him win popularity contests any time soon. So perhaps he should be bolder in challenging public opinion in order to reap the political rewards later - after all there's still time to get this strategy to pay dividends before the next election and most commentators argue he doesn't have much left to lose. Having the courage of your convictions is a virtue which he - and we - can make the most of.

While the real possibility of Greek default grows ever nearer Clegg appeared to lay some foundations for giving the European project a vitally-needed boost during his widely-reported speech to the LSE by indicating his favorability towards shifting the British position to be more active on European integration:
"In terms of the Eurozone, the real failure has not been the original concept of monetary union. It’s that the rules were never applied stringently enough. The Stability and Growth Pact was actively watered down in 2005, allowing members to wriggle out of their fiscal commitments to each other. Now we are seeing the effects."
"The single-most important question, the urgent question is what role can we play in helping the Eurozone avoid further turmoil, creating the stability needed for prosperity and jobs – in the Eurozone and in the UK too."
With rising consensus that the coalition's deficit reduction plan has assured stability while restricting ability to boost growth there is no time like the present to use the LibDem reputation as a long-standing advocate of European integration to our advantage and strike the note of clear differentiation which members and potential supporters alike are desperate to hear. While Conservatives have forced themselves into a dead-end on growth, Labour lack credibility on stability, yet neither want to talk openly about Europe and the way their actions combined in tandem to undermine the Stability and Growth Pact.

As Clegg said, "we'll do whatever it takes to return our economy to health," but while we can pull all the right levers at home to provide a temporary demand stimulus it must also mean creating the conditions for sustainable growth by increasing cooperation abroad and driving ahead with integration to complete the single market and guarantee the four basic freedoms.

We cannot put stability at risk by loosening fiscal policy now, but neither can we avoid integration out of a misguided sense of patriotic pride when growth is at risk. Perpetual focus on stability results in stagnation, yet myopic focus on growth leads to escalating volatility – only the LibDems can successfully balance these twin impulses and therefore we must speak up more forcefully in the national interest both of Britain and each of our European partners.


Crossposted at LibDemVoice

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Don't discount the LibDems yet!

Surprisingly, the Evening Standard keeps coming back and asking for my view on issues libdemmery. This time they obviously wanted to capture some dissent regarding an unusually smooth conference. Sorry, no joy there!


This year's LibDem conference has been an extraordinary affair. Where media commentators travelled to Birmingham expecting discontent at poll ratings to spill over into widespread revolt against the leadership they've come out reporting the businesslike nature of a serious and professional agenda-setting event. The party has successfully positioned itself at the front and centre of policy debate tackling the full range of public concerns to give far-sighted and level-headed answers on everything from gender equality to energy issues.

A considerable resolve to resist any panic with a desire to get on with the job at hand has been on show. Throughout all the clamour for more right-wing influence on the coalition the clarity of LibDem purpose is enabling the party to grow up in the spotlight of public scrutiny. And despite all the apparent strength of opposition to the coalition's deficit reduction plan it is a remarkable fact that Nick Clegg's popularity and trust ratings are still higher than Ed Miliband's!

LibDems understandably feel squeezed between the twin forces of political choice and political reality, but in this the party experience perfectly reflects everything the country has gone through since the financial bubble burst. So any discomfort felt by activists and representatives alike offers a prime perspective to help find way to help dig the country out of the current predicament. Don't discount this peculiarly British underdog just yet!


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Monday, 19 September 2011

The real meaning of betrayal

It was in watching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that I was struck by this thought.

As anyone who knows the story will be fully aware the betrayal of their nation and ideals by double-agents within MI6 was not related to circumstance but to the narrow self-advantage of temporary gain. The treasonous actions of the Cambridge group of sleepers and moles were so abhorrent because they were self-defeating - in allowing themselves to manipulated through unquestioning support of their ideals they ended up supporting a cause which stood against everything they initially claimed to believe in.

So le Carre's narrative becomes an allusion to the process of political debate as it was played out on the international post-war stage. And in this it becomes newly relevant in respect of the current debate about coalition politics in Britain.

But where the Bill Haydens set out with a polarised mindset of either being for or against their utopian vision it is the flawed and complicit George Smileys who ultimately prove their heroism by convincing his opposing spy-master Karla to defect through the means of uncovering the base corruption of values at the heart of all conflicted establishments and by seeking to set them right from within. He argues that only by acknowledging the individual as a morally ambiguous agent working within the restraints of reality can he or she triumph over the cynicism of corrupted ideals caused by the amplification of artificial differences, and thereby step closer towards a unifed universe. That all revolutions fail because they depend on the impossibility of imperfect humans achieving unobtainable absolutes is the natural corrollary which animates his enemies of civilisation.

Balancing the grimness and grit to find a way through the murk he treads a fine line, yet le Carre's artistic achievement is in how he successfully uncovers the reality of the secret world through his fictional account and thereby makes a profound exposition of the interwoven nature of political relationships in society without exposing his acquaintances in the world he knew so well. Unlike other more scandalous writers such as Peter Wright, le Carre ('the square') wrote a story of betrayal without betraying anyone - as he said in an interview "It's a matter of pride to me that nobody who knows the reality has so far accused me of revealing it."

For LibDems roundly accused of betraying students over the issue of tuition fees the story offers some subtler comforts.

It is in the difference between Smiley's slow, methodical and self-effacing approach and the enthusiasm of blind idealism transformed into ruthless murder and self-aggrandisement as represented by Hayden and his cohorts that we can start to understand real betrayal is not in changing what you say you'll do, but in changing the reasons why you do what you do.

In going against their pre-election pledge to students in order to form a coalition LibDems did not betray students and the party's commitment to education, even if the leadership did betray their word.

Whatever may be said about the advantages of ministerial cars in supporting an egotistical rump the concurrent slump in opinion polls should be enough evidence that Clegg & Co's choice to take action wasn't cynically or selfishly intended - indeed the party remains fully committed to a fairer form of financing higher education by eventually phasing out tuition fees altogether while ensuring people from poorer backgrounds are not disadvantaged by eliminating up-front fees and raising earnings thresholds for repayments.

The accusation of betrayal is a myth, and it is perpetrated by the same people who pushed the higher education system into crisis just as they pushed the economy of the country into crisis.

The accusers have sought to use the shock of disrepute against LibDems to their own narrow political advantage without explaining how widening access to Universities can be achieved via any alternative sets of financial reforms to HE funding.

The accusers have projected their own ideological betrayal onto LibDems by denying the requirement to balance idealism with reality and the need to find pragmatic solutions.

The true betrayal is theirs because the real meaning of betrayal does not depend on intentions, but on results.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Liberals against blogging? A response

Recently a couple of respected liberals in the form of Lembit Opik and Howard Jacobson have declared their distaste for the freedom of speech enabled by the art form known as blogging.

Failed nominee for the LibDem London Mayoral candidateship and regular tabloid fodder, Lembit said: "the 'blogosphere' [is] a parallel universe where some people who've never been elected to public office feel qualified to pronounce on those who have."

A perfectly excecuted play from the book 'How to alienate potential supporters and lose elections'. He didn't read the book, but he saw the adapted film when he was invited to the premiere.

These are for you, Lembit. Enjoy.

Booker prize winner and columnist for The Independent, Jacobson said: "What you read is extreme ignorance and pure poison. It is a poisonous, poisonous medium. You can’t believe how malicious, how ignorant, how stupid…"

A perfectly excecuted play from the book 'The foolish vanity of a public intellectual who has to earn a living somehow'. It's a book he wrote, and then adapted repeatedly for his column so as not to lose his 'juice'.

These are for you Howie. Enjoy.

Well, if it's not one thing it's another. Right?


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Monday, 12 September 2011

What's with opinion polls? Did YouGov cause the riots?

As a signed-up member of the YouGov polling panel I occasionally recieve a survey requesting my opinion. This morning I got the latest version delivered to my email in-box.

Now, opinion polls provide vital feedback on the broader political picture, but they also exist within the highly competitive world of the political economy where commentators constantly seek to provide sufficiently valuable content to 'go pro' and devote more time to their passion for politics as they seek to exert more influence over debate.

Polling organisations therefore become used for their ability to build up a reliable evidence bank for particular perspectives, with the accumulation of results establishing the mood of the nation with ever greater certainty.

Decades of refinement have enhanced the actual predictive capability of polls giving the term 'opinion poll' a measurable standing of some respect. Opinion polls have become a fact of life and now big decisions are rarely unleashed on the public without being tested on sub-sections first through various types of polls or consultations.

In the process this has elevated opinion to the rank that any and all views can be taken equally seriously - thereby stimulating the subordinate arguments that they should, must and deserve to be, without understanding the more complex point that the ends to which opinion works will depend on the means by which it is handled: we can be individually wise and collectively stupid, or we can be be individually stupid and collectively wise. And in this it raises the problem of how to seperate the two opposing dynamics when pollsters resist the means to differentiate between types of opinion.

With the advent of online polling their cost base has been slashed at the same time as the ability to ask more people more varied and detailed questions more regularly: while traditional doorstep and phone polls weigh samples of 1,000 people once per month, YouGov is able to compile and collate a similar-sized poll every day. Following its' launch in May 2000 YouGov has claimed these methods consistently produce more accurate results than traditional methods.

This view was given greater credence at the 2005 General Election when most traditional polls diverged from YouGov results by over-stating Labour support, albeit within the uppermost limits of margin-for-error. As it was Tony Blair's landslide majorities of 1997 and 2001 were massively reduced, and the traditional polling companies were shown that they failed to predict this. It has since been used as a powerful marketing concept for YouGov's methodology because the overall variability of differential swings in UK elections can easily be enough to produce completely different outcomes.

In more recent times polls which showed Cleggmania in full pomp (at one-third of respondees) after the pre-election leadership debates have rebounded showing LibDems in a seemingly endless slump (generally hovering at about one-tenth of respondees) - clearly some significant volatility of opinion is present. Although it would be foolish to try to seperate LibDem ratings from the seismic shift in politics which saw no overall majority in 2010 and the eventual creation of the first coalition government since wartime, it's worth considering other factors too, such as the difference in the polling methodologies.

I find it odd that monthly polls consistently diverge from daily polls (to the extent that LibDem results could vary by 100% between the two), so I asked Anthony Wells what effect the regularity of sampling may be having, citing my own example that I recall my earlier responses when answering. I have a lot of time for him, but I found his reply unconvincing.

My underlying point was whether the closed nature of their panel is combining with the regularity of questioning to create stale and unrepresentative results - have they 'overfished their pool'? Is YouGov reinforcing opinion rather than just measuring it?

Anthony answered that with about 350,000 registered members of the YouGov panel and a turnover of about 1,000 new members each month it is unlikely. Given his connection with the company he was never going to publicly concede the methods he depends upon are flawed, but nevertheless basic maths should raise some questions about YouGov's methodology over a long period compared to off-line methods.

YouGov's available panel is a self-selecting sample of about 1% of the voting population (other polling organisations select and weigh their samples according to demographic balance from the whole electorate), and YouGov produce political surveys about 20-times more regularly: I have had my opinion professionally surveyed by telephone and on the doorstep once each in my lifetime, whereas I am asked by YouGov for an online response approximately once every two months. As a respondent I am fully aware that I relate my latest answers to my recollection of previous answers rather than in isolation, so my YouGov replies become increasingly relative each time I am polled. And given that members of the YouGov panel can be assumed to be more politically engaged than average we are therefore more likely to be aware of result trends and more likely to be influenced by them.

The effects of this change may not be immediately obvious, but they could be powerful, particularly under conditions where social opinion is put under pressure (such as by a less than positive economy).

The simple fact that YouGov produces more results means it can effectively 'drown out' the competition and the social effect is to weigh YouGov more highly in political circles than, say, ICM, Ipsos-Mori or ComRes. YouGov is now the dominant force in the field, and perhaps this means it should be feared more than trusted.

By measuring a small sub-sample with such regularity YouGov has reversed the original dynamic of the polling project. It is no longer simply measuring opinion for the purposes of representative accuracy, but driving the polarisation of opinion for the purposes of conformity.

So it is potentially very damaging to the general political debate that political commentators are not distinguishing between the types of results produced by different types of polls. If I were tempted to take an extreme position I might suggest the correlation between polarisation of opinion towards the coalition government and the polarisation of opinion driven by YouGov's methodology was responsible for the increased level of protest seen in the rapid escalation of the violent riots.

That may seem a strange thing to say, but we saw how opinion treated as fact was the main instigator for flash mobs to spring up and cause violence beyond the control of the Police or beyond the natural restraint of a questioning conscience on behalf of those individuals who got involved. So it's entirely fair to conclude that where opinion replaces fact as a legitimate authority for action nobody should expect sanity to prevail.

As the high priests for the cult of opinion YouGov should be looking at themselves and the deeper psychological impact of their specific methodology on wider society - it's time to stop combining or conflating what YouGov's polls say with what other pollsters say.


I tried a second time with AW, this time he offered a sceptical response to any obvious answers for the discrepancy between polls - perhaps he's being won over!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Stop rewarding irresponsibility - reform the MPC!

There has been much talk about changing the 50p tax band (on income over £100,000) as a way to aid the economy, but this is in my view a completely artificial distraction from the underlying economic and political issues.

Arguments forwarded that the country needs to stimulate spending to reduce the deficit (on the basis that this will reduce the drain of wealthy consumer-investors to places like Switzerland) understate the risk of more new short-term solutions. Obviously the need exists among both coalition partners to succeed in creating a balanced budget by the time the next general election comes around, but the signal this measure would give to city institutions and the wider economy presents deeper risks.

From back in the mid-1970s when income taxes reached their zenith at 98%, the tendency to liberalise markets has seen a shift in fiscal policy towards indirect taxes on expenditure (ie through VAT) and a corresponding shift in employment from manufacturing towards retail services (including high street banking). And whenever government commitments overextended the consumer dollar was increasingly seen as a bottomless pit, the destination of first resort for the Treasury to squeeze by stimulating spending another notch.

Yet the banking and financial crashes of recent years indicate a tipping point has been reached as high levels of personal debt coupled with low levels of personal savings mean the public is almost squeezed dry.

I mean, how much worthless tat could you fill your Christmas stocking with anyway? How much turkey can you fill your obese belly with? Break all your toys before dinner time? Collapse in an intoxicated stupor over the toilet bowl after? Who cares, just enjoy the holidays!

Interest rates of 0.5% mean saving responsibly has been disincentivised in favour of borrowing up to and beyond the capacity to repay. Successive governments have virtually wiped out pensions and prudential investments by abusing inflation as valid economic tool in favour of the casino capitalism of risk creation, and now exceptional policies such as winter fuel payments are vital extra assistance because the money given to the state to pay for a standard retirement has been frittered away by transfering wealth to people demanding they have it all today. And let's not forget the policy challenge to public health and education systems funded by debt.

Economists are widely predicting a decade of stagnant growth and high inflation at or above 5% (currently 4.4%) will be required to sort out the current problems, and this has lead some to argue the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has failed, since their primary responsibility is to keep it in the 2-2.5% range.

Back in 1997 it was one of the headline initiatives of the incoming Blairite government to give independence to the BoE on setting rates, justified on the ground that it depoliticised one of the primary policy tools available to government where the previous regime had patently failed by getting things spectacularly wrong during the ERM fiasco (raising rates from 10% to 15% in a single day to support the currency, thereby causing mass unrest in the housing market as 'negative equity' became a byword for political irresponsibility).

It had been a LibDem idea, and Labour's Gordon Brown over at No11 was sufficiently suspicious of it to use a succession of methods to maintain the control he'd publicly disavowed. Primary among these was the system of appointments to the board which ensured the political balance was favourable to the party in power (economists such as David Blanchflower - an MPC member from 2006-9 - could and can still be relied upon to defend the political aims of Labour), thereby exposing the lie and highlighting the effective non-independence of the MPC.

I was originally enthusiastic, but I've since grown critical of the naivety of thinking that economists are able to think independently of political motivations - indeed the more I learn the more I realise they are often among the most political people around. Since they've immersed themselves in a career of calculating research data to provide supporting evidence for the positions they assume economists uniformly tend to be the least open to logical argument, and they are psychologically incapable of denying themslves because of their doctrinaire adherence to whichever school of thought they were raised within or currently subscribe to. They irrationally avert attention from the role of their agency within the social forum of debate: economists are epistemological-empirical totalitarians.

In fact when we look at MPC predictions for inflation they consistently show two things, that all predictions for the future will bring inflation on target within two-to-three years, and that all previous predictions in the past have been wrong by increasing factors. In other words their decisions have increased inflationary volatility where their task was to do the exact opposite.

Returning to the tax issue, it strikes me as particularly odd that the coalition government (who's stated intention to rebalance the economy by encouraging export-led manufacturing) should be open to spending stimulus, even though more quantative easing was rejected by the MPC. It suggests either there is a budgetary problem on the timing of plans to eliminate the deficit, or that tories want some ideological meat to fill their conference boots, or both.

So it's understandable that the punative symbolism of the 50p rate has become a bone of contention as different sides each argue to optimise Treasury income at a maximal level, provide a boost to the wider economy and develop greater fairness in society.

But the politics of the 50p rate are a complete distraction.

As others before me have mentioned it is possible to keep a 50p rate by raising the level at which it is levied (eg from £100,000 to £1m), it is possible to increase fairness by raising the levels of personal allowances (the zero-rate) to £10,000 or higher and the level at which the basic and other rates are levied, just as it is more than within the scope of possibility to introduce intermediate 25p, 35p and 45p rates to improve Treasure balances. And there's absolutely no problem with doing all these at the same time - in fact differential impacts would be minimised by implenting all simultaneously as that would provide greater potential for flexibility. Alternatively it is also possible to do nothing about it and use a variety of indirect tools instead.

I've argued that resistance to raising the levels at which tax bands are levied to keep up with wage inflation since market liberalisation began at the end of the 1970's (tentatively under Callaghan, wholesale under Thatcher) coupled with exponential wage growth towards the top of the scale has been an effective 'double-whammy' for those towards the bottom of the society - something which has driven growth in economic inequality despite government efforts to compensate. Arguably the compensation methods themself have been counter-productive since they add complexity to the system and are therefore less cost-effective, driving the polarised tax policies of left and right which in turn requires greater efforts to reduce inequality - and the diminishing returns of successive policies increase the inevitability of confrontation with reality.

So the two-party system creates a vicious circle of political swings and roundabouts!

And efforts to reduce the deficit and restore some sanity now revolve round the issue of growth.

The range of policy options open to the Chancellor are limited. On monetary policy the Exchequer no longer directly controls interest rates, but they are at rock bottom and can't be reduced further anyway. Similarly, quantative easing has been rejected by the MPC because inflation is well above target. On fiscal policy personal debt levels mean VAT cuts would cost too much and would create additional risk of instability if wages remain depressed compared to inflation. So that leaves targetted income tax cuts with all their associated political baggage.

And this creates a massive quandry for policy-makers. Internationally the problems are virtually identical, yet Obama's desperate speech to the joint house session announcing wide-ranging measures leaving few options unexplored was in stark contrast with Berlusconi's declaration of political impotence. Both fear what unpopularity would mean for their chances of reelection, but where the US President worries about the consequence of inaction on his ratings the Italian Prime Minister sought to preemtively excuse any action whatsoever.

My solution in the UK would be to reverse my earlier position towards the MPC. While I support the concept of independence for the MPC and the effect of greater interest rate stability they have produced, they are neither fully independent nor accountable and this has resulted in them lowering interest rates too far. So I would make a one-off intervention to set rates at 2% and then set about reforming the way the MPC is constituted.

Oddly, my conclusion abut how to reform the MPC is inspired by the failure that lead to its creation.

The Exchange Rate Mechanism ran from 1979 when Sterling uncoupled from the Irish pound and a system of bilateral measures were introduced between European currencies to keep fluctuations within a 2.25% margin, thereby preparing the way for integration into a single European currency.

After having initially appreciated, Sterling then gradually fell back as trade between the participating nations grew during the 1980s, and the UK joined the ERM in 1990. By joining the party late in the day currency speculators were sceptical about the motivations of the then-tory government under Thatcher. So when prominent right-wingers including Norman Tebbit complained about spending billions to support the currency and prevent deepening of the recession speculators such as George Soros felt this confirmed the lack of commitment to the political cause of European integration and that Thatcher never intended to replace Sterling with the Euro (it's an ironic fact that Tebbit was considered an arch-proponent of Thatcherite ideology, yet his ill-considered words in her defence were the primary cause of her downfall).

Black Wednesday occurred because the Bank of England reversed it's policy to intervene in currency markets as the means to support Sterling when foreign currency reserves fell below safe levels and decided instead to take the desperate measure to use interest rates. The incident 'broke the Bank of England' and forced Thatcher from office because it showed the selfish self-interest of her and her cabinet in a way that previous campaigns hadn't (privatisation and the sale of council houses was defended as her democratising tendency, while her battles with trade unions was presented as ending harmful restrictive practises). John Major couldn't repair the damage and the separation of monetary and fiscal policy followed.

The margins of the ERM were expanded to 15% in 1993 when currency speculators began moving against the Franc, and when the Euro was introduced in 1998 the mechanism was replaced by a new system where non-members were required to stay within that range for two years before becoming eligible for entry to the Eurozone. So we can see that provided the level of variability is controlled within an acceptable level this does increase harmony and allow for greater integration.

However the jump from 15% variability to full membership within 24 months has allowed countries such as Greece to join the Eurozone single currency area and this hasn't been sufficiently strong to encourage internal reforms to develop fiscal sustainability, and the riots over current austerity plans are a direct result. Greece was not ready before joining and the lack of a physical border reduced trade benefits after joining, meaning membership was more a matter of political prestige for the nation than economic reality. Whether Greece can now retain her membership of the Euro hangs in the balance. Whether it's desirable is a matter of opinion. But when any changes occur will indicate the manner and form of union Europe will eventually take - leaving may set a precendent, while staying within the Eurozone will require a more direct form of centralised budget planning.

In hindsight a progressive reduction in variability would have provided greater motivation for reform and a better timescale for membership. How this relates to the UK picture on interest rates is in the tension that arises between centralision and decentralision.

A major part of the economic problem in Britain is precisely the same as in the Eurozone: divergent trends around different regions - what's good for the City is usually bad for the towns and shires; what's good for industry-led regions is not for service-led localities. So how is it possible to reconcile the effects of interest rates in the vibrant commuter stockbroker belts and the blighted urban cores and rural outposts where deindustrialisation has wrecked its effect? Can mega shopping malls effectively replace factories? Clearly some policy flexibility is necessary.

The principle of variability has already been adopted through the process of political devolution created for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by allowing for some revenue-raising powers to give a proportionate measure of tax variance (although these have yet to be used by nationalists for fear this would reduce any seperatist sentiment). I'd like to see this principle extended by the establishment of regional offices for the central bank, each with the corresponding competency for setting rates (within appropriate limits) and the establishment of regional bond markets (with proportionate volumes) - an Interest Rate Mechanism, for want of a better name.

It's always struck me as weird that interest rates are measured in quarters, but I think this gives ample means to allow the centralised national bank to coordinate decentralised regional offices within natural fractions. If the BoE is given additional flexibility to vary the central rate by tenths, then it's a simple matter to allow regional offices to vary this by up to one-tenth (ie by hundredths) - and, most importantly, the preponderance of the regional offices will provide a true indication of the correct direction for any national variation (ie if the vast majority of regional offices vary from the central rate in one direction, then this is incontravertible evidence in itself that the central bank should move the central rate in this direction, and equally by what amount).

The creation of such a competitive market therefore removes any ability to politicise the issues from the centre. It would reduce the abilty to obscure the political issues dividing debate. And it would provide meaningful independence within a coherent and stable structure - which can only be a healthy thing.

Obviously this would also reinvigorate the case for regional assemblies to provide political accountability for the spending of revenues in the interest of their regional economies, which carries it's own risks, but by doing so it would also reinvigorate political participation and remove the pressure on local government caused by the distribution by ministers of fixed formula grants - local people would be able to take responsibility for ourselves!

In an already over-stimulated land full of under-appreciated people struggling in a depressed economy, the last thing anyone wants or needs is fresh stimulation. What's needed is a bit of rehab.

Finally it's worth mentioning the corresponding effect on fiscal policy which would be caused by changes to monetary policy decision-making processes.

Simply by reversing the dynamic of monetary policy to be responsive to demands, rather than as a lever to control demand, it would simultaneously reduce the pressure on politicians to use tax policy as moral compensation for social inequality, thereby gradually reducing the overall tax burden by eliminating the artificial demands created by partisan lobbyists for the political choices (or failure, as they see it) of their opponents - which would in turn encourage less wasteful use of taxpayer's money.

Correspondingly, the reduction in the overall tax bill provides less incentive to company directors able to transfer their wealth between tax regimes and use other legal tax avoidance measures. Surely it is completely unacceptable and utterly perverse for anyone to simultaneously set both the level of their own income and the level of tax they pay on it, let alone for a small minority of super-rich to abdicate responsibility to their employees for the state of the country they live and operate in!

And here it worth drawing a link between criticism of the irresponsibility of the anti-social anonymous underclasses towards their communities and the irresponsiblility of the anti-economic celebrity overclasses towards their neighbours - there is a poetic symmetry in the reflection of one with the other, and the only way to resolve their opposing attacks on the general mass of ordinary people is for government to set an example by acknowledging its' own failures, and reform.

Reform thyself MPC!