January 11 2013 - PERISCOPE POST 5PM

Too much Pressure on David Cameron's EU Speech

On January 10 in The Guardian, there was a stimulating article by Julian Borger, Ian Traynor and Nicholas Watt under the heading, Britain should stay in European Union, says Obama administration.


The article quoted the widely reported comments by Philip Gordon, US Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, and provided interesting and informative analysis on the subject.

Basically, Mr Gordon was expressing his concern about referenda. He saw them as unhelpful because they had the potential to turn ‘countries inwards.’ Not only did he wish to see the UK remain in the EU, but had serious doubts about renegotiating the relationship between the two, which he saw as an unnecessary consumption of valuable time: “every hour at an EU Summit spent debating the institutional makeup of the European Union is one less hour spent talking about how we can solve our common challenges of jobs, growth and international peace around the world.”The Assistant Secretary’s concern was understandable as US interaction with the EU has often been associated with the UK. It is natural that fears will surface when far-reaching decisions are underway, although I see the suggestion that an unhelpful decision might adversely affect the special relationship more as part of the lobbying process than any real indication of US feeling.

When big decisions are imminent, and David Cameron may well mention a referendum in his approaching speech on the EU, it is almost expected that those who feel themselves affected by the result, will lobby for one that favours their position. Indeed, Germany, Ireland and the EC have also made their representations, including those on the risks of opening the ‘floodgates’ in revisiting the Lisbon Treaty. It is the function of lobbyists to make their case as strongly as possible, trust their opinion carries weight and accept that the final decision lies elsewhere.


However, I found Philip Gordon’s plea not to consider any type of referendum rather restricting. With a generally eurosceptic nation like the UK, the lack of acknowledgement of that feeling can only risk the unhappy scenario envisaged. Such a movement needs a vent, or radical and moderate eurosceptic opinion, which at the present time, represents the majority, will feel badly frustrated. This is an issue that won’t be solved merely by urging it should be permanently shelved.


So, if a referendum is mentioned, how will it be seen? Some sort of wording perhaps along the lines of Do you agree with the UK Government negotiating with the EU on a new relationship, based on the proposals laid out? Those who vote no will presumably believe the proposals go too far, or not far enough. But such a referendum is a necessary stage in establishing the country’s future role, a process, which should be fully explored before taking decisions that it would be very difficult to reverse.


In light of this, hopefully, David Cameron will be given the space and understanding in the decisions he has to take, without the degree of pressure that could harden opinion and later affect his options.

further commentary: So when would the year of a possible referendum be? 2018 mentioned, or perhaps 2016 might be considered for the first referendum on a new relationsip based on trade and other joint initiatives, but leaving 2018 for any amended proposals.


October 7 2008  UK Banking Crisis 10.13am Telegraph

As I said in this newspaper at the end of August, confidence is what we need globally, and oh, how we need it now. To this end, two things must happen. Firstly, government must take all necessary action through agreement with the banking system on deposits, investment and liquidity, lower interest rates and the general, but decisive unclogging of the housing market. Secondly, the financial markets must play their part and keep their nerve; and consumers, whilst acknowledging capitalism and free trade, support their own financial houses at present. We need to put the brakes on and assess the way forward and we can only do this effectively when we have got this febrile situation under control. We have a window of opportunity, so let's do it.

This was posted on the The Telegraph in reply to an editorial calling on Alistair Darling for action, which he took later on in the day. The posting didn't appear until five or six days later. The markets were dropping straight down the morning of the 7th and the banks were bailed out in the early evening. ( In the interests of fairness, I should like put in here that credit should be given to Gordon Brown for drawing the nations together at this very dangerous time, both before and during the G20, in October and November; a very firm temperament can be useful in extremis.

About a week later, I started to lobby, but privately, at Secretary of State level, for a construction stimulus and gently nagged on until another pro-active attempt in mid June 2009, and despite saying on June 25 that  'everywhere people are expecting retrenchment and whoever wins next May, this will be their main focus,'  was very pleased two weeks later when a stimulus package appeared. But it was rather disconcerting in early June, when a Cabinet reshuffle was suggested and felt relieved a few days later when it didn't happen on the scale anticipated. The summer of 09, as I remember, was a very nervy time economically,  and I feared what bringing in new ministers would do. I posted, strongly against such a high degree of change and hoping it wouldn't happen; the post disappeared again, but I remember how anxious I felt until the reshuffle was mainly restricted to one great office of state and not the two mentioned, especially the Treasury.

The summer of 09 held together, notable for me for being hacked more than usual, and things moved on towards the end of the year. By the turn of 2010 the economy was more stable and I posted on the Telegraph on January 5 that I assumed plans for deficit reduction were beng drawn up. It vanished, but a day or two later, both Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, and Lord Mandleson said there would be cuts to reduce the deficit.  There was some support for this, Sir Mervyn King said it was appropriate to discuss deficit reduction on the 19th, but in general, it went fairly quiet. On February 19, when cuts were being debated again, I posted quite a long piece on the Telegraph in dismay at a suggestion the approaching Budget should be skipped. I set out what I thought should happen regarding reduction and job creation; and was just about accurate with the actual general reduction percentage later in the year. The Budget which lots of people hoped would contain specific reduction details, disappointed and I knew then that whatever listening might have occurred with my commentary and vision, it was over, I had lost them. I'm non-political and like many others, only post what I think will help the country, but I was disappointed with the tone of the Budget because the Rating Agencies were watching economic policy like hawks. During the 2010 election I was 'down' and started off again in May, but under a user name on the Telegraph and diversified into a number of other online sites, like Periscope Post, Wall Street journal, The Hill and others.

The excerpts from Alistair Darling's book were very interesting and enlightenng. Much of it was as I had imagined; it is quite engrossing for a novelist to be writing about fictional characters at the same time as observing the real thing going on.

All the blogs referred to may be found in date order on Archives2, except for the June 3 posting on the Cabinet, which eventually appeared somewhere unconnected in the  Telegraph site and is hidden away in my records. There has only been one piece of commentary that was not ever printed on line anywhere, including my own site, but what I advised did happen.

Launch of the RSPH - September 2008

On the 23rd September 2008, we attended the launch of the Royal Society of Public Health, whose mission statement is Vision, Voice and Practice. The RSPH is a new Royal Society formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Society of Health  and the Royal Institute of Public Health. The Launch took place at the Royal Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists near Regents Park, an appropriate venue for a birth as Dr Alan Maryon Davis, Inaugural Chair of RSPH, wittily pointed out in his introduction. Judith Simpson, Clerk of the Privy Council, presented The Royal Charter to Paul Madgwick, the immediate past President of the RSH, and the afternoon went extremely well with entertaining and informative speeches from Dame Suzi Leather, Sir Derek Wanless, Hazel Stuteley OBE, Sir Roger De Witt and Professor Mala Rao. There was considerable emphasis on the importance of improving people’s lives in health, environment and expectation, which we found very interesting.

There was a highly successful reception after the Launch and we were able to talk to Dr Fiona Adshead, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Dr Selwyn Hodge, the Chair Elect of the RSPH. We also had a conversation with Hazel Stuteley and several other distinguished attendees. We couldn’t stay until the end of the reception; it’s a fairly long way home, but we enjoyed ourselves very much and were sorry to leave. We walked through Regent’s Park on our way to Baker Street and so ended the experience very pleasantly. The photograph was taken on our walk back through the park.

A Meeting at the RSL - June 2008

On the 16th June 2008, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, delivered an impressive Roy Jenkins Memorial Lecture at The Royal Society of Literature, at Somerset House, in the Strand, London. The lecture was chaired by Chair of  Council, Anne Chisholm, and Ron and I really enjoyed it. William Hague focused on his two historical biographies on William Pitt the Younger, who was Prime Minister at twenty-four, and William Wilberforce, the orator and campaigner for the abolition of slavery. There was a very nice reception afterwards, where Mr Hague chatted to the assembled Fellows and Members of the Royal Society of Literature and members of the public. We were able to have a short chat with him, which was most interesting. Then we left to catch our train and so back up the motorway to MK.----                                          


A Meeting at the Royal Society - October 2007

On the 15th October 2007, there was a very successful combined meeting between The Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature at Carlton House Terrace. The subject was nurture or nature – is the environment or genetics more to blame when people turn to crime? Being active in the community for some years, I found the discussion most enlightening and was encouraged by the importance members of the panel put on a good environment. The members of the panel were John Banville, James Blair, Terrie Moffitt and Fay Welldon, and the debate was chaired by Professor Uta Frith.

We had a very good evening altogether - an enjoyable meal at the Strand McDonalds; ditto for the piece above. On our way to the Royal Society, a helpful policeman enquired if we were going to the banquet. No, we said, but it’s flattering to have someone think you might be. On the way back to Charing Cross Railway Station, the Prime Minister’s procession of cars swept past. It was dark, the lights flashed and the atmosphere was exciting. We had a reasonable journey home. Yes, another incident. This time someone leant too far over the yellow line on the platform and was hurt. We saw the new Wembley Stadium as usual – it’s winning us over, we used to live in the Borough of Brent – although we thought our stadium at MK was great from the beginning.



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