Wednesday, 28 April 2010


The Christian think-tank Ekklesia got a mention in a string of nationals today. They have run the story about Jonathan Bartley’s confrontation with David Cameron on the campaign trail yesterday.

Ekklesia’s profile in the world outside the Christian one is probably a little lower than Theos’s – another Christian think-tank which sits in a different place along the political spectrum to Ekklesia. This may be down to the fact that Theos puts on debates. There were some great ones last year. The last one they did got national coverage. In fact, their next one is: How much religious liberty can a liberal society afford? Joshua Rozenberg is chairing. If I were not going to be in the States at the time, I would be there (it’s an invite only event, though).

Thursday, 22 April 2010


UKIP death wish. Watch Lord Pearson here.

No, it's not a spoof.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The Times wins on best front page of the day (with the Telegraph’s splash on the prolonged flight ban finishing a close second). It has run with the Trident question, which cuts clear divides between the three main parties’ politics. Inside, they have printed a letter from four army generals asking whether the Cold War missile is actually value for money.

The generals question: ““Is the UK’s security best served by going ahead with business as usual; reducing our nuclear arsenal; adjusting our nuclear posture or eliminating our nuclear weapons?”

And they make the point: “It may well be that money spent on new nuclear weapons will be money that is not available to support our frontline troops, or for crucial counterterrorism work; money not available for buying helicopters, armoured vehicles, frigates or even for paying for more manpower.”

It does seem like an obvious way to reduce the country’s deficit. But the Times’ leader column cautions: “The only real alternative would be, therefore, to abandon our nuclear capability — and with it our nuclear expertise. That decision would be irreversible. It should not be taken lightly in a flurry of cost-saving, nor because it seems like an easy option in a politically charged debate. The generals are right to argue that Trident should be included in the Strategic Defence Review. The detail would surely make the case for its retention.”

Surely, there would be ways around Britain retaining its nuclear expertise if Trident were scrapped: strategic partnerships between states with experts working collaboratively, for instance. Besides, it is not as there isn't any talk of viable alternatives:

(From the Times' article): “General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank added his weight to the debate last night, saying that a cheaper option to Trident should be considered, particularly as Britain strives for a world without nuclear bombs.

“Do we really need the kind of effective weapon we had in the Cold War? There is quite an argument to say we do not,” he told The Times. He suggested that nuclear-tipped missiles launched from the land or by air were possible alternatives.”

Friday, 9 April 2010

Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill

So, vulture funds are now illegal. The Debt Relief Bill passed in the wash-up on Wednesday. The Guardian reported today.

I have had a quick skim through Hansard to see if there were any good moral hazard arguments put forward by the Conservatives. Mr David Gauke (Cons MP) defended the sunset clause, which will mean the Bill being reviewed after 12 months.

“It is important that its provisions are carefully calibrated, because if we prevent creditors from enforcing debts against developing countries, there is a risk that they will not lend to developing countries in future. The law of unintended consequences could apply and we could make things worse for developing countries. Nobody wants to do that, which is why the Bill is carefully calibrated to apply only to heavily indebted poor countries. It relates only to past debt and not to future contracts. Future lending agreements can be enforced unaffected by the Bill.”

He goes on: “Concern was frequently expressed by industry bodies during the Treasury consultation that the Bill might send the message that creditors in the UK could not enforce debts against developing countries and that that could be applied more broadly. As part of the consultation, it was pointed out that those possible spill-over costs would be difficult to assess. For example, would a risk premium be applied to developing countries that would make it harder for them to obtain credit?”

He rounds up: “Let me say why I think this debate is helpful. Parliament is dealing with the matter sensibly, recognising the potential dangers and treading carefully. That is a good message to send out. The concern about the risk premium centres not on the Bill itself, but on the possibility that it will become a precedent for a future Bill that prevents the enforcement of future debts. No doubt some in this House would argue that that would be a great thing to do, but it would pose significant dangers for developing countries.”

The responsibility doesn’t just lie with the developing country; it also lies with the creditor.