Monthly Archives: October 2012

Charity in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is blessed and cursed in equal measure. We are clearly a nation of conscience, as indicated by such a plethora of charitable institutions that almost no cause is left unrepresented. That is our blessing. However, every one of these institutions was not so fortuitous as to have been formed by an eccentric billionaire and do need funding in order to achieve their goals. Funding requires fundraising, and fundraising requires a vigorous campaign in order to extract as much money from the available sources as possible. Whether rich or poor, or somewhere in the middle, we are that source. That is our curse.

I would think there are very few people throughout the country who have not experienced the sharp end of a fundraiser’s pitch at this point. In the past years, despite recession, the industry has boomed and whether it was some bubbly young individual on the High Street, at your front door or unexpectedly on the phone, you have probably been asked to yield your hard earned money to at least one noble enterprise. Probably many.

For a certain minority, this is not a problem at all. There are some people who are genuinely enamoured with the work of an organisation and will happily and selflessly provide support, even to the extent of effecting their own lifestyle. For most, it’s a worthy nuisance and will offer support to a reasonable degree and hope the pestering won’t overcome the sense of satisfaction for essentially doing something good. And for many still, charities are an actual blight on society. The notion of giving away what is theirs in aid of something that doesn’t effect them is a mystery, and it’s an imposition and an insult to even be asked.

I work in professional fundraising, both out of necessity to achieve my ambitions but also because of all the things I could be doing to enable those ambitions, it is the best. Hospitality, retail or services would probably allow me to meet my financial obligations but I would possibly feel dead to my core, and so going to work and raising money for a number of undoubtedly important causes actually feels pretty great. In a slightly distant sense, I am part of a mechanism which varyingly saves or improves lives on a daily basis. I experience that diversity of reaction to my wholehearted attempts to represent the campaign I am working for and have plenty of time to think about the nature of this unwieldy beast.

A charity is basically a non-profit, non-governmental public service that relies on donations to function. In the majority of cases, these services could be provided under the tenants of a public health organisation such as the NHS were it better equipped and funded. But that is effectively how charities came to be. Philanthropic individuals or groups saw gaps in the support provided by public bodies and sought to bridge them, utilising the generosity and good sense of a people which saw the need. Establishing a national organisation off the cuff would be rather improbable and so a number of similar regional organisations would grow and either collaborate after a point or diversify their remit to remain independent and viable.

The result is that there are thousands of charitable organisations in the UK, most of which are highly valued but many of which are working separately of one another in almost exactly the same field. And they all need money. Want to provide meaningful support to children’s protection? A big ticket donation to Barnado’s is a good idea, but what about the NSPCC or The Children’s Society? People with disability need an extra hand, but while Scope is the leading organisation you might have heard about the growing Camphill Family? Cancer is one of the greatest threats to humanity, but do you go for Cancer Research UK? Macmillan? Marie Curie? Breakthrough Breast Cancer? Children with Cancer? Leukaemia Care? The lists are endless and don’t even stop with the more obvious problem areas. If you can’t decide between the National Trust or English Heritage as to who will better care for your local history, you’re in real trouble. God forbid I even get into the horde of environmental charities.

Disorganisation and inefficiency seem to be a macro-dilemma for the national, let alone global, charity behemoth. In most cases, you would hope to think that within the charities themselves there is an effective administration that distributes available funding to the core of their mission. It is clearly a point of consternation with many in the public that some organisations spend significant sums of money on campaigns and advertising, which although essential for survival under the current model, is definitely not the best use of funds. Often, the larger a charity becomes, the more expensive the administration and  the smaller the portion of that donated pound ends up supplying research or aid. Relatively speaking this isn’t the end of the world as the revenue stream of a large charity will still mean lots of money is going to the cause, but this clearly isn’t the best system.

Consolidation would seem to be the first logical step. If I had one pound to give to the cause of beating cancer, it would be best used by one organisation rather than ten. It would be easier for me to allocate those funds knowing that I wasn’t depriving another sound entity of that funding and I would not be subjected to their appeals. If the UK had a small group of headlining organisations, each replete with substantial resources dedicated to thoroughly distinct goals, the increased efficiency of revenue distribution would surely provide exponential improvements to those services.

Secondly, I would actually cut out the fundraising element altogether. Professional fundraising organisations are usually excellent value for money, giving substantial returns on investment, but do in fact seek to make at least a nominal profit. They are locked in an eternal struggle with the public to extract as much money as possible and, although doing so for excellent reasons, can only apply so much pressure. Public awareness of the methods and pro-activity of these companies is growing and one senses it is something of a bubble waiting to burst.

Taxation is the answer, as government is undeniably good at one thing and that is sucking money from the people on a scale that any fundraising company could only ever hope to dream of. As described earlier, a significant portion of the public do provide for these charities, often on a significant basis, but supporting these services shouldn’t be a question of individual altruism informed by individual thoughts on what is a more or less important service. They are all equally important with all dispositions accounted for, whether it be curing cancer, protecting children or the homeless, helping the disabled, ensuring the survival of habitats and species or preserving the rich legacy of a nation. I believe it is the responsibility of a society to ensure these goals are achieved and so whether it pleases you or not, you should contribute.

Spread across the wealth of a nation, this system would be a minor financial imposition to some, a minor relief to others, and yet we could all share in a sense of societal pride that is so obviously already generated by the existence of the NHS. Consistency of revenue is paramount to the effective functioning of a charity and so not only would they be seeing an improved intake themselves but the budgeting advantages would be huge. A greater part of the functionality of a charity could be directed towards the mission, with longer term planning. It’s important to stipulate that the charity would remain a private entity, equipped with all it’s expertise and experience, but government could in theory be a very effective paymaster. These institutions do generally have a good idea of what they need to fulfil their aims and so a new ministerial portfolio could quite easily oversee the appropriate distribution of these funds. The competitive aspect for increased funding would also motivate the different charitable sectors to provide better outcomes for better value.

It is true, I am arguing my form of employment should be made redundant, despite the satisfaction I take from it. But that is purely on the basis that I fully believe in the value of charities and think they should be better enabled. For every conversation I have where a supporter expresses satisfaction for their actions and offers further support, there are many times more conversations where stress and regret are apparent for not being able to do more. The rest usually involves patent irritation for my invasion of their personal time and an expressed desire to take my arguments elsewhere, often to the government who many feel should do more.

Of course the only way government could do more is with more taxation, but that should not technically be an issue. Negative public sentiment towards taxation is most often the result of poor use of those funds but if we were always able to see the material gains of our marginally increased burden then why not? If cancer survival rates improved and if every time you walked past a wheelchair bound individual and knew that you were part of a society that did as much as it could to provide that person with as damn near the same quality of life as everyone, how could you complain? The argument that charitable support should be voluntary so as to provide a sense of individual goodness is a morally utilitarian quibble at best.

And ultimately, who wouldn’t be happy to see the chugger (charity mugger) vanish from the High Street so you can get from shop to shop without the awkward averting of eyes or completely staged mobile phone call? Who wouldn’t be happy knowing that your home was indeed your castle where at the end of a days work you could relax without the phone or the doorbell calling upon your generosity, knowing you’ve already met your obligation to society? I’m the only loser really, but until the entire system changes, don’t expect a reprieve. Professional fundraising companies are highly effective and work on behalf of some the best causes imaginable. Too right they persevere.



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Drug Policy, Stupid

National drug policy is an area I’ve explicitly avoided since beginning this little project. There is an unavoidable impression created when advocating pragmatic measures that I didn’t want to impose upon myself. The suggestion that a government might look at the ample evidence and respond in a sensible fashion with intelligent policy undoubtedly causes at least some readers to write off a persevering commentator as immature or obnoxiously liberal. It’s a risk I’m willing to take at this stage, as in the past few weeks I have been subjected to a renewed debate surrounding the UK’s approach to narcotics, a debate that I am frankly sick to death of. I’m certainly not the only one.

I don’t believe the supposedly revelatory UKDPC report spoke of a single thing that hasn’t been held as the obvious truth for many years now. Drug policy is overly-simplistic and enforcement ineffective, unjust and horrendously wasteful. This fact resurfaces every few years in the confident pages of some commission or review and although in theory should be reinforced by the consistency of every single legitimate approach to the issue, very little happens. Except of course, that the anger and fear of any politician forced to address the matter bridles with particular indignation. Like petulant children they often respond to these eminently well-researched documents, created by serious and intelligent people, by doubling down on the same tired, stock responses.

I imagine many are wholly ill-informed of the contents of these reports as how else could they reply as they do. “We’re worried about the message decriminalisation would send to young people,” or “We should be giving harder penalties to drug abusers, not relaxing the law!” If not outright denial, it is deflection or truisms, “We should focus more on awareness and treatment and it’s terrible so many heroin addicts are stuck on methadone,” and my most hated, “We should absolutely look into this matter after doing the appropriate study into its potential effects.”

Well as said, the studies have been done. Over and over and over again, with practically the same outcome every time. The war on drugs does not work. That nothing has changed suggests to me that governments here and in many other parts of the world are happy with flushing vast sums of money down the drain on a monthly basis while achieving precisely nothing of any use. Of course, thousands of people are punished under the law, lives ruined, but the availability of drugs remains virtually constant. Prohibition does not work as it has been proved, with the same relentless consistency as the messages of those generally ignored advisory reports, that making something illegal for which there is a public appetite creates organised crime.

This article appeared in the Guardian very recently. I was outraged and was even motivated to write to my MP with the suggestion that it should have been titled, “Government drug policy causes surge in gun violence,” along with other damning opinions on Westminster’s archaic ways. Unsurprisingly I did not receive a response, something I happily prescribed to the dismissive nature of politicians to common sense. It is through no sense of personal slight that I offer that conclusion here as it is relevant to one reference I made in that letter to the former chair of the ACMD, David Nutt, who was summarily relieved of his post upon offering the statistical truth that ecstasy is less dangerous than riding a horse. My opinion then, as much as now, was that he suffered a great injustice, where ignorant social rhetoric oppressed scientific evidence. Although I find the occasionally proffered Galilean associations to be a little hyperbolic, there is a kernel of truth in them.

You’ll note at this point I’ve only suggested that policy and criminalisation deserve criticism, and this is quite often a refuge tactic for one avoiding overt support for anything in the area of decriminalisation. But I will properly throw my hat into the ring. You can infer from the hugely negative effects of criminalisation, that making drugs legal would save astounding amounts of money in enforcement, deprive crime of revenue and relieve a staggering burden on the justice system. One of the oldest arguments available is that government could control and tax them in the manner of alcohol and tobacco, thus generating substantial revenue.

The British Empire was arguably built on the crass and detrimental proliferation of opium in many parts of the world, notably China, so I would never argue that drugs should be a free market commodity. Government should certainly exercise a degree of moral authority as it so miserably failed to do in the 19th Century when Jardine and Matheson along with many other commercial enterprises wilfully undermined large tracts of societies across the globe. But the sheer dissonance of a situation where, no matter what, drugs are available, and yet government chooses the option to not profit and exercise control, is infuriating. The information campaigns alone that could be funded would far outstretch the relatively ineffectual efforts of today. I remember well the day a former addict and campaigner for drug awareness came to my school. This was the only occasion in memory and I must say that this ephemeral event left little of the desired impression.

An important distinction to be made is in the type of drug under discussion, one rarely made in political forums. “Drugs” is a catch-all for everything from cannabis to cocaine and heroin and this itself is an obstacle to practical reforms. The suggestion that cannabis and heroin are even remotely similar in their addictive properties and potential harms is either a patent and cynical lie or yet another indicator that policy makers just don’t know what they are dealing with. And although I recognise the potential horrors that can result from hard drug addiction, it’s still difficult to work past the rational consideration that if in any event the substance will be available, it should be made available by those with supposedly an inkling of social conscience. Namely government.

Cannabis, on the other hand, is a point of extreme consternation to me. I witness so frequently the appalling consequences, both immediate and long term, of alcohol consumption that its legality provides simply no room for an argument for cannabis illegality. Successive governments since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act have drawn the most arbitrary and hypocritical lines imaginable. The misguided conservative fear of narcotics stems from the 19th and early 20th Century when the world was finally getting to grips with a rampant culture of abuse of opium and its derivatives, including morphine and heroin. The fear in the 1920’s, when the UK first listed cannabis as a potentially harmful narcotic, was perhaps understandable, if still reactionary and racist based on the substance’s origins, but it is shocking we have not moved on.

Aside from the issue that stringent regulation of industrial hemp, via its inaccurate associations with cannabis production, has hampered the exploration of a potentially far-reaching commodity, the personal possession and use of a substance that can be grown from the earth and consumed as intended, without any treatment or process, should not be a pariah. I would take the pacified introspection of a smoker over the aggressive misbehaviour of a drinker any day of the week, and yet policy makers still have the gall to promote the most skewed perspectives. Margaret Curran MP on Question Time this week was waving the flag. She came so close to an honest portrayal by suggesting that reports indicated the patterns of cannabis use were extremely different to heroin use. She then sadly offered the hatefully distorted view that over a number of years, cannabis has grown stronger (referring to recently higher levels of THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis) and that it is now a serious substance with potentially harmful mental effects.

Put this notion to a scientist who has worked in the area and he would probably have to concede there is a certain amount of evidence that the misuse of cannabis can in theory lead to potential mental problems, although largely in the instance of an existing genetic propensity for such conditions. The scientist’s ambiguity would be that obvious however and he or she would likely never offer the certainty of the potential harms expressed by Curran. Regardless, the key word there is “misuse”. Given my occasionally libertarian views on certain issues, I would argue that if the government is concerned about the misuse of things in our society and was inclined to mitigate all the conceivable harms, we could swiftly say goodbye to almost every enjoyable aspect of life. Misuse begins at free will and I find it personally disgusting that any government would ever try to legislate that.

Indeed, I find it disgusting that they do. In the understanding that morally justifiable free will is limited by not infringing upon the free will of others, government should have no authority to command what one does exclusively to oneself, in the privacy of one’s home. The audacity of any individual to say to another that they should improve their own life through subjective measures is something I cannot abide. I won’t argue for a second that the life of a drug addict would not necessarily be improved by kicking the habit but for me or anyone to sit in judgement is profoundly wrong, and so providing the means of awareness and rehabilitation is the only reasonable recourse.

I think in closing I would provide these rough statistics. Tobacco causes the deaths of close to 100,000 people per year in the UK. There are close to 9,000 alcohol related deaths per year compared with approximately 2,000 drug related deaths, of which close to half are the result of the misuse of prescribed drugs, although opiate abuse in Scotland is more prevalent. There is no strong indication that the patterns of drug use would change or the numbers of users would rise in the event of legalisation because access to drugs is virtually unchallenged by its illegality. What sounds like a bigger problem to you?

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Romney’s Foreign Policy

On Monday 8th October, Mitt Romney treated us to another rare display, his fifth, on foreign policy throughout his broader race to the White House. It’s an area the man has clearly not been overly comfortable with and for that matter why should he be? He entirely lacks real experience in the area, never having served in the military and his highest post of public office being the governorship of Massachusetts, well away from the potential for national level select committees where many otherwise white collar American politicians learn a thing or two about the outside world. His career in the private sector could not possibly be said to have granted him any substantive knowledge, beyond perhaps trade and business, aspects not typically associated with the crux of foreign policy.

That is an assessment Romney probably agrees with if we were to take inference from his 22 minute delivery to the Virginia Military Institute. Along with other areas one might generally include in the remit of foreign affairs, such as soft power, diplomacy and international aid, trade and business were given at best a perfunctory coverage. By my count, he accrued one, or a generous two, minutes on anything other than national defence and the military.

There are issues to consider before launching into an attack on this apparently ill-conceived distribution of coverage. The first being that Romney is a Republican vying for national power and of course he is going to appeal to that more hawkish base of his. The second is obviously that he is addressing a room full of cadets and would be silly not to directly appeal to them. These are political factors that should be considered in fairness, as how rarely do the words of a campaign truly match the actions of government? Sadly rarely indeed, and though an unfortunate truth of the matter we wished wasn’t so, is still important in avoiding hypocrisy. Obama has most certainly not carried through with his every promise.

With Romney however, there is a key difference. Many of Obama’s promises were ones that we all wanted him to fulfil, closing Guantanamo Bay not the least. Through Monday’s speech I can quite happily state that I hope, should Romney take office, he forgets nearly every promise he made. Just to warm you up to the notion, would you like to see USN carrier groups in the Eastern Med and Persian Gulf applying overbearing military pressure on a region so fraught with sensitivity and already more tense than a Mormon in a strip club? The answer should be no unless you belong to an apocalyptic cult, and not trying to be glib, I do not refer to the entire Republican Party.

The Romney campaign rather misjudged this speech in my humble opinion. If the aim was to give their candidate a credible aura in this area of governance they would have done better to not start with crude references to General Marshall that, Romney not being a noted student of history, were most likely fed to him with a spoon. Association by reference to grandeur is a weak political tool in the first place, one that I attacked Ed Miliband for recently with his incessant mentioning of Disraeli. Beyond this it simply jarred and for no more a complicated reason than Romney looking about as stiff and awkward as I’ve ever seen him. All the gravitas and charm of the first Presidential debate had vanished and from introduction to conclusion he descended into near boredom, just begging the prompter to run out of text.

Maintaining consciousness though, I listened to the man hammer Obama on almost every global issue of significance, most coming out of the Middle-East. It was an academic approach. Whether it was Syria, Iran, Egypt or Libya, he provided a thin analysis that might be produced by a GCSE mid-week report to build an impression of familiarity with those issues and then blamed practically everything on the incumbent. Evidently Obama’s foreign policy is at the root of all these deeply complex dilemmas, either initiating them or in the least failing to single-handedly solve them with his divine mandate as President of the United States. Romney has the solutions though. Arm the Syrian rebels, hunt down the murderers of Ambassador Stevens, put Iran on notice and keep a watchful, arrogant eye on the Muslim Brotherhood led Egypt. It’s really that simple.

Where not attacking Obama, he promoted such outdated concepts that I think his staffers pulled the speech from 1970’s neo-conservative playbook. And why not?!? Only 3 of 28 NATO nations are committing to 2% GDP defence spending and Putin “casts a long shadow over young democracies in Europe”. America itself must reaffirm its psychotic levels of military spending that already stands at 41% of total global military spending… the impression one is left with is that some in America think the Cold War is still on or rather wish it still was. Romney himself distils this notions by suggesting that America must somehow achieve the unlikely responsibility of leading the world and shaping events without a false sense of pride. It’s an attractive image if you buy it, especially as Obama risks leading the American people into enslavement and destruction.

The entire speech was quite painful really. It screamed a belief in America’s inviolable capacity for interventionism and the moral right to maintain this. This is despite the more commonly held view that the era of superpowers tugging at the strings of their lesser regional allies is over. China, the world’s emerging superpower, is quite determined to avoid even the most stridently acceptable case of interventionism as seen in their handling of the Syrian crisis. The notion of American moral supremacy that Romney seems to hold dear is arguably more disconcerting that his outrageous material suggestions such as arbitrarily building a handful of naval vessels and submarines. What absolutely astounds me is that he doesn’t only attach this morality to military affairs.

In the brief section of the speech that Romney did talk about anything that didn’t implicitly involve lots of guns and ammunition, he loaded the institution of US aid with the most incredible stipulations. Aid would only be granted with the condition of strong oversight with a particular mind to creating free markets in those countries that would bow down to recreating themselves in America’s image. Were it possible, this is a more horrifying proposal than starting World War III in the Middle-East, which a Romney foreign policy loyal to this speech would likely cause.

His is the foreign policy of an American mind of some two decades past, all the more tragically unchanged for the intervening events to this day. His answer to the world’s problems is a sudden explosion of American power and aggression that would somehow cause all global antagonists to run in fear and capitulate to a new era of American supremacy. Did I learn more from my brief A-level studies of the Vietnam War than Romney ever did through being a red-blooded son of Uncle Sam? Almost certainly. That tempestuous disposition is the result of the misinformed belief in power taking precedence over even a basic faith in the lessons of history or a working knowledge of the state of the modern world.

In the stakes of appealing to his base, he succeeded, but where concerned with offering a realistic and nuanced set of ideas that offered any hope of the peaceful world he aspires to, it was a miserable performance. Perhaps his campaign realises the ship has sailed in this area and all he needs to do is wet the appetites of your average NRA card holder and settle the nerves of those right-leaning individuals who were so very concerned he might be moderate. I pray this is so, as almost point for point these are campaign promises that should be consigned to the dustbin.

Team America? Fuck no.

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Rhetoric… Broadly Speaking

It’s been a fascinating couple of weeks. Politics have dominated the headlines in the UK and USA given the slew of autumn party conferences here, and across the pond the final countdown to the general elections began with the first of three presidential debates. Needless to say I am giddy and swooning like an addict given too great a fix. The finer machinations of running a nation are, of course, occasionally a bit dull but when the gloves of office come off as they have so energetically done of late even a true cynic could surely not resist a cursory glance at how the key players are attempting to engage their existing and potential supporters. Where to begin?

With Michael Deaver actually. Ronald Reagan’s long serving communications guru and Deputy Chief of Staff during his time in the White House had a very interesting perspective on the importance of constituent elements in a successful broadcast appearance. While referring mainly to the occasion of a leadership debate, his suggestion that appearance was 85% of the game followed by 10% “how you say things” and 5% “what you actually say” is curiously relevant to all of these recent and ongoing events.

Chronologically we had the Liberal Democrats first, as indeed how else could they be first in any other consideration. They may as well have taken this opportunity to lead the pack, in however a meaningless fashion, but sadly there was never a possibility this act could really seize the initiative. Nick Clegg and company are simply far too damaged at this point to attain any reversal of fortune but nonetheless from 22-26 September they did their best to ignore the fact. It was quite remarkable how oblivious they were to the arch-dilemma they are consumed by. Perfunctory apologies from our esteemed Deputy PM for their impotence in opposing the vast student tuition increase were ridiculed but beyond this the Liberal Democrats carried belligerently on as normal.

This was not a party in crisis mode as far as I could discern and my substantial disbelief at claims they were an effective foil to Conservative antics was only surpassed by the audacity of bothering to promote a platform at all. The Mansion Tax, now wholly rejected by the Tories, and any other permutation of their “fairer tax for tough times” initiative was laughably electoral in nature given their roundly accepted inefficacy. One could almost understand this however, if looking at the polls. Somehow, despite the Tories leading the charge on most of the unsavoury policy of government, the Liberal Democrats support has plummeted harder and Clegg himself is arguably the least popular party leader since polling began.

Applying Deaver’s model to the Liberal Democrats is almost wasteful due to the severity of the problems they face. We’re not talking about a short stint in the wilderness that the two major parties must suffer in defeat, but a catastrophic regression that may well require dissolution and recreation to ever re-emerge back into the forefront of politics. But still, with Clegg looking like a walking shambles, sounding like a man on the edge and saying things that make very little sense at all, I’d say he failed to pass the acceptable standard of a man supposedly vying for power over a nation. Moving on.

It pains me to say that Ed Miliband faired better. He went into his conference with a very specific personal mission – to convince the country that he can be as good a statesman as he can be a policy wonk. That I find myself in opposition to many a product of his wonkery does not altogether detract from the fact that he has a decent brain. Probably unfairly though, myself and many, many… many of us have some difficulty hearing past his nasal, whiny voice, his gangly, disproportioned physique and his unashamed usurpation of his brother’s potentially more credible leadership. There are concerns over his ability to exercise authority over the unions who made his ascension possible as well as his formative apprenticeship under the ignominious Gordon Brown.

And how he attacked this mission with heavily coached enthusiasm. And how, in my opinion, he fell short of the mark, thanks mainly to the transparency of every intonation, gesticulation and motive behind near every sentence he spoke. Rhetoric comes so painfully unnatural to this man that in reaching for such heady heights as Disraeli, the most heavily referenced individual in his keynote speech, he forced me on several occasions to literally reel with embarrassment. Was he convinced he was Steve Jobs reincarnate? As the entire affair was so clearly informed by the primary goal of casting off his nerdy shackles he also failed in saying much of worth. Although he did have me nodding in agreement during his feisty attack on coalition incompetence, there wasn’t an identifiable detail of policy in an entire speech that was largely dominated by a tame personal story and the vagueness of the co-opted “One Nation” concept.

Poor man, he did try, but there are limitations there he just can’t surpass. And if we place significant credence in Deaver’s model there is probably no hope for his aspirations. Miliband Junior will always be the nerd and his only chance lies in the ineptitude of his opponents. After all, he’s tried almost everything. Whether it be embracing or trying to defeat the majority perception, he looks wrong, sounds wrong and if the substance of his words is worth so little, I return to an old thought that he really is the caretaker leader while Labour recover as a party. When will David make his move?

The first presidential debate was a bit of a surprise and makes the reality of Deaver’s model a very sad one. Romney was on fire, and I’m sure you have picked up on the general impression that he demolished an inexplicably lacklustre performance from Obama. He looked and sounded rather presidential compared to the hesitant and professorial President. The Denver altitude perhaps. Throughout the history of presidential debates the polling question that attracts the most attention is which candidate seemed more presidential, and there was little doubt in this case.

I can only hope that through some phenomena the American public chose to pay more attention to the 5%. In the aftermath of the debate, the fact-checkers went to work and item by item began to take apart Romney’s performance. In the figurative battlefield of ideas, Obama could have put a bullet straight though the heart of the Romney campaign if he’d even bothered to fight. The painful irony of the supremely encouraging employment statistics that appeared the day after the debate showed this – quite detrimental to Romney’s assertion that Obama’s methods have failed and that he was going to be the master of small business and job creation, employment is at it’s best since 2008 and Obama is in fact a net job creator.

But how Obama allowed Romney to disavow himself of the actually insane though still wholly under-defined budget proposals he’s been running with for months is beyond me. How, after his barnstorming energy of the 2008 campaign he allowed Romney, who stumbles over the most simple sentences on many occasions, to come across as a superior orator is further beyond me still. During one rather extended patriotic rap I actually thought Romney had a shot, it was a sublime political mini-speech. The big question is, was this performance enough to undermine the gradually established notion that Romney might be an emotionless cyborg who gives private dinner speeches describing half of the American populace as welfare dependant parasites.

I sincerely hope not. The thought of a Romney-Ryan Republican government chills me to the core and I cannot begin to fathom his motivations beyond being the first Morman president to Obama’s first African-American president. What is clear is that Romney really wants to be president and I think that’s an unhealthy disposition for a role of sombre duty and immense power.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to David Cameron’s keynote speech. If it can’t surpass the efforts of his fellow party leaders then I would be inclined to lose the last of my now microscopic hope in the Conservative party. That is if I hadn’t seen William Hague’s speech today. I lament his ill-fortuned time as party leader and it continues to feed my distaste for the Eurosceptic branch of the party to this day. Cameron made sense at the time – young, moderate and apparently competent in the wake of the old, grey and angry Tory disasters that were IDS and the vampiric Howard. But barely leading the party to victory against Brown after 13 years of Labour government does not really prove his worth.

Was Hague today renewing his intent? Deaver would probably think so if he was still around today and it just so happens Hague was making sense. Interesting times.


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