Archive for October, 2009

Green Fiscal Commission, banks & markets and QEHS Question Time

October 28, 2009

The Green Fiscal Commission has produced a substantial paper on the uses of fiscal measures to influence public behaviour in favour of ecological virtue. The points made are extremely close to those that I have made on my website and elsewhere in years gone by. This paper and action on the points made is massively overdue.
It is no surprise to me that the national press, those elements that mentioned it, only took home the message that car and fuel prices would rise.
The difference between the GFC and my own proposals is that I favour both carrot and stick. To take the example of cars: I propose that VAT should be levied in direct proportion to the CO2 figures produced for every model. If a car produced 159g/km then the VAT should be 15.9%, one that produced 396g/km would attract VAT at 39.6% – simple, proportional, explicit – the polluter pays. Every year a multiplier (1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc.) would be applied to increase the gradient in favour of the lowest emitting cars. Under this scheme the lowest emitting cars would be substantially cheaper than at present.
On the domestic front: I propose, amongst other things, that higher VAT be applied to electricity derived from fossil fuel burning and nuclear fission plant and that all solar, wind and hydro goods and services be zero rated for VAT.
‘Cap and trade’, the emissions reduction mechanism currently in action at an international level is not without its critics – simpler and more manageable measures, closer to the consumer ought to achieve more and more quickly in my judgement.
Key messages from the GFC
Environmental taxes work: numerous studies, including those of the Green Fiscal Commission, have shown that green taxes are effective in reducing the environmental impacts on which they are targeted.
Environmental taxes are efficient: there are good reasons why environmental taxes in many situations will achieve environmental improvement at lower cost than other instruments.
Environmental taxes can raise stable revenues: some environmental taxes, like fuel duty, have been raising sizeable revenues for years. Raising them significantly would therefore both achieve environmental improvements and allow other taxes to be lower than they would otherwise need to be.
The public can be won round to green fiscal reform: a number of polls show majority public support for a green tax shift, which increases when people are persuaded that the green taxes really will be instead of other taxes.
The UK’s 2020 greenhouse gas targets could be met through green fiscal reform: the economic implications of doing so would be broadly neutral, and the green fiscal reform policy approach would increase employment.
Green fiscal reform would stimulate investment in the low-carbon industries of the future: investing a small proportion of the revenues from green fiscal reform in energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and in renewable energy development, would accelerate the growth of new low-carbon industries with real export potential, as well as increasing the environmental benefit of green fiscal reform.
Green fiscal reform can mitigate the impact of high world energy prices: high world energy prices are bad for the UK economy, which is now a net energy importer. Green fiscal reform can drive energy efficiency and make the UK economy less vulnerable to high world energy prices if they rebound once the global economy recovers.
The impacts of green fiscal reform on competitiveness can be mitigated: relatively few economic sectors would face serious challenges to their competitiveness from green fiscal reform, and there are a number of ways in which these concerns can be addressed.
For green fiscal reform to be fair, low-income households would need to be protected from energy price rises while their homes were being made energy efficient: the UK needs a massive programme of energy efficiency improvement to existing homes for social as well as environmental reasons. While this programme is being carried out, special measures would need to reduce the impacts on low-income households of the energy price rises entailed by green fiscal reform.
Green fiscal reform emerges as a crucial policy to get the UK on a low-carbon trajectory; help develop the new industries that will both keep it there and provide competitive advantage for the UK in the future; and contribute to restoring UK fiscal stability after the recession. It is a key to future environmental sustainability and low-carbon prosperity.
Banker’s bonuses did not, of themselves, cause the recession but they are symptomatic of the deficiencies and excesses of our present capitalist model. Perhaps the bonuses should be in the gift of the investors and shareholders of the banks, rather than ‘compensation committees’. After all, the bonuses paid to the bankers are profits not paid to their shareholders and investors.
The other banking issue of the moment is how to minimise the risk of the taxpayer having to bail out the system in the future. The three options most spoken of include: increasing the capital reserves requirements, catastrophe insurance or splitting the banks retail and casino divisions. I do not think governments need to make the decision for the banks because their individual circumstances are so varied but the banks should be required to make their own decision by an early date and show that they have accomplished their action of choice immediately thereafter.
Another factor that I have not seen discussed is the role of volatility in the markets. With assets being traded second by second it is no surprise that enormous swings occur and that speculation is rampant.
The BBC has just broadcast a fascinating programme about Warren Buffet – the world’s richest man from time to time, when not overtaken by Bill Gates. His approach to wealth is diametrically opposed to the general pattern. He takes a considered view, buys an enormous lump, or all, of his chosen target company and then sits on the asset for years. He never engages in leverage funded by debt. His system clearly works. Why don’t others follow suit or better still why don’t governments act to damp out the volatility of markets and thereby reduce the impulse to speculation?
On December 5th at 11.00am in the Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham there is going to be a Question Time at which all four of the candidates will be presenting their answers to questions submitted by the public. This will be an excellent opportunity for the public to start to form their opinions about which way to vote.
Do come along and join in.


Bell Principles revised, BNP and commercialisation of NHS

October 25, 2009

The Executive Board of the IN met to make further plans and discuss a range of issues a couple of days ago in London. I joined in courtesy of Skype.
At our first meeting Martin Bell had contributed a draft of some principles for us to consider and on this occasion we refined them:
The Bell Principles (Reviewed 23/10/09)
The Independent Network will endorse candidates who:
• are non-discriminatory and abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
• make the practice of transparent politics their highest priority.
• are beholden to no party or pressure group, but only to their constituencies and their consciences.
• will both challenge and conciliate their political opponents, influenced by considered evidence, their conscience and their constituency, whilst at all times treating them with respect and courtesy.
• will resist abuses of power and patronage and work to achieve the highest standards of democracy.
• are committed to pluralism. This is reflected in the diversity of the Independent Network’s endorsed candidates, their real world experience and their expertise.
• listen and are committed to constant and innovative community consultation.
• once elected to a body, will choose one of their number as their spokesperson, but will have no formal or informal whip. They will operate as a group, but not as a party.
• will maintain modest and transparent expenses.

Any comments on these principles will be most welcome.
Have we all heard enough about the BNP yet? I found the Question Time, in which Mr. Griffin appeared, unwatchably bizarre and consequently saw no more than about five minutes of it. The consensus in the media subsequently seems to be that nobody emerged from the episode with much credit.
Making much of individuals and parties, as has happened to the BNP, is counterproductive. Within the bounds of the law, let those who will, speak, and they will be judged come the election. If there are candidates with unsavoury views or antecedents and they get elected then I think the blame falls as much on the other contesting parties as on anyone.
The electorate are rational actors who are, nonetheless, sometimes vulnerable to populist messages when the alternatives are uniformly unpalatable or untrustworthy or incomprehensible and the perceived threats are great. Simplicity may appeal more than subtlety; direct action may be more attractive than deliberative process. It is up to the contesting parties to convey their message effectively rather than rely on vulgar vilification of others.
Almost everyone has heard of the BNP and will have formed an instant opinion and in that I am no different. So, in the interests of being able to offer a better informed opinion, I surveyed their website. Having done so, I can see why some might be tempted; it is quite a slick item. Whilst a number of their key points could be restated in unexceptionable terms, the general tenor was uncongenial to me. Several of the key points I would directly oppose – e.g. on Europe, I am definitely in the Europhile camp though concerned to secure not a few changes to ensure better supra-national government in the future. Simple instantaneous withdrawal from Europe has no objective benefits that I can see and many costs.
On immigration the character of the BNP’s stance seems unbalanced, depending, as it does, on a mixture of forced and incentivised repatriation. The over-populated status of our islands is beyond negation but many other more civilised options exist for dealing with the problem.
The variety of opinion in the population is, for practical purposes, infinite. This is why I rail against the orthodoxy that would have you believe that sixty one million people’s views can be adequately represented by two and a half parties. For democratic health we need far more plural and proportionally representative government. This is the role of the Independent – to represent the people – not the party, to catalyse deliberative process, to stimulate proper debate, to advance alternative views, to ensure local opinion is heard in Westminster and heeded, to facilitate properly responsive legislation/regulation and so much more besides.
In a worrying article in The British Journal of General Practice this month the problems with for-profit providers of general practice are highlighted. Amongst other things it shows:
• that there is no effective competition between providers bidding for contracts (tender process waived or only one bidder)
• there is no effective data collection on performance or value for money
• much critical data was withheld (deeply suspicious and reprehensible behaviour)
• in four cases even the nature of the services provided was withheld(!)
Only one non-profit organisation was identified.
The question that taxpayers should be asking of the three conventional parties, who all, more or less openly, support the commercialisation of healthcare, is ‘Given that tax is being squandered as profits for business, in an unaccountable way, rather than on care for taxpayers, how do you justify such waste ?’

What would a Tory government look like, IPPR and Esther Rantzen

October 20, 2009

The following paragraph was penned by Polly Toynbee in The Grauniad recently:
“If Labour has been pusillanimous about banks and bonuses, just wait for the new Tory MPs arriving soon. A survey by the Almanac of British Politics finds that a bare Conservative majority will bring in 140 Tory MPs from business, 50 from the City. The greater the Conservative majority, the more City financiers will come in. It’s doubtful they really think we are all in this together. How odd that these will be the beneficiaries of public outrage at bankers’ greed, the debts they caused and the plight we are in.”
Grim or what?
The infatuation that all parties have with the City is very unhealthy and in developing this dramatically unbalanced representation of skills in Westminster the Tories risk a grievous skewing of influence and policy that all of the rest of us will rue most bitterly.
That representatives of the City and business have a place in government goes without saying but what of all the other functions in the nation’s life. Will the Tories attempt to achieve balance with consultants and special advisors? I am reminded of the response given by a prostitute to her client when asked who she was – “Who do you want me to be?” The problem with paid advisors without clearly established regulatory frameworks is that, in pursuit of the next barrow load of public cash, they will do and say and be whatever the government wants them to do or say or be. It called the market or capitalism and is reputed to be a “good thing”.
At some point reality will have to intrude. Capitalism, money and the markets are tools, not gods. As with any tool, if it is misunderstood or misapplied or badly maintained then problems will arise. For so long as politician’s saucer-eyed idolatry of the financial sector and resulting policy automatism persists we will continue the slide into national decline.
It is possible to dethrone Mammon and put the overall welfare of the nation at the head of a government’s concerns. When the City takes its proper place in our society we can all prosper by exploiting it and not vice versa.
The Institute for Public Policy Research ( is a most useful source of information and ideas. It is well worth looking through their website and bookmarking it.
IPPR North’s new report contains the following item:
The Impact of the Recession on the Northern City Regions, uses detailed analysis of unemployment data to show that, as a general rule, those areas within northern city-regions that were left behind in the boom years have suffered most in the recession. It explains that the northern city regions have been hit by a ‘triple whammy’ effect in the recession:
• Unemployment has increased most in the areas where it was already highest, in part due to the prevalence of low value-added manufacturing in these regions. For example, between March 2008 and September 2009 unemployment has risen by 3.1% and 3.4% in Yorkshire & Humber and the North East respectively but just 2.1% in London.
• Certain housing-led regeneration efforts have been hit hard.
• Some deprived areas would be likely to be badly hurt by future government spending cuts.
• The report stresses that from now on, any reliance on a ‘trickle-down’ approach to regeneration must be questioned, proactive policy-making must happen to ensure that the North returns to growth and that people living in disadvantaged parts of the northern regions, have direct access to economic opportunities and benefits.
Or, more succinctly, God Help the North whichever party wins. This is where an Independent can speak most forcefully. A typical party hack would be ducking and weaving, backing and filling and generally waffling in a desperate attempt to maintain party unity and to obediently toe the party line – promotion depends on it, after all.
Voters in the North cannot look to any of the conventional parties for succour when the going gets tough.
Esther Rantzen, who was at the Independent Network meeting the other day, has, apparently, made the decision to stand as an independent in Luton. Well done her! The media has been keen to run down her prospects, motives and suitability but, having seen her in action at the meeting, she went up in my estimation in leaps and bounds – I wasn’t a fan previously, if we are being honest.
She sat quietly in the meeting until she had some good points to make. She listened attentively. She did not dominate in any way at all and what she said made excellent sense.

Size of government, continuity of care in the NHS and community power generation.

October 15, 2009

One of the recurring themes in political debate is the desirability, or otherwise, of large or small government. Generally speaking, the Conservatives claim to be the champions of small government and they imply that others favour the larger variety. I cannot recall hearing any politician making the case for larger government, at least not in those terms.
My suspicion is that the term small government is supposed to appeal to the electorate at large in rather the same way that law’n’order is bandied about in a policy-detail-free way when an election looms. There is political atavism at work here. The more these magic mantras are chanted, the greater the chance of election. It must be so, because this is the way we always do these things, they seem to be thinking.
This is a false dichotomy. There is no meaningful content to these claims and counterclaims. There are no definitions or preferred frames of reference. It’s simply window dressing of a particularly unthinking, lame and time-expired type.
Were the parties to take the trouble to ask the electorate what size government they desired or required I hope that the reply would be: ‘sufficient government’.
The electorate has certain basic expectations of any government, I believe. Peace, national solvency, economic stability, education, health, transport, defence, low crime levels, etc. etc. – the usual appurtenances of a civilised society, neither more nor less. Sufficient government is that which is required to deliver these essentials with the greatest efficiency and reliability. Given the exigencies of ‘events, dear boy’ imposed on governments, the required size of government will fluctuate naturally.
The proponents of small government will, if given any encouragement, reduce the establishment below the optimal level in their tax cutting zeal and, therefore, habitually overshoot and fail to permit the necessary recovery when necessary. This will lead to progressive failure to meet the electorate’s expectations and failure to have sufficient administrative reserve to face unanticipated developments.
Contrarily, we see too often the growth of Imperial scale bureaucracies headed by overpaid ideologues, quangos, ‘consultants’ and ‘special advisors’ under governments of all stripes at the expense of the legions of civil servants and others who form the more legitimate and accountable component of the government establishment. Cuts, which everyone seems to feel are inevitable in the months ahead, should occur amongst these very expensive arrivistes in government circles. A politically neutral civil service, employing the best of the best and observing the highest standards, is long overdue for resurrection.
Most people, most of the time, see their doctor or any healthcare professional infrequently. Generally speaking, it is those at the extremes of life and women in their child-bearing years who seek medical care most often. Men, especially from teenage years to retirement, tend to be infrequent attenders.
When you do see a doctor, especially with anything non-trivial, what do you expect? That you recognise each other perhaps? That the doctor has your complete history available, either in his/her memory or written or electronic? That the doctor is the doctor you chose to see?
If the problem that takes you to see a doctor is minor, you may be happy to see anyone who is available as soon as possible. If the problem is immediately life threatening, then any qualified person will usually suffice. Between these extremes falls the majority of medical care, it is the continuing care of long term problems that occupies most doctor’s time.
When you are seeing a doctor for something that is a persisting feature of your life, most people prefer to see someone familiar, who knows you and your problem(s) and your circumstances. Having to go through the whole story of your life and problem, every time you meet a new doctor is very time consuming. A doctor unfamiliar with you may struggle to grasp the whole picture at once, sometimes with unfortunate results.
Everyone is unique – physically, psychologically and socially. For anything other than the most minor or the most catastrophic complaints, it is important to have a degree of familiarity with the whole patient picture. Everything is connected – rarely is this truer than in medicine.
The continuity of care in both primary and secondary care fields is being destroyed by successive Conservative and Labour governments. This is having a deleterious effect already and the problems will only worsen. In my more optimistic moments, I believe that this course of events has been chosen in ignorance and with lack of proper consideration. The alternative, that the bond between patient and doctor is being ruptured as matter of deliberate policy, is almost too sinister to contemplate and the repercussions will be life changing for many and life ending for some.
When elected, I will be doing all I can to get the message across to government that continuity of care is the essence of effective care. Unfortunately, it is difficult to price and therefore, in these times when governments know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, there is a considerable hill to climb.
Communities all over the UK are looking into generating their own power. Several technologies are immediately available – wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion, gasification, solar – and in each category there are many options.
In Haydon Bridge, where I am Vice-Chair of the Development Trust, we are just starting out on the road to energy self sufficiency with the help of an organisation called CoRE from Berwick. They are able to offer assessment and advice on both domestic and community level projects.
Our geographical situation is such that all the technologies are, at least potentially, suitable. A factor that we had not anticipated, however, is that large scale anaerobic digestion plants create local employment.
Every community – rural, suburban and urban – should be given the utmost support in developing their own local energy strategy. The price of energy is going to rise punishingly in the years ahead and there is nothing that governments can do about that. Citizens, singly or in communities, on the other hand, can take matters into their own hands now and be ahead of the game in the future.
Advantageous VAT rates on goods and services connected with these sorts of development would help, as would direct grants and low or no interest loans from government. Lenient planning regulations can be introduced to limit delays. I will be pressing for such considerations when in Westminster.

After the conferences, NHS & IMF and some reading recommendations.

October 10, 2009

When Cameron became Tory leader, Ian King, former business editor of The Sun newspaper, described him as a ‘poisonous, slippery individual’. Jeff Randall of The Daily Torygraph opined that he would not trust Cameron with his daughter’s pocket money. Oh dear!
The savings that Osborne reckoned would arise from increasing the retirement age have now been shown to have arisen from a misreading by his team of a paper by a third party. Ooops!
The general tenor of economic thought is that cutting public spending in a recession, before the boom phase is securely under way, is economic suicide. Hmmm!
Vince Cable’s mansion tax, 0.5% of the value annually for houses over £1m, is looking less shiny now that the complexities and costs involved in enacting have been shown to be considerable. To be fair, most economic spokesmen for parties tend to limit themselves to small scale fiddling, presented as the greatest idea since lunchtime, when trying to catch the voter’s eye. What they have all missed is the desirability of adding simplicity, rather than further complexity, to the already monstrously over complicated tax regime.
Darling’s conference proposals were notable by their absence – a steady as she goes speech. But then, having been at the job for while, he would say that, wouldn’t he?
Did you know that the IMF is joining in the attack on the NHS? Foremost amongst the IMF’s proposals for containing the UK’s burgeoning debt is cuts/privatisation for healthcare. Anybody curious about the history of unregulated free-market capitalism and healthcare should read Naomi Klein’s books and especially ‘The Shock Doctrine’. It is a very sobering book.
Whilst on the subject of reading – may I suggest the following?:
Post-Democracy by Colin Crouch and The Triumph of the Political Class by Peter Oborne. Plenty of time to put them on your Christmas list.
Having read them both you will never be able to vote for any political party again – ever!

The Conservative conference, the Independent Network’s ‘Bell Principles’ and Tynedale Green Party support.

October 8, 2009

It is said that a man is known by the company he keeps. With that in mind, it is noteworthy that applications for the tickets for lobbyist’s admission at the Conservative Party Conference were reported by Channel 4 to be fifty per cent over-subscribed.
A Tory candidate is reported in The Times to have been given a four figure inducement to secure an introduction to a shadow minister – the money is said to have been donated to charity. Numerous other Conservative candidates work directly or indirectly for PR firms and lobbying organisations and profess to have no hesitation in doing so.
Again, from The Times, referring to the relationship of Cameron (a PR man himself) with a wide variety of people with a close commercial interest in influencing a government, a party figure, no less, is quoted as saying ‘[Its] all a bit too cosy.’ You bet it is.
Is it just me or is there the stench of corruption filling the air even before the election?
Did you notice that in his main speech Cameron did not mention the words banking, banker, bonus, carbon or inheritance tax at all? The environment was glossed over with one single short phrase and unemployment likewise.
It pays to check what was not said because therein lies much of interest.
By contrast, The Independent Network has drafted some standards for members to follow. They are derived from a document supplied by Martin Bell at the recent meeting.
The Independent MPs will abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: integrity, selflessness, accountability, honesty, openness, objectivity and leadership:

1. Integrity: the Independent MP will make the practice of honest politics their highest priority. They will be answerable not to any party or pressure group, but only to their constituents and their consciences.
2. Selflessness: The Independent MP will speak out against and resist abuses of power and patronage by the Executive, and work to restore the reputation of the House of Commons as the free Parliament of a free people. The Independent MPs will serve by trying to be a humble part of the nation’s conscience, and will not be of, or identify with, the political class, nor will they seek their own advancement.
3. Accountability: The Independent MP knows that power tends to corrupt, and so will meet regularly with a group of experienced Mentors, whose names will be announced before the election, whose role will be to keep the MP’s feet on the ground and give constructive criticism and support in moral dilemmas.
4. Honesty: the MP will always give straightforward and truthful answers and avoid half-truths. Where there are issues of confidentiality or the public interest, the MP will refuse to comment rather than feed the public perception of politicians being shifty and evasive.
5. Openness: The MP’s potential conflicts of interest will be clearly displayed on the MP’s website. Expenses will be modest, and receipts and expenses will be transparent and displayed on the website.
6. Objectivity: when controversial votes are to be taken, the Independent MP will publish on their website the arguments for and against, invite comments, and set out for their constituents the way the MP intends to vote and why. The Independent MPs will not engage in ‘Punch and Judy’ politics, and will treat political opponents at all times with respect and courtesy.
7. Leadership: An Independent MP should be able to demonstrate significant real world experience and leadership outside politics before seeking election to the House of Commons. The Independent MP will see one of their main roles as meeting regularly with and listening to the elected Ward representatives of all parties in their constituency, and leading these elected community leaders to achieve the best possible outcomes for their shared electors. The MP will communicate weekly by email with all the elected Ward Members in the constituency, and post as much information as possible on the website for all constituents to read.

Independent MPs will choose one of their number annually as their Parliamentary Leader, but will have no whip. They will operate as a Group, but not as a Party. They will work together to try and ensure that the Independent MPs have the same entitlement as party MPs to membership of the House of Commons select committees.
Any comments on this draft will be received with interest.
I am delighted to report that the Tynedale Green Party have chosen not to stand against me in the forthcoming election as they have satisfied themselves that my declared position on environmental and other matters is sufficiently close to their own.
Furthermore, they have very kindly consented to endorse my candidacy.
I would like to formally express my sincere thanks to them and look forward to meeting them in the near future.

Murdoch’s toy-boy, Europe and Norway.

October 6, 2009

Cameron has rolled over to have his tummy tickled by Murdoch – he has agreed, in effect, to slowly strangle the BBC to death, thus allowing unimpeded exploitation of the viewing public.
In fact, it is altogether more sinister than that. The Sun’s endorsement of the Conservatives appears to reflect a commitment by Cameron to end the requirement for newscasters to be politically neutral, opening the door to the stupefyingly partisan Fox News and its like. When seen in conjunction with the recently reported statement by James Murdoch, that profit is the only guarantor of independence, the overall effect is positively Orwellian.
Could the BBC survive as an independent subscription service? Has the question ever been asked and if not, why not? Sky is vastly more expensive than the TV license fee, is almost exclusively repeats and a pretty grim form of commercially exploitative electro-narcosis for the viewing public. If paying a Sky sized fee to the BBC direct would guarantee the survival of high quality, politically neutral public service broadcasting (radio and TV) in the Reithian mould, then I would gladly do so and ditch Sky.
Europe seems to be the dominating feature of the Conservative conference this year. The usual suspects are holding forth from their usual positions. The broader world context has not been mentioned. Today we learn that within nine years oil will be priced in a renminbi-dominated basket of currencies and not dollars or Euros. The economic writing is on the wall for all to see, we are heading into an era of total Chinese dominance of the world economy, their expansion is estimated at 10% per year for the foreseeable future, compared to 2% for the USA. Neither a fully operational and harmonious Europe (even if it could be so) nor a resurgent USA nor, probably, both combined will be able to hold a candle to the coming Chinese hegemony.
This situation invites the question: Why are we dithering over European integration on all fronts? Comparatively tiny individual European nations are horribly vulnerable in this new world order, even if they did once have global empires. The Chinese are notably unsentimental, strikingly expansionist and demonstrate the characteristics of an unstoppable force across all regions of the globe.
When will we see the party conferences debating that?
By contrast, we learn this week that a near neighbour, Norway, has topped a worldwide poll, the United Nations Development Index, as the best place in the world to live. Australia is second and Iceland third. This is a country that is geographically close, with similar democratic antecedents to the UK, racially linked, a trading partner, equally blessed with North Sea oil etc. etc. There is much in common between us and yet we find ourselves languishing in 21st place. Why?
Could it be the more egalitarian nature of Norwegian political culture? Could it be the careful husbanding of natural resources and the accumulation of a national fund over decades when thoughtful long term objectives were followed with quiet diligence? Could it be Norway’s more appropriate aspirations for power and influence within the world community and her infrequent wars?
Could it be that Norway is benefitting from better politics than the vainglorious pantomime that we endure in the UK?
We should always be prepared to learn from exemplars of excellence.