Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mr Blair goes travelling (again)

This time the Prime Minister will be leaving his happily squabbling Labour Party (the only party in British history that wants to get rid of a victorious leader) in order to talk to his colleagues in the G-8 countries, prior to a meeting at Gleneagles.

As ever, the preliminary negotiations are everything as the meeting must come up with some kind of a consensus. The trouble is that what is bothering Mr Blair, as Prime Minister of the country that holds the presidency of the G-8, is not what is at the forefront of other politicians’ minds (or the electorate’s).

Mr Blair, for instance, does not seem to have noticed that there is the odd economic problem or two in most western countries and, certainly, in almost all European countries. Even in Britain, our boasts ring hollow when we survey the shrinking private sector and the bloated public one, not to mention problems such as pensions, health, education, etc etc.

At least, unemployment is not as high as on the Continent, however the various figures are arrived at.

But this is not what bothers Mr Blair. Nor is it the war against terrorism or the need to form strong alliances across the world not just in the fusty and musty world of EU politics.

His two top items are climate change and aid to Africa. And, sad to say, he is getting no help on either of those from anybody, possibly because just about everybody sees the complete lunacy and stupidity of those two ideas.

It seems that certain Labour MPs feel that the problem lies in the European countries not being able to decide on a united front in order to put pressure on America, as ever the villain of the piece. (What of Russia or Japan, one asks oneself.)

The Guardian is sympathetic to that point of view, of course, but finds it diffiult to avoid the natural conclusion: nobody wants to support Our Tone.

The first item is climate change. This is the new buzz expression that has supplanted global warming. The trouble with global warming was the lack of proof, the lack of understanding as to how it might manifest itself and what it might lead to and the lack of evidence that it was human behaviour that caused it.

With “climate change” some of the problems disappear. You do not have to prove it because it is inevitable and unstoppable. The only constant thing about climate has been that it has changed, at least in the northern hemisphere.

Accounts of life in England and Europe show that a mini-ice age struck round about the fourteenth century and did not let up till the early nineteenth. Before that there was wine produced in this country and Greenland was a populated land.

During it the winters were so cold that there were fairs with ox-roasting on the frozen Thames. Then it changed again. It is possible the change is faster now, though no evidence has been produced and it is equally possible that the Gulf Stream is changing directions which will have climatic implications.

While this needs to be studied and ways of dealing with the possible problems worked out, it cannot be stopped or in any way affected. (Though one could argue that a little less hot air from all these dire meetings would reduce the greenhouse emissions.)

Still, Mr Blair is running around, demanding that America fall into line over emissions, that other countries, notably, China, India and Brazil do the same or something similar, disregarding the clear evidence that what is needed for a better and cleaner environment is economic development not the unsupported and largely discredited assertions of the Kyoto-freaks.

The Guardian gets huffy, too:

“Britain had expected a deal would already be assured by now to write off the debts owed by poor nations to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

The government had also hoped that the US would be offering more on climate change than lifting trade barriers to allow US enterprise to help developing countries with clean fuel technologies.”

Surely, what the Americans are offering is the best possible idea. There is nothing you can do about climate change, so we shall help developing countries to work out clean fuel technologies? Alas, no, since it is the fixed certainty of the climate change conspiracy theorists that the most important thing in the world is to shackle the American economy. Whether that would be of any use, they care not.

As for the whole Millennium Plan for helping Africa, that has steadily become nothing but a gleam in Mr Blair’s frantic eyes and a self-publicity tool for film stars, models, rock singers and huffing-puffing politicians like Hizonner the Mayor of LondON.

Unfortunately, even the Guardian has had to admit that it is not just the United States that is telling Mr Blair and his minions to go away and leave them alone.

“In addition to the resistance from the US, fiscal constraints in several EU countries will also make a deal difficult to secure. In a sign of the hurdles ahead, fellow EU states yesterday spurned an attempt by the international development secretary, Hilary Benn, to win support for a commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid.

Germany and Italy have proved difficult to budge on the 0.7% timetable discussed by Mr Benn yesterday, and Mr Blair's meeting with Mr Schröder is seen as crucial in providing a united European position that would put pressure on the US to follow suit.”

Some of the Labour politicians who think that all this can and should be overcome would do well to read Stephen Pollard, former Fabian policy wonk in the Times Online yesterday.

Mr Pollard repeats all the arguments about the idiocy of “trade justice” that prevents developing countries from trading and developing; of abolishing debts and increasing aid that would reward governments for their disastrous policy and give them more money to siphon off.

“Much Third World poverty is the result of governments taking the decision,in effect, to remain poor. The conditions under which they can prosper are known, and available, if those in power choose to avail themselves of them.

As Hernando de Soto (who has done much to alleviate poverty, not least through his seminal book, The Mystery of Capital) points out, it is easy to make a country prosperous. It needs only security of life and property, and markets in which property rights can be valued and traded. The West’s prosperity is built on property rights and the rule of law; it is the denial of those rights which causes poverty and prevents growth.”

He then adds:

“If those behind Make Poverty History were serious about ending poverty they would be campaigning for property rights and the rule of law — for better governance, in other words. And they would campaign not to abolish free trade but to extend it — attacking, for instance, the EU Common Agricultural Policy and its immoral tariff barriers against the developing world.

The EU spends €2.7 billion a year subsidising farmers to grow sugar beet; at the same time it imposes high tariff barriers against sugar imports from the developing world. And the EU’s agricultural tariffs average 20 per cent, rising to a peak of 250 per cent on certain products. The European market remains barely open to the majority of low-cost textiles from the developing world.”

It seems unlikely that any of that will be raised at the G-8 meeting or the subsequent EU Presidency. Instead, there will be more hot air and the sight of Prime Minister Blair running up air miles in his attempts to reverse climate change, whatever that might mean.

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