Running across the hills of Fife while talking about international development policy
Great profile/interview with Gordon Brown in today's Guardian magazine - here.
"When people talk about party politics it is almost purely in the sense of ambitions - who's up, who's down, who's in, who's out. But it would be outrageous if that's what drove people on. The only point of being around is to get something done."
But rather than the politics, this is a great insight into Brown the man. Could the Guardian be trying to build up public sympathy for him prior to a full-on leadership bid? Who cares? It's a nice piece, and he comes across as a genuinely decent bloke. A rare thing in politics...
Bad pun, sorry... But there seems to be a lot of interest over the possibility of Turkey joining the EU at the moment.
Turkey should, I believe, at some stage become a full member of the EU. It is, after all, already a member of NATO; it has a decent stock of gold to help maintain its moderately successful economy; its political system is suitably "Western" (a President is elected for seven year terms, but has no role in the executive and cannot be linked to a political party, the 550-seat Grand National Assembly is elected by proportional representation on five year terms); it has been constitutionally secular since 1928, despite remaining primarily Islamic; as part of the former Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, it shares a common history with Europe.
There are two major problems with Turkish entry, however. The first is the country's horrendous record on human rights. But this is apparently set to change. The second is its massive, practically unpolicable border to the south and east, which could enable a massive influx of illegal immigrants and/or terrorists into the EU. And we all know how much everyone hates illegal immigrants and terrorists...
There is, in certain quarters, another concern, and one which demonstrates that some people still haven't quite worked out the mistakes of the past. Europe is linked by culture, certainly, but by no means simply by Christianity, as some would have it - that has been one of the most divisive elements throughout European history, splitting east from west during the Great Schism and tearing the west apart further during the hunts for heretics, the Reformation and the Wars of Religion. As Josep Borrell, the President of the European Parliament, has himself said, "The Issue of Turkey's EU membership should not be assessed on religious terms."
It matters not a jot that Turkey is a Muslim country - what matters is that it is a constitutionally secular one. At the moment its justice system needs reforming, its human rights record needs severe improvements, and its economy could do with a boost (plus there's the slight problem of Cyprus, and that it is only just over twenty years since the last military coup). There is opposition to be overcome, but there are few genuine reasons to refuse Turkey entry.
Most importantly, Turkey has long been the gateway between Europe and Asia, and the meeting-point of European and Arabic cultures. It was through Turkey that Europe rediscovered the lost texts of Ancient Greece and Rome, and managed to emerge from the Dark Ages; it was through Turkey that Europe discovered the spice trails to India and China, opening up a whole new world of trade. Without Turkey's impact, Europe would be a very, very different place - no Aristotelian philosophy, no cinnamon sticks to stir your coffee with. Yes, this was all centuries ago and I'm being rather glib again, but we still owe them something, and the major point is we share a common history with Turkey just as much as with Russia, Hungary and Spain.
Turkey should be confident. The objections will quickly be overcome if Turkey can reform itself. The danger will come if Turkey fails to reform itself enough, or if certain European nations scupper the plans for it to join. Pushing Turkey closer to the more extreme Islamic nations of the Middle East - when it could be acting as a negotiator and ideological bridge to improve European relations with them - would only be a bad thing, for Europe, for Turkey, and for the world.
Even people like me who think the UN is a superb institution agree that it needs to be reformed. I agree that it failed in the Balkans, and I'd suggest it's currently failing in the Sudan. Expanding the Security Council is the current proposal - whether this will work, or just ensure that there are even more potential vetoes on any UN action, and thus that it becomes as ineffectual as certain Americans seem to think it is already remains to be seen.
Either way, it is about time that Japan and Germany were considered for permanent places on the Council. They are two of the largest economies in the world, and both have direct experience of being caught up in internal madness which has led to lots of death and destruction. The insight this might allow into future conflicts and the need for intervention could be invlauable.
Nonetheless, I can see where former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is coming from when he says "It's not in Germany's interest to take part in every important decision over war and peace around the world and be responsible for the consequences" - after all, look at the consequences facing Britain and the US after intervening in Iraq...
And while it seems only the Germans have a problem with Germany joining, Japan's potential membership is not so popular. the Japanese have been singularly unsuccessful in convincing their neighbours that they are no longer the same country that viciously invaded, raped, burned and gassed their populace during the 1930s and 1940s. Plus there's the slight problem of the Japanese Constitution which, though not quite so much of a sacred document as its American counterpart (on which it was heavily based) is nonetheless avowedly pacifist. How can a pacifist nation make a useful contribution to a council whose purpose is to decide on military intervention?
More confusing still is the inclusion of Brazil and India on the list of nominees. Include India, Pakistan will be pissed off - hardly a good idea after the on-off nuclear standoff in the Indian sub-continent of the last decade. Include Brazil, there is another country with a permanent seat (after China and, depending on who you ask, Russia) with a horrendous record of human rights abuses.
The UN needs to reorganise, that's for certain, but this whole thing sounds rather like it hasn't been properly thought through, or considered for long enough. A bit like my last post, now I come to think about it...
The latest threat: Frail 87-year-olds
I'm still trying to work this out. According to Crooked Timber, the highly-respected 87 year old Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has been deported from the United States. It seems like no one is quite aware yet what the reasoning is.
But the fact remains that Hobsbawm is a highly respected figure in the world of academia, and - just to emphasise the point - EIGHTY-SEVEN YEARS OLD. What danger can he pose? When I saw him give a lecture at Birkbeck College, London (of which he is President) a couple of years back, he was already looking frail. I doubt the intervening two years have improved his health to the extent he could be considered a threat to anyone.
Are his well-known opinions, which have been espoused in umpteen books stretching back five decades and disputed by umpteen others, really so subversive? And if they're getting rid of Hobsbawm, who mostly pronounces on the 19th century, how long until "subversive" views on more recent events start to be suppressed? How long until the Chomskies and Moores of this world find Uncle Sam come banging at their door?
Yes, Hobsbawm is an unapologetic communist, but I thought we'd stopped fighting those guys already? In fact, didn't we win that one? After the Cat Stevens business the other day, it's beginning to make me wonder if the US has finally forgotten that little thing called "The Constitution" of which they always seems so proud. I seem to recall it mentioning something about freedom of expression and stuff in there...
EDIT: D'oh! Colour me stupid. Fell for it hook, line and sinker. Crooked timber folks, you are bastards. Still, it wouldn't actually surprise me...
"I would fight him with my fists, my feet and my teeth..."
As autumn draws in with frosty crispness and burnished leaves thoughts naturally turn to Teddy Roosevelt, whose comment to a friend on how he would fight off a would-be assassin (he came to the presidency after the murder of President McKinley in 1901) is paraphrased above.
He occupied the White House from 1901 to 1908, declining a third term (almost guaranteed because of his immense popularity) due to the long held tradition of a two-term limit, going back to Washington's own refusal to serve for a third time.
Writer, rancher, cowboy, New York Police Commissioner, Deputy Secretary of the Navy, Nobel peace prize winner and Colonel in the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt remained fiercely independent and idealistic, storming into the pro-industrial Republican party at a time when clashes between labour and capital were coming to prominence. Roosevelt straddled the delicate tightrope between the two, neither bowing to populism on the part of the workers nor to pressure from the big-money men of American industry. This was unacceptable to the industrialists who wanted a puppet president and were greatly cheered when Roosevelt bowed out, leaving pleasant but pliable William Taft.
In 1912, disgusted at what he perceived as a blatant pro-industry bias on the part of the Taft administration Roosevelt threw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination (there was no formal limit to Presidential terms until after the 12-year reign of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and 40s). The clear winner in the primaries, shady backroom deals at the convention denied Teddy the nomination.
Undeterred, Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate (or fourth - also in the running was the socialist Eugene Debs). The 1912 election was a true watershed in American politics. It was here, with the rise of Woodrow Wilson, that the Democrats took on their internationalist reputation (their agrarian, anti-industrial roots developed into future close links with organised labour). It was here that American socialism came closest to recognition (Debs was subsequently jailed by a vindictive Wilson for making remarks against his administration). And it was here that the Republicans became the party we know today. the party that, for better or worse, believes in free-market over regulation and - logically therefore - in capital over labour.
Moreover, it was here that the last progressive Republican was defeated. From here on in, the party would be represented by good ole industry boys like Hoover, Coolidge and Bush (jr), foaming-mouthed reactionaries like Goldwater and Reagan, or grey functionaries like Bush (sr), Dole and Ford. The exceptions to this are one bang on MOR conservative (Eisenhower) and a foul-mouthed crook (and admittedly founder of the almost defunct EPA) - Nixon.
Theodore Roosevelt was the last renaissance man to serve as president. He was the last Republican to do so whom one could refer to as moderate (or even radical) rather than conservative. He has to rank on a par with Kennedy and Reagan in terms of popular appeal. And he's the all-action hero of a cracking comic book.
If a better man of such fully-rounded character and uninhibited idealism has occupied the presidency, I'd like to know about him.
So charge your glasses, and drink to Theodore Rex!
Compare and Contrast
Via Bloggerheads, an interesting post pointing out the somewhat unusual attitude the UK seems to have towards terrorism, which was itself a follow-up to another interesting post.
Why am I bemoaning the UKIP for being fascist? We're pretty much living in a fascist state anyway. Hurrah for David Blunkett! The terrorists are winning.
“One of the greatest acts of political plagiarism ever”
Yep, Twatty McTwatface is at it again, accusing Michael Howard of nicking his wonderful ideas on immigration. (The fact that the UKIP's immigration policy which Howard has supposedly pinched was itself copied off Canada and Australia seems to have been conveniently forgotten. But Kilroy's never been one for understatement, let's face it.)
Howard is a disaster. I doubt I need to explain why beyond point out that the Tories have singularly failed to make any significant gains in the polls despite Labour continuing to go through one of its most disasterous and unpopular periods in office. They're getting desperate, and still vainly trying to appeal to the right when they should be trying to win over the centre, where the majority of swing voters lie.
This latest wheeze also means the Tories now openly and consciously share policies with fascists. Because the UKIP are fascists, make no mistake. Cuddly ones, maybe, but biggoted, racist fucks all the same. Considering Howard's Jewish heritage, you'd think he'd know better.
Oh, but sorry - I'm being ignorant. The UKIP "are not racist. We vehemently and vigorously reject all racist language and action. We will not tolerate any discrimination on the grounds of race – or colour or creed, or indeed age or sex. We will be oustpoken in condemning racism wherever and whenever it occurs."
So that's alright then. And it's good to see that they're so critical of racism that they'd never ponder hiring anyone who, say, got sacked from two jobs for writing a racist article in a piss-poor national newspaper.
Hiring Kilroy's certainly got the UKIP a lot more press than they deserve. But his high-profile and tendency to speak out without permission seems to be getting on their tits - why else would they issue a press release stating "We wish to make it crystal clear that Roger Knapman is the Leader of the UK Independence Party"?
"I need you to help me now, Mr Blair,
because you are the only person on God's earth who can help me... I don't want to die, I don't deserve it and neither do the women deserve to be prisoners... Mr Blair, I am nothing to you. It's just one person in the whole of the United Kingdom, that's all. With a family like you've got a family, with children, like your children, your boys, your wife. Please, you can help, I know you can. These people are not asking for the world, they're asking for their wives and the mothers of their children."
For fuck's sake. Kenneth Bigley will almost certainly be dead by the end of today. No concessions are going to be made to his kidnappers (no concessions HAVE been made, despite appearances yesterday) and he will be beheaded on video like the rest.
Was it worth it, Mr. Blair? Was your pathetic excuse for your illegal war worth it?
Everyone hates the UKIP
In my continuing trawl of blog type things, I happened across this little entry from a eurosceptic blog I noticed a while back. Sounds like the UKIP MEPs are (surprise, surprise) a bunch of thugs. However,
"Strangely, although there were journalists present, nothing of the fracas reached the pages of the UK national press. Nor was there any report published of Kilroy-Silk's campaigning speech in Hartlepool last Saturday, even though the venue was well attended by "Fleet Street's finest".
"Described as "overtly racist" by one observer, one wonders why more was not made of it."
My own views of Kilroy have already been aired. The guy is not charming, intelligent or amusing, he's a tit. As are the rest of the populace of his sorry party. It started off as a fairly respectable, if misguided, coalition - now it is just a joke:
"the UKIP MEPs are regarded as "English buffoons" in the European parliament, a bunch of clowns who do not have the first idea of what they are doing"
Good point, well made. It certainly is about time to sort out the CAP - probably the EU's single biggest failure, I can't deny it.
However, opening up the EU market to third world nations probably wouldn't make that much of an impact in itself, as they'd likely find transport costs prohibitively expensive and wouldn't be able to compete with local produce (which would, under any kind of CAP reform, almost certainly remain subsidised). I mean, have you noticed the price of "Fair Trade" coffee? It's extortionate in comparison to the often equally decent "unfair" alternatives...
What would certainly make a difference is if the EU stopped dumping its surplus on poorer nations, thus driving down prices and making it practically impossible for the local agrarian economies to flourish. There have been suggestions that the EU's surplus produce could be given away as aid, but that wouldn't help stimulate depressed third world economies either. It's the whole "give a man a fish" scenario all over again.
In any case, nice to see another Euroblogger, even if I imagine we probably disagree on more issues than not...
The Lib Dems are exasperating more than just me by the looks of things. An interesting post here by Oliver Kamm (who I haven't come across before, so have yet to make a judgement beyond him seeming perhaps a tad pretentious, like most of the rest of us bloggers) points out their current attempts to come up with a new description for their political ideology are a tad shaky.
All that many British Labour voters are looking for is an alternative party, and the Lib Dems should be the ideal choice - after all, they were founding by a bunch of former Labour MPs, share many of the same views, but don't have Blair in charge and aren't the Tories. What more could you want?
But Kamm's post also pointed me towards a Guardian article that I'd missed somehow. In it, Matthew Taylor, Chairman of the Lib Dems, makes some interesting points, not least that
"Liberal Democrats refuse to be pigeonholed into left or right. We believe that the 20th-century division into left and right failed... Take this example. David Blunkett and David Davis would both leave asylum seekers destitute, want every citizen to carry an ID card and have supported the removal of the right to silence. Left and right, but equally illiberal. Liberal Democrats oppose these measures because we believe it is vital to protect the citizen from an over-mighty state. So the press label us leftwing. We say it's liberal."
That's pretty much my position - on certain issues my views would be considered right-wing, on others I'd be on the left. It isn't necessary to buy completely into one set political ideology - that's when the problems start (and why I doubt I will ever join any political party) and is unhealthy for any democracy.
The whole point of a democracy is freedom of choice, so why tie yourself to one set of opinions or one party when there might be better viewpoints and alternatives if you bother to look around a bit? Blind voting for the Tories led to 18 years of disappointment and anger; blind voting for Labour seems to be leading to a similar number of years of frustration. This doesn't HAVE to be a two-party system - after all, look at the trouble America's in...
Oh, and here's a thought - why is it that in Britain if you are pro-European you are automatically labelled left-wing? The EU is dedicated to furthering trade and industry, and effectively promoting protectionist policies to anyone outside its little club. You can't get much more capitalist than that - so why are most right-wingers in this country opposed to it? It couldn't, perchance, be because they're xenophobic racists?
Three (and a half) lessons in basic etiquette
1) Greeting of your guests is always important. When welcoming delegates to the United States, saying " Welcome to the United States of America" is a perfectly respectable way to go about it. But make sure you are actually IN the United States when you do it, and not in the central chamber of the United Nations. People might get the idea you are trying to stamp your authority on a place in which all nations and delegates are meant to be more or less equal.
1a) Would you greet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with "Hey Liz! How ya doin'?" followed by a sturdy slap on the back? Would you greet the Pope with a "Hey, Johnny!"? No. So don't greet the Secretary General of the United Nations like that.
2) If you are trying to outline the largely beneficial humanitarian aid programmes you have helped instigate to combat the likes of AIDS and tuberculosis, try not to spell out precisely how much you have given to the recipients. Not only is it rather vulgar to brag about one's charitable donations, but the recipients might begin to get the impression that perhaps you want something in return, and maybe even that future promised donations may not be forthcoming unless they comply with your requests. This feeling may be heightened if you pointedly look in their direction while spelling out the statistics.
3) Using idealistic-sounding calls to arms at the end of a speech, such as "Each of us alone can only do so much - together, we can accomplish so much more" is always a nice touch. But try and sound as if you mean it, even if you are beginning to tire out a bit. Certainly don't appear to give a little grin to your advisors, who are all hoping that this can take the wind from a certain political opponent's sails by pinching his line. Also, it might be remembered that actions speak rather louder than words.
Yes, George Bush spoke today before the United Nations. The written text of the speech makes it sound almost exceptionally reasonable - the subtext was all brought out in the delivery, and it was faintly terrifying. (The "Hey Kofi" bit was from some pre-speech BBC footage shown earlier this evening on the BBC's excellent Newsnight.)
As an addendum - I do like Kofi Annan. Having recently declared the Iraq war illegal, thus effectively labelling Bush, Blair and their cohorts aggressive international criminals on a par with Osama Bin Laden, he now makes a pointed reference to certain countries' tendencies to be less than enthusiastic when it comes to enforcing human rights.
Could he also be suggesting that America may have a few issues in this regard when pointing out that "Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded - those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable... No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts. They put all of us to shame... we must start from the principle that no-one is above the law, and no-one should be denied its protection... Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it..."
Hurrah for Kofi Annan! The world needs more like him.
Amidst all the excitement of Boris
I missed the launch yesterday of another new political blog, courtesy of Blogcritics. This looks like it could well be worth following as a handy aggregate of a number of different perspectives on the US political scene.
If anyone knows of any other particularly fine political blogs - especially Eurocentric ones (preferably English, but French works at a push) - please do let me know. I'm still fairly new at this blogging business, and am spending a lot of my time following links around the shop in desperate search for the best sources of inspiration available. Can't be relying on The Guardian all the time, after all...
Some good points raised by A Gentleman's Commonplace about the recent European Ryder Cup victory:
"There is, after all, nothing like a common enemy... to bring Europeans together and for once the UK can join the party."
As anyone in Britain during the football earlier this summer, or the rugby earlier in the year, cannot have failed to notice, for some reason sport does seem to unite people behind their country like very little else. Golf is hardly the ideal vehicle, being somewhat dull to put it mildly, but sport could well serve as a useful way of getting us notoriously anti-European Brits thinking like the Europeans we geographically and culturally are.
Quite what other sports would lend themselves to having a European team I don't know. But Rugby might be a good test case. We already have the British Lions, made up of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - why not include decent players from France and Italy, and stage exhibition matches against a combined force of the southern hemisphere? Not only would that make for a damn fine match, but it would gain support for a joint European venture from the traditionally Eurosceptic middle-class middle Englanders who are rugby union's biggest fanbase. A small step, mayhap, but potentially an important one. Or what about a combined European football team against a combined Latin American one? Give me a single soccer fan who wouldn't want to see that one.
The EU needs to continue fostering a shared identity between its disparate member states if the project is going to advance. I'm not by any means advocating a shift to federalism here, but it is simply the case that if the EU is going to continue to achieve anything at all, the common ground between all us Europeans needs to be emphasised more than it has been so that political agreements can more easily be reached. Is golf the first step?
Lib Dems policy problems
As it's conference season and all, it's only proper to have a looksee. This blog is mostly focussing on foreign affairs, but for a change, a bit of UK domestic policy - specifically, the dole.
On coming to power, Labour made a number of changes to unemployment benefits, one of the best of which was the New Deal. The basic idea is simple - after a few months on the dole, you'd be sent on training courses to improve your employability and encouraged to do voluntary work / work expereience to bolster your CV. In fact, without doing this, technically you would become unable to claim benefit. At the same time, firms would be part-subsidised to employ New Dealers, thus lessening the drain on the state that continuing to fund people sitting on the dole would entail.
All very well and good, and a halfway decent system (should you buy into the concept of a welfare state, that is). The only trouble is it allows for no distinction between the unemployable layabout with no qualifications (and no interest in or hope of getting a job) and the kind of highly-qualified, experienced professional that may find themselves temporarily redundant. Sitting in a dole office being offered courses in basic MS Word, "keyboard skills" and the like is hardly relevant for someone who has spent the previous six years in an office, but has had a run of bad luck when it comes to finding work.
So, at their conference, the Lib Dems have announced their plans to scrap the New Deal. I personally wouldn't go so far as to say it's a "shambolic failure", although the statistics quoted by Paul Holmes (Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Work) certainly do seem to demonstrate that it needs a rethink.
Holmes notes that "Making people jump through unnecessary hoops in a 'one size fits all' system is not the way to tackle entrenched unemployment." Very true. But what are the Lib Dems' proposals going to be other than scrap it, and how are these plans going to tally with Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor Vincent Cable's assertion that "Economic discipline and credibility are essential. But we intend to balance these economic imperatives with greater social justice"?
It's all very well prioritising pensions, policing and education, but does this mean the little money there currently is being channeled towards helping people back to work is going to be redirected to pensioners who can no longer work? How will that help the economy, exactly? How does this tally with Cable's professed belief that "Without wealth creation there is no wealth to spread"? He then states "That is why I emphasise the traditional liberal message - from Adam Smith to today - that markets must be allowed to work; trade should be free; private enterprise should not be shackled by excessive regulation; and private and state monopolies should be opened up to competition." But subsidising private enterprise to help reduce unemployment figures, which is partly what the New Deal does, can surely only help stimulate business, not only by reducing outlay on salaries, but by getting private enterprise to provide on-the-job training and thus produce a new generation of skilled workers. What, if anything, do the Lib Dems propose to replace the New Deal with?
You see, the thing is I actually genuinely like the Lib Dems. Might even vote for 'em. But they, like the Tories, have a tendency to talk in very vague terms, making broad generalisations and identifying flaws in the government's policies without coming up with specific alternatives of their own. If they are going to succeed in their aim to overtake the Tories as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition they need to pull their fingers out in the remainder of this conference week and give a public dying to have an alternative to Blair a reason to vote for them.
Boris goes live!
Hurrah! Everyone's favourite British politician starts his own blog, and all thanks to the sterling efforts of Manic.
Here it is, the long-awaited Boris Johnson.com!
Hurrah! Let's keep our fingers crossed he finds the time to stick with it.
Gary Younge writes an interesting piece in the Guardian on the tendency of America and others to excuse irrational behaviour through claiming the moral high ground of victimisation. It seems as though other people are beginning to feel the same way I do.
"They portray America's pain as a result of 9/11 not only as unique in its expression but also superior in its intensity.
"When 3,000 people died on September 11, Le Monde declared: "We are all Americans now." Around 12,000 civilians have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war, yet one waits in vain for anyone to declare that we have all become Iraqis, or Afghans, let alone Palestinians. This is not a competition. Sadly, there are enough victims to go around. Sadder still, if the US continues on its present path, there will be many more. Demanding a monopoly on the right to feel and to inflict pain simply inverts victimhood's regular contradiction - the Bush administration displays material strength and moral weakness."
Blair, Brown and the Euro
The rather bitter-sounding book by Derek Scott, one of Tony Blair's former advisors, is getting a lot of coverage at the moment. A section was extracted yesterday in the eurosceptic Sunday Times, which (amongst the vitriol, speculation and attempts to sound clever) had some good points that can help to clarify thinking on British attitudes towards European monetary union (Emu). I'm quoting bits here as much for my reference as anything:
"Views in Britain about European monetary union (Emu) can be divided into three camps. First, those for whom the economics of the single currency are irrelevant, such as Edward Heath. Next, there are those who think it is economically flawed and politically a step too far. A third group want to join because they believe that there are distinct political advantages, but they think that the economics have to be “right” — and it is not always clear what “right” means."
I'd certainly go with that, to an extent. There is also a fourth group - the rabid "patriots", the xenophobic and racist mindset which is against the Euro because they want nothing to do with the frogs and the krauts and the deigos and the spicks. They dress it up in clothes of being bad for the UK, but never explain precisely HOW (except for lies and distortions about the power of Brussels).
I'd put myself in the third group, only with a proviso. The economics may not be "right" at the moment; they may become "right" at some point in the future - if we join then, that will be beneficial for Britain. But economic conditions fluctuate unpredictably all the time. No one predicted the Wall Street Crash.
In other words, joining the Eurozone will ALWAYS be a risk, just as staying out will always be a risk. Economics is not predictable. So we may as well take the plunge now - we have no idea how Britain will continue to survive outside the Eurozone, we have no idea what will happen if we join. The only reason the economic conditions need to be "right" is for the political campaigning advantage that would lend the yes campaign. To wit:
"Nobody should underestimate [Blair and Brown's] determination and effectiveness when working together in pursuit of their separate but dependent political objectives. In the right conditions they would make a powerful team if they decided it was time to enter Emu.
"The electorate would be softened up and any opponents of Emu branded as opponents of Europe or even anti-British. The “patriotic case”, a popular theme of both prime minister and chancellor, would be to the fore. It would not be easy but in the right circumstances it could work.
"Gordon Brown would continue to protect his flank in speeches and articles that drew attention to the failings in euroland. But at some stage along the road, when economic conditions were temporarily more propitious, Gordon might be prepared to jump off the fence in pursuit of his own political ambitions and the hope for proponents of entry would be that his vaunted “prudence” and perceived scepticism in the past would carry disproportionate weight as the government tried to take Britain in."
Sounds to me like a very cunning tactic. Risky, but cunning. It might just work, even now the strategy has been brought out into the open...