Ancient and Modern, Britain and America

So, yesterday the new American president announced a financial plan for his country’s motor industry and here, today, in Britain we hear that, kind of new, Peter Mandelson, the Business Secretary, is going to hand out £2.3 billion pounds to the car industry.

Sorry your lordship, I should have called you Lord Mandelson now that you have been raised to that noble place the House of Lords. It isn’t Lord Obama is it too?

The British plan, Peter (woops, there I go again, sorry Lord Mandelson) is to put up some much needed capital to help fund the loans that 50% of British car buyers need to get their shiny new, presumably, British car.

I do not understand these things – high finance or the world of Lords and Ladies – but I think it goes like this:

Very rich bankers get their fingers burnt by lending too much money to people who cant afford to pay them back, they then stop lending money.

People who need to get a loan to buy a car can’t get their loans, so they stop buying cars.

The car manufacturers stop getting money from car sales.

Those very rich bankers stop lending them money too.

The car manufacturers start stock-piling cars.

Workers start losing their jobs.

Those rich bankers carry on being rich and having fun and wait until the government and everyone else sorts out the Credit Crunch and then they start lending again. And, unless we decide to do something about them, they get even richer.

So Peter, Lord Mandelson is trying to short circuit this on a temporary basis. If the loans start again, he thinks, then the cars will start moving again and all those jobs could be saved.

Good plan Peter….looks like Barrack Obama agrees with you.

It is modern life in the developed world but of course it isn’t just British workers who start losing their jobs,when the bankers start withdrawing from risk taking, job losses start to spread all over the World.

So that is why it seems good that President Obama enters the scene and, just maybe, a brave new world dawns.

The new president has certainly been busy in his first week and a lot of plans have already been revealed. Giving me, who doesn’t really understand these things, a lot of hope.

He was doing international affairs again yesterday. In an interview on an Arab television station (such a good idea to do this so early on in his presidency), he said:

“It is impossible for us to think only in terms of Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan. These things are inter-related. We are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest.”

He has also announced that he will use the United Nations again, remember them?, as a forum for toppling the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

This feels like the proverbial new broom.

Back in England, none of these initiative contradict the Brown Government’s ideals.

If only our governing bodies had the shiny new look of the Obama regime.

We have a different look.

Sorry Peter but this brings me back to the House of Lords.

Whilst the world enjoys a new sense of hope and change, Britain is debating whether Lords should be punished for taking bribes to influence parliamentary votes.

What is the debate? Obviously Lords and Ladies should know that is wrong without question.

Well here we come to a matter of the old and the new.

It may look old-fashioned having Lords in our second house…ladies too and Bishops…but it is actually quite modern by pre-2000 standards. Then most of them were hereditary peers and mostly loyal to one political party.

The great constitutional reform swept that away but left a strange muddy system where the place is now full of largely appointed, mostly retired, politicians.

In the old days it was agreed that Lords didn’t need to be punished if they accepted bribes because these things just wouldn’t happen. A committee into public standards reported that the lords were above such things as they formed a “culture rooted in the concept of personal honour.”

Well modern Lords are not quite so honourable it seems.

So why don’t we get even more modern?

Lets stop having anyone in the second house who has been given one of those daft titles which only add temptation to those who want privilege in our still class-ridden society. If they have to have titles, why not make them more down-to-earth, like guys and dolls, for instance? Nothing snobbish there.

Lets stop appointing them for life so that they don’t become invulnerable.

Lets elect folk to a second chamber that just do their job and put aside all thoughts of using the place to line their nests.

We could become a modern state perhaps.

Maybe, in spite of its undoubted faults, we could try to be as democratic as the United States.

We will not get rid of all the rogues of course, they are with us always, but we could set up a system where there is no grouping in our society where people have to ask whether or not it is permissible to accept bribes.

We might even begin to think that those bankers should be called to order too.

No…forbid the thought! They will all end up in the House of Lords.

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