Posts Tagged David Cameron

David Cameron – in the footsteps of Marco Polo

Statue of Marco Polo in Hangzhou, China, near ...

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As David Cameron prepares for his two day visit to China (commencing tomorrow, Tuesday 9th November) at the head of the largest-ever official UK delegation to the country, I thought this might be a timely post.

See below for a short insight into how the 24 year travels around China by Marco Polo (as well as his lesser reported father and uncle) changed the very nature of life itself in Europe.

I wonder if DC (or we) dare expect his visit to prove just as seminal?! I’d personally doubt it though given his Bullingdon Club background, the odds on him too returning with a Mongol servant called “Peter” are probably quite short. Could make an interesting addition to the historical catalogue of PM gifts. Certainly better than a box set of 25 American films and certainly more useful around the house.

Anyway, hǎo yùn Mr Cameron.

“[Upon their return from China], the three Polos received respect from their fellow citizens, with Marco singled out for special attention. ‘All the young men went every day continuously to visit and converse with Messer Marco,’ Giambattista Ramusio claimed. ‘who was most charming and gracious, and to ask of him matters concerning Cathay (China) and the Great Khan, and he responded with so much kindness that all felt themselves to be in a certain manner indebted to him.’

“It is easy to understand why Marco attracted notice. The significance of the inventions that he brought back from China, or which he later described in hisTravels, cannot be overstated. At first, Europeans regarded these technological marvels with disbelief, but eventually they adopted them.

“Paper money, virtually unknown in the West until Marco’s return, revolutionized finance and commerce throughout the West.

“Coal, another item that had caught Marco’s attention in China, provided a new and relatively efficient source of heat to an energy-starved Europe.

“Eyeglasses (in the form of ground lenses), which some accounts say he brought back with him, became accepted as a remedy for failing eyesight. In addition, lenses gave rise to the telescope – which in turn revolutionized naval battles, since it allowed combatants to view ships at a great distance – and the microscope. Two hundred years later, Galileo used the telescope – based on the same technology – to revolutionize science and cosmology by supporting and disseminating the Copernican theory that Earth and other planets revolved around the Sun.

“Gunpowder, which the Chinese had employed for at least three centuries, revolutionized European warfare as armies exchanged their lances, swords, and crossbows for cannon, portable harquebuses, and pistols.

“Marco brought back gifts of a more personal nature as well. The golden paiza, or passport, given to him by Kublai Khan had seen him through years of travel, war, and hardship. Marco kept it still, and would to the end of his days. He also brought back a Mongol servant, whom he named Peter, a living reminder of the status he had once enjoyed in a far-off land.

“In all, it is difficult to imagine the Renaissance – or, for that matter, the modern world – without the benefit of Marco Polo’s example of cultural transmission between East and West.”

Extract taken from Laurence Bergreen‘s excellent book “Marco Polo” (2007)

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Northern Ireland, David Cameron and his weapons of torture

Rt Hon David Cameron MP speaking at the Conser...
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Posted in response to Eamonn Mallie’s piece on re David Cameron’s comments on the size of NI’s Public Sector last Friday.

Eammon has this spot on. The analysis was right, the language and timing were naive and amateurish at best.

 I’ll never vote Tory but Cameron is absolutely right in his ultimate assessment that NI must grow it’s Private Sector and reduce our over reliance on the Public Sector. We have an unhealthy imbalance and without a stimulus in the private sector – particularly in attracting a range of jobs which pay in line with and above average Public Sector jobs we are incredibly vulnerable and have been for some time to Public Sector cuts and also any increase in interest rates (likely in the next parliament) which will hit many of our overstretched “property boom” keyholders. I wonder how many interest only mortgages there are in NI held by people borrowing multiples greater than 3 against public sector wages likely to be capped/frozen in the next parliament? 

All our politicians know this is a fact. Many are on record re this in the past. The executive is on record as agreeing with Camerons sentiments on Private Sector growth – the 2009 IREP report recognised it. Many commentators and the occasional blogger like myself have been suggesting for some time that this was the real elephant in the room ( while the Executive stalled and bickered over scraps from the sectarian table. An inclusive, burgeoning private sector economy supplementing our proud Public Sector makes sense not just economically but socially and politically – any post conflict society analysis tells us that employment and it’s associated benefits has one of the biggest impacts on the process of “normalisation”. University of Ulster recently published a report telling us we probably already knew – that young people with limited job or development opportunities are more likely to engage in anti social behaviour (including political and racial violence). 

And yet our representatives on the hill have spent the last few years doing exactly what about this? Think of the time wasted while Stormont has been suspended or in sectarian stand off mode when they could have been addressing this issue given anyone with any secular political nous knew it was coming. And maybe that lack of secular nous is at the heart of this. 

 In spite of a rational if poorly executed SDLP call for a revised NI budget last year to reflect the realities of an economy in freefall nothing happened and an opportunity to stimulate a flagging economy was lost. 

More alarmingly, at a public event in Westminster before Xmas i asked a senior political NI figure (vying now for a Westminster seat and to whose political views I am broadly aligned) what he thought of IREP and his views on developing our private sector given the chances of public sector cuts in the next parliament. His response not only suggested he had barely read IREP but he actually went on to say that he “had no time for these multi national corporations coming in for a few years and then swanning off to Singapore or wherever they get a better deal. The future of our economy has to be the 1-2 person family business…”!! Seriously – you couldn’t make it up, particularly as it came 2 weeks after the great news of NYSEs support centre investment and the audience that night contained at least one potential investor from a financial MNC. It’s just an isolated example but part of a larger failure –  Politicians like that should be vilified far more than Cameron on this issue. This problem has not been addressed on their watch.

But here’s the immediate and rather sad reality for Cameron and the Tory/UU alliance. In spite of the fact all other parties agree in principle with what Cameron says, in spite of the fact they are responsible for allowing the situation to develop, all of them have the good sense to know the timing and turn of phrase he used was an act of political naivety at best and suicide at worst. It not only brings into question the nature of the Tory/UU partnership but also his own political judgement.

The scent of blood (and cuts) is in the air. In a more mature political society Cameron may have been lauded for his honesty and it might even have triggered the long overdue advent of a more secular political debate on the issue at hand. It is badly needed –  anyone who thinks a simple cut in corporation tax is the answer to our problems is surely mistaken. It’s a much more complex consideration and needs early attention. But that’s a separate debate.    

Unfortunately it won’t happen now in the mouth of an election – as Cameron should have known. And it might turn out to be a debate shaped by others than the Tory/DUP alliance, for in politics, perhaps more than anywhere else, “to the victor the spoils” and as Helmut Kohl once said: “You don’t win elections by putting the weapons of torture on display”.    

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