Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Time to give the French a Britannic shrug

Do the Kermits seriously imagine that their noisy bluster over the squalid Calais migrants camp bothers us? Sure, they're piqued that their nation and economy is down the can, that in future they'll depend on German hand-outs to pay their public servants, that across the Channel our economy, free of the EU, will surge ahead to become Europe's wealthiest. Hence the threats and bluster to move immigration checks to UK territory. 

Any such move will only further damage French trade. UK exports will get a rapid ride into France going outwards, but French imports will face long delays and freight queues stretching from Calais to Rouen. For we will be forced to two varieties of new border controls; on the entry ramps of UK registered P&O ferries in Calais, and on the exit ramps of DFDS ferries in Dover. Migrants and illegals will either be left in Calais or on board the French ships.

Dover turnaround times for the French ships will quadruple, as will their port fees. Likewise for UK ships in Calais. Fares will rise. Passengers and freight will seek other ports - killing jobs and income in Calais, which depends completely upon the port for its wealth. 

It's really up to the Kermits; honour the existing treaty, or face severe restrictions on their exports to the UK from Calais and become the laughing stock of Europe with the MS Côte des Flandres and her sisters full of Ethiopians who won't disembark being fed and catered by DFDS, and with the key town of the Côte d'Opal becoming a depressed, run-down slum with rusting docks and empty warehouses. 

Their choice.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Labour's corrupt whine cuts no mustard

Electoral probity, universal suffrage and the secret ballot are the three keystones of a stable democracy. Labour, in an astonishing display of party interest above national interest, support the corruption of all three legs of our democratic stool in ways that unfairly favour Labour.  

Electoral probity is only gradually being restored after long neglect by all parties and determined efforts by Blair / Brown to undermine the democratic process. As Michaeel Pinto-Dischinsky commented, we have 3m on the electoral roll who shouldn't be and we had 3m missing who should be. Individual voter registration is weeding out the double and false registrations, and the recent referendum has brought in 2m of the missing 3m. Good enough. 

Second, we have an Electoral Quotient that is way beyond the basic +/- 5% envelope required for a fair electoral system, and in comparison to the +/- 3% achieved by advanced democracies such as New Zealand it makes the UK literally third-world in EQ standards. This necessary change needs no debate, and the pained whine coming from Labour at the prospects of losing more underpopulated seats than the Tories is simply contemptible. 

The fair issue for debate is what the EQ should be - and how many MPs the Commons should have. My own view is that Cameron's proposed reduction to 600 giving an EQ of 71,031-78,507 voters per seat is about right - given that the long-term trend is for devolution, localism and a reduction in the scope of the national Parliament to matters of national importance. As devolution gathers pace, this number should be reviewed and may need to fall further. 

Labour's point that the proposals are based on the 2015 electoral registers, disregarding the 2m new registrations this year, are short-sighted, and Theresa May could make things even more painful for Labour by including them. The new 2m are largely in constituencies in cities and urban SE areas and will only lose Labour more seats in the de-populated outer zones. The 2015 election was based on electoral lists that included 7m suspect registrations - which were due to be removed by 2016*, losing up to 10% of electors in some Labour inner-city constituencies. So by all means base the EQ on the very latest electoral lists available - Labour will only suffer more. The population drift from Wales, the NE and other stagnant areas of the UK to London and the South-East - from traditional Labour areas to Tory areas - is continuing and will continue. 

Labour's whining about changes that strengthen and regulate Britain's democratic systems simply shows that the party is acting now wholly in its own interest and with no regard to the good of the British people.

* But evidently weren't - Voter figures are 46.4m in 2012, 44.7m in Dec 2015 and 46.5m for the referendum. We must await the Boundary Commission report for greater clarity. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Learning Trough

Councils are rightly concerned that democratic oversight and scrutiny are largely absent from the way in which the new Academies spend their government largesse. The problem is that they are run by the same venal, mediocre and self serving public servants who ran schools under tight Council financial control, but who are now free to feed their sense of entitlement with outrageous splurging on luxury hotels, first class travel and Michelin-starred meals, booze and incidentals from the text book budget.  

You'd think the fools of civil servants at the Education Department would have learnt. I watched the first wave of BSF schools go up - I rejected all attempts to get us involved in building them, though. Designers were given free rein to pad their portfolios with all the prone-to-failure crap, over-budget indulgence and onanistic self-regard they could imagine; we got atriums, internal rainwater pipes, hidden gutters, masses of glass, innovative cladding, sustainable energy systems. Gullible and credulous school staff who shouldn't have been allowed to oversee the tuck shop were easily taken in.

The classrooms cost on average 220% of the standard classroom floor area cost to pay for the bling and the crap. And now all those nasty little experiments are failing; atriums are unusable wind-blasted vortex traps, the internal downpipes leak, making whole areas unusable; the hidden gutters were never cleaned, got filled with leaves and the sodden wet roofs are collapsing, the glass in the walls made classrooms unusable whenever the sun shone blinding the white-board and creating poorly ventilated sweat-boxes, the glass in the roofs leaks, the innovative cladding is falling off and the sustainable energy systems are so unreliable and prone to failure that some schools have converted to oil boilers just to stay open.  And masses of semi-competent designers made stacks of money.  

I suppose you can't blame the Academy staff. They are the vicars and canons in a ecclesiastic mess of pre-reformation corruption, greed and venality of which the university vice-chancellors are the bloated, mega-rich abbots, their mouths stuffed with tax gold, drawing salaries that dwarf the Prime Minister's, replete with the sort of status, wealth and privilege that accrues to the successful bosses of multinationals. Once they have has their fill of business class air travel to attend conferences in the Maldives their narcissism and vanity will compel them to build. It always does. I predict a new wave of bankrupt Academies each with a half-built library block, swimming pool or theatre which will not now be called the Arthur Scroggs Wing because said Arthur Scroggs in now himself in 'B' wing doing a four-stretch for theft and fraud.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Risk aversity

One of the joys of living in the Alpe-Adria is the laid-back attitude to risk. Climbers, hang-gliders, base jumpers, swimmers and all and sundry can make their own decisions about risk.

Some years ago, skateboarders old enough to buy cheap airfares would gather informally in small groups, take postbuses to the high places and board down the mostly empty mountain roads. Much fun. In the UK, the official reaction would be one of horror; the bansturbationists would emerge in force, the Chief Constable would appear on TV, MPs would demand new laws to ban boarders and local councils would deploy wardens to patrol all the steep roads with powers to seize boards. After all, the UK is a nation where it is now forbidden to roll a round cheese down a grass hill because of 'elf-n-safety. 

Here? They gave it a small marketing budget, closed the road once a year and inaugerated an international treff. Boarders wishing to hurtle down a mountain road at 75kmh can do so without restriction. Injuries are their affair. The little road that runs past my house is on a 3km long nursery slope and about once a week two or three learner boarders rattle past at modest speed, huge grins on their faces. It's a joy to see.  

Video and vox pops at https://www.kleinezeitung.at/kaernten/voelkermarkt/5074534/Skateboard_Mit-75-kmh-den-Seebergsattel-runter

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Traingate

Corbyn's utter humiliation at being exposed as a lying dog in staging a fake train stunt is perhaps not the real point. If he was serious about being prime minister, he and his minders would vet every photobombing hoodie, every bacon sarnie, every snowy Husky to ensure that he was always but always pictured in a prime-ministerly pose. Future prime ministers just don't sit on the floor outside a train's onboard toilet. Never. However, it's the sort of 'one of the lads' type images that may inspire credulous youths young enough to have a railcard and who may be members of the Labour party. 

And that, I think, is the nub. Corbyn is facing some utterly forgettable dreary little Labour apparatchik called, I think, Kevin Smith, who has challenged for the leadership. Until Corbyn has seen him off, he can't get down to fulfilling his real aim - to wear jeans and sandals for PMQs in an act that will shock the nation some political dags sensitive as maiden aunts

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Juncker really is an ill-informed little man

Euroland's most senior unelected official Herr Juncker shared his uninformed opinion with the people of Europe again yesterday. Speaking at Alpbach Media Academy Mr Juncker said: “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.” 

Oh dear oh dear. Wrong on so many levels. Borders pre-date the kind of democracy that produces politicians by many centuries, nay millennia; Egypt, Nubia, Babylonia all had well established borders five thousand years before little Jean-Claude was a twinkle in his father's eye. Egypt's border stellae still stand, and Hittites and Assyrians were guarding their well-established borders a thousand years before the vote was invented, let alone the first political lie was told. 

Second, the notion that politicians have ever actually invented anything can only come from a Federast bureaucrat who knows little about democracy and less about politics. All politics is reactive.  

I suppose Euroland is lumbered with this clown for a while longer, affording us even greater prospects of inanity.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

They're all killing kids in Aleppo

Aleppo is the critical pivot of the Syrian civil war. Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, simply cannot abandon the city to the US / UK / Saudi / Turkish supported rebels without losing the war. The US and its allies know that if they lose Aleppo, the rebellion will be to all purposes finished from that point, though the killing and destruction and bloodshed will no doubt continue for some time. So each side is pouring in hardware, munitions, air power, special forces and everything they've got into taking a city still inhabited by over a million people. 

And of course civilians - men, women and children - are caught up in the conflict and are killed on both sides, every day. A new and rather revolting twist to the agitprop war being fought in Europe's media is the publication by both sides of the child casualties of Western weapons. A small boy blasted to pieces by a Russian-made rocket; a small girl eviscerated by a British-made mortar round. All that's lacking is the juxtapositioning next the horrid corpses of the fat cat arms dealers, politicians and primitive Saudis grown sleek as butter from the war's profits. 

Neither side holds the moral high ground. Neither side in battle ever does. Both sides have abandoned the peace table to see who can win Aleppo first; for after the slaughter, the side eventually planting its flag on the high pile of Aleppo's corpses will have the negotiating advantage. 

But please, for as long as our purblind politicians back the killers of one side over the killers of the other, let's please refrain from moral pontificating. We're all just as guilty of those child deaths as eachother.