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Friday, 14 March 2014

Tony Benn on the EU at the OU

The late Tony Benn, an MP of probity and rectitude and of an inimitable eloquence who enriched Parliament for many years, speaks at the OU on the EU fairly recently;

There's not a word with which I would disagree.

A right-wing Euro Parliament is no improvement

All over Europe left-liberal Federasts are contemplating the rise of the right; Ukraine's new 'government' is loaded with openly ultra-nationalist anti-Jewish ministers, Poland's Catholic ultra-conservatism has blocked the march of EuroStatism, and Hungary's ruling Fidesz with its mantra of "Home, Family, Health, Work, Order" with echoes of Kraft durch Freude is tame in comparison to the widely supported Jobbik there. Further West, sensing success in May's polls, the Front National is looking to team with other right-wing allies but both UKIP's Nigel Farage and Geert Wilder's PVV have so far resisted Marine's seduction on the grounds that she is too right wing. All over the Union the right is on the march; actually, more of a slippered shuffle than a jackbooted stride, but taking ground nonetheless.

It's being predicted that even with an excellent showing in May the right will still have no more than a third of seats in the European Parliament - still, shocks can happen. So why am I complaining, you may ask? Surely I must be in favour of a right leaning EP? Well, no. Last time it took us six years to put all the buggers down.

I can fully understand Farage's reluctance to form a party-grouping with 'them others' that under Brussels rules would open the treasure-chests. You see, we Brits may be reasonable, balanced, equitable and sensible, sensitive to the rights of the underdog, disinclined to take unfair advantage of power but we can't vouch for the rest of them - some, like the Ukranians, raving frothing-at-the-mouth Nazis who need to be forcibly restrained from wearing NSDAP symbols and runes. It's like a seasoned toper facing the prospect of going on a pub crawl with a group of lads who can't take their beer.

Well, we're just going have to see what happens and wing it; things are happening in Europe that one just can't plan for. As long as we can remember what being British means, I reckon we can cope. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Migration Watch - Cost of Immigrants £23bn a year

If the Migration Watch figures are right, as reported in the Telegraph, we could abolish duty on wine, beer, cider and Spirits, cancel Tobacco duty and do away with VED; if Miliband really wants to help the cost of living, he could start with undoing the economic damage Labour has done - damage that really strains the finances of Hard Working Families;

Miliband's betrayal of the workers

Poor Bob Crow, a lifelong opponent of the EU and it's Corporatist policy of using low wages and unemployment as macroeconomic instruments, must be spinning in his morgue-cabinet. Miliband has openly declared himself a partner of global big business and the party of the privileged middle. Euro-olives for Islington kitchens! Polenta for all!

Miliband's pledges to support the EU unless it outlaws Arborio rice and Pouilly Fuisse will be of little use to Britain's unskilled and semi-skilled workers, our unemployed teens and NEETs, the doleday-loan fodder or our fecund underclass, but there's precious little in it for Labour in championing the C2s, Ds and Es any more. It's after the votes of the same affluent, socially responsible ABC1 'joiners in' as the Tories and the LibDems

So Miliband will fight the election on the basis of the affordability of Olive Oil; every family should be able to fill its cupboards with cold-pressed extra-virgin, the weekly bill from Waitrose should not squeeze the middle from cancelling their mid-winter skiing break. Hey ho. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

TTIP - Not sexy, just very important

This post is about an unsexy, very boring but very important transatlantic trade deal. I previously posted how the deal was being done in secret between the US and the EU, a deal that would benefit only the big corporates and harm the interests of ordinary consumers, small firms and the Mittelstand;
Everything related to the talks is being kept highly classified. Even though the deal will affect the futures and interests of 500 million EU citizens, member states agreed to keep them in the dark about TTIP negotiations. All papers, documents, emails and negotiating minutes have been marked secret. Only the senior-most party members in the European Parliament's International Trade Committee are allowed to see documentation relating to the negotiations and they are forbidden from discussing what they see. Not even the negotiating mandate, upon which the talks are based, has been made public. In addition, the US has forbidden the EU from passing along American position papers, even to members of the European Council and European Parliament -- despite the fact that these same papers have been shared with 600 industrial lobbyists in the US.
 Today George Monbiot writes in the Guardian about TTIP with exceptional lucidity;
Nothing threatens democracy as much as corporate power. Nowhere do corporations operate with greater freedom than between nations, for here there is no competition. With the exception of the European parliament, there is no transnational democracy, anywhere. All other supranational bodies – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, trade organisations and the rest – work on the principle of photocopy democracy (presumed consent is transferred, copy by copy, to ever-greyer and more remote institutions) or no democracy at all. When everything has been globalised except our consent, corporations fill the void. In a system that governments have shown no interest in reforming, global power is often scarcely distinguishable from corporate power. It is exercised through backroom deals between bureaucrats and lobbyists.
Of course this blog and Mr Monbiot suffer from the same inherent disadvantage; the Peter and the Wolf syndrome. Our polemic against sundry wrongs, injustices and neglected matters has been so long and so vocal (though radically different in focus and in many cases opposed in position) that when something really serious comes along, it gets lost in the White Noise. Se well done all at Ford, Nissan, General Motors, Monsanto, Renault, Thyssen, Nokia, Siemens, BP, Lafarge, Wal-Mart, Apple, Chevron, Erikson, Alcatel and General Electric and the rest; you win. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

EU, US and what drives Putin

Some years ago at the bar of the now defunct Colony Room Club a fellow member with a genuine record of HMG skulduggery made a point. In Beirut in the 1980s US government employees were protected like FabergĂ© eggs from kidnappers, with up to a hundred armed protectors attending the move of a single Consular official. The Russians didn't bother. It wasn't that Soviet diplomats weren't targets of the hostage takers - they were. But when one had been actually been kidnapped, within 48 hours the naked bodies of the kidnappers were found with their testicles and penises stuffed in their dead mouths. Putin of course was stationed in East Germany in the 1980s, seducing frumpy Rhodes scholars, and like bar anecdotes anyway it may not be exactly true, but the story does I think reflect what we would call the 'institutional brutality' of the KGB in those days.

As Mary Anne Sieghart describes in a brief 13 minute Profile on R4 yesterday, Putin became Russian leader almost by accident, by being in the right place at the right time. He was not groomed for leadership as part of a gilded Politburo inner circle, and raced past the privileged scions of the nomenklatura with their western after-shave and New York postings at the UN to arrive from nowhere. Nor was he initially anti-Western - even considering Russian membership of NATO. However, Sieghart suggests, he feels insults, real and imagined, to both himself and more importantly to Russia, very deeply and reacts appropriately. The boycott of Sochi whilst not boycotting Beijing in 2008 was insulting. 

Despite Putin's close relationship to an oligarchy that has plundered the Soviet inheritance (and which now helps maintain London's house prices and City salaries) and a number of extra-judicial killings that it is suspected he sanctioned, I can't help but feel a certain respect for him, even a liking. You will all have heard the NASA anecdote - that NASA spent ten years, five million dollars and the research departments of two universities to develop a pen that wrote in space; the Russians used pencils - and that's part of it; Putin's a pragmatist, making the best out of what he has, uniting a Russia still recovering from not seventy but four hundred years of misrule. And for my own peace and security, I prefer a stable and predictable Russia with a stable and predictable leader, even if the human rights of Russians aren't up to Tunbridge Wells standards.